What is your favorite aspect of being a stitcher?
I've been pondering this lately, and I've come up with my answer. While I love the creativity, the color, the "play" aspect of being a stitcher, I think the most valuable thing to me is that as a stitcher, there is always something to look forward to, to plan for, to work toward.
Looking forward is so important in life. It's so easy to get bogged down by day-to-day concerns, and to start being hyper-focused on those concerns to the point of being unable to enjoy looking forward. Life has problems that need and deserve our attention, but life is our most important WIP, and for me, stitching is one of the things that keeps me looking forward to what's next, instead of down at what's now.
We joke and tease each other about "stash enhancement" but really, there is something very positive and healthy about looking forward to, and being excited about, our next project, a new design release, the markets, a special magazine issue. That forward-looking attitude filters through to the rest of our lives, I think. And I sometimes wonder, does the stitching mo-jo leave us because other aspects of life are getting us down, or do other aspects of life get us down because we've (temporarily) let go of our creative, forward-looking outlet? It can be both, at different times, and in different situations, but I wonder if it's the latter more often than we suspect. I think it is, for me.
I'm a planner. Planning makes me happy, and no planning makes me happier than stitchy planning. Although I don't "kit up" projects, I understand why a lot of people do it. It's fun to make plans. We enjoy planning vacations, parties, surprises for loved ones, holidays. Planning for stitching is no different. Whether you kit up projects months (years?) in advance, or whether you put your supplies together right before your new start, it's a pleasure to sit down with your stash and pull threads, choose fabric, change colors.
I have a yearly tradition that I treasure. Years ago, I started using the week between Christmas and the New Year to plan my projects for the coming year. I call it my "Stitchy Planning Week" and it's one of my favorite parts of the holidays. In that lull between those two holidays, I pull out all of my charts and spend several days deciding what I'd like to stitch. I have a three-ring binder with folders in it, each labeled for a month of the year. I choose designs for each month (I'm a seasonal stitcher) and place them in the folders. Do I ever stitch everything in my binder? No. Do I change my mind throughout the year? Yes. The point is, I'm making plans. Looking forward is an attitude, and planning is an action. They're two sides of the same coin.
And then there is the actual stitching. The value of work cannot be underestimated. No matter what you're doing, work equals forward movement. If you're scrubbing toilets, you're working toward a clean house. If you're selling shoes, you're working toward feeding your family. If you're stitching, you're working toward a completed project to grace your home or someone else's.
We were created, we were built, for work of all kinds. Physical labor, mental labor, creative labor; they all serve different and vital purposes. We suffer when we neglect any one of those types of work. For many of us, modern conveniences have removed much of the need for physical labor, and modern forms of entertainment have removed the need for mental and creative labor. The results of these "advancements" are self-evident. We need to work. With our bodies, our minds, our hands, we need to work.
Needlework--like other creative pursuits, like painting and sculpting--is a unique combination of all three of those types of labor: physical, mental, creative. It isn't physically taxing, but it requires a certain level of dexterity. It isn't mentally taxing, but it requires concentration. As for creativity, it is unlimited. It is work, but it is work that soothes, instead of tires. And being that it is work, it moves us forward to an end, to a finished product, an accomplishment.
Looking forward, planning, working. Those are the aspects of stitching that I find most valuable, perhaps because they are valuable aspects of a life well-lived, too.