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Stitching secrets of the stars
February 16th, 2010

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?

3 Responses to “Stitching secrets of the stars”
  1. From Rifestitch
    10 years, 4 months ago

    Yep – it’s what taught my old cat that my lap probably wasn’t the safest place to be anymore :) Now, when I don’t have my project on the floor stand and have to hold the frame, I feel painfully slow. At stitch ins and often while stitching at lunch, if it will fit, I’ll rest one corner of my QSnap on the table in front of me, anchored by the weight of a metal stapler laid on top of that corner, with the work area hanging out into free space, so I can work 2-handed. It’s not the best angle, looking straight down onto it – but it’s only for a limited time. It did take some time to get the left hand trained – but it will happen!

    I’ll have to see if I see that on AMC – I’m sure I’ve seen it, but long, long ago.

    You’re so clever! I’m very impressed.

  2. From Suzanne
    10 years, 4 months ago

    Yes, it took a while to “teach” my left hand, but I now can do cross stitch two-handed: with my left hand working on top, right hand on bottom. It really is more efficient and much less tiring than working my right hand to death moving back and forth, up and down. I use a hoop fixed on a table stand.

  3. From kiyoteefoxx
    10 years, 4 months ago

    I started doing it that way to stop my cat from grabbing the thread. since my hand was there she couldnt nab the dangling thread. Like Rifestitch above I feel so very slow when doing it any other way. I stitch this way for my hardanger as well.

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