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A stitch in time

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 08, 2020 5:00 pm

…saves nine.

But that is not what this piece is all about. For Nina Blanch Prats and Rica Concepcion Araneta, a stitch in time is a stitch in the midst of time, an uncertain time that has nevertheless surprised them with the gift of precious moments stitched together. Nina and Rica have taken up a seemingly lost art — crochet and embroidery. Yes, you gotta hand it to them.

Nina Blanch Prats, who has four adult sons, flew home from her teaching job in Madrid just as Manila went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fear factor was high in all places and in all circumstances,” recalls Nina, who also performs the flamenco onstage. “It was a relief to be back home with family, but like most people, I was trying to manage the fear and anxiety over the uncertainty of things. I began looking for activities to help myself.”

Nina Blanch Prats and the scarves and blankets she has crocheted.

One day, she resolved to fight her fears. “I just said in prayer, ‘Lord, no way did you in all your goodness put us in this beautiful world to be so scared and afraid.’ That was when I decided I was not going to be scared anymore. I decided to let it go and trust.”

The desire to “weave good intentions” and have fun at the same time led her to a skill she learned in grade school, under the watchful eyes of the nuns.

“I have been missing the fun factor in life! Just too much anxiety. So, I turned to my hobbies. And that was when I decided to crochet a blanket for my son, Miguel, who is in Melbourne for studies. I was worried and concerned for him being away. I felt I was weaving my good intentions for my son with every stitch I was making…”

She surprised even herself.  “I got so caught up in it and enjoyed myself and had fun with it. I was surprised at the beautiful outcome of colors. Thus, the Miguel blanket was created and my interest in crochet was again fueled. I started to research on patterns, techniques, colors, and color themes.”

Nina then decided to create smaller items, like a scarf. “I remember after making my first scarf, I was so pleased with it I told myself, I would totally pay for something like this!” She named her first few scarves after Frida Kahlo. Lo and behold, after sharing photos with her Viber group, she found herself  “busy with fulfilling orders for my scarves and blankets.”

At the moment, Nina does all the crochet work herself,  but hopes in the near future, she can engage some women who would like to do some stay-at-home work as well.

Yes, Nina has woven more colors and insights into the pattern of her life since she started doing crochet in the time of the coronavirus. Seamlessly.

“I was reminded that beautiful things can still be born from difficult circumstances. That staying positive and just looking ahead and not behind you, will always bring about good things for you. That if you know how to have fun and enjoy the little things and create a little bit of paradise or happiness for yourself every day, before you know it, whatever you were worried about or concerned over would have passed and everything in the end will always work out.”

* * *

How can something as sharp as a needle compose the most tender flower arrangements?

Not a wonderment if the fingers holding the needle belong to Rica Concepcion Araneta, who runs a real estate company along with her mom, Menchu Concepcion. Rica has excelled in arts and crafts even as a grade school student and as a young mother, she lovingly and meticulously embroidered bibs and towels for her three babies.

Rica Concepcion Araneta and her various embroidered works of art

“When I was still raising babies about 25 years ago, I made them towels, bibs, among others. Then I stopped 16 years ago,” recounts Rica.  She also embroidered her son Franco’s birth announcement in 1994  (yes, even his name and birth weight) and made personalized invitations for her kids’ birthday parties.

She also did cross-stitch, and her favorite works are a series of interpretations of herbs and spices in different shades of green.

Even now that she’s a (young) grandmother, Rica has happily discovered that she still has not lost her touch. Thus, when the pandemic struck, spawning fears and worries, Rica turned to the minutest solution — needle and thread, the latter of the most vibrant hues “ to keep my mind sane during this time.”

Following patterns, she sews about four hours a day, but takes a break regularly to rest her eyes. Occasionally, she watches Netflix to shift to the bigger picture.

“It is super relaxing. I am thinking when I am sewing. Mostly about my future and my kids. It’s exciting seeing (something) grow as you sew,” she says. Her works are a composition of 11 kinds of stitches (yes, 11!) — a visual masterpiece. Her stitches are her brushstrokes, her vibrant threads, the colors on her canvas.

Rica intends to frame her works and hang them in her home office. For now, her sewing is just a hobby for her “that has turned into a passion.”

After all, it has embroidered her life with many moments of happiness and tranquility. One stitch at a time.