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I'm HERE! Hanging the Sinister Stitch Wall of Thread…

ZOWIE! Who knew some hack-n-slasher would take down my site with nothing but a remedial recipe for 3rd rate hacking and a few sloppy keystrokes!! Sadly, I lost a week of work because my students couldn’t access tutorials, and sponsors couldn’t see ads… etc. In this economy, it should be a felony to destroy someone’s livelihood, ya know??  Anyway, after going at it for days both alone and eventually with tech support as backup insurance, Husband rebuilt the site and I have a snazzy new dashboard to post from. Cue parade music & Husband/Geek Award!! I feel like spring is here…  But then, there’s my heart.

Those of you who know me personally may know this story, but for those students who have labored under cryptic edicts such as “I’m emailing from the hospital so it’s gonna be short…” 

Here’s the scoop.

After a wretched Thanksgiving, I was feeling especially low. The kind of drained that makes you start thinking in serial killer writing. I could not.  get.  up.  I slept or dozed for hours on end, but never felt rested. I’ve lived with wicked fatigue and blinding headaches that make me vomit til I pass out for about 5 years, but this complete exhaustion was unbearable. Add my heart — I had chest and left arm pain and then tinglies, my jaw was throbbing to the beat of my heart, which was alternately fluttering and beating out of my chest… that put me in my GP’s office: I could not get a handle on this… Blood Pressure 220 over 136… HE had a panic attack!

Cue emergency room visit and my new luxurious accomodations at North Kansas City Hospital. Yipes.

My blood pressure was 221 over 124 and took 4 1/2 hours to bring down. Not pretty. The scary thing is it’s been this high or even higher for 4 YEARS and no one could explain it. I’d tried many meds but they would only work for a few months then the pressure was on again. I had 2 days of tests… Headaches that made me sob…

And Food… well that’s a cheap shot, but eewww! Slimy beans!!

After hours of testing, the (VERY lovely) staff  left me to rest while they sorted the data.  Like any good artist, I used my time wisely (rest shmest):

I worked on research for the Foxglove (did you know one of the legends of how it got its name is that wicked fairies enchanted the plant to grow those cup-shaped flowers and gave them to the foxes so their paws were muffled and they could sneak up on chickens —

I LOVE that! I have Arthur Rackham images in my head of the whole affair – like the donkey in lion skin!)  Husband and I even managed to capture some sweet footage as I was sketching and I discovered how important it is to me that Sinister Stitch reflect the REAL journey of how, for me, Stitch is Life. I have, for a long time, been utterly unable to seperate my artistic compulsions from my life elements… those of you who live the same existence, YOU know what I mean. My art is where my sanity lives.

Witness:  When they put me in the CT Scan, my heart rate was 52. I was instructed to “keep doing whatever you’re doing to be still and calm”. They needed to get a good picture of my heart as it beat slow and steady. I laughed and continued “stitching”…

What they didn’t know is that, in order to avoid the BIG drugs to slow my heart, I was s-l-o-w-l-y satin stitching the mandrake leaves in my mind!! STITCH ZEN!! Worked like a charm, like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  I began to understand the deeper meaning of art, of mental clarity and control, of  how art can LITERALLY save lives. It has given me such a gift in the beginning of this long health journey — Sinister Stitch has given me a fierce focus, a way to access the quiet, even parts of myself. And the most important thing about this journey is to honor the gift by sharing it with you, my art friends and family.  I want people to really understand the process and practice of living art.  Of how stitch has given me breadth and depth in how I work, and live, and survive this wretched health crisis.  My art IS my life, and through it, all things are possible. Good thing I remembered my Mandrake journal and my copy of Daffodils Are Dangerous: the poisonous plants in your garden (tho I did have pause when the floor nurse saw me reading about poisons — I was afraid they’d put me on suicide watch!!)

SO — back to our story…

I can say the NKC Hosp docs are the BEST!! Dr Michael Woody attended me, and when he wasn’t getting enough answers, he conference called EVERYone from the radiologist and cardiologist to techs and together they went line by line for several hours (!!) through their notes, til someone yelled BINGO! An adrenal mass over my right kidney (roughly 8.5cm X 7cm X 5cm!!) has been amping up my heart for the last few years, and it’s been a self feeding cycle of overwork.  The symptom list reads like my sketchbook diaries: exhaustion, HIGH blood pressure, headaches, mood swing extravaganza, nausea, etc. I could have kissed them all.  Finally, someone has made sense of it.

For now, I make notes, sketchbooks, and art.  I’m waiting on a round of pre-operative tests and will likely face surgery in the coming weeks. I’ve worked hard to create a space for beginning the womandrake in my studio (luckily son had a bad cold and was home from school for 2 days to help me erect the new Wall of Thread (courtesy of DMC threads):

I began with a pile of perle cotton and some bamboo rods…

Together, we cleared a space on the wall behind where the Womandrake will be stitched, and put up some thread skein groups (again, courtesy of DMC Threads):

I have so much confidence that is gonna be COOL!! …

Get the WHOLE studio and preparations scoop at the *NEW*  Tools&Workspace page under Sinister Stitch *LINK*

I have made my “nest”, and am anxiously awaiting getting to WORK!

Luckily, I have great support – champion Husband and best kids ever, close family, good friends, and my art family to buoy my energies and spirit.

If you’ve followed me, you know I have formed a strong alliance with Florilegium Needlearts, the local needlearts shop here in Parkville.  I think of myself as the store cat, and often take a latte and whatever I’m working on and go sit at the BIG tables in front of the yam jars full of yarn and just zone out and stitch.  I cannot overstate how Gretchen (the proprietress) and Cathy (her chief right hand) have been OXYGEN for me. They frequently host experimental groups that are geared toward discovering new techniques or products (we’ll be filming some of the Womandrake creation there as a “stitch-in-the-round” so the public can see stitch up close), and I’ll be teaching some poison themed workshops there as well. Undoubtedly, their kindnesses and support have been such a strength, SUCH an inspiration. And with Gretchen keeping me in books and mixed media supplies, and Cathy’s soft open WAY of saying “Hi there YOU – come sit down…”  you just want to BE there, among the yarns and fibers, and ALL the laughter (and cookies and WINE), and be rejuvenated! So yes, I have SUCH a story to tell…  and I promise to be open, and honest the whole way — if you’ll come with me.

Today I am derailed for more tests (urine, MRI scheduling, etc)  — but thanks to a suggestion from Cathy Johnson (the Quicksilver Workaholic) who is an amazing watercolorist, I’ve gathered a few of her ideas for assembling a very small, light weight “kit” of sorts for working on the run: (photo from Cathy’s Nov 12 blog post – link below)

How COOL???!! It’s a pencil tray with tube colors squeezed into each end. Add a pencil, waterbrush, and eraser and you’re in business! She’s put together many GREAT books and has videos coming on watercolor and is one of my heroines — living and working on her own terms and enjoying every bit of the way! HOW can you not love a woman who refers to her man as “LOVER”??? YUM!  She has several related posts on tools and supplies that keep things simple and organized -  *LINKtoEXPLORE*

For my purposes, I’ll use a little bigger carrying case so that I can include a few skeins of floss and needle — TRUE mixed media embroidery plein air! BAM!  I’ll post my kit after I get it put together…  I’m gonna need something compact and lightweight to take into the hospital for surgery.

And speaking of tools and supplies, if you didn’t look at Tools&Workspace *LINK* earlier, check it out.  So many of us are rather odd birds in that we use mixed media, wacky art supplies, everything from recycled to found objects, and all sorts of fiber and textiles. Thus, I thought it might be valuable to the Sinister story if you see what I work with and how I use it. I LOVE artists studio pics and toolbox ideas, so maybe I can be of service if I share mine. You saw the new Wall of Thread above. Those will be the threads exclusively for Sinister Stitch provided by DMC. I will use my personal threads on the Wall of Thread above my work table for other all projects — this will help me know exactly what I’ve used and how much (I love tracking supplies!) The Roots at Dusk took 110,000 stitches and left me with about a pound and a half of thread salad — let’s see what the thread leavings of Sinister Stitch are…

(If you haven’t yet experienced Thread Salad™ *LINK*) Look here – it’s a great tool for visualizing what a composition might look like using an under painting and the bits and leavings of thread in an impressionistic way).

While you minx around, I’m going to get my designs finished for the March-April JoAnn curriculum (man they schedule far ahead) and work a few samples for the Kids Art Camp I’m teaching over Winter break — we’re doing Embroidered Finger Puppets and Braided Chain bracelets. YAY! I do love working with the young people (usually aged 7 to 15). They have a great sense of adventure and are always up for trying out ideas and being creative with the materials.

Thank you, really, for sharing this journey. For me, it’s literally LIFE, and sanity.  For you, I hope it’s inspiration and maybe encouragement!  Be Fearless!

7 comments to I'm HERE! Hanging the Sinister Stitch Wall of Thread…

  • Pattie

    VICTORIA. I am glad they found that silly mass and that your medical team is all.over.it. Wishing you low blood pressure and a headache-free holiday season….

  • You know on top of everything else you are a wonderful writer. I am loving what you do and reading about it. I am so glad they found out what was going on, but wow, eek!!!!!!!! grrr! what a horrid time you have had.

    “those of you who live the same existence, YOU know what I mean. My art is where my sanity lives.”

    Yes! yes! and yes! I know exactly what you mean. Thank goodness for our art :) Satin stitch is one of my absolute FAVE stitches, so soothing and meditative. Well off to check your links.
    Sending my best this holiday season

  • THANK YOU Pattie & C.B., in spite of it all, I’m keeping spirits up-ish! Your support is like fresh air. ;o)

  • ANN WILSON

    Hi – I stumbled across your website by accident having put in a search for ‘figures in stitch’ for a college project I am doing just now…love your work and website…and then found you had had cancer which resonated with me cos I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer and it is stitching which has kept me sane so far!!!
    Hope you are keeping well and strong…blessings…Anni

    • Victoria

      Hi Anni — thanks SO much for your comment (& for your STRENGTH!) I know it’s NO picnic when our bodies go places WE didn’t intend, but I, too, know if not for needlearts, I’d have lost my mind! I look forward to inspiring, energizing, and leading the stitcherhood!!! TAKE CARE! v.

  • Chandice

    Hi Victoria!

    I too stumbled across your website thru “Craft Gossip”. Can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have found you and to read about your life, especially embroidery stitching and your battle with cancer! :-) You inspire me already just from reading your story!

    Embroidery is my biggest passion and I have been stitching off and on since I was a teenager. My grandmother taught me the basics and I have gone from there. It is true that when you are embroidering you are in a creative place and it is very calming. In the last 3years I have been very diligent with embroidery. I had a stroke in 2008, which has changed my life in a good way. I was only 53 a young 53 lol :-)). I have a lot of free time at this point in my life :-) I have two grown children who I love so much!

    Most of my damage has been to my memory, so I thank God everyday that it was not worse!! :-) Anyway, I have wanted to be challenged in embroidery and you have given me the courage to try :-)

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am very happy for you that you are on the road to a full recovery! yay!

    Chandice
    living on the oregon coast

    • Victoria

      THANK YOU Chandice!! I am SO glad to hear from you — I LOVE the Oregon coast & look forward to getting back there soon. I’m so glad to hear that you are still doing needlework in spite of your health — I just can’t say how much it has given me over the course of MY journey. Take care & come along with me — we’re GOing places in the stitcherhood!!!

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