Prima (UK)

‘I stitched myself back together’

Margie Orford, 58, from London, found using her hands healed her.


My little sister, Penelope Jane – who I called Melle – and I loved to draw together. Growing up in Namibia, our mother made mosaics and had an ottoman full of pens, papers and paints – a treasure trove of creativity. Even from a young age, it was a form of self-expression.

Though I moved around a lot and lived in many different countries, Melle and I stayed close. I married, and by the time I’d had all three of my children, I was living in Namibia again. Melle was like a second mother to them. She had this wild streak that they loved and she would often take them on adventures.

After my divorce, I moved back to London, and in November 2021, my mother rang me and told me that Melle had suffered a bleed on the brain. Frantic to be by her side, I boarded the next flight.

When I finally got to the hospital, Melle was slipping into a coma. I sat by her bed and felt so powerless. In the end, I began knitting. I wasn’t knitting anything particular, but this thing got longer and longer.

A few days later, the doctors told us that the machines keeping Melle alive had to be switched off. Her husband and I held her hands as she died. She was just 55. It was like I had been ripped apart. When I returned to London, desperate for a distractio­n from my grief, I embroidere­d a tapestry that said ‘Sister Love’. It felt like

I was embroideri­ng around the jagged edges of a hole Melle had left. Slowly, I was stitching myself back together.

I have since made a number of tapestries – the process painful each time and yet also cathartic. The physical nature of making something new is like a shoot of life through the sadness.

It’s a way of looking outside yourself and finding beauty in the world again.

• The Eye Of The Beholder (Canongate Books) by Margie Orford is out now

 ?? ?? Margie (left); Melle was like a second mother to her children
Margie (left); Melle was like a second mother to her children
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