Please know three things: (1) I am not saying my stitches are perfect; they are not and never will be. I’m just not a perfectionist. I’m probably not quite to “Done is better than perfect”. I want things to be perfect, whether it’s cross stitching, knitting, cooking but I don’t beat myself up over mistakes and there isn’t a single thing I’ve stitched that doesn’t have mistakes. (2) I’m 100% happy with DMC for stitching. I’m 100% happy with silk for stitching. (3) What I’m going to say applies to most everything we do in life. It applies to cooking. It applies to knitting. It applies to gardening. So if you aren’t a stitcher, hopefully something I say will hit home and either help with some aspect you’re struggling with or make you smile and say “I remember being that person and now I’ve progressed and improved!”
I am still a beginner so I am not really giving advice but simply sharing what I’ve learned these past two years.
Several days ago when I was showing a photo of A Sampler For All Seasons, there were a couple of comments, and several emails about my work being great. I got a call from a friend about an hour from here wanting us to get together so I could help her improve her stitching. I don’t even remember which picture it was but the funny thing was that when I had been stitching for about six months, I called a friend and asked to bring my stitching over, have her watch me and show me what I could do to improve. Everything I saw that others stitched looked way better than my stitching. My friend was very gracious, invited me over (though I had really invited myself over already). She said I was doing everything right – practice makes perfect, just keep stitching. My friend, Judy, who lives way far away, is the one who really got me back into stitching and I would write her and say “Your stitching looks so much better than mine does!” and she would say “No . . yours looks fine!” but I knew hers looked better.
Now, right at two years later, I look at my stitching and, again, it is never going to be perfect but I am happy with how it looks.
Below are a couple of things I’ve learned that may help any of you who are wanting better . . better stitches, a better garden, better whatever.
Try different brands of fabric, whether it’s aida, linen, lugana, etc. Try hand dyed. Try printed.
Try different needles – different brands, different sizes (i.e, 26, 28, etc.). Try petite needles.
Try different floss – DMC, Vikki Clayton Silks, Soie d’alger silks, NPI silks, Sulky, Anchor.
If you use something and aren’t crazy about it, stick it aside and a few months later, try it again. You may find you like it better . . or maybe not.
Don’t Be Critical of Yourself:
I’ve always said “If someone else can do this, I can too.” A lot of time, it boils down to whether or not I want to put the effort into something to become good at it. I’ve told this story before but back in about 2005 when I wanted to learn to knit socks, I had knitted in college but not much since then and there had been a lot of years since college days. I had a friend help me get started and I finally managed to knit the leg without dropping stitches and I got to the heel. I could not get that right and I didn’t know how to rip back a few rows so I’d rip back to the beginning and start over . . probably a dozen times and I was not a fast knitter. One night Vince patted me on the shoulder and said “You’re not going to get this. Why don’t you give up!” GIVE UP?? No way! I really wanted to learn to knit socks and I did but, at that point, if I was thinking it wasn’t worth the effort and had said “Yes, it isn’t worth the effort” and walked away, I would have been fine because . . I had decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Know when to fold ’em!
Here’s a giving up example. I wanted to learn to make really pretty decorated cookies. I talked to a friend who makes gorgeous cookies. I ordered everything she told me to order. I watched videos. I read books. I tried it and honestly, that was the most time consuming mess I’ve ever made. I thought . . Sarah Beth can make all the beautiful cookies she wants to make. I gave away all the supplies I bought and never had a second thought about making pretty cookies.
Know When To Stop:
When I’m tired, I make mistakes and my work isn’t as pretty. When Oscar has decided the most important thing he can do is take my cross stitching away and no amount of coaxing is going to change his mind, it’s time for me to stop and play with him and tire him out so I can have some uninterrupted stitching time; when Vince is out back building something and calling me every few minutes to hold a board, or come see how something looks, it’s time to put the stitching down and go sit outside and be there when he needs me. Most of the time I have no deadlines with my stitching so putting Vince first and giving Oscar the attention he needs is what really matters to me. My best stitching time is between about 10:30 p.m. when Vince goes to bed, Oscar is sleeping and I can have three or four hours uninterrupted stitching time.
That’s enough for today. I’ll finish this up tomorrow with another post.