How It All Began

My grandmother first taught me to embroider (there must be thousands for whom that is true! ). She was an extremely skilled embroideress, who learnt when she was living in Westmorland during the war with her own two children, her sister and her sister’s children. Her teacher, Miss Hunter, has even passed in to family legend – a little, dumpy lady in black crepe (old fashioned even then) with very sharp scissors hanging from a silver chain at her waist, and quite scarifyingly high standards. If her students’ work failed to meet those standards, snip, snip, snip, and out it all came. To this day, unless we pay close attention, we sometimes put tablecloths embroidered by Grandmama on the table the wrong way up, and we always pay as much attention to the back as the front.

Lacquer box with Needlewoman Magazines in it

The Magical Lacquer Box

Once Grandmama realised I was well and truly hooked, she allowed me to look inside a black lacquer box that had always fascinated me. Inside I found some rather tatty, but utterly enchanting, copies of The Needlewoman Magazine of the nineteen-thirties. Some of them even still had the free transfers still with them.

In short order, I’d turned a design for a photograph album cover into a teacloth (I still have it somewhere), made a runner for my dressing table using a repeating pattern (now in use in another room), and embroidered a dragon on the back of a linen dress. My history teacher complained that that dress took her mind right off her prayers in Assembly when I wore it for school one day!

Unfortunately, Grandmama died a couple of years later, but she’d taken great delight in what she had seen, and left me the magazines and her worktable. I still think of her when I am embroidering, and I still want to show her any piece of embroidery that I’m particularly pleased with.


  1. Mam says:

    Strangely, this brought me to tears! That catches you out when you’re not looking.

    I am enjoying reading this and find the layout restful – too many of these things seem to be go, go, go!

  2. Rachel says:

    I didn’t intend to catch you that way!

    Glad you like the layout – I will try not to overdo it!

  3. […] was one project in those magazines that I positively ached to do, but it was a four fold screen inspired by the Rubayat of Omar […]

  4. Elmsley Rose says:

    You are a very lucky lady to have a history like that! (and the box!)

  5. […] brave lady indeed! – Tricia has even provided us with a view of the back of the embroidery. Miss Hunter would have looked at the back to check that it met her high standards – as students we are […]

  6. […] back looks hair-raising – Miss Hunter would have had a fit! –  but how many of us have our very first piece of stitching to bring us […]

  7. […] is that Grandmama had an embroidery teacher at the time, called Miss Hunter (I mentioned her in an early post). I’m sure Miss Hunter must have been trained at the Royal School of Needlework, because her […]

  8. […] the Thirties, of a particular modern, exuberant style that occasionally is found in the designs in that stack of The Needlewoman Magazine that I inherited. So it is not surprising that in the text I find her bewailing the fact that so […]

  9. […] design came from one of those Needlewoman Magazines. It was inside the back page with the competition results, as a sort of […]

  10. […] used a Free Transfer from  The Needlewoman of January 1934 (from the boxful that Grandmama gave me), showing sprigs of flowers which they suggested might be used for lavender bags, […]

  11. […] on this very early in my embroidering career. The design comes from a free transfer in one of the Needlewoman Magazines my Grandmama gave me (September 1934, since you asked!), and I worked it to go with the curtains in my bedroom which […]