Oops: Relearning the Art of Embroidery


It all began with an apron and a porcupine. (or maybe it was a hedgehog, on its way to becoming a porcupine.)

So, I thought the cute child’s apron that Deborah made for us to send to Quilt Market would be extra-adorable with some embroidered embellishments … and I said to myself, “Self, you can do this, how hard can it be?” followed by “Self, you actually have done this before when you were a Girl Scout, remember?” And was I ever a Girl Scout … I loved … LOVED … earning badges. In fact, if I were a Girl Scout today, they could create a reality show called, “Girl Scout Badge-Hoarders Gone Wild,” and I would be the star. To earn the needleworks badge, I learned all kinds of stitches, and ALMOST, but never actually completed an embroidered panel, which read, “Waste Not, Want Not.” I still wonder exactly which badge requirement stated, “Girl Scout must complete at least 75% of an embroidered panel.” In fact, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I really earned that needlework badge legally. All the more reason to relearn the craft and redeem myself. So here are the steps I followed to QUICKLY re-teach myself to embroider like a pro:

I was in a bit of a deadline, so I said to myself, “Self, you have 15 minutes to learn some basic stitches.” I found a book I bought a few years ago, when I thought I was going to take up embroidery another time, Sublime Stitches by Jenny Hart. She turned embroidery into something totally hip and edgy. She seamlessly mixed designs featuring teapots and cherries with skulls and margaritas. Under her tutelage, I could be crafty and cool, all at once! And, more importantly, her book had a stitch guide.

Straight stitch: check. Stem Stitch: check. Back Stitch: check. Satin Stitch: later. Cross Stitch: check. Chain Stitch: much later. Then I said, “Self, good enough, you are ready to move on to the real project.” (Here is my prep sampler piece below. See how easy it is … you can do it, too!)


I popped the apron into the embroidery hoop, gave it a little thump … (just because I felt like real embroiderers would give it a little thump to make sure it was tight enough) and then I started stitching away. That deadline was still looming, so I was flying. In, out, in, out. The sound the thread made pulling through the fabric was very satisfying. Zip, zip, zip. I was not only embroidering, I was embroidering fast! Here is how my project was looking:


I kept stitching like a little machine, when I started having a funny feeling that something just didn’t feel quite right, but it didn’t stop me … I just kept going with a furor. Finally, I realized that the extra fabric that was all around my hoop was acting weird, so I turned my project over and this is what I beheld … yep, I had fast and furiously sewn the front of the apron to the back of the apron. Really tightly. Dad-gummit! Now, I really had to return to the deadline at hand, so I tossed the project aside … saying to self, “Tomorrow is another day.”

As you can see, I had to return to Step 1. I should think about stitching a panel that says, “Haste Makes Waste.” Happily, the next day, with a bit more patience, I pulled out all the hastily-stitched thread, and patiently began restitching (frequently checking the back!).

And, ta dah! Here is my first embroidery project since the unfinished Girl Scout badge requirement.


Then, I was feeling so sassy, I decided to outline the bird, AND even attempted a bit of stitched typography … it was very gratifying … now I am a stitchin’ fool. If you have been thinking of taking up embroidery, I hope my little story is not disheartening, but rather inspiring in a “wow, if she can do it, I can do it” sort of way … and please join me on my embroidery journey. I’ll keep you posted, and we can stitch some postcards every now and then. P.S. Tips are greatly appreciated! (I mean tips of stitching advice … not the kind in the money jar.)



  1. Carol Reifsnyder October 27, 2011

    That looks great Cathy. I was worried in the first pictures. Not one of my strengths.

  2. sue zipkin October 27, 2011

    I love this story Cathy! Those look adorable!
    Good for you trying something new.

  3. Nancy Keirns October 28, 2011

    Amazing what you are able to do in 15 minutes! Maybe time limits are the mother of imagination.
    The embroidery is PERFECT!

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