Embroidery is one of those things I started off being “too good for”. Something archaic and not worth my time; something docile Women did because society didn’t allow them to do anything else.
I used to have a sort of Love // Hate relationship with all things Feminine. And by that, I mean I secretly wanted to participate in them while eschewing them as disgusting, patriarchal tools of oppression and vehemently attacking anyone who actually did. Embroidery was, unfortunately, one of those things. In fact, it didn’t really matter what it was. If it was associated with the traditionally feminine in any way, I hated it- worse, I hated anyone who dealt with it.
Ahh, the sweet, cringe worthy ignorance of childhood. It definitely wasn’t one of my best moments, I’ll admit. Thankfully I started breaking away from it when I started Modeling at sixteen; being thrust into what is arguably a quintessentially female field that’s stereotyped as vain, vapid, and shallow certainly opened my eyes to reality in some really interesting ways- and I loved it.
Yet when I finally broke away from that absurd ideology and started exploring the traditionally Feminine things I’d previously hated? I hesitated learning embroidery because I was afraid it would be too costly or too hard to learn. Still, though, the desire was there. So over the course of six years I slowly squirreled away supplies whenever possible (miraculously without ever looking up the prices of anything I was getting).
All of that supply hoarding came to a head last year when my In-Laws called my Husband and I to help them move a bunch of stuff they’d purchased from an Auction; when we got there the auction was over and all the unsold items sat on a table with a big “free” sign next to it. Among that happened to be what was clearly an elderly lady’s crafting collection- including a wood embroidery hoop.
As it turns out, that embroidery hoop happened to be the one item I’d never purchased- and the last one that I needed to finally start learning. So I finally made the jump. After all, I no longer had an excuse; nothing was holding me back from learning anymore- except maybe my own fear of failure. And what I found was that not only was it surprisingly simple to learn, but it was much cheaper than I could have ever imagined.
Almost instantly, I was hooked; my first project was a standard sampler of practice stitches- something that’s arguably the first thing any newcomer completes. But my second? Oh, my second was much more ambitious: A self drafted Folk Art style piece where traditional Folk Flowers motifs were replaced with Native Oklahoma Wildflowers done in a similar style.
I worked on it religiously during the entire week we attended the Walnut Valley Music Festival… And then the cleaning crew came, the Tea Room became storage again, I closed the room for the Winter… And I still haven’t finished it.
Lately, though, I’ve had the itch to start embroidering again- helped, in no small part, by the massive stash of patterns that are available on Etsy.
Some of my favorites include Beth Colletti’s “Redwork Tulip“, Lark Rising’s “Botanical Fruit“, Florals and Floss’ “Floral Embroidery Pattern“, KF Needlework’s “Scandi Birds“, Taleta Designs’ “Monogram“, Little Dear’s “Sleeping Fox Mandala“, Lucy Blaire’s “scalloped shell“, Fileusedetoiles’ “rose“, September House’s “Wind and Water“, MLM XOXO’s “pineapple“, and Finch and Floss’ “Flamingo“… And absolutely no one is surprised that I love Folk Art inspired pieces- or Florals, for that matter.
Looking back at it now, I was pretty stupid… I let ingrained anti-feminine bias, self loathing, fear of failure, and major pessimism over cost prevent me from finding a hobby that has well and truly been beneficial to me… But that’s the price of being Human; who we are today is not who we were yesterday, and that can be a good thing as long as you continue to use it to drive positive change. What I can say now, though, is this: Embroidery is badass– and here’s six reasons you should make the jump and learn it yourself!
1. Fine Motor Improvement
Turns out the coordination needed to embroider can increase your overall fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity in much the same way Ballet can increase your overall balance… You don’t even have to do the advanced stitches to reap its benefits, either. Even if you only ever stuck to simple stitches, it’d still improve all those things over time. This is amazing news for someone like me with Sensory Processing Disorder that affects her fine motor skills, and I’ve already seen major improvement myself.
2. It’s a Versatile Skill
Oddly enough, embroidery isn’t just practical when you’re doing it on a hoop. Some of the stitches I’ve learned have also come in handy when patching my Husband’s jeans, or repairing a blanket. So not only can you create wonderful works of art, you can also do more practical things with it; a handy skill by far.
3. It’s Surprisingly Cheap
Looking back on it now, it’s really stupid that part of the reason I never gave it a chance was because I was afraid it was going to be expensive. Because as it turns out…. It’s actually pretty cheap!
Hoops tend to average $2 USD to $5 USD for a cheap wooden one. Needles are damned near on the dime. And I purchased an assorted hundred bits of floss for less than $30. Of course, prices vary per country, quality, and other factors. But as far as the cost of some of my other hobbies go price wise? You really can’t get much better than that- especially not when you factor in all it’s other benefits.
4. Near-Instant Gratification
A sense of accomplishment and pride is likely the bane of every new hobbyist’s existence. And by that, I mean the lack of it when starting off in a hobby for the first time can usually make or break the chances of a person sticking with it. Trust me, I know; I’m the queen of instant discouragement when I can’t do something right on the first or second try. I get frustrated and give up way too easily.
But here’s the thing: It took me all of twenty minutes to complete my first sampler of the most bare and basic stitches I needed to learn. And you know what? It was so goddamned satisfying! I mean, sure, it takes time to learn all the stitches- and there are so many. And yes, some of those stitches require absolutely insane coordination and skill to pull off. And no, your stitches aren’t even remotely going to be pretty your first few go arounds with it… But I’ve literally never found an easier skill to learn in my life, let alone one that gave me such gratification right out the door.
5. It’s Motivating
If you’re like me? That’s a pretty damned big deal. Even doing a few successful stitches gives you a near instant sense of accomplishment… It makes you feel good about yourself. Better yet, the motivation you get from it translates well into other areas of your day; I never feel as capable of tackling my to-do list as I do after just 20 minutes of Embroidery work.
6. It’s Relaxing
I’ve tried a lot of craft based hobbies over the years- from knitting, to crochet, weaving, and more. None of them have done as much for my mental health as embroidery has since I started learning in roughly September of last year (2017). and in that short time, it’s helped my mental health immensely.
There’s something to be said about the state of mind that it puts you in while you work; that sort of mindless, meditative focus where everything seems to bleed away and the only thing that matters is the hoop in your hands.
Would you ever give embroidery a chance? Leave a comment letting me know what you think down below! And don’t forget to like this post, and subscribe to my blog while you’re here; you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram, too- and if you want to support my blogging (or just like my photography), check out my RedBubble Shop or buy me a Ko-Fi!