Monday, February 22, 2010

Stitching Endeavour's De-orbit Map

You know how you have a million project ideas floating around in your head at any given moment? Things you've wanted to tackle for a while, but the timing just seems off? And then - in one blissful moment, your idea meets with the perfect resources and just the right amount of time and you're able to pull it off. Isn't that just one of the best feelings ever?

It's a rare feeling for me, but I take it when I can get it, and I got it last night.

I've wanted to embroider a shuttle's de-orbit map for a long time. The instant I saw one, my brain pinged, "STITCH IT!" which I think is a common occurrence for embroiderers. We see any kind of line drawing and immediately think, "Hey! I could stitch that!"

I particularly love the old school computer display look of the de-orbit maps (thanks for the Wargames reminder, Matt) and just love the idea of the symbolism of such a simple path home for such a complicated vehicle and mission. It seems though, that all the previous missions whose de-orbit maps I've wanted to stitch have never come together at just the right time - with all those magical elements meeting.

I started eyeing Endeavour's de-orbit maps a couple of days ago, and knew that if there ever was a time for me to make this project work, it was now. How could I not stitch the de-orbit map of the first shuttle I've seen launch? I didn't want to jinx her landing, though, by stitching the first de-orbit map only to find that she was delayed or rerouted to some other location. So I waited and held out hope that the pesky weather would clear and I could get to the business of stitching.
And it did. Just more than one hour before she was set to land, she was given the all clear for weather and the go ahead to execute the de-orbit burn that would commit her to landing. I literally jumped out of my chair, ran to my craft room and gathered my supplies. I had one scrap of black fabric, perfect for the background. I grabbed one of my many containers of embroidery floss, and it just happened to have every color I needed. I printed the map, transferred it with carbon paper and was off.

Two weeks ago, in the wee hours of a chilly Monday morning, I was in the press room at Kennedy Space Center, waiting to see if Endeavour would be given the all clear for weather and a "go" for launch. They'd gone back and forth and back and forth, and the speculation, coupled with the increasing crowds and noise in the press room, started to get to me. I bundled up, grabbed my laptop and escaped to the water's edge at the press launch viewing site, with the giant countdown clock just behind me. It felt so nice to break away and soak in the moment, with very few people around me. It was a privilege to sit there and watch Endeavour on the launch pad, knowing her crew was busy inside hoping just as hard as I was that they would be launching soon. I was so glad I took the time to escape and quiet my surroundings so I could focus on what was going on.
I felt the same way last night. As soon as Endeavour was given the "go" to land, Twitter went haywire - all abuzz with racing comments and recap of what was happening on NASA tv. And while I adore Twitter, stepping away from it for one hour to stitch and listen to the soothing (to me, come on, I'm a dork!) chatter of Mission Control was one of the best things I could do.

I kept the project small - about 5 inches square - and stitched as fast as I could. But you know as well as I do - you really can't rush stitching. And you can't multitask with it either. So I stitched and stitched and stitched. And just as I was getting to the part of stitching the flight path, Endeavour showed up on the screen as a little red triangle, slowly (well, actually pretty darn fast) going down the same path I was stitching.
With just under 10 minutes to spare, I completed the stitching and was able to sit back and watch her landing with a giant smile on my face. (and, yeah, tears streaming down my face)

As I looked at the piece this morning, I can see its glaring imperfections. Uneven stitches, could have worked the final bits of the flight path in a more interesting way, didn't have time to stitch in all the numbers, but I don't care. I'm so glad I jumped up and forced myself into a project. It took me less than an hour to complete something I've been thinking about doing for almost a year.

Image courtesy collectSPACE

What can you whip up tonight?


  1. That is too cool! :) Again, always amazed with cloth and thread!

  2. OH MAN! so amazing! I love love love it.

  3. This is so cool!! I'm sharing the link with a friend who took her boys to see the launch :).

  4. Love it, Love it, LOVE it. Brilliant.

  5. Aw, thanks, everyone! It's nice to see folks enjoy some geeky stitchery! And if I can get anyone hooked on space travel at any level - that is a big WIN! Go Space! ;)


  6. Holy Cow! I am so pea-green with jealousy over your space adventure!!! I was obsessed when I was a little gal in the 60's and helped organize a Shuttle Launch Party for the 1st Shuttle.

    I love the embroidery. And yes, I do see a pic and think "I can stitch that!"

  7. I have been awaiting my blissful moment since the beginning of the year! My timing is way off!

    YOURS on the other hand was spot on! I love your embroidery of the "deorbit path" and you are way too hard on yourself! It is beautiful! Even more beautiful because 1) it was made by you and during re-entry at that, and 2) because it holds such special meaning for you.

    You are framing it and hanging it - right?

  8. I love it! Lucky you being able to be there in person!

  9. Cool!

    I TOTALLY agree. Everything is a posssible stitch project for me. I stitched up the golden girls faces last week for my friend's bday!

    Everything is just much cuter when done with little bits of cloth and floss is all.

    <3 Ruthie

  10. Sooo glad I'm not the only one who gets all teary about NASA!

  11. Hi Rachel - Man, we would get along so great... I have taken several classes at Stitch Lab but now must try to get in to one of yours (hmmm... they seem to all be FULL all the time!!!). I am a physics teacher by training, but am doing the stay-at-home mom thing now so I have lots of time to make nerdy, crafty things. Glad there's another geeky crafter out there!!

  12. Its always a great feeling to get something out of your head and finished in real life :) Its like ticking something off your list, ultimately satisfying! :P

  13. Can't wait to share this with my embroidering 11 year old son who is so over the moon (couldn't help that one!) about all space travel!

  14. Great piece if stitchery and nice story! I was able to catch one shuttle launch when I had gone down to Disney 10 or more years ago. I watched it with tears running down my face. And I was way across the water from it but it was stunning nonetheless.

  15. Very nice! And great story to go along with it, too!

    How did you manage to score the press pass? Through assocation with CraftZine, I assume? Those aren't easy to get!

  16. This makes me so happy in so many ways. Rock on.

  17. Reading your post brought tears to my eyes! And I don't even do embroidery. (Now I will. A shuttle flight path? How freakin' cool is that???)

    BTW you said the stitching is not perfect, but I have to tell you: It's perfect. Really.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience of making it.


Thank you so much for your comments! I read every single one of them. I do my best to respond when I can.

Have fun and be nice! :)