Pruning for Production … At My Age

A few years ago a crabapple tree popped up outside of the garden edging that keeps the lawn at bay. After the discovery while mowing the lawn, we decided to expand the edging around the little 2-leaf stem for protection while we waited to see what would occur at Nature’s hand. We thought it a nice spot for the tree where it would have a fair chance to grow in the protection of the taller trees, and a convenient way to secure a replacement for one of a few that are beginning to show damage from harsh Minnesota winters.

We have several different varieties of crabapple trees in the yard, and this sprout was growing so close to a white blossom crabapple tree, I worried it might be a root sucker. If so, it should be eliminated to avoid depriving the main tree of nutrients, but I hesitated to remove it, because the leaves appeared to be more of the pink crabapple’s shape. I crossed my fingers and let it be. Then last year the baby crabapple finally produced two small blossoms – just enough to prove it indeed was pink.

Now, mind you, we do not know that much about pruning any sort of tree properly, nor do we do more than trim dead branches and try to keep the trees alive the best we can. But it was obvious from the baby tree’s production of only two small blossoms, the sun was likely being hindered by its neighboring old relatives. So, last Spring when my husband took to the task of clearing away some of the large branches of the older trees that hovered over and near the roof, he made a point of removing enough to let the sunshine through. I admit I was a bit sad to see the larger trees thinned, but this past week, the pruning paid off when our new baby displayed bunches of blossoms on small, but hearty, branches.

The blossoms created smiles that helped me trudge through the rest of my very taxing week. This morning while scanning Facebook over coffee, I saw a Maxine Crabby Road cartoon reminding folks it was tax deadline day and felt relieved my taxes had been electronically filed a couple days ago. Nothing like putting things off close to the last minute, but sometimes the last minute is the only one I find. Nevertheless, even though final calculations didn’t make me jump for joy, it’s a project done and turned in on time. So I win.

I love Maxine. I’ve enjoyed her quips for years and now that I’m starting to look a lot like her, she often gives me advice at the right time by delivering tons of food for thought in a mere sentence or two. Today’s cartoon so graciously stated, “It’s tax day. Of course at my age every day is pretty taxing.” Great chuckle and all, but for me, I gained a little bit more in the phrase “… at my age ….” I am in my last month of my 50’s and have fulfilled the major goals I’d planned in my 20’s – at least all but one: I have not yet managed to retire, which is something I’d planned to happen before I hit 60. Time has a way of changing goals made for the “golden years” and I no longer believe complete retirement is a possibility in my life time, much less the next month.  But I have decided that some parts of my work life must be pruned. There is simply too many other things to do at my age.

So, after considerable thought of the options I’ve been weighing in recent months, I’ve decided to cut away a few things from the schedule. Somehow over the years I managed to give myself too many duties and when one has too many things to accomplish, something is going to be delayed and good service becomes impossible. Moonlight Design has never worked that way and it never will.

First on the cut list, I will soon be closing my online stock design website, MoonlightsDesignShoppe.com. The undecided exact date of closing (except to say, “soon”) will be announced one week prior via various social networks as a courtesy, but without big affair.  The site has been growing cyber-cobwebs the last year for my lack of maintenance and time thereof. Established in 1997, it began somewhat as an online catalog for my regular custom digitizing clients to answer one FAQ, “What do you have in stock?” It was a time saver. It needed no help. Things change. Without the time to maintain the extra web site, and no desire to market hearty to the global masses or hire someone else to do so, the best decision is to drop the unnecessary expense.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m retiring from digitizing!  Be assured, I will continue to offer my new stock designs through a few venues, such as Masterpiece Embroidery each month.  It’s an honor to be a member of such a great group of skilled digitizers!  I also plan to create a few CD collections and make them available through my home base, DesignsByMoonlight.com, which will continue to remain online. Nah, full retirement is not an option – digitizing is something I’ll continue till I can no longer create and click. God knows why. I just can’t seem to stop. But every now and then, one has to prune away those extra branches to let a little sunshine in. 🙂

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Tree Buds, Dust Bunnies & Finding the Right Stitch

It’s been awhile since my last post, so allow me to back up a couple of weeks to the first official day of Spring, something that happened quite early here in the Midwest this year. Business had been unusually busy, and it was interfering with my seasonal habit of venturing out to the garden when the time was right. It was obvious the calendar and Nature had decided that the time was right and I was not yet ready. It set me in somewhat of a panic.  I’d had all orders but one caught up and had run into a brick wall, turning creativity into a ragged discombobulated mess. So, I ventured into the kitchen to take a break from the puzzle by finding something domestic to strike off the To-Do list.

While gazing out of my kitchen window, trying to distract myself from the tub of dirty dishes my hands were trying to make disappear, I thought of how dismal the bare tree branches seemed against Winter’s left-overs of a drab, dry, greenish-golden background. There hadn’t been enough snow all season to appropriately blanket and compliment a leafless tree. Everything looked dead. Oddly depressing, to say the least.

To lift my spirits I set imagination in motion, while picturing the lush beauty of the apple tree filled with delicate, white blossoms. It won’t be long, I consoled myself, but first there must be leaves, and for that we need buds. Little specks of green suddenly poked out from the grey tips as if dancing to the musical notes of a song, many popping up in close unison to greet the sun. I blinked with the assumption that my imagination had gone into overdrive. It was a good call, considering the green of the specks were about the same tone of green that dominated the design I’d been digitizing. But then the little specks turned into larger dots, and eventually, I realized I’d just witnessed my apple tree budding – something one can go a life time without seeing unless it’s in a video. Cool!

It brought to mind motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s thought provoking statement, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Well, perhaps this particular situation was simply nature being nature, but it was cool – and a darn good way to bring attention to Dr. Dyer’s most recent work, Wishes Fulfilled. Earlier, I had seen a few minutes of his public television presentation and heard him say another statement I’d been chanting while tackling the design, “If you want to accomplish something, you have to expect it from yourself.”

Well said, Dr. Dyer!  Perhaps that’s why I have dust bunnies in the corners of the steps that lead to the Man Cave. I expect the clean-up to get done by nagging at my hubby. (Yeah, like that has ever really worked in the history of man and wife.) He doesn’t notice so he obviously doesn’t expect it of himself and I certainly don’t expect it of myself, though occasionally he will claim the little bunnies are made up of thread scraps, putting the fuzzball in my court. I think not, dear sir! So there remains the little clumps of cobwebs and dust, knitted together with cat hairs – little furry critters that nag at me, and then I nag at hubby, and so goes the circle.    But, I digress.

At first examination of the artwork of the design I was working on, it hadn’t hit me as something too exciting, but it appeared quite elementary – a few common elements against a background of a faint gradient blend and colors in close tones ranging from yellow to green. Piece of cake, I thought with a slightly smug confidence. After all I’d digitized this type of logo more times than I could recall. And after 26 years of punching, I expected it of myself.

But what I had originally, so quickly assumed to be an easy job, soon became apparent that the artwork needed something to make it pop. Without it, the design in thread would sit like a flat, drab, boring patch of the same tone that would swallow the inside elements, even if nicely stitched. The embroiderer shared that thought, suggesting a pattern fill background to help separate it from the inside elements. The finished design would be sewn on sturdy fabric, but the size was fairly large, so I wanted to keep the stitch count down. And there began the quandary that led to days of test-sewing different pattern fills till I found one that would please my eye – a wavy pattern that seemed appropriate for the elements set at a long stitch length.

The embroiderer was pleased.   I was not.  There remained something uncomfortable to my eye. I had become so distracted by trying to improve the appearance of the background that I’d failed to foresee how the inside elements had became over-shadowed by the pattern. Changing it to a flat fill background with a shorter stitch length would bring out the inside elements, but it could add a ton of additional stitches, along with the fact it presented the possibility of buckling.  As well, I personally thought it just wouldn’t look so hot. What to do? And then, I literally awoke one night with the idea that a see-through crosshatch pattern seemed perfect for the situation. A light density of stitching offers color and detail, but even though it’s attractive, it doesn’t overpower the inside elements. All it requires is being sewn on a fabric color that works with the colors of the design – perhaps an applique to offer color without becoming the immediate focus, and plus, it’s achieved at a low stitch count.    I thought it was perfect.    The embroiderer thought not.     … sigh

I returned to using the pattern fill and stayed in tune with the wishes of the embroiderer, whom I believe has a better artistic judgement when dealing with thread. Embroiderers have more hands on experience with thread color, whereas, digitizers spend more hours gazing at monitor colors – it’s just the way it is. Put that together with the fact that this particular embroiderer has produced some pretty nice work, and her judgement was not in my mind to question.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling there had to be more. So while discussing the possibilities with her I studied the image of her sewn sample and noted that I really liked the fabric she’d chosen to test the design on – it really was a shame to cover it up. And then it was as if the light bulb went on in both our heads at the same time as our vision of the finished design came together, by heading in an entirely different direction. We simply needed to eliminate the majority of the background stitches all together and let the fabric work for the design.

Sometimes – perhaps, most times – as the good doctor suggests, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Happy Spring!