Embroidering the World

Washstand runner designed by Ernest Gimson and embroidered by Margaret Gimson, 1890.

I suspect that I’m not alone in feeling like I spend way too much time looking at screens to distract from the dystopia that surround us. Neuroscientist Marc Lewis says, breaking an addiction requires a “unique act of reinvention” such as “learning a new art or skill, or religious conversion.” (Richard Seymour, The Twittering Machine, p. 212).

During the daytime I have settled on a successful strategy to hold the Silicon Valley attention thieves at bay. I retreat to my wood shop and either work on house infrastructure, furniture projects or stuff for other people. The phone stays in the house. But I can’t do woodworking at night. I’m just a little too tired and that’s a safety concern. But I think I may have stumbled on a way to stay away from screens at night: embroidery.

Kelly and I took a class with Natalie Richards this past week. She has the qualities of a great teacher. She’s organized, calm, reassuring and inspiring. Her friends apparently call her the “Bob Ross of embroidery” for her soothing patter. If you’d like to learn a few simple stitches, check out Natalie’s YouTube channel. On her channel she shows you the basic stiches, how to make a hoop protector and how to transfer designs. I used her YouTube videos to review some of what we learned in the class. And thanks to her class my past few evenings have been filled by embroidering one of Natalie’s pillow kits.

Both Kelly and I have done some embroidery before but now we have the time to go a little deeper. Beyond being a useful skill, embroidery has something to teach us about life. What if we took back the time that we spend on our devices to make the world a more beautiful place, to “embroiderer” our cities and suburbs? Let’s extend that metaphor beyond a physical sort of embroidery and imagine embroidering this world with a little more love and kindness.

Leave a comment


  1. I doubledog love this, of course. What will it take for me to warp up the loom and get back to weaving, after so many years of merely hoarding fibers (aka moth chum)? As you know, one of the activities that keeps me glued to the computer for hours on end is promoting events and offerings of organizational members of our local network of Time Banks (www.asntb.com). As a consequence, I am aware that our Time Bank Craft Club (now working in collaboration with Trade School Los Angeles, which entity arranges classes based on barter) has an embroidery workshop coming up! If you or any of your Gentle Readers are interested, the info is at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/trade-school-los-angeles-17287459016. Teacher Gail Tang says of herself, “I am a mathematics professor who likes to create. I love making pottery, origami, and embroidering. I also loves gardening, cooking, and photography.” And what does she want for barter? Succulent cuttings, dog treats for two large dogs, goodies from your garden, a particular brand of hen feed, or at least five bamboo embroidery hoops! I can’t wait to see your work!

  2. How exciting to see this post! I hope I will see your projects when you are finished. As a life long embroiderer and tapestry work lover, I am always inspired by others’ work. It is a great way to slow down and relax in the evenings. And I find if I go to long without working on my projects I get really antsy. So I suppose you can say it is addicting. Yes, and so is knitting and crochet.

  3. What a beautiful sentiment, embroidering our cities.
    And similar reasons to why I picked up the fiber arts several years ago, I wanted something to do in the evenings that didn’t entail news or screens (or reading in general, since I do enough of that during the day).
    I second Vick’s comment too. I started with crochet, then moved on to knitting, then started dabbling in carding and hand spinning, and now you can find me out rummaging in the underbrush of our local forests looking for fallen branches covered with one particular lichen species that I’d like to employ in a sweater dyeing project. Slippery slopes, my friends.

  4. Pingback: Learn to Embroider at Trade School Los Angeles | Root Simple

Comments are closed.