... the making of 'Summer Rain'


Just a few thoughts to add as a carry-on from my previous post, so I have them here as a record
along with a few photos that weren't included in the book ...

When Robin and I first talked about me doing a piece for her new book,
I was extremely nervous.  So much seemed at stake.  How could I possibly describe a step-by-step
process for creating a beaded story cloth when so much of my stitching & beading is improvisational?
But once I decided to put a lid on the fear and commit, everything started to fall into place.
I held onto what works for me ... and that is to
tell what I know.  All of my cloth work is autobiographical and this one would be no different.

I remember sitting in the garden that August and being keenly aware of the smells.  I looked over
towards a small row of Lavender 'Hidcote,' past that to grey-leaved sage
 and beyond, to the vines cascading over the pergola, dripping with rain.  It was a sensory overload
[of the best kind].  It was rich, damp soil mixed with the heady fragrance of lavender & herbs.
And it was warm paving stones, steaming ~ that unmistakeable smell that comes from rock.
My childhood,
coming right back to smack me in the solar plexus.

I have learned that the best backdrop for a good story is a solid base ... even if what holds it together
is mostly invisible, the armature will be strong.  Bits from my old garden shirt were added to this mix ...
more strength from the past.  I tend to work only with reclaimed textiles and when they are
especially personal to me, I'm adding my own history, my own memories.
These things and so much more I have learned from jude, at Spirit Cloth.  Like all of the best teachers,
 she inspires so many of us by generously sharing her own hard-won genealogy of handwork,
making many lives the richer for her telling.

It seemed like sheer luck when I came across this variegated embroidery thread ... I was looking
for something else entirely.  Years ago, I would not have known that thread has a "texture,"
a certain smoothness or roughness, as it's pulled by the needle.  I've spent many an hour
fighting my materials and am glad to leave that foolish way behind [whenever possible].
A story that struggles is apparent to everyone.  In life.  In art.  That's okay if that's the intent ...
but better to look for alternatives elsewhere when it isn't.

I came across a passage in a book last night which seemed to sum up
so much of the feeling that was behind this piece, including a touch of melancholy.  I'll share it
because I love it so much:

I've been reading about rain, said Jean.  That utterly distinctive smell,
when rain first starts to fall - two scientists have analyzed it.
They've named it 'petrichor' from the Greek for stone
and for the 'blood' that flows through the veins of the gods.
It's the scent of an oil produced by plants partially decomposed,
undergoing oxidation and nitration, a combination of three compounds.
The first raindrops reach into stone or pavement
and release this plant oil, which we smell as it is washed away.
We can only smell it as it is washed away.

~ from 'The Winter Vault' by Anne Michaels ~

'Summer Rain' is back home now after a long time away in Minneapolis.
This rendition above is more true to her actual shape & color ...
more green than appears in the book, definitely more asymmetrical.
While it may be the dead of winter here, I have everything I need to remind me
of the summer of 2011, when the rain fell in our usual time of drought
and I was there to smell it.

: : :

LINK:  to the book ... 'The Complete Photo Guide to Beading,' by Robin Atkins
LINK:  to Robin's upcoming spring workshop ~ three days of Improvisational Bead Embroidery
March 30-April 1, 2013, San Juan Island, WA
LINK:  to hand over-dyed embroidery floss from Weeks Dye Works
LINK:  to Jude Hill's  Spirit Cloth  blog


  1. What a beautiful piece! I love how you're combining so many ideas in one work of art. Well done!

  2. It's beautiful, and captures that feeling and fragrance of first rain

  3. Lovely Weeks threads ... I use them a lot too. They are in fact Anchor threads space dyed. It's nice to make them at home

    1. hmmm, Anchor threads??? I don't care for Anchor so this surprises me a bit.
      And I would have no patience making these myself!

  4. Such a blast of summer.... and I LOVE that quote about "petrichor".... cool.

    1. yeah, who knew, Valerianna? Such an unusual word...
      The entire book is filled with little tidbits like that. A very poetic author ~ I find myself
      reading many passages 2 & 3 times.

  5. It's só beautiful, Christi !

  6. "We can only smell it as it is washed away." ... indeed.
    Love! xo

  7. Beautiful piece and a lovely post. Interesting to read about the plant oils released from the stone. One of my favourite scents.... and now I can add another layer to this sensation the next time I smell it.

  8. I cannot wait until summer when I, too, can smell it again!
    Many thanks, Robyn ~ I'm pleased to add a 'petrichor' layer for you considering how many layers
    of inspiration you've added for me over the years...one of the greatest gifts of the blog world.

  9. Stunning piece. The colors are so soft and beautiful - and yet rich and deep at the same time!

    1. Seth...I can't even remember the last time a *fella* stopped by here and left a comment!
      Thanks for that, much appreciated ;>]]

  10. A beautiful tribute to summer rain. The care and love that you have stitched into this piece are evident. So expressive of where you live, and your garden, and your dreams. Thank you for showing us all the steps.

    1. A tribute...yes, yes, I think it is just that...and I thank you for your *seeing.*

  11. It's a truly beautiful piece, both visually and emotionally and to read about the background and your artistic intent has been fascinating.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. It became "the story behind the story" in a way.
      Sometimes it's just good to write the thoughts, brings some clarity that wasn't there before.

  12. christi, i came over here and looked again at this, and checked comments: i could have sworn i left one--maybe i did and forgot to hit publish. in any case, big congratulations, only a little belated.

    1. My goodness, Velma, thanks so much for that ... belated is just perfect!

  13. Hello Sweetpea. I come from Elfi's blog. Your creations are really beautiful. Congratulations ! "Summer rain" is like a colored dream. I Love it very much and the others too.
    Sorry for my bad english. I hope you will understand me

    1. Very sorry for my late reply, Oxygene, but THANK YOU for your visit & for kind words. Your English is perfect!
      And now I will pop over to visit you at your place ....