A Stitching Story

It’s Christmas Eve night, 3 am, and I’m wakened by an alarm that our T1D daughter’s blood sugars have plummeted. Blearily, I enter her room, test her blood sugar. 46. I give her juice boxes. Two of them. And I wait downstairs in my studio for a half hour in order to test her again to make sure the number comes up.

As I sit, waiting and trying not to fall asleep, a desire to stitch something rises in me. This desire had been floating around for a while, in and around all the holiday preparations, the gifting, the cleaning, the cooking. All was ready now. Stockings were hung, gifts were wrapped. I needed a needle and thread, stitches to mend what was frayed. I test her again and the number has only crept up to 55. I give her more juice. And I decide to wait an hour to test her again. Downstairs I enter my studio with an exhaled prayer…I need to stitch…I need fabric. I keep all of my fabric pieces in a cabinet up in our bedroom and I did not want to waken husband. The first place I look in my studio, in my beloved embroidery box, a lovely leftover piece of linen sits untouched, waiting for me. On my drawing table are small scraps leftover from having collaged another fragment I had begun the day before. For this linen piece, I just wanted to stitch, sashiko style, random, all over, abstract, choosing threads, a few fabrics, and stitches as I go, responding to what has come before, unplanned, with no pre-designed image.

An hour is a long time to stitch. For me anyway. At 4:30, I set down the fragment to go test our daughter, whose blood sugars, thankfully had risen to a much better number. I could rest now. Or at least try to, as I sometimes am unable to get back to sleep after these events. But I did fall back asleep, surely helped by the rhythmic stitches I had long been desiring to begin. Just starting a creative project releases a sense of calm and assurance that all will be well, one stitch at a time.

Christmas Day, after a merry morning of gifting around our glowing tree, I gathered my clothespinned threads, scissors and linen fragment to take on the trip to visit my family. Just the thing for travel…filling a “page” of fabric with lines of stitches in, around, and over bits of found fabric scraps. At some point, with these abstract pieces, I start to look at them for composition, for what I might “see” in them, for pattern and repetition and what I might want to add for cohesion to the overall pictorial space. I see a need for a shape in that corner, a dark value of thread along that side, a textural element, such as a button, over there, and perhaps a word or two, something that speaks to me.

Holding the fragment in one direction I saw a sliver of a moon hovering in an abstracted sky. In another direction, a small boat in a river or ocean. The latter was stronger to me, and I began to work toward bringing out the story within the stitches. I add blanket stitches, a small girl holding an oar, starry buttons in the magical sky. The linen fragment becomes part of a gauzy background, continuing the use of “found” pieces of fabric. The boat theme is showing up in several of these fragments lately. I know why. It’s the larger one I’m working on, which I will share with you soon, that is influencing this basic shape of a boat in water. The recent loss of a beloved friend, and my thoughts surrounding her homegoing, have me thinking of this iconic symbol of our passage from this life to the next. Art helps me work through these things. Stitching provides a similar work to “rowing”…moving me along one stitch after another, slowly, deliberately to a joyful end. Most of the time we have no clue what is being wrought in and through our daily comings and goings. The important thing is to keep on stitching, working in, around and over the bits we are given. There will be a beautiful story in the end.

For now…we row our boats, stitch our days, offering gratitude along the way.


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