“The metaphor of six coloured hats – white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue – is used to align the thinkers or members of the discussion so that they are all looking the same direction at any one time. […] The hats provide an alternative to argument. The hats allow joint exploration of a subject.”
– Edward de Bono, How to Have a Beautiful Mind
Below is a transcribed series of conversations between me and my mentor, featuring an analysis using the concept of the six hats.
Michelle: Your embroidery is exceptional Grace I was so blown away!
Grace: Thank you so much!
Michelle: Yeah no it really is something else. Do you find that you like to embroider? Do you find it enjoyable?
Grace: Of course! I love it so much because it’s so calming and sometimes I just have like an audiobook or some music playing in the background and I can just take some time to myself and relax; it’s really calming and fun figuring out all the stitches and how I’m going to fill everything in!
This portion of my conversation with my mentor showcases the red hat in action. By asking me about my personal opinion towards embroidery, Michelle is inviting “the expression of feelings, emotions, and intuition without any need to give the reasons behind the feelings” (105).
Michelle: That’s wonderful! I was just going to share my screen in a bit to show you some examples of embroidering words. I’ve started embroidering some words to show you… Here’s my name. I’ve always just done a stem stitch when I do my embroidery. […] That’s all I’ve ever done. Then when I started researching it and looking for a video or something that might be easier for you to follow I realized, “Wow there’s so many amazing things you can do!”
Here, Michelle is using her blue hat to organize and control the process of the meeting by “defining the focus” (101). In this case, this focus is embroidering words.
Michelle: If it’s okay with you I’m going to go see if I can share my screen and see if I can get on to the site. Can you see that?
Michelle: This is what I was looking at. […] So basically, I know there’s a multitude of different stitches you can use when you’re writing. But the first thing you want to do is actually write whatever the word is. I do a lot of names so whenever I personalize something I put the baby’s name or somebody’s name so that’s the blue there written with the erasable pen. I think I gave it to you in a pencil form, but mine’s more like a felt; for whatever reason, they always come in blue and they’re erasable with a little bit of water. So, as I said, I have always done the stem stitch – this person here is going to show you three stitches. I want to show you these ones because they’re the three basics, but the other site I found just shows how you can take these stitches and really extend your imagination. The first one that they use here for the word “wonder” is a backstitch, which I use on occasion, but for whatever reason, I still go back to the stem stitch. So the backstitch, which I know you’re familiar with, gives you this kind of look for your letter.
Michelle has her white hat on as she continues to give me information on the best stitches to embroider letters with. She also gives me tips that will help me when I am trying these techniques out for myself. For instance, she reminds me to shorten my stitches when I am working with curves and to always embroider letters in one direction.
Once she is finished giving me all of this valuable information, Michelle puts on her blue hat to once again redirect the focus of the meeting. She gives me autonomy in my own learning, asking, “Do you have any more questions? Is there anything else I can send you or anything that you need from me?”
Grace: I was thinking since spring break is coming up soon, maybe you could send me a pattern or two with animals so that I could try that out?
Michelle: That would be a great idea! I would love to see what cute creatures you come up with. Did I send you one on small animals? I can’t quite remember.
Here, Michelle is using her yellow hat to “focus on values, benefits, and how something could be done” (105). She does this by supporting my idea and then guiding me in the direction of embroidering small animals, which would be a suitable starting point.
Grace: I don’t think I received a pattern on small animals, but I can definitely double-check!
Michelle: Okay, I found a really cute one and I will see if I can find it again because I thought it was super cute! Oh no, I don’t think I did. Okay, I’ll find that for you, Grace, and send it off because it would be so cool to add them to your repertoire since you are definitely ready for that next level.
Here, Michelle and I put on our black hats as we think critically and focus on a potential setback. Luckily, we are able to resolve it quickly by taking a step back and practicing parallel thinking.
After some more conversation about potential patterns and the progress of my blog post, I put on my green hat and share a creative idea with my mentor. I also use my red hat here to highlight the emotional and personal significance of this idea.
Grace: I was thinking for Mother’s Day I would like to embroider the quote “you are my sunshine.” It comes from way back in kindergarten during Mother’s Day when all the kids in my class sang that song to our parents. My mom was just so touched by it and I wanted to embroider that little quote on a bag for her. I’m wondering if you could maybe teach me how to attach my embroidery to the bag sometime after spring break.
Michelle: That’s a wonderful idea! What kind of material is the bag?
Michelle once again uses her yellow hat to look for the value in my idea and define how it should work. We continue to use our yellow and black hats as we think critically about the steps we need to take to make my vision a reality.
At last, we put on our blue hats to bring the successful meeting to a close.
Michelle: I think you said we were going to meet again after spring break, is that correct? Or did you want to meet before?
Grace: It can be any time that works for you! I’m actually hoping to meet sometime during spring break – I’m not going anywhere this spring break, so anytime that you are available and willing, I would love to jump on a call!
Here, I am using my black hat to gently correct a misunderstanding, before once again putting on my blue hat.
Michelle: Alright! I’m very confident you’ll reach out to me and let me know when I need to do that and I’m not doing much of anything either so I’m pretty flexible.
Michelle finishes off the meeting by summarizing the contents and discussions with her blue hat.
Michelle: I’m very excited to see what you come up with! For your letters, you can even do your name in block letters if you want to be creative or just with a stem stitch like I do. It’s nice to learn how to embroider words. You might start with your name, or any word – it doesn’t have to be your name – and use whatever stitch you are drawn to just to learn the curves and how to regulate your stitches. You could also always do your own project just to see where your imagination takes you! I will send you the lettering and butterflies right away so that you can start working on those, and I’ll look for some more patterns on small animals too!
Since my last blog post, I have completed my first embroidery project using a pattern I designed. I mainly used the backstitch, blanket stitch, lazy daisy, woven spider wheel, and french knots. In my second original piece, I am focusing on maintaining a cohesive colour scheme, exploring more stitches, and creating an aesthetic composition. This generally refers to how the embroidery is laid out on the fabric, its general form, and how the stitches flow. I have also created an organization system for my embroidery thread with the helpful tips my mentor, Michelle, gave me. I am now working on bringing my second embroidery pattern to life, learning lettering, and embroidering butterflies.
I’m really pleased with what I have accomplished with the support and guidance of my mentor so far, and I cannot wait for the next chapter in my journey of learning embroidery with Michelle!
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