This post will be longer than usual, but it’s a story worth telling I think.
Earlier in the year I “signed on” to a Facebook post from a friend. Called “Pay it Forward,” the idea was that she would send something during the course of the year to the first five people who responded “I’m in.” The catch was that you had to do the same. So I did.
Of those who responded to my “Pay it Forward” post, one was a long-ago church friend from Hickory Neck. Back in the day, we were both active in the Cursillo movement and spent many weekends ferrying back and forth from Williamsburg to Camp Chanco in Surry. Often we would see great blue herons on the James River, which my friend Judy called her god birds. Ever after, when I saw a great blue fly overhead, it lifted my spirits. Judy went on to retire from teaching and attended seminary, after which she became an Episcopal priest. Since I loved making altar linens, I created a miniature set for her travel communion kit. In all likelihood the linens are long-since disintegrated, but the thought of them still makes me happy.
I in turn carried a gift from Judy on various keychains for many years –a penny with a cross cut out of its middle– most recently on my mailbox key ring. I wanted to use that penny in some way for Judy’s pay it forward gift, so I set it between two layers of cotton muslin, drenched it with vinegar and salt and placed in on a sponge. Then I let it sit for well over a month, dripping a little more water over it every so often [those of you with Christian backgrounds are probably nodding your heads over the time period and the vinegar sponge references, but truly they were not intentional at the time .. only in hindsight]. After a while, the copper in the penny left a faint circular impression surrounded by a pale blue-green halo. Not exactly the dramatic result I was after, but it was what it was.
I began to wonder what to do next. Remembering the god bird, I googled an image search for great blue herons and came upon a simple line drawing by Kim Moore on Etsy. My first thought was that I could try making one of my own, but that didn’t feel right. So I wrote to Kim and asked if I could purchase the right to copy her image and create a piece of needlework. And then waited … and waited … finally deciding that Kim must have thought I was a spammer. Until out of the blue, she responded with an explanation that she had recently completed her masters and was just getting around to my (unusual) request.
We negotiated an agreement that I could make one reproduction of her heron image in needlework for the cost of the line drawing. I also offered to pay for the privilege again if and when I ever made another. Kim created a special one-time listing on Etsy and I paid her with my credit card. It was so simple to do and it felt incredibly “right.” I also told Kim I would provide a link to her work at the Etsy shop (here) and was delighted to also find a profile of her in Dharma Trading, a favorite stop for many of us in the stitching blog-world.
As for the process of converting her art work into stitch … I copied the heron image into a photo editor to eliminate some stray background color, then pasted it into a Word document and made a test print to see how it would look. After a little tweaking, I ironed a piece of muslin to freezer paper, cut it to 8 ½ x 11, crossed my fingers and sent it through my old HP 932 inkjet printer (since it’s 15 years old I would have been sad if the printer jammed, but not freaked out). Fortunately, no funeral was needed for the printer and I was delighted beyond words by my first attempt at printing with my own fabric rather than the stark white printer fabric from the office supply store that I had used in the past.
I tore the heron picture roughly to size (safe in the knowledge that I could always print another), then tore the penny cloth with a bit more trepidation, knowing that it would take at least a month to create another if things went wrong. After trying several layouts, I invisibly basted both pieces to some windfall lichen-dyed muslin (thank you Jude Hill and India Flint) and began to stitch.
Debating with myself about whether to keep with Kim’s black-on-white image, color won out and I picked several soft shades to complement the watery blue-green cloth. For the sky I chose kantha stitch, leaving the face of the orb clear (sun or moon I leave for you to decide). For the heron I chose Jude’s split backstitch, which put me in mind of feathers and grass seed heads.
After taking a b-side picture …
I put it into a 5×7 mat and took one more shot …
then let it fly away home.