I commented over the weekend that I was "mostly not working on" the couple of pillowcases I had going.
I decided to change that. I pulled out the horse one - a horse and her foal, surrounded by flowers - and added to it.
A couple of thoughts on this:
I find this kind of craft very soothing. You can't multitask while doing it - I can knit on simple things and read at the same time, or knit and invigilate exams (I will be doing that again today). I can usually watch television (unless it's something very gripping, or it has subtitles I must read) while hand quilting. But with embroidery, I have to pretty much focus on what I'm doing. I can listen - I can listen to music or to something like Book TV.
(I admit it. I like Book TV. Maybe not so much the more political stuff that they sometimes run, but when you get someone who's a real history buff who has written a book about that one little subset of their field that they focus on, it's interesting to me. I always find it interesting when someone is very deeply involved with a subject, and they care a great deal about it, and they know a lot about it. Even if it was a subject I didn't care much about before, a person with enthusiasm for it can make me care about it. I like and respect people who care deeply about certain things and who have researched and become experts in those things.)
But I have to look at what I'm doing to do it right when I'm embroidering. Especially all those little petals and leaves - the kit instructions call it "loop stitch," but I learned it as "lazy daisy stitch" when I was a kid learning to do embroidery - you come up at a point, go back down at almost that same point, and then come back up where you want the "bottom" of the teardrop shape (the round part) to be, and do a little catch-stitch to hold the loop in place. If you don't pay attention to it, the loop either pulls too tight, or the different strands get split and you have a messy loop. And I admit I take a certain pleasure in being able to do it RIGHT, in being able to be precise about it. Because these printed embroidered things are mostly about skill in executing the stitches - the design is already there, often you kind of need to use the recommended colors to make the design work (with the shading and highlights and all) - so there's not a lot of input or what I would exactly call creativity. But you can take the effort to do it well and to be precise.
Another thing about this kind of craft that I like so much: you can put it away, even for a year or more, and pick it back up again, and it's like you never left it. That's what I like about the needlecraft hobbies so much - that if you get interrupted, it's not the end of the world. That's not true with some things you could do; clay won't keep well if you have to stop, and it's disastrous for the pot if you have to turn off the wheel while you're throwing it. Perhaps people with those kinds of hobbies are more imperious about their free time, and maybe I need to work more at cultivating that, not jumping up to answer the phone when it rings, or sighing and going "okay" if someone needs me to help with something in the evening, when I was planning on working on my hobbies. And yet, on the other hand: I probably wouldn't get as much craft-work done if I had to wait until I had a couple uninterrupted hours to work on it.
I also like this kind of thing because it does feel like a link with the past. Most of the women in my family did something like this - and I remember friends of my mom's when I was a kid who were big into needlepoint or crewelwork (I don't think many people DO true crewelwork any more, other than maybe people who do it as a historical interest). And doing the lazy daisy stitch remind me of a bedspread I had when I was a kid (and it's still technically mine; my mother told me "Some time when you are up here and have room in your suitcase, you should take it if you want it") - it was embroidered with a cute squirrel and lots and lots and lots of flowers made with lazy daisy stitch. (I can't remember now if my grandmother, or my great-grandmother, whom I never met, made it). Some of the lazy daisy stitches have come out over the years, but my mother noted that I could certainly do the repairs necessary on it. So making lazy daisy stitches reminds me of that, of the summer afternoons I spent as a kid sprawled on my bed, reading, and tracing the outline of the stitches with my finger.