Embroidered monograms for twins

Monogram M with floral circlet (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Monogram M with floral circlet (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

A glorious morning in the Chilterns. Morning has broken like the first morning, blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. The words are those of children’s writer Eleanor Farjeon who I always think of as thoroughly Victorian but who only died in 1965, well within my living memory. Eleanor mixed in elevated literary and theatrical circles, including people like D.H.Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, Robert Frost as well as Edward Thomas and his wife but it was to her own childhood that she always returned to for inspiration.

Monnogram F with floral circle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Monnogram F with floral circle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

When she and her family settled in Sussex during WWI the genius loci and local traditions and customs  combined with memories of family holidays in France and tales of troubadours came together in her most famous book ‘Matin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’, about a wandering minstrel – the chalk cliffs of the Sussex coast and the Long Man of Wilmington rather than the landscape of France providing the setting. Like the best fairy tales, the 6 stories in this book speak to an adult reader on a different level and in fact she didn’t write them with children in mind but quite specifically for a young soldier friend of Edward Thomas. Her themes of loss, betrayal and unrequited love suggest she said in print what she perhaps couldn’t in a more direct way.

Hand embroidered M (by Mary Addison)

Hand embroidered M (by Mary Addison)

Hand embroidered F (by Mary Addison)

Hand embroidered F (by Mary Addison)

My introduction to Eleanor came when my own children were little with tapes of her short stories. Daughter No 1 slept through the night almost from birth. Daughter No 2 didn’t. I don’t blame her. This was just how she was. Son and daughter No 3 were quite good sleepers but if No 2 was awake they would usually be awake too.

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

Being awake we decided (well, I say decided, rather meandered or blundered to the conclusion) was fine if nothing else could be done to get them to sleep, but that they should be in a bedroom, with blinds down in summer and soft light in winter and be as calm as possible. For a year or so they were all in the same room but I don’t ever recall the fact that they weren’t later on as being a problem, but no doubt bodies were distributed to their various beds later on. Clean and warm after their nightly baths we settled down and one or the other of us read to them (often for an hour or two). When we could read no more, we’d listen to story tapes, by which time the adults would be lying on the floor, often asleep. Creeping out when the last child was sufficiently dozy became a fine art.

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

M monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

 

Some nights we read from 7 – 9.30 pm and now that they are all very grown up they look back and say how much they loved it. I think in 5 years we went out 3 times – or was it in 3 years we went out 5 times. It doesn’t matter, with 4 children 6 and under it went like greased lightning. And it probably turns out that these extended reading sessions were some of the best things we did for them – a successful routine bred of desperation and resignation, not dogma or targets.

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

The Little Bookroom was Eleanor Farjeon’s best known collection of stories and it was made even more loveable with Edward Ardizzone’s inimitable watercolours. I’ve just rushed upstairs to find the what tapes we had and am slightly sad that I can only find one set of 2 cassettes and one of these is missing. Read by Michael Hordern, I shall just have to put it on for my next sewing session. Now that cassette players are no longer made, I have suggested to Daughter No1 that she finds one of those old ugly ochre and brown Fisher Price children’s cassette players while they’re still available on ebay. We had one that lasted many years and it was pretty indestructible. Although my grandson is as yet a vey good sleeper, there may come a time when he isn’t … and it would be nice to think of him listening to the same stories his mother did, read by the same voice. (And I have squirrelled away about 50 wonderful cassettes of children’s stories – I only kept the ones we loved. Long car journeys, Wet half term weekdays,  hours stuck in bed with a cold – all were made bearable with a good story well read to keep us happy. Added bonus – with hands free, I could do patchwork too!)

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

F monogram: detail of hand embroidered & appliquéd flowers

Well, that’s how sidetracked a beautiful morning can get you. To accompany a glorious show of blue skies and sun I have a couple of initials I embroidered for my husband’s granddaughters – twins. I began and almost finished the first years ago and got as far as the initial in the second one. Things then stalled. Their birthday was in the first week of February so I had hoped to get them finished for then. It didn’t happen. I wanted them to be similar but different and for a long time I couldn’t fix upon a companion design. This is no good I thought and just got on with what I wasn’t sure was quite right. It was. Sometimes you just have to fling yourself into something you’re not quite committed to and make it work and that’s what happened here. The great thing with embroidery is that you can always undo bits and add other bits somewhere else. I’m now quite happy with it (and, whisper it, may even prefer it to the first one. No, no, you can’t go round saying things like that in today’s world, suffice it to say I like them in their different ways.)

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22 Comments

  1. Posted February 27, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I love the combination of appliqué and embroidery. I also love audio books while I sew, I have listened to lots of classics that I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to reading.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      BBC iPlayer is brilliant too. War & Peace was terrific. Really life is near perfect sewing by a window with a lovely view while listening to a good story!

  2. Posted February 27, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    These are completely charming! Your stitches are so fine I can’t see how you treated the cut edge of the fabric — do you stabilize it against fraying in some way, or adhere the appliqué to the ground fabric to prevent it slipping or puckering while you stitch into it?

    Thank you for the Farjeon tapes recommendation. My daughter begins a long school commute next autumn and my mind is already turning to building a good library of stories for the journey!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Sarah, thank you for your kind comment.
      I think I used double sided iron-on Vilene, which in fact didn’t stick to the linen at all well, but it did for long enough for me to tack it nice and smoothly. The flowers around the F were sewn with very close blanket stitch, so fraying wasn’t a problem; the stitching of those around the M seem to be ok too. Perhaps it’s because the lawn is quite fine and doesn’t fray much. (Sometimes I don’t mind fraying – see the black background here http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2015/01/12/scarlet-black-monogram/).
      I took a look at your blog and thought it was lovely and interesting, especially how you adapted a Kate Davies knitting pattern to fit you.

  3. Posted February 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    My mother read to me, and we had stories on cassette for long journeys. One of the best bits of a very happy childhood!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      I can’t imagine long car journeys (often with 4 children, 3 cats and grandad) without a pile of cassettes – and now Just William will only ever be Martin Jarvis.

  4. Iona
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Such exquisite and joyous work! It’s always a pleasure to read your words and view your fine embroidery.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      It is very kind of you to leave such a nice comment. Thank you, Iona.

  5. Posted February 27, 2015 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    The Little Bookroom is on my top ten books! Your handwork is stunning.
    My heart is full of beauty from seeing it and reading this post.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      I’m so glad this post reverberated for you. Thank you for letting me know.

  6. Posted February 27, 2015 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find the audio book of The Little Bookroom? Maybe it is only in the UK?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      No, I don’t think it’s been recorded. The one I’ve got is actually ‘Jim at the Corner’ which was an earlier collection of stories, from 1934.(The Little Bookroom was published in 1955).

  7. Posted February 28, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Exquisite work as always Mary x

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 1, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Penny for always leaving such lovely comments. Much appreciated.

  8. Posted March 2, 2015 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Here I am back again and what a lovely post I find. Full of Spring flowers and twin monograms. Having had twins myself, two boys, I like to hear of twins. I smiled at the hours of reading you both did falling asleep yourselves… I remember all that very well… my daughter was 21/2 when the boys were born so yes, everything is now a blur. We rigged up a hammock, no, not for me, one of the babies was put in and would be rocked by me whilst holding the other and reading to daughter…. it worked for a while…. Eleanor Farjeon, now that does ring a dim and distant bell – I must look into it. Interesting that she was friends with Edward Thomas and his wife – I have a book about him on the shelf…..

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 3, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      The hammock sounds a great idea – pity it only worked for a while. I remember the most stressful times combining trying to breast feed No 4, No 3 (boy) climbing the bookshelves, No 2 having a tantrum, while No 1 is trying to read her school book to me. Not enough hands! (or parts of the brain.) Still, we survived!

  9. Posted March 2, 2015 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    How lucky are the little twins to receive such exquisite gifts – beautiful work Mary….

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 3, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Lydia. They have been a long time in the making and I am so glad to have finished them now.

  10. Penny Cross
    Posted March 3, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Persephone Post used to be the first blog I looked at each morning but it’s moved into second place now. You offer us so much exquisite, life-enhancing embroidery to sigh over and admire, so many common threads that it’s a little like meeting a friend one has known in previous times. Like Lydia, I’m drawn to twins, having had a pigeon pair after two sons, and a great deal of daytime as well as bedtime reading took place as we had no TV. I began a hexagon quilt for No. 1 son, picked it up again to try to finish it for No. 2 son and it was finally divided in half for the twins while listening to story tapes and the radio.

    Eleanor Farjeon was part of it all somewhere, and I learnt more about her life two years ago when listening to Matthew Hollis read at a local poetry festival from his marvellous book about Edward Thomas, “Now All Roads Lead to France.” Eleanor’s book, “Nursery Rhymes of London Town” sits between this and “Collected Poems” by Thomas on my bookshelf so they are reunited in a sense that pleases me.

    If you ever thought about offering embroidered monogram workshops, I would be the first to sign up, Mary. Your work is stunning and the recipients of your work are extremely lucky.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 4, 2015 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Goodness me, what splendid compliments, Penny. I feel quite overwhelmed to be compared to the divine Persephone Post. Thank you so much, your words have given me great pleasure. For me blogging has been a real joy and quite an existential experience, and although I think I might blog if no one ever looked at it, knowing others do – and even better enjoy it – is tremendously exciting.
      And it’s a two way process, as I learn plenty from the comments. For example, you’re going to tell me what a
      pigeon pair is. I’ve never heard the expression before but it’s rather charming and summons the image in my mind of two turtle doves from the Christmas carol.
      The Matthew Hollis book has been very well received and I keep intending to get hold of a copy – now I have another reason to. Thank you for telling me that Eleanor Farjeon makes an appearance in it. (There’s a small dissertation to be written on what sits next to what on people’s bookshelves!)
      I sometimes wonder about a monogram workshop but I have no plans at present as at the moment plenty of other things have a call on my time.
      Once again thank you for saying such nice things.

      • Penny Cross
        Posted March 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Pigeon pair = “A boy and girl as twins, or as the only children in a family.” From the online Oxford Dictionary. Now I’ve learnt something new as I thought it only referred to twins.

        • Mary Addison
          Posted March 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          Well, I never knew that. Thanks for clearing that up, Penny.

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