This post was going to be all about Threads, but recent events and visits to places have caused me to change my mind and put that on hold, as I would like to share the following thoughts with you all. This Blog isn’t intended to offend or upset anyone, although I am sure some people will take it personally, but rather to make people think more about what they are doing and why?
I belong to several online groups covering all sorts of Needlework crafts and for some time I have been beginning to wonder why some people feel the need to try to ‘churn’ out as much as possible in as short a time as possible? In addition, there seems to be a feeling that the finishing off is not as important as either the design or the construction.
Now add to this a recent visit to Madeira where there National Embroidery is a National Treasure of which they are all very proud not only of the Historical Side of things but also of the people who still perform it in all its stages, not just the stitching although that is highly prized. Even the people selling it in the shops have a pride that their small Island can produce such Quality work.
Since being back home I have had occasion to visit a couple of places where they advertise that the work sold in their shops are made by the Best Craftspeople in that particular area. Some of it was but as far as the textiles were concerned I’ve seen better made by children, with the finishing and attention to detail very poor!
Where does this all lead us?
I have given quite some thought about this and have discussed it with a few people that I know and trust and between us, we have some up with some possible answers.
Historically Needlework of all sorts had been taught in schools, beginning with those little Cross Stitch samples those of us of a certain age will remember from our primary schools, possibly with our Initial on. As we got older the work became more detailed and refined, we were encouraged to practice different stitches until we got them perfect and keep these little samples in a book.
You may think that this only applied to Sewing but if you look hard enough and contact various Historical Needlework Associations, they will have in their archives examples of these sample books for Knitting and Crochet as well.
Then for some reasons, that I do not know the teaching of these skills has largely vanished from our schools leaving generations of people without the knowledge to either Teach or to perform them.
Yes, people have continued to work these crafts as a hobby but often with large gaps in their knowledge. Not their fault at all, but something to consider, as where do they get the knowledge to fill those gaps.
How to people learn today?
I know I’ve jumped decades, but this is just something to get you thinking not a lecture!
Mostly people turn to either the Internet or to Online Groups and here is where one of the problems lie. You can search for a technique, find a video or written instructions or images or even get loads of replies from a question in an online forum. BUT if you don’t know anything about it before you start how can you distinguish between that which will teach you how to get the result you are looking for and that which will just confuse you more? Or sell you a product that you don’t need? Or even worse make you want to give up!
Well the simple answer is you can’t. You need to go back to how that technique was taught originally and learn that first then you can look at all the more up to date ways of doing it, together with any tools that have been developed and see what works best for you.
But then there is another problem, the pressure to ‘make’ as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
What happens if we have a change of words and instead of using the word Hobby use the word Pastime? Then take away the need for Quantity and replace it with Quality.
Before starting a project, take the time to learn about ALL the aspects of what is involved in the making of it. Practice the bits that need to be practised. If your project needs to be marked take a scrap piece of the fabric you intend to use and the marker/markers you are considering using and try them out, do they fade, will they wash out. Will the dye on your threads bleed? Will the fabrics bleed?
Take care of your project while you are working on it, don’t leave it somewhere where things can get spilt on it or be damaged by sunlight or animals.
Consider the finishing at the designing stage and make allowances for that, in time as well as in fabric.
Most Important of all Have Pride in Your Work at whatever level you are. Even if it is your first ever piece. Then perhaps over time others will also have Pride in the Quality and Workmanship of British Needlework.
I hope that after reading this you will begin to develop more enjoyment in your Pastime and perhaps it will open a few doors into how rich the heritage is, you just have to go looking for it.