Embroidering was Family Learned

Three generations of women sat together visiting while they embroidering along with other crafts in my parents house. Our family sews, embroiders and crochets together passing down the skills we learned from our elders. We sat around the living room or on Grandma’s porch in the afternoons and evenings, joking and chatting while we stitched together (or we were snapping green beans from the garden). Our household produced beautiful pieces with Scottish tatting, eyelet, embroidery, and crochet pieces.

Great Grandma Tatting

Great Grandma Sedilla
Great-Grandmother Oxendine 1911

My Great-Grandmother did Scottish tatting and embroidery on elegant dish towels, quilts, doilies, pillowcases and dresses.

Grandma Embroidering

Sedilla with daughter Opal 1950
Opal Kilpatrick with her mother, Sedilla in 1950’s

Her daughter did  embroidery in colored flosses  making days-of-the-week dish towels, flowers, herbs, quilts, table cloths and napkins.

My Grandma, “Opal” taught me how to do embroidery stitches on small things like pillowcases and napkins. After I learned how to do all the basic embroidery stitches sufficiently, I graduated from her 101 course and slipped into the real world of embroidery from there.

First Real Project

When I was in high school, Grandma gave me my first real embroidery project as my Christmas present. It was a full tablecloth kit made by Bucilla who’s name has changed to plaid on now. This tablecloth kit had the thread, cloth, needles, and hoop in it with instructions similar to a paint-by-number set. Put this color floss here, using this stitch. This first tablecloth was a daisy and rose pattern with vines and leaves taking me an entire year to finish. Seems like maybe, there were a million times where I needed to change the thread colors. I threaded a different color into my needle so many times, that it truly became second nature. Many times I thought that maybe it would be impossible to finish. But each evening I stitched on it some more and finally, it was done. It would not surprise me, to find out that my family had placed bets on weather I would finish it or not. Probably the most significant result has been the creation of a lifelong habit that I dearly love.

Opal Kilpatrick
My Grandma, Opal Kilpatrick at the Lihui, Kauai HI airport parking lot in 1988.

Grandma was also responsible for many of my best recipes. Her name was Opal (Canniff) Kilpatrick. Being half Scottish and half Indian she had beautiful white hair just like her Mom. Here is a picture of her pausing for a photo for me in the Lihue, Kauai HI airport before we walked over to the gate for her to climb up the stairs to catch her flight.

She had come to visit me and my kids before moving away to the mainland to live with her sister in Oklahoma. I snapped this photograph with one of those old Kodak 110 film cameras, little did I know, this would be the last time I’d see her in-person before she passed away. This picture is kept in my wallet and I still miss her. Grandma’s voice is heard whenever I spread my daisy tablecloth on the dining room table on a special occasion.

Stitch, Needle Art

Hummingbird embroidery stitch in hoop
A hummingbird being embroidered on a diningroom tablecloth.

In my spare time I stitch in-time.

  • Embroidery
  • Sewing

Since early childhood, I have been stitching on heirloom tablecloths, blankets and pillowcases. Embroidery feels like coloring with a thread in rhythm on cloth, in an otherwise mundane surrounding.

Winding-down we watch TV and I do embroidery, as a welcome distraction. When I hold something in my hands and stitch, I don’t have to watch commercials or be bored. I’d probably go crazy if I had to watch every minute of TV, but I am thankful that this rhythm in and out, stitching bright colors onto cloth, is probably responsible for maintaining my sanity.

If you are interested in learning about how I was taught to embroider check out this page for that story.

If you are interested in learning this embroidery hobby I found a good example of instructions to learn the basic stitches here by Mollie Johansen;

Molly Makes, Stitch Library Guide to Embroidery Stitches

Your best way to learn is to jump on in,

Here are some embroidery basics;

  • embroidery needles
  • pin cushion or (bar of soap)
  • small scissors
  • hoop
  • embroidery floss
  • iron-on stamp pattern
Pinching Pennies as You Stitch

Keep a sharp eye out

Many times it is quite economical to buy needlework or sewing supplies in a large quantities at thrift stores, and estate or garage sales. An easy first project is a couple pillowcases, that you apply an iron-on stamp pattern for traditional embroidery. Most sewing outlets, hobby outlets, and Walmart carry them. You can locate learning or first kits that include everything you need in them too. The website of the firm based in Georgia that took over the Bucilla brand is here;

http://www.plaidonline.com

Mentioned earlier, I continue to do anywhere from 3-6 pillowcases and 1-3 table cloths each year depending on difficulty of my designs. Each is a one-of-a-kind design utilizing a hand made or drawn theme. It is not necessary for me to purchase a stamp pattern to work from anymore since I am able to draw what I want myself. I have quite a stock of every color of floss in my sewing kit sitting by the recliner, that I restock as needed.  Typical themes of my work include birds and bees, butterflies, flowers, leaves, vines and animals, hummingbirds or cherry vines with baskets, or daisies. The list goes on and on.

Let me know if you’d like to purchase any of the work I share here, or if you’d like a special order made, as I probably could be persuaded to part with heirlooms if the price is right.

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