Saturday, August 27, 2011

What are you, Amish?

Odd title, I know.  Read on.

Friday night's stitch group was loaded with over-the-top silliness and I haven't laughed that hard or that much in a long time.  When I'm laughing really hard, I'm not a big "Har-Har-Har" laugher.  I'm a body-shaking, tear-producing, silent laugher.  It's like the giggles start and then I can't stop and it just comes on me in waves. 

And there wasn't even any wine...

Anyway, because I had a long drive home, I thought about our conversations and our stitching for at least a solid hour and I went over again in my head everything that was said and all of the beautiful pieces being stitched.

Is this a trait unique to women?  It seems to me that after men leave each other, it's as if a door shuts in their head and whatever conversations they had are completely over.  Women, on the other hand, (or at least the women I know), will still be thinking about and replaying those conversations, sometimes for days. 

But that's a discussion for a whole 'nother day.

Getting back to last night... what I was going over in my head as I drove home, was the way that all of my stitching friends seem to get along.  Large groups or small groups, or even just two people sitting in a cafe with their stitching...we are so darn congenial.  Of course, every now and then - actually, very rarely - I run into a stitching person who makes me want to stab myself with a dull needle.  But honestly, in the past five years or so, since I've discovered the fun of stitching in groups, I've only met one person at a retreat who drove me crazy, and that's because I was spending the whole weekend with her and she never shut up.  Not even once.  It was five years ago and I can still remember every detail of her life.  Because she told us all, loudly and repeatedly. Over the course of the entire weekend. 

Sorry...I've veered way off my intended course.  Again.

SO - This has been on my mind for a long time, I've been thinking about WHY our stitching groups, large or small, work so well. Why do I treasure all of these interactions with stitchers?  They are all so diverse.  Some I see one at a time.  Some I see thirty at a time.  Some I see regularly.  Others I get to see once every couple of years.  Others I've never seen at all, except photos on their blogs. 

What is it about having a needle in our hands and knowing that others around us have needles in their hands that helps us get along so easily?  At first I was thinking that any group that gets together on a regular basis will develop this sort of congeniality, but I'm in other sorts of groups and if I really think about those relationships - well, it's just not as easy with them.

This is what I've come up with so far:

1.  One of the first things that stitchers do when they get together is admire one another's work.  Once the basics are out of the way - your name, where you live, etc - the next revelation is always that we want to know what you're working on.  So we all pull out our work and everyone comments graciously and generously.  It's easy to feel comfortable in a group when you've just been complimented.  It makes you feel important and worthwhile and makes your spirit feel generous, too.  I think that this activity - this mutual sharing and admiration - sets the stage for the entire interaction.

2.  In a casual stitching group, no one is made to feel responsible for the happiness of anyone else.  We just bring our own stitching and then your work is your work.  How else can I say this?  We have nothing to prove.  The pressure is off.  Among other groups, sometimes there's an unspoken undercurrent that makes us feel like we have to "do our part" or live up to a certain expectation.  Not so in a casual stitching group.  If you're not moving along quickly on a project, or even if you're blazing through your stash...well, we've all been there.  We may sympathize.  Or we may tease the heck out of you (good natured teasing, of course!)  But still, your work is your work and you don't need to worry about making any of us happy. 

3.  Having those needles in our hands seems to take the pressure off of us to generate conversation if we're not prone to talking a lot or if we just don't have anything to say at the moment.  Silences are a normal, healthy part of the get together.  How many groups can we say that about? 

4.  And when we're not silent, I've found that the sharing level of stitching conversation can be quite deep.  I used to think it was that we weren't looking each other in the eye and so people were more likely to say things that they wouldn't ordinarily say.  But now I think it's that Numbers 1,2 and 3 set the stage for stitchers to really speak from their heart.  I think it's all about developing that level of comfort so quickly.

So I think that's it, in a very large nutshell.  I'd also be curious to know what the rest of you think.  What dynamics make your group work?  And I use the term "group" loosely.  Define it however you'd online group, a big organization or a buddy or two that you see occasionally.

And as for my title?  Ahhh.  It's just what happens in such a diverse group.  Sometimes someone will tell a story from their background and it's a little foreign to all of us, like the story one of the stitchers was telling us about a situation on her family farm.  So the group listened and nodded politely and we tried to understand it, because we genuinely like this woman and she's very sweet and interesting.  But just like the saying goes, "there's one in every crowd" who will speak up and say something that we were probably all thinking, but she put it out there in a funny way. 

"What are you?  Amish?"

And I dissolved into pee-my-pants laughter.  

I'm sorry...I simply can't do that story justice.  But it was hilarious.


  1. I think you have hit the nail on the head! Stitching groups are so different than others...

    sounds like y'all had a great time too!

    happy stitching.....

  2. See Karen even used my thought before I could get it out - you hit the nail on the head - we start out being nice and we feel safe. We are kind and compliment each other. It releases any tension - and we share a love for the same thing.

  3. Sounds like you had fun! Stitchers are special people!

  4. Phew, glad you clarified that your gathering was 5 years ago with the TMI person lest I think it was me!

    A love of laughter... did you write that?

    It truly is a pleasure to share such a solitary hobby with a group.


  5. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my little stitching group that meets every month!! Even after 18 years together, we still get excited as that Wed. night approaches. Only 11 sleeps until we see each other again!! :^)

  6. I am so jealous that you have a stitching group! I rely on my bloggy friends both followers and those who just leave comments.
    I remember going to Hershey and sitting at a table with people I just met and I felt like I knew them all my life. It was magical.

    I think that your analysis is right on all counts. Nothing beats stitchy friends, online or in person!

  7. I loved your reflections on stitching friends, and I completely agree!

  8. Lee, I read and re-read your post and, as I thought about what you wrote, I found myself thinking "yes, that's so true." There's no pressure to perform, no one to please but oneself. I was talking to Greg on the phone this morning and he said, "Did you enjoy your stitch night last night?" and I could honestly reply, "Yes, I really did."

    Your post made me think of a quote on a tee shirt that I bought at the Spirit of Cross Stitch Festival in (yikes!) 1991. It says "The work of the hands brings forth the spirit of the heart." I wonder if our foremothers found the same enjoyment and companionship as they gathered in their sewing circles and quilting bees that we find in our stitching groups.

  9. Your post on stitching groups made me smile. You stated things that I have thought many times. And yet, my two groups have had problems this year of a sort. Both are in recovering mode and one group seems to have lost its equilibrium. I believe things will continue to get better, but we may never get back to the carefree ways of our past.


    I remember being called Amish at a gas station in Pennsylvania in 1977. I was dressed in Revolutionary era clothing at the time. Heck, if I was Amish what would I have been doing pumping gas?

  10. I loved this post, Lee :) As I've said time and time again--stitchers are the nicest people. And, as the lone female in an all-male family I so appreciate the comments, compliments, and support that I've received from my stitching and blogging friends.

  11. You captured it! I always felt so lucky to finally find a groups of stitchers - a group who liked to do what I did but it is so much more. The sense of belonging and the total lack of judgement you might get in other groups. We are content with each other. Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Great post! I plan to print it out for informal discussion at one of my stitching groups. They are great, aren't they?

  13. Makes me want to give my local stitching group a try again. You are lucky to have such a wonderful group!

  14. I have often thought the same thing, Lee. I love my monthly group and the groups that meet a few times a year and just the one or two friends that get together to stitch. I love seeing what they are doing and even though I can stitch that same thing I am more often than not in awe of what they have done! They "speak" the same language and have the same "love" for this wonderful art we all share. It has always amazed me that there is never any arguments or dissension in a camp I attend every year with 50 plus women, some are the same ones from year to year, but new ones join in too.
    I will say that we have one person in one of the groups that can be a downer, very negative about life, but if you can keep her off that and into the stitching talk then she is ok. She doesn't come much anymore. I think we probably have all run into this in get togethers.

  15. I met one of my best friends at a stitch retreat in Florida several years ago. Neither of us lives in Florida - in fact, I live in Minnesota and she lives in Maine! We made an instant connection and see each other often,both at retreats and in each others homes.

    One thing you didn't mention is how willing stitchers are to share their skills. At the first retreat I attended after starting to stitch again after many years, I found myself lost and floundering trying to deal with linen and specialty stitches. The lovely soul who sat next to me was so generous with her time and patient with my questions - I was hooked again and Virginia helped spark a flame that still warms me!

    Mary in MN

  16. Lee-I agree. Even if people don't like the patterns that others choose, there is something to be said about what goes into the project that we're working on. And fellow stitchers are really the only ones that truly get that. I think that's one of the main reasons of why stitchers can get along so well-we all get it.

  17. I think it is just the joy of sharing something that we are all passionate about, and that we all appreciate the time, effort and skill that goes into completing something. On the other hand look at the tools that we use; would you like to be stabbed with blunt needles or short bladed scissors ;) LOL.

  18. Okay, you got me. I am going to bite the bullet and join an Ireland stitchers group in the hopes of meeting some local people. Thanks for the kick in the backside. I live in hope.

  19. After reading your post, I just had to share it. I hope you don't mind!
    I sent it to several members of my group and they all loved it. Everyone thought it described our group very well. We are needlepointers (I am one of the few that also does cross stitch) and meet at a shop once a week. We are genuinely thrilled when someone finishes a project and can't wait to see what the next project will be.
    Thank you for your thoughts~we all enjoyed them.

  20. I loved your comments and I totally agree! I love going to stitch night with our group. I can be "me" and it's ok! Whew, how often does that happen!

    Amish, I'm still laughing!

  21. Hi Lee! I couldn't agree more with your post! And glad to know that the person who was annoying was five years ago...since you stitched with us this spring!! lol You know, I even sat and stitched with a fellow stitcher for over an hour waiting in an airport. We didn't know each other, but we still had a pleasant time stitching together.

  22. Loved reading this post :) I could actually visualize someone asking, "What are ya, Amish?" LOL