On my 90th birthday, if I’m lucky enough to reach that grand old age, I am going to hang this banner. And on every family birthday between now and then, there it will be.
I forget now where my original inspiration came from. It might’ve been Soulemama? Wherever it was, I was struck by the loveliness of creating something unique to our family, which we brought out year after year and birthday after birthday. A proclamation and a backdrop to those special days.
I started making it about four years ago when, newly inspired to play around with some craft, my skill level didn’t quite match my vision for things I wanted to make. I didn’t let that small detail stop me. If it looked dreadful I could always bin it!
My (loose) plan involved bright colours, appliqué wool-felt letters, embroidery and snatched moments. I wasn’t convinced that I could embroider, but decided it was only needle and thread, it couldn’t be that hard. So I began. Using fabric scraps that I had laying around, printing large letters of ‘Hobbit’ font and an old embroidery hoop that I’d picked up in a vintage market. Simple beginnings for something that now feels almost part of me.
I stitched and embroidered those flags whenever I got the chance. I completely made it all up. Each flag was a blank canvas and whatever struck me would end up on there. My then two-going-on-three year old began noticing what I was doing and spent some time watching the needle pass back and forth. He sometimes helped me pull the next stitch through with a grin on his face and a giggle as he handed the needle back. The stitching paused for early pregnancy exhaustion and sickness. It picked up for late-summer second trimester (possibly where the echinacea flowers came in) and had a bumpy ride during early autumn while our home became a building site and our time was spent making tea for the lovely builders who made it bigger for us. It flowed a little while at my in-laws for several weeks because the dust just got too much, before finding itself shoved in a bag. There was a house to re-make into a home and not long later a baby to be birthed. And there it stayed in that bag for two years.
Last year it went on my list of things to finish and I was surprised to find when I opened the bag that it was practically already finished. I looked at flags neatly stitched and embroidered as though somebody else had made them, even though I remembered every stitch. My mum said ‘I didn’t know you could embroider’. I didn’t either. My son greeted them like an old friend. And so with a length of gingham bias binding (because why not mis-match it a bit more?) it got finished. And I took some pics and never posted about it, because life with two boys is like that.
Some friends came over for N’s birthday this month (more about his birthday in the next post) and said ‘stop it, you did not make that’ and other nice things which made me laugh and resolve to use the pictures I’d taken.
We had two family birthdays this month and while we were going about our way of celebrating each other there it hung in the background. My husband smiled at it when he put it up (he’s put the nail so high that only he can reach it). My eldest clapped his hands and said ‘yay! Happy birthday!’. My youngest didn’t notice it and I gave it a smiley wink as I passed underneath. Simple homemade things that are the fabric (literally) of family life make me happy.
If you’re a maker of things yourself you might relate to how I feel about it. Do you know how when you’ve worked on something for such a time and stitched a piece of yourself into it, it ceases to be about whether you like it or not. You don’t look at it that way. It just is. Just as you are. This is our family birthday banner, yet another of our traditions that flow through the year. It hangs at each family birthday saying ‘this is your day’ and ‘you are special’. And I just completely love that.