Thursday, May 20, 2010

Before the Incident: Shirley Stocksdale and the Sofabed

These days, there are many online articles about individuals meeting death in odd ways. The news items float by like terrible-yet-quickly-forgotten ghosts. But this 2001 newspaper article has haunted my thoughts for nine years:

There are many reasons why Ms. Stocksdale's final moments are so disturbing...

First, she was alone. No one was there to help or comfort her.

Secondly, she was physically unable to free herself. At 75, would our bodies be any stronger?

It's scary how a comfort-of-home (in this case, a sofabed) became a lethal trap.

Her phone was in view but beyond reach. Reminders of technology's limits are also unsettling.

Finally, I find it most disturbing that Ms. Stocksdale faced a slow, frightening and accidental death.

In the end, may our life be more memorable than our death. May our obituary skip the odd-news sites (or crafty blogs). And may our final passing be more comfortable than that of Shirley Stocksdale, pictured here, just moments before the incident:

Rest in peace, Ms. Stocksdale.


  1. umm, no comment on the story
    but the sofa and the phone are awesome!

  2. by the way, how big are the sofa, phone, etc?

  3. Such a sad story - and I'm glad you didn't crochet her with her arm stuck!

  4. This is amazing. It's a bizarre story and I love the ironic way it's represented in your work.

  5. What an awesome crocheted sofa!

  6. I'm so glad that this is a "before" and not an "after" :)

  7. I am very impressed by the story and your work. I know I will think about it for a several nights when I go to bed.

  8. I am sure that she would be happy to have you thinking of her and representing her in a positive way.

  9. Wow this is the most disturbing amigurumi project I've seen!
    It's also really great.

  10. The depressed look on that doll is unforgettable...I never thought it was possible to crochet a sofa. You did an amazing job! It looks so real! I want to try!!

    Freak accidents happen...but i think it was probably her time to go.

  11. What a tragedy, but it's very sweet that the story touched your life the way it did. And I'm glad you have a creative outlet for dealing with troubling thoughts. Such good therapy!

  12. I can't help but wonder what must have fallen into the sofa...

    Also, wow! What detail!

  13. wow, can u show the pattern for the sofa?

  14. Awwww, so sad!

    On happier note, your creativity and talent never cease to amaze me! Love the whole little scene you've crocheted here!

  15. zuperdzigh: I'm happy that you like these inanimate objects :) As for their size, I uploaded this photo to show the relative size of the scene.

    PaisleyJade: When I was arranging the pieces, I temporarily lay down Shirley onto the sofabed, and that sight was already enough to gave me the creeps.

    JelliDonut: Thank you! I know this scene isn't the most playful-at-heart, but I'm glad you still have love for how it was represented :) I

    Rebekah: The sofa was fun to make :) I wish I could temporarily miniaturize myself so that I could sit-test the comfiness of the couch.

    KelleBelle: Better to be Before, for sure :) I don't like imagining the After, even in yarn form!

    woolhug: Thank you :) The more I crocheted this project, the more I thought about Ms. Stocksdale's story too, especially at night. I'd then start thinking about the safety of friends & family. After that, it's difficult to get back to sleep!

    RedFlame: I hope so, thanks :) I googled Shirley Stocksdale for stories about her earlier life, but couldn't find anything more, unfortunately...

    Shusha: I'm grateful to hear that disturbing-amigurumi can still be received in a positive way, thank you :)

    TADA's Revolution: If anyone can crochet furniture and expressive characters, it's you!

    By the way, when MJ saw this miniature set in person, she said: "That reminds me of TADA's Revolution!" :)

    Shorty: I've been reminding MJ about Ms. Stocksdayle's story for years, so she's probably hoping for the therapeutic powers of crochet therapy! Thanks :)

    Genevieve: A few other news sites suggested that she might was reaching for her television remote. I crocheted that remote, along with Ms. Stockton sitting in front of the TV, in this photo. There are also additional photos in this Flickr set.

    Sara: I don't write patterns (in this case, I didn't even have time to take my usual scribbly notes), but here's some info that is hopefully helpful:

    The couch is composed of one large carwash-sponge (for the back) and four pairs of rectangular scrub sponges for the other chunks (like the sides & seat). The mattress has four scrub sponges inside. The reason I used sponge is that it maintains an angular shape better than polyfibre filling.

    I then crocheted flat panels and stitched them around the sponges. The two back pieces skipped a few rows in the middle, to create that dip. The armrests are crocheted cylinders which were then stitched atop the sides. The buttons are safety eyes that have been painted.

    Anita: Thank you :) It was exciting to create and photograph a scene that's a little moodier than usual.

  16. As usual, you never cease to amaze me. This is a novel tribute to this otherwise possibly long forgotten woman. It's nice to know that no one is ever truly put out of mind... especially with an obsessive crocheter on hand.

  17. Wowie, again, Howie!!!

    Yes, unfortunately, having lived in Florida now for almost 10 years, one reads far too often stories like this of tragedies involving older folks living all alone.

    Also, unfortunately, that is why we sometimes refer to Florida as "God's Waiting Room"!!!

    But then of course there are the reasons to stay here: the hilarious stories of people getting bit in the tush by snakes coming up through their toilets & alligators chasing golfers off the golf courses (which had originally belonged to the alligators in the first place!!!). I was once beaned in the head by a Pompano flying out of the water one day while I was relaxing at the beach! If there hadn't been witnesses I wouldn't have believed it myself!! LOL!!!

    Ms. Stocksdale would feel honored that you represented her in such a sweet fashion. I wonder if anyone from her family has seen this?

    I hope you will be available to crochet my obituary!


    PS- you may be on to something here: crocheting special scenes of the lives of people who have passed. (I have a friend who hand crafts urns specifically designed to commemorate the life of the person inside the urn! Maybe you are onto a side business?! hint hint)

  18. I LOVE this Howie. It's tragic, but so beautifully done. Great job.

  19. Oh. I heart this post. As always you break my heart a little bit with your perfect bits of crochet art.

    My knitted hat is off out of respect to poor Mrs Stocksdale. I hope she found that remote control, or whatever she was looking for, when she got to the other side.

    Deadly K xx

    PS I keep meaning to ask you what camera lens you use. It's ever so good at close ups.

  20. Amethyst: Thanks! I hope this blog entry is some type of curious tribute to Ms. Stocksdale. And, hopefully, her story will result in a few avoided-accidents. The other day in the garage, I was twisted upside down and looking under the car seat for my cel phone. I suddenly thought of Ms.Stocksdale and changed positions to make sure I wouldn't fall & get stuck.

    ecuadoriana: I love your vivid description of Florida, complete with snakes-in-the-toilet, alligators-on-the-golf-course and pompano-fish-in-the-air!

    Like you, I wonder if her remaining family will ever see this. According to Ms. Stocksdale's obituary, she had a three daughters, two sisters, and five grandchildren.

    Your friend's hand-crafted, personalized urns sound beautiful and touching! Do you have a link to her work?

    And yes, I'll be available to crochet your obituary, though I'd rather not see that ever happen! :) We need you to embark on many more Floridian adventures!

    Deadly Knitshade: Thanks so much. You're my favourite yarnstormer of all!

    Yes, I hope Ms. Stocksdale found what she was looking for too. I crocheted a mini TV remote for this photo of her. Curiously, that yarn remote has gone missing since that photoshoot!

    For close-ups and portrait shots, I love using the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens. And it's in the 84£ price range! A must-have :) Thanks!

  21. wow I totally love the sofa and granny, I dont think I ever seen anything like it before, the story seems so unbelievable as the stories from the everyday papers, something like 2 year old baby smoking cigarettes in Somalia, but hey this could happen and could give us a thought about people living on their own... it wont hurt to check on them from time to time

    take care


  22. hey Howie! I just discovered your blog from mochimochi and I was up all night reading it (literally, you can ask my boyfriend). You and your projects are amazing!!!

    I'm a knitter myself, but I've always wanted to learn how to crochet. I never quite got the hang of it, but I think it's because I'm left-handed and all the instructions are righty. The very few sources that claim they teach left-handed crocheting haven't been much help unfortunately. Any tips???


  23. izabelaitsme: Thanks :) I agree that it's always good to check in on friends & family who live on their own, whether younger or older.

    By the way, I found an article about that 2 year old smoker you mentioned, yipes!

    Carmel: Thanks for visiting from Mochimochi Land! Anna recently mentioned this blog post. A day earlier, she also blogged about a couch, this one knitted! Mochimochi Land's series of Tiny Thingsis also a treat to view!

    I hope you try your hand at crocheting this year! I'm going to try knitting soon too. I don't know enough about left-handed crocheting, but I remember Planetjune including left-handed instructions/photos on her site before?

    Thanks for visiting, Carmel!

  24. that's really awful.. but wow, very nice crocheting!!!

  25. thanks for the reference Howie! I actually started yesterday and it's such a relief to have found a really reliable source on left-handed crocheting. Hurrah!

  26. I found your work on flickr while going through some amigurumi groups. I have to say that you are incredibly talented and all it took was one look on your photostream and I went "wow" and added you as a contact. :)

    Your portrait of Shirley is really beautiful and melancholy at the same time. It kind of gives me the same vibe as when I think of the story The Tell-Tale Heart.

    Keep up the great work!

  27. Oanhderbread: Thank you :) I hope crochet can make awful things less awful, at least :)

    Sharona: Yes, the tragic deaths are often the most sad...

    Karen: I'm happy you found me from your flickr! And thanks for the comparison to the Tell-Tale Heart :)

  28. Very well done. Touching. And also scarily reminding me of the time I was home alone and got my arm stuck in the sofa!! Fortunately, I am young and strong and was eventually able to free myself, and I knew that even if I couldn't, my family would be back sooner or later.

  29. stacey stocksdale quayleSeptember 13, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    u make me sick

  30. Hi Stacey…

    Thank you for your comments (on my blog and on neatorama), both of which were valid & understandable. I'm sorry for causing offence, and I would react similarly if I saw the same about my relatives.

    For what it's worth, I had reverence and sincerity in my heart when making Ms. Stocksdale. Her experience has since helped me check up on friends & family who live alone. I thank Ms.Stocksdale for that gift all the time.

    I send all my apologies to you and the Stocksdale family again. Early this year, I offered Beverley Stockdale the yarn figure of Shirley, but she kindly declined. Could I send the figure to you? It belongs to the Stockdale family more than anyone.

    I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for your time.

  31. stacey stocksdale quayleSeptember 14, 2011 at 4:52 AM

    thank you for the apology i guess you don't make me sick but to be honest the doll does (sorry) i guess at first glance it looks like a big joke haha old lady got ate by her couch but u do seem genuine as do some of the other people who have posted and for that i also thank you.

    as far as the actual doll goes it really is amazing work, but i can't say i want it either. Shirley married my grandfather later in life after they had both already had families. i know she has two daughters, no relation to Stocksdale maybe one of them would like it.

  32. Thank you, Stacey... Your comment means a lot to me, and I appreciate your response and the insight you've given me. I wish you and the entire Stocksdale family every happiness in the world.

    If either of her two daughters would like the doll, they can email me anytime. Thank you so much, Stacey.


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