I can’t believe we have spent virtually a year in lockdown. How many loaves of sour dough bread were baked? How many jars of jam or preserves were cooked up? How many bottles of gin were consumed? How many covid kilos were added to waist lines? Here at The Old Bakery it was carrot cake rather than sour dough bread, mainly due to an accidental over ordering of carrots in my Morrisons delivery and my complete inability to bake bread; 6 jars of marmalade and 6 of jam; far too many bottles of gin; and way too many kilos (largely due to my belief that chocolate hobnobs had a protective effect against corona virus and a badly sprained ankle last summer). But the thing that has kept me sane this year has been my sewing.
Shortly before lockdown 1.0 my Dad died and, having cleared most of the things from his house, I found myself in possession of an enormous supply of embroidery equipement that had belonged to Mum. Mum was an avid cross-stitcher, it became like therapy for her after her stroke, she even learnt to cross stitch with her left hand, and it helped cheer her up on the darker days. For me lockdown provided the time to be able to return to something I used to love and reconnect with my creative side. It also became a valuable tool in defeating anxiety and worry when the infection and rates rose.
I started by doing an online course with the Royal School of Needlework to learn crewel embroidery. I turned that piece into a cushion cover and then decided it need a friend so made another.
Then came the challenges set by TextileArtist.org Community Stitch Challenge. I even ended up stitching a portrait of Chris Whitey, not my best work but I enjoyed it non-the-less.
As the months went by I made masks for friends, a flag for the Norfolk and Norwich for World Nurses Day, and made pairs of little hearts for the hospital to give to patients and their families while separated. I even knitted my teddies a new jumper each.
I started (and completed) my level 2 City and Guilds in hand embroidery where I learnt blackwork and had to design and make a piece of embroidery from scratch. I chose to embroider, in blackwork, a William Morris inspired flower which I am rather pleased with, even if I say so myself. I have now enrolled in level 3 so I can build on my new skills and learn more.
Most recently I completed a short online course with the Royal School of Needlework on applique and made a textile and stitched representation of a photograph a friend in Ireland took and which is now winging its way to her curtesy of Royal Mail.
I also took part in a research project run by Naomi Clarke at Bristol Universtiy which aimed to document the experiences of crafter during lockdown. My attempt to stitch a french knot for every life lost to corona virus, in an attempt to document these lives and make sure I never forget them, made an appearance in her article ‘Crafting during Coronavirus: Creative diary approaches for participant-centred research’, in Kara, H. and Khoo, S-M. (eds.) Researching in the Age of COVID-19: Volume. 3 – Creativity and Ethics [Online].
As we start to emerge from this tumultuous year we may feel slightly battered and bruised emotionally, and desperate to leave our four walls and meet up with friends and family, but there are things that I have actually enjoyed this year, things I don’t want to leave behind in the rush to resume normal service (whatever that might be). I have loved being able to sew again, to create with textiles and stitch, to respond to the world around me using fabrics and threads and I don’t want to stop. It has been an escape when the news got too much and it has given me so much pleasure to be able to make things for other people. As we move forward I plan to keep on stitching and learning, my next challenges will be goldwork and stump work. SO watch this space, who knows what I will be creating next.