This embroidery project started as an experiment during a teacher-training day two years ago! My district department chair brought in a facilitator who gave the group embroidery hoops, fabric, and a little tutorial.
Aside from a brief flurry of stitches in junior high school, I had never tried embroidery, and I had no idea where it would take me. All I knew was that it immediately felt natural, even luxurious.
And being luxurious, it seemed rich to indulge in it all the time. In fact, I only ever worked on the piece during vacations. But every time I started stitching, I had a little fantasy about making full-sized portraits with the medium. Of course, the idea seemed ridiculous, since it's so slow, so I always dismissed it.
Recently though, my daughter convinced me that I should give it a try: “Just look how much you’ve done since we’ve been sitting here, mom,” she pointed out. “If you spent three hours on it every day, you’d be able to make a whole portrait.”
And so here I go…
This next series will be an investigation into two concepts listed below. The first is an overarching exploration into my latest wonderings; the second, an anchor that ties together the subjects in each piece:
1) Things that take time
2) Biracial/bicultural identity
More about this as I go along…
There's truly nothing better than making concrete an idea in your mind. It seems quintessentially human, but what do I know --maybe other animals do it too?
In any case, I'm sincerely satisfied with the outcome of this piece. Below is an illustration of the process with mostly pictures. Read the captions for tid bits from me.
This post is about the logistical parts of making my first full embroidered portrait. Above, you'll find images and explanations of the entire process, but first, a note about sticking to the plan:
I am astounded by this planning thing. It's a formidable power. I'm not traditionally a planner. I'm much more of a fly-around winging it type of sister. But by deciding what I want to accomplish in a given week, scheduling it all out ahead, and actually sticking to the plan, I feel...unstopable. It's amazing.
The downside is the thrashing I tend to give myself when I don't stick to it. Or the dread I have when I secretly tell myself I already know I won't do such and such, even as I'm writing it down.
In that way, planning takes courage. You have to be wiling to risk falling short. Especially with al lthat we've got goin' on in our lives --kids, full time work, aging parents, housework, etc. But if you keep trying - even if it takes 100 tries, or 300, you'll likely stumble upon a solution unique to your obstacles, just like I did...
Curious about my Sunday planning flurry a month or so ago, my 15-year-old daughter asked what I was doing. After my explanation, she said she thought she could do it for me. So we devised a set of categories and criteria for each, and I started texting her list-items as they came to me.
All week long, she gathered my texts and plugged them into my Google calendar for the following week. And though that by itself is amazing, the shining side effect I hadn't expected was this: since she was watching, I couldn't let her down!
Now I do each thing on my plan, even though I often don't feel like it, because I am modeling for my child how to live in the world! (What would she learn from me if she scheduled my tasks and I blew them off?!)
All that was to simply say this: I am mega-productive these days because of a planning solution I so badly wanted but could not have imagined. In some sense, it fell in my lap, but in another, I created the opportunity for it to do so by trying and trying and trying, 52 weeks in a row. Had I given up in week 3, I'd have missed this awesome solution.
If you have a big project like this that you want to squeeze into your very packed life, keep trying! Eventually, you'll discover a path toward it.
Thans for checking out my blog, and stay tuned for the next post featuring my first stitches...!
Also visit my fitness website if you're interested in that kind of thing!
The hard beginning means planning.
But before that, before the beginning, there is the little glowing seed that one day materializes inside your solar plexus.
Parenthetically, If you Google "solar plexus," as I just did (to make sure it was actually a thing, of course) here's what you'll find: "[it's] a complex system of radiating nerves and ganglia...found in the pit of the stomach in front of the aorta...part of the sympathetic nervous system...." Impressive. Couldn't be a more precise description of the place where the little glowing seed takes root!
And even though it doesn’t use language, the seed somehow talks to you. It says, "Hey! Hey you! Pay attention!" But it's really easy to ignore, because at first, you can’t really understand it. It talks in parables. Or maybe something is lost in the transmission along all those radiating nerves and ganglia. Besides, it's voice is so small, and its glint so intermittent, that it really takes an additional force to amplify it. The force can be your daughter encouraging you, or a brainstorming session in your journal, or maybe a serendipitous road sign that says “Anything is Possible,” or something. (How often do these things happen? How many seeds go unheard?)
When it does happen, when an additional force does amplify an internal message, that’s when the seed becomes a blaring bullhorn! And then you can’t stop hearing it. It niggles and nags and nudges until you get to the hard beginning, even if hard beginnings make you anxious.
So there you are, planning, and it’s taken you a while to get to this point because planning takes at least several degrees of courage. It’s the middle space between idea and reality. It’s the moment when your faith in the possibility of something swells above your fear of its cost (material or otherwise). And you risk calculating the how of it. And the how-long of it. And all the configurations and fractions of time, effort, cost, and obstacles in between.
For me, all that stuff amounts to the following steps with times & dates nailed down:
- Decide the time frame: Aug 14, 8:30-10am
- When do I want to be done?
- How many days per week & hours per day can I commit to it?
- How many such time blocks exist between now and when I want to be done?
- As a pacing device, divide the composition into that many squares (or some multiple if I think I can do more than one square area per day)
- Research & purchase what supplies are out there (types of canvas? types of thread?) - Aug 14, 10-noon
- Compose the portrait & take photos - Aug 31, 1:45-2:15pm
- Design the stretcher & its proportions - Aug 31, 3:30-4:30
- Print the photos in b&w (so I can use gray-scale & be free from color constraints), then tweak the composition with a view finder - Sept 1, 10:30-noon
- Purchase wood for stretcher - Sept 10, 8:15-9:30am
- Get the table saw out, cut the wood, & build the stretchers - Sept 10, 11am-1pm
- Stretch the canvas - Sept 10, 1:30-2:30
- Sketch the image, tweak, & Superimpose the squares for pacing - Sept 11th, 3-3:40pm
- Now...Ready...Set...Go --complete first square! Sept 15, 11:15am - 2:40pm
Fingers crossed, ya’ll...