A & M whitework wedding monogram

A & M wedding monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Out of the blue, old friends from America emailed to arrange meeting, as they do whenever they come to the UK which is pretty often. Last time they took me to the National Gallery for lunch and then whisked me off to the Savoy (where they were staying) for tea, although truth to tell we had so much to catch up with that we scarcely gave more than a glance at our environment. This time I invited them to our packed little house, which was already swollen by the (welcome) addition of daughter No 2. They were themselves staying at George Gilbert Scott’s St Pancras Hotel and I was quite tempted to say we’d go to them, but it was our turn to be hospitable and coming to us they would also see other members of the family so, to Islington they came.

Embroidered initial A from A & M wedding monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Embroidered initial M from A & M wedding monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

We first met them when my children were at primary school in west London. They appeared at the school en famille while the father was completing his doctorate thesis at UCL. Both of us had daughters called Allegra and both had so named the girls after one of Byron’s daughters. We try to forget that Byron’s poor little Allegra (daughter of  Claire Clairmont, step sister of Mary Shelley) had been hived off to live in an Italian convent where she had died aged 5. Fortunately both our Allegras passed the 5 year mark and are into their thirties, thriving and with offspring of their own. But our meeting on Chiswick Back Common forged a bond which has lasted even after the Americans returned to California and my first marriage had broken up.

A & M wedding monogram: work in progress, showing design in running stitch and felt padding for letters

American Allegra had married 6 years ago and I owed her and her husband a wedding present. I had long ago designed a monogram for the couple, so I needed to waste no time with pencil and paper. (My design was based on a scrapbook picture of a pearl and silver necklace which is shown below. The little silver twig reminded me of mistletoe, so I drew my leaves and berries to look a bit more mistletoey.) With a deadline 5 days away I set to, feeling confident that the task was quite easily doable. Then the drains intervened…and after their unblocking,  the ensuing backlog of piles of clothes washing and the general dross of temporarily disordered lives loomed large – so loud and unavoidable was their siren call, that all other activities were cast aside including my monogram with the tight deadline.

Shell with monogram letters. The A is very similar to the A in A & M wedding monogram but stitching is slightly different (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Of course the monogram was not finished and framed in time for our friends to take with them. It is, however, finished now and can be packaged up ready for their next visit to the UK.

A & M wedding monogram before framing (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On a practical note, I’d like to record that I used Anchor No 2 – a slightly yellowy white – which gleams with a light gold sheen on white linen. People often ask to see work in progress so I enclose a photograph of  the start of embroidery. I had copied the design from a pencil drawing using a light box. Having zigzagged the edge of the fabric, I backed the design with a stabilising fabric like Stitch N Tear to give a firm base for embroidery as I don’t enjoy using a hoop. The design was then picked out in 2 strand embroidery thread running stitch. Next it was washed with special attention to removing the pencil lines.  Rolling the wet fabric in a clean tea towel, I follow this by ironing it between two clean tea towels while still damp and I then leave it lying flat to really dry out for a few hours. When I come to embroider I might embroider over the lines I’ve already stitched but I often remove these threads as I go, using the stitch holes for guidance. When the embroidery is completed, I cut or pull away the stabiliser fabric.

Silver and pearl necklace which inspired my A & M wedding monogram

6pm last Friday we thought we were heading out of the house for a hotel as a day of digging and prodding by an army of workmen failed to discover the source of the blocked drain. The whole of the front garden had been dug up and earth removed down to  a metre or so and still there was no sign of a drainage pipe. Old fashioned action with multiple rods continued via the  flooded drain inspection hole in the back garden and suddenly, hooray, they were through to the main drain in the middle of the road and life as we knew it could resume. How relieved we were to be returned to C21st living.

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Cushion hand embroidered with monogram T and flowers

Hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

More than a year ago when daughter No 2 left her job in charge of land mine clearing in Vietnam (with UK based NGO MAG -Mines Advisory Group).  I promised I’d make a cushion for her to give to her right hand woman in Vietnam.

Hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

This present became especially important after the latter had arranged framing for all the embroidered stars I’d made as farewell gifts for daughter No 2’s colleagues and had even sacrificed having one of her own when it became apparent that I really hadn’t done enough.(See here for the first of the 15 stars we made) I keep saying ‘I’ but I should say we as daughter No 2 had made the initial patchwork stars which I went on to embroider. Now, as daughter No 2 is coming to the end of a job at MAG’s head office, she is looking forward to a bit of an extended holiday and among other things will return to see friends in Vietnam.

Hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

One of the unthought of benefits about blogging things you’ve made is that even after you’ve given away the physical items, you still have the images on screen at the click of a button. In this way I can find out which embroideries individuals like and can design something similar for them in the knowledge they will like it.

Detail of hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

This cushion is based on monograms I did for twin girls which can be seen here, but this time I’ve mixed simple appliqué flowers  with my favourite embroidered honeysuckles which are soul serotonin and crop up regularly in my embroidery, sometimes almost unbidden. The ‘T’ is very florid as anything too straight up and down and austere looked quite wrong.

Detail of hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

In August, daughter No 2 is off to head up MAG’s team in Iraq (clearing land mine and other unexploded ordnance, including the nightmare of booby traps left by so-called Isil). What can one say ? – you bring up these daughters to be independent minded and ambitious, so you shouldn’t really be surprised when they go off and do dangerous things in far off places. However … we shall miss her … and probably worry about her.

Hand embroidered cushion with monogram T and flowers (Mary Addison)

On a more earthy note, today we are at sixes and sevens with blocked drains. The old clay pipe from the house to the main sewer is suspected to have collapsed but as workmen – after digging all afternoon in a not very big front garden – have yet to find ANY pipe, we may be heading for a hotel tonight!

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