Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Lessons of Hand Stitched Lettering

I've heard several friends refer to hand stitching as a form of meditation.  I used to think that wasn't the way I experienced it.  But I've just changed my mind after starting the book, How To Meditate-A Guide to Self-Discovery by Lawrence LeShan.

If I can paraphrase, Mr. LeShan describes meditation as a practice in which you are always striving for improvement, acknowledging your shortcomings, meanderings and frustrations along the way.

I now realize hand stitching is like meditation for me.  I'm really pretty bad at the nuts and bolts of it.  I'm not a consistent stitcher and no matter how hard I try to work towards exact stitches my words are rarely even or good looking.

But I persist.    

My mother, to whom I owe my great curiosity for and ease in making things with my hands, passed away in 1992.  Not only was she a passionate serial maker but she had a phrase for everything.  

The day she passed away her sayings began to pop up in my mind.  I started writing them down and for the next week I kept writing.  They just flooded back, one after another.

By the time we gathered at her grave, I had a pageful of them and recited them that day as my eulogy.  During this time of covid I've been cleaning drawers, file cabinets, the garage, the basement, you name it.  It was in one of these clearing that I found that piece of paper with all of her sayings.

Mom always encouraged me to make things.  Tables were set around the house with materials she was currently using to make one thing or another and I had full access.  What a gift.  To learn at an early age the effortless practice of just sitting down to start something using your hands.  No judgement about the way it will turn out.

The only thing she hated to do was cook.  She was a good cook with a two week rotation but she never liked it.  When I came home from school and saw the turquoise electric skillet set out on the counter I knew dinner would be Rice a Roni and Jimmy Dean Sausage casserole.

This shirt started out with just her sayings but as it went along I felt the need to tell her story.  

Here is Otafuku, from a Japanese folktale.  She represents mirth, joy and good fortune. 

This was a project that took over 8 months to finish.  Mostly because hand stitching is a love/hate thing with me.  I used a thrift store Brooks Brothers shirt.

I haven't worn it yet, not sure it was ever intended to wear.  Maybe this spring.