The Tuesday night group was the first, beginning with a few stitchers and gradually growing to the current group that fills the table and spills out into the rest of the room. Most of these women come in after working outside of the home all day, but several work at home, either as full-time moms or as self-employed entrepreneurs. They unwind, get rid of the stuff that builds up over the course of the day. So many conversations crossing and blending. And all the time, stitching. The "Ooh-Aah" times are great. Someone will stand up and start unfurling or unveiling her latest finish. Gasps, oohs and aahs, and applause follow. So much fun and support for each other. Consultations about whether a particular thread is working or should be replaced, whether a stitch is being done correctly, what's wrong and how can it be fixed. I've learned a lot just by listening to everything swirling around me. That is, when I get a chance to sit and stitch for a few minutes. There's also a lot of shopping going on some nights.
The Thursday morning group started in response to a request from a number of people for a daytime group. I can't remember how long it was, but I think it was at least for a year that the "group" consisted of me and Taryn, who came in from Bristow to stitch from 10:30 to noon, then eat lunch and head back in time to meet her kids after school. We had our favorite lunch from Jerry's Subs across the street. We were so regular, they recognized my voice and knew the order almost before I finished reciting it. Then other people started coming to join our intimate stitchfest. We now have the table filled and sometimes spilling out into the rest of the room. These are the women who keep their households running smoothly day in and day out. At times, they have been temporarily out of work, looking for a new job, and taking advantage of the opportunity to sit and stitch with a bunch of other stitchers. Sometimes there's a dose of healthy competition thrown in (who can finish a project first, with the inevitable result being Karla). And the finishes! EB brings in each wedding sampler as she finishes it, having set herself the task of completing nine crewel samplers for all of her grandchildren who are all in their 20s and will someday be getting married, she's sure. Karla puts us all to shame, seeming to bring in at least one or two finishes every week or so. They all finish much more than I do. I'm the queen of UFOs. Some things will be finished, but most of the things I start are destined to remain half-done.
An unexpected result of bringing all these women together, leading disparate lives, is the friendships that have sprung up and the consequent tremendous outpouring of support for the trials all of us experience from time to time. These women are fantastic! I feel so honored and blessed to have met them and to get to see them every week.
In the weeks since I announced that Scarlet Thread would be closing at the end of June, these women have worked diligently to find a place or places to continue meeting. It's wonderful and bittersweet. I was instrumental in getting these women together, and now the groups have taken on lives of their own and they're moving on, with or without me. Silly, I know, but I feel like a mother who's watching her children leave home. The house rules will no doubt change. The Tuesday night group will now have no one saying, "Okay, politics for 10 minutes, then that's it!" Boy, was the never-ending election season a tough one to get through without much commentary and discussion. But I prevailed! I have to admit, I sometimes was the one who broke the rule. I don't need to ask, how hard can it be to let go of these groups? It's incredibly hard!
If you don't have a stitching group like these, find one or start one! It's a marvelous thing. The stitching is the common thread that gives the group a focus. There's always that moment of silence that descends. That's when you know, everyone's counting, concentrating on the task in hand.
Saturday night was the annual Stitch N' Pitch event cosponsored by TNNA (The National Needlearts Assocation) and Major League Baseball, held at Nationals Park with the Washington Nationals hosting the Baltimore Orioles. I confess, I'm not a sports fan, so I had no problem sitting in the demonstration room, doing canvaswork and attempting to teach the occasional interested party how to do the continental stitch. Almost like the blind leading the blind, but I had slightly better eyesight.
It was fun catching up with my fellow members of MANRA, the Mid-Atlantic Needlework Retailers Association, which also includes local designers. This is a unique group in the world of local business. We all are competitors, but we organized for our mutual benefit. Anyone who has visited the needlework shops in the area knows each one has a different focus. There's overlap, of course, in the materials we sell, but that actually works to our advantage. If a customer needs a particular thread, fabric, embellishment, whatever, that I don't have and they can't wait for a special order, I can call one of the other shops that carries that product and get it from them.
TNNA was surprised when they first approached the metro DC region about the Stitch N' Pitch event. They didn't have to go hunt for all the shops and solicit volunteers. They had a ready-made group that was more than willing to join in this outreach effort. As far as I know, they still haven't encountered another group like ours anywhere else. (I could be wrong, but I prefer to think I'm right.)
Anyway, at the end of the third inning, the demonstration room was closed and we were free to watch the rest of the game, which was tied at that point. Don't ask me who won. I have no idea. My goal on leaving was to get a cheeseburger from Five Guys and go home. I think they were in the fifth or sixth inning by the time I got out of there. The most popular restaurant I encountered was Five Guys. The line was twice as long as at any of the other places I passed, and I had to go halfway around the stadium to get there. Since the line was so long, I struck up a conversation with the people around me, and eventually I had to admit that I wasn't there for the baseball but for the stitching. Of course, that prompted the woman I was behind to bring out the piece she was crocheting and add a few stitches to it. I'm not sure how impressed the two young men were who were behind us and had been talking with us. I think they were bemused.