Are there other crafts that you have tried and abandoned? Why do you like stitching better?
My grandmothers quilted and crocheted, and while I helped Grandmother top-stitch some of her quilts, and tried to learn crochet from Mama Sadie, I didn’t really take to either. In fact, I didn’t manage anything better than a little finger chain with the crochet. I couldn’t ever manage the needle.
Grandmother, Aunt Mercedes, and my cousin Wade spent some time with us one year when I was a teen. Aunt Mercedes was stitching, and I was fascinated with the floss. She was working with cotton DMC, mostly, but also had a skein of white rayon floss, so silky and gorgeous.1I know now that the stuff is a bitch to use, but I still love how it looks and feels! I like the feel of silk even better, though.
A week or so later I got the materials to make a birthday gift for my friend Michelle. The design was a big one, a gorgeous unicorn from Candamar Designs. It was an insane choice for a beginner, but I learned a lot! I wish I had a photo of it. In any case, I was hooked and left my job at Davison’s2Forerunner of Macy’s in the Atlanta area for a job at Roderick’s Arts & Crafts in the big new mall closer to my school.
I tried other things while I worked there. I candlewicked a pillow top for my parents, but again, I don’t have a photo3My siblings got rid of it while “helping Mom clean” when Mom was out of town a few years later. They did a lot of things like that. It had nothing to do with the pillow, which they assumed was store-bought. I tried my hand at something that involved punching holes through metal in a pattern — tin-punch? It was really popular in the country decorating style that was in style back in the 1980s. I did something a tiny bit of needlepoint, some chicken-scratch, and a little blackwork. I tried to learn knitting but was a total flop at that and bow-tying. Bow-tying was a big deal then, really—I took the class for that two or three times before I quit trying.4People paid a ridiculous amount of money to have those bows tied, so I had to make sure an accomplished bow-tier was always scheduled to work with me. Seriously, I don’t know why they didn’t pay less to just take the class!
But I could do cross-stitch. It’s really like paint-by-numbers with a needle, except that you can frog5Rip out — get it? Rip-it, rip-it! That’s truly what it’s called, I did not make this up! any mistakes and nobody else will ever know that you made them. Since I’m a total doofus with a paintbrush, and can’t draw recognizable stick figures, being able to make lovely pictures with a needle was fairly amazing.
I’ve done some beading, too, and made some lovely things. It isn’t nearly as portable as stitching is, though, and far more difficult to do in the kids and cats chaos that has ruled much of my time for many years. I’ve always wanted to try weaving, but haven’t had the opportunity. I wove a metric buttload of potholders as a kid, using a little plastic loom and cotton6Preferably because the polyester ones melt if exposed to much heat “loopers,” which was the only thing I actually learned in Brownies. I enjoyed that, as limited as it was, so I figure the real thing might not be beyond me.
I fell out of the habit of stitching when I was married to husband v.2, because he was so damned negative about everything. I picked it up again in 1996 after surgery for a repetitive strain injury that left me without any feeling in most of my left hand. Why pay for boring occupational or physical therapy that I had to travel somewhere else for, then had nothing to show for afterward, when I could do it better myself with needlework? Today, nobody knows about the numbness unless I mention it.
I found myself very bored by the same old patterns by then, though. The rest of the world moved out of the “country everything” style, right? So why didn’t the cross-stitch designers and publishers? Oh, well, there were also the umpty-million versions of that “Footsteps in the Sand” glurge, for a change! Or lots of different samplers featuring the same Bible verses, over and over again.7Some day, I swear, I will design something based on select passages from the Song of Songs.
Since I had a website by then, and seemed to keep posting the same links to rec.crafts.textile.needlework over and over again, I started publishing lists of atypical patterns, then added pagan needlework, and later Celtic designs. Then I began designing my own patterns.
I also realized the value of stitching as a meditative practice at some point. I’m not good at the “empty mind” sort of meditation. Stitching keeps my monkey brain busy and lets the rest of me get on to better things. I get nervous if I don’t have some way to keep my hands busy, so it’s a good anxiety release, too. I’ve heard people say the same about knitting and crocheting, and claim that they’re even better for that purpose, but unless I somehow manage to get past my earlier failures in those two areas, I’ll never know for myself.
All the graphics are pieced I’ve stitched, though not ones I designed. I didn’t have access to a very good camera for some of the photos, unfortunately. There’s also glare from the glass on the framed pieces. More pieces, and information on these, are over here.
Yeah, yet another section that needs to be moved into WordPress and updated.