A Desperate Struggle
The setting - a humid night in South Carolina, surrounded by buzzing insects and palm trees. Even the very air felt different here, a thousand miles from home with no friends, no family, no job . . . I and my boyfriend had taken a chance on a job opportunity, and it had fallen to pieces almost as soon as we stepped out of the car, starting a new life. His parents had offered us to stay until I found a job and we got a house of our own. But how? Nearly six weeks of resumes and applications, but no luck. They were about to send us packing when my mother-in-law saw me stitching. 'You should start an Etsy shop!' she exclaimed. I'd never heard of it, and we were far too broke to start anything, I told her. I didn't even have a chair to sit on! But the next day I went out and bought eight dollars' worth of snowy white linen (All the money we had!) and on a sudden fit of inspiration, hemmed up three handkerchiefs. One was embroidered with purple pansies, one with yellow roses, and one with a blue letter A that I sketched out on the back of an extra application. That last handkerchief was the start of something big, though I didn't know it yet.
Even though I didn't sell anything at first (indeed for the first month!) things started to turn around. I walked into Bed, Bath, and Beyond and miraculously landed a job just days before we were due to return home to Massachusetts, ashamed and penniless to fail so soon after spreading our wings. We leased our first home. I sold one handkerchief, then another, and another. I struggled with linen suppliers, broken sewing machines, and long hours. Often I would be up all night hemming handkerchiefs to go out the next day after working an eleven-hour retail shift. It was grueling. But just after a year of working nearly full-time and running an Etsy shop, my hard work paid off. I was able to quit my job, move back to New England -victoriously!- and focus on my embroidery.
So what is all the fuss about some stitching, anyways? All our embroidery is done by hand, with no computer drafting programs or embroidery machines. This results in every piece being slightly different, and a range of techniques like drawn- and pulled-thread work, temari balls, and huck darning that cannot be duplicated by a machine. I love researching techniques from all over the world and using them in my work. It's a shame so many are dying out, and so many others are already long forgotten. These techniques have persisted, sometimes for several hundred years, and I believe that the extra time, effort, and skill involved is well worth the end result.
Every time someone purchases a piece of handmade needlework, learns or teaches a new technique, or supports a local artist, they help stem the tide of forgetting. Each country, each region, has its own distinct style - loving mothers adorning their children's clothes with powerful magical symbols, bridal presents of beautiful tapestries telling stories and histories, charming toys for baby, and a thousand items to decorate the home. Each of these is a language, a history - and often it seems there has been more forgotten than anyone could ever learn! I'm dedicated to keep these crafts, this heritage, around for generations to come.