Arilyn has been doing embroidery on some level or another since she was about eight. I know that she was doing simple blackwork while we were at Kentwell, because that was part of our enactment.
Recently, she started clamoring about wanting to do metal thread embroidery, probably because she has been watching me do it more with this class I am taking. I finally decided that we would design a small sampler for her to work up on this new slate frame she got for Christmas. Part of the deal was that she had to choose the stitches for herself, and she had to try them out first to be sure if she liked them, before we actually included them in the sampler design.
Here are the three that she has worked on in the past few days, an eight-legged flat spider web, reverse chain stitch with detached buttonhole edging, and a diagonal half guilloche stitch. She was using a handmade Japanese needle to stitch on 26 count linen with #4 passing braid from Golden Threads.
When I was about seven, my great-grandmother, Gertrude Ausbrooks O’Kain, taught me how to do a blanket stitch, or buttonhole stitch. Sometimes she would have to babysit us, and once I remember she was at her wits end on a particularly rainy day. She sat me down with a bit of muslin that she had pinned a carefully pieced butterfly to. During that summer, I remember that when it rained, I looked forward to being able to sit with my Great-grandmother and stitch. I painstakingly stitched around that butterfly, and really enjoyed the time spent doing it. I have no idea where the quilt went, but I know that the love of embroidery that I have can be traced to those rainy afternoons spent inside.
It is no secret that my other daughters do not sew. I know, quite amusing considering that one of them is a surgical resident. She famously used to bring her mending with her to Cornwall when she would come to visit, and I would of course dutifully stitch her pockets back together, put on buttons, or do whatever torn duds she had crammed into her suitcase. She very briefly (very) flirted with blackwork, and indeed, she may pick it up again some day. She sheepishly admitted to me once that she wished she had paid more attention to me when I was trying to teach her how to sew or embroider, because it might have helped her out a bit as she was learning to stitch up people.
I had almost given up hope that any of my girls would pick up a needle for pleasure, until this one started inquiring. And so it begins. 400 years ago, a girl did not have much of an option about having to pick up a needle in her life, but today it is a different story. I am glad that Arilyn has chosen to stitch, and I look forward to sharing this journey with her.