I've mentioned before the problem with vague goals, and knowing when you've achieved them. I put "learn embroidery" on my Before 30 list without really thinking about how I'd know when I got there, but after a little more thought, I decided that for my purposes a reasonable definition of success would be to complete a non-trivial project of my own design. Once I've done that, I feel I can look the world in the eye and say that, from a baseline of nothing, I've made progress. Think of it as the embroidery equivalent of "learning to knit" by making a scarf.
Having decided that this is what I need to do, the next step, of course, was to decide on a project. I have loads of ideas in the back of my mind, mostly held up by my limited ability to draw the designs in the first place. But one day I realised that my jewellery representation of my travels is breaking down as I visit more obscure countries for which charm-bracelet flags aren't produced, and I decided to have a go at embroidering a set of flags for the countries I've visited.
Of course, some flags are inherently easier than others. I'm going to start with the easy ones - but I know that I have Mongolia, Cuba, and Canada waiting for me a little further down the line...
I started off with the idea that I might do each flag seperately, and then sew them on to something, but after making a couple it became clear that it would be hard to get them lined up neatly.
I decided to treat those as practice, and start again with a single, larger piece. Here's the first stage of planning, with some of the easier flags drawn in:
So here I am - trying to sew something without a kit, and without pages of notes to tell me what I should be doing next. This is, in some sense, my personal "exam piece" - if I complete it and am satisfied with the result, then I'm happy to tick off "learning embroidery" as successfully complete, even though I know in my heart that I may never stop learning more about embroidery. (And who knows, maybe eventually I'll learn enough to be able to give myself more specific goals in later years...) The only question now is, can I sew faster than I can travel...?