I’ve been doing needlework of some kind for 40 years now and I still get excited when starting a new project. I love every step of it. I spend sometimes up to an hour trying to decide which of the many charts and kits I’ve accumulated over the years to do next. Should I do another horse design (my favourites)?
Or maybe a nostalgic theme by Faye Whittaker,
or Paula Vaughn?
A whimsical piece wouldn’t go amiss either.
Once I’ve made my choice, I then work out how to make it my own. Cross stitch is my way of indulging my creative side. I often go off book to find a way to give the design my own personal touch.
I begin by selecting the material I’ll be stitching on. I look, really look at the design I’ve chosen to get a feel for the mood it’s trying to convey, then I make my choice.
During the actual stitching, I often substitute stitches if I feel the charted one isn’t appropriate. If I feel a quarter or three-quarter stitch would be more suitable then that’s what I use.
And contrary to what old school cross stitchers may say, I don’t feel you have to back stitch the design within an inch of its life. Many times I find ‘selective back stitching’ can highlight a design more than just back stitching everything.
With my choices made and my materials assembled, I begin stitching (always starting in the centre) with high hopes. Whenever I begin a new project, I always promise myself I won’t mess up this time. This time I won’t have to unpick two or three times because I miscounted. This time it will be ‘perfect’.
It never is.
I do miscount. I do have to unpick. And I get annoyed with myself. ’It’s not rocket science, you know,’ I berate myself. ’All you have to do is count. Seriously, how hard is that,’ I scold myself. So being the obsessive-compulsive character I am, I unpick, restitch, make another mistake, unpick, restitch, make another mistake and on and on until I get so frustrated I let the mistake go and finish the design as is. Then feel guilty for displaying something that is less than perfect. It doesn’t matter that admirers don’t notice there’s a mistake; it doesn’t matter that they are not even aware there is a mistake. I know it’s there. This was the torment I would put myself through for decades.
This morning while working on my current project, I noticed yet another mistake. I had made this one the previous day and it would have taken me ages to unpick and restitch everything. I walked away in frustration and made myself a coffee. I stayed in the kitchen sipping my coffee, wondering if I had the strength to correct the mistake. Eventually I walked back to it, still undecided if I should do the right thing or pretend I never saw the error.
It’s funny. I’ve been working on this garden scene on and off for nearly three years now; I counted, placed, looked at every stitch I made on it. But now as I looked at the design as a whole, it was as if I was looking at the it for the first time. I realised that perfection had no place here. This was a design inspired by Nature. Nature uses no set plan to create breathtaking scenery. The beauty lies in Nature’s imperfection. Trees are uneven, mountains are rugged, rivers are mercurial.
If Nature follows no set rules, there’s no reason why my cross stitch garden should. So, no I’m not going to fix this mistake. It’s right at home amongst the leaves and flowers. And in future when I make a mistake, I’ll be sure to ‘look at the big picture’ first before declaring myself a failure.