Stitching for Sanity

I’ve been known to state that during any given week at work I’ll enjoy my job 4 days and on the fifth day want to either throw myself or somebody else off a building.

What I’m saying is from time to time things can be a bit stressful.

Additionally, one of the lesser known aspects of my job is being feted at dinners – and occasionally banquets – all over the world. In America that means you can look forward to a fantastic steak and high-priced cocktails. In Asia that means seafood and whores.

Yep. Whores.

Except I’m married, and monogamous. So I turn down a lot of whore offers (whoffers?). I’ve had clients scoff, laugh, and just shake their heads in disgust over this behavior. Mind you they all have wives at home. This is simply Asian business culture.

I’ve found it’s necessary to cultivate activities, hobbies, interests that can de-stress and entertain while you’re back at your hotel room in Saigon instead of slamming Ms. Nguyen at the massage parlor. Lately, for me that has been cross-stitching.

I know, right?

I’ll be the first to admit that cross-stitching is an odd choice for someone like me, but it does have a few things going for it:

  • medium and small pieces are extremely portable: they’re light, flexible, and can be worked on in one’s lap
  • the progress towards completion is measured stitch by stitch, providing a small but concrete sense of accomplishment at the end of each session
  • the simplicity of stitching, the slow pace, and the relaxed posture combine to relax both the mind and the body

Failure to Launch

Cross-stitching is big in China. Many years ago when my beloved ran a fashion boutique here in Shenyang I bought a cross-stitch kit on a whim. It featured 3 or 4, the details are already hazy, fashionable young ladies posing. My intent was to complete and present it to her as a gift for hanging in her store.

Never having stitched before, just getting started took forever. While not a large piece, it certainly wasn’t small. After several months I had made little headway and ended up abandoning the project entirely to my wife’s extreme annoyance. It wasn’t so much that she was disappointed about not getting the forepromised gift, but rather that she thought the entire idea to be stupid from the beginning and her predictions of failure proved correct.

In my biography it wouldn’t merit even a footnote, but to this day I still feel ashamed at having failed to deliver a present I started with such excitement and genuine love.


So, still wanting to cross-stitch after all these years and needing an effective way to de-stress from time to time that won’t leave me in line for a liver transplant, in July on a swing through Toronto I visited Gitta’s and kitted-up.

After a bit of browsing I decided to dive in with a kit called Winter Cardinals by Dimensions Needlecraft. It’s a medium-sized piece featuring a pair of one of my favorite birds, the Northern Cardinal.

Somewhere between 10 and 20 hours of work have gotten me this far. I don't really keep track. Even at this early stage, finishing by Christmas already seems unlikely... freaking pine trees man... SO MANY NEEDLES!
Somewhere between 10 and 20 hours of work have gotten me this far. I don’t really keep track. Even at this early stage, finishing by Christmas already seems unlikely… freaking pine trees man… SO MANY NEEDLES!

For five weeks now I’ve been working on it during business trips and, when I’m back at HQ, lunch breaks. Progress has been slow, but satisfying. I began by working on the female since this is intended as a gift to my wonderful wife. It’s pleasant to think about our years together while I slowly complete my X’s.

Having purchased it in July, I figured finishing by Christmas would be easy. But I’m still a stitching greenhorn and also never work on the piece at home. I’d rather not deal with the criticism that revealing another attempt would engender. Beloved Wife doesn’t visit DJ, so I can discuss it freely here!

In any case, once it’s finished – and this time I WILL finish it – I can exorcise my stitch-quitter demons and proudly present my dear with a lovely gift.

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