I stitch because...

by Dena Lenham

I was "summer cleaning" this weekend, going through organizers full of quilt, cross stitch, crochet, sewing magazines and patterns that I've collected over the last 20 years of serious crafting. My intent was to get rid of a large portion of them: I don't have enough house-space to display all of the projects even if I could actually finish them; I haven't been able to finish anything or invest time in these lately; and those "hoarding" shows on TV would want me to move these things.

Well, I am too embarrassed to admit how little I managed to hand over to my Frugal Self. Unfortunately, I fell in love with making things all over again. So next on my to-do list is dedicating time for actually making these wonderful patterns I've collected (and get more projects/fabrics/notions when I attend Quilt Odyssey with a friend this coming weekend). 

Now I remember why I love stitching and sewing: it's relaxing and stimulating at the same time. The focus and process of needlework is an escape (the health benefits have even been documented). It's my meditation (I never could master the sitting-still "om" version). It's also liberating and creative. The threads and designs are so pretty and colorful, it's like they are bringing life to the fabric. It is making something out of nothing, or out of scraps. None of these benefits are a waste of time.

One of the magazines unearthed in my pile was "Old Time Needlework Patterns and Designs, January 1977" (sixty cents?!) passed to me from a great aunt. Editor Barbara Hall Pedersen posed a question in her column: "We cannot look thoughtfully at the needlework produced by the women of past generations without asking ourselves a question. What force in their lives was so powerful that it could motivate them to invest the countless hours of their time necessary to produce such exquisite examples of needle art?"

She went on to write, "Was it essentially a quest for beauty? Did they do it out of pride, or possibly an excess of leisure? Did virtue demand that every idle moment be occupied? It may have been all of these things, but I believe that it was also something much more. Each of us, deep down, yearns to leave some sort of mark upon the world, as proof that we have passed this way. In a time when a woman did not even have the vote, when she was forced to transact business behind her husband's name, when her opinions counted for little and her authority extended only to the home, women refused, even then, to see themselves as insignificant. They seized whatever avenues were open to them as a means of self-expression."

Ah, self-expression. Yes, I stitch because of that, and I bet you do too. Stitch your sayings, make your mark, don't stop working your projects. The threads, the designs, the fabrics...it's a beautiful world out there, and we are all making it happen.

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