Monday, February 02, 2015

Ugly Beautiful

In December I did a lot of crocheting to help retrain my eyes, learn some new stitches and work out some creative frustrations. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was five, so I can pretty much do it in my sleep, plus to crochet you just need a hook, yarn, and scissors. My sewing and quilting, on the other hand, I had to let languish while I recovered because even after the surgery I still couldn't focus well enough to do even simple tasks like threading a needle.

Over the holidays I slowly adjusted to my new vision. I crocheted four scarves, two pillows and a hat, but I still avoided all of my needlework. I had this terrible yearning for it -- nothing calms me or makes me feel as peaceful as sewing -- but I was afraid the changes to my eyes would make it difficult or even impossible for me to do anymore. Contemplating the thought of giving up sewing was really tough.

Finally I decided to find out just what I could do by doing a practice piece with things I didn't care about, so if I totally screwed it up I could throw it away without a qualm. So I crazy-patched a little tote with every unsightly fabric in my scrap bag and went to work embellishing it. Sort of like putting lipstick on a pig, but I didn't care how it turned out.

For the embellishment I began with this yellow flower lace applique, which came with a bunch of other appliques I ordered for another project last year. Yellow is my least favorite color, so it had been sitting in my lace box for months. On some level I almost wanted to screw it up, so I used it to practice beading:

After I spent a week of tediously beading that applique and the swatch of ugly fabric around it I moved on to another applique; one with an oddball gold color that went with nothing. I decided to pearl that one until it begged for mercy:

Working on all these ugly bits and pieces helped me channel a lot of anger and frustration that had been building since before the surgery. I even found a use for this really hideous plastic bead that I'd had in my bead bag since the Jurassic era:

After a lot more beading and embellishing I finally finished the ugly damn thing last night, and sewed it up, and turned it out to discover this:


My stitching was less than perfect, and I think I need more practice with spacing my seed beading, but . . . it's not really all that bad. I did some rather neat things with this, actually. It reminds me of Fall and October fires and how the leaves on my Japanese maple look when they begin to turn red. Somehow in trying to make something ugly on purpose I accidentally made something kind of beautiful. Something I couldn't have made if I'd given up on sewing.

As for yellow, I'll never love it, but I don't hate it anymore. This time it kind of saved my ass.


  1. I'll have to show this to my wife, who spent a good chunk of last year making tote bags. Personally, I think it looks awesome.

  2. I'm so happy you got your sewing back! :hugs: It's sad when you lose the ability to do something you love through no fault of your own. When I was younger, I used to do pointillism, but I lost the ability after my accident. I still have the piece I was working on at the time - forever partly finished.

    That bag is cute and it does call to mind autumn. Good job! (Even if you didn't mean to do it.)

  3. It's beautiful. Not only because I think it really is, but because it's your victory piece over adversity. I can't imagine you never sewing like that again, so I'm glad this was your challenge to yourself. I'd say you won!

  4. It's lovely. After your description, I was expecting a disaster, but the combination really works.

  5. Very cool...both the bag and your perseverance!! ;D

  6. This is absolutely beautiful. Your creation is extraordinary and unique. What great talent and strength you possess. Best wishes and much happiness and more enjoyment.

  7. Penny Pflager5:11 PM

    This is inspiring, I gave up needlework due to the simple fact of not being able to thread the needles anymore. I came across an advertisement for an easy thread needle the other day. The eye has a slit opening on one side that you just slide your thread over and drop into the eye. After reading this, I think I might just give it a go again.

  8. It's gorgeous - made more so because it wasn't supposed to be. I particularly like the way the colours have blended in so well. Even after spending the last 2 years sewing, my stitching is less than perfect and I would give a lot to be able to make something so beautiful. Congratulations.

  9. Happy for your eyes! And your bag is gorgeous.