Have Needle – Will Stitch… I am passionate about hand embroidery, not a shred of embroidery floss goes to waste in this house. Among my favorite projects are these little embroidered and stuffed felt ornaments; I crank them out like clockwork. I also love teaching them as a class and do so on a fairly regular basis; I had several classes this fall (though one was cancelled due to lack of enrollment).
My own story of how I got started in this goes back 30 years to when a Pier 1 Import store opened in my home town of Pacific Grove California. I’d always loved import stores – the scents and exotic treasures… It was around Christmastime and they were selling these lovely embroidered ornaments from India for around $6 each – a king’s ransom for someone on a budget of $100 for ALL my Christmas shopping (and I would have wanted more than one of these on my tree). My grandma taught me to embroider when I was a child and I figured I could make some of these myself. My first ones were birds, what could be more appropriate to perch in a tree than birds? Ultimately, I ended up with a whole menagerie, the bird population was starting to get out of control so I embroidered a couple of cats to keep them in check and then the cats needed something more than just the birds so I created some fish. Now I have parrots, peacocks, owls, Thunderbirds, flying elephants, even some Day of the Dead flowered skulls… and I’m nowhere near done yet, I’m still designing others and I’m thinking of publishing these as patterns.
There is an adage about not judging until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes; the irony I learned from my exploration into making these ornaments is that there is no way I would or could make and sell one for $6, the materials alone to make one of these typically runs about $3+ and that’s if I buy the cheapest acrylic craft felt out there (I like the wool felt at about $15 per yard); add 6-8 colors of embroidery floss, fiber fill, beads, sequins and jingle bells or tassels and about 4-6 hours of labor… you can do the math.
One of the things I love about teaching this class is the way my students interpret their own embroidery styles, I see them combining and applying stitches that I would not have thought of and even when they opt to try and simply copy one of my arrangements, there is a uniqueness to each one. I have posted pictures of my own ornaments in the recent past, now I want to show you a variety of ornaments embroidered by my students.
And speaking of classes – it breaks my heart to cancel a class. Not only does it not benefit me financially but it also is a disappointment to the student(s) who bought their materials and eagerly anticipated the class. Though I try hard to hold a class even for few students, there is a break point where I cannot in good business practice do so. I recently had to cancel an all day class for one where I would have been paid about $30 but the IRS mileage calculation would have been $32, a big red flag to the IRS when business expenses exceed revenues. I do what I can to promote the classes and rely on the shops who see customers face to face to promote them as well but class attendance is down across the board for many other teachers as well as myself. If you have signed up for a class that you really want to take, please reach out to your quilting friends and suggest they register as well, we teachers will often teach for a small group but we just can’t afford to run our businesses at a loss – I haven’t had much luck convincing my bank to take embroidered ornaments in trade for the mortgage payment. By bringing along a friend or two, you may insure that the class you want will actually take place.