My mother gave me a cross-stitch project that she had given up on. It was just a loose, floppy piece of fabric, not in a hoop. She’d finished maybe half of it but got bored and had abandoned it. She gathered the floss and the chart and the half-finished project and handed it to me when we were sitting in the living room of the house I grew up in.
She had been told by The Doctors that what I needed was a hobby. My parents were to monitor what I read and what music I listened to and what TV shows and movies I was watching and to help me find a hobby that was constructive, even artistic. What my mum had around the house was an uninteresting cross-stitch project.
It was an anthropomorphized “Mama Bear” hanging laundry out on a clothes line and had the words “Laundry Day” on it. Allegedly, someone would hang this thing in their laundry room. I was confused as to why anyone would do that, but that’s what the chart said.
My hobbies up to this point were reading anything that struck my fancy, writing terrible, terrible poetry and suicide letters, getting fucked up on booze and drugs and fucking anyone with two legs and an attention span of longer than 15 minutes.
Cross-stitch struck my mother as a plausible alternative to at least two of those activities. There was no stopping my reading and writing. Turns out, the allure of needlecrafts would not stop my partying either.
Who would have guessed?
I spent my first few days after my release from my third (possibly fourth?) trip to the psychiatric ward cross-stitching a honey coloured bear doing laundry and watching my soap opera. (RIP Another World)
While I wasn’t a fan of my first cross-stitch project my mother took me out to the craft store and we bought a couple of these “learn to cross-stitch” kits. They were a few dollars each and came with everything you needed to stitch and display the finished work. I took to it right away and finished that Happy Face and Peace Sign in no time. Those two works of art hung on every bathroom door I rented until I was 26. They were lost in a move or sent to Goodwill, or something, prior to one of the moves I made in my late 20s. I have no idea.
My mum gave up cross-stitching when I was in my late 20s and gave me all her flosses and Aida cloth. I was haphazardly working on really complex patterns which I would then give to someone else or end up putting in the textile donation bag.
In 2006 I met Julie Jackson’s book and the rest is history.