A Most Powerful Word: Welcome

by | Mar 10, 2021 | Essays

It was January, 2018. The word was neatly written by hand onto robin’s-egg-blue- coloured fabric with white flowers, and then carefully covered using a back stitch in red embroidery floss.

It was a perfectly imperfect first embroidery project, and it was impossible to miss the pride and hopefulness on her face as she held it in her hands.

I told her it was lovely. She replied, “One day I will hang it on a wall so that when my friends visit they’ll see it… when I have a home.”

It is a memory that sometimes catches in my throat like a knot in thread, but I am grateful that she shared her hopes and dreams, and that moment, with me. 

Click here for the embroidery pattern designed by Laurie Dolhan, inspired by her student’s work and this essay.

It is one of many gifts I have received over many years of volunteering. I have been leading craft programs on a volunteer basis since I was twenty-six years old—that’s twenty years working off and on with people of varying ages, abilities and circumstances, almost all experiencing poverty. For the past three years, I have volunteered with an organization that helps women and children experiencing homelessness. It is an honour to be invited to share, and a privilege to be able to contribute. 

I don’t lead workshops very often. It takes a lot of focus and patience and “peoplingfor this introvert, so I need to save up extra mental space and energy for each workshop. I do it because I strongly believe that everyone should have access to the comfort of craft. It’s healing, inspiring, and practical. And making is always an act of faith—the faith that our own hands will make something from nothing but a vision for how our finished creations will inhabit our lives or the lives of others. We need reminders of what we are capable of creating, and we grow through learning when things don’t go as planned.

Throughout history, we as human beings have spun, woven, knit, and stitched intention and love into our everyday. Nothing says home to me like the simple softness and comfort of handmade fibres.

Image description: Embroidery hoop close-up, being held in one hand, with blue fabric with white flowers stretched in the hoop, with "WELCOME" embroidered in red thread.

Laurie’s student’s embroidery, featuring the word, “Welcome.”

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