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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Finished embroidery: a ‘knot garden’ pincushion

The pincushion is stitched in various embroidery stitches, and measures nearly five inches square

I made this pincushion recently, and it was one of the most enjoyable projects I have ever done. The design is by Robyn Rich of Victoria, Australia, and the design was featured in Issue 17 of the fantastic Australian embroidery magazine ‘Inspirations’. Issue 17 is from quite a way back, now – from 1998. The style of the magazine has changed a bit over the years, and this design is from their most ‘romantic’ period, which I really like. The website of the magazine’s publishers, Country Bumpkin, often has back issues still available, which are well worth buying. (When I first came across the magazine, I thought it was so wonderful that I paid over £40 in postage costs alone to have ALL of the available back issues posted to the UK from Australia – and it was worth every penny! I had a wonderful few weeks, reading through the magazines, and planning the projects that I’d like to make – enough for several lifetimes, probably 🙂  )

I didn’t adapt the design of the pincushion much, as it was so perfect as it was. I did use Anchor stranded cotton instead of DMC, as that is the brand of thread I use in the miniature needlepoint kits that I sell, so I always keep the whole Anchor range in stock, and it seemed daft to buy even more thread!

The fabric I used was a cream glazed cotton fabric, which I’d bought years ago in a  junk shop. It’s so closely woven, that when a needle is poked into the cushion, it always makes a satisfying ‘popping’ sound!

The instructions suggest first indicating the areas of dense stitching in the four corners by painting the fabric with green fabric paint, which I did. But this seemed to come out quite a harsh green, so I turned the fabric over and stitched on the other side, where the green paint showed much more faintly.

The pincushion seen from above

The text given in the magazine ‘suggested’ ideas for where each kind of stitch for each kind of plant could go, rather than giving precise placement instructions, so it was a very creative project to do – lots of choices to make. The stitches used gave a good impression of each type of plant. For instance, the delphiniums I stitched in columns of French knots, the central roses in close-lying bullion knot rounds, and the lavender bushes  in lazy daisy stitches, done in short rows.

The border was great fun to do. Just short lengths of French knots, in lots of colours, worked randomly. The ‘cushion’ part, when embroidered and made up, is stitched to the base at the very corners only – the base being a piece of thick mount board covered in fabric. Tiny flowers are stitched at the corners of the cushion to cover the joining stitches. The seam of the baseboard fabric is covered with two rows of open detached blanket stitch, in two colours. The way that the cushion and the base are joined means that there is a kind of  ‘slight gap’ in between the two, which the article suggested using to tuck packets of needles, etc., into, but I think I’d worry that they would get lost, so I don’t do that.

I keep meaning to use motifs from this pincushion to make matching scissor holder, needlebook and scissor keep, but then there’s this issue of time…..

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