Have Your Say

23rd October 2020

What Happens When We’re Gone?

In Have Your Say in All Stitched Up! issue #252, we started off the segment with your responses to the discussion about Creative Ways to Display Needlework.

Towards the end of the article Pat Demharter took the idea one step further by posing an interesting side question – having gone to the trouble of beautifully decorating our homes with our needlework, what will become of it all when we’re no longer here?

Well this captured the attention of many from far and wide, as was evident when our inboxes lit up with all the responses we received to Pat’s question.

Clearly this is an issue of importance for many stitchers, after all we spend so much of our lives and so much passion in creating stitched art, it’s natural to wonder what might happen when we’re no longer there to direct things.

Quite a few of the responses were very practical in nature. Mary Patricia Barry has written an addendum in her will giving guidance as to what is to be done with her needlework, and Sandra also has a handwritten will containing similar directions. Kay Smith has left all of her stash in her will to her quilting group, knowing how much pleasure all her friends will get from it. 

Whether it is formally written into a will, another document, or expressed verbally, many of our readers have told their families to start the process by choosing which pieces are of interest to them for keeping. After that, both Karen Olson and Marjan Kuyken have expressed their wish for the remaining embroidery to be displayed at their funerals, where each friend and guest would be welcome to take a piece as a memorial. 

Carnation Tile by Fiona Hibbett from Inspirations issue #104

As a side note to this idea, one of the Inspirations team had the honour of attending an event where a talented and life-long stitcher in her nineties celebrated her passion for needlework while she was still alive by giving away her needlework to each person in attendance which enabled the recipient to thank her for the gift in person and the stitcher had the pleasure of seeing each of her pieces going to a loving home.

Juana Perley specifically said that although she wanted her family to keep some of her needlework, she only wanted them to do so if they really loved it, not just because she made it. Indeed, many readers were very circumspect about the tastes and wishes of others. Marjan commented:

‘My embroidery may be very important to me, but I don’t feel that I can impose anything on my son.’

Darcy Walker acknowledges that her heirs might have different tastes and different lives. Patty Park initially believed her work was very valuable but ‘after 50 years of stitching, I realise this has been my own personal journey and my choices might not be to anyone else’s liking.’ To Patty, posterity is not a consideration. Her family and friends will decide and she has found peace by ‘letting go’.

Busy Fingers’ by Christine P. Bishop from Inspirations issue #50

Both Mendie Cannon and Bernice London expressed a desire for a museum to take their needlework, and to that end, Bernice suggested that stitchers should include a story with each piece they complete including dates, names and the time and effort which went into it. This, according to Mary Patricia Barry who volunteers for a historical society, is ‘golden’ as having a story associated with a piece makes things so much easier for conservators of the future.

As for our enormous stashes, we’re sure most of you have heard the joke bandied around groups and guilds saying, ‘she who dies with the most stash, wins!’. But ensuring that stash then gets distributed wisely rather than dumped in a charity bin is important.

To that end, Diane Bishop, Roberta Kenney, Juana, Sandra and Mendie have all stated that their stash will go to their local guild or charity shop where it will either be distributed to other passionate stitchers, or sold for a good cause. Karen Anderson imagined some future treasure hunter discovering one of her projects in a charity shop, years from now, and being thrilled at the find.

The question of preservation did come up, with Mary Patricia Barry, drawing on her experience, suggesting the importance of protecting and archiving your work. Miranda Norris is lucky enough to know some excellent framers so was confident her pieces would be preserved. 

Carmel McEwan has chosen a different path, cutting up all of her embroidery pieces to make this amazing hexagon quilt in order to keep them all together.

Carmel McEwan’s Life of Embroidery Quilt

Ultimately, no matter what we do, we will always be at the hand of fate and once we’ve passed away, our embroidery will be out of our control. If you’re a designer, Mendie’s suggestion was to give permission to others to teach your designs so they will live on, but for the rest of us, we can only do so much.

Cross stitch designs found by Kristy Fulton from All Stitched Up! issue #241

We wanted to leave you with some thoughts from Kylie Murden. Having recently cleaned out the house of a passionate, life-long stitcher after they had died, she reconsidered her own collection. She now does a regular cull of her stash and gives away pieces while she can enjoy the reactions of the recipients. She shares her skills, hands kits and projects she won’t do to others, and turns finished pieces into something useful.

Kylie finished by saying:

‘Nobody wants future generations to feel weighed down by the obligation to hang on to our stuff. I acknowledge that not all my works are masterpieces, and as long as I had the enjoyment of making them, I’m ok if the next generation doesn’t treasure my creations in the same way I did.’

We hope you draw as much from these wonderful responses as we did.

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