Itching to stitch

Did you know that July 30 is World Embroidery Day? I stumbled across it on Instagram, and with a little digging, learned a bit more. The first World Embroidery Day was in Sweden in 2011, started by the Swedish Embroidery Guild. In my research process, I discovered the manifesto for World Embroidery Day. While only a single page, I think it really sums up why I’ve been drawn to embroidery. There’s a sense of calm when I work on a project, a way time passes so quickly, and also a camaraderie, since I started it alongside friends and my grandma.

This seems like the perfect day for a post about getting started with embroidery. Showcasing my projects on Instagram and Twitter has garnered some attention and I wanted to more widely share how I got started, people I look up to, and resources if you want to give it a try!

My first embroidery project, a little more than halfway finished, June 2019.

My first embroidery project, a little more than halfway finished, June 2019.

Getting a kit is a great place to start, if you’re interested in trying out embroidery. What’s great about a kit is that it will give you the necessary supplies (fabric/pattern, floss, a hoop, and a needle) along with an instruction book that will introduce to you the basic stitches. Etsy and Instagram are great places to discover kits. I’m partial to Cozy Blue, since she provided my first pattern. What I loved about the Be Still pattern is that when I opened the kit, it felt achievable and I felt welcomed to the craft.

As I got started, I relied on YouTube videos to learn some of the more complicated stitches. I’m a visual person, so it helped to have a video to watch how the needle moved. Not everyone might need the videos, so there are plenty of great blogs out there with images on stitches.

Now you might be thinking, how on earth do you not lose your needle? That’s where the infamous needleminder comes in. A needleminder is simply a magnet that you can put on your fabric and it keeps your needle close. Etsy has so many shops that sell needleminders; I found a cute little bike from Flamingo Toes that I adore. While this probably isn’t a necessity to getting started with embroidery, it is a handy tool to have.

My first four embroidery projects, July 2019.

My first four embroidery projects, July 2019.

Once you get started and have your first project under your belt, many possibilities exist for next steps. Many shops sell either PDFs or printed patterns that you can purchase; DMC has a robust selection of free patterns, just waiting to be stitched on something. Floss can be purchased at a craft store like Michaels or through DMC directly. Instagram has kept me and my gals very inspired; we have high hopes for future tote bags and denim skirts filled with satin stitches and other floral arrangements. For me, I loved Cozy Blue so much, I signed up for her monthly stitch club. At the start of each month, I get a new pattern and a set of floss. So far, it has been nice to have a pattern coming each month, and gives me a goal to work towards. There’s also a nice little community on Instagram, so it’s fun to see how other people interpret the pattern and what stitches they choose!

Finally, every good project needs a way to be displayed. I’ve relied on books like Hoop Dreams to help guide some of that post-project work. I also recently purchased some beautiful frames from Stitch Life Studio, which have been a lovely addition to my apartment wall.

My new wall, filled with my embroidery projects.

My new wall, filled with my embroidery projects.

Even though I started this hobby a few months ago, I feel like I’m stitching for the long haul. If you stitch or get started with embroidery, let me know. I really love to see what others create in this community.

Revising old advice: dealing with change

Things don’t always go as you planned. For example, you get moved into a cubicle, the conference proposal you submitted didn’t get accepted, you bike to work and then Mother Nature decides to rain, a first date goes better than you expected, you end up having a complicated relationship with Mother’s Day, or the TV show you love gets canceled (only to be picked up by another network).

Change happens, no matter if you’re ready for it or not.

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Maintaining and defining boundaries

I’m horrible at setting boundaries. My life consists of me blurring the lines between things that should be kept apart. Multitasking is something I try often, and somehow something I convince myself I can do well. Sometimes they are small things like when I text on my phone while walking. Or I watch TV while I eat dinner. And sometimes it’s bigger like when I blur my work with my personal life, all the time.

As I’m stepping into a new job, one that is loosely defined and open to my interests and priorities around student engagement, I’m finding this blurring I do really difficult to stop. Some people assume my new job is my old job, just with a different title (spoiler: it’s not). I convince myself I can do all the new things with my job and still carry on some of tasks from my old position. I got so invested in some of my projects from being an evening reference librarian, that I find myself butting into things I no longer need to worry about. These side projects take time, energy, and an emotional investment. I find myself maxing out, and it seems a bit early for that.

I think a part of this comes from the pressure I internally put on myself. I expect a lot from myself. All this pressure makes me feel sometimes I didn’t finish what I started in my first job as the evening librarian (although I know I made some huge strides). As I was making the transition to my new job, it seemed like not a big deal to keep a few side projects going, because I could handle it. I wanted to finish what I started, even if some of those things will be unsolvable for a while (because intentional change takes time). I can be an incredibly impatient person sometimes, especially with myself. Even though I’m a huge supporter and believer of the concept that the process is often more important than the product, I find myself at fault for wishing we could get to the end result. Ironic, right?  

Luckily, I’ve got some good people around me who have gotten to know me well. I’m reminded time and time again that my ability to say no, to define that boundary, gives me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on something else, to say yes to a new project. As one of my favorite desktop wallpaper reminds me, I can anything but not everything. This has become my mantra as I better define (and hold) my boundaries.

Wallpaper from  Design Love Fest

Wallpaper from Design Love Fest

You also know me as a goal setter, a to-do list writer. So, in that spirit, I’ve got a few goals for me as we head into the homestretch of our fall semester. I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” While the article was published back in 2007, the message still rings true. Authors Schwartz and McCarthy discuss how when people flip the script and manage their energy, they can get more done while they’re at work (and maintain those boundaries). Some of the tricks they suggest include:

  • Working on projects for 90-120 minutes, without distractions, and then taking a break where you walk around and take your mind off of things
  • Get rid of multitasking since switching tasks can sometimes increase the time it takes to complete a task by 25%
  • Try some breathing when things get stressful or overwhelming

I’ve recently started to block off chunks of time to devote to various activities/projects. It makes my calendar look messy, but it keeps me on track for those areas where I really need to dig in. I’ve also started to put my cell phone on “do not disturb” when I walk into my office. I don’t need to worry about, which has been pretty freeing. Every day I try to take a small step, defining boundaries as I go.Reading the HBR article coincided with a quote in Stacey-Marie Ishmael’s newsletter, #awesomewomen.

Everything is a work in progress. What do you do when the work stops the progress? Redraw the map again.
— Stacey-Maire Ishmael

I think I tried that this weekend. I took some time off, went on an adventure to Pittsburgh, slept in, and caught up with friends. I got to reset and now, I’m ready to keep going.