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.
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.
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.