Last weekend I picked up Henry and had a go at Catherine Howard’s hat. She’s the one on the right. I have been avoiding the hat, as it is fiddly. And stitching brown thread is boring. But it will look good when it’s finished. It’s purple on top. With a feathered plume. After twenty minutes of happy stitching, I realised I was using the wrong colour. The symbol for colour I was using was a sideways ‘M’, when I needed to be using the upright ‘M’. So I dutifully unpicked it all, got the right colour out, and started again. And then I realised the last colour I’d done was wrong too. So I stopped. I need to decide whether to unpick the last thread, or just sew the two different coloured browns the wrong way around. I put it away.
A friend once told me her mum always said: ‘unpicking is progress too’. Which is true, and when you think about it like that it’s less painful. But still painful.
My Les Murray chapter started to come together today, very nicely. I realised the reason I had been stalling on it was the amount of unpicking required. I finished this chapter in a long night of rainbow-coloured fish, quite some time ago. My supervisors were very keen for me to produce a whole chapter, with arguments that built up, rather than just a collection of ‘oh look he’s referencing the Middle Ages’ fragments. So I poured my all into it, and stiched it together, and forced it a bit. And they were pleased with it. They said yes, you’ve finally got it now. And I was happy, and I knew I could go on and write my next chapter with no problems at all, and I did, and they loved it first time.
But when I reread my Murray chapter at the end of last year, I was horrified. It was filled with grand statements that I didn’t really back up. It didn’t engage terribly well with secondary sources. It was awkward and naive. Ugh. Not all of it – some of it’s quite nice. But it kept glossing over really interesting things, rather than exploring them.
All it has needed is some unpicking. Some loosening of threads, to fit in some more details, some cleverer observations. And it’s been nice. Quiet, gentle, slow. Because this kind of attention is slow. But I think I will like it by the time I’ve finished it.
PS. To see the cross-stitch in larger than life detail, click on it twice, and zoom around. It’s pretty cool.