Flossy & Fabulous

by melissa on February 1, 2013


February is National Embroidery Month. Not kidding. And unlike most of the blog mentions you’ll hear about this, I can tell you the real story behind National Embroidery Month. Track back to the 1990s (I’ve forgotten the year, honestly), when I was editor of Stitches Magazine, a monthly publication for the commercial embroidery industry. My staff and I were musing about made-up “marketing holidays,” such as National Hot Dog Day, and we all decided we needed a day like that for embroidery. Yep, we made it up.

Now, dinosaurs were no longer terrorizing Earth, but the Web was definitely not the instant news channel it is now. There was this book of marketing holidays that was primarily sold to public relations firms and advertising agencies. (Yeah, so old school.) To establish a National Embroidery Month, we merely had to write to that publisher, announce that our magazine was sponsoring this event, and start promoting the heck out of it. That’s the whole story. If anyone tells you differently, feel free to send ‘em my way.

However, I’ve got to say I totally LOVE how the fiber arts world has taken this sorta-bogus observance and made it into something really worth celebrating! Just Google “National Embroidery Month” and there are tons of hits from bloggers, artists and companies all taking a few moments to say how much they love embroidery and show off their latest project.

Myself, I’ve got at least 4 projects going that include either hand or machine embroidery! And I’ll be sharing at least one of them with you in a few days, as we begin promoting our upcoming Spring 2013 issue. For now, though, I’m flipping the pages backward, to my first embroidery.


These worn-out tea towels launched my abiding interest in embroidery. I was five years old, and remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen in rural Rice County, Kansas, carefully stitching these designs. The lilac teacup was the very first. My technique improved a bit on the second.

How about a little more in this century? This embellished mini quilt panel print is from Mooshka, a new collection by Julie Paschkis for In The Beginning Fabrics. The mini-quilt is at the heart of Julie’s picture book, Mooshka: A Quilt Story. When it’s finished, I’m going to quilt it, then make it into a pillow. You can read more about the collection in our upcoming Spring 2013 issue. (Tease.) I am really enjoying adding a little texture and flair to Julie’s folkloric-inspired design.

Of course I’m not the only GenQ floss-ophile. Here’s more staff e-dish:  

Vicki Tymczyszyn, Technical Editor: ”My first embroidery project was a free-form embroidery on the back of a chambray work shirt for my boyfriend at the time. It ended up looking like a watercolor of a spring field with a stream running through it. No pix, sorry (I doubt he still has it), but it was the ’70s, after all! It entirely covered the back yoke and took me so long I was off embroidery until I found counted cross stitch.  But, I’m back in love with it again.”
Megan Dougherty, Creative Director: “My very first embroidery project was undertaken specifically for GenQ, but was ultimately never used. When I learned we were doing our Trendology piece for the Winter 2012 issue on embroidery, I thought the title of the article ought to be (natch) embroidered. As I may have mentioned before, I am very much a toddler in a grown-up’s body, so instead of asking somebody experienced in embroidery to do it for me, I went, “NO! Do it MYSELF!”
“I printed out the word ‘Embroidery’ in a pretty font and then used a window as my light box to trace it onto some Kona cotton. I followed Jenny Hart’s (of Sublime Stitching)  instructions on how to do a split stitch, and after about six stitches, I was totally hooked. Or hooped.
“After some attempts to photograph it, I decided it needed some embellishment, so I did another version with some flowers. That got me doing french knots, lazy daisy and stem stitch. Yep, there it was: my new passion. I haven’t stopped stitching since.
“Oh, and neither of these were ever used in the magazine. They just never photographed right, and ultimately the piece needed a full-page shot, so I got to use what was actually my fourth embroidery project as the cover page for the article. “

Tracy Mooney,Associate Editor: “I was truly inspired by Alicia Paulson’s story of nearly losing her foot and her recovery that led her to embroider. When I heard her story, I was going through a very difficult year of physical therapy for severe arthritis in my lower spine. I was in so much pain and I happened upon a CraftSanity podcast with Alicia as the guest and she described how embroidery helped her cope with pain. This struck a chord with me. I knew that handwork lowers blood pressure and because I was going through so much pain myself, I thought I would give it a try myself. 

“I started looking into modern embroidery. The work of Alicia Paulson at Rosy Little Things,  Aimee Ray of Little Dear Tracks and Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching  speak to me so much more than any of the embroidery I saw growing up. Following blogs like Mr X Stitch ike http://www.mrxstitch.com/  fill me with inspiration.

“The first complete project I ever did was a Valentine’s Day (designed by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching present for my son (pictured at beginning of blog post). I started it two years ago and didn’t finish it in time. So I tried again last year and succeeded. My son loved it and I remember being so happy that he took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. He got lots of comments from their friends saying they wished their mom made them embroidered intestines. I WIN!” 

 Those are our staff stories. Now it’s time for YOURS. Tell us about your first embroidery experience. And we don’t care if it was last week. Floss is fabulous!




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kathy loomis Identicon Icon kathy loomis February 1, 2013 at 7:40 am

When I was between 5 and 14 years old I got to spend summers with my grandparents ALL ALONE. Grandma always had a craft project planned and when I arrived we would go to the dry goods store and I could buy some new embroidery floss. I guess I started with handkerchiefs that were pre-printed with embroidery designs. One memorable year we learned huck weaving and I embroidered a bazillion placemats and napkins. I wish I remembered more details on those early projects, but after all it was in the previous century. Still stitching — last year I did an art project with hand-stitching every day.


Mary Pomerantz Identicon Icon Mary Pomerantz February 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

Hope cross work counts. My first cross stitch piece was a purchased kit from the place where I worked in 1984 (or thereabouts). It was a small piece of a hen sitting on a basket and it said “Kiss the Cook.” It came with a small circular red frame. It still hangs in my kitchen. It started a trend that has continued to this day. I went from cross stitching to counted cross stitched samplers on linen to needlepoint to Crazy Quilting, which is my all time favorite because it combines my love of fabric AND threads! Interestingly enough, my Mom started doing all of this about the same time that I did. Eventually, quilting became her life. At 90, she has made thousands of quilts and probably 2 dozen crazy quilts. She still finds time to embroider once in awhile, too. I guess I’m a chip off the old block!


quiltzyx/sue Identicon Icon quiltzyx/sue February 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Way back in the dark ages, I remember that I embroidered pillowcases. My mom taught me how to do it & we used the transfer patterns that you ironed onto the fabric. Seems like there were flowers similar to Megan’s involved. Now I embroider once in a while. The biggest thing I did was hand embroider my quilt guild’s logo for the center piece of our guild banner. I tell you, when I finished that, I didn’t want to even LOOK at floss for a year!


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