Sorry people. This one’s going to be a long one 🙂
Our story begins a little over 23 years ago with the birth of a beautiful baby girl who is the light of my life and has grown up to be my best friend. Her name is Kayla and she makes me smile every day with her existence.
We fast forward 20 years from that date to 2012 and I start to think about what I would like to do for her 21st birthday next year (2013).
I had recently given up smoking and had begun stitching again to ‘give my hands something to do’. In the course of this I rediscovered my love of stitching and had produced a couple of smaller pieces from the Cross Stitch Collection magazine. An ad in the back of the mag led me to a website http://heavenandearthdesigns.com/. I could not believe my eyes at the beauty of the designs. These are works of art transposed into pattern for stitching and they are stunning.
Within a week I had a wish list of over 100 designs and had picked out one for my first HAED (Heaven and Earth Design) project. I had picked Cats by Stephanie Pad-Mun Law as I thought it might be something Kayla would love and I would make it for her birthday.
Bear in mind here that the most intricate work that I had ever undertaken were Mirabilia’s and Lavender & Laces, only one of which hangs in my home. They usually took me around 4 months to stitch and I always stitched on 32 count linen, 2×2 (that’s 2 threads over 2 holes for those none stitchy people) but always elected the 1×1 option for the faces.
So off I went, ignoring the written instructions, and purchased some 32 count Belfast. I sat with stitching and 15 pages of pattern in hand and began. 2×1 (2 threads 1 hole) was how I thought best to tackle this one. About 2 weeks in I found that I really didn’t like the way it looked. 2 threads over 1 square was too bulky for my taste. So I tried to frog (rip it, rip it) it out. Turns out that this pattern which is high in confetti (multiple colour/thread changes in short spaces) and removing it is not as easy as one would think. After a short time I realised that I wasn’t getting these stitches out without ruining the fabric.
So off I went again to purchase a second lot of 32 count Belfast. I stitched away for about a 2 months, 1×1 this time, before giving up. I found that stitching on 32 count Belfast when going 1×1 makes me go severely cross-eyed. I was constantly making mistakes and, quite frankly, not enjoying myself at all. I hadn’t even completed my first page in those 2 months! So I threw it on the ground and did the Mexican hat dance on it.
I walked away from her for a month. At this stage the only person who knew about this present was my husband so I could have easily given up and nobody would have ever needed to know about it.
But I couldn’t.
Something about this one called to me and I really believed that Kayla would like it. Her taste in art and things is very different from mine so it was not without trepidation that I started again. This time on 28 count Lugana. Finally it started to come together.
It was now February 2013 and I knew the chances of getting her done in time were pretty remote. As she has 100,575 stitches in her I was going to need to stitch about 500 stitches a day. When you work full time this is a bit of a big ask but I figured oh well, I will get heaps stitched before August and just show Kayla and it will be done when it’s done.
Little did I know our lives were about to become rather topsy turvy.
My beautiful mother-in-law was battling terminal cancer. By March 2013 we started to realise that her time with us was drawing to an end and we needed to devote more and more time to her. Her hospital stays were becoming more frequent. I spent my lunchtimes with her when I could. Doing her chores, getting some groceries etc. and by the end of June she went in to a palliative care for the final stretch. First in Hamilton then in Matamata.
July rolled around and towards then end of the month I got a phone call to say my mother had seen a new doctor that day and was rushed into hospital in Tauranga. She had cancer but they didn’t know where or how bad so she had to stay there for diagnostics. For a couple of weeks there my husband and I kissed each other goodbye beside a car and each ran off to a different hospital.
My mum was out of hospital and awaiting surgery for the stomach tumour that they had found and Fay was getting sicker.
And my mojo was gone.
I had managed about 3 or 4 pages before all this but had reached a point that I could not pick Cats up. I was attempting to go with smaller projects and some Hardanger but I have never finished any of those. My attention span was in the toilet. It was all I could do to juggle work and parents. Stitching was a disaster.
So Kayla’s big day rolled around. I didn’t have a finished project for her but I put together a box of bits and pieces. I made her a cooking journal. I got all the nana’s and one granddad to write their favourite recipes in it and I covered it in donut material. I also gave her my high school ring and my 21st ring. We also gave her a 21st charm for her Pandora. At the bottom of the box I put the stitch and a picture of what it was going to be completed. She cried and gave me happy hugs so I guess I picked the right pattern lol
My husband and I were alternating nights at the hospital with Fay. As we live in a different town we would take turns spending the night at her flat but stay with her till around 10 at night. It meant that we were on hand if the phone call came but it meant more than that as well. It meant that I only saw my husband for a coffee in the morning and half an hour after work. Eventually, in September, Fay passed. In October mum went into hospital for surgery. After a little healing time mum then began 6 months of weekly chemo.
Of course we were there with her the whole way through.
My mojo was still gone.
Mid 2014 and I had not picked up Cats in about 9 months apart from a day here or there. It took 6 months for one page completion.
That’s when I started doing cushions and some other small but fun projects. It took a couple of months but by the end of 2014 my stitchy bug came home with avengeance. It helped that I managed to cause myself a major knee injury that took 7 months to get operated on so I was stuck on the couch a lot 🙂
Finally, on October 6 2015, I put the final stitch in. Dinner was about 2 hours late and we celebrated with bubbles 🙂
Kayla sent a message saying yay and get that wine off my cross stitch 😀
Sadly she has 2 major flaws, or learning curves if you prefer, that are hard to hide. I have discovered how much a colour can change between batch lots. This very noticable between pages 2 and 3. Also, because of her size, I used gridding for the first time with a washable pink marker. Turns out that the washable part was not entirely factual and you can see it a bit through the stitching. I am hopeful that will fade out over time but reality says, it is what it is.
I could beat myself up over those 2 things but at the end of the day what would that achieve? She is beautiful and the flaws just show that she was made by hand with love.
So after that epic story of her creation I expect you would like to see a framed and finished photo so here she is. Cats by Stephanie Pad-Mun Law, also know very affectionately as 50 shades of Beige. The photo does not do her colours any justice at all but she is beautiful.