About Cynthia

I am a textile artist, embroiderer, wood burner, costumer, painter, and weaver who sees magic and change in the chain stitch and a well done Palestrina knot. I wish I had more control over the ways of the human world but alas, all I can control are my actions and my attitude in life and the consistency of my stitches. And sometimes even that doesn’t pan out as hoped and I must rip rip rip.

Herbcrafter’s Tarot

This is not a review, just a shout out to my friends who might enjoy the deck.

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot (see teaser video below) arrived a few days ago (thanks for the birthday present Mom!). The cards are a semi gloss but feel matte so they don’t slide too much, just enough. The art is gorgeous as always. Swoon. Can’t wait to play with it a bit more.

I have Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot and I just knew this new deck, the Herbcrafter’s Tarot, would be fabulous. The art, the spirit, the soul, the diversity… gentle reverence for The Mama’s children all around.

Funny thing about me and tarot/oracle cards. About once a week (or less) I will pull a card after asking the question, “what do I need to know right now.” I don’t do pure divination. For me the cards are just a jumping off point for personal growth but not in a See The Future kind of way. It’s rather amazing how spot on they can be for what I need to be working on that moment. I’m not what is now known as a Card Slinger.

For decades I collected tarot/oracle decks. I had dozens of them. I have most of the decks with art by Will Worthington, my favs being the Druid Craft and Wild Wood tarot decks. I’m also a big fan of the work of Jesse Reisch and Stephanie Law so I have the decks they’ve worked on too. Mostly I use them for art inspiration so when I’m considering a new project I will pick several decks from my collection and start looking through the cards for the spark. Tarot and oracle cards are a great way to collect some artist’s work and they don’t take up that much room. Sometimes I just need some comfort or direction or a meditation topic. It’s all good.

In The Great Purge of 2018 I got rid of a LOT of decks. I recently got rid of a few more. Now I have about a dozen, maybe 15, instead of 60 or more and this one had to join the curated few. It made the cut. I love that Cannabis is Strength and why they chose it.

This deck is easily in my top five favorite decks.  Enjoy and swoon, looking forward to autumn and tea!

Thoughts On Practice and Passion

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
― Malcolm Gladwell

One of the reasons I am sharing about my process on this jacket on Facebook (okay okay, I’ll post it here too) is that I want to show you what my process looks like out loud. When I was teaching medieval clothing reproduction and embroidery classes so many students said things like:

  • “I could never do what you do…”
  • “How did you get so good?”
  • “That’s lovely but I’m not good at anything I try…”
  • “I’ve tried before but I wasn’t any good.”

OMG. Oh. My. GOD.

It was like they thought I sprung straight out of my mother’s womb ready to stitch. They sure seemed to think that was what they needed to do. Since my birth mother was also an artist I’m sure that’s part of the DNA makeup of who I am as an artist but it’s not everything by any means. We dabbled in the same mediums without ever knowing each other but I was no skilled embroiderer or seamstress or illustrator at birth.

I would tell them that I started young and had been practicing for well over 40 years. Now I can honestly say I’ve been doing this work for 55 years.  Holy Schnikes!!! 55 years! My first embroidery was done when I was 5 with a kit from Woolworth’s. It was ok. Pretty straight forward. And yet still adorable. Considering I did this in 1964 (!) I’m surprised it’s actually on real linen.

No matter what I told them, their own self esteem seemed to taunt them and haunt them. Sabotage them. Every once in a while I would get someone who would take what I shared with them and run with it and create their own beautiful garments and embellishments. That was such a win! I wanted them to find their stride, to find their passion, to see potential for themselves and their works.

What did I tell them?

  • Practice practice practice
  • Make trial pieces, prototypes, mock ups
  • Experiment, dare, fly outside the box but with a solid foundation
  • Make mistakes, learn how to fix them through necessity
  • Read about the art, as many different books as you can
  • Practice practice practice
  • Measure thrice, cut once
  • Find your passion, the thing you can’t wait to work on the first moment of me time you get
  • Remember that I’ve been working on this stuff for DECADES.

So often that was the last I ever heard from them. They quit before they even got started. Guess it wasn’t really their passion. I hope they found out what that is.

I wanted to be a writer for years. My ex-husband told me once that I’d never write and I’d never quit smoking, he was such a Debbie Downer. He was trying to hurt me but he just made me mad and I left him for the last time that summer. I quit smoking in 1997 but before that I sold my violin and got a certificate in fiction writing from the UW. It wasn’t until I found the SCA and was sewing a beaded, polyester tunic with a zipper and breast darts (!!) and I couldn’t put it down, I anticipated the work all day while at work and couldn’t wait to get home, that I realized that if writing was TRULY my main passion I’d be doing it every day. Every. Day. I did eventually start writing every day but the point is we do every day what we are most passionate about. Turns out costumes and clothing and all things textile are my true passion.

You may be most passionate about embroidery or car engines or bass playing or reading. What is your passion? Do it every day. If you aren’t doing it every day (or almost every day, life is life), it probably isn’t your PASSION. It’s just something you like a lot but aren’t dedicated to.


Try something else. Or keep at it. Maybe it’s your lack of skill and technique that is holding you back. What do you do about that? You PRACTICE. As I said, I didn’t come out of the womb knowing any of this. I was a beginner just like you. I still make mistakes, sometimes ruinous mistakes. I can still be afraid to cut into a luscious bit of yardage. You can do this if it’s what you want. I do some kind of art work, be it embroidery or knitting or drawing, every day. I no longer have to focus on just one thing because I’ve been doing all of it long enough to be able to go with the flow.

I thought writing, music, reading, drinking, fashion, drawing, designing houses, were all my passions. Turns out I like them an awful lot (except the drinking) but textiles are my passion. If it has to do with textiles, I can’t help myself. I must create something. I do it fairly often and except for the occasional dry spells (I’m trying to get out of one right now), I do some kind of textile work every day. The dry spells are necessary. It can be exhausting to keep at a passion for a long time without a rest to let things flow again and coalesce.

When people think what I do is sew I laugh. This jacket is a perfect example. I can tailor the heck out of something and it will fit perfectly etc. This jacket used to fit well once. With a linen pirate shirt and a velvet corset and 36D breasts under it. It doesn’t fit any more. It never will. The embroidery makes it almost impossible to alter because it covers seams and areas that need cutting. I don’t really care for sewing, I consider it a necessary evil, but alterations? I frikking hate alterations. They must happen if you want something to continue in your life but Sewing Is Not My Passion. I will put alterations in the Punishment Pile and there they will languish until I’m in the mood. I just happen to be in the mood right now. Sort of. The navy wool jacket does fit and doesn’t have all the embroidery I had planned for it getting in the way. So it’s going to be the work in progess, not the turquoise. Embroidery and velvet ribbons and metal are in its future. Yum!

So why am I writing about the jackets right now? I want you to hear me thinking out loud. I’m not asking for input or praise or solutions from you. I’m trying to show you how the thought process of a piece happens. It’s very organic. You must listen for the whispers. That it’s full of twists and plot turns. That there will be mistakes, sometimes major mistakes. I’m not even kidding. I’m not looking for you to tell me my work is beautiful although praise is always welcome. Who doesn’t like praise? Who’s a Good Girl? I’m not looking for support to finish although support in general is very healthy. I want you to see that the finished piece that I show you didn’t just manifest perfectly. It was a process, sometimes a long process fraught with angst. It’s like giving birth. The end result is usually fabulous but the process is messy and full of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. There were times I had to rip stuff out, sometimes many times. Times I had to erase. Or in some rare cases, throw away. You don’t usually get to see all the work in the background that I had to do to get it to a place where I could show it off. I’m letting you into my world.

So. I’m not upset about the jacket not turning out the way I envisioned. It is what it is. It’s been sitting in my closet for a decade, for a reason, sadly being ignored, not sparking joy. All will be well even if it ends up in pieces for something else. I don’t need help. What I would love is for you to see my process one day at a time and think to yourself, “man, I saw that coming” or “maybe I *could* do that too.” I would love it if you said to yourself, “If this woman can make that mistake and continue on to the end, maybe I can make mistakes too and still succeed” or “maybe not finishing isn’t the worst thing, maybe wasting my time is worse.”  I’d like you to see how I think myself out of a mistake, how I can be so pleased when it works out but not dismayed when it doesn’t. I’d like you to see the real hard work and think to yourself that maybe you too can get past that to the final beauty.

If you haven’t found your passion yet, keep looking, it’s there. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. If something turns out not to be what you want (I will never play bass), try something else on your Wouldn’t That Be Cool List. You should have a list. Lots of lists.  Never give up. Keep trudging. We all have creative desire in us. The one thing we are all born with is potential and a creative spark. If I believed in God and the concept that we are all divine, I’d say that we are all gods with the ability to create. You just have to find out what you want to give birth to. Sometimes that is literal and your passion is being a fabulous mommy or daddy. It’s ok if you are someone who loves to clean a house and gets great satisfaction out of creating a warm and loving home. A warm and loving home is one of the most important things we can have in life. It matters. Some people totally can’t do that nor do they want to. Thank goodness for YOU. You’d be surprised how diverse the field is for passion. It’s all good. Life is short, do what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you it should be something else. Remember, the only person you truly need to please is you. When it flows over into the lives of others, there’s nothing like it, even if it’s just a perfect grilled tuna on rye. If you’ve had one, you know that’s no small thing.

We can all have passion and creativity and contentment in a job well done. Practice brings that out in you. Every. Day.


Family tree lines are so interesting. There are so many variables. How is it, for instance, that there are so many folks saying their ancestors came over on the Mayflower? It’s kind of like saying that I was Cleopatra in another life. People nod, uh huh… Smoke another one lady.

But Stephen Hopkins’ daughter, Constance, from whom my line evidently descends, had TWELVE children and they ALL lived, incredible for the times really. It didn’t kill her either, all those kids. William Bradford says so. Another line from my tree has a William Sabin. Not much known about him before he arrived to the Americas from France via Wales. What is known about William Sabin is that 35,000 people can trace their lineage back to him. That’s a lot and the genealogists are impressed with William Sabin more than anyone I’ve come across so far.

This is Stephen. A pretty attractive man. Stephen was my 11th GG. He had 3 children by his 1st wife (my line) and 7 with his 2nd wife.  So, while there might not be 35,000, with Constance having 12 kids that lived, well, I bet there’s a lot of us Hopkins descendants too.

It suddenly becomes doable. I’ve triple checked. All of these folks condense to the Rosses of Spokane. All of them. It’s a very busy tree branch. All the other branches on my tree fizzle out without a sound. Pffft. Gone. The Ross line has a major history and while it splits at the Clark marriage and isn’t from the Mayflower, the Ross line is from the Winthrop Fleet and I was perfectly happy with that. It’s the Clark line that goes back to the Mayflower…

me > Gates > Parker > Ross > Clark > Millard > King > Snow > Hopkins


Edward Sherman Ross and Mary Place Clark Ross

These are the two people who bring all of this to a head; Mary Place Clark and Edward Shearman Ross. They are of the Spokane Ross family, of the Hopkins Mayflower family, descendants of the Mayflower and the Winthrop Fleet, American Revolution soldiers none of whom died, well to do farmers all, even in Spokane at the turn of the 20th century. Edward’s father founded much in Spokane and his sister, Frances, founded Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon and the first public kindergarden in Spokane.  How far down we’ve come….


Ross home, Spokane Washington

I wasn’t even going there, to the Mayflower. I only knew the Alden, Bradford, and Standish names from Plimoth so none of these names in my line meant anything to me as I puttered along, not expecting any grandeur after the whole Robert the Bruce thing. The Bruce line might be real, because ROSS, but it just wasn’t real to me you know? It was too much, too like the whole Cleopatra past life thing. So these unfamiliar names (interesting root for familiar) meant nothing to me in any way and brought no excitement.

I decided that I was happy with knowing who was in the Colonies and how early and that I wouldn’t waste my time in the Old World wading around. The gold nuggets were here on the east coast in the 17th century. It’s a good Quaker value to ditch the ego and so I did my best. I’m not a Quaker but my adopted parents are. I got good values from them for certain. So I let Robert go. I wasn’t even interested in the Clarks who married into the Ross line. Meh. Who cares, I said to myself, I’m happy with the Winthorp Fleet, that’s pretty frikking cool to have soooo many who came in the 1630’s (6) and who fought in the American Revolution (5). I was totally satisfied with the Rosses.

So when I started looking into the Clarks because I’d taken the other branches as far as I could, I wasn’t looking for anything much. Clarks… Booooring. LOL. That was my attitude. The opposite of grandiosity is indifference. I was very luke warm but I had some time on my hands so I dove in. I was thinking, as new names started popping up (unlike the Rosses who have a heavy patriarchal Ross line all the way back until you get to Matilda Bruce), that I was dealing with the women, the matriarchs of the Clark line, so the names were changing every other generation. I’m thinking none of these names ring a bell, they aren’t important. It seems few in genealogy look at the female lines because of marriage name changes. Don’t get me started on second marriages and the confusion they can cause….

So far no one seems to be directly from Salem, MA (although there appear to be some strong connections there but that’s another search on another day), they aren’t Alden or Bradford or Standish or Parrish or Warren or Nurse or Howe or any of the other names I’m so familiar with, so I was hardly paying attention.

When I got to Constance Mayflower Hopkins Snow my only thought was, “aww, isn’t that sweet, someone named their kid after the first ship.”  But Constance was born in England on May 11, 1606 as Constance Hopkins so how would her middle name be Mayflower if it had anything to do with the ship? Pfffft. Another fizzle I thought. I figured it was some stupid ancestry.com goose chase again, they are legion. Until I decided to look for her parents. They popped up immediately. No search at all. Who the heck is Stephen Hopkins? Mary No Name who? Wait, Stephen Hopkins came on the Mayflower? Wait, what? There you go again, Cynthia, looking for the grandiose. *sigh* I was truly skeptical after my willing gullibility when I first started. Because it turns out that Stephen Hopkins is actually more important than any other traveler on that ship (except for Mary Chilton who is my 11th GG and supposedly the first person/woman to step on Plimoth Rock). And the other travelers knew it. He was hired to be a bad ass. They were very lucky to have him. Bad Assery was called for in the new world. My husband has been reading “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick and he’s a bit impressed too, which is saying something.

There are lots of Quakers in the Ross/Clark lines. I know this because they were fined and thrown in jail for being Quaker and not toeing the Pilgrim party line, some more than once. I also now know that some of this branch got into trouble for a variety of offenses including selling water as a cure for scurvy, overcharging for bad beer, getting people too drunk at their tavern (Stephen and his family owned shops and inns over the years, they were not Pilgrims), getting drunk themselves, mutiny, sentenced to execution, insubordination, jail, stay of execution… Stephen Hopkins’ mother in law was fined for tippling. Stephen got in trouble for kicking out his female servant for getting pregnant by a man who was eventually executed for killing an Indian, after the court had ordered him to care for her for 2 years. He was in jail until another Plimoth resident took the maid in for her 2 remaining years of indenture. Well then. Thank goodness he was a friend to the Natives, my white privilege makes me super uncomfortable, this helps a bit for some reason. I like knowing that most of my ancestors appear to have been, for the time and to the best of their ability, not a bunch of deadly racists. I come from a long line of folks who refuse to toe the line whichever side of the line they were on.

Stephen survived a Bermuda shipwreck, helped build 2 ships on that island that took them to Jamestown, mutinied, was sentenced to die, talked the new governor of Jamestown into his own stay of execution, hung out in Jamestown then back to England, on to Plimoth, befriended the Natives, surveyed the new world, the first horrible winters of Plimoth and starvation… It takes a very hardy soul to consider one trip to the America’s back then but twice? After all that? We are talking bad assery of the highest order here.

Will I ever feel completely confident that this is the true line? Probably not. But it’s been a wild ride of discovery. It’s so funny. I spent my whole life dreaming and fantasizing over Plimoth and the Mayflower and the early colonies. I cried over the wars, the hardships, the beginning of the American slave trade, I made reproduction clothing, treasure my cooking pot/cauldron, feeling like I lived in the wrong time. Wondering why I was called to that time and place so strongly. I figured I was just another adopted kid without a familial past, that I would have taken any fantasy just to have a past.

A heartfelt thank you to my son for the best mother’s day present EVER. And another heartfelt thank you to my half brother who wrote me when our DNA matched up.

I’m not going to take it for granted that this is my history but after 60 years as an adoptee being fully aware that my hunger for a history was from the void, it makes me cry sometimes. I’ve never, ever, felt like I belonged anywhere. I felt like such an outcast in my adopted family sometimes. There was love aplenty but my parents never really understood me. They tried but without much success. Conflict galore. I felt loved by not liked. I spent a lot of time looking at their family lines simply because it was my only choice. My adopted mom has major history from Salem and Barbados. The Phillips have their own published genealogy, there’s a copy in storage. I was happy to make that mine. There’s some good stuff there, founders of Salem MA, rum runners in Barbados, rich plantation daughter ran away with the overseer… But now I have something to pass to my son instead of, “sorry, I haven’t a clue.”  So much about me makes sense. I’m intense, I’ve been fearless (and reckless), I could drink, I could charm, I could convince, I did things people thought were crazy… I never, ever, rested on my laurels (unitl now, I’m exahusted). I think Stephen would have liked me. I think he would have thought I was a bad ass too.

Thank you to my birth mother, Marilyn Jean Gates. For your interest in genealogy that really sparked this journey, for hoping that I would find a good life even if you would never witness it, for being brave enough to have another child, my brother, for being my conduit to art, whimsy, and history. Bless you and may we, perhaps, meet again in another time, another place.

The 60s


Oh my goodness… Where did the time go? Heck with other people! *I* couldn’t handle how fabulous I was. Long, tortuous but eventually liberating, sunshiney, personal journey story left for another day.

Recently I was asked in Mindfulness Compassion Therapy (what a blessing it has been) what I want to do with my 60s. It sounds like a simple question but it’s not. I don’t think I’ve asked myself that type of question regarding a new decade of my life ever. This one simple question has really pumped up the volume of stepchild questions. It’s no longer just one question.

One of those questions that I keep revolving around deals with creativity. The last 2 years have been a bit of a dud artistically. Sort of. Creativity? What’s that? I had a very bad reaction to one of my cancer treatment medications in January of 2017. It was bad. It nearly took me out. Art? I could barely tie my shoes. Write? I could barely read. Drain Bamage. I’m 100% serious. I have been working VERY hard on getting back to myself.  It’s working. I’m back. In many ways better than when I left. And I do mean LEFT. So, now that I’m right…  Or should I say upright …

What do I want in my 60s? More. More Joy. More Love. More Art. More Healing. More Style. More Fabulous. More Family. More Health. What helps those things come into being? Creativity. Love. They’ve always been the answer and still are.

The other day I bought myself a new and fabulous pyrography machine. That sucker BURNS. I won’t be able to use it on anything other than the hardest woods. It burned through a piece of basswood in 4 seconds. Which means I won’t be using it that much right now as my current project isn’t in hardwood. I’ll share photos of the new project but I’ll be using my trusty Dagger.  I need hardwood supplies.

I’ve been looking at my fabric stash, much diminished after a major purge last year, for textile inspiration, noodling around in my head before I sleep letting ideas for textile goodness projects come and go. My Facebook feed is full of luscious needlework beauty.  Pinterest too.  (BTW, my Pinterest boards are here, enjoy)

Inspired by something I saw, a few weeks ago I sent a photo of a recent needlework project (not the one below) to a magazine in Australia, Inspirations. They have been an inspiration to me for a long time. I love their magazine, it’s soooo beautiful. And they wrote me back! Asking for a larger resolution image for their newsletter and a brief bio about my needlework journey. Stuff like this bag below. I made at least two dozen bags in the past year and most of them are sold or gifted. I’m moving on to other things…


While I was working on a bio to send to Inspirations I came here to grab some blips and quips and I realized that I missed my blog. I miss *some* things at any rate. Some things I don’t miss at all…. But boy did I need to do some spring cleaning. Like make certain posts private from two years ago. I don’t want THOSE public, I was having a rough time. A VERY Rough Time. Some videos I recorded and uploaded made me feel embarrassed. Some of them were recorded only days before the world went black. Why on earth would that be embarrassing? Well, if you’ve spent any time in the archives, you might understand why a world renowned embroidery publication might find it off-putting. There’s nothing I can really do about the archives. I lived my life out loud and in public here for a long time. All 18 of you wonderful strangers read it faithfully.  So what’s here is here. Except from 2 years ago. The videos just had to go in the Good to Know But Not Share file. I did, however, listen to them and found tidbits of goodness like 30 minutes of me rambling about what I was going to do creatively in 2017.  Let’s just change that to 2019 shall we?

The big question became, “What do I want to do with my 60s and do I want to do it here?” Is it time to focus? Is it time to get back to being productive? Is it time to be public about it? Hesitatingly, the answer is:


OH! I got married last week. OMG. Married! To the best man a gal could want by her side. At least this gal. Now that is some joyous news.

Fabulous though he is, I can talk until the cows come home. Evidently they don’t come home very often, the man never gets any peace. He’s a SAINT. He’s private. He’s mine. He might even lovingly cringe that I’m going public again. I’ve learned a few things in the past 2 years and one of them is, you don’t have to share EVERYTHING anymore. Say what?! I know, right? If It makes me hesitate, put it on the back burner. I’m going to leave the archives here because if nothing else, they will show, I hope, my personal growth. It’s done my heart wonders, this being married to such a wonderful person. The day after we got married I felt incredibly different in a very good, very supported way. In a family way, er, family kind of way. I felt so loved. I FEEL so loved. And feeling loved kind of opens up all kinds of possibilities doesn’t it? It sure beats the alternative. Right? Right.

I’m making a list of things I want to talk about and things I want to show off. Things you might like to see and read. My hard drive crashed two weeks ago and I lost YEARS of hi-res images of my work but I think I have enough to make it work moving forward. My phone takes amazing images really. I have a great camera. Let’s only show new things. There are tons of photos here already of what I did in the past. I have new things I can bring out for show and tell.

One last thing, recently I purchased colonialtailor.com, a long held dream of a demo site that mimics Medieval Tailor but with 18th century American clothing reproductions. It’s been on my dream list a long time but when I put off buying the domain and lost it to someone else and my “Master” betrayed me, precious, I kind of let it fizzle out. There were tears. And hissing. That was 10 years ago. This year it was available again for a rock bottom price and it’s now mine… So there might be things to say about that! Wait… MIGHT? Definitely some things to say about that and some of it has to do with being adopted, DNA and geneaology, Benedict Arnold, and Robert the Bruce.  I know, right? WTH.

So…  let the fun begin!