Once upon a time, in the Deep, Dark Woods of the North (or the barren plains of the Midwest – whichever fantasy world you want to set the story in), there lived a teacher.
Perhaps a somewhat naïve, over-zealous teacher.
And that teacher was me. Or I. It was I.
It was me. I was it. I was the teacher.
Years ago, I undertook an adult embroidery class here in my community. It wasn’t really a formal class – it was a group that would meet once a week to learn.
We soldiered on for quite a while, using a room at a local school to meet in and stitch together. We had fun!
We covered all the basic stitches that are used on relaxing embroidery projects like flour sack towels. And many of the gals completed many flour sack towels.
We made a couple embroidered baby quilts that we raffled for a fundraiser.
Some gals would bring whatever they were currently working on at home, to get advice or ideas.
And we’d break for coffee and cookies.
It was fun. Relaxed. Simple.
But then I got it into my head that we could kick things up a notch.
We could, I enthusiastically sold the idea, embark upon embroidery with silk!
And to that end, I proposed this (rather ridiculously complex) silk embroidery sampler.
Many of the crew decided to get in on it. I ordered supplies and we set out.
I taught them how to set up a frame, how to transfer the (rather ridiculously complex) design onto linen using prick and pounce. I taught them the basics of silk shading with stranded, spun silk (Soie d’Alger).
And away we plugged, though the group began to dwindle somewhat.
As the group dwindled, so did some of the enthusiasm.
(We maintained the coffee and cookies, though.)
We surmounted the Frustration Obstacles of working with flat silk, by introducing laying tools.
And it began to dawn on me about then: it seemed as if the sampler had become a chore, rather than recreation. It was a weight, a cloud, a looming mountain.
We didn’t look forward to Tuesday nights with the same vim and vigor.
And we began to meet less often.
And when we did meet, we spent a lot of time on the coffee and cookies.
And then we lost our room at the local school for our meeting spot.
We tried to meet in my workroom at home for a bit.
And a few came.
And we had coffee and cookies and chatted, occasionally creeping through block shading with flat silk.
And then life intervened for most of the gals, many of whom were moms and had kids and school and stuff to take care of. Others had full time jobs. Others had volunteer work that occupied them. I had two jobs.
The sampler waned.
The interest waned.
And the whole thing taught me a really good lesson:
Keep It Simple!
While we were doing simple things together, we had a great time. Enthusiasm was high. Everything was relaxed. Everything was as it should have been.
But then I got over-zealous. I wanted more, and I wasn’t far-sighted enough to see the consequences of leaps too large. It was a community group of beginners. Their vision was not my vision.
When you want to spread the love of embroidery and get people to pick up a needle and stick with it, the trick is to know what your people want, and to give it to them. Camaraderie, a creative outlet, nothing too taxing to add to an already-taxing life. The motivation to take just a tiny step forward. The thrill of success.
Then, you lead by baby steps, not by (rather ridiculously complex) Gargantuan Leaps!
It was a mistake I still regret, that silk sampler.
While organizing the workroom this summer, I came across it. I think I’ve learned a bit – especially regarding stitchery – since then, but I still have a long, long way to go.
The best lesson I learned? Keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Unhurried. Relaxed.
If your embroidery is harassing you, if it has become a cloud over your head or a weight upon your shoulders, step back. Slow down. Relax. Un-complicate it. Otherwise, you just might go the way of my silk sampler… which was a complete fizzer!