Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st century Sampler Competition

Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st Century Sampler Competition
Entry for the Royal School of Needlework 21st Century Sampler Competition

On Sunday I got out the basket with all my canvas work in. I need to get stitching on my third piece for my Certificate of Technical Hand Embroidery. It is a canvas work peacock feather. I am making a very slow start on it. …Anyway in the basket I found the paper with the information about the above mentioned competition which I had totally forgotten about. Closing date, Friday June 20, 2014.

I had four days to design it and get it to London. So…I did. It went yesterday from the Fed Ex office in San Mateo. Phew, it was a bit of a rush, but it is amazing what you can do when you have to. Normally something like that would take me weeks of planning and agonizing. No time for any of that…get the idea, get it down on paper, let it evolve and just go with it. So I did….


As can be seen from the picture I chose a cell phone image. I felt that as all traditional samplers have an alphabet, motifs, symbols, a helpful saying, a date and the name of the stitcher and an all encompassing border, then mine should too.  Just as a more up to date version of all of those things.

I got an email this morning saying that the entry had been received…..decision about winners after July 7.  But…..I never win anything so I am not expecting that this will be different. It was good fun to design and I think that I will stitch it, win or lose.

We will see.



Summer Embroidery Camp. #1

Six students, eager to learn. Lots of projects, ready to go. One teacher who has not taught summer camp before. Two kittens in the bedroom….break time cuddles essential.

Three of my students are new to me and new to the art of embroidery. Three of my students have been working with me before this week and so have some expertise and confidence.  Ages run from 6.5 to 10 years old. There is one boy attending.

We started with the Embroidery Camp Rules.

1. Be kind to yourself.

2. Be responsible for your tools and materials.

3 Have clean hands.

4. Listen carefully to instructions

5.Time doesn’t matter

6. Help each other.

7. Keep trying.

8. Focus.

These are not in any order of importance. They are all important.

On the second day I ran through them again at the beginning of the day but after that there was no need. It is safe to say that we had six completely focused stitchers for three hours a day. We took a short break in the middle of the session, but apart from that there was twelve hours of learning new skills, making beautiful things and useful tools for future embroidery.

Each of the six students made a set of tools.
Each of the six students made a set of tools.

What did we make?

The Tools.

Each student made a pincushion, a needle roll, a scissor fob and a tassel for keeping the needle threader  safe.

The Project.

Along with making the tools the students stitched a 5 X 7 piece of 8 HPI aida cloth with a sampler of stitches. We made a rows of running stitch, whipped and laced, chain stitch,  blackwork of geometric shapes linked together, cross stitch and a back stitch name. This finished piece will fit into a key rack purchased from Sudberry House.  It ought to be noted here that two of my students were well able to follow a more complicated pattern and these two had a more challenging project. They loved it and altho did not finish it this week I am certain that it will be finished. As you can see from their progress.image

We ended our embroidering week with everyone happy with their achievements and  some eager sign ups for our next session, at the end of next month. What shall we stitch….mmmm ..what a pleasant prospect. I get to plan another week of sharing the art of embroidery with a group of amazing young people. What luxury is that?


What are the benefits of teaching embroidery in the third grade classroom?

The student who stitched this has many challenges to learning…..but not to embroidery. Wonderful work

What skills are learned by learning to embroider in the classroom.

In order to attain a satisfactory result with the assignment the students must….

1. Be able to follow directions exactly
2. Be responsible for and understand how to use the assigned materials
3. Learn the dexterity needed to thread a needle.
4. Learn how to follow a complicated pattern from paper to fabric.
5. Learn the meaning of total accuracy with every part of the project
6. Learn to make a stitch the correct way
7. Learn that only patience and persistence will get the needed result.
8. Learn that perseverance is rewarded with success.
9. Learn the rules of design.
10. Learn to see how color can be used to enhance the design.
11.  Learn the history of the art and its place in students’ lives in previous centuries.
12 Learn  that instant results are not expected or desirable.
13. Learn pride of achieving something the student thought was difficult.
14. Learn the art of total focus and concentration.
15. Learn the spatial awareness needed to follow a pattern.
16. Learn about where their clothing is made and by whom.

17. Learn how to deal with a mistake, how to decide whether to work with the error or unpick the mistake. How some errors can result in artistic improvements. Not all errors are bad.

18. Realize that you do not have to be good at math, reading or very smart to achieve an excellent result.  Amazingly beautiful projects are successfully stitched by students for whom academics is a constant challenge. Embroidery is liberating to such a student.

These are not in any order of importance. They are a cumulative observation of mine over many years of teaching this art and craft to third graders.

Students who start work on embroidery in the classroom setting start out perplexed, worried, tearful, under confident, but curious.

By the end of the session they are knowledgeable artists with confident skills in their craft. They can concentrate, be totally accurate, persevere, be responsible for their project and the materials,  choose colors, know what success means and be confident in their abilities to deliver a good result.  Every teacher wants this for their students.

Just one of fifty beautifully stitched, carefully colored designs. My design their color choices.
Just one of fifty beautifully stitched, carefully colored designs. My design their color choices.


Next Post: What is Embroidery Time?

Sent from my iPad

Under the radar:embroidery as a controversial subject!!

Here are four of 75 trees stitched at the beginning of our stitching year. To achieve this the students had to learn how to thread a needle and make a stitch. Big challenge to understand that the thread has to reenter the fabric from the same side from which it exited. These trees represent a considerable advancement in dexterity and spatial awareness. You can feel the mental energy in the room.

As the academic year draws to a close it is a time to reflect on all we have done in the classroom. In my case this is just a reflection of embroidery as an art, craft and teaching aid. I have been volunteering to teach a once a week class to three third grade classes.

First,  it ought to be noted, that I have been teaching embroidery to third graders at the same elememtary school, on and off, since my children were there in the nineties, both as a classroom teacher and a volunteer.  Our modest program has operated under four principals. I think it would be fair to say that the climate has become progressively frigid. There is no global warming to the concept of teaching elementary students to embroider. At one point last year the principal, incited by the fourth grade teachers,  who considered that stitching was wasting the students’ valuable instructional time, directed that all stitching cease in favor of core curriculum instruction.

The third grade teachers, in a way all teachers will understand, decided that the program was too valuable to their students to allow this. So we wrote a core curriculum additive which meant that embroidery was taught as math. And so we carried on.  But, stitching under the radar has its costs. Now we could no longer send letters home requesting a donation for materials.  Let me tell you…..75 eager embroiderers get through the materials.  Especially when Erik loses 5 needles!!

So what was the solution to this funding gap.  Elegantly we side stepped the need for donations by capitalizing on the students’ love of their newly learned craft and their desire to have stitching materials for the long summer vacation. I designed a cross stitch kit of the school logo and sold these for $10 a pop; that, with another kit of just, thread and a variety of fabric called, “Design Your Own” . By encouraging the students to do chores to earn their money and making sure that the students knew that if they brought their money there would be a kit for them. We raised over $650 which, with some kind donations, I hope will cover the costs for next year.  If we are allowed to continue!!

Next post….the benefits of teaching embroidery to children.

Summer Embroidery Camp

Rolled felt pincushion and a needle roll made of broad already embroidered ribbon and lined with felt and tied with a ribbon

Next week I will be teaching a 4 day embroidery summer camp. It is the first time I have ever done this. I will have 6 students, aged between 6 and 10 years. Three of the students have worked with me before during a Parks and Rec class. What we stitched did not put them off and they have brought some friends along too.

What to stitch? mmmm

I have thought that to make your own stitching and embroidery tools would be empowering and satisfying. So we will make a pincushion, needle roll, scissor fob and tassel for a needlethreader, very useful all. My idea….unless I change my mind, is to collect all these embroidery tools into an empty tennis ball canister. My daughter is a college tennis player and these containers are very easy to come by, totally free and have the massive benefit of being see thru…also there is room for all the tools and a small stitching project too. Neat, clean, tidy, and easy to keep with your stitching. We will see if the students think so too.


vestigial craft

Embroidery has fallen off the map; dropped off the end of the cultural conveyor belt. Or has it?

I have many reasons for thinking that embroidery is vestigial, once essential, now, no longer needed. I also have many reasons for thinking that what I have just written is not so.

Which is true?

Sitting in the Dr’s office waiting for my mammogram appointment, I was diligently stitching a freehand piece of embroidery for the top of a lovely box from Sudberry House. It was to be a birthday gift for my daughter. My work attracted the attention of another patient. She moved to sit next to me. She watched for a little while I couched some gold thread into the letter Z in my design. “what are you doing she asked? Are you knitting?”  Trying not to show my surprise, I explained what I was doing and how and why. She was clearly fascinated, loved the colors and the idea of creating something but she had absolutely no idea what she was looking at. No idea at all. She had never seen anyone  embroider, never heard of it, never wondered how logos and other embroidered motifs are introduced to fabric. One hundred years ago or less no woman would be without detailed knowledge of what I was doing.  This is not an isolated incident in my experience. So embroidery is vestigial.

Yes…..and No.

Its essential part in the lives of women has gone forever; lost to the massive machine embroidery industry and third world wonders of infinite variety and color and inexpensive clothing. If you want pretty flowers embroidered on your shirt, go to Forever 21, pay $5 and get a shirt with colorful stitching. You do not need to be able to thread a needle or know a chain stitch from a French knot. Cool.

Or is it?

What is lost? Creativity. Satisfaction. Skill. Individuality, ( you are likely to find the lady standing in front of you in Starbucks wearing the same shirt .Oops…she might even look better than you do in it).

I have been very fortunate in being invited to teach embroidery to all 75 third graders in an elementary school. It is an uplifting experience. Seen through young eyes embroidery is exciting and engaging. They are enthralled by its creativity and eager to learn more. I ought to be entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the only person

ever to receive a round of applause for forming a French knot.