Jumping In Again

"Pie Ameriquaine"
I have started the next piece in the series. This one is a whole page, a composition of three birds uncomfortably overlapping each other.
Source: Gilcrease Museum
© Public Domain. Courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, OK. From the Library and Archives of Canada website.
It's a stunner, alright. No wonder it was chosen for the cover of the Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicholas. 
It always amazes me how anxious I can feel starting out on a new piece. I go through a lot of ritual preparation: washing and pressing the cloth, transferring the image, mounting it in the frame, praying for the gods to guide my needle. There is a period of sitting thoughfully, just gathering the energy to begin, waiting in fact for the moment to begin to reveal itself. It's something like preparing to jump off a cliff into an unknown body of water.

That might sound a little overdramatic, but I experience actual nervousness. Maybe it's the fear of failure. There is indeed risk involved, although the sensible among you might be thinking, "Good grief, it's just embroidery." I may identify a bit too closely with my work, in that I find self-validation through what I make.

I was able to find proper crewel yarn for this piece. Such a difference from the smooth 4-ply I used for the last one! The Appleton crewel thread is very fine, softly spun 2-ply, which makes a finer line, allowing more detail, but also requiring attention that the thread doesn't come unspun. I think it works, but it felt so different in my hand I was worried that I was embarking on a major mistake.

This anxiety may also have something to do with the fact that I am not an experienced embroiderer. Yes, I have done quite a lot, but I usually learn as I go, rather than master a technique before I begin. I sat in front of that last counted cross stitch piece for a full day before I started the single thread backstitch outline. What was the problem? A simple stitch, a clear chart to guide me - it should have been easy. But I had never done it before, and needed to gather my nerve.

Neurotic, perhaps, but the feeling does help me to understand the trepidation a beginner might feel. If I was teaching, I would just say to dive right in and not worry if it's not perfect. I need to take my own advice!


  1. Thanks for sharing this link with me, Heather!! While I've been on a 'craft sabbatical' of sorts, that has also meant not reading any of the blogs I normally read either. I 'm glad to hear that someone else experiences a little nervousness, too, when they start a piece! For me, I think my main worry in my head is if what I end up making will look how it does in my head, so I try and begin in the proper headspace that even if I make mistakes, I can still rectify/add/subtract/amend/restart until it looks how I want it to! (And when I just slapdash start something that usually means not only having the best end result!)

    It's amazing how often we find it so easy to give advice, yet so difficult to take our own!


  2. Oh my! Tackling the Codex again so soon. Even with your admitted trepidation, you have such determination leading to fabulous results! I am in awe.

  3. again, I am in awe of this undertaking and I fully understand you do not dive in lightly....the nervousness due to all sorts and indeed, what does it mean in 'the grand scheme of things....' nothing & everything, it's what keeps you going, it is what keeps us all going, a reason to find the living worthwhile I guess

  4. hi Heather; the ritual of preparation! mmmm, I recognise that one! I describe it to myself as 'faffing'. I 'faff' about, waiting to actually begin...whether with paint or with stitches.
    Actually I find the ritual faffing takes me longer before sewing, as I'm primarily a painter, and only recently begun wielding a needle! That lack of confidence in what I'm doing gives me useful faffing space! So I check I've got the equipment I need; look, again and again at colours and types of thread; put one piece of cloth next to others...on and on! But now I regard it as part of the ritual of faffing, before I begin. Like an athlete warms up; my faffing is my warm-ups! jan Yorkshire, England.

  5. Oh boy, how nervous am I when I start a new piece! Sometimes I just keep postponing even if everything is clear in my mind. I become a child again.
    The new embroidery looks very complicated, it would take many days before I found the courage to tackle it. Looks marvellous, though.

  6. Heather, it's a leap of faith to start, but the landing point has to be clear, so i empathize!
    And hi back to Dave and Jackie :)

  7. onesmallstitch8:59 PM

    whatever the path you take the finished work is lovely. I hope you find satisfaction in what you create.

  8. Fabulous tips on embroidery. There is something wonderful about mastering these details of technique. It comes from close attention and devotion to the work. Thanks for sharing them.

  9. Wow...such a beautiful piece. I know the anxious feeling of beginning something. I think those feelings set me up to do my best work, actually. I like the few days of prepping the 'palate'. I fall asleep, organizing the steps in my head, and it all adds up to accomplishment. Your work on these birds is beautiful.


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