How stitching helps bring clarity

What to write about…so many possibilities

It has taken me a while to write my second post…what do i write about??  I first thought about sharing my thoughts on how women too often undervalue or hide our creative endeavors, segregating our private, creative lives from our professional lives.  Those thoughts are still percolating and will be covered in another post.

I also considered my audience, yes I have a few followers!! Some are stitchers, some are family and friends, and there are a couple that have happened upon my blog. How to appeal to such a wide audience??   I have decided to dedicate this page to my reflections on how stitching impacts on other aspects of my life – professional and private.  Over the next few weeks, I will ask a colleague on how I set up a separate page where I can focus on some of the more ‘stitchy’ issues that will appeal to those stitchers who follow me.

So in this post, I decided to reflect on Hargeisa, Somaliland and how stitching continuously teaches me to be patient in my professional life and to take the longer view.

Hargeisa, Somaliland…watching a beautiful pattern unfold

After a long absence, over the past few years, I have begun to re-engage with Somaliland, the self-declared Republic in northwestern Somalia.  My first trip to Somaliland was to Hargeisa, the capital city, in 1998 and I travelled fairly regularly to Hargeisa until the mid 2000s.  In 1998, Hargeisa was still recovering from being bombed by the Siad Barre government between 1987 and 1989.  The city, which had been home to 500,000 people, was almost completely destroyed. 10 years later, rubble was still visible, a grass-roots peace movement had established an accepted governance structure and Somaliland was slowly establishing a functioning government.

Somaliland

In 1998, power came from generators, mainly at compounds that housed international non-governmental organizations and wealthy Somalilanders who could afford to run/maintain them. As I continued to visit the city, there was progress, but hard to see and harder yet to appreciate.  Fast forward to 2019 – despite not being recognized as an independent country by the international community, Somaliland has a held multiple peaceful, largely free and fair elections, government offices are staffed and there is a fierce pride amongst Somalilanders on what they have achieved. Hargeisa is a vibrant, young city, home to 1.2 million people, almost 25% of Somaliland’s population.  City power is on, water is flowing, businesses are bustling, there are traffic jams and Somalilanders are relentlessly and resolutely re-stitching their city.  Like a pattern emerging stitch by stitch, and what a beautiful pattern it is.

70% of Somalilanders are young people – wow!  They are impatient, pushing for change, starting businesses, bringing a positive, kinetic energy to the city.  Coming back to Hargeisa and seeing the amazing change is awe-inspiring.  Stitching is helping me to take the long view, to appreciate the unfolding of the different patterns that emerge in places like Hargeisa.  It reminds me that progress is uneven, at times we can’t even see it, particularly if we are too close.  Stepping back is critical to seeing the whole.  Kind of like when you jump around a pattern – it is still hard to see the complete picture, it remains disjointed and unconnected…but with time, persistence and work, the picture comes together into an observable, understandable and beautiful whole.

Stitching update 

The Drawn Thread Sampler I am working on is a time-consuming and persnickity piece.  Unlike many of my other pieces, I find myself taking frequent breaks from it…the stitches are intricate, needing precision and concentration.  I am loving watching it unfold, but progress is slow, uneven and painstaking!  To give myself a mental break, I decided to start another piece, as I work on finishing the Sampler.  This new piece is a design by Emie Bishop of Cross’n Patch – Linen Band Bell Pull being stitched on a 28 count 3.5 inch linen band.  The design will be about 44 inches long when completed and has lots of fun, new stitches for me to learn and try.  Below is a pic of my progress thus far!

That’s all for now,

Cheers

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A start

This is my first blog, and my very first post. I am aiming to publish a post at least once per week, to update you on my WIPs, as well as reflect on how stitching keeps me grounded. Comments and feedback are very, very welcome!

First, a little bit about me

I live in Kenya and have been stitching for just over 15 years. My son got me started…he came home from his pre-school and announced that I should make a cross stitch cushion for my Dad (his Opa) for Christmas. So my first foray into the world of cross stitch and embroidery wasn’t something simple or easy…no, I started off with a 12″ x 12″ cushion from a book that I found at the local bookstore. Turned out well, and 15 years later, my Dad is still using it. That got me started.

I am an international development/humanitarian relief professional, which is what brought me to Kenya in the first place. My professional life is full of ups and downs, successes and failures, and many, many wonderful and committed women and men, both community members and colleagues. Positive change is happening in many communities and countries in East Africa. It is slow, however, with change measured over years and decades, rather than days or months.

Why do I stitch?

Stitching is very different from my professional life. Yes, both take planning ahead but that is about all! A stitching a project is planned for, the necessary materials are gathered and the first stitch starts if off, usually over a short period of time! Stitching progress is tangible and measurable. When a piece is completed, the magic and alchemy of seeing the different, individual strands combined to create something beautiful and, in many cases, useful. It provides me with grounding and a sense of accomplishment. It is an opportunity for meditative reflection in the evenings and to recharge my batteries…and there is the addictiveness of seeing something beautiful that I am creating unfold right before my eyes.

Most of my pieces have been gifts for friends – those who appreciate the time and attention to detail that I put into my work. I don’t design (yet) and love the variety of designs available – so many great designers who have introduced me to new stitches, new threads and new techniques. I started out with kits for traditional cross stitch (2 over 2) and some petite point, and did that on and off for almost 10 years. But I got bored and stopped stitching as much – it was no longer challenging. Then I discovered other forms of embroidery/needlework – drawn thread and hardanger, and was off again! The harder and more complicated the better!

Discovery

Along the way, I joined the Kenya Embroiders Guild, full of wonderful and supportive stitchers, and discovered the world of linen (so many colours and thread counts), silk thread (so soft, with a wonderful sheen), variegated thread (gradually changing colours unfolding) and perle cotton (a must have for hardanger)…all available online! Wow, that was a real eye opener. Kenya has a few shops with embroidery and needlework supplies – good, solid shops with a wide enough selection of basic supplies for embroidery and cross stitch, but there isn’t enough of a demand here for shops to bring in silk and variegated threads, perle cotton or a wide selection of linen in different counts. So I plan my projects ahead, and trawl through the online shops for speciality threads or fabrics that I need – online shopping is a wonderful thing!

Current WIP (Work in Progress for you non-stitchers)

At the moment, I am working on a drawn thread sampler by Linda Driskell – I have done some drawn thread before as part of different designs (first did it on a Teresa Wentzler design – cutting those threads for the first time was a real nail biter, I tell you), but this is my first sampler and learning some great new stitches. Lots of frogging though – I am a perfectionist, so will undo my progress and redo it if I am not happy with how it looks – makes it go slower, but I am then happier with the final result! Here is a picture of my progress so far – hope to finish it this week.

More later, thanks for reading!

Current WIP – learning some new stitches!