The Value of Embroidery

Three things inspire my contemplation of the value of embroidery: a vision of the holiday gift-giving season on the horizon, an article I read earlier this summer about diamond engagement rings, and the 2006 movie Blood Diamond, which tells the story of conflict diamonds.

The Gift-Giving Season Approacheth

Read ambigram cross stitch bookmark - Funk & Weber Designs

Last weekend, I gave this bookmark to my friend, Trudy. She’s a librarian. She thinks it’s way cool!

Have you looked at a calendar lately? There are just 83 days until Hanukkah, 92 days until Christmas, and 93 days until Kwanzaa. How’s that holiday stitching coming?

Most of us who stitch holiday gifts have at least a tiny, nagging concern about whether the recipient will like, appreciate, and value the gift that we’ve poured our time, talent, and heart into. It stinks that we worry about this. Stinks.

But that worry is not unfounded. Recently, a stitchy friend shared this little horror story: She gave a friend a needlework gift only to find it for sale on ebay soon after.

No, there’s no question it’s my friend’s work.

No, the recipient did not die, leaving the gift to be sold by relatives.

No, the seller did not think so highly of the work that s/he expects to make heaps of money to take a dream vacation prior to retiring early.

There’s no good way to spin this: The gift recipient did not value the embroidery—or friendship and a number of other things many of us value, but let’s focus on the embroidery so our title makes sense. Is there anything we can do to make people value embroidery as much as you and I do so that our gifts are appreciated?

Why, yes, yes there is.

Creating Value

A diamond ring

What’s the real value of a diamond ring?

How many of you own a cherished diamond ring? Maybe it’s your engagement, wedding, or anniversary ring. How about a diamond bracelet or watch? Maybe it’s your mother’s or aunt’s or grandmother’s jewelry. Maybe it’s something you bought yourself when you reached a particular goal. Maybe it’s something you just dream of having.

Why is it so many people value diamond engagement rings and jewelry? Are you going to tell me that a boring clear diamond is more beautiful than a brilliant garnet or jade or sapphire? Remember, you’re talking to the screaming-color girl.

It’s not the diamond itself or even the item of jewelry that people value, it’s what the diamond represents: the engagement, the wedding, the anniversary, the event, the gift, the giver—i.e., love and success.

How is it that diamonds came to represent love and success? Why can’t embroidery be the ultimate representation of love and success? Forget the diamond, my dear, if you want to marry me, present me with a fine embroidery, the bigger the better.

This love and success symbolism of diamonds is not universal. It’s not something inherent in the stone. No one gets love or success from the stone. It’s something some people attribute to the stone, and it was deliberately manufactured by the ad agency, N. W. Ayer, so that their client, De Beers, could sell more diamonds and make more money.

That’s right, De Beers wanted to make money, so they convinced people that diamonds are beautiful, significant, and important, and that they represent love and success. There even seems to be a sense that one can’t have love or success, or at least can’t have a wedding, without that all-important diamond.

I could go on about diamonds being a lousy investment and contributing to violence and oppression, but this really is an article about embroidery, specifically, how to make people value the embroidery skills we spend years developing and embroidery pieces we spend hours and months creating.

The answer: A good ad campaign.

If De Beers can convince millions of young men and women that they need to spend thousands of dollars on a ring so they can spend the rest of their lives together, surely we can convince millions of people that embroidery is worth something.

So who’s up for developing and funding an embroidery ad campaign? How shall we position embroidery to convince people they need it? What attributes and emotions should we attach to it?

Change Begins At Home

Fireworks barrette

Barrettes are some of my favorite things to make and one of my favorite ways to wear embroidery.

While we’re working on this campaign to manipulate the minds of our fellow humans, we can get a head start by beginning with ourselves and learning to value embroidery in a bigger, more sincere way.

For a special gift to yourself, commemorating an important event, will you buy a piece of jewelry or embroidery supplies?

Have you ever desperately wanted something—say, a Coach bag or an expensive leather jacket? How would you feel about embroidering a bag or jacket instead?

How often do you wear your diamond ring, or your wedding ring, or any jewelry that you value? How often do you wear embroidery?

How much do you really value embroidery, and how much would you like to value embroidery? It’s entirely up to you. Pick your level and go. The value of embroidery is what we attribute to it. I choose to value my embroidery more than I did yesterday. It’s a symbol of my crafty status, and I wear it proudly—literally, on my wrist, in my hair, and on my clothes. It’s a reflection of the joy, adventure, and self-sufficiency in my life.

So, tell me: How much do you value embroidery, and what does it symbolize for you?

PillowPalooza Winners!

Winner image

And the Winners are . . .

Dawn and Terry

Congrats, ladies! You’re both registered for the PillowPalooza class that starts October 6th (assuming I have Internet access). I have your e-mail addies, and I’ll be in touch.

Thanks heaps for playing my game!

PillowPalooza: Make Embroidered Pillows

Coming soon to a Yahoo! Group near you:


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The final class in our Finish It In ’14 series is PillowPalooza. “Pillows” may be a bigger category than you think.

  • Some ornaments are pillows.
  • Some fobs and tags are pillows.
  • A biscornu is a pillow, no?
  • Ever hear of a door pillow? Well, door hangers can be pillows.
  • Of course, pillows are pillows, and they come in sizes from tiny to huge.
  • Seat cushions can be pillows.


Embroidered pillow.

Colorful Critter pillow. This is an envelope pillow.

The Class

October 6–November 7, 2014

We will cover the following topics:

  • Embroidery and fabric preparation
  • Ornament pillows
  • Tuckable pillows
  • Envelope pillows
  • Adding flanges, ruffles, piping, rick rack, and other trims

If you never taken one of our classes, you can read about how they run. It’s all online at your convenience.

embroidered pillows

Stack o’ stitchy pillows.

Win a Spot in the Class!

Want to win a free spot in the class? Great! I want you to, too!

For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post answering this question:

What embroidery finish would you like to learn to do?

Mind you, this can be anything, reasonable or unreasonable. Do you wish you knew how to make a pet elephant or a solar-powered car with your embroidery? Say so! It’s amazing what unreasonable things we can make reasonable with a little imagination and ingenuity, though perhaps we’re pushing it with pet elephants and cars. You get my drift.

This is going to be a quick contest. You have until midnight (AK time) Friday to leave your comment and be entered to win.

Can’t stand the Disqus comment system? That’s okay, class registration is open, so you can skip the fun riggamarole and go straight to class: Do not leave a comment; do not collect a free spot.

Mark. Set. Go!

Simply Samplers Giveaway Winner

Simply Samplers book cover

Simply Samplers: Easy Techniques for Hand Embroidery, by Cheryl Fall.

Ohmygosh, what fun answers!

For a chance to win a copy of the book Simply Samplers, by Cheryl Fall, I asked “If your embroidery were cataloged with books, in what section would it be?”

This question stumped Cheryl, so I was eager to see what you would come up with. Mind you, it was in the Rapid Fire round, so Cheryl wasn’t given a lot of time to think about it.

I love that you played my silly game. Many of your answers surprised me and cracked me up. From 000 – UFOs to self help and psychology to the children’s section (newbie stitcher, welcome aboard!), it’s clear our embroidery can be creatively cataloged anywhere, and I love that our merry band of stitchers can cover the entire library all by ourselves. I put my own embroidery in the Adventure section.

So which one of you clever stitchers wins a copy of Cheryl’s new book? We will consult the Random Number Generator.

And the Winner is . . .

Nick Pericone

Nick’s answer was this: “The library has it in section 746.44–embroidery section. Of course, 158.1 [Applied Psychology--Personal Improvement and Analysis], or 900 [History and Geography]. Well, there are quite a number of places to find Embroidery. I especially like to find embroidery in my stash!”

And now, Nick, you’ll soon find a new book in your stash. Congrats! I’m going to need your mailing address, so please send it to me at mail [AT] funkandweber [DOT] com.

Next Question

Harriet had a go at the “What’s your needlework code name?” question. She proposed “Knot Yet(ty)” and “Knot Jet” for her own, representing all of the following:

  • the Big One, as in yeti (that’s how we spell it here)
  • a nickname for “Harriet” (Harrietty or Yetty)
  • and “Jet” for quick and easy, on-the-go projects

So what’s your needlework code name?

Simply Samplers Book Giveaway

Simply Samplers book cover

Simply Samplers: Easy Techniques for Hand Embroidery, by Cheryl Fall.

Stackpole Books, publisher of Cheryl Fall’s Simply Samplers: Easy Techniques for Hand Embroidery, is offering a free book to one of our blog readers with a US address. I reviewed the book last week.

Stackpole Books has been publishing books about the Outdoors, History, and Crafts for over 80 years. You can purchase their books, including Simply Samplers, directly from their website, and many books are available in both print and digital formats.

You can also see images of all 16 projects in Simply Samplers on the site.

Cheryl Fall is the author of over a dozen how-to books and thousands of how-to articles. She’s designed for Coats & Clark/Anchor and DMC, and she is a former Guide for Needlepoint and Embroidery at Cheryl was also the host of The Creative Life with Cheryl Fall, a nationally-distributed PBS ‘Plus’ program. The how-to program aired 78 episodes across the US as well as in some parts of Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and was the first of its genre to receive the PBS Plus designation.

Currently, Cheryl is collecting and sharing her needlework projects and tutorials on the NeedleKnowledge website where she single-handedly designs, stitches, illustrates, and writes instructions and articles. She covers embroidery, quilting, and sewing.

Projects from the book, Simply Samplers.

Nine of the sixteen projects in Simply Samplers.

I had the opportunity to ask Cheryl some questions. Here is the result.

Section break

Jen: What made you want to write this book, as opposed to, say, an embroidery book focused on embroidery portraiture or blackwork or a hairy-spider theme? Why Simply Samplers?

Cheryl Fall

Cheryl Fall, author of Simply Samplers and owner of Photo by Mary Nevius.

Cheryl: I love stitching all types of samplers, and when I produced a few too many sampler designs for a previous book, I thought it would be a good direction to go in the next book. It was a practical design decision, since so many ideas were sitting right in front of me.

Jen: On your NeedleKnowledge website, you do all the embroidery designing, stitching, photography, stitch diagrams, and writing. Whew! Did you do all that for the book, too? How do you feel about doing all those different things?

Cheryl: I’m always busy, and always have something in my hands, so I tend to get a lot done. Besides, my husband is a sports fan and I’m not – sometimes I stitch out of pure spite, LOL! I’d rather be in the room with him, and since I’m not watching the game, I do my own thing.

Jen: When and how did you learn to stitch?

Cheryl: I’ve been stitching since I was about 5 or 6 years old when my mother gave me a tin full of miscellaneous DMC threads and pearl cotton balls. There were some unfinished items in there, so I finished them. My great-grandmother took an interest and taught me other forms of embroidery, as well as some other crafty things – remember paint tubes on fabric? Ugh, I’m glad that fad is over and done with.

Jen: How has your embroidery changed over time?

Cheryl: I’ve been stitching professionally since 1986. For most of those years everything I did had a purpose (ie. fitting the theme for the next issue of a magazine, as requested by the client). Now I stitch for the pure pleasure of it and do my own thing. I let my imagination take me where it wants to go instead of being corporate in my thoughts.

Jen: You’ve made a career out of stitching. How did you do that, and what were some of the biggest challenges and surprises?

Cheryl: I just got lucky. There are so many talented stitchers out there.

Jen: What’s your favorite way to finish embroidery?

Cheryl: I love making ornaments and finishing “smalls”. They’re just so much fun!

Jen: I know! And I love all the little useful stitchy doo-dads we can make, from paper clips to bracelets to keychains to plant pokeys and on and on and on!

What’s the most exotic or strangest thing you’ve ever stitched?

Cheryl: Strangest thing is a work in progress. I’m hooked on DMC color #115 – it’s a variegated red. I’m determined to fill an entire Christmas tree with monochromatic ornaments stitched only in this color. I’ve stitched 31 so far, 20 are finished, 11 waiting for me to finish them, and a few dozen more to stitch. I won’t stop until I fill the tree.

Jen: Ohmygosh, that is so cool! I’ll look forward to seeing that on your blog!

Time for the Rapid-fire Round. Don’t think too hard about these.

If you had to choose a stitchable motif to represent you and your life, what would it be?
A leaf – my last name is Fall

If you could stitch with just one color thread for the rest of your life, what color would you choose?
DMC Color #115

If your embroidery were cataloged with books, what genre would it be?
I have no idea.

Jen: I’m going to put you in gardening for growing new ideas and stitchers.

Would you rather stitch with industrial chain link or spaghetti?

You’re being held captive. Your only escape is to craft a ladder from your embroidery thread. What thread would you use?
DMC Pearl Cotton #3 – I have more than enough to make a really long ladder.

Would you rather write a book about stitching or stitch a book about writing?
Stitch a book about writing

What’s your needlework code name? (Knotty Knatalie, Har-Dangerous Hattie, Fly-stitch Girl, Bargello Babe, etc.)

Well done, Cheryl. Thank you!

Win a copy of Simply Samplers

Do you have a mailing address in the US? Want a chance to win a copy of Simply Samplers? All you have to do to enter the contest is answer one simple question:

If your embroidery were cataloged with books, in what section would it be?

Answer that question in the comments below, and you’ll be entered in the drawing to win a copy of Simply Samplers. We’ll select the winner next week.

I look forward to seeing your answers!