"My first foray into being a T+T Storyteller has really surprised me. I hadn't expected to feel so deeply about this project. It was born from a simple desire to nurture and protect my children. As I stitched, I read each intention over and over. I've heard that your brain needs to process a positive message five times to balance out every negative. Embroidery was a very natural way to do just that."
We are pleased to welcome Lorna Parker, a member of the Twig + Tale Storytellers team, who is sharing her interpretation of the March theme, Intention(al).
In this inspiring essay, Lorna shares her process of making beautiful hand stitched labels, and the discovery that embroidery is the perfect medium to instil positive affirmations in her loved ones - and herself - one stitch at a time.
When I heard that the Storyteller theme for March was 'intention' I immediately thought of the affirmations I have used with my children to get us through two turbulent years in a world changed by COVID.
After each lockdown, they struggled to leave the security of home and felt worried whenever I wasn't with them. They drew comfort from wearing things I had made them, just as I drew comfort from wrapping them in things I had sewn with love.
For this project, I decided to combine the pleasure I get from embroidering with some of the elements of the Woodland Friends pocket embroidery patterns to create labels with positive messages for their garments. This way they will be reminded of my love and given a boost every time they get dressed.
Pictured above: Embroidery supplies and a page from Charlie Mackesy's book The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse.
I started by talking to the children and finding phrases and aspirations which spoke to each of us. We wrote them down and thought about how they might apply in our lives. I looked at fonts online, and sketched out a set of intentions, each to be sewn with a unique combination of threads, stitches and decorative elements.
I have embroidered since childhood, but you don't have to be an experienced sewist to make your own labels. The instructions for many of the stitches I used are included in the Twig + Tale embroidery patterns and the Learn to Embroider course.
There are lots of options which work well for lettering: back stitch, chain stitch and stem stitch are good places to start. I also tried a split back stitch with a thicker Perle cotton, and whipped back stitch with a few strands of strands cotton.
It was a good opportunity to try some different threads I had in a lucky dip bag and it really was the perfect opportunity to use scrap fabric too. The thinner threads suited smaller text, and the Perle was ideal for split back stitch. I was very pleased to be using some variegated threads which have been in my tin for far too long.
One of the reasons I enjoy embroidery is that it is so portable. A tiny hoop, a needle and thread and a scrap of cloth slipped into a pocket or bag, and you can lose yourself in stitching anytime, any place, for as much time as you have.
It was a low budget project that will really add a priceless touch to the things I make. I now have a set of labels for future garments, blankets or toys. It also means that whenever the urge to embroider strikes I can always put what I make to good use as a new affirmation.
My first foray into being a T+T Storyteller has really surprised me. I hadn't expected to feel so deeply about this project. It was born from a simple desire to nurture and protect my children. As I stitched, I read each intention over and over. I've heard that your brain needs to process a positive message five times to balance out every negative. Embroidery was a very natural way to do just that.
As I stitched and considered each message, I realised that I needed to be reminded of how the affirmations applied to me, just as much as I needed to give them to others. I need to be kind to myself, remember that each day is a fresh start and believe I am loved.
Once my fabric scrap was full of intentions I felt more at peace. I stitched a small matching icon to pair with each as tags because my children never seem to be able to tell front from back! Then I pressed and interfaced my work and dusted off my late Nan's pinking pinking shears to cut each into shape.
The children were abuzz with excitement when they saw the finished products, eager to see which message they might find, just for them, inside their clothes. I'm going to sew a few as surprises into their favourite old clothes as well as future projects….
...like this upcycled Breeze Shirt and Scout Pants, which are the perfect home for a message of love for my youngest. The charity shop find that I turned into the shirt was small, but that fabric and those buttons were too good to leave behind.
Necessity was the mother of invention - without enough fabric for sleeves I altered the armscye and added a flutter made from the pocket bags of the original garment. Both of my children are firm believers that everything should have pockets, and there was just enough left from the fly to create one interestingly-shaped pocket - I love this sort of happy accident when upcycling.
As we look forward to spring and warmer weather in the northern hemisphere, last year's shorts are outgrown and so a pair of linen Scout Pants were the perfect companion for the shirt and a good home for a bespoke label. She loves that the below-knee length can easily be rolled up into shorts, and it will help them last through a growth spurt or two.
I always feel that I am on a learning journey with my sewing but this project made me feel I have grown as a person - I have a deeper appreciation of myself. Little did I know when I started stitching at the beginning of the month, that war would break out and the ripple of fear and tension around the world would mean we would need these tokens of love even more. They really are care labels and we could all do with a little of that right now.
Lorna Parker is a mum of two, nature conservationist and a lifetime lover of all things sewing. She has been stitching since she could hold a needle and sewing garments since her children came along. Valuing sustainability and creating unique things especially for their intended user, Lorna thrives on testing patterns, putting a creative spin on things and being inspired by the diversity of talent across the sewing world. See more of Lorna's work here.
There is lots more great Storyteller content on the T+T blog! Click here to view all of the Storyteller articles.