Thursday, April 30, 2015

Stitching and ditching perfection...

 A comment the other day prompted me to share this post.
Both Janita and Jayne asked whether I fuse a stabiliser  behind the stitching area of my tea towels before I begin any needlework embellishment. Good question, ladies. 

Stitching on tea towels is a wonderfully relaxing project for me, and I have a nice pile of them ready to be 'made pretty' over coming months...

In fact, I'm working on two new little motif designs at the moment which will be stitched onto some of those kitchen towels in the coming week. They will complete the set of patterns for the May Stitchery Club...

But back to that question - do I fuse stabiliser behind a tea towel stitchery?

No, I don't. 
Tea towels (cotton or linen) are usually very hardy, twice the thickness of quilting fabric, and when washed they 'pull' in - so if you stitch on them before you wash them for the first time you tighten the weave and secure the thread rather well.

Here's a couple I've stitched this year, both front and back. 
This one has been  stitched, but not yet washed...

'Baking' was embroidered in backstitch and satin stitch, with lines of running stitch either side of the word. Once it's washed it will tighten up the threads...

In the tea towel below, you'll see how the threads
 tighten slightly in the fabric after washing...

Nothing has unraveled, and this towel has been washed at least 10 times. 

 I have often heard stitchers say 'the back should look as good as the front'  and if I had been embroidering Kate Middleton's wedding gown then that would have been my goal.

But I'm a home sewer, a very blessed designer who enjoys creating with the home, family, and friends in mind, so I cut myself some slack and I encourage you to do that with your own work too.

You see, if I concern myself with whether the front and back are both perfect then I doubt you'd see much happening from my sewing basket! My work is not an ugly mess, but it's not a perfect mirrored replica of the front either. Most times the back of my handwork is hidden by a frame, or backing fabric if it becomes a quilt, pillow or other item...but my tea towels are out there for all to examine, and I'm not bothered by that at all. 

So don't you be. 

I collect vintage linens, the hand-embroidered kind, and one of the things I love  about them is imagining the woman who spent time with a needle and thread, creating home-made magic with her precious fingers not knowing that her work would one day be treasured by me.

I pulled these from my stash of old linens so you could look at the front and the back...

Now I don't know about you, but when I look at these, front and back, I see HAND-made beauty.
 And if looked at your own work, I'd see that too.  
 It's about LOVING what we make, not agonising over our skills or feeling inadequate.

So please enjoy what you stitch, smile while you stitch,  and deafen your sweet ears to the scrutiny of others who feel the need to nitpick your work - and if you're the one who examines with a critical eye, please don't crush the spirit of your fellow crafters, ok? Build them up with confidence and encouragement instead.

Keep creating dear ones, because one day they become treasures for someone like me... and isn't that marvelous!? Our work lives on...



  1. I just want to say thank you for those lovely comments, they have made my day.

  2. Excellent post my dear, if it had to be perfect I wouldn't do it, lol....I too love looking at the back of those vintage pieces!

  3. Thanks for this, Jenny. Coming from a skilled stitcher like you it means a lot!

  4. My aunt used to say that about clothing construction. Can you imagine I hate to sew clothes? =) I think your backs look wonderful, and I also don't worry about it. My motto about almost everything in life for the past 15 years or more has been: It is what it is. Amazingly freeing. =) Thanks for sharing these and this post. I can point to it and say, "Jenny said so," when one of my friends freaks out about her stitching. =)

  5. Thank you :) for all your help. I want to make some towels for gifts and wanted to make sure I was "doing it right" I'll try now to just relax and enjoy the process.
    Another question you maybe could touch upon... Since the washing will tighten the weave do you make a knot at the end of your stitching or just weave your thread under some previous stitches? Janita

  6. How true! No stitching police here.

  7. Lovely tutorial and pep talk........I agree! When I teach machine quilting I say to the girls "I do human, not perfect". BTW I love your tea towels, very pretty.

  8. What a nice post Jenny! Great advice! :) xx

  9. Yah! No quilting police and no stitching police either! Love it!

  10. Well said! You do beautiful work, but I'm happy to hear you are not the "perfectionist" that you appear to be. =) Thank you!

  11. Hear! Hear! I am mostly the same way. I do make the exception when monograming handkerchiefs. I do my very best with that exception to make the back look just as nice as the front. When I am putting my dear Jim's initial on his linen handkerchiefs that I have made for him I know that it will be up at his face where others are likely to see it and I want it to look nice however it is. I have noticed the same thing with my vintage linens. But with my vintage handkerchiefs the backs almost always look as nice as the fronts. That is my exception. Right now I'm on Jim's last handkerchief for this year, and then onto something more fun. Not that I haven't loved making them, I would just like to do some embroidery that isn't all satin stitch!

  12. Those are wonderful words of encouragement! I love to pick up the beautiful, yes I said BEAUTIFUL! handmade works of yesterday! As a matter of fact when out "junking" or antiquing with my friends, I keep my open for these treasures. And I have a basketful! Wonderful treasures. I think the way to tell that its a work done by hand is the "imperfectness" of it. Love them and enjoy the journey!

  13. You brought back sweet memories of my Mom, who used to say that the back of my embroidery should always look as good as the front. I have found it something very hard to live up to, but try.

  14. Thankyou Jenny xx

  15. Your words ring true with me. Once I let "perfection" out of my realm I have embraced and enjoyed my own work that much more. We are too hard on ourselves and sometimes that takes the Creative Bliss out of our Joy of handmade! Your towels are beautiful.

  16. In the mid-80's, I was Recreation Director at a camping resort. I was truly blessed because the first winter, some of the Full-Timer campers took me under their wings and started teaching me more hand-crafts. When I lamented that I'd made a mistake, one looked over and said "No worries - it's nothing you'd notice from the back of a galloping horse!" And I learned to relax and enjoy the process....

  17. Bobbie's comment made me chuckle! I promise that when I am galloping my horse EVERYTHING looks perfect because I'm too busy watching where I am going to be looking at anything else!! Your stitching is so beautiful - both those you create and your vintage pieces - as close to perfect as it needs to be! Only God is perfect and while we are His perfect creation, we are not perfect! You are such an encourager to all of us - thank you for that!

  18. They are dish towels. They are made to be used. If they are "too" perfect who would use them? Stitch them, use them, enjoy them. Hope they wear out so you have an excuse to make more!

  19. I not only love our words in embroidery but the words you type are also filled with "gentle domesticity". It is an exercise in peace for me to sit down with cuppa and read your blog posts and ponder how I can rearrange my time to include your latest pattern. I adore your blog so don't ever think you blog in a vacuum where your words go unread. I love your love for God's Word and how you incorporate it into your embroidery first and foremost.

    Thank you Jenny for promoting the joy of homemaking.
    For me, the month of May is a transition time between the cool spring to the HOT of summer. Graduations, awards programs, end of school year activities, the beginning of summer all mark the month of May. I live in Alabama which is what we call the Deep South. You would love being a southerner because it is all about making a house a home, being polite, helping your neighbor, making every meal delightful, monogramming is almost a divine art, and a true Southern Lady is all about living a life of Gentle Domesticity.
    Gmama Jane (Jane Hillis
    Alabama, USA

  20. Thank you Jenny, I get so angry when I see people, especially fellow stitchers who turn a piece over to look at the back and then try to denigrate what I have done because the stitching on the back is not as good as the front. And why do I get so mad? Because when they show their work - it is already framed!!

  21. I never could understand why so many people worry so much about the back of their embroidery. Most of the time it's hidden anyway. Embroidery should be fun, right? I enjoyed this article!


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