August 28, 2019 @ 7:28 am | Filed under: , ,

image of red apples behind green leaves
The other day at a singing party, a poet friend mentioned that she feels like fall is the beginning of the new year, not January 1st. Because of ingrained back-to-school associations, we agreed, but also—the brisk air rising in your lungs, quickening your pace; the freshened world beckoning you back after the air-conditioned hibernation of summer. I feel it today, the sense of beginnings: the yellow buses bustling along the narrow streets, fifty-cent composition books at the drugstore, apples red and ready on my neighbor’s tree. When does an apple’s life begin? Seed, blossom, first sweet bite?

image of chain stitches on an embroidery sampler

I spent August stitching, mostly—finishing embroidery projects begun earlier in the year, then feverishly needling a cross-stitch lion for Rose’s 21st birthday, and then this past week, at a pace both leisurely and obsessive, working my way through Rebecca Ringquist’s Stitch-a-Day Sampler class on Creativebug (affiliate link). I’d noticed on Instagram that she was having a seconds sale on some of her Dropcloth Samplers, so I snapped up a Drawing Stitches sampler for five dollars and commenced using up the shortish strands of floss left from other projects. And fell in love with filling stitches: battlement, cloud, brick and cross, trellis.

image of filling stitches on embroidery sampler

As I stitched, a project shaped itself in my mind: a series of small pieces on a particular theme—too new to say more about, and it’s going to stretch my drawing skills past their comfort zone, but (like Lottie in Enchanted April, which I watched for the umpteenth time one Saturday as I stitched) I see it. It’s strange and exhilarating to have a creative vision fall from the tree fully-formed like a ripe apple—that’s not at all how writing a book works, where I have to card and spin the thread before I can stitch a row of words together.

image of sampler showing brick and cross filling

I had everything I needed for this project on hand, except the right fabric. I’ve borrowed Sarah Benning‘s trick of using old, raggedy bedsheets for embroidery pieces, but the green one in my scrap pile isn’t quite right for what I mean to do. I was planning to scour some thrift shops when an unexpected treasure fell into my lap from Nextdoor—a neighbor three streets over offering a giveaway bag of linen and cotton scraps left from sewing projects. “Most pieces around six by six inches,” her notice read, and I gasped. Astonishingly, the next ad down—same neighbor!—was for free river rock. She has a few beds of stones she wants to replace, and she encouraged neighbors to come by and fill a bucket or barrow. I say “astonishingly” because that very morning I’d collected two or three smooth stones from around our yard and given them to Huck in a pan of soapy water to be washed and then painted in bright colors for edging our flowerbeds. If you happen upon any more stones like this in the yard, I’d told him, grab them for me because I need lots.

Now, thanks to this generous neighbor, I do have lots, a pail full, so our winter garden will be as bright as our spring, summer, fall. And in my studio there’s a bag of linen, blue, brown, cream, white, in strips and squares and odd shapes left by sleeves or pant legs. Even a few pockets, stitched, cut away, discarded, rediscovered and bulging with possibility. Happy new year, indeed.

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7 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Maureen E says:

    Well, both the Jewish and Orthodox Christian liturgical years begin in autumn! So there’s definitely some historical/religious association there.

  2. monica says:

    Lovely! this makes me want to put the gobs of embroidery floss i have to good use. My inlaws live near a lake and have smooth stones around the lake. Their form of guest book is for each person that visits to paint a stone and leave it in the front flower bed. It is a beautiful cheery way to see who has come through there.

  3. tanita says:

    Oh, my WORD, you and I are called to be friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Enchanted April;” it’s my pick-me-up film. And I’ve got embroidery floss, too … I just have never taken a class or picked up a book, but you’ve provided all that plus impetus. Thank you.

    Happy new Autumn. It’s going to be an amazing year, isn’t it? It has to be – I dare not say it can’t get worse, though…

  4. Penny says:

    Such riches! I am sure you will spin them into gold…

  5. Melanie B says:

    I’m definitely feeling the autumn is coming lift. Doing my autumn housecleaning this week. We’ve got out of town guests coming in on Sunday and that (plus procrastinating on my letters of intent and making school checklists) is kicking me into gear. It’s funny how even though we do school work all summer long in a desultory way, September is still Back to School. We’ve got piles of books coming in to the library. Quantum mechanics, the Civil War, Native Americans… (also we’re knee deep in Charlotte and the War of 1812. The kids delighted in the corn husking chapter and the silly kissing games.)

    Your stitching is beautiful and delightful. I had no idea anything could make me want to stitch a sampler. Though Charlotte has had me yearning to make doll clothes…

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Good point!

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Argh, my comment replies seem to be broken. Have to do it the old-school way!

    Maureen—good point re liturgical calendars!

    Monica—I’m utterly smitten with that idea of having visitors paint rocks. Enchanting.

    Tanita—HOW is it possible we still haven’t gotten to get together in person? All these years!!

    Penny— I saw acorns on my walk yesterday and thought of you!

    Melanie—it makes me so happy to think of your gang immersed in Charlotte. 🙂