An unexpected use for the backs of embroideries

This morning, as I was getting ready for church, the phone rang. A friend with a request: she was to take the Young People’s Group (known at Dunchurch Baptist Church for some unfathomable reason as Grid) that morning and could I possibly bring some embroideries with messy backs for her to use as illustrations? The message being that at the moment we see what you might call the back of the work when we look at what God is doing in the world, but one day we will be shown the embroidery as it is meant to be seen, and we’ll see how all the different threads and colours work together to make a perfect whole. Think B.M. Franklin’s poem “The Weaver”.

I said I’d see what I could do and went upstairs to go through my finished-projects folders. Not Hardanger, because Hardanger looks after its own back so beautifully as you stitch that the front and the back aren’t really that different. Cross stitch, too, unless it is full of confetti stitching, tends not to be particularly messy. OK, something freestyle then. One problem turned out to be that quite a few of my freestyle pieces have been put into cards or laced over foam board or sewn on to felt or framed in a hoop with the excess fabric gathered up, and so the backs are not visible – which is of course exactly the intention, but not helpful in this particular case.

With the “unfinished” pieces I ran into another problem: my backs are actually quite neat. You can definitely tell the difference between the back and the front, but none of them would really qualify as messy. This was cheering to see, and made me feel rather pleased with my stitching, but it was no good whatsoever for the purpose of illustrating the Grid Bible study.

Bloomin' Marvellous 7 (back) Floral Cross (back) Strawberries (back)
Bloomin' Marvellous 7 (front) Floral Cross (front) Strawberries (front)

There was the Little Wildflower Garden, which does have some nice big knots and long trailing threads at the back, but there the front is quite, well, informal too, with long stitches and knots, so the difference isn’t as big as I’d like it to be.

Little Wildflower Garden (back) Little Wildflower Garden (front)

So I decided to concentrate instead on finding projects where the back looked quite different from the front for whatever reason, where you couldn’t really tell from the back what the front would look like. What would you expect from these two backs, for example, if they were your very first encounter with the projects? (No peeking ahead now!)

The back of something on counted fabric The back of something on non-counted fabric

They are, in fact, a Christmas Wreath and my first ever goldwork project, a dragonfly stitched at a Knitting & Stitching Show workshop some years ago. And I’m told they did the job. But perhaps, just in case they want to repeat this lesson some time in the future, I should produce a few really messy backs. Just to get the message across even more clearly. Ah, the self-sacrifice!

Christmas Wreath Goldwork dragonfly

One comment on “An unexpected use for the backs of embroideries

  1. Through a glass darkly. Certainly the wreath is an excellent example, as is the dragonfly. Some embroidery gives incomplete backs, as these show, and therefore not the clear, face-to-face picture. Isn’t clarity more the point, philosophically speaking, than, well, mess?

    (Any more of this, and we’ll require either a glass of wine or cup of tea!) You are in my thoughts, as usual.

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