THE GRASSHOPPER STITCHER
In one of her novels, Jane Austen characterized a young woman as having a grasshopper mind. The minute I read that, I knew that she meant someone like me: someone who hops from interest to interest, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, lighting on nothing long enough to become truly knowledgeable. This habit of mine made me well suited for the career of librarianship, because I knew a little about lots of things, enabling me to have a pretty good guess as to where to find more for the inquiring patron.
When it comes to stitchery, however, it was clear that I would never become an expert in any one type. I’ve been fairly consistent in a general interest, but definitely as a browser in this field.
I began as a ten-year-old, not with a sampler as I would have done a generation or two ago, but with dime-store tea towels and pillowcases printed with garden gates and cutie kittens. My mother had no needle skills, and other relatives were distant, so I was self-taught. In my teens I sewed a few (a very few) of my own clothes, and then I married and the kids came. I sewed more successfully for them, and took pride in creating, not buying, the Hallowe’en costumes for all four. Throughout my working life I did cross-stitching in the evenings from some of the many books I checked out of the libraries where I found myself. Occasionally I went to needlework shows, notably the annual one at Woodlawn, in Virginia; these both impressed me and depressed me. What beautiful things people can make, I would think; and then would come the thought, But I never could.
Still I always liked to have a “Project” under way, for busywork as I watched TV, or sat in a hotel room while on a trip. Some of these projects never reached completion–my grasshopper mind again! Or perhaps they did, in someone else’s hands. Did anyone out there discover, while looking for treasure in a thrift store, an unfinished panorama of the city of Jerusalem, or a cushion cover all over pink stylized tulips? The panorama went on and on, far beyond what my attention span would accommodate; I stopped work on it; it sat on the shelf reproaching me. I could not bring myself to discard it. That seemed disrespectful to the subject. I consigned it to a shop from which I hoped it would be adopted. The pink tulips became a bore to work on, and I thought they would be that to look at, too, so they met the same fate as the panorama.
Quilt-making by hand I always knew was too demanding, requiring patience and fortitude which I have not. I did manage a pillow front from my husband’s old ties, appliqued and embroidered but not actually quilted. Machine-appliqued crib quilts I have made, one for each grandchild, and these I designed myself, from folk patterns or story illustration.
Along the way, for grandchildren or for library storytime, I have made dolls, stuffed animals, puppets and flannelboards. Once I even made a doll for my mother. She had spoken so often of her grandmother who wore black and white print dresses every day, that I recreated Grandma, print dress, white lace cap and all.
At my present time of life, I have at last learned to select projects taking little time, with
almost instant satisfaction. Potholders and bookmarks are about my speed; but most fun are finger puppets. A box on my work table holds characters from Mother Goose and from the Bible. Easy to acquire materials, easy to make, easy to store. The grasshopper mind has finally alighted. I think.