First Voluntary Project – First Installment

First Solo

First Solo

For all that I have shown you a variety of pieces of needlework from when I was Very Young, this atrocious farrago, worked in my mid-teens, is actually the real start of my embroidery career. I found the transfer and fabric in a suitcase of cloth one afternoon when I was looking for something to do as a change from schoolwork. My other hobbies – playing in orchestras, singing in choirs, and dancing lessons – all involved my parents in ferrying me around, and I wanted something I could just pick up and put down again. I doubt that any of us had any idea what was about to begin!

It gives very clear evidence that skill in stitching and in colour don’t always come naturally – although in fairness to myself, I simply pulled threads from my Grandmama’s stash, because I wasn’t yet sure enough that I enjoyed embroidery to spend money on it!

Trellis Rose

Trellis Rose

I remember that I’d already discovered (I can’t remember how!) that Long and Short Stitch, and Satin Stitch, while simple in concept, are utterly infuriating to stitch, especially if you are learning from a book, so there’s not a scrap of either stitch in the whole thing. I had a great time leafing through Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches“, which Grandmama had given my mother, and picking stitches to try.

I started bang in the middle with the Rose, outlined in blanket stitch and  with the petals filled in with Jacobean Couching. At the combination of scale of the petals and the stitch it looks much too busy, as it turns out, and it would have looked better if I had outlined the petals in a much darker colour to help differentiate them. Lesson learned!

I will write more about this, because although the thing as a whole is rather horrifying, as I look at it I think some of the stitch choices are interesting, but sometimes not quite taken far enough. Besides, it’s extremely gratifying to see that my work has improved very considerably!


  1. Lady Fi says:

    I think your teenage work is amazing… when I was a teen, I sewed myself onto a bed, sewed several pairs of sock onto a carpet and then broke the school sewing machine. I haven’t sewed since!

  2. Cynthia says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I just found your blog. You may think your teenage work it terrible, but you can learn so much from it. I look forward to following your projects. I just received the last installment of the Floral Glove Course so I really need to get it going.

  3. Carol says:

    That is a big piece for a first start! Mine was a coarsely-woven dresser scarf, all in blue cross-stitch. I never finished it; it was way too boring. Kudos for you that you persevered!

  4. Penny says:

    Obviously you had hidden talents even when young!! I have nothing left from my younger days – probably all abandoned along the way with very good reason *smile*.

  5. Penny B says:

    What a treasure! So much fun finding pieces from years gone by.

  6. Elmsley Rose says:

    I remember my first piece. Now *that* was horrific. An abortive x-stitch piece. Twisted, mangled, the tension occupied one of the lower circles of Dante’s Hell.

    Yes, there are points to be picked up about the piece above. But it isn’t a simple piece. For a young beginner – well, it must be in the blood!

  7. It looks just fine to me! Something for a young embroiderer to be proud of, I think, and I like the colour choices too.

  8. The colours might not all go, but the individual elements are lovely!!

  9. I find it very charming:-)

  10. I find it very charming:-)

  11. Colleen says:

    You finished it. I notice! That, alone, for a teen, is an accomplishment :-). I thinks it’s an excellent first project. I bet your mom was pleased!

  12. The thing is that as a teenager you stitched the whole piece, that in it’s self is an accomplishment. Also, it is great to have pieces from along your journey, not only to look back on but also to compare with other pieces.

  13. Janice says:

    Actually I like it! I like the colour choices, because they look like a random bunch of flowers picked from the garden and placed in a bowl, and I like the ‘cottage garden’ feel this produces. As for the stitches, well I think these mark it out as a Rachel piece from the very beginning. You may have progressed a long, long way since then, but what we see here is that right from the beginning your interest was in the different stitches and the effects they can create.

  14. terriea says:

    It’s absolutely a charming piece. For a greenhorn like me, I don’t know what kind of stitches, knots…. This piece is fabulous with flowers, leaves, vase……. The more I look at your work, the more I love stitches, embroidery.

  15. It’s funny how we get started on things, but I suspect that with everyone around you working on some kind of needlework, you were bound to take it up at some point. Either that or completely rebel against it! Am glad it was the former, so that we can all see your lovely work! xCathy

  16. karen says:

    you are being too hard on yourself. I think it’s lovely and a great memory piece for you to treasure.

  17. Susan says:

    I like that you’re honoring your beginnings. I see total beauty…and such determination for a young girl to tackle such a large piece. It’s beautiful. I wish I had my first piece…but I threw it away…