Thursday, August 14, 2014

{ Bringing back the art of hand stitching }

I have always been fascinated by the old art of hand stitching.  When you watch old movies, you are very aware that it used to be one of the women's past times.  So often, she would sit by the candlelight with a project in hand, quietly stitching away on a quilt.

Back in Victorian times, hand embroidery was considered a must know for any female, and girls were often started at a very young age, usually by creating an embroidery sampler.  It often consisted of a border of hand drawn work and then the center filled with animals, flowers, verses, alphabet etc.

The image above is the Jane Bostocke Sam Cloths, from the Victoria and Albert Museum website, item number T.190-1960.


From a very young age I have been interested in sewing, I think heavily influenced by my grandmother who is a seamstress. She didn't do much embroidery work, but I dabbled in cross stitch for a bit and then fell in love with Candlewicking.

Oh goodness, I love Candlewicking. It's not an embroidery term that is heard very often, I think the most popular has to be cross stitch, though I will say I never did become very good at it.

Candlewicking on the other hand was something I really enjoyed.....but what exactly is it??
Candlewicking, or Candlewick is a form of white work embroidery that traditionally uses an unbleached cotton thread on a piece of unbleached muslin. It gets its name from the nature of the soft spun cotton thread, which was braided then used to form the wick for candles.
When I was about 15 or 16 years old, I was so into the Candlewicking that I would go to the shops with my grandmother and buy pattern books and floss to work with.  The very first thing I made was a pillow, I worked so hard on it, and I still remember how proud I was when I finished it.  I wished I had kept it.

I also made the ring pillow for my brother and sister in law's wedding.

Many, many years ago, I decided once again to try my hand at a very simple pillow.  I still have it, it's so old and looking back on it now I can see so many imperfections, beginning with the stuffing that has gone all wonky, and the threads are starting to pull out.


It is so cute, and a reminder of one of my very first attempts at candlewicking.


It sits on my bed, and I have another for the other side, but it is still needing to be sewed.  I finished stitching it years ago and completely forgot about it.


I think this weekend I'll quickly finish it. 

You're probably wondering why everything looks so wrinkled, and there is a very good explanation.....see I had forgotten about all these projects until I was digging through my sewing box. 


I couldn't believe how many projects I had stashed away, just sitting there waiting to either be started or finished.  The ones above are going in my kitchen merely as decorations, but there is one for each day of the week.


This one above, I started right before we left Idaho for Arizona.  As you can see it is almost finished, problem is that I ran out of the yellow and intended on buying more and then, of course, forgot about it.

I have to go to Walmart tomorrow so I'll see if I can find a matching floss to finish it.  Then all I need is to iron it and frame it.


I also came across these coffee dyed fabrics to which I transferred these cute patterns.  They will be some primitive looking pillows for the living room, I'll switch them out during the different holidays.


And then I found my only Candlewicking book. 

Back in South Africa my grandmother had bought me this huge one filled with cute patterns, but when I left in 1998, I left it behind, I didn't have room in my luggage and always thought that I would have it shipped to me, but if you've ever shipped internationally you know how expensive that gets.

Long story short, I left all my books behind and only bough this one on ebay, I think in 2006.  It doesn't have many patterns, but at least it's something.


And lastly, I found this pretty ribbon embroidery kit that I also started and then left.  Goodness, if I had to count every single project I've got laying around that is unfinished, I would say about 70%.


It is called The Potting Shed, and I want to finish it and frame it.  I don't think I'll continue with the ribbon though, I may just go with normal embroidery stitches.

The thought of pulling out all my embroidery floss and getting started with these, makes me so excited.

I don't know why the art of hand stitching ever truly stopped, or rather stopped being such a huge part of a woman's life.  It is so relaxing to sit at the end of a busy day, with a cup of tea and an embroidery hoop on your lap while working on some pretty design for your home.

I do have a question for all of you out there who do any kind of hand stitching.  Do you know Candlewicking or have any patterns that you wouldn't mind sharing with me?  I would be so grateful if you did.

Now, I need to get into the kitchen and get my meatloaf in the oven and peel some potatoes for the mash.  Comfort food at it's best, right?


  1. Such pretty things and wonderful memories! I learned to cross stitch when I was nine and my Aunt taught me to crochet when I was eleven. I have dabbled in a lot of other crafts too and still do! Huggles!

  2. My grandmother did candlewicking usually on her pillowcases, though she did do a gorgeous flower border over the top edge of some nice cream colored sheets. It was stunning.

    I never knew that's what it was called though.

    I'll have to look around next time I am at grandpa's to see if any of her stuff is still lying around.

  3. Last year at our church we learned how to embroider. I just love it. I find it easier to do than crochet even. I have some tea towels I want to embroider. Things like this are not taught anymore. Hannah enjoys it as well.

  4. My grandma done that an quilt and I've always wanted to learn how to quilt

  5. My mother did all kinds of embroidery and I have two pillows she made in candlewicking. The patterns are very similar to the ones in your book. I have done counted cross-stitch, and some other embroidery samplers, but it has been a long time. I agree, it's an art that should be continued.

  6. I learned embroidery at age 11. I was so fascinated by the stitches and projects. I'd heard references to candlewicking, but never what it actually was.. I'm assuming those stitches are French knots.. a stitch I never really mastered for some reason. I faked that stitch when a pattern called for it. I started out with a crewell embroidery project, embroidering with yarn, because that's what a friend's mom, who embroidered suggested. It was flowery picture that my mother framed and hung in the hall entry. I then moved on to regular embroidery, hankies, a table runner, a bureau scarf, things like that and a sampler which I was inspired to do after learning about them as it was the bicentennial. I tried my hand at cross stitch in my late twenties, but never really took to it.

  7. I have never done any candlewicking, but it looks lovely, and I look forward to seeing more of your pieces in time. xx

  8. lady, you are crazy talented! You've inspired me to become a better homemaker! Kudos :)

  9. Hey Sandra! I do a ton of embroidery, and I have since I was a preteen!! I will be happy to share some patterns with you, you can keep what you want and share the others. It's a small thank you for the pleasure I've gotten over the past 5 or so years reading your blog. I'm sure you can contact me with the email I will sign in with, so if you send me your address I will get you a package out ASAP!! Thanks so much for asking !

  10. Do you remember which book it was? I think I have a South African one somewhere.


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