My embroidery origin story

My mom taught me to embroider when I was about 8 years old. My first project was a pre-printed duckling square and, as I was sewing the duckling’s bill, the thread got tangled and knotted. I lost my temper and yanked so hard while trying to free the knot that I ended up tearing a hole in the fabric.

After that shaky beginning, I embroidered three more squares — a puppy, a rabbit, and a bear — and then put embroidery aside for several years.

When I was around 11, my grandmother gave me some dishtowels to embroider during a family vacation. I tackled them with much more enthusiasm and patience than I’d had for the duckling. But when the vacation ended so did my plans for finishing the towels. As an adult, I used the dishtowels with their incomplete embroideries for years, until the printed design lines were faded and all that remained were stitches that hinted at an apple, an orange, and a bunch of grapes.

Fast forward a lot of years. In 2013-2014, I got out my long-neglected embroidery supplies. I experimented with embroidering on cardboard and while I liked the results, I missed the tactile enjoyment of working with fabric. The cardboard pieces were also highly planned and didn’t leave any room for spontaneity in the stitching once the designs were set.

I again took a break from embroidery, but not such a long one this time. In 2017, I designed a few simple embroideries…these were more satisfying to work on (because fabric!), but I still wasn’t loving the process. I was using a single strand of embroidery floss and sewing tiny stitches. After making a handful of these I took another little break.

And now, it’s the summer of 2019! For the past couple months, I’ve been drawing these clothed animals in my sketchbook and then translating them into embroidery. I’m sewing with more strands of floss, more colors, more stitch variety, more spontaneity, and I’m finally finally enjoying the process. It’s fun! It’s relaxing! I can do it while listening to podcasts!

It almost feels like I’ve subconsciously circled back to those earliest embroideries: animals with a lot of cross stitches. I hadn’t made the connection until I collected all these photos together. There’s even a bird and a dog and a rabbit. All that’s missing is a bear…

Anyway, that’s the beginning. Now to see where it goes.

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