On “The Cruellest Month”

April was a month of surprises. I will not write about this momentous climacteric that we are living through but about my quiet stitching adventures. My April kantha stitch sampler will remain a personal memento of this time while the world we live in and on will apparently alter irrevocably because of COVID-19.

Kantha sampler for April 2020 (22 x 41 cm; 8.5 x 16″)

Unlike the samplers I stitched to mark January, February and March of this year, this one has insisted on being given the name of Twenty-One. It does feel a bit like a ‘coming of age’ piece, but that is not the reason for the 21 stitched circles. The number became significant when, on 27 March, a 21-day lockdown was instituted in South Africa. Then, on day 14, this was extended to 35 days, thus returning us to the beginning of another 21 day period. So I decided to stitch a circle to mark each of the 21 days until the end of lockdown.

As mentioned before, kantha has three main stitch variations — bricking, blocking, and steppping. Because I did not want each circle to be the same (even though the days at home had begun to feel that each was the same as the one before) I had to find ways to vary the effect. That was fun — one can vary the stitch length and change the orientation of the stitching from circular, to horizontal, to vertical, and even to sideways! I used a metallic thread for the central block in order to mark it and then surrounded it by four traditional “stepped” kantha circles which make a whorl. But even these did not turn out exactly the same. That is the joy of hand stitching — it is mostly always unique and therefore full of surprises.

“April is the cruellest month” is the opening line of the first section of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land. The section is (uncannily) titled I. The Burial of the Dead

19 thoughts on “On “The Cruellest Month”

  1. I think Twenty One is the perfect name for that amazing piece. I am afraid for you to see my fake kantha stitching on my piece in progress, Seattle Scrappy – ha! You are such a talented stitcher! I am glad you have this lovely memento of making it through a “cruel” month.

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  2. It’s amazing what varied effects you achieved with a simple running stitch, Mariss! A beautiful memento produced in this desperate time.

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  3. I know how you feel with days that are too much the same, although I believe our lockdown in the Netherlands is less strict than yours. Lovely way to represent this weird period.

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  4. 21 is such an appropriate sampler for April. What a good way to document this strange year! I need to get some more hand stitching projects organized. I find them so calming.

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  5. Amazing how such a basic stitch can be used to such creative and complex effect. The lockdown is extraordinary and stitching must be therapeutic and calming during such a period of uncertainty,

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  6. This is a perfect expression of the strange times we are living through. Using simple basic exercises that subtly change each time we do them – much like the days now spent doing simple tasks that are somehow changed by the circumstances we are living in.

    Here in the UK we are still in a fairly strict lockdown; but the beautiful blossoming spring and and the lengthening days make us thankful for the time we can spend enjoying the simple basic things.

    This piece of stitching is demonstrates accepting what we can do and doing it with as much grace as we can manage. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

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    1. Thank you Janet for your kind words and apt comparison between stitching exercises and these strange days.

      Our prescriptive lockdown has eased a little so that we can now at least go walking and enjoy the autumnal air in this part of the world. Happy spring days to you.

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