Stolen embroidery

I posted recently about two needlecases that I’ve made during my life – one when I was 12, and one much more recently. In that post, I mentioned that the first needlecase (on the right in the image below) had been part of a set, but that the scissors case had been stolen out of my bag on the day I took both pieces into school to show my needlework teacher.

It made me think over the other times in my life when I’ve had stitching stolen. It’s a horrible feeling when something you have taken so much time and care over gets taken from you, because it can never be replaced. I’ve also found, over the years, that even if I still have the pattern for a particular project (which I obviously do if it’s one of my own designs!), for some reason I can’t face stitching it again. Most of my embroidery, then, is a ‘one-off experience’. I don’t want to have the same stitching experience twice, if you see what I mean. And knowing that I would be stitching something simply because the original had to be replaced would just make the whole experience unpleasant, somehow.

After having the scissors case stolen, my stitching collection was ‘safe’ for several decades. I must have got complacent! About ten years ago now, I had been visiting a friend of mine who is also an embroidery designer, so I had taken my latest finished project to show her. It was an Elizabethan sweet bag from Inspirations magazine, Issue 36. A really lovely piece to embroider. I did it very much like the one in the picture below – only changing the thread colours a little, as I stitched it in Anchor stranded cotton, rather than the shades suggested in the magazine. I really enjoyed making it – it took about two months of  ‘spare’ time.

On the way home from visiting my friend, my husband and I went to the wedding reception of other friends of ours. Obviously, you can’t walk into a wedding reception with your suitcases, so we left our stuff in the car. Bad idea. Halfway through the receoption, there was an announcement that the owner of a blue Ford Fiesta needed to go and speak to the Hotel Manager. You guessed it – our car had been broken into while the wedding reception was in full swing. All our luggage had been taken, including the embroidered bag. What almost made it worse was that, when I was explaining to the police what had gone, and I mentioned the bag, one of them said, ‘Oh, they wouldn’t be interested in that. That’ll be tossed in a hedge somewhere. I meant anything of value’.

And that’s part of the problem, really. It makes it worse if you know that what’s been stolen won’t even be valued. Who steals embroidery to order, anyway? It’s not as if it’s ‘art’, apparently.

However…..

The last needlework show I attended as a standholder was a two-day event at Bakewell, in Derbyshire, about five years ago. I had attended dozens of shows over the previous ten years, but I was starting to reconsider whether it was financially worthwhile to attend shows, with all the hassle of getting there, setting up, staying in hotels, etc. Online selling is so much easier! My husband and I set up the stand with our kits for doll’s house embroidery, as we always did. The first day was OK, but not that busy, but we were assured that the Sunday would be busier. As usual with these multi-day events, at the end of the first day, we just put dust sheets over the stand, and went to our hotel for the night. In the morning, we didn’t actually notice that someone had got to our stand before we had, and had taken some of our stitched models of the doll’s house carpets that we sell, and had moved the rest of the models up so that a gap wasn’t noticeable.

‘Elizabeth’ miniature carpet design – it measures 9 x 9 inches, and is stitched on 18 count canvas with one strand of Appleton’s crewel wool

The two carpets that they stole were large ones (by doll’s house standards, anyway!). And, as I don’t do commissions, I presume they weren’t stitchers, and felt that to buy a kit and stitch it themselves just wasn’t their thing. Anyway, the designs they stole were ‘Elizabeth’, the first design I ever stitched as a miniature carpet (it’s the design featured on the front cover of my book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’), and ‘Karen’, which was named for my friend Karen who lives in Wales, and who loves William Morris designs. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to face stitching them again, as stitched models are often used in publicity photos in my business, but I haven’t been able to get to that point yet.

This doll’s house room setting shows the ‘Karen’ carpet design, along with several other designs from my range of kits

I am very wary, now, of taking any of my stitching out of the house. Of course, it’s still possible that one day we could be burgled, and things could be stolen anyway, but the risks seem to increase out of the house. I don’t really know what the answer is. And I don’t feel that insurance is the way forward, either – for one thing, insurance companies simply don’t understand the value of stitching.

Reading back over this, it sounds like quite a depressing post – sorry! I didn’t set out to write a depressing post! What I think I’m saying is, appreciate the stitching you’ve done, but be aware that it might not always be around. Value what you’ve done, and the time you’ve put into it.

And if you ever see a little Elizabethan sweet bag on beige damask with forget-me-nots made out of blue seed beads, with gold tassels along the bottom, and the initals JLG on the back, would you let me know ?  🙂

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22 thoughts on “Stolen embroidery

  1. Carol Arsenault

    I’ve never had a piece stolen, but I do empathize about having your work ‘thrown away’. I asked a relative of mine if I could ‘borrow’ back a piece I had stitched for her – a white rose about 4 x 4 all in french knots – that I wanted to use for demonstration purposes in a class I was teaching. She emphatically denied ever having received the piece from me, and I’m sure she just put it in the charity bag. My only hope is that someone, somewhere, is displaying my rose and telling everyone what a bargain it was and how they picked it up for a penny. I try not to judge, but I’ve never stitched anything else for her.

    Reply
    1. Janet Granger Post author

      That must have been awkward, having a relative who ‘mislaid’ your stitching. I’ve loaned things to relatives, too, and eventually got the stitching back damaged, but at least I got it back!

      Reply
  2. A. Wright

    Sadly you’re not alone, I’ve heard similar stories from other vendors. I know one lady who now puts her display items in locked plexiglass boxes. Having a kit taken is bad enough, but to steal your time and work is really dirty.

    Reply
  3. Suzanne Muir

    How totally heartbreaking! The Elizabethan sweet bag was amazing. I’ve had tatted lace stolen from inside a greeting card (the thief probably hoped it was cash). It definitely leaves bitter taste in one’s mouth. I have yet to be able to bring myself to make that particular pattern again.

    The only consolation I have to offer is that occurrences of theft, or violation of one’s belongings and privacy, seem to come in batches (as you have just experienced). Here’s hoping the carpet theft was the last of it!

    Reply
  4. Rosamargarita

    Hola Janet, realmente lo que cuentas es una pesadilla, primero, el robo de las maletas con tu precioso bordado y después en una exhibición te han robado dos alfombras!
    Es la cosa más ruin que he escuchado, que alguien sin escrúpulos no valores el trabajo artístico es impensable.
    Lamento mucho lo que te ha sucedido, recibe mi apoyo y un abrazo.

    In English, this reads roughly as:
    Janet, what happened really is a nightmare. First, the theft of your luggage with your precious embroidery and later in an exhibition to have two carpets stolen!
    It is the most evil thing I have heard, that someone unscrupulous doesn’t value your artistic work. It is unthinkable. I regret what has happened to you – you have my support and a hug!

    Reply
  5. Dottie James

    Yes, your subject hit a sore spot with me. It is only recently that I had anything stolen and it hurts very much. In my case we participate in living history and I do needlework demonstrations and this has been for over 20 years. One of the last events we did last year was a local quilt show and we are the historic “interest”. I had several items I was working on and one of them was a large redwork splasher which was almost halfway completed. I did not have it on a frame because I was working on a different project and just showed what it was and how to complete it and left it loose in a basket. I did this several times throughout the day, and at the end of the day just gathered everything into the various baskets and therefore, it was a couple of days later that I realized it was gone. I agee with you that it wasn’t the object or what it costs (afterall what is a piece of muslin and some red embroidery thread?!!!!!) but it was the time it had taken for more to sketch the picture and work on it (for several events) that really upset me. Like you I have the sketch and replicate it, but right now I can’t find the spirit to do this either. I will be participating at a local historic farm this Fall and I shall make a different splasher to work on though. And like you, I will take much more care of what I do with my demonstration items in the future. By the way, I love that sweet bag, it is pictured in a book I have and I have always wanted to do it…..but never enough time, so I fully realize how much work you had in it…………..Take care,
    Dottie

    Reply
  6. Kirsi

    I feel so sad for you reading about stolen embroideries. I would also be very depressed. This posting makes me thinking about how to handle my stitchings and charts. Thank you for it.

    Reply
  7. JaanL

    I am so very sorry that someone thought they were being smart, and taking your lovely carpets. At some point I am sure you’ll set eyes on your lovely works of art. I would also consider them of value, as it takes a lot of time and money to create such art. I love every piece of embroidery, cross stitch, crocheted and knitted items. Rarely do I part with them as I feel they are heirloom items, something which I never got the chance to receive from my grandmothers. And what few pieces I have from my mother I cherish dearly.
    So, I will pray for your lost works of art to be returned to you. And just to let you know from the photos you have shown they are so beautiful.

    Reply
  8. Julie-Anne Rogers

    I have had it happen, too. Not only is there the loss of your loved work, there is the knowledge that the thief really doesn’t appreciate it to it’s fullest extent and they don’t deserve to have it. Anyone that steals doesn’t!

    Reply
  9. nays

    How sickening to have your work stolen! I guess some people who like handwork but aren’t inclined to stitch themselves, just take it when they have the chance. My sister had a vintage-themed wedding recently; she used vintage embroidered tablecloths, and two were stolen. One she found in her mother-in-law’s kitchen drawer! MIL said she took it home to clean it – yeah right. The other never turned up, and sadly it was one borrowed off an elderly friend of our mother. I do hope the people who took your embroideries feel guilty every time they look at them.

    Reply
    1. Janet Granger Post author

      Oh dear, that doesn’t get her off to a good start with her MIL, does it?! I agree with you – I do hope that whoever took anything of mine feels pangs of guilt every time they look at what they stole. I can’t really see how any ‘normal’ person could feel any different, actually.

      Reply
  10. Maureen

    I am very sorry for your loss – it is not just the loss of such fine embroidery but what it does to your inner person. There are some miserable people in the world.

    Reply
    1. Janet Granger Post author

      I’m working on the ‘inner person’ bit at the moment – hence the original post, really. Getting these supportive responses helps a lot. I was feeling before that maybe I was just making a fuss 😦

      Reply
  11. Elizabeth Woodford

    Whenever we create with our hands we include parts of our hearts and our spirits. The people who covet and steal what we do , do not understand this . I would be very wary and protective of my work whether it is stitching on not. It makes me so angry that we cannot freely share our work our time and our spirits with other people without having the anxiety of wondering whether we will loose our work. How DARE THEY??????
    I am very careful about who I create things for, if I have any sense that they do not share my appreciation for hand work and my time talents and the bit of Self that I include in all of my work, those folks don’t get hand crafted gifts!!!
    I am so very sorry for your losses, Janet!!!!

    Reply
  12. Connie Eyberg

    That is horrible! I haven’t been stitching that long, but long enough to know how much value a labor of love can hold for the one who created it. People who steal have no respect and feel no value to such things. I couldn’t live with the guilt and can’t imagine how stealing something could give anyone pleasure. I haven’t experienced having anything so personal stolen and am sorry you have had to deal with it.

    Reply
  13. Renee Kane Fields

    Janet,
    I know how you feel. I made a miniature crazy quilt, 4 blocks and a border, total size 5 1/2 inches square. I used 2 mm sequins, single threads of silk for stitching, 2mm silk ribbon, size 18 sead beads for embellishment. I spent a couple of months working on it in the evenings. I didn’t win a prize when it was juried because altho the judges loved it, it wasn’t quite square (my first effort). The sad part is that when I turned in the quilt for hanging the show, it disappeared. No one knows if it was stolen, if it fell on the floor and got swept up with the trash, or if it got caught in with someone else’s things inadvertantly. There were probalby 30-40 people participating in show set-up. All I know is that it disappeared before it was hung. No one knows what happened to it.
    Renee

    Reply
    1. Janet Granger Post author

      Renee, that is horrible to ‘lose’ something like that. The mini-quilt sounds like it was lovely!

      I attended a needlework show as a standholder a few years ago that had a section for displaying quilts which had won the national competition for that year. After the show, the quilts were supposed to be sent back by post to the entrants. Guess what? Several of them never got there. So, where in the ‘chain’ did they go missing? The individual entrants were just told ‘you should have insured them’, but that wouldn’t actually have helped, would it?

      Reply
  14. Joanne

    I found your blog as I was researching for a piece of stumpwork I am planning, and I just wanted to tell you that it has been lovely looking through all the posts. Your work is incredible!!
    This particular post touched me because I have made that bag too. It sickens me that there are people in this world that have no concern for others – you can’t make sense of the senseless! I am so sorry.
    Thanks for inspiring!! Hugs!

    Reply
    1. Janet Granger Post author

      Thanks!

      Well, at the time, it was a lovely bag to make, and I did really enjoy stitching it, so I just have to remember that part, and not how it all ended 😦

      I still can’t face making a replacement, though. Don’t think I ever will, now.

      Reply
  15. tinacomroe

    Thieves are seldom ashamed of themselves, nor are the people who go from stall to stall at an event exclaiming for all to hear that “they can make it cheaper and better themselves”…sometimes I wish I was allowed to thrash them in public and invite the other venders to join in, one thwack a penny, the money to go to a charity after the event…

    Reply

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