Friday, 4 November 2011

Now I know why it's called cross-stitch! Damn!

I am going to plagiarise myself here. A while back I created a blog called Little Ms Funshine in an attempt to write about the brighter side of life, to foster happiness and positivity. But basically I'm a bit of a grumpy bugger at heart so I didn't manage many entries. The good news on this (see, I am trying to find a silver lining) is that I can plunder a few of the posts and use them here. I hope you enjoy this gem...

Now I know why it's called cross stitch!
Today is a more personal blog, coming from my own life. Hell, why not?

It all started with my mum and her upbringing. This was back in the 1940s, where a shorthand and typing course and knowledge in the domestic arts of cooking, sewing, knitting, etc were de rigeur. After all, she was told, she was going to meet a nice man who would marry her and look after her. Academic pursuits were not encouraged, despite her affinity with German and Latin, and languages in general, so she abandoned the idea of studying at university.

When she had me, in the bra-burning 1970s (she never burnt her bra but did go without one) she was determined to encourage my academic side so I could go out and get a good job and stand on my own two feet. I wouldn't be beholden to a man for security - financial or otherwise. So I read books, studied hard and got into Oxford University without lengthy sewing or cookery lessons (in fact, in school home economics, my attempts were often held up as what not to do). But I have no doubt that this freedom to concentrate on my studies was what got me a much-coveted place at the famous uni.

The only thing was ... at Oxford, the girls, apart from being much more intelligent than I was, could make clothes, bake cakes and probably were adept in the art of flower arranging to boot. I suddenly felt inferior. I couldn't even sew on a button. And I remember hiding a birthday cake I had baked for my boyfriend because I'd used the wrong type of sugar and it had come out looking like a flapjack. One of his female friends - graduated with a first too, so a really smart cookie - turned up with a magnificent layer cake that everyone cooed over, while my attempt was quietly and secretly stashed in the bin.

I'd go through these phases of guilt and anger over my status as an undomestic goddess but I never did anything about them. Living on my own helped me learn to cook and I can do OK (though I usually burn shop-bought desserts and my cakes never rise). My mum would occasionally pull my leg about my hopelessness with a needle but I'd say 'So why didn't you teach me?'

The final straw came when I had my daughter. When something needed mending she soon learnt that daddy was the sewer AND knitter in the family. Problem was she started telling the world this. Mothers smothered laughs when she said 'My daddy will fix this. He can sew. Mummy can't.' Again these were women who were fantastic in all areas so I had no excuse. I had to learn.

Two weekends ago my mum sat me down and taught me a running stitch. I did a few practices with it and it worked. I was delighted! She advised that I got one of those sewing magazines with freebies to keep on practising, using easy projects to experiment with. So I bought a copy of Cross Stitcher magazine, and brought it home enthusiastically to attempt to make a mini-mirror case.

I opened it up and saw to my horror that it had no detailed instructions on how to actually create this thing. And that a running stitch was only used in one small area. The rest required cross stitches, blanket stitches, French knots and backward stitches, none of which I knew how to do. And actually, I must admit, I didn't realise I was supposed to do all these different types until my husband examined the little birdie I'd desperately tried to stitch on the front and remarked 'So you decided not to use the cross stitch there then?'

'Cross stitch? Was I supposed to?'

'Er, yes. That's why it's called Cross Stitch magazine.'

So in my middle age, my brain is losing its ability too. Mon dieu.

All I can say is thank you to You Tube and other sources of video information. I managed to find short films on how to do the other stitches and have completed the project! OK, I have lots of holes in my fingers, a slightly frayed temper (cross stitcher - that's me!), and the end result looks like something my eight-year-old daughter would produce but it's done.

I feel happy. It's not validated me as a woman really but at least I have an idea how to mend a hem and my daughter is proud of me trying to learn something new. She doesn't have to be embarrassed when the teacher asks them to get their mums to help with sewing anymore. But maybe what she's also learning - in this third generation of women in my family - is that you can sew, knit and be your own woman. That's got to be a great message to carry.

1 comment:

  1. It's great learning a new skill isn't it? Good for you. Love the blog.