All month long, I’ll be sharing daily pick-me-ups, tips, and doses of inspiration to help us all find perspective during the month of December. We invite you to check back daily for these mini pep-talks as we prepare for a very unusual holiday season. –Meagan
For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with embroidery and needlework. An embroidered farm scene hung above my bed when I was very small; I remember standing on my bed at the age of three or four, tracing the threads with my fingers. My mother’s pillowcases were embroidered with pink and red roses with pale green stems. When I was sick and got to stay home from school, tucked up in her bed with the TV, I would stare at those pillowcases for hours, wondering how they were made.
But it took me a good fifteen years of adulthood before I gave embroidery a whirl for myself. And even then, I took it up in fits and starts, leaving several rather ambitious projects unfinished. This year, I was determined to finally pull it off, and gathered together all the needles and thread, patterns, and motivation – a gift list and a Christmas deadline – I’d need to finally crank out some finished works.
The first one? The embroidered bear you see above, stitched on a flour-sack towel. Such a simple design came together quickly; I finished the whole thing in around an hour. And to make it even more meaningful, as I was still waiting on my new embroidery floss to show up, I remembered that I’ve been carrying my mom’s around in a tin for the last 21 years. Her brown, green, and variegated yellow threads were perfect for the job. I was pretty satisfied with the finished project when I set it down.
But soon after, I started noticing little…problems. Like that line across Mr. Bear’s muzzle. It looks out of place to me. Is he a circus bear? Maybe I should have done it in a lighter color. And those flower details on the arrows? Those abstract “sunflowers” don’t look anything like the multi-petaled daisies I was supposed to stitch. While we’re discussing those arrows, anyone else notice that one of them is pointy and the other rounded? And don’t even get me started on the hot mess that is the knotty back side of the towel..
If you thought you could just glance at this and think “cute bear”, boy, were you wrong! There are myriad errors I can point out to ruin your experience of it. Shall I keep going? I have material for days!
In all seriousness, though, isn’t it funny how we do this to ourselves? Whereas I could focus on the positives – wow I MADE this with my HANDS – instead it’s only to easy to see the flaws first. And instead of giving it to someone I love, a little part of me wants to hide it away in a drawer and take up a new hobby, perhaps something that doesn’t involve following patterns or tying neat knots.
But here’s the thing: I really enjoy embroidery. My approach may be more “bull in the china shop” than “delicate and painstaking” but hey, I’m having fun, I’m learning as I go, and finding that my goal of giving handmade Christmas gifts is doable…as long as I don’t add the word “perfect” or “like store bought” to the description.
Over the past two weeks I’ve finished stitching designs on two more towels, two pillowcases, and the cover of a heating pad. I’ve learned a lot in the interim, too: how to create my own patterns and transfer them to fabric, how to keep the back neater as you stitch, how to thread the needle without having a panic attack (most of the time), and how to fix mistakes as I go.
It takes time to learn how to do things, and it takes even more time to learn how to do them well. (And if you involve your kids in making things, your finished projects will likely never be magazine-page perfect.) But isn’t that what makes them charming, heartfelt, and totally unique? Imperfect as it may be, that first – or fifteenth – messy attempt is worth giving as a gift, hanging up, or displaying in the middle of the table.
As for myself? I’m glad I finally picked up needle and thread and kept at it long enough to finish something – several things, actually. And I’m proud that I’ll be able to give some of the results of that hard work away this holiday.
Including magically messy Mr. Bear.