Reasons to stitch: the joy of learning


The stumpwork orchid

Jenny Adin-Christie’s amazing stumpwork orchid.

There are many reasons to stitch and at different times in our lives we have all probably stitched for a range of reasons including:

  1. wanting to make something original
  2. making a gift
  3. enjoyment and relaxation
  4. and in days gone by, to save money.

but recently I have added a fifth reason to my list and that is stitching to learn.

A summer of stitching

In September this year I enrolled in a textile summer school. I The #Bath Textile Summer School was recommended by a number of friends so I signed up. I chose a course that had nothing to do with needlepoint. I chose Orchid with tongue in stumpwork embroidery on the strength of the beautiful orchid advertising the workshop. I had little idea what it entailed and certainly no experience. Our marvellous teacher was Jenny Adin-Christie.

Out of my comfort zone

There were about 20 of us. All women from as far away as Iceland and Australia. The rest were from England but they too came from far and near to be there. For many this summer school was an annual event and for all of us it was a chance to meet and make friends. It was also an opportunity to learn from a wonderful selection of experts teachers and Jenny clearly had a faithful following amongst this group. Many bought along projects begun at previous workshops and now completed ready to get the tick of approval from the master embroiderer. The work was stunning. I could not imagine having the skills to make such fine beautiful objects. I was clearly the novice in this group.


Our kit of goodies

At the Holborn

Each morning we gathered excitedly ready for a day of stitching. After the first 15 minutes I realised I would never complete the project in time, but Jenny assured us that we would have all the information and skills we needed to complete our orchid. Every so often Jenny would gather us around and demonstrate a new technique and give us our instructions. We painted silk, make our petals, threaded our needles with Habotai silk, and gradually saw our orchids emerge. We asked questions and under Jenny’s watchful eye I practiced and sometimes sadly had to unpick and try again. Part of the process was making a lace which would form the tongue of the orchid. After the first day I made just a tiny section of lace but I was thrilled. On the last day my orchid was half formed but my enjoyment was complete!

Close up of Jenny's orchid

Close up of the “lace tongue”

The joy of learning

On reflection I have repeatedly asked myself why my Bath experience affected me so profoundly. I think a number of factors contributed including:

  1. being taught by Jenny, a master embroiderer
  2. the sense of being (a tiny) part of the embroidery tradition and its history
  3. a new awareness and appreciation of the craft
  4. the practicalities of learning new terms, materials, stitches and techniques
  5. the social aspect of learning with others.

Bath felt like an introduction into a new exciting world. Stitching for the experience and joy of learning. By the end of the last day, I had learnt enough to feel confident that I could finish my orchid and was already thinking about the next project.

And another thing……

Jenny will be in Australia next year to run a number of embroidery workshops. I’ll keep you posted about where and when. I’ve already told her I’ll be there, eager to learn more and hopefully show her my finished orchid. If you’d like to see more of her outstanding work visit

I’d love to hear your reasons for stitching and whatever they are, enjoy!

Till next time, happy stitching!





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