E is for Embroidery
March 03, 2006
At the age of 8 my mother taught me to embroider. The first project was a green baby bib shaped like the head of a Cocker Spaniel. It was mostly outline stitch, in shades of brown, with a satin stitch pink nose. My memory is that it was never finished into a bib and I'm not sure I finished all the embroidery. In the early years I also stitched pre-stamped samplers (the oldest one on the right) and pillow cases. Embroidery wasn't a passion until my college years…you know the embroidered denim shirts and jeans of the 'hippie days'. It was then it became a bigger part of my life. I worked in a needlework shop for a few years in the 70s, because I was a very accomplished hooker, and it was there I learned to knit. I also learned several types of embroidery. Like knitting, you can never know it all because of the many and varied types of embroidery.
In 1987 I joined the local Needlepoint Guild and fell in love with 'art needlework'. My first class was a very extensive needlepoint piece of 12 Amish Quilt designs. I loved it so much that it took me only 5 months to complete. From then on I took every class I could and traveled to do so when possible. In 1991 I was introduced to Japanese Embroidery and studied it for 10 years. The teacher who taught this technique had a big impact on my life, as did the this form of embroidery. It taught me so much about the process, and the discipline needed, to enjoy the journey of life.
One of the thrills during my needlework years was being asked to design and stitch a stocking for the White House Christmas Tree (as were 4 embroiderers from every State). It was an honor and I was invited to the White House, with 10,000 others, to view the many beautifully decorated trees. I found my stocking on the Blue Room tree and a friend was able to snap a picture. I also did a large piece of embroidery for our Governor's Mansion (a dining room valance).
Much of the needlework I've done has been given away to family members. My album, Needles With Eyes, has many of the 'smalls' I enjoyed stitching during the years that I studied counted thread. Several of my walls are covered with needlework but, only this piece, The Basketman, is in my living room. It is the one I love most of all.
For the last few years I have stitched only Santa's as Christmas decorations or teaching pieces. I have stayed involved in the stitching community by teaching and also as founder of a local Sampler Guild. Teaching has been a very enjoyable experience. My student's work is very diverse and they are all such lovely ladies. All the years of study are put to use in guiding the students through the embellishment of painted canvases. The students challenge and delight me. I teach classes regularly and love to watch as each person grows and becomes a better stitcher. They say a teacher is successful when a students abilities surpass their own. My students certainly have accomplished that. You can see two examples below.
Late in 2000 I began to suffer with an upper back problem which made it very uncomfortable to bend over an embroidery frame. It was then I turned to knitting (which had been a part of my life since 1974) with a vengeance. In 2004, when I started this blog, the desire to embroider evaporated almost entirely. I enjoy being a part of the needlework community and will continue to be involved. I may knit at the meetings instead of stitch but, it is the people I go to see.
Enjoy your weekend. While March is a very unsettled month, the weather man did say that meteorological winter is over!
I enjoyed your E so much! Your embroidery is so very beautiful (it *almost* makes me want to pull out the box of threads and bits of linen that have been languishing in a trunk for 20 years). Thank you for writing about it!
Posted by: Jane | March 03, 2006 at 04:25 AM
That is gorgeous stuff, Margene, both your own work and your students'. I also learned to embroider quite young, but I never achieved anything remotely approaching your skill.
Posted by: Lucia | March 03, 2006 at 04:33 AM
What a beautiful and meaningful "E" entry for you Margene. It certainly brings back memories for me of my mother teaching me to embroider, my earliest projects, and the larger "art" type projects later. People evolve in so many ways for so many reasons - thanks for sharing this part of yourself!
Posted by: Laura | March 03, 2006 at 04:33 AM
This has been my favorite "along" post. What lovely lovely work. I love the quilt sampler!
Posted by: Kim | March 03, 2006 at 05:41 AM
Wow! I'm so impressed! My only experience with needlepoint was one I did for a boyfriend when I was in high school. It was a guy at a drafting table because he wanted to be an architect. It was a Herculean effort for me to finish it, but I did and had it framed and I think about it to this day. Did he keep it? Did he take good care of it?
Posted by: Cara | March 03, 2006 at 06:02 AM
All of your work is gorgeous Margene! No matter the discipline - you bring new meaning to the phrase 'master of arts.' (that's plural - you see)
Posted by: Beth | March 03, 2006 at 06:05 AM
Wow, my embroidery NEVER looked like that1
Have a great weekend.
Posted by: Sarah HB | March 03, 2006 at 06:10 AM
Hehe, I love to hear you say you're an "accomplished hooker!"
When I was younger, I spent an entire summer in a hospital with a nasty, nasty illness. My grandma taught me to cross-stitch so that I would have something to pass the time while I fought to get better. I don't cross-stitch as much as I used to, but I still really enjoy it. I've always wanted to learn needlepoint, but you know how it goes--so many hobbies, so little time!
Posted by: Kim | March 03, 2006 at 06:16 AM
The breadth of your talents continues to amaze and inspire. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Posted by: Rachel H | March 03, 2006 at 06:17 AM
You are one talented lady. Do you ever think you'll swing back to embroidery now your back is a little better? I know you wouldn't stop knitting but I think with a talent like yours and the amount of time/studying you've spent creating these beauties, it would be a hard thing to give up.
Posted by: Tracy | March 03, 2006 at 06:32 AM
My Grandmother taught me embroidery when I was 6. I go back to it from time to time. Your embroidery is exquisite.
Who was President when you stitched the Christmas Stocking for the Whitehouse? Did you meet him or the First Lady? Did you see the private quarters or only the part reserved for the public? I think that is very cool - and what an honor!
Posted by: Michele | March 03, 2006 at 06:41 AM
I posted about samplers today. My mom taught me in high school. I still have a project I need to get back to--just can't find the right linen. Lovely E! Thanks.
Posted by: Kathleen | March 03, 2006 at 06:44 AM
You stole my E! But yours is so much better so it's okay. Really beautiful work, Margene.
Posted by: Carole | March 03, 2006 at 06:53 AM
Your work is beautiful!!!
Posted by: stitchnsnitch | March 03, 2006 at 06:57 AM
Judy told me that you teach embroidery---how wonderful to see some of your work! And what an honor, creating for the White House Christmas Tree--wow!
Beautiful post--thank you for sharing.
Posted by: Kim | March 03, 2006 at 06:57 AM
I really enjoyed this entry. Your work is beautiful and I especially love the amish quilts. That's a project that would appeal to me if I had your gifts. As it is, I used to cross-stitch (how unimaginative) before I discovered knitting. Now that I've found such rewards through knitting and knit-blogging I could never go back to it. How unfortunate for all of the unfinished objects in my cabinet!
Posted by: hillary | March 03, 2006 at 07:10 AM
Margene how awesome! OH I'm in looove with the basket man, your work is fantastic!!! I do cross stitch but have never tried embroidery, can you come teach me??? :) I only want to be taught by the best you know!
This post was a delight to read and feast my eyes on. FABULOUS FABULOUS!!!
Posted by: Kelly | March 03, 2006 at 07:16 AM
hehehe my own embrodery never went much past the hearts and flowers on my jeans stage. i'm working now around such beautiful kits that i want to try it again. some of the kits are painted canvasas to embellish with embroderie. you are an inspiration.
Posted by: marie in florida | March 03, 2006 at 07:23 AM
Your Embroidery is beautiful, It is amazing how many of us move from one craft to another. I too embroidered for many years, I had my own cross stich design business and also was one of the regular stitchers on the Guernsey Millenium Tapestry which consists of 10 panels each depicting one century in the history of our island. Have a lovely weekend.
Posted by: janine | March 03, 2006 at 07:26 AM
Thanks for taking us on yor journey! I love how you describe yourself as "studying" your crafts. This is how I view my knitting. My family asks why I have so many knitting books - I use them for "study" more than patterns. You have always been an inspiration to me and now I know why. Thanks so much for sharing
Posted by: Kim | March 03, 2006 at 07:45 AM
But us in the world are knitting are glad you jumped in with both feet! :)
I was wishing for a few more days like yesterday, but it doesn't sound like tonight and tomorrow will be quite so spring-like around here.
Posted by: Anne | March 03, 2006 at 07:46 AM
Amazing stuff, Margene. Wow. And how cool about the White House Christmas stocking!! Sure am glad you're a knitter now. :)
Posted by: Chris | March 03, 2006 at 07:57 AM
Oh my goodness, Margene. Your Basketman is stunnning! And the quilt sampler is a beautiful interpretation of that 'other' kind of needlework. I see why you cherish those pieces.
Posted by: Beth S. | March 03, 2006 at 08:13 AM
You're one talented lady!!! Your embroidery is so beautiful!
Posted by: Winnie | March 03, 2006 at 08:16 AM
The incredible beauty of it. I cross stitched a blue on white Williamsburg scene. I also did a Siamese cat. I enjoyed it, but found it hard on my eyes. I still love to look at it and do I needlepoint (I have alot of that) when the St Louis summers get too hot to knit (and they do). The geisha blew me away. The basket man was hard to see. What did you use? It looks like it shines, or is that just the light?
Posted by: Cindy | March 03, 2006 at 08:16 AM