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A Tangible Challenge: Embroidery

This blog post is part of a new series called “A Tangible Challenge” where each month I take one in-person class related to something I know nothing about. The goal is to step outside my comfort zone and create something new. I am so excited to share this month’s endeavor: embroidery. (Read January’s adventure in pottery; February’s adventure in plants; March’s adventure in mosaic art lamps; April’s adventures in dumplings; or May’s adventures in candles here.)


On the final day of June, my friend and I walked a few blocks in our neighborhood to arrive at Our House Queens, a coworking space dedicated to community and creativity located in Astoria. We were attending a BYO(Shirt) Embroidery class hosted by Emily Pavacic, a local textile artist. 


In the weeks leading up to the class, my friend and I went back and forth on what the best fabric would be for the shirts we would be embroidering. I went to TJ Maxx twice. That seemed like it would be the trickiest part. I grew up sewing both by machine and hand, I love to knit, and hey there was also that cross stitch class I took eight years ago in Brooklyn!


Immediately, I was stuck. For the life of my tired contact lens I could not thread my needle. No problem, today would be the day I learn what a needle threader is. It took me a bit, but I finally figured out how to use it. I love the new addition to my sewing toolbox. 


Next was tying a knot. Once again, I felt my fingers fumbling. Eager to not fall behind but definitely doing it wrong, I found myself looking from my friend to my classmates trying to figure out what the heck everyone was doing. Turns out that’s just our teacher’s favorite trick for tying the knots. There’s always the old fashioned way. Which became my way for the rest of class.


Okay so not the best start. I was definitely feeling out of my element. What if I couldn’t keep up? It was the first time this year, through all the classes, where I definitely felt like I couldn’t do something. Where I had a moment of complete uncertainty. And wasn’t that the point of this series? To allow myself to go into a space and feel, well, like a beginner?


Then we hit the stitches and my something in my brain clicked. My hands felt like they were dancing around the embroidery hoop as I watched flowers bloom to life on the collar of my TJ Maxx blouse. 


When we’d arrived at the class, Emily told us we wouldn’t finish today. This also made it inherently different from the previous courses I’d taken where I’d walked away that same day with a completed project. This was more of learning the skill and leaving with all the materials needed to continue at home.


To continue at home. 


When it was time to pack up, I looked at my shirt. I had a lot of work to do. Walking out of Our House, my friend and I made a verbal commitment to hold each other accountable to finishing our shirts. 


Sitting on a Sunday night, I could already feel the temptation of the work week and the way this project could get placed to the side. I didn’t want that. And I didn’t want to wait so long that I forgot everything I’d learned today.


So this is my commitment to The Smile Project community, to my friend, and to myself that I will finish my shirt (in a reasonable amount of time) and share it with all of you. If my first couple flowers are any indication, I think it just might turn into my new favorite clothing item.


Perhaps this is a reminder that good things take time. And I’m happy to give patience to my blossoming garden.




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