Emotional investment

20 Jan

Was I the only one who hadn’t realised quite what an emotional investment this project is? I mean what was I thinking of? Embroidering memories, while Mum’s are slipping away like water through her fingers.

I wrote this on 1st June 2021 the first morning of embroidering the smock:

This morning started with a phone call at 5am. Mum had cut her arm and needed help. Just as well I knew where she kept her stash of more dressings! She had no recollection of how it had happened.

At 5.30 we were all sorted and I was very much awake but not ready to start work. So what’s a girl to do but start embroidering? The light was perfect and the steady stitching slowed me down and somehow gave me the focus to face the day. I didn’t get another chance to stab the smock till after supper time, when the light was less good.

I’ll tell you about why swallows another time. There’s lots of time. Ish.

The swallow was designed by my nephew Max, who enthusiastically threw himself into this project. That week when I started embroidering the smock was a few days after the first weekend we had ‘opened up’ from a long-term and pretty severe lockdown in Scotland. Max and his Dad (my brother) had come to stay in Galloway, and it was the first time I had been there caring for Mum when others were also around. The sense of relief, of beginning to understand quite how hard this had been on our own, was palpable. I was no longer alone (not that I ever was, I was with Mum, but I think you know what I mean).

Initially I felt quite overwhelmed by the enormity of this project. I’d embroidered way back years ago, when I was still a child, so I wasn’t entirely new to the idea of using threads to paint pictures on fabric. I remember I embroidered brightly coloured flowers up one leg of a pair of jeans (in the 70s, obviously), but don’t recall embroidering anything else, or anything that I would today be proud of.

Not knowing exactly how or where to start, I had done some research and had learned how I might transfer a design to the fabric (using a stabiliser that would then magically dissolve in water when I’d finished stabbing). And then I just started stabbing at the fabric, using what felt like the right thread. I’d maybe do those swallows differently now, but not much… and I realise that this project was never about the embroidery, it’s about the journey as they say, it’s about the memories, the slow pace of the stitching, the joy of creating something that will hold onto this time we’ve had.

By the end of Day One I had made some small progress. I had also consulted with The Embroidery Book, published in 1949 and given to me by my grandmother on my 11th birthday (it felt like an old book then, but with all these years behind me now, I realise it wasn’t THAT old).

If you want to start at the beginning of this story, go to Taking Smock of the Situation.

Again, if you are moved to support Alzheimer Scotland, who work to ensure that no-one has to cope with dementia alone, please just clickety click here, and you will seamlessly be taken to my fundraising page. I’m currently 75% towards my target of £600, and I’d be beyond grateful if your kindness nudged me a bit closer to reaching that goal. Thank you.

One Response to “Emotional investment”


  1. Taking Smock of the Situation | Shewolfinthevalley - February 28, 2022

    […] Emotional investment […]


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