Love letters

Learning is a lifelong habit, in my opinion, and one that everyone should cultivate. Einstein once said:

Intellectual growth should commence and birth and cease only at death.

A wise man, that Einstein. That’s probably why I have several of his quotes posted around my office.

This past year has been full of learning for me. I’ve been retraining in pursuit of a new career path. I took Sharon Boggon’s Encrusted Crazy Quilting class in the fall (and found a whole new addiction craft to add to my repertoire). I signed up for the Take A Stitch Tuesday embroidery challenge. And — most exciting of all! — I’ve just begun Sharon’s Sumptuous Surface Embroidery class!

Sumptuous Surface Embroidery is the class I blogged about last fall — the one I wanted to take so badly but is only rarely offered, and so I took the crazy quilting class instead. So far, I haven’t had as much time as I would like to work on it, but I am making progress.

The first weeks of class are about the design process and working with texture, and the project is a monochrome piece. I’m not sure I am meant to be a designer, but so far I am happy with my progress. One thing that really struck me while going through the first few lessons was the idea that you should have a feeling, a theme, or a story in mind before you begin to design, and that every design decision should reflect on that theme.

My theme is love letters. More precisely, the little letters and notes and doodles that get left around the house with wonderful messages like “I love you Mama” and “K, you are my favourite brother.” (Of course, he is her only brother, but don’t let that take away from the sentiment.) Others are merely pictures, or doodles, or zentangles.

The messenger is often as mysterious as the message. Notes appear suddenly, arriving on the kitchen table just in time for breakfast, or tucked into the book I’m currently reading, or left on my bedside table at oh-dark-early in the morning. The one currently gracing my bedside table says “My arms are made for huging.”

I love it.

And yes, I ‘huged’ the messenger.

The thing is, no matter the content, these little treasures all mean the same thing: Love. They are little packets of love, often drawn on bright neon Post-It notes, sometimes written on tiny scraps of white paper folded into teensy-tiny squares, other times regular old three-hole punched lined paper folded the way we used to fold notes to pass in high school, and sometimes on fancy origami paper folded into cootie catchers.

And so I chose to embroider a love letter for my first Sumptuous Surface Embroidery project.

Here it is barely begin, with the envelope and quill embroidered in a simple stem stitch in shades of gray and the word ‘love’ embroidered in charcoal, also in stem stitch.

I started filling in the background field with a variety of stitches in white. There are some Algerian eyes, some straight running stitches, satin stitches, detached chain stitches, and french knots. I’m really liking the way the running stitches are making a pattern of boxes, or little pages lined up row after row, so I have actually done a whole lot more of them all over the background, I just haven’t taken a picture of it at that stage yet. Here is a closeup where you can see the pattern I am talking about:

So far, I am enjoying the class  enormously even though I haven’t had enough time to devote to it. There is a certain freedom in picking up a blank piece of fabric and designing anything you want. A certain amount of fear, too, if I am completely honest. It is something akin to writer’s block for stitchers, I think, where the fear of getting it wrong paralyses you for the moment.

I have learned, after long years of writing for a living, often with tight deadlines, that the best solution for writer’s block is to simply write down something. You can always fix it later so long as you have something down on paper to fix.

With stitching, fixing it later is much more complicated. And expensive – novelty threads and silks and glass beads aren’t cheap, after all, and unlike a tin can that can be turned into a flower pot, they often cannot be reused once they’ve been stitched with and then ripped out. Worse, the fabric you’ve stitched on is often damaged by the process of stitching – damage that is only revealed once you’ve pulled the stitches out.

The solution?

Sketches. Post-It notes (bright orange, of course) of possibilities hastily (and badly) drawn before the needle approaches thread. Planning. In advance. In detail. Rather like the document architecture plans and outlines and notebooks full of research notes and SME interviews I used to have piled all around my office when I worked full time as a technical writer.

Stitching is rather akin to writing, it turns out, which leads me to another thought:

Creativity is an exploration of the texture and emotion of the human experience. The pursuit of creative endeavors is, regardless of its outward form, a love letter to the universe.

Have you written any love letters lately?

 

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