Connections and Help for Caitlin

11th December 2020

In All Stitched Up! issue #259 we talked about connections, a conversation which clearly resonated with many of you. It might be made more prescient because of all the difficulties of 2020, but the sense of connection with others, with family and with the past is something that many of us think deeply about.

For a number of readers, those connections were cemented through small items and keepsakes, particularly those made or given by someone who has now passed away.

Jackie Irwin maintains her connection with her late father through the many little things he made for her when he was alive. A talented painter and a very thoughtful man, Jackie’s father made her bookmarks, little models and paintings, all of which she treasures, and which still spark conversation about her Dad. 

Jackie Irwin’s painting by her late father

Lena Taylor is the proud owner of a bonnet that her grandmother made and wore in the cotton field. Karen still uses a cookbook that her late mother not only contributed to, but wrote in, recording when she used a recipe and what occasion she cooked it for. In this way, Karen has a chronicle not just of her own life but that of her mother’s as well. Roberta Kenney and her daughters have all kinds of wonderful projects from previous generations, including blankets, doilies and shawls, all of which act as a memorial to the makers and the connections Roberta has with them.

But connection isn’t just with the past; connections with people in the present are equally as important. As Frances Gedzium observes, while many people are heading towards the holiday season knowing their celebrations by necessity will be virtual this year, now is the perfect time to reinforce our connections by making gifts for one another. 

Christine Igot’s Cross Stitch

Indeed, Christine Igot discovered this fact to her joy when her friend Lorrie, who usually spends a week each year with Christine stitching and catching up, sent her this fantastic cross stitch. They might not have been able to be together, but each time Christine looks at this project, she can’t help but laugh and think of her friend.

Also in All Stitched Up! issue #259, Caitlin Doyle posed a question to the needlework community. She asked how people maintained their enthusiasm over the course of a large embroidery project. We were inundated with responses for you Caitlin, so hopefully these are of some help:

Ann Kenny recently completed ‘Strawberry Fayre’ by Carolyn Pearce from Inspirations issue #95 and after being so consumed by it for such a long time, she wrapped the completed piece in tissue and put it away in a drawer. After leaving it for a while, she got it out, looked at it again and found herself amazed that she’d actually done something so beautiful! Her advice?

‘Take a break if you want to and go back to it when you can enjoy it again. It will be very worthwhile.’

A couple of readers suggested tiny, daily steps. Karel Armstrong suggested doing 15 minutes a day and Ellen Chesney suggested 15-25 stitches a day. As the saying goes, every journey starts with a single step, and each tiny step gets you a little further forward. Ellen also said that at the end of each week she takes a photograph so she can see her progress. Jd Ormslaer documents work by taking regular photographs as well, which helps to maintain interest.

Trish Binkley employs a time-based goal. She stitches one project for a month, then switches projects for the next month. She then goes back to the original project for the following month and so on. In this way she avoids burnout and the project actually gets done.

Having a collection of small projects to do when you get bored with the large project was Roberta’s idea. We call them ‘easy wins’, as they don’t take long to finish and offer the sense of accomplishment that might be missing through the course of the large project. But we wanted to quote the lovely designer Alison Cole here who said:

‘No-one ever said that you have to only work on the one project until it is finished. I am working on five at the moment!’

Caitlin, we hope you’ve gained a few ideas from the community and we hope you can find the enthusiasm to keep working on those large projects, safe in the knowledge that we’re all there with you. 

However, one final little piece of advice to bear in mind, which was also offered by Alison. She suggested that it is neither the journey nor the destination which is important; what matters are the friendships you take with you.

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