These Hazards of Cross Stitch

One of the big reasons I keep Spuggy around is that he introduced me to the Decemberists. He thinks I’m joking.

Anyway, it was somewhere in the first half of 2011 when I first heard my favourite album of theirs (and indeed, of any band ever). I was working a call centre job at the time, and unfortunately, the fabulousness of my colleagues and supervisor were not enough to counteract the anger of a lot of the customers. It’s not a period of my life I look back on with warm nostalgia, generally. Suffice it to say, I cried a lot and drank tea like it was whisky (often wishing that this was the case).

One day, I stood at the bus stop at the end of the road, dreading the angry customers and the inept company liaison who did her level best to fuck up our lives as much as she could, and I hit “Play” on Track 1 of The Hazards of Love.

Track 17 finished just as I was getting off the number 1 bus, within view of work. I swallowed the lump in my throat, blinked away my tears, and went to work.

My love for this album above all others is unending. There are no words to describe how perfect I think it is, or how jealous I am that I didn’t think of it first.

I’m not the kind of person who can let things I love go without making my own little mark on them. It’s like working through the obsession. I focus all my energy on some creative endeavour, and when that’s done it’s like closure. I can breathe a sigh of relief and move on.

I started my Hazards of Love project in August 2011. It was interrupted by the move to Frankfurt, during which I forgot all my threads and the pattern, but on Boxing Day I finally finished it.

tell me now, tell me this/a forest's son, a river's daughter

The healthiest way to deal with my obsessions.

My original idea was to incorporate an image from every track on the album, but a) instrumental tracks are hard, and b) I felt that it would become cluttered and forced, and also that I’d miss out on some nice imagery if I limited myself to one motif per track.

From top centre, anticlockwise, here is what I was thinking.

1. The fawn:
William’s shape-shifting form from Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle The Thistles Undone). It doesn’t show up that well (this is pretty much my first real cross stitch project, and I hoped the ecru fabric would be darker than it is 🙁 ) but I didn’t want to outline it in black, because I thought it would be too bold. Instead I’ve highlighted it in silver, and in person it stands out a bit more.  I took inspiration from this pattern and scaled it down myself.

2. The bower bird:
Honestly, I have only the barest idea of what a bower even is. I kind of have a vague idea of some flowery construct gleaned from Geraldine McCaughrean’s Lovesong, but that’s about it. Also, I like birds. Ergo, Margaret’s bower from A Bower Scene is represented by a regent bowerbird. Inspiration taken from Google’s finest image search and patterned with graph paper.

3. The foxgloves:
The Rake’s Song gives one of the most sinister foxglove references I’ve ever heard, so of course they had to be incorporated. Pattern taken from here.

4. The columbines:
Another Google image search followed by some crude graph paper sketching, and voilà! Columbines for Won’t Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga).

5. The Annan water:
Taken from the track of the same name, this was one of the more fun parts to design. I basically drew a load of swirls on my trusty graph paper, and then squared them all up. I used four different blues, and hoped for the best. I like how it turned out, and used the same technique on the trees.

6. The reeds:
We’re told that the Queen found young William’s cradle here in The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid. Patterned myself, as if you couldn’t tell, based on reeds and rushes what I have seen.

7. The corncrake:
Or alternatively, William and Margaret’s alarm clock. In The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All), William swears to sleep in until this little birdie crows. Do corncrakes crow? No idea. Wikipedia’s down, doncha know. Taken from various pictures of corncrakes, patterned myself. All the corncrake drawing made me want to do a bigger corncrake-centric piece though. Maybe in the future!

8. The thistles:
Not even the prettiest whistles will wrestle these babies undone. I went out and found some thistles, and patterned these ones myself, like they probably did in the olden days of cross stitch.

9. The mistle thrush:
Another one I did myself after a general reference search. Probably could have turned out better, but you can’t have everything. Also, protip: when searching “thrush” on Google, make sure to add “bird” at the end. I… I didn’t even know you could get thrush there.

You’re welcome!

10. The words:
The last two lines of The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned), but you knew that already. If you didn’t, go out and buy this album. No, seriously. Anyway, the font I used is gorgeous, and it is here, for your pleasure.

So yeah, that’s my first proper self-designed cross stitch project. Hope you like it! And if not, then tell me how you’d do it better and we can ALL LEARN THINGS.

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