Embroidery of Chinese butterflies on a pink T shirt contrasts with back to school plain sewing


Pink t shirt with Chinese butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Last week, the kitchen table in London was awash with items of school uniform as preparations for the new school year were underway. Clothes needed to be named, some of those already named for someone else need to be re-named and those marked with now-faded permanent marker needed to be made visible once more. Last minute iron-on labels – failing to do what it said on the packet – rather irritatingly also called for stitches. Donated school tunics (made of polyester and viscose and hence almost indestructible) revealed veritably archaeological layers of name tapes as unpicking the top one made visible pinpricks of stitching from yet further tapes beneath – goodness knows how many children had owned them before.  Crisp of pleat and bright of colour, I suppose you could say the tunics had worn well but I couldn’t help thinking how uncomfortable these immortal garments would be to wear.

Chinese butterfly (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The small person goes from Pre-Prep to Prep School and his uniform changes from Aertex shirt to a more formal style shirt, which would be great except he’s now required to complete the outfit with that most controversial item of male attire  – the dreaded tie. As I write this in Cheltenham I imagine tie tying lessons in London left to the last minute out of shortage of time and/or general anticipation of failure. (Surprisingly, we must have managed to teach my own son how to do his, though he didn’t need to wear a tie until he was 11. He does, however, regularly remind me that I failed to teach him to tie his shoelaces, and how to tell the time, both of which he had to learn from a school friend when he went to primary school. Isn’t learning from peers the Montessori Method anyway?)  Some people never get tie tying and as I look at our small person I have the feeling he will look more ‘ Just William’ than school prospectus. The same goes for his trousers which we could never pass on to anyone else. Even when I’ve slip stitched the hems, and given them the once over the not very old trousers look a bit tatty and very much the worse for wear over the knees.  Hey ho!

Chinese butterfly (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The smallest person is very excited  at the thought of joining her brother at his school and at the moment is still quite amorous of the idea of school uniform – although that may change when she realises you have to wear it day after day for five days running with no alternative choice. (This is very like of one of my own daughters at a similar age, whose desire for personal control was strong. It was always easier to get her dressed if there was an element of choice – picking one out of just two dresses was sufficient.) Our littlest one has watched her brother leave the house for school for 3 whole years. She keenly felt the front door close on her so, like most younger children she is hyper keen to make the rite of passage and step out there along with her sibling. All adults are very excited too, especially after the periods of family isolation and intermittent home schooling  of the last eighteen months. If both parents weren’t actually taking them to school, I dare say thoughts might have gone towards a champagne celebration.

Chinese butterfly (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Daughter No 1 is still in her roboboot but it is now flat and walking is easier. Three weeks ago, simple exercises (performed out of the boot) like raising her toes or moving the foot from side to side, would make her cry with pain and frustration. Now, she does these regularly and feels improvement is tangible. All that is good but the boot is still with us for some time yet and as we change seasons, we’re aware of ‘boot’ being an inadequate description for a piece of footwear where the toes are free to the air. We’re just hoping for a dry Autumn, so no wet toes and no damp clammy boot liner to be irritated by throughout the working day.

Chinese butterfly (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The Chinese butterflies are proving to be a popular T shirt decoration. The smallest person, who had them on a sleeveless T shirt would now like them on something with long sleeves and I have earmarked the decoration for at least another 2 girls – one of which you see here.

Pink t shirt with Chinese butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On, I think, Friday, Nature Notes in The Times said robins were beginning to sing again after their silence in summer. This morning I stepped into the garden to hang out the washing and was delighted to hear a robin’s chatty song of extended tics which even seemed to have something of the blackbird about it, so jolly and fluid did it sound. I do love it when something you’ve just read ties in with something that happens to you.


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  1. Posted September 5, 2021 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Those butterflies are really lovely. I am sure the small wearers will love them.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 7, 2021 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      How kind of you to say so, Rachel.
      It’s nice that something so simple and taking comparatively little time to do gives such pleasure- especially when T shirt cost no more than £5.

  2. Amara Bray
    Posted September 6, 2021 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    We just took another trip to our local butterfly aviary. They are beautiful animals. I have to say though that you have the real thing beat here by way of colors. I love coming to your blog to feel safe and cozy. Thank you as always for writing.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 7, 2021 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Oh no, you’re wrong there Amara – seeing the real thing is quite something else, especially when you catch an enticing glimpse of the colourful ones in flight. You make me think we should have gone to the one at London Zoo before the new school term started.
      Still, embroidered is good – and much better embroidered than captured and pinned to a board behind a picture frame.
      How wonderful to know my blog makes you feel safe and cozy. Thank you for telling me,

  3. ceci
    Posted September 9, 2021 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes I remember painstakingly repairing school pants only to have them look worse than before by the end of the first month. I did notice that most of the boys were similarly disheveled and felt a bit better; it must have been an age group thing?

    We visited a butterfly garden on a recent vacation and it was spectacular, but nothing as lovely as your imagined Chinese butterflies! No wonder they are popular with the little girls.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 13, 2021 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      How rare it is to be able to hand on school trousers – or even track suit bottoms! School dresses and pinafores – we have been given so many, we are now trying to re-home the excess!
      Sweet of you to be so kind about the butterflies.

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