Tuesday, January 10, 2012
200 Sitches: The Back Stitch and Variations
I wanted to learn embroidery but my Fibers professor didn't teach a full course so she set me up to do independent study for a semester. I went to Joann's and bought the cheapest book I could find with the best pictures to learn from. It looked like one of those old workbooks you would get in elementary school that taught math via coloring shapes and doing mazes. That book was so worth it. Heck I still have it and recommend it to anyone who wants a good instructional book. The diagrams were clear and comprehensive and taught you as if you had no clue what you were doing, but didn't make you feel like a dick for being that way. I only ever completed one of the projects but I had about half a yard of fabric where I would practice the stitches over and over again. I was in love.
One of my jobs in college was working as a home aide for the elderly. I would visit their homes after I was done with classes. I would make them meals, bathe them, help them with laundry. Anything that would make it easier for them to stay in their own home and be as independent as possible. Plus I would be there for company, I think this was the thing they enjoyed the most and that helped them the most. Also, I had a blast hanging out with the ladies (I never once took care of a man, everyone was a widow except one awesome lady who was proud to say she was an old maid). They loved seeing whatever fibers project I would bring and showing me some of their work as well. One woman cross-stitched her family from photographs. It was pretty impressive, especially the charts she would make for them. Even more so given the crippling arthritis in both hands.
I started learning embroidery when I was working at Dot's apartment. She was a former teacher and, like several other ladies I worked for, went to school at my old college. Back when it was still a teaching school. She used to tell stories of how she would hitchhike from her town that was about 30 minutes away if she missed the train. Dot was sadly suffering from Alzheimer's at this time. She was at the stage where she could sometimes remember the present but spent more time talking about the past. When we would take walks through her building she would talk about her childhood in vivid detail and mention things like how she hated wreathes on doors because when she was young the only time you put a wreath up (which always had a black ribbon) was to indicate that someone in the household had died. She also had the worst case of sundowning I had ever seen. At some point in the evening after the agitation and pacing had gone down she would mistake me for an old college roommate where she would ask me questions about my "current beau". This then led to a freak out that we had a big test coming up that we needed to study for. After a few shifts I realized one thing that seemed to help her was actually studying for the test that was coming up. Her favorite subject was art history. After I found this out I always made a note to bring my art history books for her to look through and honestly, she was pretty good at quizzing me on paintings. If she had a particularly rough evening she tended to be in bed by 8pm. My shifts didn't end until 11 so I had 3 hours to kill before the next aide arrived.
The early bedtimes happened at a lot of the houses I worked at. There's only so much light housekeeping you can do when someone is sleeping but you still need to be there if they get out of bed (or fall out of bed, which happened upon occasion and good lord is that ever a terrifying experience). This downtime led to me being able to work sometimes 24-30 hours a week while being a full-time student. So hey, if you're in college and like old people might I recommend becoming a home health aide?