Geeky Parent Guide: Thank you so much for taking time to chat! Your new book, A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space, seems to be a perfect marriage of space travel and geek crafting. Will you share with those who aren’t familiar with the book what they will find inside its pages?
Clarissa Thorne: Journeys in Space is a collection of cross-stitch patterns celebrating the beauty of outer space and the extraordinary achievements humans have made in exploring our solar system and the larger cosmos beyond. The book contains 25 designs featuring NASA missions and astronauts, shuttles and rockets, planets and constellations, and the search for extraterrestrial life. I also offer instructions on how to cross-stitch, including what tools and materials you will need, how to make common stitches used in cross-stitch, how to read a pattern, and tips for making your stitching look great.
All of the patterns are targeted to beginner to intermediate stitchers. I really want to encourage people who have never picked up a needle and thread to try it out. Cross-stitch is a great way to start experimenting with embroidery as a hobby. The patterns are straightforward and require only a few basic types of stitches.
GPG: How did previous professional and personal experiences inspire this book? Are there specific geeky moments you wanted to make sure found a place in Journeys in Space?
CT: I had a desire to do a craft book when I started designing patterns and selling them through Unexpected Hobby. Actually, that desire was probably with me back when I first took up embroidery as a hobby over 12 years ago. I fell in love with cross-stitch very early on, but had a very difficult time finding designs I was interested in. Eventually, I discovered a Japanese embroidery designer, Kazuko Aoki, whose gorgeous and intricate botanical designs were clearly adapted from watercolor illustrations. I stitched dozens of Aoki’s designs and started to get a sense of how she moved from an illustration to a cross-stitch pattern. I decided to try my hand at creating designs for myself, all very specific to my personal fandoms.
The original inspiration for Journeys in Space came from my fascination with the photos coming back to us from NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn. I kept trying to depict the stunning images of Saturn’s rings with embroidery floss, but don’t think I was ever very successful. In Journeys, I definitely wanted to convey the awe I feel about our ability to send complex bits of machinery and computer code across the reaches of our solar system to study such spectacular beauty.
GPG: How long did this project take from initial idea to its release date of October 2018? What were your thoughts when you decided to tackle a book like this, especially when you’re a working parent?
CT: I made the decision to seriously pursue writing a craft book early in 2016. A large chunk of those two years was spent exploring a feasible way to achieve that goal, whether through self-publishing avenues or trying to pitch the idea to publishers. Thankfully, Fanbase Press stepped into the picture fairly early on. Actual work on the designs and the writing took up the better part of a year and a half.
In addition to support from Fanbase Press, I’ve also attended Dear Handmade Life’s Craftcation Conference since 2015. Craftcation is an annual conference that offers creative business courses and craft workshops. It’s an amazing community of craft industry experts, small business entrepreneurs, crafters, and artists. It was an invaluable opportunity to get feedback about my ideas and learn from professionals with a wide range of business experience.
Even more importantly, I connected with dozens of creators who, like myself, were working parents. It was an amazing way to start to get a handle on the challenges I knew I would be facing, from time management to financial strain to actual skills I would need to teach myself. The most daunting hurdle seemed to be how to find time in a 40-hour work week to tackle such huge task. I never would have even attempted such a feat without the Fanbase Press and Craftcation network of support and knowledge.
GPG: How did you approach piecing this book together? Did the creative process change at all during the project, or were you able to construct an initial outline and hold true to that initial plan?
CT: The creative process started with the patterns themselves. I knew very early on that I wanted a range of pattern sizes that would offer my audience a number of options for the end projects. I did create an outline early on in the process, and for the most part, held to it pretty well. As with any creative effort, though, there were definitely times when I aborted a design or idea somewhere during the process when it became apparent something just wasn’t working out the way I wanted.
When it came to making choices about different elements of the book design, I vacillated for awhile between several different options. Being able to work closely with my editor and having a creative community to bounce ideas off of was extremely important.
GPG: As a parent, time can seem to be so finite. Did your husband and son become of a part of this project in any way, whether to give you time by assuming household chores or sharing geeky ideas? If they were a part of the process, did that leave a lasting impact during the project or add satisfaction upon completion of it?
CT: I’ve always felt my husband and son are an integral part of my creative endeavors. My husband is also an artist, and we’ve been attending local comic conventions in a vendor capacity for a number of years now. We generally share and interact with our fandoms as a family. Both my son and my husband frequently suggest design ideas to me, so much so that I usually can’t keep up with all of them. They both had a significant hand in helping me with many of the practical aspects of the book and by helping pick up slack in other areas. I specifically owe my husband many months of making dinner!
I’m not sure I can adequately measure the impact my family has had on this book. Outside of the specific ways they helped me, they’ve also had a much more intangible influence in helping create an environment where I continue to want to be creative. A large part of that is because they are both actively geeky and creative about their own interests.
GPG: Were there any challenges during the creative process of A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch that made this process seem too daunting or annoying? What did you do in those moments to help get beyond those frustrations, if there were any?
CT: My biggest crisis moment happened as I tackled the actual book layout. It was very difficult for me to visualize what I was trying to create. It was very important to me that the patterns themselves be as readable in the book as possible, even though this is frequently very difficult to achieve when you’re working with small symbols and colors in a grid. I had no idea if my choices about page layout, image placement, or really any other aspect of the layout were going to work until I actually started to see draft pages come back. It was utterly terrifying.
During one particularly tough moment, my son gave me a note that basically said, “I love you so much. I believe in you. Your book is going to be great.” That pretty much saved the day.
GPG: On the opposite end of the spectrum, I imagine there were special moments while making this book, too. Is there a single one, or many, that really stand out to you, whether it be the initial “I’m going to write a book” moment, the print reveal, or anything at all?
CT: I always have felt a special moment when I’m finished stitching a design I’ve created. Holding something in your hands that you’ve created, no matter how big or small, is an amazing feeling. Holding the finished book in my hands for the first time was the same kind of feeling, multiplied by a million.
And being able to share the book with my mother a few months before she passed away was indescribably important to me.
GPG: Being a creator and a parent can be quite exhausting. What message can other parents take from your experiences, especially those who might want to tackle their own creative endeavors?
CT: I first felt the desire to learn to do something creative shortly after my son was born. It was a way for me to cope with a certain amount of postpartum depression and feeling overwhelmed by being a new parent. I’m very glad I listened to that instinct to carve something out something just for myself.
Don’t be ashamed to take your own time and to have your own interests. Set aside a physical space to engage in those interests. Share those interests with your family. Encourage your spouse and your kids to do the same.
GPG: Equally important, what message do you hope your son, and other parents’ kids, might take away from shooting for the stars, so to speak, and trying to accomplish a major goal?
CT: My son has seen both my successes and my failures. He’s witnessed all of the ups and downs. He’s watched me keep doing something, over and over and over, until I finally got it to work. He’s seen the hard work that comes with learning a creative skill. Like I discuss in the introduction to Journeys, I hope he learns to not let the desire for perfection overcome his willingness to tackle something hard or experiment with creative solutions.
GPG: Are there any other past works you would like to highlight or projects you’re currently working on that you can share with us?
CT: I have a handful of new designs coming out in the Unexpected Hobby Etsy store in the next few weeks, including one celebrating the Curiosity Rover on Mars. I’m also working on a Lord of the Rings-themed image that is going to be the largest design I’ve done to date.
GPG: When you find time to unwind, what books, TV, or movies are you a fan of right now? And what are you most looking forward to reading or watching in 2019?
CT: As a family, we’re well into the third season the TV series, The Expanse. I’m currently listening to the audio-book, Nemesis Games, which is the fifth book in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. The ninth book in the series is scheduled for release for June of this year, so I’m hoping to be caught up by then. It’s been an interesting experience to consume this story on screen and on the page at the same time. (Imagine reading and watching Game of Thrones at the same time and trying to keep all of the story detours straight.)
Last year, I discovered two other extremely satisfying sci-fi book series that I’ve been recommending to everyone I can: Wayfarers by Becky Chambers and The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.
On the big screen, I’m looking forward to Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame later this spring. And I’m looking forward to re-watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as many times as possible.
GPG: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me! Where can people find you online, and where can they purchase A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space?
CT: A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space is available from Fanbase Press and at geeksguidetocrossstitch.com. I have a wide selection of geeky cross-stitch patterns and kits available in my Etsy store, unexpectedhobby.etsy.com.
People can find out about new designs on my blog, unexpectedhobby.com, or by following @unexpectedhobby on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Oh, and I highly encourage your readers to check out this year’s Craftcation Conference taking place from April 3 - 7, 2019, in Ventura, CA.
I want to thank Clarissa for sharing her wonderful insights into her creative process and letting us explore A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch, a book that looks like an amazing trek into space. As a geeky parent, I want to congratulate Clarissa on completing her book. She’s an amazing inspiration to any parent hoping to go after a dream project and then making it happen.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.