When you stitch do you like to figure things out for yourself, or do you like to be told what stitches & threads to use and where to put them? Or are you somewhere in between?
If you want to be told what to do you probably don’t think too much about why this is. Some times we do it because the rhythms of familiar stitches & threads, designers & subjects are exactly what we need to relieve the stress in our lives. Or they might be perfect for the circumstances of car trips or soccer practices or whatever.
But it might be that you like these because of fear. Not horror movie fear, but fear of the unknown. Part of this fear is a fear of failure. This afflicts us all, although we might not recognize it.
Though not a stitcher, my late mother-in-law, generally a pretty fearless person, had fear of failure in spades when it came to dinner parties. It was inevitable. She’d plan a party and have some new dishes on the menu. Then the fear of failure would set in. She worried so much that she would mess up the big party that she would invite my husband and me over to cook the dish ahead of time, so she wouldn’t mess up. It would be wonderful, always better than at the actual party.
Why? Because she wasn’t afraid of failure with us, but she still remained afraid of failure for the party.
Although I’d say I’ve always been pretty fearless as a stitcher, fear of failure kept me back. I didn’t want to “mess up” by picking the wrong stitch, or running out of a thread, or making a mistake.
Sound familiar? You probably have thought the same things, at least once or twice.
Is it failure and mistakes, or is it a step to learning more?
Looking at my mistakes in needlepoint I learn something to avoid. Running out of a dyelot made me discover using stripes as backgrounds. Picking the “wrong” stitch helped me understand about scale. Using overdyed threads in Basketweave helped me start to understand about stitch construction, dyeing techniques and how to use them better.
It probably took me over 15 years to get comfortable with mistakes but you don’t need to take so long. There are things you can do now. Small steps you can make in one or more of your projects to step into the unknown.
- Turn a stitch you know. Reverse the direction. Turn your canvas a quarter turn and make the rows vertical instead of horizontal.
- Change the background stitch. Don’t do what’s in the written instructions. Try Bargello. Try a stitch you love.
- Change a color. If it’s a person change hair or skin. If it’s a landscape, add flowers to a field or make a tree a different season.
- Add a simple border to your design.
- Pick a stitch you like, make it in a square, add multiple borders. Turn it into an ornament.
- Trace a shape on canvas. Fill it up with a new stitch. Be even more adventurous and divide it randomly and try more than one stitch.
Start small try one thing on a canvas, then another on a second canvas. Write down your ideas in a notebook.
When you’re ready to do a “big” project, create a doodle needlepoint. Trace a shape, divide it and pull threads in colors you like. Since this isn’t going to “be” anything just use it to try stuff. Using colors and threads you love will make the process wonderful. You might just be surprised at the result.
Once you made those first steps take another & another. Soon you’ll be a more fearless stitcher.