Fancy Work…

Fancy Work

On one of my online quilting forums there has been a recent thread about where people do their stitching, at meetings, at guild meetings or in my case, on the tram, and for this week, and possibly into the future, on the bus.

I commented about the odd looks I get often while I’m doing my work, which so far has consisted of buttonhole applique and more recently embroidery (redwork).

About a fortnight ago, I had lovely exchange on the tram.   Going in later than usual after a doctor’s appointment, so not incredibly crowded, about 20 minutes from the city a lovely little old man got on the tram, went to walk past me, looked down and exclaimed – “oh, what lovely fancy work!”

And, yes he really was a little old man, I’d guess maybe in his late 60’s, early 70’s, and probably not much taller than me – which isn’t very tall – I’m a smidge over 155cm (5ft 2).

He then sat down next to me and started to reminisce about his mother teaching him to do ‘fancy work’ as a child and how he used to stitch doilies and tablerunners and cloths while catching the train to his very first job as a copy boy for the Herald newspaper.

He used to catch the ‘Red rattler‘ train and because the trains were crowded and he’d often give his seat up for an adult he would perch himself against the door to the compartment for balance.

He then went on to tell me that his first pair of long trousers, were the pants from his Dad’s army uniform that his Mum had taken both in and up – but there wasn’t much she could do about the problem of saggy, baggy bottoms.  And one day, wedged against the doorhandle while he stitched, a big burly bloke opened the door from the outside with such force the handle got caught in the folds of his pants and he was effectively hoisted… he said the whole carriage laughed, particularly when same burly bloke lifted him bodily of the handle and checked out he was ok.

He was very pleased to see me doing my work, and amazed that I was stitching  a pincushion for a friend I haven’t met yet, (am participating in a pincushion swap via Flickr and said pincushion is winging it’s way to the USA).

We had a lovely chat, where he explained that he couldn’t do the work anymore because of his eyesight, and I’ll admit he also made my day – to know that my work had positively impacted a stranger… see crafting does break down barriers!

I like the term ‘fancy work’ – we are all fancy workers – putting a little brightness and joy in the world with every stitch we take.

So, as a thank you to him and to all of you, am having my first giveaway.  I have a Rosalie Quinlan’s Little Patchwork Village pattern and a collection of some of my favourite DMC threads to give away.

So, if you’d like to do some fancy work of your own, leave a comment here, and tell me if you do your fancy work in public and any stories you’d like to share.

If you post a link to this on your own blog, and let me know in your comment, you’ll be eligible for an extra bonus surprise prize!

Will use the random number generator to pick a winner at the end of the month.

PS. I bought this pattern over 12 months ago, bought my fabric and thread to do it, and then promptly misplaced the pattern!   There have been several futile searches through the craft room for this one, till I bit the bullet and bought another copy in February… we all know what happened next…  a few weeks later, I opened a box to work on my Red and Green Sampler blocks and at the bottom of the box – the original pattern… sigh… so while this pattern has been opened and read it definitely hasn’t been used.


35 Responses

  1. What a lovely story! I’m afraid I do most of my fancy work at home, in the sun room where so much natural light comes through. I can enjoy nature while I stitch. Thank you for offering this giveaway 🙂

  2. I do all of my fancy work at home with a very bright light.
    When I had younger eyes and our daughter was small I did a lot at the hospital while visiting her. I also did it at school activities.
    I would love to win your giveaway especially the Rosalie Quinlan pattern.

  3. That was a great story – I do a lot of my work, knitting and crocheting and embroider while sitting in a waiting room ie: doctor’s office – But mostly I do my work while sitting in the car waiting for school to dismiss to pick up my granddaughter. I guess that is just semi-public, but I have had people stop and look in to check on my progress or ask quesitons.

  4. Just loved your story. Isn’t it nice to find someone who REALLY appreciates fancy work!

    I do all my fancy work at home or in the car while hubby is driving. I usually will start a project for a long trip.

  5. What a great and inspiring story! Personally, I probably would have asked the man for his address and made him something small to remember me by. I always love meeting the older generations and learning from them. They are truly a fascinating generation (those from the Depression Era and the WWII era).

    I do my “fancy work” in the comfort of my bed. Since I live with my father (both due to being unemployed and his health), I don’t really have much space to spread out other than my bed. I dream of buying a big comfy chair to sit in while doing my stitching. 😀

    Thanks for sharing your story and the opportunity to participate in this giveaway! I will post a link to my blog.

  6. I drive myself to work now – so can’t “do” stuff on the trip. I listen to recorded books though – can’t waste time!!!
    But my first job at 16 was in Brisbane (55 years ago). I used to travel to work on the tram – and I used to knit. For a while I was knitting booties for my older sisters new baby and I used to get lots of “sad ” smiles and one day when I got up to give my seat to an older lady – she said “no dearie you sit – your need is greater than mine” After that I stopped knitting booties on the tram.

  7. I love fancywork. This is what we learnt at school. Nowadays there are so many other words – stitcheries, embroidery, etc – but fancywork says it all. How lovely to hear stories from the past. I go to Toastmasters and love to hear stories about the past they have made up a number of my speeches. Collect these memories. I’m going to write a book for friends with this info. I insulted a girl I met in a quilting group by calling my quilt “Doctors Waiting Room” it was done while taking my step father to various doctors and specialists before he died. Her husband was my doctor, who is always late. She thought I was poking fun at him…

  8. i agree that is a lovely story – just one thing wrong – i dont think that 60-70 is elderly! LOL i am 68 and still think of myself as young. as for sewing etc, i always do something on the train or in the car when out with Hubby. i just cant sit and do nothing – that is a waste of time. i have X stitched and knitted and crocheted on the train and it helps pass the time from the Blue Mountains to Sydney.

  9. What a lovely story! Must admit I had a giggle to myself thinking I could stitch on the way to work (walking up to the cow shed to milk or feed calves!) wouldnt get much done in about 2 minutes walking….lol….but I AM glad you enjoy your time

  10. Many is the jumper I have knitted on car trips (still do), and at band competitions and gymnastic competitions when our sons were young, and I have been known to take my hand-piecing along to music festivals too. Ten years ago I knitted my way around New Zealand in a hired motorhome. Hand-piecing makes train travel and waiting for appointments go much quicker!

  11. That is a lovely story. I would have got a card from him too and either made him something or given him a little bit of fancy work to get him started again! Wonder what he does now?
    Made me rather envious that I no longer have a commute. When I lived in Manly and worked for Jacaranda Press in Gladesville I did HEAPS of everything on the 3 hours/day I was on PT.
    Thank you for sharing that story.

  12. It was always called fancy work when I was learning as a child. All the girls learned it in Grade 4 (age approx 9-10) in the state school system and I still have the sampler I made (boys did woodwork). Sadly because of motion sickness I can only knit as I get sick if I look down.
    Thank you for the memories.

  13. Hi, Lovely to see ‘anyone’ who appreciates hand done work. My Uncle did the most gorgeous embroidery. After being badly injured in WW2, he had to do craft work at the rehab unit. He fell in love with embroidery.
    I do my craft whilst waiting for the numerous weekly appointments my DH has to attend. A lass the other day told me she remembered her Nanna doing needlework but she said it takes too much time for her to do. 🙂 Your gentleman sounds like a lovely person.
    Cheerio Shirley

  14. I try to have some stitching in my bag for odd moments

    I blanket stitch at the doctors office

    I even took some stitching each time I’ve been to hospital to have my kiddo’s!!

  15. I have had some similar talks with people on trains buses, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals and car club meetings. Very interesting and wonderful stories. I have just recently returned from Darwin, Alice Springs where I stitched away the klms on my flower blocks and a centre block for a quilt.

  16. Lovely story – my mum learned to knit by watching a lady on the tram each day on the way to work. Mum was too shy to ask questions- but finished up doing cables, fairisle etc.
    I take a small kit everywhere in my handbag – even a few mins at hairdresser before cut is used – mostly redwork, as I only need one colour and can have several needles threaded ready for action!-Jan

  17. what a lovely little old man!! How sweet of him to comment on your “fancy work” and sit beside you. I am sure you made his day too, bringing back some lovely memories of his mother. I do my stitching at work at lunchtime and often people ask what I am doing, look amazed and say, “I wouldn’t have the patience” but I say “its my sanity break”. I have also stitched whilst waiting at doctors, dentists, specialists etc and although I often get strange looks I don’t care because I am having my “sanity break” and I feel that I have achieved something whilst waiting, waiting, waiting! Have never been to your blog before but will have you on my list of favourites now. Keep on stitching in public!!

  18. I don’t go to work but the term ‘fancyh work’ touched a spot for me. My dear Aunty taught me to do fancy work and I still have my firts doiley which I can distinctly remember sitting on her back step and stitching….I was about 12 in 1957. Thaks for the memory

  19. He was a delightful gentleman and I am sure it would have brightened my day had I been in the same situation.
    I always take stitching with me so that if I have some time to spare I can sit and relax.
    Train trips would have to be my favourite… can’t wait for the Sydney quilt show as that will be three hours each way and I always manage to do quite a bit then.

  20. I’d love an entry. I stitch at home while my husband watches tv. Boring to for us.

  21. I have enjoyed the travelling crafters stories too and this one is really lovely. I did herringbone on crazypatch while passenger but nowadays as DH can’t drive I have to mentally plan my quilts as I drive. I learnt ‘fancy work’ at school but my sampler is long gone. I struggle to find a hand craft I like that is portable but have friend who always does something whenever she sits anywhere. To the extent that her DH said can we watch the news without you sewing this morning. Her answer- what swamp did you crawl out of today- while she continued her ‘fancy work’!!

  22. I used to take my fancy work to conferences and planning days before I retired. I would work away with the embroidery in my lap – not much more distracted than those people who tapped away on their Blackberries! I even taught one of the senior software engineers who sat next to me how to do colonial knots – he had a lovely time completing one section of my work and his stitches were very neat and precise (as is to be expected of an engineer).

  23. I have completed lots of small cross stitch projects on the train travelling to and from work, I especially like small embroderies & cross stitching Xmas decorations as they are small projects. I enlarge the cross stitch chart on the photocopier, and mark off what I have competed with a fluro marker. This helps me keep track of what line I am following on the pattern while the train is moving along. It is amazing how many projects I can complete. I have a small project bag – a folding airline toilet bag, just the right size for scissors, pattern and project. I also sew at my childrens sporting events, and while watching TV at night.

  24. The term ‘Fancywork’ was used by the nun’s when I learnt to ’embroider’. Sr. Patrick told us the term was used in Ireland for the linen that was made to use when visitors came to the house and the parlor was used to entertain. I still do fancywork on buses and trains when on long trips lots of time older people comment, sadly younger ones don’t even bother to look. Hopefully these older skills wont be lost, granddaughter wants to learn to do ‘what grandma does’ I’m planning to start of the holidays.

  25. I used to knit on the tram when I had a chance, but as I was a conductress of the tram mostly I had very little opportunity, except on night shift when there were few passengers. I still call hand stitching fancy work and have done it on flights to and from Europe and have my kit ready for my coming trip to USA.

  26. I used to knit all the way into & out of town (Melb) over 30 years ago. I have recently inherited some beautiful “fancy work” from my mothers best friend, her DIL does not like it. I also have some from my Grandmother and Mother. In my “retirement”drawer I am collecting some fancy work so I can sit and sew, its just a pipe dream at the moment but hopefully only 12-18 months away. Enjoy your stitching while travelling to and fro.

  27. I do most of my needle work at the pawn shop . espically when we go to the gun show I do alot that weekend between customers. I do some at home but with the puppy in the house it is hard some days. Hope to get more down once we get moved and settled in in Sunny Florida !!!!!!!!!

  28. I like the “fancy work” name! Really makes it sound special. What a cute story about the little old man – it’s always nice to have your work admired. I usually do my fancy work at home. Often do crochet in the car on trips. Thanks for the giveaway! :o)

  29. I do my fancy work anywhere and everywhere. People always expect me to have something with me and be working on it. Can’t just sit, have to have something in my hands to work on. Am also lucky enough to be able to do it while traveling.

  30. Such pretty stitchery projects! I do my stitchery at home in the evenings, and when we travel in the car! Always enjoy the handwork. Thanks so much for the great post and fun giveaway!

  31. When I need to go to the city I always take some fancy work to do on the train. Mostly though I participate in craft groups which are held in public places like the local library and there is a cafe craft group. I also sit at the beach when the weather is not too windy – so yes lots of public crafting in my world.

    Such a lovely story and I remember fondly when I was a regular user of public transport having similar chance encounters with people who were interested in what I was working on or had their own stories to tell.

    Thanks for sharing

  32. I always take “fancywork” on the train… What a cute little old dear… Not many men like to do that kind of work now… Of course my German great Uncle does tapestry. Don’t all older German gentlemen???

  33. […] and a winner Posted on April 11, 2010 by ladyfrou Further to my previous post, Fancy Work – I used a Random Number Generator to pick the winner, which was Kay whose comment made me […]

  34. […] I started this, and was enthused, and then got swept up in doing other things, and came back to it after digging through my Stitchery box of goodies to prepare the photo for the Fancy Work post. […]

  35. […] even when I did have to go into work, for some reason, doing the ‘fancy work’ I had been enjoying, just wasn’t working for me.   Partly a mixture of fatigue and […]

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