It's been awhile since I've posted here and that's because I'm knee-deep in working on the charts, text, and samples for my upcoming book on folk embroidery. I had my first meeting with the publishing team this past week and I was over the moon at their attention to all the details and how committed they were to bringing my vision of a new folk embroidery book to reality. We've settled on the final stats and the book will be 144 pages with 14 projects and 150+ charts. So, chock-a-block full of fabulous folk embroidery cross stitch!
Currently, I'm working on putting the final touches on the charts. It's tricky work because it's a LOT of charts and readability is critical. As most of you well know, cross stitch charts don't always fit neatly into a set chart size due to the wide variety of motif repeats, so it's a fine balance between making the chart large enough that it's easy to stitch from, but small enough that you get a feel for what the design will look like when made up. Is there enough of the Perimeter design showing that you have an idea of what it will look like when you stitch it up? Or, can you get a sense of what an Allover design looks like when you use it for a large table runner? While this type of chart editing is fussy, square by square work, I am finding it helps me see designs in a new way. As a designer, I've gotten pretty spoiled with creating full size patterns for kits (big design? I'll just add another page!), but with a book, there's a set number of pages and so designs have to be trimmed and adjusted to fit within these parameters.
The concept of creating within limitations is one I'm quite familiar with given my almost three decades working as an ecclesiastical tailor in the tradition of Eastern Orthodox liturgical vesture--I've created thousands of sets of vestments, but each set follows a specific style which has its origins in garments of the ancient Greek and Roman world, so while there is amazing creativity in the choice of brocades and finishings, I am always working within the limitation of how the garments are actually constructed. Over the years, I've come to deeply appreciate how this creative limitation can actually be freeing because it removes choice paralysis from the creative process.
Haven't heard about choice paralysis? Well, it's when you have TOO many choices and you experience overwhelm and can't make a decision. If you've searched Amazon for something simple like "tote bag" or "toothpaste" lately, you'll know exactly what choice paralysis is--after seeing dozens and dozens of tote bags and feeling overwhelmed by all the colors and styles, you decide you don't really need a tote bag after all! I discovered the concept years ago when I would send brocade samples to clients and I would stuff those envelopes just as full as I could because I wanted my client to have all the options. But, a few weeks later, I'd check in with them and they couldn't seem to decide upon a brocade even though they really wanted a new set of vestments. So, I started sending fewer swatches, paring down the options to 3 or 4 brocades I thought would work best for them, and suddenly, clients were choosing quickly and easily. I realized my over-stuffed swatch envelopes were overwhelming them with too many choices: I was used to looking at 23 different brocades and envisioning all the options but my clients weren't and it was resulting in choice paralysis. Once I limited the options, it was much easier for them to choose.
I've used this strategy of choice limitations ever since--if my teenager is choosing a new brand of cereal, I'll have her put 4 boxes into our grocery cart and choose from this limited offering rather than gazing helplessly at the vast array of boxes in the cereal aisle. Choosing which movie we're going to watch for family movie night? You guessed it--we limit it to three choices from which we all decide upon our final selection. And when I'm designing folk embroidery patterns, I feel creatively energized by the limitations of the Mediterrean folk embroidery color palette--with only a few greens to choose from, I don't spend hours trying to find that "perfect" green. It's paradoxical that limitations can actually lead to freedom, but editing down our options can be just what we need to move forward.
It was great that I was on this whole "the amazing power of creative limitation!" kick, because I found out on Monday that I have to spend another FOUR weeks in the walking boot for my broken foot. I had transitioned back to shoes too quickly (and, maybe cleaning out the garage wasn't the best idea for my first day back in shoes...), so I have to be off my foot for the next month in order to have full mobility in time for my trip to Greece in September to research folk embroidery. Talk about limitations! I suddenly realized I would have to make a bunch of changes for my upcoming HH Americas trip to accommodate my limited mobility. I was so discouraged, I considered cancelling, but then I realized this was just another limitation and, hey, there might be some new inspiration in this after all! So I ordered a bright red knee scooter (because the scooters for short people apparently only come in superhero colors?) , figured out how to ship my booth boxes ahead, and notified the airline because I just couldn't miss out on the amazing creative inspiration I find in one of the largest creative trade shows in the US even if I couldn't get around like usual.
One upside of being off my foot again is that I have a lot of time for chart editing and stitching--in addition to the book editing, I'm almost done stitching the Cycladean Floral new multi-colored version (below) and I've got three new table runner designs in the works for the fall. Two of them will be on the just-arrived Mikini 30ct in NATURAL! I was thrilled when the manufacturer offered this to me a few weeks ago as I've long wanted an ivory option of the Mikini 30ct (the white is really white and the ecru is really dark, so I've been pining for a Goldlilocks ivory/natural color). It turns out, the natural is the "raw" version of the Mikini before it's gone through the mercerization process, so it has this fabulous texture and that wonderful wheat-y fragrance (have you ever noticed that Traditional Groundcloth has the most amazing fresh-baked-bread smell? It smells just like that). So, it's got the crispness and finer stitch count that I love in the Mikini, but with a color and texture closer to Traditional Groundcloth--perfection! Pamela and I played around with the floss colors this week for two of the new designs--one is a floral table runner and the other is a fabulous peacock design featuring confronted Byzantine peacocks (the art history nerd in me is simply swooning over this one and I can't wait to share it with you) and we just kept commenting on how much we love this new Mikini 30ct natural. I should have some progress pics on Instagram in a few days.
So, fingers crossed that I'll be walking sometime in July and in the meantime, I'm learning to embrace my limitations and look for the freedom I can find within!