Go Away Gray

Everything seems muddled. Nothing is quite coming into focus which makes it hard to act and I am very bad at waiting. Letting the universe reveal itself to me has never been a strong point.

So when I had coffee today with a very wise woman I was hoping she would be something of a lens. What she told me surely, with steady gaze and firm conviction, was that it is good to try new things. And that not everything goes as expected. And sometimes that is better. When I asked direct questions she just shook her head slightly and said, “I don’t know; you’ll find out.” And we moved on.

Literally and figuratively back to her house where she very generously loaned me some books. Self-help? Philosophy? Poetry? No. Needlepoint books. Vintage needlepoint books. Needlepoint has always brought comfort in process and in plumpness and these books have offered more comfort than piles of eider down quilts.

“Black and white mark the outer limits in tonal value. There is nothing darker than black nor lighter than white. When the two are used together they generate more visual excitement than two shades of gray used together. The closer the tonal value the greater the loss of contrast, therefore the greater the loss of drama and excitement..”

I’m not a girl for gray and muddled. Universe, bring on the black and white, the drama and excitement.

All this beautiful work is by Stephen Knollenberg who was featured in the May/June issue of Chicago Home + Garden. These images are used with Mr. Knollenberg’s permission from his site. Photography is as follows: top three, Beth Singer, next two, Gordon Beall and last, Dana Hoff. The quote is Maggie Lane from Needlepoint by Design.
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27 thoughts on “Go Away Gray

  1. Love this post. Sorry you are going through a muddling period. I started a revaluation phase in the early winter, although I didn't know I was in a muddle until this spring (funny thing about muddles, they muddle up on you). I was yearning for a needlepoint project and the only thing I knew was that I wanted it to be black and white. It's taken me all winter to figure out what I wanted to do. I made the border without knowing what I was going to put inside. Took me a long time to figure out what I was going to do in the center. Until I read your post I didn't equate my needlepoint project with my "process." I had been chastising myself for my slowness. Thanks to you, now I think I am rather brilliant! Needlepoint isn't just a balm, I think it is great creative therapy.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those beautiful images from Stephen Knollenberg. He has a way of creating spaces that are so clean and clear, yet amazingly soft. Didn't know about him but I think he's great.

  2. TC – muddles are like that aren't they? I think you are right about your process being brilliant, and beyond that, you jumped right in, didn't you? Started the border with no real plan. Courageous, too.

    And, Knollenberg was a new find for me, too, and I think he's terrific.

  3. "I'm not a girl for gray and muddled."

    Or a "girl" at all. Are we no longer allowed to refer to ourselves as men and women–as adults? The teenagerization of culture is depressing.

  4. The sun came out today – literally. It's been a number of gray days on this side of the country. And that can be so depressing. So, though I don't know exactly what you're dealing with, know this. The sun WILL come out again. And sometimes….you just have to muddle through. I think I see a break in the clouds….

  5. Well;
    For me I think it is the gray parts that have the zest!

    As far as the images, the thiird to the last & the last image is simply in order!

    Good luck in your endeavors Patricia.


  6. Anon – um, it was really more about the language. Girl and grey are an alliteration. "I'm not a woman for gray and muddled"? That woman is wearing sensible shoes. No jump there. And, really, you're barking up the wrong tree. There's not a teenagerish thing about me. In fact, there almost never has been.

  7. It is so funny! I haven't heard anything about Maggie Lane in years. I made several of her pillows years ago when so many of us were doing needlepoint and have most, if not all, of her books. She said that there are no ugly colors-only ugly color combinations. I think about that frequently when working with my flowers.

  8. Process is a wonderful thing. I used to untangle dyed yard for the weavers in senior studio at KU, it was often where the solutions to my own work became clear.

  9. These images are amazing and wonderful. Such restraint is used here, the key to a calm, serene environment. This designer's work is a new find for me. Thank you Mrs. Blandings.

    Hope you are well.


  10. It is hard to be patient during the cocooning stages of our lives, but we do not have a choice. Growth takes its own pace and to hurry it would be upsetting the balance we are striving for–and then comes the rush of creativity and new life. It is nature's way. Sit tight!

  11. I am a 60 year-old girl (as a mature 18-year old woman I detested the word girl but now think it encompasses the whole of me more than "woman.") who has always loved black and white for a clarifiying backdrop and a profusion of colors all mixed over it…except for gray. I have a few very artistic friends who swoon to gray and I admire them. They are more evolved than I am.

    You were lucky to have found pearls wisdom on a gray day. Muddle on. We have your back.

  12. you know the old ann lamott theory of why we're not given the 'operating instructions' to life. If we were, we'd completely f things up. Our back seat positions are probably the best place for us.

  13. I built a Navajo loom at the end of my living room using the rafters and floor joists to anchor to. The project is a Ute Style blanket, 91 inches wide and 72 inches high. That was 16 years ago. When Mr. Wonderful came into my life I stopped weaving. There is 11 inches left to finish the project. Spinning, dyeing, and weaving took a back seat to loving. I had been alone for 26 years following a divorce. No amount of weaving filled that void, But Mr. Wonderful sure did. He lights up my life.

    Drop that needlepoint and get yourself lover! Ann

  14. Such clean, clear, crisp and beautiful images…may these characteristics find their way into your mind, heart and needlework!

  15. Love this post. And, the very wise words that that came with this article. Not to mention…Getting to view this magic of black and white. Sometimes, a *touch of grey* makes us appreciate when the black and whites, comes our way. I think, you are well on your way into the B&W world.

  16. When I was 10 years old and had my first bedroom all to myself not having to share with my sister, my mother asked me what color I wanted to paint it. Much to her dismay I chose gray. Now, 50 years later after having many different rooms of all different colors none gray, I am renovating yet another home. This time every room is a shade of gray. Maybe I was muddling through for years and have now come full circle. Maybe that's a good thing.

  17. Ann – I have a lover. I've had the same one for going-on 20 years. As it turns out, it leaves a little time for stitching. But I am thrilled about your finding Mr. Wonderful.

  18. Judi – We all have our own true North. I've always admired those who like gray. Jennifer Boles at the Peak of Chic likes gray and I think her taste is flawless. Maybe, as HBD says above, you're more evolved. I may get there yet.

  19. Rather than thinking ominously about this post, I prefer to think there will be enlightenment. I have to tell you that you anchor this little community, which feels a bit fragile right now anyway. Get busy on some canvases and start blending the colors, Though I have my preferences, I find great beauty in all colors and the choices others make. Gray, Red, Black and White. ,Gaye

  20. Gaye, I am getting busy with canvases. I am even going to learn to paint my own. Won't that be fun?

  21. Mrs. B- I am muddling myself through a painting and I said, it would be far easier to see if it were in black and white – but alas, it is in full color and the closer I get to being finished, I keep seeing how seeing gray can bring about the perfect foil for the pigmented colors. I myself do love back and white but grey gives me such solace. I especially love it on a sunny day.
    Now do share those needlepoints – won't you?
    Gorgeous interior images -for a girl, you play nice.
    Middle school is a tough time, eye rolling teenagers, bet you are glad you have boys.

  22. Thank you for the lovely green velvet sofa which made my heart go pitter patter. No gray there, just the color of new growth.

    Perhaps you are pushing up into the light.

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