One Stitch At A Time

In early December I wrote a post called I Think I’m Afraid. It was about how, in many ways, I was ignoring the ache of missing Mum by disregarding it and carrying on. I was detaching myself from my mum in fear that it would hurt too much to confront how I miss her – there is no consolation for missing someone who can’t come back.

In the last two years since she passed away I have never been angry towards my mum. Of course I have been furious that it had to happen, but always fiercely protective over her. But in the last couple of months I have developed a confused ambivalence.

It all comes down to my cross stitch. You see, me and my mum would cosy up in the living room during winter months, warm by the fire, and we would do our cross stitches for hours on end. It was one of our favourite things to do together while a good film played on the TV.

When I was about 19 I bought a really elaborate pattern of a tiger that I knew was a bit beyond my capabilities. She helped me to start it up and over the next few winters my tiger began to take shape and Mum was always on hand to find and unpick any mistakes. She really liked that we enjoyed a hobby like this together and always said that when I finished we’d get my tiger framed professionally.

Anyone who has done cross stitch before might know that mistakes can be really hard to find because a lot of counting is involved and you might not realise that you’ve made a mistake until quite late on when your beautifully elaborate tiger ends up looking more pathetic than majestic. But Mum was always there to find and unpick any mistakes or maybe just improvise a new pattern.

It dawned on me this autumn that I hadn’t touched my cross stitch since before Mum passed away. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I was just so afraid about making mistakes and not being able to unpick them myself. Fear brought ambivalence, the closest thing to anger that I have felt towards her since she passed away. I think I felt annoyed at her for not being here to help me with my needlework that I avoided it altogether, and I will leave you to find the wider metaphor here.

When I realised my fear, I told my sisters with lots of tears. I was too afraid to even take the linen and silks out of the wicker box they have sat in for the last couple of years. Evee was very kind to freshen it up with a hand wash and said that she would help me should I come across a problem. My sisters’ kindness made me cry a little more.

Thankfully, as Evee has embarked on her embroideries this winter, I have found my stride with cross stitch again (albeit a very slow one!) and after many years this little tiger finally has a pair of ears – and no need to unpick anything so far.

There is no consolation for missing someone who can’t come back, but there are things you can do to feel closer to your person, and I am thankful to be able to continue something that we both loved together. I still plan to get it professionally framed when I am finished in about a decade.

I realise that this might sound a bit dramatic all over a cross stitch, but hey ho, grief does funny things to us and I am here to tell you about it, one stitch at a time.

Is there anything that makes you feel closer to your person? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Go gently,

Katie x



44 thoughts on “One Stitch At A Time

  1. That looks like a tiger to me! Good job! My mom gave me the love of music and the joy of reading. Those two things still remain important to me after 20+ years. And you’re right, it does make me feel closer to her when I’m conscious of it.

  2. That tiger has turned out superbly well. Your mom would be very proud of you, Katie–not just for your workmanship but for the perseverance to complete such a challenging project!

  3. Grief comes out in the most unexpected ways. I think because my mom lived such a full life and several of her last years were surround by trying health issues, I was relieved for her when she passed.

    I know nothing about cross stitching, but your project is beautiful. I’ve got to imagine your mom would be proud.

  4. Sorry to hear about your mum Katie.
    I have done some cross stitch in the past and I know the frustration related with making a mistake but the end result is beyond feeling.

    You have done a wonderful job and I hope you will continue with this fantastic hobby in future.

  5. The tiger is gorgeous. I’m glad you’re finding joy in cross-stitching, again. You challenge me to think about how I keep those I’ve lost closer in. We didn’t share avocations, but we did work near each other. I can enhance my work vision with the virtues of theirs. I think a thoughtful hobby would be good.

  6. Wonderful, Katie. Majesty to spare, and then some. Imagine how stunning it’ll be once you get it framed, and how much that would’ve pleased your Mum. How much it does please her, rather.

    Your Mum lives on and thrives in the enthusiasm you and your sisters have for cross stitch, and in your increasing talent. Would you have imagined, when you bought the kit, you’d be showing off the results one day? Your inclination started you down this path, and your Mum accompanied you as you started the journey. Moreover, her love and inspiration accompany you still.

  7. This is a wonderful story of hope and light. Will you continue to do cross stitch? I lost my dear Mum in 2016 and there is not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. The scar has healed over and the thought of her now, makes me smile. You ask if there is anything that brings me closer to her; there is and it’s nothing like your lovely cross stitch. I do have some small keepsakes, but as my wife and I don’t eat many sweet things if I have the opportunity of eating a ‘pudding’ I’m instantly beside my Mum at home. She was of that generation who cooked and baked, didn’t know what ‘ready meals’ were, and I grew up with puddings virtually everyday! My all time favourites being good old rice pudding or a golden syrup sponge pudding with custard. I’m smiling again. 😊

  8. This reminds me of the beautiful song my pupils sang to me when I had to leave the school I was teaching in, in Taiwan.
    The smallest began to cry first, then the older ones, then my boss and I, hugging and crying in the street as they let off small air balloons with their prayers for me. You see the song, (which she translated for me) explained that, though we may never see each other again, the time we had together will never be lost, because it is engraved on our hearts and can never be taken away.

  9. Thanks for liking my comment. Sorry to hear about the loss of your Mum. Grief can do strange things, as I know. I lost my middle sister suddenly in 2019 and I’ve been struggling with migraine since then. Just the other day, the sound of a flagpole champing in the wind brought me back to being on the swings at the seaside with my two sisters and hearing the sound of the wind in the masts at the boat club. I write my sister letters to feel close to her and also because I never got the chance to say goodbye. Sometimes i also do drawing or painting which helps me feel close to her as she was an artist. Short post here with English below the Gaelic

  10. That was poignant and perceptive. There is a similar, oft repeated saying in Zen when experiencing grief that speaks to carrying on and resuming past rituals, though a loved one’s absence and translation to somewhere you can’t go will always be felt. It’s ‘you chop wood, carry water…’

  11. GREAT therapy.! I love your tiger. It is many years since my mum went home. She was an old lady and would have said she lived a quality life. Her life lesson she left for me was …..look for LOVE ….Look for beauty……..Celebrate your femininity! Focus above. Find higher in all your life yearnings.
    I have great joy at present trying to complete a beading picture of beautiful roses. Your blog has made me aware of my loving thoughts of her. Yes I still miss her but believe… day……

    1. Hi Faye! your mum’s life lesson is powerful and I really resonate with it. Sometimes we get so bogged down with all the negativity! I am glad you are enjoying your rose beading picture, do you have a picture?

      I believe that one day too x

  12. What a lovely post. My mother could cross stitch, and knit and crochet…but whenever she wanted to show me I wasn’t interested. Now I really regret that I didn’t share this with my mother. How wonderful for you, you’ll have those memories forever. xoxo

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