Stitches of another kind.

Check out my favourite Christmas present…

What really sold me on the newest publication from Jenny Hart’s breakthrough independent embroidery company, Sublime Stitching, was the fan-dancing burlesque lady on the cover.  That pattern is amazing.  Further encouragement came from the ridiculously beautiful stuff from flickr that is being accumulated at Feeling Stitchy (seriously, waste some time here).  The last straw was when I started talking to my grandmother about embroidery (‘ricamo’ in Italian).  She told me all about her sister, and how whenever she visited Italy she would be welcomed with another table cloth covered in satin-stitched flowers.  She would try hard to turn down the gift, as she felt bad being given something which so much time had been spent on.  Her sister would not have any of it.  While her eyesight for reading is getting worse, and knitting’s larger movements hurt these days, my great aunt said she would die if she couldn’t embroider.  While searching for some basic cotton for me to practice stitches on, my mom and I came upon a box full of my late-paternal grandmother’s hand decorated bed sheets and table clothes.  On each piece were her hand-embroidered initials.

You can say it’s hereditary, but as Jenny Hart’s slogan states, “This ain’t your grandmother’s embroidery.”  Her patterns are definitely providing for a specific market of crafter, with iron-on transfer patterns included with the books for everything from retro rocket ships to perched peacocks.  The even more impressive stuff seems to be saved for her one-page, available-online patterns.  I think I’ll go for the Sushi Bar or Pinups and Panthers ones someday.   I was really impressed by the quality of the iron-ons.  I was also glad that ‘Embroidered Effects’ was more of an embroidery reference than a book that wanted you to follow their patterns and project ideas exactly.  I also dig Hart’s relaxation when it comes to a particularly meticulous craft:  she doesn’t particularly care what the back of her work looks like, uses knots where they might be frowned upon, doesn’t freak out about imperfect or uneven stitches and generally doesn’t mind breaking some of the rules of old school needle workers.  This book doesn’t scare you out of starting.

Embroidery (and its cousin, applique, which incorporates fabric) has the power to further personalize some of the most immediate aspects of our lives, which was important to our grandmothers.  While it might seem traditional, it perhaps gels best with today’s individualism.  It’s a less illusory personalization than the one we try to find in the vastness of consumer choice these days.  I want to make lucha libre-covered bibs for baby cousins in my colours and by my rules.  What I’m saying: Here come the dish and hand towels, people…

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