There is a saying my mentor shared with me that one is not a true embroiderer until they have bled on their work and made it their own. There is something about these handsewn imperfections that make the result more meaningful, more individual, more expressive, and somehow, more perfect.
Although I have only recently started this in-depth project in which I explore embroidery, I have made lots of progress thanks to my mentor, Michelle. In our first meeting, my mentor sparked a comprehensive discussion regarding my vision for this project, shared her personal experiences and love for the hobby, guided me as we made a plan for our mentorship, and taught me how to prepare fabric to work with. Her approach reflected “what [she] wished [she] had when learning embroidery,” and we have built the foundation for a strong relationship.
After the meeting, I prepared my cotton fabric according to Michelle’s instructions by handwashing it in warm water, hanging it to dry, and ironing it. Then, I practiced some of the stitches she had taught me with an embroidery hoop, including the running stitch, backstitch, split stitch, stem stitch, cross stitch, satin stitch, blanket stitch, woven spider wheel, feather stitch, herringbone stitch, lazy daisy, and french knot.
However, my vision for this project was not solely to learn embroidery but also to build a healthy mentorship and to develop a beautiful mind. How to Have a Beautiful Mind by Edward de Bono has been a helpful resource in working towards this goal. By reading the first three chapters before my first meeting with my mentor, I could connect my behaviour to the points stated in the book and assess whether I am “us[ing] my mind” in a way that “can be appreciated by others (2).”
Throughout these meetings, my mentor and I have been very respectful of each other’s ideas and perspectives. Because we are trying to “genuinely seek points of agreement,” we are able to explore subjects while adding on to each other’s contributions in the conversation, thereby broadening our own understanding (11). For instance, when my mentor was telling me about the best types of fabric to use when embroidering, she explained that 100% cotton fabric is most suitable because it is not as porous as other materials and maintains a slight stiffness with a little bit of weight that makes it ideal for beginners. Instead of interrupting my mentor as she was sharing this valuable information, I actively listened to what she was saying. When she finished, I agreed with her and added, “I actually went to Michaels over the winter break and got some 100% cotton fabric squares.” I proceeded to show her the texture and size of the fabric and politely asked for her insight.
Although my mentor and I have not yet encountered a situation where we disagree or differ, there was a situation where Michelle politely brought up a point I had not thought of that reflects some of the guidelines for disagreeing outlined in de Bono’s book. When I explained my plan of completing a few mini projects with the smallest embroidery hoop to practice stitches I have learned, my mentor replied, “That looks great! However, the medium-sized hoop may be better for these mini projects as it gives you more space to practice. The small one may be a little bit too small.” Here, both my mentor and I made an effort to see where the other person was coming from. In this situation, my mentor expressed her concern politely and gently, and, moreover, I did not respond to her constructive criticism by “disagree[ing] for the sake of disagreeing,” “to show clever[ness],” or “to boost [my] ego (26).” In fact, after listening to my mentor’s opinion and solution, I found that I agreed with her point. I expressed myself by saying “I hadn’t thought of that before! Thank you for bringing it up – I agree that the medium one will be better suited for the mini projects.”
By maintaining beautiful minds, Michelle and I have gotten through problems and setbacks we have experienced. For instance, I did not have a water soluble marking pen for transferring designs onto fabric, Michelle suggested looking at craft sections of stores or else using light coloured washable felt tip pens. I also asked about using light coloured pencil crayons, which Michelle thought would work, as stores seemed to be pretty busy at the time. By keeping our minds open and demonstrating critical and creative thinking, we were able to come up with a couple of potential solutions. In the end, my mentor found an extra water soluble pen and gave it to me, and I cannot thank her enough!
So far, I have deeply enjoyed practicing various embroidery stitches and learning from Michelle, for I could not have asked for a more genuinely caring, supportive mentor. I am really looking forward to experiencing the next chapter of this incredible journey!