Friday, December 30, 2016

Lessons of 2016 and a new approach for 2017

As 2016 comes to a close and 2017 approaches, I can only sense it's potential. After quite some time I feel an excitement
about the coming year, about the chance to write a happier story and dream about all the possible stitches I want to make,
trips I want to take and things I want to learn.

I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope it brings us all many moments of Joy and Inner Peace.

During these past few weeks of 'mandatory recuperation' I have finally had some insights that have brought me some peace.
Some of these points are worth sharing here since these topics reoccur in various chat groups and had been nagging issues
for me over the years.
In the past, my vast and varied 'stash' of needlework items had started to become a source of worry and analysis; I tried to see
if I could just limit my interest to one or two types of embroidery. The benefits of just sticking to one technique would be many:
I tried to convince myself to no avail that it would be simpler, more productive use of time, more focused
and easier on the pocket book. And, for years I have tried to prioritize and arrange my needlework projects, books and
accessories that way - only to have to change it all around again when I focused my thoughts and attention to another
technique that suddenly caught my fancy!

I had never considered my books to be a burden - they were a wealth of knowledge and inspiration always.
I had wondered about my need to keep all the different hoops and working frames, stands, lights, needles, and stuff I had accumulated over the years as I delved into this art form further and deepened my understanding, learned new skills, and refined others.

This 'mandatory pause' in most activity because of my broken ankle and severely sprained hands made it clear to me how much I enjoy all the various aspects of creativity with needle and thread. Initially, my books and surfing the internet gave me hours of adventure and I discovered many new techniques I will study more in the years ahead.
Then, within a few days I realized that I could just not sit still anymore. Although watching old shows and Christmas movies on TV is most pleasurable, I felt truly unproductive and realized how much TV watching for me is more about listening to it while I stitch.

As I contemplated what I could possibly stitch, I finally came to the realization that so many of my 'side projects' were started when I was not feeling well or when other aspects of life demanded more of my attention... and that having them all in my stash is a luxury I am most thankful for!
At this time for example, I knew I could not continue with any of the other projects I was working on before my fall - my hands were just not able to be that precise yet, nor did they have the strength; besides, the brace and the bandages ruled out silk work right away. So, I started slowly with a new sampler, on a lesser count of linen with larger holes in the linen to reduce the force required when pulling the needle in and out and allowing me to use a thicker needle ...

it was very slow going and not too 'interesting' but I managed to establish all the bands on Martha Salter, an intermediate level sampler by the Scarlet Letter which was quite an achievement.

Then I decided to add another project to the mix to start building more flexibility and movements into my self imposed therapy program. I needed something requiring more strength and allowing me to use various parts of my hand and fingers as I made the stitches. Martha Salter had a lot of satin stitches but in smaller areas which would require more precision; the Christmas runner I chose allowed me to test my stitching, my hands and build strength using a larger needle with more threads... the movements required were quite painful at first and not easy at all to do; I still need a lot of breaks and progress is still slow and yet, each day I could see an improvement in my stitches, each day my hands felt a bit stronger!

The orthopedic surgeon had instructed me to keep my broken ankle in the boot and my leg elevated at all times, so my Lowery floor stand and a larger hoop allowed me to recline back and stitch comfortably. The needle provided in the kit was too big and required too much force to pull through the fabric but having my stash of needles allowed me to switch to a thinner Bohin Crewel needle and continue in my self imposed therapy! I know that my needlework therapy along with the physical therapy will make it possible to resume my activities within a week or so... my leg will take longer to heal but at least my hands will be back to full function. So , having a variety of stands and needlework accessories is not such a bad thing after all!

I realize now how much I rely on my needlework to gauge when I can get back to work and what type of activities I can engage in ... it is not just one type of needlework that allows me to do this but rather the freedom to move between a variety of projects from my stash, using various types of stands and frames and paraphernalia. 

So, the biggest lesson I have learned at the end of this year is to embrace my stash of needlework items and treasure them with gratitude.
This also applies to all my other interests and 'collections'... I had not had a chance to read my German literature books for years or look at all the TIME LIFE Art books I had collected as a student by saving up for each volume. Having the time these past weeks proved to me how much I treasure books.

In this coming year, I will go through my stash and remove the projects I know I will not want to stitch at all, and I will not necessarily keep buying 'more' needlework projects; my focus will still be to work on projects I already have in my stash BUT I am finally free of 'feeling guilty' about it all... all my interests and collections bring me Joy, so from now on I will embrace them all and be thankful for my stash.

I have learned to be grateful for the small things , accept the slight imperfections in my stitches as small 'victories over the challenges and struggles of life' and leave them as part of the history marking the event in my life; as a quiet reminder of that time in my life - such imperfections only being apparent to me and to those who take the time to inspect things closely anyway. 

Wishing you all a happy and productive New Year - may you all enjoy the pleasure of spending time with needle and thread. I hope that my ramblings above make some of you feel less guilty about stash and more thankful for it. People 'collect' all sorts of things and spend time doing all sorts of things that they may never ever 'perfect' - they do them for various reasons and most do not feel guilty spending their money or time doing something that brings them joy. Not sure why I was starting to attach all these negative feelings to my books and needlework stash ... perhaps because 'life's events' these past years have made my needlework time less productive... but I am finally free of all that and finally have a way on how to arrange my needlework stash so I can enjoy all aspects of it. 
  I can't wait to implement it all and do look forward to all the adventures ahead with needle and threads and projects from my stash!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Needlework wishes for great days ahead

May we all enjoy many quiet moments with needle and thread in 2017!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa ...And a HAPPY NEW YEAR with some of my embroideries I have shared with you all over the years!

Make the most of every moment!
A fun project !

A Little Quail - lots of fun techniques!

My own design and interpretation of Schwalm techniques 
One of the Christmas lights tablecloths I have stitched over the years  
My next self imposed hand therapy : Japanese bead embroidery 
Current hand therapy project : another Christmas tablecloth/runner 

As this year closes - best wishes for the New Year !

Wishing you all a good time with friends and family and hoping that the New Year ushers in many moments of Joy.

We are busy recuperating and doing well.
The past few weeks have shown slow but steady improvements;
Still painful but good progress nonetheless....

Initial attempts at an intermediate sampler.... an inch or so of Montenegrin stitches and it took all day!

By Sunday it was already much better and I could stitch a bit longer and it seemed just a bit faster.  I was able to establish all the bands on Martha Salter,
an intermediate level sampler 

On Tuesday, I switched to a Christmas related project. Initially it took some determination to push past the pain and just pull the needle up through the fabric

But slowly my fingers are building their strength back and I hope to have this tablecloth runner finished on Christmas Day

May the New Year usher in glorious days with needle and thread for all of us !

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life's little triumphs...

Had a good Saturday - even though I am supposed to remain inactive and keep my foot elevated and not walk, I decided that I could not let my students down and managed to make it through Japanese embroidery class as scheduled.
Many of you want me to post my Japanese embroidery pieces here - maybe one day I will .... but for now I wanted to share one of my student's pieces.
She has had some difficult 'life challenges' to overcome and it is difficult to find the 'quiet' to work with filament silk and figure out new techniques when the mind and heart are elsewhere.

I am thankful for the opportunity to show my small group of students some of the intricacies of this technique as I have understood them; thankful that they put up with all my persnickety quirks and that they strive to do the best job they possibly can at that moment in time and that even though we are all seriously engaged in learning techniques, we all still manage to have fun and share laughs and learn from each other's experiences!

Life is so rich because of all the little details!

She persevered and here is her triumphant result: