Beginner’s Mind

Well, so much for posting more often. I missed the entire month of July! It was kind of tedious actually so you didn’t miss much. Hot, dry, no sewing, a lot of reading digital books on my iPad from the library, hardly any social media participation at all. I did go for more x-rays on my foot and a visit with the foot specialist clinic. I saw 2 doctors, a physiotherapist and a pedorthist and I have to go back for more x-rays and the doc again later this week. It’s been nearly 6 weeks since The Misstep and it has cost me over $800 in equipment purchases including Francine the Boot, Harley the knee scooter (which I no longer need), heel lifts, a carbon fibre sole plate, rocker-soled running shoes and a pair of walking poles. The only items I didn’t have to pay for are the crutches which I couldn’t use anyway! At least here in British Columbia I don’t have to pay for the Emergency treatment, x-rays or the clinic appointments which are paid for by my provincial medical insurance. I guess things could be worse, huh?

Anyway, I do love my poles and I plan to use them even after my foot has healed. They give me a lot more stability on our uneven sidewalks and trails and also exercise more of my upper body. Here I am with them and wearing my Blundstone boots for the first time post-break, with the stiff plate inside to restrict my foot bending too much.

Finally got the Blunnies on!

I was so happy that I managed to walk all the way to the farmers market, a 3 kilometre round trip! I’ve also been walking some in my expensive running shoes but I usually need to rest my foot later in the day and am still sleeping with Francine. (Ugh. So much fun in the heat!) The Hoka shoes have really thick soles which, when worn on my good left foot, helps balance the height of The Boot so I don’t need any other compensation.

Hoka One One Bondi 7 in black, of course.

I’m not a huge fan of running shoes but these are reasonably acceptable. At least they don’t have ugly logos and white soles. I really hate white-soled shoes! They aren’t as comfortable on my princess feet as one might suppose however. Even though these are wide width, they pinch my baby toes a little but at the same time the heel counter is too loose. I ended up tying a heel lock with the laces (also called a runner’s tie or lock lacing) which helps. My foot still hurts somewhat on and off so I’m being careful while still exercising it and yet trying to get back a little closer to normal function. I’ll find out where we’re at when I see the doctor again on Friday.

So enough about the foot! What else can I tell you? Oh yeah, Beginner Mind. I’ve been trying to learn how to do punch needle embroidery. In all my years of playing with thread/yarn/string doing every craft technique I could get my hands on, I’ve never tried punch needle. Probably because I didn’t want to make twee little pictures that hang on the wall! However recently I saw a few examples that seemed more attractive to me, perhaps to make a pillow or bag or something similar. I didn’t want to pay a huge amount of money for a punch needle tool just in case I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t want a really cheap one that would be frustrating to use. So I compromised with a medium-priced Rico Designs adjustable needle from my local shop, Maiwa Handprints. I had to make a large enough order from them anyway that I could get free shipping since I can’t walk to the store yet to pick things up so I just added the needle in to that. I wasn’t about to buy anything else for this new craft so I just raided the stash for fabric, hoop and threads to try.

Hah! It’s harder than I expected! Even though the theory is really simple, just poke-poke-poke, there are details that aren’t immediately obvious. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I modified my cheap embroidery hoop by wrapping bias tape around it so the fabric wouldn’t slip. The fabric was a scrap of linen-like mystery stuff with a fairly coarse weave but it’s just barely coarse enough to allow the largest needle tip to pierce it. I experimented with threads and tips. It’s finally getting a little easier and I’m making less “bloops”.

Needle punch embroidery with the good side up.

But you work from the back side of the cloth.

Working side up with all my wonky stitches!

It takes practice! Which is where the Beginner’s Mind comes in. You can see where I started with loops way too far apart and very wobbly. Closer together looks much better and each different combination of thread type and needle tip size needs different spacing too. I learned to make my outlines really close so they show up better. Every time you change a colour or run out of thread you have to use a long wire threader to re-thread the needle. I also played with loop heights for different effects. It’s like a really teensy hooked rug!

Speaking of which, rug hooking is something I have done in the past and I really enjoy and we definitely use the few rugs I’ve made. There is a larger version of punch needle where you can use a much bigger tool and bulky yarns or wool strips to make rugs that look very similar to rug hooking. The difference is that instead of pulling up loops with a hook from the front, you’re poking them in from back of the cloth. Again you need a frame or hoop to hold the fabric taut while you work. Thom and I have been going to make a proper frame with gripper strips for years but it never happened. Yet. I even have a 40″ length of gripper strip which turned out not to be enough for what I wanted. I may be ready now to buy another length and get to it. I have all the other equipment and I need a new rug or two for our bedroom (and I don’t want to weave them) so why not? Maybe working teensy has inspired me to re-assess my options? We’ll see.

Meanwhile I just plan to play some more with my wee practice piece, leaving most of the mistakes in so I can see any progress I make in technique. Incidentally it’s really easy (almost too easy!) to frog punch needle. Just pull the thread out. Zzziiipppp… Scrape over the holes in the cloth with your fingernail or the tip of the needle and go again. Surprisingly I haven’t been tempted to buy any books on punch needle embroidery. I’ve made do with online info and experimenting on my own. I would always want to use my own designs anyway. It’s not hard to draw on the back of the fabric with a pencil. And then it’s just a matter of colouring it in with loops. I do like the look of pile areas with plain fabric areas showing as well so I might try a project using that.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Mind”

  1. Glad to hear the foot is finally getting good enough that you can walk again!! I’ve been told walking poles are really good tools & thought about getting some myself so I’ll be keeping up with you about them. As to needle punch – wow – the tool has become high tech!! I got one back in the 70s at the PNE, looked like an egg beater with an old sewing machine foot. It actually walked across the fabric & punched itself through as you turned the ‘beater’ handle. We made a big frame with finishing nails on all four sides & pressed feed sacking over the nails to make a firm back to walk it on. I made several small rugs before deciding I preferred my Granny’s method of crochet hook pulling yarn from the back to the front & holding the fabric with a big hoop. Like you, I’m not into twee anything & in the end enjoyed the rugs I made but went back to braded ones . . . . Get well soon. Enjoy your new/old craft.

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    1. Thanks for the get well thoughts, Sharon! I went for x-rays today and a (hopefully final) check-up tomorrow so we’ll see how it’s doing then. Fingers crossed! Oh, I remember those eggbeater punch needles! There’s actually an electric version if you can believe it. They work really fast! But very pricey. I too like the regular hooked rugs and will probably start one when I get a proper frame made. I have a big hoop that I’ve used before but the frame is easier to use. Gripper strips are a little less lethal than your nails! More like short fine wool card teeth in a rubber backing that you staple on to the wooden frame. I might get a larger punch needle for wool yarn too to try just for fun. I would be interesting to see which technique is better on my hands and wrists. We shall see!

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  2. I empathize with your foot issues and applaud your perseverance! My trekking poles are my lifeline since a virus knocked out my left vestibular nerve 2 years ago. I would not be able to enjoy our trails through the woods without them.
    Good luck with your punch needle explorations. I did some of that many years ago. Right now I have an itch to get some sewing done, both hand stitching & machine.

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    1. Thanks, Valerie! Yes the poles are great for giving one a lot more confidence. Even the city sidewalks around here are awful! Have fun with your sewing. I’m sure I’ll find my “sewjo” again soon too!

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