For many of us, it’s almost an addiction. Without it, our hands are itchy, our minds wander, and we feel forlorn. With it, we feel productive and creative. We’re able to concentrate better. We’re the ultimate multitaskers, working diligently at our needlework projects whilst listening to a class, talking on the phone, traveling. No downtime for us.

There is a well-known analogy referring to needlework. Note the jumble of threads on the back of the project: that’s how life appears to us. Note the front, the symmetry of form and colors, the beauty of the pattern: that is how G‑d has planned it, and how we will view our lives as we look back, years hence. At that point, all the haphazard moments of our lives, all those difficult periods, all those challenging episodes, will fall into place.

Do you think, if I make an effort to keep the back neat and tidy, snipping away the loose ends, my life will be tidier?I think about this often as I work at my projects. Do you think, if I make an effort to keep the back neat and tidy, snipping away the loose ends, my life will be tidier? Or appear tidier to me? Just a thought.

There is more to be learned. I’ve always been a very impatient person. I’ve learned to work around it. I always have reading material on me, to read while waiting. If I’m at home waiting for other family members before leaving home, I’ll seat myself at the piano and tinkle those ivories. Today, every so often, I sit back in amazement at the extensive needle projects I embark upon. I know that this latest one may very well keep me busy for the next twelve months. Progress is painstakingly slow, but I persevere. I’m amazed, myself, at the joy I derive as each minute section is completed. I’ve learnt not to wait to derive joy from the total project; I can’t wait so long! As of now, I derive great satisfaction as each small area is completed.

Currently, I’m working on a project called a “blessing for the home,” for my oldest couple. The blessing is in bold on the top; below is a beautiful street scene of Jerusalem, a collage of quaint homes, cottages, city walls and fine greenery. When my children and grandchildren visit, I immediately bring them over to see how much I’ve completed. And each time, I’ll pose the same questions: “Which house do you like the best? Which color combination intrigues you? Which architectural style tickles your fancy?” I have such joy from each and every little house as it nears completion.

Those of us who needlepoint have different approaches. Some work on one spot of the picture, and complete that before going on to the next. Others, such as myself, can’t contain ourselves, can’t restrict ourselves to one corner. I’m curious to see the colors and forms come alive!

Is this indicative of our approach to life? Do we have to have our fingers in many pies in order to feel alive? Do we need lots of color in our everyday routine? At any one moment, I may have up to twenty threads threaded into the project, at each of the corners.

Do we have to have our fingers in many pies in order to feel alive? Each morning, I insert several more threads, often before finishing up the previous ones. Some of those threads are hanging down, most forlorn, as they have been waiting days for me to pay attention to them. Yet there is one house whose designated stitch is a bit more challenging. There’s a rooftop, amongst many roofs, whose color I’m just not wild about. So those threads may sit for a while. Yet I know, and you know, that their turn will surely come.

These needle projects are the most enjoyable, educational tools for my grandchildren. I take out my bag of threads. What a treasure trove! A riot of colors and textures! The novelty threads I keep separately. Here’s that bag filled with my metallic threads: shiny reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, golds, silvers and bronzes. I, too, love how they dazzle the eye, both on the spool as well as when incorporated into the grand picture.

These metallics splendidly compose the multi-hued jewels of the breastplate worn by the priests in the Holy Temple, which is embroidered onto the tefillin bags, the fabric envelopes created to hold the phylacteries, which I’ve lovingly worked on for the young men in my family, both young and old, who are members of the priestly tribe.

Then I have my ribbon threads, satiny smooth, more delicately colored. I have my velvet threads, soft to the touch. And then, the ultimate: my fuzzy, furry threads! These are the threads that create the puffy, white clouds overhead on my “Ilan” project, portraying a lush tree planted by the rushing stream. These are the threads you’ll find in the lion’s mane on my grandson Aryeh’s tefillin bag (aryeh meaning “lion”). I’ve grouped together the more ordinary threads.

I have a green bag—greens of all hues, dark to light, more intense, blue-green. Once our little ones realize how green runs the gamut, they see the trees outside differently. We examine the trees in the sunlight, in the shade, in the morning, in the evening, watching the colors change right before our eyes in the setting sun. We check the blue bag, comparing these threads to the different blues painting the sky. And so on . . . with all the different color groupings. Enjoying these threads sharpens our senses and helps cultivate an appreciation for texture and for color.

To practice our manual dexterity, my young ones actually help me pull the needle in and out as I complete stitch after stitch. These little ones have already benefited from my expertise. Although still quite young, they already have their tefillin bags waiting for them. They know that their grandma has crafted these special projects, with love, just for them. I have them framed in shadow boxes. And there they hang on the wall, beaming down upon them as they sleep, till the years fly by and, please G‑d, they will reach the age of bar mitzvah.

They know that their grandma has crafted these special projects, with love, just for themA while back, I was working on the decorative border for my youngest son’s prayer shawl, preparing it for him to wear when he would feel ready to assume his role and join his father and grandfather in the birkat kohanim (priestly blessing) over the holiday season. Ruchi, my summer neighbor, took note of my current project and shared with me a most poignant concept. The Midrash tells us that Chanah would weave the ritual fringes for her son Samuel. As she wove, she incorporated into her handiwork all her prayers, all her dreams and aspirations for her precious child. It was these aspirations and prayers imbued within the shawl and fringes that enabled her son to become Samuel the Prophet, among the greatest of our prophets.

And so I, too, as I work on these meaningful projects, find myself working very mindfully. I, too, have a vision in my mind for the future. I can picture these little boys thirteen years hence. I can envision my grown-up children’s homes, replete with reverence for G‑d and His holy people. There is so much I want for them. My prayers are so full, so constant.

The “Eishet Chayil” (“Woman of Valor”) text that we sing at the Shabbat evening festive meal contains many lines referring to women’s needlework. Years ago, all women, young and old, engaged in needlework as they sewed their own clothes and home linens. How do we understand those lines today? Sewing is the art of connecting two separate pieces, taking two disparate entities, and creating from them a unified whole. That is our role as women: to create connections, to forge bonds between friends, neighbors, relatives. This is a responsibility we dare not take lightly.