Week thirty: in which I am smacked in the head by the inspiration fairy

On Friday I woke up with a fully formed and irresistible urge to turn the iconic Marble Floor at the museum into a cross stitch pattern. It’s an idea I have been playing about with for the three years I have worked there, but neither my design skills nor my patience were really up to it.

So what’s changed? Well, for one thing, working on a project which is all about creative confidence, the iterative design process, and building resilience is clearly rubbing off on me! I felt much more prepared to give it a go than I have done previously.

Secondly, the response to the ‘Storming the Castle’ design I blogged about in week 28 has been so positive that I felt as if something more complicated was doable.

Finally, in the ‘Snarky and Nerdy Cross Stitch’ group files I’d seen a lot of references to an open source design programme called Stitch Fiddle, and when I looked into it it seemed easy to use even for a non-designer like me. For a free-to-use application it has great functionality, and even more if you subscribe. You can use it to create knitting and crochet patterns too, and presumably anything else that requires small squares.

So at 8am on Friday I asked any on-site colleagues to take a few photos of the floor for me – a close-up and a wider angle, and a few people sent me some great images. We work in museums, so slightly odd requests come with the territory.

I started with my trusty grid paper from StitchPoint, trying to turn the uneven blocks you can see in the image into a uniform pattern. The blocks were all made individually by women prisoners from Woking Gaol, and some are more even than others, so this was quite tricky to do. I wanted to create a repeating pattern, rather than an exact replica of the floor itself, and I found it hard to translate the tiles onto my graph paper.

I tried processing the image on the left through another free software application, this time Pic2Pat, so I could see what the blocks would look like on an even grid pattern. This came out like this:

Still not perfect, but much easier to work from! I was able to create a basic circle from this which I then turned into a repeating pattern using StitchFiddle. I haven’t found copy and paste functionality as yet, but for things like this it would be really handy. There is a mirror horizontally or vertically function, but you lose the original and are left with the reflected one only. I did use it later, when I was having problems repeating the fishscale pattern to the left – I flipped it and then carried on working to the right.

Then it got a bit tricky – I could not see where to start the overlay to create the fish scale pattern on the screen, so I went back to basics: I printed the pattern twice, stuck one together as the base layer and then cut circles out of that so I could layer them up with the handy glue stick and the coloured pencil so I could mark where I was up to.

Finally, armed with this, I went back to Stitch Fiddle and created a final digital version which can be found here. I’m going to add lettering to the version I’m going to make, so have been playing around with alphabets on the printed version – I’m not sharing that yet though! I also made a quick version of the Greek Key border. I can see myself using Stitch Fiddle more in the future, as I’d quite like to make more designs with quotes on.

I finished the ‘Storming the Castle’ piece as well, which I am pleased with. I need to iron it, and then decide on finishing – wall hanging or frame? Note the overlocked edges on the fabric too – I’ve never thought of doing that to prevent fraying before but will definitely be doing it every time now!

I’ve also been adding to my portable crochet project – the one I do on tubes, in queues and during zoom conferences when I need to focus. If my hands aren’t busy I find things to fidget with and get very distracted, but a granny square in hand keeps my eyes on the screen. I am making small squares this time, using leftover DK yarn from the stash – when it comes to sewing the ends in I will undoubtedly regret it. This will be a blanket, I think: I am going for a patchwork effect.

Won over by a onesie…

This morning was the third week of winter swimming at Redricks – the weather was cloudy but it wasn’t raining, which after this week of school run downpours was pretty impressive! I really look forward now to getting in the lake, despite knowing that it’ll be even colder than it was last week, and I know the ladies I go with feel the same.

I’m still swimming in a wetsuit, though only 3mm, and I have added neoprene socks and gloves to the kit which make a difference. You wouldn’t think they would, since the cold water is inside them, but there we are. The last thing I do before racing for the towels and hot chocolate is strip the wetsuit off and jump back in the water in ‘skins’ for a splash about which is quite exhilarating. You really do earn the hot chocolate. Here we are this morning – I’m a great believer in the icy plunge, but the other three don’t usually do it and claim that I’m mad.

Ladies of the Lake (photo by Isla Falconer)

The swimming kit bag seems to get bigger every week: mine now contains goggles (which I only wear in the sun), swimming hat, towfloat, a towel, the giant robe I made, a fleecy hat, thermal socks, neoprene gloves and socks…and a onesie. I have resisted onesies for years – possibly as every time I went places like Romford or Harlow shopping there would be fully grown adults wearing them in public. I was totally behind various Tesco and Asda stores when they said people in pyjamas would not be allowed in (I was going to add ‘especially if you’ve made the effort to put full make up on’ to this). But then I tried getting leggings and a top on after a cold swim, when none of your fingers work properly, and decided I’d try one. And – OMG – I was converted. I bought a plain navy zip-up one with a fleece-lined hood and a kangaroo pocket, and it was like wearing a hug. It’s become my go-to for post-swimming wear now: robe on over towel, strip off, pants on and onesie and I’m good to go.

There’s no excuse for this though. Sorry.

Full English: Photo by Isla, socks by Primark, sandals by Birkenstock

So that’s been my week. I’m still sorting the learning collection, discovering treasures that have been hidden in cupboards for years. This includes the little-known ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ edition Action Man, whose elastic joints have seized since 1964 into a very balletic pose, and a whole box of mint condition Star Wars figurines by Kenner. This week I’m onto toys (magnetic and mechanical), and hopefully the clothing collection.

And now I’m off to tuck up under a blanket and catch up with Bake Off… See you at the end of week 31!

Kirsty

What I’ve been reading:

Battle Ground (The Dresden Files) – Jim Butcher

Hard Time (Time Police) – Jodi Taylor

See Delphi and Die/Saturnalia (Falco) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

Podcast: You’re dead to me (BBC Sounds app)

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