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A Tea Towel for a Friend

A friend of mine, David Schexnayder, recently created a handmade tea towel from cross-stich. It was so impressive that I asked him if I could interview him for my blog and he obliged. Below are step by step pictures of his work in progress finalized by his completion and interview.

1. What is this called, cross stich or crochet? Have you ever done this before?

 It is called cross-stitch, and no, I hadn't done it before until the pastor of the church I attended in Seattle introduced me to it. She felt I might enjoy it and I turned out to be very inventive.

2. What prompted you to go to so much trouble to make this for your friend?

When I found out how popular they are with people I decided I could get more serious with it, for a few weeks I barely touched it and worked on the first one on and off. I stopped following the pattern I was using and began to design my own, and after that I couldn't put it down. The first tea towel took almost a year to complete but I learned more from figuring it out on my own than I would have by following someone else's pattern.

3. How did you learn how to do this and how long did it take you?

The pastor of the church had been doing all manner of arts and crafts since childhood and I told her I used to crochet when I lived in Alaska when I was 8 or 9. She asked me to help her knit wool hats for the homeless and after my third hat I became a regular at her knitting sessions. Other people saw me working with her and joined in and we produced dozens of hats that year. It took about an hour to re-learn the technique for crocheting. Making the tea towel took much longer because I had no one to really instruct me, I just picked up tips on my own.

4. Was it frustrating creating this tea cloth? If so, what was frustrating about it? If not, what was so fun and easy about it?

The only thing frustrating about the tea towel was looking at what others could make and knowing I didn't have that kind of skill. Some of the patterns I saw looked like paintings when they were finished, but those people had been doing this for decades and had much better equipment than I, as well as real talent. I was only frustrated in that what I produced never looks exactly as it appeared in my mind's eye.

5. Would you recommend this type of project in the future? Better yet, will you be creating another tea cloth in the future?

 I would recommend this type of thing to anyone with patience and a good eye, and I've started on my third and fourth towels now. I create my own designs now and try to work on it every day, but it is many months' worth of work. I've become a perfectionist and agonize over even a single strand of thread being the right color or being in exactly the right spot. You could examine my work with a magnifying glass and wonder, "Gee, was it really necessary to devote 10 minutes to put a 1-inch strand of thread through 3 holes?!?!" It is much easier now but I am still limited in skill, not imagination.

6. It really is intriguing that you would take the time and the effort to create this for your friend. Did you grow up watching your mother or grandmother sew?

The reason I put so much time and effort into the first two were because the people they went to are very important to me. One was a high school friend who I got back in touch with through Facebook, and who appreciates little things like that, not store-bought gifts. The second one was for the pastor who introduced me to the hobby in the first place, she is getting married this year and I wanted to make something special and individual to commemorate the occasion. She ONLY likes hand-made gifts and there was nothing better to give her than something that reflected how happy I was for her big day. I worked for 2 months and 2 days to finish her towel in time for Valentine's Day and I think she appreciates what it took to create it. The one I'm working on now is for a friend who likes gargoyles, so I had to learn what one looks like first and then started doodling patterns. Here's what it looks like today, it should be finished by August:

I hope you found David's tea towels and interview as heartwarming and humbling as I did. If you ask me, there's just not enough tea towels in the world. Let's get out and create!

unFashionably Early,


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