Recently a client shyly admitted that he is addicted to needlepoint. He opened his drawers and showed me a collection of exquisite needlework. We agreed to include some of his creations into our interior design scheme.
I shared with him my story. Twenty years ago my godson (Clive) came home from school with a small square of needlepoint canvas on which he had been trying to stitch a flower. I could see it was not going well, though my knowledge of needlepoint was nil. In a manner rather more god motherly than intelligent I suggested that perhaps we could “work it out together.”
Millions of stitches later I look back on that careless remark with certain incredulity. Needlepoint nearly took over our house. It gave us calluses on several fingers, occupied (or semi occupied, as needlepoint is a pastime that does not hinder conversation) thousands of leisure hours, and has produced more pillows, chair seats and tapestries than any house could consume.
There are people who love to make things. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't making something partly for the pleasure of showing it (and myself) off. Needlepoint, unlike many other hobbies, does not require a set place. It can be done for five minutes or several hours and just be thrown back in the bag or basket. To time can be added place and circumstances. Needlepoint can be done anywhere that one can sit down.
Clive stitches his hours away on long plane trips. It still takes a certain amount of gall, however, for a man to do needlepoint in public in some places. This is a circumstance that is not true in 90 percent of the world, where the great proportion of men make their living with handicrafts.
Needlepoint lends itself to variations of almost infinite kinds and combinations generally thought to be a genteel sort of medium, it can be as raucous as one wants to make it.
A feel for the medium does not come at all unless one is willing to experiment. I believe that anyone who can use a tool or a needle or a brush or a saucepan or a power drill can improvise. They all improvised when they were children. As we grow up we become more and more confined by patterns of socially acceptable behavior. But how we spend our leisure does not need to conform to patterns. It is, or should be, our release from the confinements of convention.
If we have joy in the making of something, then our pleasure in it will abide as long as it or the memory of it persists.