Doodle embroidery – what is it all about?

A selection (very SMALL selection, actually!) of my embroidery books

Yesterday, I went to a really good, independent bookshop near where I live. It’s called Webberley’s, in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, and it’s a great shop. Two floors of books, both fiction and non-fiction, on all sorts of subjects. A large craft materials section makes it even better.

I was hoping to browse through their craft/embroidery books section, and maybe make a few suggestions to ‘Santa’, as he’d come, ready-prepared, with his credit card. However, I came away disappointed, and not for the first time, after looking through recent embroidery book titles.

It’s not the shop’s fault – I know they can only buy in what’s available from the publishers – but I find the latest ‘craze’ for books on ‘quick and easy’ embroidery extremely depressing. The projects in the books seem to all be things like ‘how to stitch three buttons onto a shop-bought cushion, add some lazy daisy stitches and you’ve got a wonderful addition to your home’. No you haven’t, actually.

And why are the only ‘allowable’ colour schemes brown, brown, and more brown?

And don’t start me on ‘doodle embroidery’! What’s that all about? Take a line drawing of something that looks like bad clipart (is there such a thing as ‘good’ clipart?), and then backstitch over all the lines, often in just one colour. Voila! Erm…you’ve then got a line drawing that’s been backstitched over. What do you then DO with it?

The embroidery books that I’ve loved to collect over the years are truly inspirational. Gorgeous photography, projects that have your fingers itching to start as soon as you open the book, instructions so clear that even a completely new technique looks simple enough to try. Stumpwork, ribbon embroidery, thread-painting, blackwork, 3-D projects, historical items…they’re all tempting if presented in the right way.

The selling point with a lot of the designs in recent books is that they’re quick to finish. This is partly what I dislike about them. I know there is a modern myth that ‘people these days have less time’. It’s very easy to buy into that idea. However, there may be more things available to do now than in previous times, but each person still has the option of CHOOSING – and maybe that’s the real problem. Many people watch TV for five hours a day, and think that’s OK. Then they say they’ve got no time. Excuse me? Turn the thing off. Even better, get rid of it. You’d be amazed how much more can be achieved when the  time-filling, gadget-needing activities are eliminated.

If someone has little time, but still wants to do somethng creative like embroidery, I do question the idea that a project needs to be completed in one session, too. If you’ve only got half an hour a day to stitch, but you work on one project for a month (30 lots of half hours), you can easily make a very worthwhile item in a month.  What’s wrong with that?

Maybe I’m just weird 🙂

I do sometimes get the response, ‘Well, it’s OK for you, you’re a designer, so of course you like the complicated designs – it’s easy for you.’  But that idea won’t wash either, I’m afraid. I’ve never had professional training in embroidery. I taught myself, from the age of four, because I was ENTHUSIASTIC. I became very focussed on what I wanted to do, sometimes dropping other activities to allow more time for what really interested me. If people never push themselves, we’d all still be sitting in our prams, eating rusks, not achieving anything. Perhaps I’m just more determined than other people? I dunno. 

OK, rant over. I think I’ll go and have another look through the heaps of books I’ve already got on embroidery….


How to fix back pain without drugs

zero balancing
A zero balancing therapist with a client

I have had back pain of various kinds for years. A few years ago, though, I managed to find a way to alleviate the pain in a way that gives total relief, for several months at a time (until I do something stupid, such as gardening for eight hours at a stretch, or picking up a railway sleeper and carrying it for a hundred yards, tucked under one arm. Honestly.)

The treatment I have found is Zero Balancing. I first came across it through a McTimoney Chiropractor, as I had previously been attending a very good Chiropractor to help me with a balance/dizziness problem that I’d been getting. But then this particular therapist became pregnant, and went on Maternity Leave, so, for the few months that she was unavailable, I had to find another therapist to go to. The second one was a bloke (Yay! No chance of him getting pregnant and stopping work, then!). Chiropractic is a very gentle therapy anyway, but I found that his style was even more gentle than the woman that I’d previously been going to. Partly, that’s because what he was doing wasn’t just the spinal manipulation technique of McTimoney Chiropractic, but the more holistic approach of Zero Balancing, too. In a couple of years, with sessions about three months apart, I’ve had chronic insomnia sorted, my nasty dizziness sorted, and I’ve been given easy exercises to do which make working at the computer all day a lot easier to unwind from.

At one point, I had given myself a frozen shoulder, through doing embroidery for days and days, holding a hoop frame in my left hand, and doing all of the stitching with just my right, so that my whole upper left body went into spasm. The Chiropractor told me to definitely stop doing that, or I wouldn’t be able to stitch at all in a few years’ time! What a threat!

The best description I have found of what Zero Balancing actually is, is from the Zero Balancing Association UK’s website:

“Some therapies, such as osteopathy and chiropractic, address the physical structure of the body, whilst other therapies, such as homeopathy and acupuncture, seek to balance the energetics of a person. Zero balancing engages both body structure and body energy simultaneously so as to bring each into a more harmonious relationship with the other.
Disturbances in this relationship can happen as a result of accidents, repeated or chronic strain, emotional events in a person’s history or simply because of poor postural habits.Zero Balancers work to restore the normal flow of energy that permeates the bones and to align that flow with the physical structure so that the whole person functions at their best possible level.” 

I have certainly found it to be very healing, both physically and emotionally, and would recommend it to anyone with a long-standing pain problem such as mine.

My weekend of Dances of Universal Peace (with embroidery as an added ingredient!)

Birmingham Mike Hadden 091107

Last weekend, there were two good one-day Dances of Universal Peace events on, both within driving distance of where we live. As we couldn’t choose between them, we decided to go to both!

The first one was at the Friends Meeting House in Hall Green, Birmingham. This one happens monthly, and we manage to go most months. The building is lovely – Victorian, I think, and cosy with a quiet feel to it. The day is led by Mike Hadden and his wife, Suzanne, who have their own website with information about the Dances and dates of upcoming events.

Friends Meeting House Hall Green
The Friends Meeting House, Hall Green, Birmingham

We danced from 10.30 till 4pm, with a break for lunch (brought by the participants). Several of the dances were new to me – a couple, in particular, were really lovely. One, called ‘Namaste’, had the lines ‘I honour the place in you where the entire Universe dwells. I honour the place in me where the entire Universe dwells’. It was a very slow, meditative dance, done in pairs. The other dance I don’t know the name of, but the words were something like ‘There is a secret One inside us, All the stars and all the galaxies, Run through Her hands like beads’. It’s based on part of a poem by Tagore, I think. Anyway, it was great, too.

Sheffield Yoga Centre Gulzar 091108
The altar table at Sheffield

On Sunday, we went to the Sheffield Yoga Centre, and had another great day of Dances led by Christina Lausevic (her Sufi name is Gulzar). She plays guitar to accompany the dances she leads, and my husband, Chris,  plays drum for some of the dances, too (when he’s not dancing, that is). Gulzar adds other practices to her Dance Days, so we also did some drumming, and walking meditations.

A beautiful Indian embroidered panel, over the doorway to the room where we danced
A beautiful Indian embroidered panel, over the doorway to the room where we danced

As I’m always on the lookout for embroidery, it didn’t take me long to spot this gorgeous Indian wallhanging, as it was strung across the doorway into the room where we danced.

Sheffield door embroidery detail
A detailed view of the wallhanging

It was lovely – lots of tiny shisha mirrors had been embroidered on it, and, although it was a bit worn in places (it’s obviously quite old), it was a very carefully made piece. I just love the colours!