My father was very sick for much of my life and constantly in and out of hospitals, where my mother and I would always spend the night with him, taking turns. My life would keep me in hospitals with family members for many consecutive years: my mother-in-law being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer three months after my marriage, and my own mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer a year later.
I simply began to lose my ability to cope. Being faced for the first time with the possibility of losing my mother, I was inspired to finally ask her to teach me how to embroider. Thinking needlework would require patience from me, I learned quickly what every addicted needleworker knows: Needlework instills calm and patience in you.
I felt my blood pressure drop. I was calmed and soothed with my first stitches, a portrait of my mother. I had never seen portraits in embroidery and wanted to adopt embroidery as a medium for my artwork. The effect on me was so great, the quelling of my anxiety, depression and despair led me to embroider for 3-4 hours every day for the next five years when I would produce the majority of my portraits. Embroidering carried me through it all.
Sublime Stitching became the only thing in my life that brought me complete joy in the face of dying parents, loss of my job and a marriage that began falling apart under the weight of it all. Embroidering and sharing my newfound love of stitching with others and carried me through a very difficult time in my life that would last for several years. Getting emails from complete strangers excitedly telling me about their projects and learning to embroider for the first time was an emotional source that I thrived and survived on. And, while things have come a long way since then, I can honestly stay it is still these things: embroidering and the kindness of strangers that carry me through all the challenges life brings.
Jenny Hart is the founder of Sublime Stitching, the first embroidery design company to bring tattoos, robots, and pinups to needlework patterns. She is also the author of several titles on embroidery for Chronicle Books and an internationally exhibited fine artist. Jenny lives and works in Austin, Texas, where she is a founding member of the infamous Austin Craft Mafia.
Jenny’s newest book Sublime Stitching: Embroidered Effects (Chronicle Books) will be out this fall 2009.