Wednesday 10 November 2010

Needleworkers in Disgrace

I remember needlework very well at junior school. One of our projects was to cross stitch a gingham tray cloth. The coloured cross stitches were simply made diagonally, from corner to corner across one gingham square. Easy peasy! Or so I thought. Unfortunately, there were at least a hundred ways of getting this totally wrong, and I seemed to be working through the catalogue of errors serially. Every mistake had to be unpicked - and for some reason this took longer than making the actual stitch in the fist place - and with all my industry and effort being concentrated on the point of that needle, it was getting hotter and hotter - and stickier and stickier..... At least I was never made to stand in the corner for wilfully spoiling my work, or being slow. This illustration is from 'A Manual of Collective Lessons in Plain Needlework and Knitting' published in 1885 at a time when all the English Board Schools would have been up and running. It is entitled Punishment. It speaks volumes, doesn't it?


  1. That's one reason I love the Amish approach to Needlework -- a mistake is deliberately placed on the fabric -- for no one is perfect,
    save G-d Himself. :)

  2. I have a similar encounter with knitting. I was in second grade, 7 years old, and we had to knit an egg-warmer (kind of woolen hat to keep a boiled egg warm?). I couldn't get it right and practised and practised until I finally got it more or less, but it was knitted kind of loosely and it made the egg-warmer the size of a austrich egg-warmer. Anyway, I was so proud on it, that I had finished it! And than the moment, the teacher stood in front of the class with all our finished egg-warmers and picked mine to show!!!

    ...only to say "this is not how we want it" and she pulled it out and rewinded it to wool in front of all. It is 40 years ago and I have never knitted again :(

  3. This reminds me so much of my experiences in home economics classes during 7th and 8th grades. In the clothing sections, the teacher was something else. We had to meet her expectations for us and I think she had different levels of expectations for specific students. I could do nothing to meet her expectations. I cannot tell you how much time I spent picking out and redoing my work. When I finished 8th grade, I felt that if I ever touched a needle again in my life, it would be too soon. Needless to say, following that time, I did have some positive experiences which brought me back to both sewing and embroidery.