1 Year of Stitches – A New(ish) Creative Challenge

January 2, 2017 , In: Fiber, Folklore, Inspiration

First up – may I wish all our readers a very happy new year from everyone here at Art Elements …we’re delighted to have you with us for another year of creativity and inspiration.

Shortly before Christmas I came across this blog post by Sara Barnes about an embroidery project which really caught my eye. To quote Sara: 

‘The project is called 1 Year of Stitches, and it’s a 365-day project in which you fill a hoop (or two) with a crazy amount of colors, patterns, and stitches. 1 Year of Stitches is the brainchild of Hannah Claire Somerville, who has invited anyone interested to join in this impressive endeavour. Inspired by her work, Michelle Anais Beaulieu-Morgan embarked on this craft journey in mid-2016. Now, she’s about halfway through (you can start at any time of the year).’

One of my aims for 2017 is to work more with textiles and fibres and this really piqued my interest. Like most women of my age I was taught needle crafts as a young girl with varying degrees of success. Knitting I mastered pretty well but crochet I could never get the hang of. Dressmaking I loved and and embroidery, I picked up the basics but never really put much effort in until my early 20’s and even then it fell by the wayside as life inevitably got busier.

Inspired by Sara’s post I dug out the collection of table covers, tray clothes and handkerchiefs I have that were worked by my mother and grandmother. Although the linens have seen better days, the threads are still vibrant considering they are between 60 – 80 years old!

This is a table cover by my mother and although some of the central design seems to have worn away (presumably from ironing) most of the stitches are in perfect condition.

This is a much older piece by my grandmother who seemed to work in finer detail and with much tighter stitches. It’s amazing how bright these threads are considering the items were used regularly for decades.

I’m not sure who worked these but I’m guessing the one on the left is gran’s and the one on the right mum’s.

As I said, I didn’t really do any serious embroidery until I reached my 20’s and most of what I made was gifted away…I seem to remember making a lot of wedding and children’s birth gifts. The only piece of my own work that I still have is this cushion cover. It was a pre-printed kit and it took forever to finish but I guess back then free time wasn’t something I had a lot of.

I posted a link to Sara’s blog on the Art Elements Facebook page and it sparked a lot of interest with our readers and indeed with the editorial team – we were all very taken with the work we were seeing. So when another of Sara’s posts popped up in my Facebook feed last week encouraging people to join in with ‘1 Year of stitches 2017’ I decided I had to sign up, as did several other members of the team.

So now it’s 2017 and time to turn the idea into stitches. As it’s well over 30 years since I’ve tried this and I have a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist (ripping stuff apart and starting again is not unheard of) I’m hoping this project will help me to be more easy going in my approach. Other than my first motif I’m not planning anything and just going with whatever comes to mind when I pick up the needle each day and if the stitches aren’t perfect – so be it. Hopefully there will be a visible progress through the year.

So here is my day 1 stitching – the celtic symbol for new beginnings which I thought was appropriate for a new project started on new years day…

For day 2 I went for some snow drops sprouting from the symbol because they again seemed timely. Tomorrow I have no idea what will happen but I’ll be posting daily on Instagram if you’d like to find out.

If you’d like to join in with this project you can find out more by joining the 1 Year of Stitches Facebook Group where you’ll find all the information and lots of embroidery resources. It doesn’t matter if you’re a little late starting – it’s your year and everyone is welcome whatever their experience level. 

Speaking of resources, there are many, many books on the subject of embroidery and everyone will have their favourites but I got these two as birthday presents last year and I love them both as they’re informative, inspiring and beautifully illustrated.

I’m sure there will be further coverage of this project by the team over the year so I hope some of you we’ll take the journey with us. Happy stitching everyone!


Lesley Watt

Lesley Watt started making jewellery in 2009 with a handful of hobby store beads but quickly discovered art beads and became completely smitten. Taking courses in metal clay, metal smithing, enamelling and etching she began making her own components in 2011 and has never looked back. Always looking to try new things she has branched out into ceramics, bead embroidery, mixed media and textiles.
  1. Reply

    Enjoyed this post, one of the things that brought me back to embroidery a few years ago was the vibrancy of threads on vintage linens, they still hold such color after many washing it makes them almost timeless. I’ve posted links to this new project on some of the Facebook groups I belong too. I plan to use many of the vintage embroidery flosses I still have from decades past. I look forward to watching you project progress through the year. The cushion you made is stunning and those pieces from your mother and grandmother are still beautiful pieces. Happy New Year and Happy Stitching to you.

    • Reply

      Thank you very much and a happy new year to you – I hope you enjoy working with your old flosses again.

  2. Reply

    I really loved this idea when you first posted about this. I’m excited to follow your progress this year, and will have to make sure I visit Instagram often! Whenever I am at house sales, I look for bedding with embroidery or lace. They are so lovely (and the old cotton is so soft!)

    • Reply

      What a great idea – how lovely to have original and hand crafted linens.

  3. Reply

    Her post captured me, too! I used to do a lot of embroidery in my teens through some of my 30’s. There was a fabulous trade show (much like Bead and Button) for embroidery that I used to attend. I was so sad when it ended. Maybe we’ll bring it back?!

    It must be like riding a bike, because your work looks like you’ve never left it. Beautiful!

    • Reply

      Thank you Janet – I’m enjoying this and so far it hasn’t been too traumatic!

  4. Reply

    This will be a lot of fun to watch your progress as the year goes by. I love how you outlined that Celtic symbol, and the little buds.

  5. Reply

    This looks like a fantastic project! I’m trying to keep things simple this year and not take on too many projects, but I’m looking forward to seeing how your project progresses. Have a fantastic 2017!

  6. Reply

    Finally playing catch-up on commenting. Thank you for inspiring me to get back to hand stitching! It is similar to beading yet completely different, which is a nice change. Can’t wait to see how everyone progresses through the year.

    • Celeste Kelly
    • February 1, 2017

    Thank you for the inspiration! I did crewel work and monogramming (by hand before there were machines) and hand stitching for years. Love the comments and interest in bringing back these arts.

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