On Distractedness

Although the word distractedness is “long rare” (OED), it aptly describes my present state. The choice this week was between not writing a post at all or publishing a failed piece of stitching. The stitching of my latest kantha sampler didn’t go smoothly and I think it was partly because of my distractedness and partly because of its subject matter (the COVID curve).

Kantha sampler for the month of July 2020. (19 x 29 cm; 7.5 x 11.5″)

The lesson learnt is to keep a careful check on the placing of the stitches when working along the concave side of a curved line, and also not to absent-mindedly reverse the direction of the stitches. This is why the stitching in the centre of the piece is messy and does not echo the pattern established by the plum coloured stitching. As noted before, a sampler is a learning device and does not need to be perfect. But if there were not six samplers that preceded this one I might have been tempted to put it into my scrap basket.

I will not write about the distressing coronavirus statistics. But there is an uncanny coincidence. It was mid-July when I started stitching the sampler and at that time the number of new daily cases stopped increasing and started to see-saw up to and below the highest recorded number. I tell you this to explain the other messy bit of stitching in the top right hand corner of the piece.

On a frivolous, but more cheerful, note here is a photograph of my current stitching project.

These African Hoopoe birds were stitched from a cross stitch pattern. Now I am filling in the background with tapestry wool and intend to turn it into a cushion cover once it is square. The monotonous green stitching is a bit painstaking, but is also a nice mindless activity as a salve to my distractedness!

Today I learnt that the word distraught is a variant spelling of distract. I had not realised it was such a strong word. For the record, the meaning that I had in mind was “diversion of attention from a particular object or course” and not “extreme perturbation of mind or feelings”.

A delightful diversion this past weekend was signing onto the Beyond the Festival of Quilts website to binge-watch the online lectures, and workshops, and to visit the virtual galleries of solo exhibitions and to view the competition quilts that had been entered. What a feast! Apart from the masterclasses, all these were offered for free. The site is still active.

22 thoughts on “On Distractedness

  1. I keep telling myself that I should not get involved in any sew alongs or whatnot, and just stitch what I want to, since that seems to calm my distracted mind. However, I get enticed and jump in, and then I have a difficult time staying focused on the task at hand and find myself wanting to do other fun things. I like both of your projects. The Covid Curve is a thoughtful piece, and you’ve learned from it. Good for you. Love the birds with their vibrant colors. Will be fun to see the finished cushion!

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    1. I think this pandemic has thrown us all off kilter. From reading your posts I would not have thought you were also distracted as you make so many lovely things. Maybe the answer is to find a balance between sew alongs and solo stitching. Right now I would love to do a class where I was told exactly what to do!
      Thanks for your kind comments about my work

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  2. Once again, I went to the site you recommended and ‘binge watched’ a few of the free videos from the virtual Festival of Quilts!
    Thank you!
    Your ‘distractedness’ is so relatable…I mistakenly attributed my ‘project paralysis’ as being my own ‘fault’…a type of lazyness and lack of focus. So I’ve been forcing myself towards mindfulness and getting back to my own sense of ‘perfection’ on one and only one project. It has turned into a delightful process and is nearing completion – only three more sides to handstitch the binding. And yes, it’s my daughter & sil’s African Wall Hanging project that has been thusly re-named: Bright Delight!
    Now, if I can only focus long enough to post something on the blog…HA!
    Feeling super connected across the waters…hang in there!

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    1. Ah, the connections. Have been pondering on the word focus as the opposite of distraction.
      It’s very clever of you to focus (ha) on one project. Love the name Bright Delight. Hope to see a photo of it soon.
      Glad you enjoyed the FoQ site. Hope is will inspire another perfect project. ❤️

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  3. Hi Maris,
    i know exactly what you mean by this feeling of distractedness when stitching Kantha – I feel the oddness of stitching one way and the rhythm making another movement really difficult, akin to rubbing your stomach and tapping your head – then changing hands , discombobulating; I have experienced 2 weeks of it now!

    But I tell myself that without this imperfection the work will not look as if it is -made by hand, heart and eye but by a machine….

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    1. Thank you for your generous response, Janet. Your Kantha stitching is so beautiful that I must confess I was surprised to read that you also sometimes get your lines crossed, as it were. Your phrase “made by hand, heart and eye” has a lovely, true ring to it.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this Mariss, and the connection between distraught and distract is interesting. In these times of crisis I find myself increasingly seeking distraction from being overwhelmed by focusing on small projects that absorb my attention so much so that it can be a shock to emerge back from them into the sad reality. We are all finding ways of trying to cope with the unprecedented situation that is evolving around us. I can see how stitching can be a comfort and a diversion from feeling sadly distracted. Take care and keep safe.

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    1. I always enjoy your interpretations, Carol. Overwhelmed is a good description of the feelings evoked by the harsh reality of the virus. Don’t you think that trying to escape from reality (through distraction, drugs, art, literature, stitching, walking, etc.) is not a new thing for us humans. It’s just that it it is much worse at the moment. A line from T.S. Eliot popped into my head : “human kind / Cannot bear very much reality” (from Burnt Norton in The Four Quartets (I looked it up!))

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      1. Yes, I suppose they are all distractions from reality in some way – although some could be seen as ways of addressing rather than escaping reality?
        What an apt and true quotation from Eliot. I used to love The Four Quartets, and of course Preludes and the Alfred Prufrock one (the full title escapes me now). I need to read them again – thanks for reminding me. When I was young and writing some poetry, it was T.S. Eliot who led to me stopping (writing poetry), as it dawned on me that I could never approach his brilliance, and so I suppose I was intimidated, and probably for the best!

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  5. Hi there M!

    There are areas of your sampler that i really like — and that remind me of wind and water patterns on beach sand.

    Yes — Covid is a turbulent current. Rattles our ordinary rhythms and long-held certainties. It may be here to stay — so guess we will have to live with it, while looking beyond it?

    The hoepoe birds are gorgeous—with their lively gleaming eyes!

    Love and light… A 💚

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  6. Even if the July piece didn’t exactly work out as you had hoped it does represent these crazy unpredictible times.
    You made me consider my own distractedness. I definitely was distracted in March before and in the beginning of our lockdown when it was unclear how things were developing and I worried that the situation in the Netherlands did not look good. During the lockdown I did start to create again though and much more often than I have been able to ever since I got pregnant back in 2016. It certainly helped me stay sane and I am happy that I’ve been able to keep it up so far. I am starting a lot of new projects though so I am not entirely focused on working on just a single item (but I suppose I’ve always been like that). Stuff does get finished too which brings a lot of joy.

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  7. Oh, and I forgot the quilt festival. Just had a quick look and thank you for the recommendation! I am going to browse through those quilts for a bit longer!

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    1. Thank you for your comments Emmely. It seems that this distractedness is a common feeling. Glad to hear that the lockdown has also given you some space and time to create. Also glad you found and liked the quilt festival site.

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  8. I love the birds – they are happy and bright! Okay put the Coronavirus curve stitching away and perhaps reimagine it as something else in the future? I did not realize that distract and distraught were related! Interesting!

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