I am a TOTAL Jane Austen fan. I have read most of her books and seen all of the movies multiple times and I love British history and literature. Often when I picture the time Jane Austen lived in and wrote about, I picture the women sitting in the parlor playing the pianoforte, singing, reading, or hand stitching. They would go for walks, tend their garden, go to social dances, and write letters. They didn’t have the Internet, email, texting, or social media. And they didn’t have CD players, phones, or TVs. The nearest friends or neighbors were miles away by horse or foot. Women spent their days practicing and tending things at a slow pace. One song at a time, one weed at a time, and one letter at a time.
This is the year I have decided to embrace slow, and I will be doing it one stitch at a time.
I owe my amateur embroidery skills to one of my dearest friends. She is old enough to be my mom, but we are kindred spirits, nonetheless. She taught me how to hand embroider within my first year of moving to Colorado Springs. Little did I know then that I would absolutely fall in love with the whole process. Even more surprising is what hand embroidery has taught me about slowing down and enjoying my current season in motherhood.
I am a stay-at-home mom with a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. I don’t need to explain to most of you how crazy life gets at our house. Pair this with an extroverted personality like mine, and you get a whole lot of crazy and busy. Just this past fall, I ended up having anxiety and panic attacks because of all the stress I was causing myself. My body was telling me to SLOW DOWN. And this time, I have decided to listen.
It is not easy for me to slow down because I am a go-getter kind of girl. But I absolutely need to if I am going to be the mom I want to be. So I decided to pick up the lost art I started a few years back before having kids, and it is teaching me things I never thought I could learn through embroidery.
Embroidery and Motherhood
Picking a pattern to stitch is sometimes difficult because there are so many beautiful options, but it helps me learn how to choose slowly and wisely. I only choose the ones I know I want to spend time stitching.
Motherhood works the same way. I am learning to discern what activities and commitments to say “yes” or “no” to. I’d rather choose a few quality things to add to our schedule and say “no” to the rest, than fill up our schedule with activities just because everyone else is doing them. I have to set up boundaries for how many patterns I buy and how many activities I plan in my family’s schedule. I would rather do a few things with lots of energy than a lot of things with no energy.
The process of picking out embroidery floss colors is just plain fun, but they have to coordinate like anything you do with color, such as painting or putting together an outfit. When I choose activities for my family, they need to coordinate with our goals, needs, and passions. For example, we are a family that values dinner times together. That means I intentionally say no to most evening activities so that I am not away from home during dinner.
I used to be in a choir that rehearsed from 5 to 7 every Tuesday, but I found that it was too disruptive to our routine. An occasional night out during the week doesn’t make a big difference, but I couldn’t commit to something like that every week anymore. So I let it go, because it didn’t coordinate with our family’s goals and values.
Once I actually start stitching, I am focused on making every stitch fit with the pattern. I’m bringing a picture to life very slowly. There are often setbacks and mistakes that I have to redo. Knots show up, and I have to take several stitches out and redo them. The embroidery floss breaks, and I have to often start all over on a section of my project.
Sometimes, I have found myself trying to rush through a certain season of motherhood, like the 24-hour neediness of a newborn, the whiny stages of toddlerhood, or potty training. I become impatient and think, the next stage will be better. And often it is, but it still comes with its own challenges. Our children do not grow up overnight. It takes days, weeks, months, and years to bring them up into loving, responsible adults. There will be “knots” in motherhood. I will mess up. I will have to rethink and redo things in my mothering, but that’s when I take a few steps back and reevaluate the big picture.
The big picture is giving my all, doing my best (imperfectly, of course), and loving these little people fiercely. The big picture is beautiful. And the other details will slowly come together.
Savoring Every Moment
So this year, after a slow, margin-filled day with my little lovies, you will find me sitting on my couch working on my hand embroidery. I will be listening to an audio book, watching Netflix, or talking with my husband about my day. Every time I pick up my embroidery, I will be reminded to take life slow. I want to savor every moment with my children during these little years. They go by too fast. I want to soak in every snuggle, every imaginary game, and every bedtime story. I won’t ever regret it.
And all because I fell in love with a lost art.