Through the Eye of a Needle

My first sampler age 7

My first sampler age 7

My mother taught me to embroider at an early age and I’ve continued doing needlework for my entire life.

Detail, sampler finished age 7 Betty SafranWhen you look at the projects I did as a teen in particular, its obvious that I had a lot of time on my hands out there in that isolated farmhouse, and a fair amount of patience and skill.

My first learning project was a crewel work sampler when I was 7, and with it I learned all the basic stitches – the french knots were the hardest by far.

The Erica Wilson kit I made as a kid

Erica Wilson kit

When I finished the sampler, I  moved onto a crewel work pillow cover from Erica Wilson’s line of embroidery kits; the end product was fine enough to be used on the living room couch.

My sampler finished age 14

My sampler finished age 14

In 1973 after moving to Canada, my mother gave me a new sampler kit – this one was much bigger and more elaborate than anything I had done before. I worked on it feverishly and finished it in a year. It’s something that I am proud of to this day.

A friend of my mother’s made the same kit around the same time as me – hers was perfect with each stitch exactly formed and she criticized my work because it didn’t look like hers, but I felt that mine had more beauty and character (though I didn’t dare say so – I had better manners then than I do now).

The next sampler that I made  was counted stitch based on the pattern of an antique sampler in the Women’s Day collection of American Needlework. The sampler was worked on dark gray linen to look like a child’s school slate. It was even about the same size as a slate…

Original Slate Sampler  by Anzolette Hussey dated 1825

Original Slate Sampler dated 1825

I had to dye my piece of linen to match the original and then carefully reproduce the design. It was a wedding gift to my cousin so I embroidered that commemoration in the area that the original girl had embroidered her name. It was very hard work with a lot of eye strain due to the dark and somewhat shiny linen, but it was worth it.

After finishing the Slate Sampler I started a new counting stitch sampler for myself from the same collection.

I was challenging myself with more complicated work with each project – the stitches on this sampler were exact and exhausting

The Cat Sampler - detail

The Cat Sampler – detail

– in some areas there are tiny little features that are 1 x 1 stitching – one thread of floss across two crossing threads of linen

The Cat Sampler with my cat Nimbus

The Cat Sampler with my cat Nimbus

– extremely fine work (which I don’t think I could do now unless I had glasses like Professor Farnsworth from Futurama).

Professor Farnsworth of Futurama created by Matt Groening

Prof Farnsworth

It remains unfinished – one of many projects that I have to work on before I leave this mortal life… or I could just frame it unfinished – after all it is beautiful as it is.

Throughout my teens I continued to embroider on my jeans, jackets, on little sachets – on anything that I could think of like Christmas tree ornaments, and eyeglass cases.

Sachets filled with balsam c1970s

Sachets filled with balsam c1970s

I experimented with other needle arts too. I did needlepoint when I was a teen during the time that my mother and aunt were creating and selling needlepoint kits. I used their extra left over wool to make my own designs.

I also quilted at the Jolicure quilting club and while there worked on whatever quilt was being finished: stitching the tiny even stitches to pull the top and bottom of the quilt together with a thick batting between.

I pieced two quilts of my own: I have an entire quilt top which still needs quilting and enough patchwork squares to make a sampler quilt. Making the sampler quilt squares was fun; – I got to try different patterns and I soon learned that I liked the geometric piecing more than applique piecing. When I look at each individual square that I made I can remember the time and what was happening when I was working on it.

Unfinished patchwork star

Unfinished patchwork star

And through my teens I sewed and made some of my own clothes (from Vogue patterns naturally).

Speaking of unfinished projects I am now working on a needlepoint pillow cover of a tabby cat. Another intricate piece that despite the color guide requires some consistent counting to do right.

The Contented Cat by Elizabeth Bradley

The Contented Cat by Elizabeth Bradley; a work in progress

I put it away for a while and then rediscover it and always find the work soothing and enjoyable but it requires a certain energy that I find sometimes I can’t muster. I am already looking forward to making another in the series. When the pillows are done I will place them on my couch and not let anyone touch them – not even my beloved cats.

Note: as with all my posts – you can click on most of the images to see a larger version, then hit back arrow to go back to the post.

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2 thoughts on “Through the Eye of a Needle

  1. Very interesting. You have some lovely samplers there! I’d love to do that, but not sure if my eyes could take it with the dark nights we are having now. The Contented Cat looks lovely so far. 🙂

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