Embroidery Beginnings

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Please enjoy Christen Brown's story of her embroidery beginnings, taken from The Embroidery Book

Detail of my vintage quilt made by Mrs. Olson

At an early age I fell in love with fiber, quilts, clothing, and dolls. My bed was covered with stuffed animals that my mom had made. The bedcover, a hand-pieced crazy quilt by Mrs. Olson (a neighbor of my grandmother), was made from fabulous 1950s fabrics. I came to love the colors and shapes within the printed fabrics. The embroidery stitches worked on the quilt were simple and perfect.

I was just seven years old when I first learned to embroider. It was the first needle art that I learned, and it continues to be a favorite pastime. For my birthday that year, I was given a small sewing basket that I filled with skeins of floss, as well as bits of precious ribbon, lace, sequins, and beads. I worked my magic on little pieces of felt that I turned into clothes for my troll doll.


Embroidered greeting cards 

Throughout the years, many generations of women in my family have cherished embroidered items. Everyday household items like tablecloths, linens, and towels were commonplace in our house when I was a girl. Embroidery even found its way into the greeting cards my mom made. My mom did the cross-stitch work on the card to the right; the embroidered card on the left was found in my grandmother’s keepsake drawer.

Embroidered handbags

Fancier items like handkerchiefs and handbags were also treasured, each kept safe in its own little box on a shelf in the linen closet. The handbag on the left belonged to my grandmother. Its hand-embroidered satin stitch design was worked in silk threads on a brown bengaline background. The little black satin handbag belonged to my mother. Its embroidered chain stitches were done in a rayon thread with a tambour needle.


In high school I traded my embroidery skills for the creative skills of my friends. I embroidered work shirts and jeans, and in return they made me ceramic pots or jewelry.

In college I used my embroidery skills on the cover of a report I had written. The assignment was to write about a clothing brand or company that you liked or identified with. At the time I loved to go to Judy’s, a store in our local mall that concentrated on the younger market.



Small embroidered bags and appliqué

I have collected many embroidered textiles throughout the years, some purchased and some bequeathed. Whenever I find a discarded embroidered hanky or table runner at the thrift store, I wonder who made the item and why the family didn’t keep it as an heirloom. The two small jewelry bags were embroidered entirely in silk ribbon. The appliqué was worked in a counted cross-stitch in silk threads on a solid silk fabric background.

Donna Reed’s Tea Party

I made this jacket from quite a few found treasures. I started with an appliquéd and embroidered tablecloth that had had a “run-in” with a bottle of Merlot wine. Though much of the white area had been ruined, the appliquéd areas had not. I cut around these areas and combined those sections with another tablecloth, many hankies, a few table runners, ribbons, buttons, and lots and lots of embroidery.

Start your own embroidery journey with The Embroidery Book!

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