On the Needle Prayer Flags

The isolation of shelter in place as a response to the coronavirus gave me pause. 

In a new world where I was suddenly unable to attend barre or spin/NRG class, unable to meet friends for lunch, gather with other artists to plan a tour or participate in creative pursuits such as open studio, I found myself feeling lost. Almost purposeless.

What project did I choose to lean into that might provide focus and soothe my news-jangled mind? How could I best respond? I knew that too much Facebook and too little stimulation would be worse than the mandated 15-day attempt to flatten the curve.

Feeling at loose ends, I decided to be on the needle. I reached for material, needle and thread, and my trusted box of sequins.

© 2020 Mary Ellen Merrigan Albuquerque, On the Needle IN-joy prayer flag

A recent class by Pamela Armas, owner of Treasures of the Gypsy, introduced me to the “On the needle,” a phrase that refers to hand stitching that incorporates beads, armatures, embellishments, or any number of things to be stitched together. As she talked with us during our two-day “A Few of My Favorite Things” event, Pamela mentioned being on the needle while her husband drove to a show in Houston, she was on the needle in the Gypsy Raven store when it wasn’t busy, and on the needle most every evening. 

On the needle seemed an apt choice for me to incorporate into my heART vocabulary. More importantly, getting on the needle presented a way to bring order, meaning and joy into my suddenly smaller world. 

Many readers of my blog know that stitching – beading, cards,  needlepoint and more – are part of my ongoing practice. As some would say, I’ve been preparing for this.

© 2020 Mary Ellen Merrigan Albuquerque, On the Needle Prayer Flags

In a matter of days, I’d completed five of what I called “prayer flags.” Each of my free form creations were different, but they had a few things in common:

On the Needle Commonalities

  • Materials: Embroidery floss, cotton and linen squares, interesting materials from the stash 
  • Embellishments: sequins, buttons, bugle beads
  • Positive words: IN-Joy, one breath, Make Art, heART
  • Ongoing word list: kind, believe, love,  care, laugh, play, hug, hope, choose, one, you-nity, zen
  • Sizes: 5×5 or 8×8
  • Border: blanket stitch, sometimes with beads
  • Resource: “Bead Creative Like Crazy” by Nancy Eha

Is this it? Not likely. I have a list of words, a packet of fat quarters, (won at the February meeting of the Bead Society of New Mexico) and some fun embellishments that I plan to keep in a tray, ready for the moment non-inspiration fells me. If I don’t feel inspired to make chain, string a necklace, finish a big project or design something new, I have resources that sit ready  in my On the Needle tray.

© 2020  Mary Ellen Merrigan Albuquerque, On the Needle tray

What manner of creative outlet are you using to create resilience in your life?


7 thoughts on “On the Needle Prayer Flags”

  1. This is SO INSPIRING!!!
    Sorry… I didn’t mean to shout, but your thoughts on this are WONDER-FULL!!
    Thanks for posting!

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