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.
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.