Why embroidery?

Embroidery, Uncategorized

It seems like a fair number of people resonated with my last post, which expressed my feelings about being allergic to work.  I had doubts about whether I should post a rant like that, but I am glad I did now.  I feel less alone.

We are having a heat wave in Canberra and I’ve run away to the National Library.  Quite simply, they have the best air conditioning in town.  They have to, to protect the collection.  I am here to chase up details in past lives, for example, the political climate around education policy reform in the eighties, and why a little inland school in Queensland evacuated some, but not all, of its students in 1942.  This then, is what constitutes the tenor of my day.

I’d rather be embroidering.  Why embroidery?  Why now?  I don’t have definitive answers to that at the moment but I do have some inklings.  One.  It’s making something.  Two.  It’s making something beautiful. Three.  It harms no one.  At least, I’ve not thought of any how embroidery could cause harm although I understand it has in the past.  Something to do with linen threads needing to be worked damp, although I’d want a reference-able source for that ideally.  Four.  It’s achieveable with my current skills with a needle.  I could not, for example, paint the dahlias I have almost completed.

dahlia embroidery

Five.  It’s small.  When I have a father with a terminal illness, a mother with cancer, a sibling with mental illness, a job that I find tricky and my own chronic disease to manage, small is essential. Anything larger and I might drown.

Small, beautiful, creative, doable.  Why not embroidery?

Allergic to work???

Adoption, Cancer, Diabetes, emotions, Family, Uncategorized, Work

I think I am allergic to work.  No, seriously.

I have spent the entire day forcing myself to pay attention, with my eyes skittering off the page like a toddler on too much red cordial.  The trouble is, this is the latest of a long line of jobs I have loathed.  My first job was when I was in high school.  That was decades ago.  I still feel exactly the same about work as I did then.  It’s tedious, exhausting, unrewarding and generally, a crapulous experience.  Hence, my conclusion.  I think I am allergic to work.  We’ve certainly had enough people over the centuries praising it as virtuous, character building,  blah de fucking blah.  But I have to ask myself, are they perhaps not shouting a little too loud?  It certainly seems like it to me.

It’s hard to avoid the modern rhetoric about the importance of work and career.  Indeed, I am conscious of the fact of the ongoing struggle of some women to even be able to participate in the workforce on anything like equal grounds.  I feel churlish about complaining about my lot, which has a window that opens, a door that shuts and plenty of freedom and flexibility.

Not enough freedom and flexibility, however, to be able to run with my essence.  I woke up this morning feeling like shit, and didn’t want to leave the house.  It’s nearly the end of the day, I still feel like shit and I want to be at home.  In bed.  With the cat. Period.  But I am not in any position to honour these feelings, to give them space and work with them.  One of the lessons of that I think we all need to learn is to honour our emotions, however challenging or difficult they are.  I have known too many who haven’t and in the process tend to have had more trouble, both within their own lives and with others, as a result.  Maybe if I’d stayed at home and accepted how I felt, I might have gotten through it quicker, and then when I got to the office, I’d have been ready to actually do some work.  But I’ve not been able to achieve a thing, because the urkness inside still wants its day.  So, end result is that I still feel like shit and I’ve also achieved nothing.

I do have good reason to feel this way.  My mother does indeed have cancer, in addition to heart disease and diabetes.  I’m crapping on the universe for giving me two mothers with cancer to deal with.  Such a lucky little adoptee.  But even despite this profoundly good reason for wanting to crawl under the doona and NOT COME OUT EVER AGAIN, I feel the same about work.  I felt like this before I got the news about my mother.  It has just made me feel my feelings about it even more strongly.

I wonder how many people would genuinely continue to go to their job if they didn’t need the money to pay the bills and feed themselves and their family if they have one?  Would you still do what you do if you didn’t get paid?  My answer is no.

Yet, if you were to consider my CV, you might think that it couldn’t possibly have been all that bad.  Maybe it wasn’t.  I certainly have met lots of kind, intelligent and wonderful people, some of whom have been become treasured friends.  I’ve found that I get to spend perhaps half an hour a day enjoying the company of my colleagues, and the remaining majority of the hours I’m locked to a computer screen.   Some of my work may possibly contribute to making the world a better place.  Emphasis on possibly.  Certainly that was my intent but you have no guarantees.  Did I enjoy the processes of work? No, not really.  Not enough to counter the depression and the exhaustion.  Am I in the wrong job?  Clearly the answer is yes.  What worries me is that there is no right job.  And that I have to show up here, day after day for at least the next two decades.

Oh happy thought.




A few of the photos I wanted to upload from the other day.  I thought that I would try from technology other than my ipad.  And hey guess what?  It worked!!


From left are my first three goes at embroidery.  The butterfly I traced, the next is freeform, and the third image was from a printed sampler.

The fourth image is my first go at draping a skirt without a pattern.  I have a sewing machine back and started to sew it but was interrupted by the Iron Paw, my very elderly but nevertheless very determined to have her way feline companion.

raven and the sewing machine

The skirt is essentially a rectangle, because I wanted to play with making something with less fabric waste.  I’ve cut the rectangle into two uneven pieces, which gives the two lines of folding off the centre front, and darting in the fullness of the waist.  It’s worked so far given that there is not terribly much difference between waist and my hips anymore.  We will have to see what it looks like when I get to the point of trying it on.

Finally a few crochet stash busting projects.


A little shawl I made using some leftover baby wool.  The pattern came from the Crochet One Skein Wonders book.


The darker one is with two balls of undyed alpaca/wool blend, while the other was a more vintage baby wool in very pale apricot.

My other textile experimentation has been with natural dyes.  They were, I have to admit, a glorious failure, but I loved the process of it.

pink cabbage dye

This dye was made from red cabbage, which yielded this rather nice pink.  With the addition of an acid or alkali, ie lemon juice and bicarb soda, you get purple and green.  Or is it green and purple respectively?  It probably doesn’t matter as they all turned out to fade within a few days, so red cabbage remains as an essential ingredient in coleslaw and not much else for me.

I want to be playing in this space much much more, so I am going to have to be inventive about carving out time.  My not so new job, while better than the last job, is still pretty draining.  I spent today reading transcripts of the evidence from a Royal Commission, and I start teaching again to third year uni students this week and that takes plenty of time and attention as well.  All suggestions welcome on making space for creativity!


Creativity and adversity

craft, Crochet, Uncategorized

I haven’t been writing that much because I have been making things.  I haven’t attempted any creative writing since my  crash and burn out of Nano last year.  For the uninitiated, Nano is short for National Novel Writing Month where one rashly attempts to get a first draft of a novel (or 50 000 words) in 30 days.  It wasn’t a massive crash and burn, as I got to 30 000 words but enough to have a raging case of writer’s block.

But creativity comes in all forms, and currently its all to do with textiles and yarns.  I’ve draped my first skirt, and when the sewing machine comes back from the repair shop, I’ll stitch it together. I made two skirts over Christmas, and I’ e been stash busting the yarn pile, having made two scarfs and one shawlette.  And I’ve taken up embroidery, which I am loving.

I’d add photos but WordPress is being a bastard.  Again.

A small adversity.  Much easier to deal with than last night’s news, of another family member waiting to find out if its cancer.  Life is short people.  Don’t fritter it away.