With even the most cursory glance at that photo, I'm still guessing that most of you will instantly recognize the tell-tale yellow envelope of Aunt Martha's iron-on transfers. How long have these been around? How long has good ole Auntie been tempting us with enough embroidery projects to stop up our kitchen drawers and linen closets? I'm guessing the 1930s, but does anyone really know? Please start a wikipedia page, Someone!
This little cotton hanky is my very first embroidery project, done at the tender age of 7-ish. Mom took it fresh off the clothesline, and it never left the ironing board. Incidentally that was how I learned to iron, by pressing hankies and pillowcases...now I see the connection to my embroidery hobby!! But I digress. I picked out four petite flowers to adorn each corner of the hanky. I picked out four coordinating colors for petals and leaves. Mom popped on the hoop, and I was quiet and sitting still for at least thirteen minutes. Then I promptly tossed it aside, with a "see you later!" and ran out to play Barbies with the neighbor girl. Perhaps that wasn't it exactly, but I do remember these four little flowers, amounting to approximately 47 1/2 stitches each, taking an exorbitant amount of time to finish. Sedentary hobbies are hard when your only 7-ish years old.
Mom taught me the running stitch and demonstrated the French Knot a whole bunch of times. And voila! I was doing "grown-up" stuff, just like Mom. Isn't that what it's really all about when you're little? After I tackled this monumental project, I did an ABC cross-stitch sampler of which I have distinct memories. Mom charted it all out on graph paper, then with a purple invisible marker, she transferred it onto canvas using the kitchen window as a light source. That one was dated 1982 (as is the tradition when doing samplers), and I finally got to the XYZ in high school, some eleven years later. What can I say? Barbie was doing some cool stuff in the '80s.
But so started my embroidery hobby. Over all those years growing up, I collected Aunt Martha patterns. I had a phase in which I was completely enamored with cut-work. All my thoughts were on pillowcases and dresser scarves and ways to pretty up my bedroom. Haven't done one yet.
When I married and had my own house, the kitchen was where I spent most of my time so thoughts turned to dishtowels. And of course no respectable housewife could call herself an embroiderer without having a few Days of the Week patterns in her collection. I have these Hill Billies and a set of Mammy, but still haven't taken the needle to the towel yet.
With my interest in vintage clothing, monograms suddenly seem appropriate. Yet more patterns in the collection, but at least here I can say that I've done one! My pink gingham blouse is still a favorite of mine.
I've been lucky to find some vintage patterns, too. I don't think Aunt Martha will feel jilted. With her near monopoly on the market, she always plays it "cool as a cucumber."
So naturally with all these cute designs filling up my sewing room, one day my daughter asked to start her own embroidery project.