It’s Sinterklaasavond tonight – St Nicholas Eve. When I was a child in The Netherlands, this was an exciting evening; at 7 o’ clock there would be a mysterious knock at the door (courtesy of a kind neighbour roped in by Mum) and when we opened it there would be no-one there, only a basket of presents in gaily-coloured wrapping paper. I would already have received a chocolate letter in my shoe that morning, swapped for the carrot that was in it. And this suddenly makes me realise how odd one person’s familiar customs must sound to those raised with different traditions! We put out our shoe (or clog, if your proper Dutch ) with a carrot for St Nicholas’ horse. The usual return is chocolate coins, marzipan shapes or a chocolate letter. But St Nicholas has not yet made it across the Channel, so here in England I have to make do with baking traditional almond cakes, and providing for myself what I’m sure the generous old gentleman would have sent me if he were a bit more international.
Perhaps because of my lack of St Nicholas celebrations I got to thinking about things that finish, and finishing things, and I got quite melancholy as I put the final wrapped bars into the Song of the Weather SAL’s final month. It’s hard to believe that I started planning this well over a year ago, and that my aspiration was to get 20 people to sign up; in the end, 192 did. It’s been a great experience, and one that will definitely be repeated, but not immediately – quite apart from stitching all the models (one each in standard perles and speciality threads) I had seriously underestimated the time needed to write and illustrate the twice-monthly blog!
There is another type of finishing, and it’s one I tend to avoid if I can: finishing stitched items so that they can be used or displayed and enjoyed rather than languishing in a drawer. Some people have a knack for it, and they produce cushions, wall-hangings, tea cosies, bottle holders, cot blankets, fabric bonbon dishes, stitcher’s etuis, mobile phone cases, keyrings and useful-boxes-to-put-things-in at the drop of a hat. I struggle beyond cards and coasters. It’s true that I have produced a fair number of bookmarks, bags (both shopping and gift) and box tops and even the odd pen holder and tray, but my problem is always that finishing items takes a lot of time if you want to do it properly. Take bookmarks. Both four-sided edging and buttonhole edging produce a lovely finish, but boy they’re labour intensive! And sewing a patch securely onto a cotton bag is very fiddly as you have to have one hand inside the bag all the time and feel your way blindly – not exactly quick.
That in itself needn’t be a problem of course, but the truth is that I’d rather be stitching a new project than properly finishing an old one. This is partly because I honestly believe that the enjoyment I get from a project while stitching it is reason enough to stitch, whether or not the resulting piece of embroidery gets used for anything – much like a walk along the beach or a visit to a concert (Stuart Townend was fabulous last night!) it’s about the pleasure of the moment. Even so, it is of course even better if you can go on enjoying it afterwards and in stitching, that is where finishing comes in. Fortunately quite a lot of my designs are just the right size for cards…
One thing I did have to finish was the model I stitched for my workshop at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia. The organiser had asked for a picture of the patch attached to something vaguely home or clothing related, and as I didn’t think it would be practical to carry a cushion along to the show I decided on a cotton bag. No, I’m not sure how that relates to home or clothing either, but she accepted the suggestion so I wasn’t going to argue. The design is surrounded by a broken border of coloured cross stitches so I attached the patch with an additional broken border of white cross stitches – and here it is:
There is something else I need to finish, in yet another sense. Yes, I am finishing designing for the Floral Lace series. Really. Honest. 18 is enough, and I’m running out of filling stitches. Although the kind gift from a fellow Cross Stitch Forum member has given me some ideas for a different beaded filling stitch… perhaps for the 2015 SAL?