I watch her. With my eyes cast down and my fingers deep in busy work I study the deftness of her hand. Time and the cruelness of arthritis have gnarled her joints and aches replace their suppleness. The thread refuses to pass through the eye of the needle.
She yearns for mobility free of thought or pain. She remembers a time when the needle flew in and out of fragile lawn. It, her paintbrush and the fabric a blank canvas spread out before her. Tiny stitches joined hands to create wreaths and vines. Exact crosses stitched rhythmically and with purpose grew over cream spaces like moss over rocks; jet night skies, green pastures and animal fur. Each stitch imbued with patience, perseverance and love.
To view her magnificent work is to peek into her world - the children, the grandchildren, the great grandchildren. The time spent diligently tending ailing husbands, the quiet hours in the afternoon sun watching the world amble by. Her craft is a window to the slow and gentle parts of her world, a peace amidst all the beauty and tragedy that makes a life whole.
She joins us now more for companionship than fine arts; shared tea and reminiscing. She watches with pride as a new generation of women explore age old crafts and shares tales to delight and inspire. Still she works intricate stitches and creates pieces of beauty to pass onto to her loved ones. I loathe the thought that one day they may languish in the bottom of an op shop odds and sods basket. "Such is the way of the world" I'm sure she would say with neither bitterness nor regret. A gentle, inspiring soul - I am blessed to know her.
Inspired by a gentle soul whose fingers have quite likely embroidered as many stitches than there are stars in the sky I brought this thrifted supper cloth back to life. Stained in places it would have deterred most but a good soak in borax and then the sun followed by a few snips and stitches and it shines again. I folded the tablecloth (79cm x 79cm, you could use a more rectangular one for a less midriff top or a larger one for longer sleeves) in half and then half again and going slowly cut a small curved piece from the folded corner for the head. Cut it smaller than you think so as to allow for a small hem. Try it over your head and if you're happy with the sizing fold over a small hem and pin. Fold over the same amount again and sew in place. You could do this by hand if you wanted using a whip stitch. Try it on again and roughly pin the back and front together +-where you want it to sit (mine was about 10cm from the side). Lay it flat again and measure the same amount on both sides. Ensuring the back and front bottoms are matching, stitch for about 15 cms to create the arm holes (again you could do this by hand with a small back stitch). Marvel at the intricate stitchery often.
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