31 January 2011

A curse

I hadn't intended to post again so soon, but this really struck a nerve today.

I first visited the Egyptian Museum in December 1999. I was studying my Masters in Egyptology and was in Egypt as part of an archaeological dig in Cairo. The very first day I arrived, I went straight to the museum. I was tired, jet lagged, and deeply overwhelmed, but I immediately loved this place. For years, I had been studying Egyptology, reading books and writing essays. But here, right in front of me, were the artifacts I had always read about and loved. The Narmer Palette, the Tutankhamen collection, the Hatshepsut statues.

So you get the idea that this is one of my favourite places in the world. There is a quiet magic in there.

When I tell people I studied to be an archaeologist, I am often asked the usual questions:

“Is it just like Indiana Jones?”
“Did aliens build the pyramids?”
“Is there a curse of the mummy?”

Sorry, but no. Archaeology is a lot less romantic than you think. The magic, for me, is in the art and the symbolism.

The curse of the mummy, at least, has some small basis in fact. Egyptian tombs had inscriptions on the outside of them saying things along the lines of, “May my tomb never be touched!” There's no shaman uttering curses, and there's no actual magic. The curse of Tutankhamen’s mummy was a media beat-up when the tomb was discovered (media sensationalism is not new!). 

Well (to finally get to my point), today I wish there was a curse.

I've been reading about the rioting in Egypt, and I'm not really in a position to comment on the political side of things. Frankly, I was always more interested in ancient Egypt than modern.

But then I started hearing that the Egyptian Museum had been looted, and artifacts destroyed. That got my attention! As it turns out, the looters got into the museum, smashed up a few artifacts, ripped the heads off two mummies, and were then caught.

I could cry!

27 January 2011

An important lesson

A few years ago, I was entering a finished cross stitch into a public exhibition. I read the conditions of entry, one of which said: "Entries which have been washed will be disqualified."

I thought that was strange. Why would having washed an embroidery make a difference?

So I asked my Mum, who is my essential go-to person when it come to all matters artistic and crafty. She told me that it used to be generally accepted that "a lady keeps her embroidery clean".  

Well, it turns out that I'm not a lady (shock, horror).

I have been asked by a magazine, Australian Country Craft and Decorating, to publish two of my Stitches By Kryss designs with them this year. It's very exciting! But it also has required that I do a lot of stitching very fast, because I've never before actually stitched these designs as cross stitch, only basketweave stitch. To meet the deadlines they needed, I needed to start stitching for all I was worth!

This week, I delivered the first of the two designs, Tulip Garden, to the publisher. I'm now stitching Pieced Star - Blue as quickly as possible.

But here's where I hit my snafu. The star is completed, so I'm stitching the very light blue background. I've been pretty careful about keeping my hands clean because, as you can imagine, dealing with a new baby can result in all sorts of interesting substances. However, apparently I haven't been careful enough. I picked up the fabric last night, and noticed that there were a few lines of stitching which were slightly darker than the others.

Oh crap. 

So I'm in damage control. Late last night, I washed the embroidery. I think it helped, but not enough because I can still see the stains. So I dried and ironed the embroidery, then set about unpicking the stained portions and restitching them. 

Double crap.

The newly stitched lines are visible, for some reason, I think because of a little stretching of the Aida fabric. However, I just ironed the whole thing and it seems to have sorted itself out. I can still see the lines, but I'm about 99% sure it's the sort of thing the stitcher can see and no one else will ever notice.

At least, I hope so.

I commented to my husband that this was how OCD habits begin. I'm now washing my hands about every 10 minutes, terrified that a new stain will appear!

So, I learned two new things today:

Lesson 1: I'm not a lady (actually, that's not anything new). 

Lesson 2: Wash your hands before you stitch large blocks of light areas!