Thursday, June 26, 2014

Work Orders

No, not the kind your boss gives you.

How you plan your project is often times as important as how you create your project, a lesson I learned a long time ago from an unexpected teacher.

It was my grandfather who first imparted the seeds of this knowledge to me when I was maybe 13 or so. He came upon me at the kitchen table, hard at work on some drawing or another.

"Why don't you start in the top corner next time?" he asked.

Looking back, I shouldn't have been surprised that my grandfather would think of this. After all, here was a man who had designed and created a replica of his own house in miniature for us grandchildren along with countless pieces of jewelry for my grandmother, mother, and the rest of us females in the family. As a wood worker and silversmith, planning the order of work was no doubt was vital, but it isn't any less important to the projects I do now.
A terrible picture of my grandfather's truly breathtaking woodworking.
You just KNOW planning had to go into this.

Its importance was brought home at that kitchen table to me though because I could see precisely why the order of my work was so important. I had a giant smudge of pencil lead across my hand from where my hand had rested. Had I started in the top corner and worked to my right, my right-handedness would have meant that my hand rested on blank paper, not finished drawing. By going the wrong direction with my drawing, not only had I gotten pencil on myself, but produced smudges on my finished drawing. It was an illuminating experience as I doubt I'd ever considered what I was doing in such a way before.

It isn't always possible to start in one corner and work outwards, though, and I often don't. When I'm drawing I still need to sketch out the bare bones of something in total before I get down to the details, but I do at least think about my work order more now. Embroidery is similar, in that a lot of the time it doesn't matter where I start as the project is so small, although choosing which elements and which thread selections are done first is crucial.

However, most cross-stitch kits will tell you to start in the middle of the pattern in order for you not to accidentally measure things wrong and end up with a project that is falling off the pre-cut fabrics. I can understand that, however I've found that I disagree with it more and more.
The less-than-stellar path

I regretted taking that advice when I was finishing my Tiger project. So when I picked up my Guardian project, I thought long and hard about my stitching order. There were a couple of factors for me.

One, I was certain that I wanted to work from the left to the right. The hassle of attempting to avoid a large chunk of finished stitches still haunted me from finishing my Tiger and I knew I didn't want to make that mistake again.

Two was that I wanted to use my Millennium Frame. I only have 8-10" stretcher bars for my Millennium so I was never going to be able to work on a huge section at a time. Unlike a hoop, I cannot work down one side and then across, as had been my original intention. For the fleeting moment of hoop work that I've done on the Guardian, I did just that.  The rest of the time I've been focusing on slowly growing the completed work towards the right hand side.
The so-far-so-good path

It is only once I have the entire top done that I intend to begin changing the direction of the roll on my fabric, protecting my completed work.

Naturally, this hasn't been quite as straightforward as that. The pattern itself calls for couching, backstitching, and other extra bits that I haven't been bothered with yet, partly because I feel like I need to do the cross stitching deeper so I do these parts without having to stop/start. I'm still debating whether I should do these before or after I complete the rest in total, but I need to make a decision soon, so I don't get paralyzed with indecision when I complete the top of the project.

It does, though, feel quite good knowing where the plan is going. Having my work order set out for me alleviates a lot of the indecision and procrastination I feel when I'm staring a blank page, empty canvas, or uncut fabric.

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