I was watching “The Heiress” last night on TV. Olivia de Havilland is a wealthy young woman without many other attractions, wooed by a fortune hunter (Montgomery Clift) who abandons her when her father threatens to disinherit her, then returns to try his luck a second time after her father dies. She spends a lot of time doing needlework in a frame attached to a floor stand. I’ve seen the movie before but never noticed how Olivia was stitching — two handed! At first I thought she had two needles going, but no. She had one hand above the frame, and the other underneath. She would poke the needle into her canvas from above with her right hand, then pull it through with the left, and still with the left, poke the needle into the underside of the canvas, then pull it through with the right. She was going fast!
I keep my left hand under the fabric as I stitch, but it’s not really doing anything. I just keep a finger near where I’m stitching and I’m not even sure what the purpose is. I do all the stitching with my right hand which involves constantly moving it from the top of the fabric to the underside and back, which is certainly not optimal. So I tried this two-handed stitching. The most awkward thing is inserting the needle into the fabric with my left hand — it’s very clumsy and it’s hard to position the needle accurately, but I think with practice that might go away.
It appeared to me that Olivia de Havilland must have had considerable practice stitching this way. Although they didn’t show closeups of her work, she clearly wasn’t making random stitches (as I would have been stitching at that speed with my left hand). And I don’t think it is a technique that would occur to you first crack out of the box, so either someone coached her or she was a stitcher in real life. Do any of you stitch this way?