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Keeping Ourselves in Stitches

One thing about the Plague, lots of people were forced to reevaluate their homes in terms of privacy, togetherness, and entertainment. The outcome for some were new hobbies that have turned into near obsessions. In my case, I was recuperating from a lumpectomy and was a bit too impaired for anything much, but I did dredge up a needlework project or two, and that was nice. Two years later, a new canvas was staring at me while my arm was in a big, bulky miserable brace from rotator cuff surgery. My physical therapists told me they'd tell me when I could try needlepointing.

I had lost a lot of small motor function in my dominant hand during that recuperation, and it still isn't back to normal. I decided to cheat and try to stitch. It lasted for about a dozen stitches. I fessed up and was given absolution, along with permission to just do as much as felt okay. Do not push it, they said. Twelve stitches led to 24 and in about two weeks, I could stitch for a whole whopping five minutes! Never underestimate the determination of a bored stitcher.

Meanwhile, just outside The Windy City, my niece was stitching like a fiend. She watched some YouTube videos, and pretty much taught herself. (I swear, she slept on my chest her first night home from the hospital and I have no idea what magic transpired, but she lucked out - she got a couple of my better traits. Like teaching herself how to needlepoint!) Since then, as did I, she took some lessons, but she has been going at it with a vengeance. Now that she is a semi-empty-nester (kids are in college), her production ought to really ramp up!

I was ruminating on how I got started with this, and it led to geezing about the long hot summer days when Grandma and her sister Margaret would "come up th' hill" to our house and sit in lawn chairs under the mulberry tree, embroidering. My job was to supply the glasses of ice water while Aunt Margaret fanned herself. Grandma may have been annoyed by me sitting so close to her and watching intently, but she didn't show it. She did, however, tell me what she was doing and why. I learned that no knots because they leave lumps and come undone in the wash. Rather two practically imperceptible stitches going opposite directions and hidden under the the first stitch will suffice. Go back and clip the tail later.

I also learned that keeping the back as neat as the front is very important. It helps economize on the thread used, and it won't show through the design on the front. End that thread the same way you began - two tiny stitches hidden under another stitch. Don't let your thread get wadded up or you'll have to waste a lot of time unsnarling the mess. If that happens, cut a scrap piece of card stock from some postcard or something and patiently unwind the thing while sitting in your chair, listening to your stories. (Got that? Soap opera friends, you have a champion in my grandma!) Do your needlework according to the season. Embroidery in summer, crochet and quilting in the winter. Of course, if the crochet is only edging on a pillowcase or a hanky, then summer is okay. But crocheting a bedspread involves a hot mess on your lap as you grow the thing, so winter is best.

And finally, wash your hands before you begin. There is nothing nastier than a piece that is filthy dirty before it's finished. And mind how you keep it when you aren't working on it! Fold it neatly so you don't give it inconvenient creases that won't come out, and never, ever let it drag on the ground! (Her needlework bag was a designer model: a pair of double-bagged A&P shopping bags!)

Recently I have met a group of really lovely stitchers on Facebook. Some of the projects they do are breathtakingly beautiful! Some don't turn my prop, but mostly what I see is a whole lot of creativity. They inspire me, daily! A few of the stitchers have said they had done needlepoint yard ago, gave it up due to time constraints, and have since resumed. Apparently The Plague had something to do with down time and deciding to clean out stuff. They'd find an old project and think, hm, I should do this again. Honestly, that is all it takes!

So what am I making these days? I am about to slip stitch a lining onto the back of a little counted cross stitch Christmas "banner" that I ordered from Ingebretsen's in St. Paul. It has a couple of nisse, an elf, and a big red heart, along with a few other hearts. It says God Jul, and is really cute. Also, I am chipping away at The Wisteria Window, a large canvas of a Frank Lloyd Wright window from the Ennis House in California. I got out the box of Christmas projects and have a set of Mill Hill beaded counted cross stitch Santas to make up. I decided to make them into a kind of garland because, quite honestly, our tree doesn't have room for another half dozen large stitched ornaments! And let's not discuss the needlepoint ornament canvases I already have. And if we are given one, it HAS to go on the tree, right? I mean these are important considerations! (I'm kidding, sort of. Gift ornaments do have to go on the tree, so putting these Santas elsewhere is just being proactive.)

The sampler is still waiting for me. I flunked getting it onto the slate frame. I think I am out of luck on that score. It's too wide for the frame, so I am going to try something else. However, every single one of those vintage Elsa's WILL fit it, and oh, boy, will that be fun!

My needlepoint class hasn't yet delivered - one is now dealing with being back at work and having to take care of her mother who isn't well. Another is getting her house cleared out in preparation for listing it. The third kind of gave up, I think. She doesn't like to be told what to do, and that includes listening to the instructor's directions and following through out of courtesy. Whatever. The first two, once they get their lives settled a little more, will be looking for things to do this winter, so I have no doubt we will get together for a couple of refreshers and they'll complete theirs.

The bottom line is always this: do what makes you happy. If you don't like that color, use a different one. If the stitch doesn't blow up your skirt, try something else. Stitchery is making decisions, experimenting and futzing around until you are happy with it - or satisfied that you've done it the best you were able to. There are no wrong answers!

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