On Sunday, 13 February, 2005 I arrived in Bournemouth in advance of my first ever Japanese embroidery class. It was a week that was to change my life in ways that I could never imagine not only because of the embroidery but because of the people who were about to become a part of my life.
To be honest, I don't really remember many of the people from that first week but there are a few. Margaret our tutor, of course, and Jenny and Penny, who assisted her and took care of the Phase I students. There were my fellow Phase I students, Maggie and Ruth, especially Maggie with whom I burnt the midnight oil. Beyond these I only clearly remember Jane who sat behind and to the left of me, she was stitching Venerable Friends at that time, and next to Jane, behind me, was Sue. Sue who it is difficult not to notice and remember because, like the sun, her presence warms and brightens the day.
After the 5 day course, I returned home and continued my stitching alone, eagerly anticipating going back the next year. When February finally came around and I returned to Bournemouth, it was Sue who remembered me and welcomed me back like an old friend. Sue befriended everyone and drew them into the Japanese embroidery family.
Sue had started learning JE two years before me but life put a spanner in the works and her journey was delayed for a while. In 2005, the year of my first class, Sue resumed stitching and completed her Phase I, then went on to stitch Bouquet from the Heart of Japan. For the next few years Sue and I learnt Japanese embroidery very much in parallel, sitting together in class and often making the same choice of Phase piece; Suihiro, Venerable Friends, Karahana, Himotaba and Loving Couple.
In 2008, Sue and I embarked on another adventure together, Japanese Bead embroidery. This was something I had wanted to do for some time and when I told Sue that I had heard of a UK tutor she said that she would also like to learn beading. Over the next few years we attended several classes together - at our tutor's home, at Sue's or at the Weaver's Loft - or just getting together for the weekend to spend time beading together. We worked hard to complete our Phase IV beading so we could attend Phase V class at the Japanese Embroidery Center. We had a fantastic 2 weeks in Atlanta and I have very fond memories of that trip. Sue made many news friends, charming our fellow students with her own special brand of sunshine, as she did everyone she met. In the following months, first Sue, then I completed our Phase V beading and qualified to teach Japanese Bead Embroidery. We taught our first class together in Garstang, April of this year and started planning for the future.
On Monday, 25 August, 2015, much to the dismay of everyone who knew Sue, she passed away following a short and unexpected illness. We are still reeling from the shock. Today several of Sue's Japanese embroidery family gathered with her daughters, mother, brothers and sisters to say good bye to a wonderful friend and to celebrate a remarkable life. It was lovely that so many of Sue's friends were able to be there, and I know that many more would have been there if it had been possible. The sun shone throughout the day, a sure sign that Sue was smiling down on us. Sue leaves a huge hole in our lives and it is difficult to imagine our family without her.
Sleep well, Sue, we will always miss you.