The thing that shocked me first about my embroidery classes was the schedule. We met six times in the term, but the dates were spread out erratically throughout the season on seemingly random Wednesdays. Of course, that was far from the only thing that wound up shocking me. Honestly, I hadn’t expected the class to have nearly as many students as it did. I had expected at first that it would be closer to the knitting and sewing classes targeted at older ladies I had seen in the back of local yarn shops, no more than ten or so beginner students and a teacher sitting around a single table. The embroidery class easily had more than twice that many students and was set up over an area roughly equivalent to the entire aforementioned yarn shop. A brief glance over some of the other student’s work quickly told me why: the class was in no way exclusive to new learners and many—if not most—of the other students were quite experienced already.
I gradually came to understand not only how to embroider maple leaves, cherry blossoms and camellias, but also about the way in which the other students use the class as an opportunity to meet with one another and discuss everything from their plans for their embroidery to family to young people who don’t know how to use keigo. Even through the age barrier, I have been able to have conversations with and learn from the people around me and wound up understanding far more about both embroidery and their lives and observations about society than I otherwise could have.
This sounds like a great experience despite the intermittent practices. I don’t know the size of a local yarn shop but 20+ students is more than I would have imagined too. When you say “through the age barrier,” do you mean that the students were in fact close to the old women that you imagined before joining? I’d also be interested to know how much of the class is instruction and how much is free conversation.
Far from close too, closer to exactly; the students were all well into their fifties! As for the balance of instruction and free conversation, much of the class is a sort of free work period due to the fact that a significant amount of the work ends up taking a fair bit of time before the next step is begun. Usually, you receive instruction in something—how to embroider a leaf, for example—then ask for more once you’ve completed the next step. This means that free conversations have plenty of opportunity to flourish!