Sunday, October 18, 2009

sticks and stones can break my bones

this is my second piece for the needlework "good cause" challenge. it's actually my back up piece, in case i didn't finish the never ending needlepoint piece. it's good, because i totally didn't!

i embroidered this first because it's something that i want to hang in my house. i want to remind myself, and to remind others in my life, that words can be as incredibly hurtful as other kinds of abuse, and to take care.

i remember as a kid, the phrase "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me". i sincerely hope kids aren't still learning that, but when i was a kid, we didn't talk about bullying and the cruelty of children. when i started school, my dad told me that if a boy bothered me "punch him in the nose" (i don't think i ever did, though as i grew older, i realized a groin shot would be more effective anyway! ;)) but we never learned how to deal with the emotional cruelty, you know?

i was a super sensitive kid, i cried at EVERYTHING, and got teased all the time, and even more so when i started to cry! it got to the point that by my early teens, i'd trained myself to never cry in front of anyone else - even if it was totally acceptable (like a sad movie). i don't really know how things would have been any different if we'd talked more about it in the 80s, but i wonder.

i really wanted to embroider this piece for the domestic violence theme because i think emotional abuse can sometimes be overlooked. i think survivors of emotional abuse are often the first ones to do that. i was in a common law relationship for several years that was really messed up, when i look back on it now. it took me over a year to stop hearing my ex's voice in my head putting me down, even though i realized soon after we split that it wasn't really ME thinking those things. friends have come out and called the relationship abusive, but i still shy from that. i don't think he was intentionally trying to hurt me or to control my actions, i think he had a lot of his own emotional problems, and we were really unsuited. is it still abuse if it isn't intentional? i'm also uncomfortable calling it abuse because it doesn't seem "as bad" as other people's stories of physical or sexual abuse, which i know is totally contradictory to what i'm saying here. but that's how it goes, you know? rationally, i know that emotional abuse can leave long reaching scars, and for some people, may be more damaging than other kinds of abuse. but emotionally it's a different story.

coming out of the relationship i realized that both my physical and mental had been affected by the relationship, and even now, years later, i still struggle with things that go back to that period in my life.

so this is what i embroidered

the words are a simple font, i wanted them to look almost childlike. (i'll edit this with the actual name later, i have to look it up!) they're simple backstitch, and the heart is satin stitch with two different shades of pink.


once again, comments and criticism are totally welcome, and the pics are on flickr, so if you'd like to see them bigger, just click on them.

the deceptive beauty of breast cancer

it's been pretty quiet lately, huh? that's cause everything i've been working on has been secret!

over on craftster, kittykill announced the october needlework challenge, the Good Cause Challenge. i immediately decided to make a piece or two, and this is the first one. i've been waiting not so patiently for the 18th, thinking that entries could be posted then, only to realize today that i COULD have posted this back on the 12th! thank goodness i checked tonight, because today was the last day to enter!

my original plan for this piece was an anatomical image of a breast with a lump, much like the pregnancy anatomical image i embroidered a few months ago. breasts are incredibly complex, and i love all the lines that make up the images.

i started googling for images, and ran across an entirely different anatomical image - the breast cancer cells themselves. though i continued searching for the breast images, i kept coming back to the cells. they were so BEAUTIFUL, and i was really challenged by the idea of a more 3-D needlework piece, since i usually work on flat surfaces of fabric.

i started thinking about how as a society we idealize beautiful breasts, regardless of what may be hidden inside them. a pair of slightly droopy mom of 3 breasts are seen as less beautiful and less valued than a pair of young perky 20 year old breasts, regardless of actual health. you usually can't tell from the surface if someone has breast cancer, which is why self exams are so important.

and this is what i came up with.


this ended up being smaller than i'd originally planned, because gathering up the bobbles took WAY more fabric than i'd anticipated! i bought half a metre of fabric, about 19", and the piece ended up being 5.5" tall and 10" or 11" wide. i used a stretch velvet because i wanted that slight sheen, the variance in tone dependent on light, that velvet has. i used sewing thread to hand stitch circles on the fabric, then pulled them up tight and stuffed them with fiberfill. i didn't have any fiberfill, but i did have a pillow form - this piece took almost all of a 12"x12" pillowform's stuffing! it took a really really long time, so much longer than i'd anticipated!

after i had all the cells complete, i hand basted the velvet onto a piece of cotton, basting between the cells to keep the surface consistent (the cells had a tendency to pop out everywhere!).

i used dmc tapestry wool, colour 7896, for the french knots. i printed out the image and took it with me when i went shopping, and this was the closest i could get between dmc and anchor. i looked at embroidery floss, and at the possibility of using beads instead of the french knots. the embroidery floss was too shiny, and would have made knots that were smaller in proportion to the cells than i wanted, and the same thing went for the beads.

because i was using wool, but working with a fabric that i would need to pierce, i used chenille needles that were thick enough to thread the wool onto, but sharp enough to pierce the fabric (unlike typical needlepoint needles).

i find french knots easy (don't throw stuff at me! i'm sorry!! ;D), so that part of it was fine, but getting the wool through the "cells" was a whole different story! after an evening that left me with severely bruised and callused fingers, i dug out my locking pliers and used them to get the needle through. in some areas it was going through countless layers of fabric and fiberfill, the gathering of the bubbles/cells created a lot of excess fabric around the bases of them!


with the flash, the colour is a little less accurate. it looks more blue here than green.



and the back, with the title stem stitched across.
i had bought all the skiens of tapestry wool that my local needlework shop had, and used the majority of them for the front. i decided to use a lighter shade for the words, so that i could do as many french knots on the front as possible!

i also did a little flower design, to tie the two purple shades together and to add detail to the upper and lower portions. i used french knots there as well, and back stitch for the curlicues.
i'd like to do more french knots on the sides, the areas that aren't visible from the front, once my local needlework shop gets in more wool of this colour.

after both sides were done, i machine stitched the two long sides of the pillow. i had to use my sister's industrial machine, mine refused to stitch it! i stuffed the pillow, and ended up hand stitching the short ends because it was impossible to get the sewing machine foot close enough to the bubbles/cells.

and this is the image that inspired it all -
B0006421 Breast cancer cells
Credit: Annie Cavanagh. Wellcome Images
A cluster of breast cancer cells showing visual evidence of programmed cell death (apoptosis).
Scanning electron micrograph

definitely go check out the other entries in the challenge too! i haven't had a chance to comment on them yet, but they're all wonderful! voting starts tomorrow, and goes until october 25th.
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