This past week was a trying one--after spending three weeks in a walking boot for my left foot stress fracture with no progress, the doctor "upgraded" me to crutches. This put a serious crimp in my style as one of the things I love the most about being a small business owner is the wide variety of activity--some days I'm running around the workshop checking supplies, some days I'm rushing to get orders out to the UPS driver who arrived too early, some days I'm measuring and cutting brocades for my custom tailoring, and every day brings a whole host of interesting tasks that keep me moving about. And, I love it!
But that all came to a screeching halt on Monday and it took me a bit to adapt: every step I took suddenly felt like I was in some weird slow-motion movie! Even the smallest tasks took next-level strategizing--did I have everything I needed before heading downstairs in the morning? How do I carry a cup of tea to the table with crutches? And, more importantly, what am I going to do with all this time on my hands that I usually spend on my feet in the workshop?
When I was a kid, one of the first places I learned to problem-solve was at my family's cabin in the foothills of Mt St Helens. It was a primitive place with only a propane generator and a wood stove for heating and cooking. And, my parents weren't the coddling types, so anything we wanted we kind of had to figure out for ourselves. Boring Saturday afternoon? Build a fort in the woods. No TV, phone, or electricity? Do crafts or read a book. At the time, I was envious of school friends who weren't dragged into the woods every weekend and summer vacation, but as an adult, I've come to have a deep appreciation for what a childhood in the woods taught me. And, the very first lesson I learned? Amuse Yourself. Which calls for a lot of adaptation when you're miles from civilization.
So, any time I'm feeling stuck, my first question is "How can I adapt to this current situation?" which is really just the grown-up version of amusing yourself. Three weeks ago when the doctor told me no walking, no swimming, no skiing, I realized I was going to have quite a bit of extra time on my hands, it being ski season and all. I immediately begin looking for ways to amuse myself which led to The Big Project.
For the couple of years, I've had a dream of writing a book on folk embroidery. A book that would be both reference guide and inspiration for a stitcher's journey into the wonderful world of folk embroidery. A book that would incorporate all the design principles I've learned over the last decade and translate them into a format accessible for the modern stitcher. A book with a Design Library at the back with loads of beautiful charts.
But as each month slipped by and I got busier and busier, this dream seemed to quietly drift away. That is, until a few weeks ago when I was suddenly stuck at my dining room table, not able to move about easily. "The book!," I suddenly remembered, "I could work on the book!"
My family helped me haul every last reference work I own to the dining room table, which groaned under the weight. I got my laptop, a stack of notepads and my calculator and set to work. For the last three weeks, I've been spending a glorious amount of time sketching layouts, creating projects, writing descriptions and instructions, and designing, designing, designing. I'm currently at 150+ charts (of course that includes a lot of the small border charts, but hey, those are worth counting, too!). And, with four more weeks on crutches, I should have the majority of the book written this spring. Of course, after that follows a long process of book proposal pitches, stitching samples, photography and lots of other tasks I don't even know about yet, but with the manuscript written and the projects designed, I'm feeling really confident that this dream will become a reality. Several friends in the craft industry have already helped me figure out the next steps and I'm so grateful for their support and assistance!
Which is all a great reminder of how life often gives us silver linings--that challenge, that trial, that unforeseen consequence?--all have the possibility of becoming opportunities if we ask "How can I adapt myself to this current situation?" And, as stitchers, I feel like we have a leg up (or in my case, maybe a foot up?) because so much of our craft requires adaptation: we change fabrics and adapt the stitch count, we change floss colors and adapt the palette, we change the finished size and adapt the stitching accordingly. So much of what we do when we are making is Adapting and I think this is a huge part of why making is so good for us. As humans, we are natural problem solvers and I think we have a need to exercise creative problem solving.
Because I'll be devoting so much time to the book over the next few weeks, I'll be a little quieter on the blog and email side of things here at Avlea. But know that I'm sitting at the dining room table, crutches nearby, glorying in the wonder of folk embroidery and creating a new way for others to come along on this journey with me!
This photo shows a few of my friend Evi's embroideries, some of which I'm using for inspiration for the book.