My adored late Granny introduced me to cross-stitch and tapestry when I was about 12. She was always knitting, crocheting or doing tapestries. Granny had knitted the clothes for my favourite dolls and had made jerseys and hats for my brother and I to wear in support of the local rugby club – Mataura. I still have, and used for my own baby, the lacey wool shawl she crocheted for me when I was born.
As a young girl I had often tried to make clothes for my dolls and Granny had shown me how to knit, though scarves are about all I can manage neatly, and attempted to show me how to crochet, but it was needlework that really caught my fancy and became an addiction.
I have always been a person who is quite happy to keep my own company and as a shy child/teenager I found needlework to be hobby that I could easily carry out quietly at home.
I love the rhythm of pulling the coloured thread through the canvas and eventually seeing sections of picture come into being. Tapestries are great because no counting is necessary, though they can be tricky to hold due to their size, but I love the variety that is available with cross-stitch.
In the past 3 decades I have mostly done cross-stitches because it is often cheaper to get started (a pre-printed tapestry canvas can be quite expensive to buy). I still have my first cross-stitch, completed from a kit-set under the guidance of my granny while I stayed with her one holidays, aged about 12. I haven't yet taken a photo of it as I want to turn it into a wall-hanging or cushion - it is of the letter J and I was so proud of it.
My first full tapestry was the girl and kitten pictured here. It still has pride of place in my house.
My first tapestry, bought as a birthday present when I was 13 (1985)
A Xmas gift for my mum (my family were all involved in the Mataura Kilties Pipe Band), I think in 1989. The canvas had sat in the hall cupboard for about three years so I secretly worked on it in my bedroom or at my Granny's. Dad got it framed for me to present to Mum on Xmas Day.
Unfortunately, when I was younger cameras were all film-based and that too was expensive to process. No-one had ever thought to take photos as a record of the items that I created and gave away or stitched ‘on comission', so I only have photos of the things that I have kept or gave to people close to me.
For instance, in the late 80's I cross-stitched some bird miniatures for a friend of my grandmother who had taken a liking to the kitset but did not have the ability to stitch it herself due to a head injury. So I, who was thirsty to stitch but couldn't afford to go mad with buying patterns etc, was only too keen to put my fingers to work! However, I have no photo of those birds (I think there were three), and I think I also did another picture for her but can't remember just what it was of.
I also often helped my Granny out with a couple of the last tapestries she did – as she entered her late 70s she found her eyes were not up to being able to complete needlework, so I would help her by stitching the areas where she couldn’t tell the colours apart.