Embroidery, or a Lesson in Patience

A few months ago I got it into my head that I wanted to learn embroidery. It’ll be like drawing but with thread, I imagined. I’d always loved drawing but hadn’t done much with it in years. This will be a way to reconnect with my creativity, I thought. I signed up for an afternoon workshop at Craft South in Nashville to learn the basics.

Well, it turns out threading a needle alone could be an entire workshop.

I asked our intrepid instructor, Morgan, more than once to show me how to properly thread a needle. And I was routinely behind  the entire class. After the backstitch, I pretty much gave up on trying to keep up. But I persevered. This tortoise was not dropping out of the needlepoint race, no way. The other students all seemed to have prior sewing experience of varying abilities, or at least an uncanny sixth sense for figuring out the mental gymnastics behind stitches with quaint names like “feather stitch” or “coral stitch.” Or the cute “lazy daisy.” I stayed focused and tried not to disrupt my fellow stitch mates with my many queries to poor Morgan. “Could you show me that stitch again, please?” I’d ask after pretty much every single demonstration. She’d glance warily back at me, huddled in my corner of the classroom, embarrassed at my obvious lack of skill. Then she’d kindly walk over, knowing I would need help. By the time class ended, I was so woefully behind that my sampler was not even half-full. But no worries—I set out to teach myself, determined to learn how to embroider, damn it.

It’s been almost five months since I took that December workshop. Initially I planned to learn a stitch a week, a plan that quickly dissolved. But, I haven’t given up and I’ve recently picked up my needle again. I can thread it with reasonable skill now. I also now own a pair of pseudo-Victorian embroidery scissors for cutting bits of thread (made in China, a fact emphasized by the inclusion of “casual play” on the list of fun uses for said scissors. I’m not sure exactly how one engages in casual play with a pair of scissors, but it doesn’t sound safe). I also have a pair of tweezers, suitable for a science lab, which I use for picking up wayward strands of thread with ease. I’m still working on my sampler, but I feel my confidence growing and I feel like there is an end in site in the next few months. Maybe then I can move on to a “real” project. I can put my feather stitches, coral knots, and satin stitches to use in an elaborate embroidered piece suitable for framing. Or at least one filled with recognizable stitches, appropriately spaced.  I envision creating pieces that intertwine creative passion with accessible objects of beauty that others can enjoy. A lofty goal, one might ascertain at this point, given my nascent ability. But I’m on a mission to bring more light to the world. Maybe I’ll have a follow-up post in a few months detailing the never-before-seen beauty of my first original project. Or at least a passable, yet heart-felt, craft project meant to be received with love.

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