A Stitch in Time

31st March 2023

‘A Day in the Country’ is a regular feature in Country Style magazine. Written by author Maggie MacKellar, it chronicles her life on the land in a tiny town on the east coast of Tasmania, Australia.

The articles usually contain tales of all things farming, however one of her more recent articles unpacked memories of handmade tapestries and the link they provide to some of the more poignant of her life’s stages.

In a moment of lamenting the heap of ‘disconnected’ tapestries in her study, Maggie found herself wishing some other version of herself existed. A version who would have foreseen the years she’d spend picking up needle and thread and as such would have chosen a way of connecting the stitching either through colour, theme or finish.

Quickly though, she came to see that the haphazardness of the completed pieces reflected that, for her, the point of stitching has always ‘been in the doing, not in the finishing’. 

Maggie relishes the lack of thought required as she concentrates on laying a single stitch, one after another after another. For her, ‘it’s a practice that has been a balm at times’. And now, looking at the completed pieces ‘conjures the places and times they were stitched’.

Her hobby of stitching tapestries is a thread that connects grief and joy, the past and present.

One tapestry, affectionately known as her ‘father’s tapestry’ was stitched as he was dying. The tapestry travelled with Maggie between her farm in Tasmania and Melbourne with each ‘wave of crisis his illness threw out’. 

Maggie would arrive at his hospice, pull out the canvas, thread her needle and instantly find herself occupied. Then together, they would pass the hours. Maggie with needle and thread in hand, and her dad with his daughter’s company by his side.

While this, along with the other tapestries Maggie’s completed will find their way into a bag with each ‘disconnected’ other, Maggie’s come to realise that each of them holds the memories of the moment in time they were stitched and that she’s ‘accidentally caught in their stitches something much richer than a simple design’.  

Is there not a more beautiful way to look at the work we complete with needle and thread?!

Instead of appreciating the technique, colour, theme or finish, rather we look to the moments of time or place we’ve caught in each of the stitches we’ve laid.

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