The kids and I have been more homebound lately due to health and transport issues. I thought that we’d have been driven mad by cabin fever and clawed each other’s eyes out by now, but it has been surprisingly wonderful. Deliberately slowing and paring down has allowed us to pursue new interests, to rekindle old ones and to have many meaningful conversations. We’ve not been harried folks rushing in and out of home for activity after activity. We’ve been able to tackle our projects with a clearer sense of purpose and been able to complete them with greater attention to detail in a way that we have not been able to before. It has been so refreshing.

Alhamdulillah for silver linings…

One of the things I’ve wanted to instil in myself and my children is stickability… persevering and seeing things through. As I’d said in an earlier post, I wanted them to do more worthwhile craftwork. We had begun stitching a couple of years ago, but I found something lacking in our sessions… there wasn’t a sense of aspiration, if you will. There wasn’t an expectation of bigger things to come.

I think one of my many mistakes was that I did not guide them enough. When they saw a pattern they liked, however difficult, they immediately wanted to leap into it and I allowed them, thinking that their enthusiasm would carry them through. However, their lack of skill and experience often caused them a great deal of exasperation and it would not be long before efforts would peter out. When a project was completed, they would be so unhappy with the results and experience that they would be daunted to try again, even though they itched to create something pretty with their hands.

I ought to have done a little more planning and introduced projects that were challenging, but not frustrating. Dexterity and skill need time to be developed. My kids tend to want to do difficult things and achieve the same results that adults do. While I need not curb their spirit, I can help them see the value of learning things gradually and celebrating small successes along the way, rather than be overwhelmed part way and be forever discouraged.

Last Sunday, we started anew :) We embarked on a wonderful new project – sashiko. At first, the girls were a little hesitant, thinking it was an overly simplistic craft, since it uses only the running (or “tack”) stitch. When they saw how pretty the results could be and how there are varying degrees of complexity, they were all for it. Since we didn’t have white transfer paper (heck, we have NO transfer paper!) or blue fabric (traditional sashiko uses white thread on indigo cloth), we made do with blue carbon paper, calicos and assorted flosses.

I was really very heartened to see the gusto with which they stitched. Both of them finished their projects in two days and immediately asked for new patterns to work on, ma shaa Allah. Below is a pic of their completed sashiko stitchery… Forgive the horrid quality of the photo – I had only my mobile phone on hand :P

Their second patterns are a little more difficult, with smaller and more stitches required. Here is Bear, working on her second pattern (it’s a pic of cute handbags!) while waiting for her sister to be done with her Arabic class.

On another note, I did some stitching too :) Bear was enamoured by Made By Joel’s vintage fabric dolls and begged me for one. We dove into my stash of fabrics and settled on a cheery green and pink print. We made several adaptations – I sewed on a calico face (which we agreed to leave featureless), embroidered a bob hairstyle (Bear used to sport this Dora-like look!) and stitched on Bear’s choice of cute buttons. (“Put star buttons at the top to show it is night, OK?”)

It is a simple project – the doll is essentially an embroidered 18-by-9-inch pillow (but don’t call it that in front of Bear… she has a name and she is Choti) and stuffed with polyfill fibre. If you have a sewing machine, you can probably complete it in a couple of hours or less. I did this completely by hand – I am still afraid of sewing machines! – so it took me a little longer. Still, I loved the whole process and when I knotted my last stitch, I was truly excited to surprise Bear with it. She had just woken up in the morning and her look of pure delight is something I’ll treasure always.

(Notice the little peg doll? We made it a couple of years ago and it is wearing a purple kimono… Bear says it is Choti’s doll. Again, pardon the awful quality of the photo – my Nokia is just rubbish, so I tried posterizing the pic but my graphics skills are even more rubbish :P)

Bear adores Choti and won’t let her out of her sight :) I guess I did SOMETHING right, alhamdulillah!