Part 1: The Epic Budget Flight Journey to get to the Start!

This is a budget trip. SUPER budget. So I had to get from Cincinnati to the tiny French town of St. Jean Pied-de-Port. My journey started last Friday when Tim and I drove 4 hours from Cincinnati to Akron, where my parents live. He went back to work on Tuesday and Tuesday night, my parents drove me to Cleveland airport to catch a ride on Wow Airlines.

Wow Airlines are a new addition to many Midwest airports and provide budget travel to many European destinations, with layovers in Iceland. Yep, this is an Iceland airline. And they are BUDGET. Food, drink, water are all available to PAY for. There are no movies or technology to pass the time.

 The Cleveland departure board when I arrived! Eliminates delays on the airport's end!

The Cleveland departure board when I arrived! Eliminates delays on the airport's end!

Weirdly enough, I didn't mind this. The flight to Iceland is 5.5 hours. Iceland to Gatwick was around 4. The flight left after midnight from Cleveland so the airport was dead and stress free. Then, since there's no first class, they actually did something logical and boarded back of plane to front. We were boarded and ready to go in under half an hour! They charge for carry on bags and strictly monitor the size. I didn't pay for a seat so I was stuck on the window and found the same cramped leg room as any standard flight.

Except...there were no blankets, no eye masks, no endless loads of crap that I normally have to stash under my seat. I actually found myself MORE comfortable. That being said, I'm short.

Also, they have some snappy marketing! They are clearly targeting millennials. I'm a millennial and I'm here for it. I bought one water and one pop after security and brought on some snacks.

 Apparently one of their airplanes identifies as gay! Stay away crazy conservatives. I hear it turns millennials gay on the regular!

Apparently one of their airplanes identifies as gay! Stay away crazy conservatives. I hear it turns millennials gay on the regular!

 Even the barf bags are branded for a laugh. Obscene clouds?!?

Even the barf bags are branded for a laugh. Obscene clouds?!?

 A rather ingenious idea! They accept all leftover change of ANY currency. Coins cannot be converted back to USD so here's a great way to get rid of that extra 60 pence in your pocket.

A rather ingenious idea! They accept all leftover change of ANY currency. Coins cannot be converted back to USD so here's a great way to get rid of that extra 60 pence in your pocket.

Everything was perfectly fine until I ended up in Iceland's airport, a 4.5 hour layover, and my lack of sleep catching up to me. Luckily I found a hidden quiet place downstairs that was full of USB and European style charging plugs. So I hooked myself up a nest of technology, used some clothes for pillows and positioned myself in the paranoid "keep your bags" stance with hands through various straps. It was actually just what I needed.

There isn't shit to do in the Iceland airport. The Haribo gummy selection is nice. It's expensive as balls and you'd wish you'd just paid for the airplane food. But it was straightforward. Our flight left and arrived early in Gatwick. So no complaints here! And my nap was actually decent. Another plus point for the Iceland layover, absolutely free wi-fi. 

 Much needed nap time. I will also add that Iceland's airport has some especially harsh florescent lights, especially in the bathrooms! Just in case you never knew just HOW blotchy you really are!

Much needed nap time. I will also add that Iceland's airport has some especially harsh florescent lights, especially in the bathrooms! Just in case you never knew just HOW blotchy you really are!

The Stitch Hussy Camino Adventure!

As you see, we've taken all our products offline through mid-October. We'll be back in time for Christmas. Also, we are now Stitch Hussy. A slight rebranding as we go back to being an online and indie craft fair business.

Since everything seems to be changing directions, it was the perfect time to finally do something I've been wanting to do since Freshman year of college! 13 years ago!!!

I was introduced to the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in my Medieval Saints and Relics art history course with Prof. Inglis. We read a lot about the pilgrimage route, the souvenirs that medieval pilgrims picked up and the art and architecture of the saint cults along the way. Soon I found out, people were STILL doing it. Not many at the time, but some.

In recent years, it's been the subject of popular books, documentaries and a movie starring Charlie Sheen. In the early 90s, a priest in Spain wanting to revive the way went back and forth on the trail, painting sign posts to guide pilgrims and make it more accessible. Eventually, pilgrim hostels popped up at almost every small town along the route.

So today, the Camino Frances starts traditionally at St. Jean Pied-de-Port, on the French border and French side of the Pyrenees. A day's walk brings you into the Basque country of Spain and it's another 500ish mile trek along the north of Spain to the church of Santiago de Compostela. Literally, the church of Saint Iago, which is Saint James. Yes, that Saint James. The Apostle. Don't ask me how he ended up in Spain. Let's just say that this pilgrimage route was also used pre-Christianity by those pesky pagans. So suspiciously, an apostle from the middle east ended up buried at the end and POOF Christianity conquers all!

Today, I'm writing you from Gatwick airport before I go on to the small French town of Biarritz. This was just a slight intro. Pictures in the next post!

SAL: Let's Go On An Adventure! by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

Last month, I decided to participate in my first SAL. That's fancy insider cross-stitcher speak for a stitch-along. It's also my first time stitching up a design from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. The Frosted Pumpkin is definitely a new exciting force in the cross-stitch world. Their designs are cutesy but not TOO much so (as I'm not very into cutesy, personally) and heavily influenced by the Japanese kawaii style. Surprise! Kawaii is Japanese for CUTE!

I first stitched the lettering. The chart also included upper and bottom borders for the whole piece. But unless you really trust your counting skills (I don't!), I suggest leaving the borders until you've done more months.

 

As I love to travel, the "Let's Go on an Adventure" stitch along seemed perfect for me but I wasn't sure of the 1 year commitment. So I let 3 months go by to get a better sense of what I'd be stitching. That's right, you can still join. You'll just have to catch up a bit.  Here's how it works...

When you sign up, you get a pattern with ALL the details. What fabric to use, what floss. And remember, you won't be able to SEE the whole pattern so it's best to use their recommendations or take your own risk. For example, I chose a much lighter fabric than is recommended. And now my whites aren't showing up and may need some outlining in the future. Not a disaster...but be prepared!

  Here's snowy mountainous Switzerland. As you can see, the snow and the top of the mountain are blending in. I'll probably outline in a dark grey and maybe add some Kreinik metallic to the snowflakes. The linen I used is 32 count. It has a slight marbled stamped appearance on one side which I thought would make a nice cloud-like background.

Here's snowy mountainous Switzerland. As you can see, the snow and the top of the mountain are blending in. I'll probably outline in a dark grey and maybe add some Kreinik metallic to the snowflakes. The linen I used is 32 count. It has a slight marbled stamped appearance on one side which I thought would make a nice cloud-like background.

 

So I received a pattern that was the basic outline for the piece. Borders and the phrase "Let's go on an adventure." On the first of every month, an updated pattern is mailed out and you get to "visit" a new country. January - London, February - Paris, March - The Netherlands, April - Switzerland and I have yet to start on May's installment so I'll leave it a mystery for now. Each month is a perfect little project. Not too big and not too small!

 

We have a selection of Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery patterns available right in our store. However, Stitch Along projects are only available online directly from them. You pay a one time price and the pattern is automatically delivered to your email inbox every month! Feel free to join along with me by buying the pattern here.  Yes, It's now May but you can easily catch up! We carry all the DMC threads you need and also have a range of Aida and linen in many counts. I've done mine on linen but you can easily stick to 14 count Aida. You can also stitch along with others online by joining The Frosted Pumpkin Stitch-along Facebook group. Just request to join and share your progress. Many other stitchers are adding their own touches and modifications to the pattern so it's a great place to get some inspiration and make this project your own.

The Big Red Ship of LIfe: Update 1 of many

After hustling for a few years, designing my own patterns, stitching them, selling them and repeating, I took a step back last year. I started to stitch other people's designs for my OWN pleasure. And I had my own wonderful cross-stitch store to shop from. It's been so freaking wonderful.

2 long months work of work.

For 2 solid months, I've been working on the biggest damn piece of cross-stitch EVER (ok, not really but it feels like it). It consists of over 60,000. The 32 count piece (like 16 count Aida) of linen I'm using is 26 inches across by 30 inches in height. The pattern completely fills 16 dense pages, of which I have completed two and a half. The original design was to be done completely in one color but I changed that up a bit.

This pattern is made by Ink Circles. I am basically obsessed with her. Her designs vary from mandalas and wonderful geometric abstractions to work that looks extremely traditional until you look a little closer. The first piece I made of hers was "Get Kraken." Made to look like a found Dutch sampler from long ago, it tells the story (in Dutch, of course) of a Kraken taking down a ship. And once you pay attention, it's less traditional and more giant octopus pulling sailors beneath the waves! She also has one called the Little Alien Schoolgirl sampler. Based of the designs of traditional American schoolgirl samplers where learning motifs and alphabets are stitched, this one features an alien alphabet and motifs that must be a tradition for alien life.

Motifs and border on the left side.

This piece, unlike those mentioned above, is actually truly based on real history. The motifs and the symbol of the ship come from an amalgamation of Sumatran weavings that have survived. It will, eventually, be a big giant ship! Surprise! The bits of yellow are the masts. In the upper part, there are people and birds and all kinds of different wildlife. Land creatures and plants on the deck of the ship and beneath the ship, there's a wonderful row of strange sea creatures (but that's a long way off for me!).

Some pops of color and the beginning of the ship mast.

Interested in an Ink Circles design? We carry many of her patterns in the shop. And don't worry. You shouldn't be intimidated. She has patterns in ALL sizes and her style of patterns are endlessly adaptable. They can be worked on linen or Aida in any color. You can use DMC or fancy silks. You can (and are encouraged) to change up the colors. Many pieces, like this one, only use whole cross-stitches. No back- stitching, no quarter or half stitches.

Why the hell did I open a needlecraft store? (In which I accidentally write a manifesto)

I opened my store one and a half years ago. I remember reading a report on the cross-stitch industry. The statistics were that the average customer was 55 and aging. The consensus was easy: Anyone in their right mind and under the age of 50 should not open a needlecraft store. If someone dies and you inherit a store, good luck.

But WHY? There's so much potential in cross-stitch and embroidery. Sure, there are different aesthetics. Primatives and reproduction samplers will always be a mainstay in the tradition. But it's only 1/100th of the possibilities!

So here I am, claiming to be a "Modern" store for needlecraft and making it up as I go. I don't have a model to follow (that I am aware of, oh please if you have a store like this BE FRIENDS WITH ME!!!).

My main complaint with the industry is it's steadfast tradition and it's unwillingness to adapt. It's not just that the themes of the products often seem outdated. The projects are often daunting, composed of expensive specialty products and requiring specialty tools...yet there seems no easy way in. I may have cross-stitched since the age of 10, but I often feel like an outsider in this industry. Not only do I not know the lingo, the tools, the variety of fibers...but the information isn't being taught and openly shared. When the information isn't shared, the population ages. When skills are not passed down, a tradition dies. When new offerings are still completely stuck in the same old tradition with no room for error, nothing evolves. When no risks or mistakes are made, nothing innovative is produced.

You can't learn a new skill without easy to manage smaller projects. You can't love a new skill without finding projects that are a joy to complete and a joy to gift or display. You can't build confidence without a community of your peers to share ideas to build upon and to swap techniques.

So you've never stitched before? Let me tell you the industry's dirty little secret. It's NOT hard. Anyone can do it. You do not have to consider yourself a creative or crafty person. Mathematical and anal types will love the repetitive nature of cross-stitch. Indecisive? Scattered? Don't want to be tied down by what is "right" or "wrong"? Embroidery is where you will shine. Stick to the basics or learn literally hundreds of crazy specialty stitches. Either way, stitching is calming and relaxing.

Your first piece looks sloppy? Of course it does. But you made it. And it was your first piece and you just learned something totally freaking new. Practice makes perfect. Time makes perfect. Until then, you work with what you've got. Or as I usually advise "Just stick that shit in a frame, cover the back and impress everyone."

Hand stitching is not outdated. It never will be, because the basic skills are timeless. The enjoyment level is also timeless. It's stress relieving. It's meditative. It's just mindless enough (but not too much), that it can be enjoyed with Netflix binging and a beer. Many of the hardcore "rules" and the adherence to certain traditions are outdated. We are no longer upperclass women being assigned this craft as an appropriate medium to relieve boredom but not too overly stimulating to lead us down the path of whoredom. It's a craft for men and women. All ages. All ethnicities etc etc etc. You can create a piece for $3 or you can spend $1000 perfecting an heirloom to be passed down with only the finest threads. You can take yarn and graffiti public fences or you can professionally frame a piece to adorn your family room.

Basically, a lot of people come into my store. They may be beginners. They are often a bit nervous. But the way they try to break the ice is by asking for rules. Sometimes, I struggle with the definition of a "modern" needlecraft store. But maybe this is what will set me apart. I can't give you those rules. I don't have them. I can offer you tips and advice. I can give you generally accepted guidelines and a starting point. I can't give you rules. Rules are destroying the industry. Rules make everything less fun. If your hobby isn't fun or enjoyable or relaxing, it's not a hobby. Make your own rules and your own guidelines. I don't need to like your finished product. You do!

It's an art that's been around forever (in many different traditions spanning the globe). But we are finally reaching a point where it's not completely defined by class, family lineage, trade, gender, economic status, expectations of subject matter and appropriateness for the medium and on and on and on. You can set your own rules or do away with them completely. I'm not there to stop you. I'm there to encourage you. And to troubleshoot with you. And to create awesomeness!

This post was supposed to be about new fun things I discovered at the Nashville cross-stitch trade show. Clearly, IT'S NOT. So that post is forthcoming.

What is that about Leap Day?

Supposedly, today is the day to do something you wouldn't normally do. So let's try this out and see if I update this more than once every 4 years!

Who is The Purple Hippo? It's Sarah Fisher, the owner of The Hoop & Needle, but I started out under my brand name of Purple Hippo Stitches.

I'll use this area to show you awesome products (all of which are available in store and maybe online). I'll also share my current projects and maybe some cat pictures if you are lucky.

Now that we have this pesky awkward "I'm starting a blog!" post out of the way...let's move on, shall we?