Have Your Say

2nd October 2020

On Planning, Learning and Getting Lost

Anyone who stitches understands how deeply the process becomes embedded in our lives. For many of us, a day without picking up needle, thread, yarn or fabric is one which is incomplete. Our craft drives us, provides us with purpose and joy and can even help define who we are and our place in the world.

Delicate Stitches’ by Di Kirchner from Inspirations issue #106

We’ve been ruminating about topics such as these in our newsletter over the past weeks, and from some of the responses we’ve received from you, it seems that our discussions have resonated. Needlework in all its forms provides rhythm in our lives, from the planning through to the execution and completion, with all of the ups and downs along the way.

Sea View’ by Jo Butcher from Inspirations issue #107

In terms of planning, Sharon Palermo shared with us her process. Every December, she decides what projects she wants to do and what techniques she wants to learn the following year. She then spends several wonderful weeks gathering materials, putting together kits, framing up fabric and getting herself ready for the new year. The results of this planning process are transformative for Sharon. She says:

‘I never cease to be amazed by the magic that happens when a picture or design transforms a plain piece of fabric.’

That magic often arises when you least expect it, during those moments when you are so lost in your stitching that the world around you has all but melted away. Bette Kelley describes the delightful meandering of her mind as she stitches her quilts – from locations, to people, to memories. Like many stitchers, she listens to audiobooks as she works, so she frequently needs to pull her mind back to the book, but then, deliciously and inexorably, it wanders off again. 

Ruth Rayment also reminisces as she stitches, especially about her friends and the fun they used to get up to. With many of them hitting the milestone of 50 years of age, she has found these memories even more pleasant as she works on birthday gifts for each one of them.

One of Ruth Rayment’s portraits for her friend’s birthday

But stitching doesn’t only bring up memories – it can also lead us to philosophical thoughts, such as Brenda Banfield’s musings on whether the shape of frame we use affects how we view our project. ‘When we use a round frame,’ she wonders ‘does our mind think ‘round’, so are our designs based on circles, curves and flowing tendrils?’ Or alternatively, when we ‘use a slate frame,’ do we think in ‘squares, oblongs and geometric designs?’ Although we don’t know the answer, we love the direction that Brenda’s mind has taken.

When we emerge from our reverie, we find not only a beautiful piece of work, but, like jewels dotted between the stitches, we discover important lessons. Janet Casey has learned how much patience comes from stitching, as it can really only be achieved one stitch at a time. Suzanna Moor Sandoval has learned that not everyone appreciates the work, effort and love that goes into stitching; thus, a careful selection of recipient is vital. However, she’s also realised, through bitter experience, that nothing is permanent. Fire, according to Suzanna is a hard teacher, bringing humility and the necessity of letting go to even the proudest of stitcher.

Pioneer Girl’s Book Etui’ by Betsy Morgan from Willing Hands

Finally, the lesson of persistence is one which Ann has learned. Impressed on her as a child, as time went on, she realised that persistence did not require the approval of others. Now, she is happy to say she has succeeded, through persistence, in becoming what a true embroiderer should be –a master unpicker, thanks to the many hours of practise – Ann, we completely relate!

In stitching as in life, there is so much to gain from planning, learning and allowing ourselves the luxury of getting lost in what we’re working on. Thank goodness we are lucky enough to have a passion that encourages us to do that. We are, without a doubt, all better people for it.

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