Back to the Beginning

Embroidery? Well, yes, I learned to do it as a child. I had no choice. My Paternal Grandmother won prizes for her needlework. Her daughter, Aunty Megan, embroidered tablecloths and tray cloths and such like. On my Mother’s side of the family it was more utility sewing. Her Eldest sister, Nan taught crafts at a Teacher Training College but was more into weaving and bookbinding than sewing. However the next eldest, Buff, had trained as a Tailoress and by the time I was a child was teaching dressmaking at evening classes and looking after their father who was bedridden (by choice – but that is another story) and Peggy, the third daughter, who also still lived at home, made soft toys for the Sale of Work at the Church. So yes. I learned to sew and do embroidery.

There were three types of embroidery in my world. The one everyone did most of was to buy a pre-printed cloth, with or without the threads supplied as a kit, and follow the instructions. Painting by numbers with stranded cotton. A slight variant, mainly used for hankies, was to use iron on transfers to provide the outlines. The only creativity involved was choosing whether the flowers would be pink, blue or yellow.

The second was drawn thread work. Mum had done that at least once but the cloth was so precious it was never used. The third was cross stitch using either painted canvas (Does anyone else remember getting a Penelope kit for Christmas?) or working from a chart on Aida fabric. Painting by numbers again.

Mum had a set of books of traditional embroidery designs from various parts of Europe complete with traceable patterns but I never remember her using them. I have them still and I have never used them either!

I inherited more than enough embroidered cloths to have no incentive to make any more. And although I admired the skill that had gone into them and understood how many hours of work they represented I was never all that keen on them. I have, from time to time embroidered small items but again it has been ‘trace a pattern and colour it in’

In my teens I had an idea to create a picture with embroidery but it stayed as an idea and never got made. I just did not have the confidence to have a go and had a sneaky suspicion that asking for help would just cause problems. Then life got busy!

Over the last few years I have become aware that creating things from a pattern or kit is not the same as ‘being creative’. Not that there is anything wrong with following a pattern – the skill required can be considerable and the effect lovely. But I am ready to spread my wings and move up to ‘being creative’. I am exploring several ways to do that and one of them is to resurrect that idea of making pictures out of fabric and threads using techniques that come under the general heading of ’embroidery’. I want to have a go! Now I have cleared some wall space and am really enjoying having John’s pictures (and some of mine) up I want to create more but in different ways.

I started sketching some ideas but realised that my stitching skills are rusty and my repertoire of stitches limited. Then I came across the site Pintangle ( and Sharon’s Take a Stitch Tuesday series. So I went back to the beginning and am re-learning stitches I have known for years and lots of ways to elaborate them plus some which I have never tried before. Each ‘lesson’ I do on a square of fabric then glue it to a piece of file paper so I can write on what each stitch is called. Her instructions and pictures are wonderfully clear and her stitch dictionary is a revelation to me! From time to time she also posts about a stitch which is not part of the ‘course’ and I try those as well.

As with the boro bag and mat (read about them here I have learned that my straight lines are not very straight and my stitches not always as even as I would like! I have bought some of those pens which have ink that disappears with water and some fine Aida to practice with. I also now know that whilst I have stranded cotton in a range of colours and one hank of perle I need to buy some more interesting threads! Meanwhile I am learning, stretching myself and enjoying the different effects I can create. I can already see some possibilities for elements of the designs I have in mind. Watch this space – but please don’t hold your breath – these have been incubating for 55 years and don’t look like hatching just yet!

16 thoughts on “Back to the Beginning

  1. Laurie Graves March 3, 2021 / 2:31 pm

    Looking forward to seeing what you create! Also, I am in awe of your family. Holy cats!


    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:25 am

      My family seemed quite normal to me as a child! I will try to post about my creations – but only if they work!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tialys March 3, 2021 / 7:04 pm

    I’ve never really learnt embroidery and cross stitch would put me in an institution but I often admire other people’s work. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.


    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:27 am

      I will hopefully produce something worth posting about!


    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:33 am

      I am now subscribed to your other blog! Yes, lets cheer each other on. Your ‘course’ seems more about combining things and mine is learning stitches so similar but complimentary.


    • Going Batty in Wales March 7, 2021 / 11:32 am

      I have now looked at the Anne Brooke site properly and it looks an interesting challenge! It would probably be a good one to combine with the Pintangle one. So I am planning o have a go. It will take me a while to catch up!


  3. onesmallstitch March 3, 2021 / 11:05 pm

    my Mom embroidered borders around the bottom of my petticoats ( we wore dresses and petticoats in those days), embroidered hair bands and jackets. She also did all our pillowcases – I still use a couple and sometimes sheets. Who says the lines have to be straight, who decides what is perfect and why it matters?


    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:36 am

      You ask a very good question Jean. I grew up in a family where ‘neat’ and ‘tidy’ were words that got used a lot. Add in that half my degree was Maths and I am programmed to be orderly and straight lines. In fact if I try to do random dots they come out as an array! You are absolutely right to challenge me on that and in fact I love ‘quirky’ in other people’s work. I really need to loosen up a bit!


  4. tidalscribe March 4, 2021 / 12:19 am

    I embroidered – from a kit – a picture on brown cloth – this was the seventies! – of rabbits in woodland. It took me ages but went well with the seventies brown and orange decor in our first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:37 am

      We had brown and orange decor too! Have you still got the picture?


  5. DawnGillDesigns March 4, 2021 / 9:13 am

    How lovely to create your scrap book. An heirloom in the making.
    As someone with a background in bookbinding and paper conservation, I hope you don’t mind me horning in with a word of caution regarding gluing in your work – you want to be sure the glue you are using is ‘acid free’, ‘ph neutral’ or ‘conservation safe’ Doing so will ensure that the cloth, threads and paper won’t be damaged by the glue, enabling your record to last for many years. Most crafting glues are acid free now, inexpensive and easily found in craft shops like The Range and local art supplier shops, if you are fortunate enough to have one locally. This sounds such a lovely project, and I’m with OneSmallStitch – it’s the imperfections that make something perfect 😉


    • Going Batty in Wales March 4, 2021 / 11:39 am

      Thank you for the advice on on glue Dawn – something I hadn’t thought about. I will check the stick I am using. Thank you too for pointing out that perfection is not necessary! I know it in my head but as I explained in response to Jean’s (one small stitch) comment I grew up where lines had to be straight – neat and tidy were the watchwords – and a Maths degree didn’t help!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. anne54 March 4, 2021 / 9:57 pm

    No surprise to know that I am excited for you as you start this project! Learning stitches is a great beginning, as you will have a tool kit of stitches that you can select from when you come to do your design. I hope you will show us. From my own experience I know that there is such a supportive community here ~ we will all be cheering you on!
    My Mum learnt to embroider from her Nana. She likes the security of the printed embroideries. In fact a year or so ago she bought a table cloth to embroider. Not bad for a woman in her 90s! However we joke that it will be left to me to finish it.


    • Going Batty in Wales March 6, 2021 / 12:03 pm

      You have certainly been one of the people inspiring me to explore using embroidery more creatively! And I love the support and encouragement I get from all my bloggerspere friends. Nanacathy is doing a different weekly project which also looks interesting so I may join her in that and we will be encouraging each other.


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