Saturday, June 23, 2007

Some Traditions are Just Crap.

My love of all things stitchy began when I was 20 years old, and my sister went to Austria to be an au pair for a year. I pined - oh, how I pined without her. It was the autumn of 1994, and I was wandering in a craft store with my mother when I saw it. A pattern for a cross-stitched Christmas stocking. I was Paul on the Road to Damascus. Smitten, blinded, utterly compelled to obedience. I grabbed the leaflet, marched over to the DMC rack and, slavishly following the list given, pulled out 30 colours. I plunked them down on the counter, paid for them, then said to the shop assistant, "How d'you do this, anyway?"

I still don't know how I managed to complete this whole Christmas stocking in time for mid-November, when it was sewn, stuffed, and air-mailed to Austria in time for Christmas Eve. I marvel at the sheer bloodymindedness, the pig-headed stubbornness that enabled me to see the pattern, decide to make it, and throw myself at the process with a tenacity only seen in certain terrier breeds, or particularly implacable mules.

Typically, I decided that, No, it was not enough to make one of these for Gwen. I also had to make one for Clumsy, Mum, Dad, Mr Man, The Goddaughter, and all The Nieces. It was a case of "everybody I love is going to have one of these, come hell or high water, or imminent commitment to an asylum for the artistically exhausted." Luckily for me, my mother and sister were just as deeply devoted to the cause as I was, and helped me out a lot by stitching quite a few of the required stockings themselves.*

We were doing great. Stockings were had by almost all. I had a baby, then another. I chose the patterns for them, planning to soldier on to the end, which was now tantalizingly in sight. However, two years ago some terrible things happened.

1) I got finished everyone's stockings except two: my own daughters'. I seem to feel I've got all the time in the world to do theirs. This is bad.

2) My poor longsuffering mother has developed a repetitive strain injury called "seamstress' thumb" (sorry 'bout that, Mum) and my sister has developed something called "crushing boredom and lack of motivation", coupled with "two young children, a full-time job, and a persistently social church group".

3) I learned to knit.

Now that I know about knitting, it just about kills me to sit there staring at a colour-by-numbers chart, painstakingly threading needles and making 18 little Xs per inch, when I could be flying along at 22 sts and 30 rows to 4", needles clicking, chatting to my friends or watching movies. Do you know, cross stitching anything takes like a bazillion times longer than the same amount of knitting?

Anyhow, here is what I have done so far on Charlotte's stocking. In four years.

I just KNOW I can finish this by Christmas. Right? I can, right? Right. Thanks. That's just the encouragement I needed.

* I don't have pictures of these stockings, sadly: this was in the years before I even had a regular camera, never mind a digital one.


Kate said...

Trippy, you posted it for Saturday yet it is Friday. I always knew you had a gift.
I hear you on the cross-stitch. It is so beautiful, but long. Plus not so easy to pick up and put down with little ones around you, wanting to be in your lap eating cookies...
But if anyone can do it .... YOU CAN!

Ames said...

Shan, I feel I can love you without reserve now. I say, "To a very hot place with cross-stitch." Half the time I cannot even spell it.

stitchin' girl said...

I love cross stitch - your cross stitch is just beautiful! A little bit of time consistently and the right motivation and you will be done with a gorgeous stocking. You can finish it!

Kathy said...

Love your site...found it through the Knit the Classics site where I am a sad lurker but read along with the books and knit whatever is suiting my fancy at the time. Your stocking is beautiful and definitely needs to be finished. When I have something like this nipping at my conscience, I set aside an hour a day to finishing it. I knitted stockings for all my grandchildren because my eyesight won't permit me to work those cross-stitch charts any longer.

uberstrickenfrau said...

Shhhesh, I miss a few days and you go to town with the postings!!! Very happy your fam is on the mend. I did cross stitch too, but my eyes couldn't handle it anymore, I went to rubberstamps and now I'm on the knitting kick! Anyhoo, now I'm boring you, heh.

Lydia said...

Wow, so much stuff on your blog. I skipped the gardening, love the mountain landscape photos, am sort of in awe from your transplant story, and send my hopes that all stays well with your family's health. I can't imagine. Well, now I can sort of imagine because you are such a good writer.

The stocking is gorgeous, and I'm sure you *can* finish it, but maybe your daughters would be happy with something different and uniquely theirs -- Like quick knitted stockings or similar...? My mum has been working on an heirloom, hand-quilted, cross-stitch-topped, ironically-marketed "Jiffy" quilt since she was pregnant with me some 35 years ago, but personally I was always more interested in the swirly dresses, teddy bears, and halloween costumes. Just a thought.

Enjoy SHIRLEY and VILLETTE. I have a particular fondness for CB. KTC notwithstanding, I actually haven't read all that many "classics." Depending on when you read these maybe I'd tag along with a second read myself.

-- Lydia