Sunday, January 22, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project - January

During January, I embroidered a 12" x 12" image that will become part of a quilt at the end of the year. Each month, as part of the Embroidery Journal Project 2012, I'll be doing an embroidery square that has images that reflect something significant that happened during the month.

This month, by far, the most significant happening was my father's death on January 5th. He died one day shy of his 80th birthday.

In May 2009, he was diagnosed with middle-stage Alzheimer's Disease. This is an unbelieveably cruel disease that not only robs one's mind, but one's body. To see the effects of it during the past 2 1/2 years (particularly during the last six months of my dad's life) was devastating and incredibly sad.

However, despite the grasp the disease had on my dad and the effects it had on his speech and communication skills; ability to do basic living functions - like eating and walking...Sophia ,Olivia, and I still enjoyed visiting my dad and trying to find things that he would enjoy doing.

Girls with Dad-Papa
Dad (the girls' "Papa") dancing down the hallway
at the nursing home.
(Photo taken on October 15, 2011.)

Up until the middle of December when he closed his eyes for the majority of each day, he still liked looking at the birds, looking at photographs, and - most important - just holding hands and knowing that we were there for him.


The image I embroidered is a compilation of different elements:

- the heart, swirls, butterfly, and leaves are from an image that I found on the internet.

- the dove was another image that I re-sized and then inserted in place of a matching butterfly on the left-hand side of the heart.

- the hands are traced from a photograph I took of my dad's hand in mine as I sat by his bedside on January 2nd (the image of the hands are re-sized on the computer so they would fit inside the heart).

- the crosses are traced from a photograph that I took of my dad's casket that was made by the Trappist Monks who live at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa. On the top, there was a wooden cross that was cut out from it and given to my mom so she could have it and remember my dad by it.

January embroidered square
for the Embroidery Journal Project.

The dove and butterfly are symbolic for two reasons:

(1) These were images placed by my dad's door at St. Therese (nursing home) when he was in the process of dying and had died. The butterfly was to let the staff know that the resident is dying and to be more quiet around the person's room. The dove replaced the butterfly when my dad died.

(2) Butterflies represent several things: transition, resurrection, time, and soul. According to the Delta Hospice Society, "The butterfly symbolizes the transition between life and death. The caterpillar forms its cocoon and prepares to leave life as he knows it, to become a lovely butterfly."

When I read a bit about doves, a website said that a dove " a symbol of the soul's sojourn after physical life has retired. Slavic legend claims the dove is a symbol of the soul's release from earth-bound duty."

The butterfly and dove were important symbols this month.

The swirls and leaves remind me of the colorful flowers that my dad enjoyed growing. When I was younger (elementary-school age), I remember seeing lots of African violets growing in the house. In the first house I grew up in, he had a multi-level shelving unit with lights where he grew the violets.

When we moved to the house that he and my mom lived in for over 37 years, he planted annuals and perennials in multiple gardens and containers.

Dad with Flowers
My dad on May 17, 2011.
We picked out flowers at the Farmer's Market and
then I planted them in containers for him.
He filled the water pitcher and watered each container.

During the last couple years of his life, he took great pride in having beautiful flowers along the front walkway - ones that he could enjoy from the front window he would look out at each day, especially as his ability to walk on his own diminished and his world became smaller. The flowers and birds were things he could see from his window which brought him great joy.

Peach Flower
 One of the many beautiful flowers that my dad grew
during the summer. This was taken in Summer 2011.

I put the two crosses in the design because my dad was a deacon for over 15 years. When he was younger, he was going to become a priest, but then decided not to pursue that calling. Instead, he obtained his Masters in Social Work and was only a few hours short of getting his doctorate in Social Work.

He chose to work in the public school system as a school social worker - first with junior high youth and then senior high schoolers. While he was at the senior high, he pursued the original calling he had to go into ministry work. So, my dad and mom went through several years of training so he could become a deacon.

Religious Life Board
One of the display boards I made in January
about my dad's religious life.
Many of the pictures are from his ordination and
work in serving others through the church.

 In that role, he baptized over 700 babies (703 to be exact);  presided over marriages and funerals; and ran a program for seniors. He reached people of all ages..and ministered to families in times of happiness and sadness.

Hands representing support
enclosed in a heart symbolizing love.

Although the hands that I embroidered are my dad's and my own...they also symbolize the support and help he provided to countless people through his work/career, volunteering, and church.


As for the embroidery, I chose to use only one stitch for this piece - the backstitch - because I wanted the focus to be more on the image than on using a variety of stitches.

At this point, my knowledge of embroidery stitches is quite limited (straight, back, blanket/buttonhole, and feather). I am concurrently doing the Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) challenge in which I'm learning a new stitch each week (this past week was the feather stitch). Hopefully, I'll be able to incorporate some of these new stitches into future designs for the Embroidery Journal Project.

All the floss used is 100% cotton. The fabric, likewise, is 100% cotton in white with a subtle white-leaf print. At this point, I plan to use the same fabric for all 12 squares.

The other squares in the quilt will use fabric that I have on hand. With the exception of batting, all the fabric and floss used will be from what I have on hand rather than purchasing anything new.


Jill said...

My sincere condolences for your Father's passing. What a beautiful embroidered piece with such meaning - I never knew that about the butterfly and dove as symbols - this post is a lovely celebration of the life of a clearly remarkable man.

Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
Hope you have a fabulous week!
Jill @ Creating my way to Success

Fairy Tale Mama said...

What a beautiful remembrance. Thanks for sharing the story behind the block. I look forward to seeing the finished project at the end of the year.

Trece said...

I was so very sorry to learn of your father's passing; may light perpetual shine upon him.
You have made many fine tributes to your dad on these pages. It is clear how very much you love and miss him.

Rita said...

This is a beautiful memorial piece. I love how you put everything together and why. Lovely! :)

Connie said...

ingerI am sorry to hear of your father, such a sad time for you.
Your embroidery is beautiful - a lovely first piece for your quilt. Connie, UK

Connie said...

I don't know why the word verification appeared at the start of my comment above - sorry about that! Connie.

Carol L McKenna said...

Very creative tribute to honor your Dad ~ the post ~ the embroidery ~ and healing hugs to you ~ not easy seeing our loved ones pass on and leave ~ Know that he is 'watching over you' like never before ~namaste, carol (Share the Creative Journey) linked w/ CED

pauline said...

that photo of your dad with the girls is so precious...

i'm sorry for your loss. I can feel your love for him through your words & your creative work. What a wonderful tribute to him... xoxo

Tracey Fletcher KIng said...

such a touching and thoughtful tribute and this will be such a comfort to the whole family as a piece that represents all the wonderful things you have shared with your father... a wonderful post and thanks for sharing it...xx

giddy up said...

What a lovely post about your father, he sounded like such a wonderful man and had a wonderful life. Thanks for sharing... visiting from CED...

lacer said...

What a lovely piece and so meaningful. I'm sorry to hear about your dad, he sounded like he was a great man.