Remember that Obama portrait I stitched a few months ago? I liked stitching it so much that I decided to stitch portraits of all the US Presidents. It's a good way of combining my love of craft and passion for history.
I had to make some key decisions up front. First, I had to decide what color floss to use -- blue was too partisan, and this exercise is about celebrating the entirety of US presidential history. Black seemed too severe. I hit on dark brown as a good compromise -- it lent each portrait a warm, somewhat nostalgic feel.
Second, I stained the hoops -- they were originally just plain, unfinished wood. I thought the Golden Pecan stain would add a little more gravitas to the enterprise.
Third, I decided to base all my cross-stitch portraits on each president's official portrait -- you know, the one that hangs in federal offices during each president's tenure. Because of this decision, I actually had to re-do the Obama portrait I had stitched in 2008 because it was taken when he was a senator. I'll post that portrait later -- I have some finishing work to do on it.
My mom introduced me to cross-stitch. I don't remember when exactly -- I think she was just waiting for me to get old enough so I wouldn't stab myself with the scissors. She taught me and my sisters how to stitch properly. She didn't teach us out of some notion that this is what girls are supposed to do -- she taught us because it was a fun activity we could do together. During the summer my sisters and I would sit together, quietly working on executing birds or flowers, pixel by pixel, color by color. Once Ellen complained that her bird looked weird; Effie took a look at her work and consulted the chart and figured out that Ellen had skipped two rows of stitches around the bird's neck. "You're bird has no neck -- that's why it looks weird."
Stitching can turn into a pretty haphazard enterprise. My mom taught us how to do it methodically, planning what portion of the image to stitch next, saving thread and time. She always said the back should look as much like the front as possible. It's a good thing to remember in conducting one's daily affairs -- our outer actions should reflect our inner selves. It's called integrity. It's something to aspire to, at any rate.
I'll make these patterns available at my Etsy store where I've been selling Obama patterns. I think it's time to introduce some of the other presidents into the mix.
It's been quite a challenge trying to stitch likenesses of these presidents working with only one color, one x at a time. I have no problem resisting the impulse to make caricatures of any of them. In fact I've gone out of my way to show each man in the best possible light -- as far as reality will allow. If there's one thing I've learned from West Wing, it's to always respect the office even when you don't agree with the occupant. Thanks, President Bartlet.