Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not Stitching

Between working long hours lately (lots and lots of typing) and trying to do the cross stitch, my hands got very, very cranky. My left thumb keeps locking up and my right hand just plain hurts. I've spent several evenings watching the Olympics with my hands wrapped in ice. I haven't stitched or crocheted. My hands are better now, but I can't get back into the groove.

For one thing, I'm just plain tired at night. For another, I've retreated into the books and have been happy there.This book was recommended on the Slow Cloth Facebook group. It is very interesting and I did my best to delve deeply into it, contemplating and doing the exercises. Perhaps it was reading the book, but I finally put into action a plan I'd been thinking about. So far, it's successful.

It's a small thing. I don't move a whole lot. I sit at a computer all day. Our house is small and cramped, with not a lot of space to move around in even if I was inclined that way. I have leg issues and the doctor wants me to ride an exercise bike, which I do off and on but, I'm sorry, but it hurts! (the seat, not the pedaling) I do water aerobics once a week, again not much.

So, a week or so ago I began to modify my morning routine, really inspired by the Tharp book--it's hard to read a book by a person whose life is movement and not be inspired to move, at least a little. And I need to spend time outside--something I rarely do. So now I get up, get dressed, and walk up one side of my street and down the other and back home. We live on a one-block long street. It's on a modest incline so there's a bit of up and down. It takes just about the right amount of time. I'm also trying to move about more during the day--get up and out of my office.

Last week was easy, the sidewalks were clear, the temperatures warm (for Chicago in winter). This week's been more of a challenge. All Sunday night into Monday we had wet, heavy snow. It took me ages to scrape the stuff off our front steps--it wasn't inclined to budge. A kind neighbor had snowblown our sidewalks before I was up. I cut my walk short--the snow was about 6" deep and slippery. I spent the time outside, clearing the steps and my car. Today the snowfall was light and fluffy--but again I walked carefully and made a note to bring my phone with me tomorrow.

I spend my walking time looking at my block--there are mostly small bungalows from the 1920s to the 1950s or so. Many trees. Loads of birds, who are twittering loudly most mornings. I'm surprised by how loud the nearby expressway is.

My hope is that in going over the same space, over and over, I'll begin to see more deeply. I've already made a whole lot of observations about snow. No wonder the arctic peoples have so many names for it!

Back home I go in and have breakfast and pack my bag and head off to work. Last week as I ate I read the next chapter in the Tharp book or worked on the exercises. I began a journal with some notes in it. Some of the exercises are things I want to come back to.

I also began trying to come up with one idea for an embroidery each day (it's been more like every-other day so far). And idea with some specifics--fabrics, colors, techniques. How I'd execute it.

One of my largest mental blocks is "what do I want to say." It's easy when teaching--what I want to say with a piece is pretty much laid out. I want to teach these stitches, I want to share these techniques. But for my own work, I continually stumped by what I want to say. (and more, a real blocker for me, is what am I going to do with it--I've decided to ignore that one for now and just let the embroidery BE and not have to do, too.)

A few years back I even made up pages for a book that read: First, you have to have something to say. They're still there in my to-do pile.

So I've begun a little journal and each day I write: Today I want to say... Some days it has nothing to do with needlework and that's fine. I was really annoyed when our credit card company announced huge new fees so that's what I had to say that day. Today I noticed that the snow was really sparkly-type snow but there was no sparkle because there was no sun. So that's what I had so say today. I'm not trying to push or judge, just trying to make a new habit. I think these are good things and I hope they'll become good habits.

I'm feeling rather full up with all of this and perhaps that's why I'm not driven to stitch right now. Or perhaps it's just that by evening I'm tired both mentally and physically.I finished reading this book. As I went on, I realized that the author must have been born in the 1880s or so, and that made her of an age with my grandmothers. Once I put the book in that perspective, I became more tolerant. The history she included was still more romance than fact. Her views on needlework idiosyncratic (she did not feel drawn thread work was real embroidery, but loved candlewicking, saying it was perfect for lazy stitchers like her. She was quite disdainful of crazy quilting and gushed over the straight lines of patchwork).

That said, the book has a lot of value. If you can find the pattern box that accompanied it (rarely seen in used-book stores)--that is a treasure. For me, loving crewel, there is an entire bed covering of individual crewel motifs all drawn out. Each one would make a lovely piece on it's own.

There are patterns for samplers, needlepoint, patchwork and some lovely quilting patterns. Rugs of many techniques. Knitting and crochet. Candlewicking of two types--older and more modern. Most of the patterns are full size. They are, to me, more important than the book. The book also has some intriguing patterns though, and Mrs Lane has some gems of wisdom here and there. She had a very much today emphasis on frugality, reusing materials, making do--this was most visible in the chapter on rugs. I'm glad I took the time to go through it carefully. I haven't had the patterns out of the box since I bought it and I know what I'm looking at a lot more now than I did then!Before I stopped stitching last week, I tried my hand at mending a hole in a Victorian linen pillowcase. I have a lot to learn. I decided step one would be to baste around the hole, which is done. I'm not quite sure what to do next, in spite of some good instruction books. This is going to be a steep learning curve. But, oh, I love the feel of that linen. I'm sure that will keep me going.


averyclaire said...

Lots of wonderful reflections and some great starts! I love this post. It's beautiful. Thank you!

Elizabeth Braun said...

Oh, how I like that oval embroidery hoop! I must look out for one...

Erica said...

I do empathize with your reflections and with the determination you are going about to make good changes; do cherish your hands!

Kim B said...

Take care of those hands!

Rachel said...

You've made a good start on the new habits - well done. In effect it is simply giving you more practice in thinking about things. And the more you practise something, the easier it gets...!