Category Archives: Lucus Orthai Ta (Fangirl Sampler)

DETERMINING THREAD COUNTS OF SMALL-GAUGE LINENS

Lately I’ve been seeing discussion of linen, and whether or not it has to be even weave, sold specifically for counted thread work to be suitable for blackwork, cross stitch or other forms of grid-aligned stitchery. I maintain that while that does make things easier, and guarantees a certain precision look, it may not always be needed. Here’s a sample of a not-quite even weave being used for double running stitch.

First thanks to My Stealth Apprentice for the lovely linen remnant I’m using.

While it looks pretty uniform, it’s not. Up close you can see that the thread count is not even in both directions. Also you can see the combo of thin and thick threads that I admit can make stitching a challenge. But you can also see that both circumstances don’t quite matter as much as one might think.

My own counts, estimated by trying to take measurements between two pins placed an inch apart have been off up until now. But totally by accident, I’ve hit on a better way to calculate thread count, and it happened by using a standard US penny as a reference point to show relative scale.

The penny is three quarters of an inch across by specification. By taking a zoom-in photo, then counting the threads it obscures, we get a vertical thread count of about 33 threads in 3/4″ (counting the threads “tall”), and a horizontal count of about 25 threads in 3/4″ (counting the threads “wide”). A bit of math – multiplying both values by 1.33 – and that works out to a thread count of about 43.9 x 33.25 threads per inch. Not even weave in the least. But I can still work a (slightly squashed) rendition of the design on it. It’s distorted, but in a way that would not be apparent if this was to be done entirely as a strip. [Thanks to Dana for fixing my bad math.]

However, I AM working this design as a frame around my central motif, complete with corners, so the skeleton dance will appear rotated to fit all four sides. Just as this bit is slightly squashed north-south, when I get to the side 90-degrees from this, the design will be squashed east-west – making my bony bois and pomegranates taller and thinner than they will appear here.

Optimal? Maybe some folks would object. But I am betting that it will still look good.

Oh, and add a penny (or any other coin or flat object with fixed and known dimensions) to your stitching gadget box, along with your phone’s camera. It’s much easier than those pins…

LETTERING COMPLETE – ON TO THE DANCE

I’ve been working away on my admittedly odd fandom sampler, and have finished the motto.

US penny provided for scale.

With more precise counting, the ground cloth is approximately 46-48 threads per inch but isn’t exactly even weave, so the piece is roughly 23 x 24 stitches per inch, with small variations for slubs or skinny threads. But that’s ok.

As for what this rather curious saying in the equally curious and difficult to decipher font says, it’s “Lucus orthai ta.” It’s a saying in an alien language that figures in The Resident Male’s forthcoming book. It translates to “Life’ll kill ya,” and so was fitting to be something ringed round with the skeletons from my Dance pattern page.

Having finished with the plain old cross stitch part, now comes the fun stuff. In an unusual move for me, I’ve graphed out an adaptation of the Dance strip and corner, specific for this piece. I usually don’t bother, but in this case I wanted to be sure that everything was centered. You can see just above the “LUC” I’ve begun a course of the innermost edge of the wide border. It’s mirrored at the center point, over the C. I did this so that my corners would meet up perfectly. Now of course as I go on we’ll see how well I have been ensnared by hubris. But for now, I can hope. Also consult my pattern graph.

Oh. And for the strip across the top, the skeletons will be upside down. You have been warned.

Questions about materials or technique? Comments on the futility of producing a tribute to an as-yet unpublished book? Desire to read the first book in the series? Post your queries here and I’ll try to answer.

AFTERMATH OF A WINDY DAY

Yesterday was windy. Really, really windy. My neighborhood was hit by several amazingly strong downbursts that felled more than several trees. While a big chunk of the two trees in the corner of our lot fell victim, we were lucky in that there were no injuries, nor was there any major damage to any houses or cars. Note that the wind was SO loud when this happened we did not hear the crash. I felt a tremor through the floor, and went to look out of the window, having no clue as to the cause. This is what I saw:

Yes, my neighbor’s empty shed was dented a bit, and the rather iffy fence between our properties took some additional damage, but for such a large pile of downed wood, we came off quite lightly.

Today the tree crew is here. They are removing the debris, and trimming up the larger of the two maples involved in an effort to preserve it. Sadly, the slightly smaller (but still quite large) maple in front of the corner tree is too shredded to save. It’s only got two remaining tufts in its crown – not enough to keep it going. So, compromised as it is, it’s coming down today, in a deliberate rather than wind-wild bit of destruction.

First – how to remove half-a-tree, splayed across two properties, and precariously balanced?

From above.

This aeronaut descended on the boom crane, affixed the lift straps to the main segment, and up they went. Once the limb was off the ground and over a safe spot, he lowered himself down by rope, and the crane lifted the thing up and over my neighbor’s house to dangle in their front yard.

Then the ground crew cut the “fingers” off the suspended “hand” and fed them into the chipper/disposal truck. In the mean time, other guys in the back yard hauled the smaller stuff away.

After this debris was cleared, it was time to prune back the shattered limb of the larger maple, and to remove the smaller one (seen next to the hard-hatted fellow in the photo above).

The result. One sadly halved corner tree, and one stump.

It’s going to be a lot sunnier in our yard from now on. And that corner now cries out for a large shrub of some type – preferably with nice, dense leaves, for privacy. I also suspect that negotiation with the neighbor to the side will lead to the elimination or replacement of the falling fence. There’s also that stump to deal with…

Oh. And to prove that progress indoors is happening, too – here’s the latest on my Lucus Orthai Ta sampler, that will bear my dancing skeletons edging:

I’m just beginning the L, having finished UCU. On the second line TH and part of the A are complete. You can also spy a tiny bit of the innermost band of the edging above the UC. It’s mirrored at the centerpoint – its rightmost edge in the snippet worked so far. More on that as the piece grows, but first I have to complete the letters in cross stitch. Like finishing up a dreaded dish for dinner, before getting dessert.

STAYING BUSY

What have I been doing of late? Well, being lucky, I can work from home, so that’s been taking up most time, especially with major deadlines in the past week. In the time that’s left over, I have to stay busy, and not as a sacrifice to the “cult of productivity.” Mostly because unless my hands are occupied, my thoughts wander to dark places.

I have subdued a reluctant sewing machine and run up some face masks for my family:

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I’ve been knitting a pair of socks from a gorgeous ball of yarn I had put away as being “too good for socks.” Well, I deserve nice things, too.

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I’ve done some casual research, and found another rendition of The Old Castle design, dated to 1590-1610. I added it to my round-up of the designs in that family.

And I’ve embarked on a new stitching project. It’s a curious one that has no short explanation behind it, and in a way – it’s the ultimate FanGirl project.

As I’ve mentioned before, The Resident Male (pictured above) writes prime SF/fantasy. He is currently working on the second book in his Blair and Terendurr series. One of the delights of living with an author is that you get to read the output long before it escapes into the wide, wide world. And if you are really lucky, parts are read out loud to you as they are completed.

One of the stories in the forthcoming second book features a rather unusual band of confederates. I can’t go into more detail because I don’t want to post spoilers. But they have a motto in an other-worldly language, “Lucus Orthai Ta,” which translates roughly to “Life’ll kill ya.” I thought it would be fitting as his #1 fan to make a present for my author: an embroidery of this phrase, framed with The Dance border I posted here last week.

I started by combing through my usual haunt for unusual alphabets, Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts collection of near 100 year old Alexandre, Sajou and other pattern booklets and leporellos, The one I picked is the third one on this page. They don’t get much more baroque or difficult to read than that set of squiggles. Perfect for an alien language.

And so I present the start – working out from the center and in cross stitch for the lettering, on 44 count almost-evenweave linen in “art silk,” it will take me a while to get to my skeleton army in double running stitch. But I will…

As for the story, you are just going to have to wait for him to complete the second book. It will be worth the wait!