Have You Say

4th September 2020

Left Hand Stitching & Smocking – Your Responses

We were so pleased to hear from all of the left-handed stitchers out there. We did state in our original article back in All Stitched Up! issue #246 that none of us in the office were left-handed, so we were very relieved to hear we hadn’t got anything terribly wrong!

It seems that being left-handed has frequently posed a challenge, especially for those stitchers who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. Knitting was particularly problematic, particularly for anyone with a right-handed mother or grandmother trying to teach them. Mary Trounson experienced this acutely, stating:

‘My early knitting was fraught as I kept ending up with the yarn attached to the ball at the wrong end of the needle. Mum (being right-handed) couldn’t seem to help me sort it out no matter how hard we tried.

Dad eventually managed to help me fill in the missing step when he found me crying my eyes out because I couldn’t get the hang of knitting.

So, I now knit in the same direction as a right-handed person but put the yarn around the needle with my left hand.’

Avis also struggled with both knitting and crochet. She asked her mother to sit opposite her to learn crochet, but the struggle with knitting was so great that she ended up knitting right-handed instead.

Scissors have also posed difficulties, particularly before the advent of hand-neutral scissor designs. Rosemary Sookman remembers being chided in kindergarten because her cutting out left something to be desired. This was when scissors were well and truly designed for right-handers. Although Lila Pahl laments the fact that she still can’t seem to buy left-handed pinking shears. Does anyone know if they’re available?

In terms of stitching, left-handers seem to be endlessly resourceful. Nancy H., a left-handed reader, only discovered recently that she had overcome it by actually stitching in the same direction as a right-hander without even knowing it. She, Rosemary and Robyn Wright all have Yvette Stanton’s book with Rosemary calling it a ‘godsend’ and Robyn saying it is a bible which is always at hand.

We loved how Robyn explained how she responded after being told that left-handedness was ‘wrong’ as a child. She said:

‘One of the first, and possibly the least, valuable lessons I learnt at school was that my left hand was my bad hand and my right hand was my good hand. I did have a tendency, with pencil in hand, to start on the right and work backwards. I still find it easy to write backwards and found it a useful skill when I was learning ancient Egyptian and Arabic.’

Becoming ambidextrous was Robyn’s way of managing, although with Yvette’s book, a left-handed ruler and left-handed scissors, she says she can achieve any kind of stitching. Or as Rosemary Sookman wonderfully sums it up:

‘…being a lefty has never stopped me from doing what I wanted.’

On a different subject, in All Stitched Up! issue #246 we also featured some historic smocking as well as a showcase of smocked dresses from our readers.

Detail from an original farmer’s smock (source)

Jenny Whiteside loved seeing all of this work, stating:

‘I love, love, love the beautiful smocking from readers. I was transported back to being a young teenager when we had to make a smocked baby dress at school. I have no idea what happened to it in the intervening 55 years but thank you for the memories.’

Ann Frazier also sent us some photographs of a wonderful, traditional smock which she worked some 25 years ago. It is a beautiful piece and demonstrates the skill that Ann has gained over her 75 years of stitching.

Again, we thank you for all of your responses. Receiving them is like sitting down with a cup of tea and having a lovely conversation with each and every one of you. Please, keep the emails and stories coming.

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