How absorbing your concentration in needlework relieves inner turmoil

I grew up in post-war Britain when, saved from German invasion – men returned from war, children from evacuation, families were reunited – the comfort of the home became paramount. Its importance was marked out in sewn domestic niceties: embroidered tray cloths, cheval sets and tea cosies. My home had a sewing machine in the corner, an ever-ready sewing workbox by my mother’s chair and a box that brimmed with buttons for us children to rifle through by way of entertainment. This was my material world.

Living in industrial Glasgow, a city grimed with soot, smog and smoke, my landscape was monochrome until the day, when I was about six years old, my mother took me to an Aladdin’s cave in the city centre. There she bought me linen cloths already stamped with floral flourishes, packets of gold-tipped needles and silver scissors with handles shaped like a bird’s wings – and she let me choose loops of embroidery threads from a carousel of colours that dazzled me.

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