By Trina O’Quinn for the NABBW

How does needlework and quilting bring me Joy? In several ways:

  • Tactiley — the feel of the cloth and thread in my hand and fingers brings me a sense of calm.
  • Audibly — the sound of the pop of the cloth as the needle pierces the material from the other side.
  • Audibly –the sound of the swish of the thread as it is pulled through to the top side of the piece where the picture is being created.
  • Visually — watching the different stitches build the picture.

These small steps are a process of creation that brings me great joy. When I quiet my mind, I can feel and hear this process. This is a space where my creative mind quiets my critical mind. It also awakens my analytical mind and helps me to continue to learn.

While making the last two squares for my granddaughter’s quilt, I learned three new stitches along with re-learning some stitches I had not done for a very long time. This activity has kept my mind sharp and, in a learning mode.

Reviewing the last three weeks I saw that stitching has brought me peace and a sense of accomplishment. It is not temporary peace; it is a peace that surpasses all human understanding. It is the joy that makes my insides smile. It would bring me great joy to start working on more than one project at a time.

I found an article in a magazine that explained several aspects of Joy. I am going to take one aspect in this blog and apply it to embroidery and quilting.

The first aspect of Joy is renewal.  Renewal brings blossoming, expansion, and curves. How does that happen with embroidery and quilting? When I begin to see my embroidery or quilting is creating a piece of art, I expand. When a flower blossoms from a seed it literally expands, for example. As the sewing continues, I begin to see the detail within the flower, the images I am creating. When I create with fabric, a needle and thread, I begin to blossom and have a sense of expansion.

I begin to feel that I am reaching out to the many women that have gone before me with this art. They are a community reaching across the ages with what they created at the time.  My expansion helps me to know that I am connecting with those that came before me and to those who will come after me. My self-confidence and knowledge expand. I feel bigger and stronger.

When I begin to see curves in my path (as in “possible complications” as opposed to “traveling in a straight line”),  I can dig deep and know that all that is required is to change the stitches and the direction. This adds another depth and meaning to what I am creating.  It brings me joy to renew my creative energy. I find the energy and courage to try something new. I blossom in what I know, expand by learning or remembering something different to make use of in this project. This experience shows me that I can navigate the curves that life brings. Renewing  gives me the time to dream, which is where creation begins. That starts the process of developing joy in life.

I will finish this blog telling you more concretely how the first phase of Joy, Renewal, worked for me.

This month the seeds of my project flowered.I finished the embroidery for two blocks of my granddaughter’s queen-sized quilt.  The internal feeling I experienced when I placed them in my finished box and crossed them off my list of May goals, filled me with joy and pride. In working on them, I learned that I was using the wrong tool  –  specifically, the wrong size needle – on a stitch that was giving me problems. I needed a longer needle. When I used a needle of the correct length, the stitching progressed with ease. It helped me take the curves and stay in line. They looked great the first time.

This experience taught me that patience is sometimes needed, no matter how many years I’ve been stitching. With patience, I can make needed corrections and adjustments, which rewards me with progress and success. All of this creates excellent art and gives me Joy.

What can you renew this month that will help you blossom, expand, and take the curves in life in stride?


Before she retired, Trina O’Quinn was an actively licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Entering the profession as an older adult, Trina was in private practice for 30 years. During her career she was a lecturer at California University Dominguez Hills in the Marital and Family Therapy Program, where she supervised many students and mentored many associates.

Now retired from counseling, Trina keeps busy enjoying needle arts, reading, Journaling and writing, as well as singing with a women’s chorus, peer networking, volunteering at a senior living center and reconnecting with old friends. 



NABBW Contributing Author