Stitching, Writing life

A new writing tool…

As a student, I used to do tapestry and cross-stitch. Then I was busy with work and professional exams, and it kind of fell into the background. Until a couple of months ago, when I decided to pick up a needle again. I started off with bookmarks (I particularly like the Textile Heritage kits – beautifully designed and relatively quick makes), and now I’ve got the confidence to move on to tweaking patterns to suit a project, and to do bigger things.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck on a book, I need something that will occupy the front of my mind, and let things brew in the back. I’ve used online word games a lot, but it means I spend too much time on my phone and makes me feel unproductive. Counting things always helps (hence reps in the gym, or steps in ballet where I have to think about what I’m doing).

And then it occurred to me at the beginning of the second lockdown.

Counted cross stitch.

So I get to occupy the front of my mind (counting), I’m doing something where I can see the result, and it’s also good for stress. (Hmm – why didn’t I think of that in the first lockdown??)

I bought the first kit – a rose – and remembered how much I enjoyed sewing. So people close to me are getting bits of handmade needlework! Sometimes they get to choose; sometimes it’s a guess by me based on what I know of their tastes.

This was my first batch of makes:

The mini sampler is for my best friend Fi (in Suffragette colours), who sent me a gorgeous cross-stitch book. Bookmarks, left to right:

  • the rose for me (my first bit for years, really to get me back up to speed)
  • bluebells for my best friend (learned to mix strands to change colours)
  • cows for my daughter (chosen by her – and they were SO cute to stitch; the outlining made a huge difference)
  • a Celtic knot for my son (chosen by him – that taught me a lot about geometrics)
  • tulips for my favourite cousin (again, geometrics – her fave flower)
  • a dinosaur for one of my best writer friends, Scarlet Wilson (first time I’d tried using a pattern from the internet – also, using colours close together in shade, in preparation for a very ambitious project next year)
  • carnation for my dear friend Debbie – her favourite flower and I got to mess about with borders (and kind of designed this from a mix of patterns)

Second batch:

  • Dachshund and daffodils for one of my best writer pals, Liz Fielding (Dora the Dachshund from one of her books, and daffodils because she’s Welsh – the dog was tricky and also taught me that I need to check shades, as I like using DMC and the colour conversion from Anchor doesn’t always quite work)
  • Scotties and Westies for my friend Sarah, who has a Westie and introduced me to Radley handbags (Scottie dogs!)
  • Puffins for one of my best writer pals, Michelle Styles (my first bird – and I loved doing the feather on this because it’s in preparation for another of my ambitious projects, this year)
  • Coaster for my friend Jo, who tends to read ebooks rather than paper so I thought something for her mug of tea would be better than a bookmark
  • A second dinosaur, for my favourite cousin’s daughter
  • Lily of the valley for my sister-in-law (her favourite flowers) – very dense stitching, plus some shading, which will again be helpful for the big projects

Third batch:

  • Turkey coaster for my husband, who’s a turkey farmer
  • Daffodils for my stepmum (her favourite flower)
  • Guitar for my husband (tweaked this slightly as the pattern used black for the outer line of shading but in real life it’s chocolate – and I had chocolate thread!)
  • Sunflowers for one of my best writer pals, Annie O’Neil (her favourite flower – the original pattern had 5 flowers, but I wanted 7, so I tweaked it a bit; also outlining was done in a lighter shade because I thought black was too harsh)

Where next?

I’m currently doing a sampler on evenweave (given to me by my RNA pal Anne Styles, who’s an amazing seamstress and has been very kind and supportive to me). It’s an easy pattern, but evenweave is very tricky! It has, however, made me think that I’d like to design my own sampler, with motifs of my favourite things, so I’ve been having fun putting ideas together.

On the advice of my lovely neighbour and friend Vicki (also an excellent seamstress – the socially distanced tutorial on French knots was fun, though anyone seeing us would probably have been convinced we were doing charades!), I’m going to keep doing little projects at the same time as bigger ones, so I get the fun of finishing things to motivate me to continue (haha – this is SO like writing!). I bought a couple of projects and have been given some more, so as well as my personal sampler I have a wonderful peacock, a spaniel who’s the spitting image of Archie (that’s going to be HARD as there are lots of similar colours), a smaller spaniel which will be a quicker make, a bee flying across tulips, a Shakespeare sampler and a family tree sampler. And then there’s a stash with Noah’s ark.

I do plan to do some for reader giveaways; and I have a list of things I want to do for friends – the fun bit is sending them out as surprises 🙂 I might casually ask about favourite flowers or birds (I like stitching flowers in particular), and the answer is being carefully stored away on my list. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but I can follow a pattern and tweak things. And stitching is much better for me than endless word games on my phone – but I’ve learned that I need a timer to limit myself on Pinterest…

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