The Wrong Side

My mom taught me how to cross stitch many moons ago. I remember walking with her into Michael’s for something, and I would come away with one of the sewing kits for kids– you know the large painted-on plastic grid with holes the size of dimes, a plastic “needle”, and fat colorful yarn.

Work in progress. Front of a cross stitch sachet that I purchased in York.

Work in progress. Front of a cross stitch sachet that I purchased in York.

When I visited my friend Stacie in Scotland in 2004, we both picked up small “adult” level cross stitch patterns as souvenirs. They were light, easily packed, a way to keep busy on the train, and excellent mementos of our visits. In fact, Mom received a bookmark of a Celtic cross that I did– I’m sure she was happy to receive a cross stitch from me that was not two feet long and made of plastic and yarn.

On this trip, I am continuing the tradition and recently picked up a lavender sachet in York. Even though I have done several of these before, I never realized how much I enjoy staring at the reverse or “wrong” side of the aida band (the holey canvas or material that you stitch on). The front is neat, all top stitches going the same direction, the design recognizable. The back is pretty much chaos– beautiful, colorful chaos.

Upon a closer look, you can notice a design of its very own that is created as a result of stitching the intended design on the front. In fact, I find this “wrong” side so much more interesting and appealing. I like the long stretches of thread that gently weave back and forth in braid-like intersections. The rhythm varies with each color, side, and direction, but it is all in harmony. The collection of attached, unused threads make it softer to touch.

Reverse side of the cross stitch sachet.

Reverse side of the cross stitch sachet.

It is not the side that one is supposed to prefer or maybe even think of as beautiful, but it reminds me so much of ourselves. We all often like to create our own face that we meticulously maintain and present to the world, yet it is what lies on this “wrong” side that is much more interesting, intricate, and complex. It is the process, the threading, the weaving, the loops, and even the “oops” that needs to be admired and loved as much as (if not even more so) than the “right” side.

51 responses to “The Wrong Side

  1. Beth – I love this post. I even saved the email of it in my “favorite emails” archive in Gmail. The point you make is so true and is a fabulous life lesson! We should celebrate the odd; find beauty in the imperfections. It reminds me of our friendships, too…it’s the funky, weird, different qualities about each of us all that are endearing! Love it; great post!

    • Thanks, Marty, for always giving feedback! I love the words that you used: funky, weird, odd, imperfections. (I’ll add quirky). You’re spot on.

  2. Amazing… well done on being freshly pressed.

    Maz x

  3. I love doing cross stitch. It to me is so relaxing no matter what is on both sides! Thanks for sharing.

  4. << …. and even the 'oops', that needs to be admired and loved.
    Here's to wrong sides, the closer look and every oops.
    What a wonderful post!

  5. This makes me smile and reminds me of something I had to share from an anonymous author. Thanks friend!

    My life is but a weaving
    Between my Lord and me:
    I cannot choose the colors
    He works on steadily.

    Ofttimes He weaves sorrow
    And I in foolish pride,
    Forget that He sees the upper,
    And I the under side.

    Not till the loom is silent
    And the shuttles cease to fly,
    Shall God unroll the canvas
    And then explain the reason why.

    The dark threads are as needful
    In the Weaver’s hand,
    As the threads of gold and sliver
    In the pattern He has planned.

  6. This is a great life lesson it’s the side no one wants to see but that’s me I love this post I have a blog maybe you could give me some advice it’s

  7. I’ve been really noticing it in my knitting, especially when I do cables, as they create such neat voids.

  8. Superb metaphor, and ain’t it the truth. Frankly, I’ve always been more intrigued by the behind-the-scenes stuff in life, anyway. Knowing the backstory, the journey that led up to the masterpiece that is a person is the real fun. The best part of falling in love is sharing our pasts and hearing, “No kidding? Me, too!” Such beautiful tangles.

  9. A great visual metaphor (I am only slightly ashamed of stealing) of the flip-side we hide…

  10. well the only thing I can say is that when my sister does cross-stitch the front and back look nearly exactly the same. I have no idea how she does it

  11. I’ve recently gotten into cross stitching, and I find myself being drawn to the reverse sides too! Lovely post. πŸ™‚

  12. Pingback: sneaky peek… | this girl has knits

  13. What a great metaphor for people. So simple, yet perfect. Nicely done!

  14. I love your analogy, and admire the patience with which you came to it. Having tried to make a sampler for my first child of Winnie the Pooh from a kit that some sadist gave me. I crochet, sew, stamp, scrapbook and paint on occasion but cross-stitch required too much patience. What a great idea to do a tiny sachet instead of a dinner plate sized kids picture with endless amounts of Pooh-colored thread. πŸ™‚

    • I admire YOUR patience and skill with the crocheting, sewing, scrapbooking, and painting! I can hardly sit down long enough to do those.

  15. I love this! My mother used to cross stitch when she was my age. She has yet to pass down the knowledge to me but I think it would be a lovely thing to learn from her – it must be great for you and your mother to share such a creative hobby!

  16. I’ve always admired people who can love their crafts and works of art for the process, even the imperfections, without focusing so much on one perfect end result. My favorite craft is knitting, which works so much differently when it comes to wrong sides. I guess you could say that the wrong side a well-done piece of knitting doesn’t tell a story, it whispers out the details to those who already know the plot.

  17. such a simple yet profound post – to enjoy and celebrate our inner messes and find the goodness it has that reveals to the outer world. loved it. congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  18. I actually taught myself to cross stitch and made as my first project a bride and groom for a friend. Only afterwards did I realize I had done it wrong (not double-threaded and stitches going this way and that on the “wrong” side) but she appreciated it, all the same.

  19. As a lesson for life…this is a good one, I agree completely πŸ™‚
    I do have to say, however that the backs of my cross stitch projects are almost as neat as the front…perhaps that is why my oddness manifests in other ways…

    • I’m not sure I realized it was even possible to have a the back of the cross stitch be so neat!! I love when oddness manifests in many and random ways.

  20. I adore this post; it resonates. I entered an art contest last year for a visiti nurse and hospice organization. I am completely, an amateur artist. It was a significant day, full of hardship and reality. However, the watercolor I entered finally won, I won! The hospice organization selected my work not for the original but for the the reverse side! They used the colors that had bled through the paper to print on t-shirts and bookmarks, etc. for their fundraiser. It is good, to turn things over and examine the beauty of the underside. Here’s a link to the blog entry that shows the “right” side up and the “winning” underbelly.

  21. Loved the post and your positive attitude too…!!!

  22. I love this so, so much. Especially the way the phrase “wrong side” rings in my brain; that messy, imperfect, work-in-progress inside of ourselves is often something that we think of as “wrong” or “ugly” or in need of fixing. But you’ve plucked this incredibly profound truth out of the embroidery–that the “wrong” sides of us are beautiful, too.

  23. I love this metaphorically, but also as a fellow cross-stitcher whose own mother pushes for the clean reverse side. Mine never are…because I’m always in a hurry just to get it done. Ha!

  24. Editor-in-Chief: Carrie B

    I love this so much. I run a community website that I thought would really enjoy this. I hope you don’t mind that I shared this-I asked readers to “like” the article on your page to thank you!

  25. It is quite impressive how simple things as such can explain and demonstrate the complexity of life..

  26. I really like the analogy you made about life and cross stitching. To tell you frankly, I also like the “wrong” side better because it shows the real beauty of a someone or something.

  27. Loved the application to internal “tangled mess” and the external mask we try to keep up. I just wrote about another aspect of this having to do with how we affect others with our “sewing”:

    • What a great post and how applicable. I love the question “What color and texture of thread have you woven in another life today, this week, this year?” Thank you for sharing!

  28. My grandmother’s cross-stitched pieces were always just as gorgeous on the back as the front. I like that you looked at a side that most people never even think about…makes me want to break out the aida cloth and start another project.

  29. What a lovely post. I found you on ‘freshly pressed’ and will be following you from now on for your little ‘philosophical nuggets’. x

  30. I love the reverse side the best…that’s true living. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  31. Amazing!!! love it!!

  32. Very cool post. Certainly something to take to heart.

  33. i love how you compared the “wrong” side to our lives. I cant tell you enough how inspiring that last part was. keep it up!

  34. Pingback: Cross Stitching (A Little Help?) | Atlantamomofthree

  35. The irony that I like this when my blog is called “The Write Side of Life” is not lost on me. However, cheers to the wrong side! I love this! πŸ™‚

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