not to be sneezed at

Following the success of my last set of bespoke embroidered goods – the armadillo collection, last spring – I decided that personalised stitchery, when there is sufficient time for it, is the best kind of birthday present I can offer. And so, as it was coming up to my father’s birthday in the summer of last year, I pondered long and hard over how best to translate his interests into stitches. I dismissed bicycles as too fiddly, trains as too childish, football as something I wasn’t interested in, and found myself left with French writers as my only option. And given my pa’s lifelong habit of using handkerchiefs, these seemed like the most appropriate medium on which to stitch.

The next tricky bit was deciding which two of France’s seemingly infinite quantity of illustrious writers to choose from. In the end I shortlisted four: Voltaire, Rousseau, Baudelaire and Diderot, since they were the current favourites at that time, and the subject matter for most of our family mealtimes, whether we liked it or not. Since time was, as usual, limited, and since I only had two handkerchiefs to play with, I picked the first two on the list to be subjects for my embroidery. I decided to depict these characters in monochrome, cameo style, and so began by searching for appropriate images of their faces on the interwebs.

Once I had found two suitable portraits to base my designs on, I zapped them through my free stitchy software to create a very basic version of their heads in crosses. I then spent quite some time adding and erasing crosses on my computer until I was happy with the two profiles, and confident that both individuals were recognisable in cross stitch form. Satisfied with my final designs, I sewed the philosophers’ heads onto a handkerchief each, using waste canvas to ensure they didn’t turn out wonky. And hey presto! Two unique bespoke hankies for the man who has everything! I just hope he doesn’t mind blowing his nose on his heroes’ faces.

I think I set a mini trend for personalised men’s hankies last summer, as shortly after I completed my philosophers, one of my friends decided to make a set of three for her grandfather. As the recipient is a keen hillwalker and lives near the Welsh border, my friend chose Snowdonian mountains as her subject matter. She proceeded to stitch three profiles, one on each hanky, in two shades of green, with their names embroidered alongside. Here are the beautiful results: Snowdon, Glyder Fawr and Tryfan.

To finish them off, she presented her hankies neatly tied up in a matching green ribbon. (Don’t ever say we don’t do things properly around here.)

Oh sewing club, how we miss you…