Yesterday morning my husband and I went to a lecture at our local parish. As I have done since college at lectures I brought my needlepoint and stitched as I listened. It got me thinking about things folks have said to me over the years about this habit.
When I was in college in the mid-70s, the wife of the most respected tutor on campus owned a needlework shop. Because I stitched and no one I knew did so, I used to hang out there. Mrs. Klein was a formidable German lady who only came to the US around World War II. I asked her why I always saw her husband at our weekly lectures but I never saw her. She looked at me and said, “My quilting hoop won’t fit between the rows, so I don’t go.” It delighted her to hear that I stitched at lectures and she encouraged me to do so.
So from early on, I had this very European habit of doing handwork while I did other things. I realize now that it was something I learned from my grandmother who was always knitting, sewing, or crocheting. For her, it was the old saying about idle hands. It probably was for Mrs. Klein too.
Fast forward almost a decade. As young parents, my husband and I went to a workshop & lecture by an Irishman who taught at the University of Navarre in Spain. I brought my needlepoint. As usual, I was the only person in the audience doing handwork. During one break the lecturer came up to me to thank me for doing so. He was so used to speaking in Europe where finding a woman who did not do handwork at lectures was as strange as finding one who did in the US. He found it comforting to see me working because he knew it meant I was listening.
In my book club, I am not the only stitcher. Two other ladies sometimes bring their projects, I think because they know I will be stitching away on something non-stressful.
This stitching in public thing, and not just at lectures, is so much a part of me I don’t consider leaving the stitching at home. Maybe it won’t compel someone to stitch, but then maybe it will. And with luck, that project I was working on yesterday will be finished today and largely because I stitched at the lecture.