The Life of a Thread
Expressive 1010 2nd Place
Professor: Julia Combs
I pull the thread up for Tyler. I pull the thread down for Alyssa. I cross for John. I look down and see Kelli. The thread doesn’t mind the pulling. She understands. She allows my fingers to stretch her across long inches of canvas. I drift her in and out of the slight slits in the fabric. She emerges from one opening to create another. At last, the shape has been made. The people’s voices are emerging. Every hue is a face; every shade a memory.
My family always thought my hobby was odd. What teenager spends her day sewing? But I don’t sew; I cross-stitch. I stitch together pieces of my soul. I create images with my hands. With each piece of thread, I stitch a person and a memory. Usually I stitch birth announcements, but today I am making something different.
It all starts with a piece of blue thread. This small string smiles at me, and I smile at him. I have a story. He has a story, so I help him speak. I thread him through our pen, the needle. We begin to write. Our tale starts on a soft piece of fabric canvas. The canvas is a soft cloth with sporadic holes placed in the material. My thread and I make the slow up and down motions through the holes. We start at the bottom right corner, and then we glide over to the top left corner. He enters the second opening, and I pull him through. Now we have made a diagonal stitch. Our work isn’t done yet. I pull him up through the bottom left corner, and he enters the top right slit. Finally, our “X” shape is made. The blue thread radiates against the pale canvas. It reminds me of Tyler.
Tyler was the first person I ever lost. He was the first person I ever knew who died. I was eight, and he was crippled. I only saw him at school, but he had such a radiant smile. We passed one another in the hallway sometimes. Our souls recognized each other. I look at my thread, and my thread looks at me. This blue “X” will be for Tyler. The funny thing about cross-stitching is that it’s made up of small “X’s”; they don’t seem to be much at first, but the image gets clearer the more I add. It’s a lot like my soul. The more memories I add, the clearer I see myself. Tyler was my first stitch, and my most favorite one. He passed away quietly one night, but his spirit is with me every day.
I pick my next thread: pink. The thread is subtle but beautiful. She smiles at me, and I smile back. I start to guide her in and out of the little holes on the cloth. She is so elegant when we stitch together. We have made a lot of “X’s”. Now there is an entire section full of perfectly stitched lines. They don’t look like “X’s” anymore. This pink thread reminds me of Alyssa. Alyssa was the most elegant dribbler I had ever seen. I played basketball with her for years. When she ran down the court, I could barely see the ball touch the floor. She was like my older sister. She thought I was sweet and full of laughter. Alyssa made me see myself; she made me like what I saw. We worked together as a team at every game. The car accident occurred on Saturday. I heard about her death on Sunday. Alyssa is a culmination of all my pretty stitches.
The brown thread starts to become restless. He likes to be heard. I laugh at him, and he laughs at me. He is rougher than other threads I’ve used. We start making our stitches. The thread is clumsy, but he makes me giggle. His “X’s” aren’t perfect, but they look so unique. I like him. When we weave in and out of openings, he is stubborn. Brown threads don’t like to be told what to do. He reminds me of John. John was my grandfather. He was funny and full of life, but I never knew him. He died long before I was ever born, but I recognize his spirit. Every now and then, I think he’s with me. John is all my stitches I wish I had made.
My work is finished. The “X’s” on the cloth look at me. They are no longer “X’s”; they are a face. This face I don’t know, but the warmth it gives is unforgettable. The face has radiant blue eyes, beautiful pink lips, and dark brown hair. This face has always been with me. This face belongs to a woman who gave me the gift of stitch. Her name is Kelli. She made me my first cross-stitch. It has hung in my room my entire life. The cross-stitch has my name and my birth date. Kelli couldn’t have children. She always wanted to be a mom. Instead, she decided to make cross-stitched birth announcements to expecting mothers. I was one of the babies she made an announcement for. She put a little of herself in that cross-stitch. Every time I look at my little cloth, I feel the love she put into her gift. Now I put that same love into the birth announcements I stitch. I put a little of Kelli into them, too.
Stitching is more than just sewing. Stitching is putting a little bit of myself into the canvas. I share my memories with the thread. The thread helps me create my soul; the thread helps me remember. I pull the thread up for Tyler. I pull the thread down for Alyssa. I cross for John. I look down and see Kelli; and if I am lucky, Kelli sees me.