Embroidery as a Mindful Practice

In the past I often tried to teach myself embroidery. I'd buy the books! I'd buy the fabric! I'd buy the floss! And the hoops! And the needles! PHEW... And then I'd promptly get "too busy" and put them away in the cupboard. Only to pick them up a couple of months later and start the process all over again. I'd get so excited to do something creative and then KAPUT I'd give up.

Then something quite extraordinary happened and I had to take some unexpected time off work because of a bout of illness. I needed something that I could do at home, that would entertain me but also was calming, relaxing and creative...

Embroidery became this mindful experience for me. Something that made me feel uplifted but at ease. I'd become so connected to screens, to work, to getting it all done; embroidery was able to be the antithesis of that. 

There’s something so very special about fabric that has been delicately hand embroidered. Especially vintage pieces. Knowing the amount of time and love that has gone into it, I think seals it with a bit of magic. I fell deeply in love with the pieces but also the process: sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, a cat on the lap and a needle and thread in hand. It became such a mindful practice for me. Something that I genuinely need to do to feel centred. 

Recently I was in a minor car accident, which caused me to injure my wrists (jarring them against the steering wheel), this seemed like no big deal. A bit of physiotherapy and I'd be right as rain... but I couldn't embroider. 4 weeks seemed like an age. My soul needed it. My creative pursuit and the thing I'd always done to balance myself was gone. It showed me just how much the practice had become instinctual to me. How wonderful it was to be able to pick up a needle and thread, just as my grandmother had done, and stitch my cares away. To say I was thrilled to able to do so again is an understatement! 

It's also become something where I can look back and see how my technique and ability has changed over time. I recently found a photo of one of my first ever embroidery pieces (see image below). A seaside scene I stitched onto a handkerchief as a gift. It was so very crudely done, and yet I was, and still am so proud of it. Each piece is unique. Each stitch makes me a better embroider. Each stitch signifies time, care and (although it sounds ridiculously gushy) a little bit of love! 

If you are looking for something to give you a moment's peace. Something to focus your thoughts when they are spinning and the world seems so busy, embroidery is a lovely place to start.



Did your nanna teach you?

A question I am often asked is if my grandmother taught me to embroider.

The simple answer is no; but the long answer is much more complicated than that! My gorgeous nan was an avid embroiderer. Able to sit for hours and hours passing away the day with a flick of her wrist and a shower of coloured cotton, my mother tells me her constant refrain, "the back must be the same as the front"  would occasionally break the silence which was only punctuated otherwise by the sound of the needle meeting fabric.

But I didn't know her as that. I didn't know the woman who would sit for hours and hours working fabric like moving water between her adept and nimble fingers, for when the grandkids arrived it was all hustle and bustle and no time for such pursuits. There was lemon slice to be made (delicious!) and yabbies to be caught (exciting!)

Only in her much older years did I realise the extent of her hobby. When my mother and I were helping her clean out some cupboards and happened upon mountains of incredible hand embroidered tablecloths and doilies and nick and nacks, did I truly understand the level of her passion for embroidery! And what an amazing discovery! What a treasure trove of colour and texture and absolute gorgeousness! I had to learn myself. I had to be able to replicate this skill.

Many years passed and I bought many embroidery books only to study them for a couple of weeks and then ignore them all together. It wasn't until many years later that I committed to this gorgeous beast in a moment of illness (that's another blog!) and fell quite madly in love with it. And it was made all the sweeter knowing that my grandmother had done this exact same thing.

'The back always the same as the front'.

A piece made by my grandmother beside a piece made by me for my grandmother's 90th birthday this year.