Cross stitch was my Gateway craft, the very first thing my Mum taught me, before she and Grannie tackled knitting and embroidery, and I later added spinning and crochet and quilting. Mum stitched beautifully; and our home was full of her creations; a long panel of butterflies that she took on as a challenge, and in doing so taught me that you can love a hobby and still want to throw it at the wall in frustration, eternal flowers, and a birthday card of flowers overflowing a wheelbarrow that Grannie loved so much she brought it out every year. I can remember Christmas holidays, when the gales rolled in horizontally, curled up together, Mum and us girls stitching away, me working my way through an array of tree decorations, then every cover kit on every magazine in the newsagent, and finally onto finishing off the Christmas Cake band.
The mere act of stitching brings back so many happy memories, and it’s the ultimate slow living craft. Even if you’re really fast and really organised, cross stitching covers ground at a rate that makes knitting look like a sprint and crochet and quilting supersonic. It’s not something to rush, it’s something to enjoy gently, every stitch bringing you nearer to the finished picture, and it’s where I often turn for something to make my mind pause and concentrate, and slow down.
When Kitty and I discovered the Itching to Stitch stand at the Festival of Quilts, we shared the same happy gasp. She was drawn instantly to the starter kits; rows of pastel crayons just waiting to be discovered, and I promptly fell in love with just about every one of the Wise Words kits. From the moment our eyes lit up it was only ever going to be a question of “which?”.
Maya Angelou’s “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud” sums up in simple perfect imagery, what I strive towards for myself, and what I want for the children. Be a rainbow, be more than just yourself, pottering through life, try to be of service to the people around you, to make the world a brighter place every day, even if it’s just to give someone a hug and make them smile. Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if we were all trying to be rainbows.
I genuinely loved every stitch of this project; it holds sunny days and bleak autumnal afternoons, and that same feeling of a cosy family sewing circle as we all sat and worked on our projects together. This is 28 count linen, dyed to what one of my children described as “blotchy” (thanks kids), but really it’s a semi-solid, and it gives the impression of clouds behind the rainbow. Most of the yarn is DMC in various colours, but the border and “cloud” are in a variegated soft grey so the colour changes with each stitch. The gold thread (outlining the “i” in rainbow) and the buttons were the final touch and then it’s had a nice steamy press face down on one of our fluffiest bath towels to get out some of the creases. It’s never going to be entirely crease free because it’s linen, but it’s like blocking a piece of knitting, it just brings everything back to square again.
Which just leaves me with the question of framing. The picture on the front of the kit shows a deep dark wood frame, and on the stand it was made up into a cushion with a log cabin border, but I think I want to keep it simple. I’m nearly certain that it’s going to go on the wall in Pip’s room because the colours work really well with his wall colour, and I’m very tempted simply to stretch it over a box canvas and hang it up. It might need the occasional bit of dusting, but it would let the buttons shine out and the gold thread glimmer, and it might just be the answer. What would you do?