I was not forced into my first bit of embroidery; it was an obsession from the start. My mother sewed all of our clothes when my sister and I were little. We fell asleep most nights to the hum of the sewing machine and the soft light of the sewing room trickling down the hall into our room. Even as a little girl, I knew I was safe when the sewing machine was running. As a result of my mother's creative endeavors (she sewed, knitted, wove, and embroidered--finally settling on quilting as a passion), all the makings and materials were there and available, whenever one of us girls showed interest. Despite her own instruction by her grandmother, a seamstress, Mom never pushed us into anything. Sometimes I wish she had, because her sewing is far superior to my own. We had sewing cards as children--thin boards with pasted on pictures and strategically paced holes that we could lace different colored shoe laces through--but these were toys.
The beginning of my obsession came one sunny summer morning. My Dad, a teacher was at his summer job, Mom was upstairs, and the tv had been left on tuned to PBS. It was a sewing show and the host was demonstrating embroidery. I was 6 or 7 and I was captivated. As soon as the show ended, I ran upstairs to the sewing room and rummaged through the scrap pile. The piece of yellow flannel I found couldn't have been much bigger than my hand and had several lopsided angles in it, but it was enough for me. I found my mother's sewing basket--a round wicker basket with a floral padded lining and a plastic removable tray--and chose some white floss and a big needle. I then sat down and embroidered a polar bear--no hoop, just the flannel scrap and as much thread as I could cram into the eye of the needle.
Why a polar bear? When I was in kindergarten the zoo had baby polar bears every year and my very first field trip was to go and see the bears. I remember making a clay polar bear in art class the following year. My embroidered polar bear was an attempt at stem stitch, although the stitches were probably each an inch long. With a child's imagination, I thought it was a perfect representation. I tied big knots on the back and brought the wrinkled scrap with a poor outline to my mother, declaring it to be a polar bear. I realize now she probably wouldn't have known what it was without my declaration. "Who taught you to do that!" she asked.
It was many years before I did more embroidery and my obsession has ebbed and waned as life has gotten in the way, but because of my mother's reaction to my first piece, I have never felt afraid to try something new. And so I am beginning this blog today because most of my early pieces, and many of my more recent pieces are lost, or have been sent to family and friends, with no record of what I have done, or the love and excitement with which they were created. In this blog, I hope to better understand and convey the meaning that the act of creating brings to my life and to the lives of all stitchers--that spark that keeps us going even when we know the recipients of our gifts don't have a clue about what it took to create that tiny embroidery or the knitted baby sweater, but hopefully can feel the love that went into our creation.