This was a question a number of people asked after my mother died. But I wasn’t. I hadn’t. In fact I couldn’t remember dreaming about anything or anyone, until this past week. Maybe it was because it was the first Thanksgiving since she died. Maybe it’s because her birthday fell on Thanksgiving every 7 years and so Thanksgiving always reminds me of her or because this was her first birthday that went uncelebrated. This past Saturday she would have been 93 years old.
When we were in Jordan, just a few weeks ago, (it seems like months already) our guide told us that the life expectancy there was mid seventies. He then asked if I was considered old in the US. “It depends upon who you ask,” I joked. “How about you?” I asked.
“I don’t feel old, until I look in the mirror,” he replied. Which was just the sort of thing my mother would have said. We laughed about that.
“Aging isn’t for the faint of heart,” my mother used to say. She also was known to say, “Aging sucks.”
But in my dreams she isn’t old. She can still speak. She has shoulder length hair and in my dream last night she was wearing an emerald green bikini, of all things, with a cream colored, open lacey top that I’d crocheted for her. Did I mention that I’m teaching myself to crochet? I’m no where near good enough to make such a thing for anyone, let alone as a gift for someone I love, but in my dream, she looked amazing and youthful and the crocheted top looked pretty fabulous as well!
I remember thinking, “I want to look like her when I’m her age,” but in the dream I said nothing and instead just told her how much I loved her. She gave me one of her magnificent smiles and then began talking to someone else in the room. I almost said something about how happy I was that she was wearing the top I’d crocheted her, but didn’t want to interrupt her conversation with this other person. Secretly, I was thrilled. After all I only just began trying to crochet in the last few weeks. Wearing that crocheted top that I’d made for her was so typical of my mother. She was a huge supporter of all my various passions, particularly when it came to making things.
It was my mother who taught me to knit and as she was right handed, (I’m left handed) I learned to knit right handed as well. I’ve often wondered if I should try to reteach myself to knit left handed, but then I think, “Why?” Besides I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning of life, why jostle the waters? And I knit pretty quickly right handed, so there doesn’t seem to be much point. And, added plus, any instructions and videos are always written for right handers.
My mother would have approved of my dream, though I don’t think she cared for the color emerald green, but even so, it would have made her laugh. She loved to laugh. So today, I will remember her laughing and am grateful to have my dreams of her when she was still able to speak, when she was still able to move about easily and painlessly, when she was happy.
Every few days I venture outside to get a little fresh air and take a walk with my husband. The empty streets continue to astound.
On this day we decided to walk over to Union Square park, typically a hotbed of activity: sun seekers, dog walkers, protesters, activists, proselytizers, NYU students and those like ourselves who just want to enjoy the nice weather. However this was not the case last Sunday…
Usually on Easter Sunday we have friends and family over for a little Welcome To Spring celebration. As this wasn’t possible, I made a nice dinner for just us, before my husband and I went for our stroll.
As I arranged the raspberries on the cheesecake I made, I thought of what stitches would best replicate them. I’ve been working on shooting a video for each of Sue Spargo’s Toned Down Circle Sampler, a 90-day project she is doing on Instagram – #InstaStitchWithSue, because all her workshops have been cancelled for the next few months. Each day Sue unveils a new 1″ circle, and each afternoon she tells me which stitches she will be using for the following day’s circle so I can make a video; a kind of sneak peek into that day’s circle for all her followers.
It’s been such a wonderful project so far. Today will be the 16th circle. What follows are a few of my stitched circles, sometimes following Sue’s circles closely, other days taking the stitches she is using to make my own interpretation. These circles and making the YouTube videos have made what has been an incredibly stressful and painful time much less so. I am reminded of the resilience of humanity and how often beauty emerges from great upheaval.
The Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom here in New York City, and they’ve parked a mobile morgue six blocks from where I live on 7th Avenue. Both are off-white.
Life has utterly changed in such a short time, it has left most of us reeling. And yet, we find ways to adapt. It is our resilience that makes us both admirable and complacent. I’m choosing to focus on the admirable right now. Last night as I was taping my most recent YouTube video, I could hear people shouting, clapping, banging pots and cheering from their windows, balconies and rooftops for those who are on the front lines, putting their lives and the well being of their families at risk so the rest of us might feel a bit calmer knowing if we or someone we love were to get sick a stranger would be there to help us, even save our lives when our spouse and children would be forbidden from even visiting us.
And my heart broke.
Each of us is doing our best to cope in myriad ways. My coping has been to adopt a manic work schedule. I was up past midnight two nights ago editing videos for Sue Spargo’s #InstaStitchWithSue project where she is featuring one 1″ wool applique circle and embellishing it with her beautiful threads and creative stitching for the next 90 days on Instagram. For those who might like to join in, she is also posting the instructions on her FaceBook page- Sue Spargo Folk-Art Quilts.
The day before she unveils the next circle, she is telling me which stitches she will be using so that I can shoot video stitch tutorials on my YouTube channel for left handed stitchers, but often for right handers as well, as many stitches are not hand dominant. I’ve made an #InstaStitchWithSue PlayList on my channel so that people who are following her project can easily find those videos. It makes me so happy to have a tiny role in her beautiful project.
My “To Do” list has never been so long, there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish even half the things I’m trying to do. Making the whole sleeping thing seem that much more a luxury or so I tell myself when I’m up at 3AM out in the living room working. And I know that this is my own peculiar way of coping with something so huge I cannot completely wrap my mind around it. I am not sleeping well something I’ve noticed others share, as we sometimes will acknowledge each other on social media with a little smile and wave of camaraderie.
There is such beauty to be found in our fellow humans who are trying to help others, who are trying to make this world and our lives a tiny bit more bearable. Their acts of kindness, generosity, and humor make those cherry blossoms all the more breathtaking.
Since launching my YouTube Channel Ariane Zurcher ~ On the Other Hand on February 20th, I have gained close to 550 subscribers! Much of this is due to the enthusiasm shown to me by the members of the private FaceBook group, Friends Who Like Sue Spargo Folk Art Quilts (thank you everyone!) and my friend Anna Bates, who has been so generous and thoughtful in giving my tutorials a plug. I met Anna at one of Sue Spargo‘s not-to-be-missed workshops held by MISA (Madeline Island School of the Arts) in Tucson, Arizona. Anna has a blog and a popular YouTube Channel, Quilt Roadies, as well as a weekly blog on Alex Anderson and Ricky Tim’s The Quilt Show, which has a massive following of devoted sewers. So if you don’t know Anna, go check her out. She’s wonderful.
Since that launch, (my first tutorial – needle turn applique for left handers) I have fallen into some semblance of a schedule. I’ve been posting new videos Monday, Wednesday & Friday. I try to post one tutorial a week devoted to an embroidery stitch from Sue Spargo’s Creative Stitching Book specifically for Left Handed Stitchers. The other two videos are either focusing on sewing techniques such as How to Make Hexies, How to Make Perfect Circles and How to Needle Turn Appliqué or tutorials on stitches that are not hand specific, in other words for both left and right handers. In addition I am blogging Tuesday & Thursday. (At least that’s what I did last week and am planning to do moving forward.) I still haven’t figured out how to squeeze in time to design new products, but am hoping to do that too, once I get better and quicker at shooting these videos and editing them.
Since life as we know it has ground to a halt, here in New York City, I realize that I’ve been managing my stress by working and am working pretty constantly these days. Between preparing, shooting and editing new YouTube videos, making masks, and coming up with new video ideas, I have taken on the task of revamping my various websites, including this blog, with the intention of eventually containing everything under one roof. As I have disparate sites: Ariane Zurcher Jewelry, My Etsy Shop, this blog and my YouTube Channel, it’s tricky to figure out how best to house them all under a single site. Added to this is the fact that I am not a computer geek and not only do not know the terminology, I also don’t know how to do any of that, but I’m learning. And what better way to spend this time of self quarantine than to do all of that or at least this is what I tell myself. I also am not sleeping much…
At some point this blog will get folded into a larger site; until then I plan to keep posting Tuesdays and Thursdays here.
Stay safe everyone and, if you’re like me, keep stitching!
My version above of a meme by @stitchesnquilts that I saw on Instagram the other day and it made me laugh so I wanted to share my tweaked version of it. Because boy do I crave laughter right now. The meme below, another that has been making the rounds, made me smile. And who doesn’t suddenly feel invisible bugs are crawling all over your face? Or is it just me?
It is impossible to write about anything at the moment and not mention the current pandemic. I live in Manhattan. An island that is home to more than 1.6 million people. That’s a lot of frightened people crammed into a relatively small space all trying to stock up on supplies in case they need to stay inside for a month (or by the amount of peanut butter, broth and toilet paper being bought) perhaps people are thinking longer term, it’s hard to know.
As I write this, I am aware of how little traffic I can hear, and it’s the middle of the day on a weekday. A time that is typically filled with the cacophony of city life: sirens, irritable drivers making their discontent known, honking horns, shouting voices, music blaring from passing cars, alarms going off signaling a truck backing up or a car whose space has been invaded. People are out and about, but the mood is noticeably different. People are standing a little farther apart, not like the push and shove that New Yorkers are known for. It has the feel of a 4th of July weekend (without the TGIF anticipation and relief) when huge numbers of Manhattanites leave for their country or beach houses and the city empties out, except the vibe is a whole lot eerier.
The mayor announced Sunday that all schools are now closed. New York City’s museums have locked their doors. Broadway is dark. Times Square, usually a haven for tourists, is eerily quiet. Store fronts are dark, their iron grates locked down. Think Will Smith’s apocalyptic thriller, I am Legend, minus the tumbleweed. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it is weird out there. And I keep wondering – how does one find the balance? Knowing that this is serious and life has changed, things will not be going back to what they once were any time soon, and yet steeling oneself from the contagion of panic and even hysteria.
Someone compared these last few days to 9/11, but it doesn’t feel at all like that to me. In the aftermath of 9/11 there was a mourning mixed with horror and the awful knowing of just how hideous humans can be toward one another. Yes, there was the same kind of bleary eyed realization that all our lives had irreparably changed, but this feels different. Perhaps it’s how things are changing so quickly hour by hour with no end in sight. Perhaps it’s that there is no “containment,” no focal point, it’s everywhere and everyone feels at risk.
When times are tough, I have always found joy in creating. These past few years, that has meant in stitching and playing around with fabric, wool, silk, velvet, linen, ribbons, and threads. There is a zen-like state that I feel when hand stitching that is both meditative and incredibly calming. Time moves at a different speed, worries recede. There’s a whole community out there of fellow stitchers who know what I’m talking about. I’m so grateful for that. Community at the moment feels that much more precious.
A few weeks before life as we know it changed, I launched a YouTube Channel: Ariane Zurcher ~ On the Other Hand, where I demonstrate embroidery stitches, tips for sewing things like needle turn applique, how to make a perfect circle, emboss velvet and lots of other things I’ve learned along the way. The idea is to go through Sue Spargo‘s Creative Stitching book with the goal of doing a video for each stitch. Many of the stitches I’m demonstrating are not hand specific, in other words, whether you’re right handed or left, the stitch will be stitched the same way, but many of them are hand specific and for those stitches, I am demonstrating them for left handers specifically, though I’m also teaching myself to stitch all of them right handed too. I’ve received a wonderfully, enthusiastic response so far from both left AND right handers, and am working around the clock to keep up with the many requests I’ve been given.
I love the comments people are leaving. It is life affirming to have a community, and now, more than ever. Thank you to all who have subscribed and commented and liked and watched. It feels good knowing that there are so many of us out there, stitching away during such surreal times. I think of all the people who know what it means to be passionate about textiles and thread, who are calmly stitching while a tumultuous world swirls around us. And there’s balance in that.
Here’s to all of you.
Here’s to stitching together.
Welcome to my store!
Please browse and look at our patterns available. We also offer Workshops! ~Ariane