Needlepoint in Winter by
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(146 Stories)

Prompted By Hobbies

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I’ve never been any good at “hands-on” hobbies–those that involve coordination or spatial abilities. As I child I liked coloring books and Colorforms (remember them?) because I didn’t have to draw anything. I couldn’t learn to knit despite repeated tries. With a grandmother and mother who were professional seamstresses, sewing was out of the question, except for repairing buttons and taking up hems. I stuck to reading, drama, and a few individual sports all the way through high school.

I looked at the beautiful colors of the needlepoint yarn and sighed. "Maybe I could do that," I thought.

In 1972 I moved to California and started at Mills College, living in my family’s home in the Oakland suburbs that first year. Mills was on a 4-1-4 system at the time, with two standard semesters surrounding the “1,” a January month when we took a single in-depth course. For my January 1973 course, I took a fascinating class on linguistics. Even with the compressed schedule, the course didn’t take up a lot of time. That January was extremely wet. It rained nearly every day, making outdoor activities very limited.

My mother, who is excellent at any craft she tries, suggested I accompany her to a yarn shop to buy wool for a sweater she was making. The shop offered classes, and one for needlepoint for beginners was about to start. I looked at the beautiful colors of the needlepoint yarn and sighed, thinking this craft would be impossibly hard for me, until I noticed the canvas grids that formed the base of the projects. They would guide my stitching and keep it consistent. “Maybe I could do that,” I thought. My mother encouraged me to sign up for the class, and I took the plunge.

The class turned out to be delightful. We received supplies, canvas, needles, and yarn, plus a stitch book. Turns out there are many more stitching techniques than the ubiquitous cross stitch. I enjoyed learning tapestry stitches and making abstract designs, using the different color yarns, and even blending the strands to make additional colors. Stitching away during my free time, watching the rain come down outside, turned out to be extremely relaxing. I made designs that could be framed, pillow covers, and even a book cover.

By the end of the January class, I had to put away the needlepoint and get back to the more demanding semester of study, and alas, I didn’t pick up my needlepoint again. I soon moved on campus, leaving the few remaining needlepoint supplies in a closet at my parents’ home. Eventually I gave everything away.

Now that I’m “retired,” occasionally I think about taking up needlepoint again, and I’m amazed at so many of the other “distractions” available. I doubt my creaky finger joints and far sightedness would encourage me, either. But I do think with fondness of that one January when there was time to stitch and regard the winter rain.

 

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Marian, this is a delightful story!

    Years ago I did a few needlepoint projects and I do remember it was very relaxing, maybe I should take it up again too, will keep you posted!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    This was informative as well as engaging, Marian. I had no idea there were so many different types of stitches, like tapestry, as opposed to cross stitch. And you make is sound so engrossing. I’ve always enjoyed watching others to do it, but not to the point of wanting to try it myself. But very glad you had that month to enjoy it and now you’ve shared it with us. Thank you for that.

    • Marian says:

      Betsy, turns out there are dozens of stitches, and I really liked the opportunity to do non-representational design, more abstract. The stitching isn’t that difficult because of the canvas strands, but it does involve flexible finger joints and good eyesight, which aren’t in full supply for me now.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    Memories…. my old college was until now the only one I had heard of with a 4-1-4 schedule. We called it “intersession”. I never took an intersession course, but I can see it being a useful way to lighten the load a bit during the regular semesters.

    • Marian says:

      I really loved 4-1-4, Dave, and it gave the professors time to be creative (I later took a course that was team taught by profs in three different disciplines, which would have been impossible in a regular semester). I used the January term to make up for a semester I lost in the move to California, but would have taken a class regardless.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    What a lovely story, Marian. Confirms everything I’ve heard (from afar) about the joys and variety of needlepoint, even for the knitting-challenged. I definitely understand you not resuming it — just look at me and my model trains — but it has at least left you with some lovely, calming memories.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I also didn’t realize there was so much variety in needlepoint, but it sounds like you really enjoyed it. So maybe give it a go again! I tried it once and didn’t have the patience, so I am impressed with the possibilities. I have a sister-in-law who became very creative with quilting before moving on to encaustic. Unleash the creative spirit and don’t look back.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Needlepoint can be a great hobby, Marian. There was a phase when my mother and her sister were so heavily invested in it that they couldn’t find enough places to give away their finished creations. I only tried it once. I was going to needle point a piano bench cover, I didn’t get very far as my kids were pretty young and it required more free time and solitude than I had. My mother finished the project and I still have and treasure it.

    • Marian says:

      Laurie, that’s a downside of needlepoint–what to do with your creations. Not everyone’s style is for cross-stitched items, which is why I particularly liked other stitches, so I could make abstract designs.

  7. Suzy says:

    Marian, this is so great! I think we should all try needlepoint in winter – we could have a Retrospect needlepoint class, and meet on Zoom. Is your featured image something you made, or just a picture you found online?

    • Marian says:

      Would be fun, Suzy. I found the photo online. There is one framed piece (originally a book cover) that I made that’s been in my office. I put it away for safekeeping and when I went to find it to photograph for this story, I couldn’t locate it. One of these days it’ll pop up, I’m sure.

  8. Well, Mare, your hobby sure made for a beautiful title! I can see it as the title of a book with a beautiful wintery landscape — in needlepoint, of course — on the cover. I just had to look up the different stitches and was amazed at the variety. Who knew?!

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