An embroidered alphabet: letter M

Embroidered letter M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Now this letter I particularly enjoyed sewing. Once I saw this image, I knew I had to make it my own. How perfect – a letter M in the form of scissors and with the addition of a needle and thread (though I’ll probably be better remembered for having a prickly bosom, dotted and dashed as it usually is by pearl headed pins and assorted embroidery needles). I don’t know where the image originally came from (see below) but it looks quite French to me, both as to colour and form. At first I remembered it as being an enamel plaque but looking at it again, I realise it’s faded card – perhaps a tailor’s or dressmaker’s card to advertise their trade with details on the reverse. Whatever the reality, the image is perfect – strong and stylish. For my M, I decided on simple appliqué of green silk slip stitched to linen with whipped running stitch for needle and thread.

Initial M as a pair of scissors, found on Pinterest

There was another knitting afternoon at The Holst on Tuesday and having got to know each other during the previous sessions   we were all very comfortable together and chatted freely. As she poured our tea and raked the fire, the curator, Laura, was full of apologies for not having produced a Victoria sponge which said she’d promised us last week. That she had produced two lots of biscuits instead, digestive and shortbread (after work and after putting her two children to bed) seemed to us more than enough and quite beyond the call of duty. We’d have all turned up anyway; it’s been such a pleasure to be part of an informal social gathering in such a relaxed setting. It was easy to forget we were in a museum. Lucky us; I doubt cook or the housemaid of 100 plus years ago would have spent hours on end with their knitting in front of the kitchen fire.

Embroidered letter M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

While most of us knitted, Dawn had brought along a tiny wispy cloud of raw alpaca wool into which she had added minute shreds of blue silk. Quietly she set to spinning this ball of fluffy nothingness into yarn and before long she had us all entranced the simplicity of the process …and her own gentle dexterity. A flick to upend the spindle followed by sleight of hand worth of a magician and in no time at all single ply became 2ply. The resulting yarn was surprisingly substantial for such a small powder puff of animal hair and it was unexpectedly soft and warm to handle too. Suddenly, we were all back in our ancestral hunter gatherer community, imagining the excitement brought by this simple but life changing technology. I’ve just begun reading Kassia St Clair’s The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History and I had had trouble envisaging her description of hand spinning – words confuse what once seen is surprisingly simple – but then I’m someone who needs to get their hands going to engage their brain. Below is a photograph of Dawn in action spinning and another photograph of the finished 2ply wool, still wound on the spindle. Hands in action have a beauty all of their own – how much aesthetic pleasure is lost when handwork is superseded by machines. These knitting afternoons at The Holst have been an education, as well as a joy.

Knitting at The Holst Birthplace Museum: spinning with a hand spindle

Knitting at the Holst Birthplace Museum: spindle of hand spun 2 ply alpaca and silk yarn

Last week, Dawn had been one of the people who had taken a photocopy of one of the WW1 knitting patterns, a beanie with a cable decoration. This week she appeared with the item knitted and ready to wear. Though not a hat person she put it on for us to see; it suited her perfectly. I really am not a hat person – wrong shaped head – but even I was momentarily tempted …

Sketches of various Ms found online

Sketches of various Ms found online

Sketches of various Ms found online

Sketching out various forms for each embroidered letter has been an enjoyable exercise. I tend to go for calligraphic letters, highly ornate letters from illuminated manuscripts, Art Nouveau examples, as well as some contemporary ones. I’m no longer so keen on forms traditionally used for embroidery. I keep adding new examples to my sheets of letters so that when I have a monogram to do, there’s plenty to inspire me. Below are a few more embroidered Ms. The first is from an Art Nouveau alphabet I like a lot; the other two are more traditional.

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

Embroidered initial M

Cushion with monogram M, leaves and feathers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)


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  1. Posted October 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    The scissors “M” turned out beautifully, didn’t it.

    You are quite right about the beauty of hands in motion. I have done a little hand spinning, but not enough to give me something reliably useable!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted October 22, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I suppose spinning’s a bit like riding a bike – you practise and then suddenly it clicks and you can do it. Not all of us have the time – or perhaps inclination – to get to the skilled stage – so it’s especially nice to watch someone who does.
      The scissors M is such a successful design – couldn’t resist making use of it!

  2. Neela Mann
    Posted October 24, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello Mary, I don’t quite know where your reply to me has disappeared but I can’t seem to find it. Please e-mail me for contact details so that we can meet up again. I like to keep up with kindred souls!
    All good wishes


  3. anne hill
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    The scissors M plus needle and thread is lovely. Since seeing that, I look at items in my sewing baskets that have monogram potential.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted October 30, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good idea.I hadn’t thought of looking at it that way round, Anne. Any items got the creative juices going yet?

  4. Posted October 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I like the letter M, the symetery is appealing, also it is the first letter of my married name, so I rather like it for that reason. The knitting group sounds just lovely, I harbour dreams of a somilar group, I will perhaps need to start a winter quilting and discussion group. X

    • Mary Addison
      Posted October 30, 2018 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      I agree about the symmetry and I too like the M because it’s my initial.
      The knitting group has been lovely. If you can, do start something similar.

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