Needlework Humor

Four Seasons of Stitching

By Martha Beth Lewis

When it's cold, I get the itch
To sit before the fire and stitch.

And when it comes, that joyous spring,
That's when I make my needle sing.

In the summer when it's hot,
I stay inside and stitch a lot.

In fall when kids go back to school,
You'll find me stitching, as a rule.

I never really need a reason - -
Anytime is stitching season!

A Puzzling Situation

By Martha Beth Lewis

Within the last year or so I've noticed some puzzling changes. Have you?

I noticed that the 19-count linen I bought several years ago has changed mysteriously to 36-count, now that I've taken it out to stitch on it.

Needle eyes are -much- smaller than they used to be. (Some needles don't even -have- eyes! What sloppy quality control!) And why are they now making all needles the same color as my carpet?

My scissors have a greater wanderlust than they used to. I can remember when they stayed nearby almost all the time.

And alas, my stitching chair is shrinking! There's not as much room anymore for me -and- the dog. (I guess the dog's getting fatter.)

I'm happy to report one bit of good news, however: my hearing has improved so much that I can hear my knees creak each and every time I get on the floor to chase my needlethreader.

What could cause all this? If anyone knows, please drop me a note. But call me first so I have time to find my glasses!

The Genie and the Stitcher

Source Unknown, rewritten by Martha Beth Lewis

A stitcher went into an antique store and found a dusty old bottle. As she was cleaning it off, a genie appeared, causing her to gasp in surprise.

"Salutations, Madame," the genie said in a raspy voice.

"Are you a genie?!" the stitcher asked, her eyes alight with excitement.

"Yes, Madame."

"The kind that grants three wishes?" she inquired, still not believing her good luck.

"Yes, Madame, but I am a very old genie, and my powers are very weak." He paused to catch his breath. "I cannot grant you three wishes, but I can grant you one." He rested again and wheezed, "What is your wish?"

The stitcher thought for a while and then said, "I wish for world peace."

"Madame, I am very old, and my powers are very weak. I cannot grant you so great a wish as world peace. Do not you not have another wish?"

The stitcher thought again and said, "To finish all my unfinished needlework projects!"

The genie was aghast at this potential drain on his strength. With a sigh he said, "Madame, I am a very, -very- old genie and my powers are very, -very- weak. I am unable to grant this wish, so instead I give you world peace."

Advice for Cats Who Have a House to Run, Including Valuable Information for Cats Who Have Needlework to Supervise

Author Unknown with emendations by Martha Beth Lewis

(Note: This piece, by an unknown author, came across my desk a while ago. I have searched for the original author but have not had any luck. I thought the idea had great potential and have enjoyed refurbishing and extending it. The sections marked with an asterisk are by the unknown author. The ones not marked are my work.)

DOORS*: Do not allow closed doors in any room of your house. To get a door opened, stand on your hind legs and scratch the frame. You also may reach under the door and pull clothing towards you; silks get the quickest reaction. Once the door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an "outside" door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, when it's raining or snowing, or during the height of the mosquito season.

CHAIRS AND RUGS: If your stomach is feeling a bit delicate, get to shag carpet quickly. Unfortunately, not many humans these days maintain this luxury for cats, so an Oriental rug is a reasonable substitute. Failing interesting carpet, look for an overstuffed chair or a female human's intimate garments.

BATHROOMS: If toilet paper remains stored on the roll, it is your duty to unravel it immediately. Toilet paper in a roll cannot be fully admired.

HELPING*: If one of your humans is engaged in an activity and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called "helping." Humans are known to refer to it as "hampering." The human may try to distract you, but ignore it. The following are suggestions for "helping": a) When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on and then picked up and comforted. b) For book-reading humans, if you can't lie across the book itself, get between the human's eyes and the book. c) For paperwork, lie on the work in a manner so as to obscure as much of the content as possible or at least the most important parts. d) For humans paying bills (monthly activity) or working on income taxes or Christmas cards (annual activity), keep in mind the aim: to help! First, sit on the paper being worked on. When dislodged, watch sadly from the side of the table. When the activity proceeds nicely, roll around on the papers, scattering them to the best of your ability. After being removed for the second time, push pens, pencils, calculators, and erasers off the table, one at a time. If this does not produce the appropriate response of appreciation, look for the shag carpet (see above). e) When the human's computer printer is working, watch the activity carefully and just when the page is nearly done, pounce on it, smearing the ink.

NEEDLEWORK: This requires specialized helping techniques, and not all cats are qualified to supervise needlework immediately. It is best to study this art under a mentor cat, but if you must learn this skill on your own, here are some pointers. The way to help depends on the type of needlework needing supervision. Knitters like you to slap the knitting needles or push the ball of yarn under the sofa. Some like you to snag your claws in the emerging piece or "chase" it when it is not being worked on. Exercise caution around crochet hooks; they tend to be unpredictable. For embroiderers, the same "chasing" technique described above may be used with the fabric when active embroidering is not going on. Another helpful procedure, and one always appreciated, is to assist in sorting the floss. Again, your first choice is the silks. Some humans are fond of having you butt their elbows with your head, particularly when they are stitching over one on 36-count linen. If in doubt, try it. The odds are that your human is one of this large number. Lace bobbins are not meant to be fastened down; it is an easy matter to send the pins flying. Tatting shuttles in use are often accompanied by some of the human's favorite "mad words." Do not worry, as these words are not meant for you; -you- are helping. Needlework projects make great sleeping spots, in spite of what the humans may tell you, and they are always delighted to find tokens of your regard for their craft (i.e., your hairs) stitched into their work. One tenet of helping with needlework is unchanging: no matter what type of needlework is under way, pretend to doze and suddenly leap up to help. Humans get a warm feeling inside knowing that you have interrupted your much-needed rest to help them.

WALKING*: As often as possible, dart quickly and as close as possible in front of the human. Especially effective places to strike are: 1) on stairs, when humans have something in their arms; 2) in the dark; and 3) when humans first get up in the morning, as this exercise helps improve their coordination skills.

MEALTIME: If your human is preparing a meal for you, rub lovingly at the back of his/her leg, near the calf. This will make his/her leg buckle, causing him/her to fall down, thus getting your food to you more quickly.

BEDTIME: A creative cat can invent a number of methods to insure a good night's rest. Remember, always sleep -on- the human. Sleeping on the human's chest will often provoke nocturnal excitement, as the human will awake suddenly and think a heart attack is in progress. Sleeping across the human's nostrils is another favored location. While there are other places your human offers for your sleeping comfort, these two are unrivaled and should be chosen with regularity.

You Know You're a Stitcher When...

compiled/written by Martha Beth Lewis

(Note: Many of these came from a thread on the usenet needlework group, rec.crafts.textiles.needlework, and many I posted myself. They are such "old friends" now that I don't remember who wrote what!)

You Know You're a Stitcher When... see a number on a street sign, in a shop window, in the hymnal, etc. and you immediately think of a floss color.
...and you know exactly what that color is!
...and your friend knows exactly what you mean, too. have the full set of DMC floss. refer to colors by their DMC numbers. take skeins of floss to the paint store to match colors. Worse: You don't need the skeins; you remember the color exactly.
...your family knows to check their clothes for floss snippets before leaving the house.
...your family knows not to walk barefoot around your stitching nest.
...your family knows not to bother you when you're counting.
...the pet knows it won't get any attention once you pick up your needle. look at the clock and see it's 6 PM, and what you planned for dinner is still in the freezer.
...your family eats carry-in more than once a week. have more projects planned than you could stitch in ten lifetimes. cruise through your local shop when you don't need a thing "just in case."
...your family knows that when you've gone "out to play," you've gone to your local shop or to a friend's house to stitch.
...your stash is huge, but you add to it anyway.
...your stash is hidden beneath your bed and distributed to several closets so your family won't know how large it truly is.
...when you're on vacation or away from home on business, one of the first things you do is check the local phone book for the locations of the needlework shops.'d rather have a gift certificate to your favorite shop for your anniversary than a piece of jewelry. have a pair of scissors just for clipping metallic threads. hide all your sewing scissors from the family.
...dustballs begin to reproduce because you give them no attention because you'd rather be stitching. know what Orvus is and you don't have a horse. have some Orvus and you don't have a horse. haunt sporting goods departments for tackle boxes and other nifty containers to store your floss, metallics, etc.
...refusing to go someplace on vacation until you KNOW where the shops are and have extracted promises of a visit to each.
......when your football team team is playing a super-important game and you pass up a chance to see it in HDTD, on a huge screen and socialize with other graduates so you can stay home by yourself and watch it on your tiny non-HDTV so you can stitch!
...there isn't a needlework magazine you haven't read.
...and you subscribe to most of them.
...your briefcase has a lunchtime project in it and your car glove compartment has an emergency project in it. buy database software so you can catalogue all your charts and magazines. haven't started this yet because you're too busy stitching.
...and adding to your stash. buy charting software so you can chart your own designs.'ve been known to stay up 'way past your bedtime just to do "one more stitch."'ve introduced someone else to your stitching addiction.

A Stitcher's Twelve Days of Christmas

by Martha Beth Lewis

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

A floor stand that holds my scroll bars.

Second day: two packs of beads.

Third day: three French knots.

Fourth day: four hanks of silk.

Fifth day: five chocolate hearts.

Sixth day: six books of stitches.

Seventh day: seven needlethreaders.

Eighth day: eight spools of Kreinik.

Ninth day: nine packs of needles.

Tenth day: ten silver thimbles.

Eleventh day: eleven yards of linen.

Twelfth day: twelve antique samplers.

Supermarket Tabloid Headlines

by Martha Beth Lewis

Children Come Home and Find Stitcher Tied in Knots - Stash Burglary Suspected

Midnight Raid Finds Stitcher Cuddling with Aida - Wife Incensed

Stitched Dies Surrounded by UFOs

Stitcher Caught Stripping - In Church Social Hall!

Algerian Eye Blame for Recent Crop Failures

A Stitcher's Days-of-the-Week Chores

Every stitcher has and is in the process of amassing a stash. Naturally, there are daily chores that must accompany this activity.

Sunday: dream of new stash
Monday: plan stash trip
Tuesday: buy stash
Wednesday: hide stash
Thursday: find stash
Friday: use stash
Saturday: list needed stash

Note that no mention is made of completing projects!

A Stitcher Goes to [That Hot Place]

Source Unknown, rewritten by Martha Beth Lewis

A stitcher was very naughty in this earthly life and didn't go to heaven. At the gates of Hades, she was met by the Devil. "Welcome," he said, smirking at her. "Let me show you around your eternal home."

Down dark, dank halls they went. From various doors came weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, shrieks of agony, and all manner of terrifying sounds of torment.

At this point, the stitcher was getting pretty nervous.

"Here we are. Right throught that door," said Satan, making her push it open. She could scarely budge it, but, after pushing with all her strength (biceps from carrying home bags of stash and quads from sprinting around needlework stores gathering it), the door swung open, as if on oiled hinges. She thought, I'll bet he purposely made the door heavy. This did not portend well for her portion of eternal torment.

He led her to a large room that looked uncannily like a large needlework shop. The stitcher blinked her eyes, wondering if what she saw was an illusion. The most wonderful needlework shop she had ever seen was right before her. Still unbelieving, she asked, "Is this real?"

"Of course," murmured the Evil One. "Reach out and touch it."

The stitcher worried that she'd be zapped by 1000 volts, but she reached out anyway, unable to help herself. It -was- real! All of it!

"May I look around?" she asked excitedly, all the while thinking, This can't be Hell! This is too good!

"Of course," said the Devil. "This is your eternal reward."

The stitcher began to survey the particulars of her damnation. There was every chart ever published, including the ones that were out of print during her lifetime and the ones she could never find. There was a full run of each needlework magazine, including all the old ones with the historical examples - - and each issue was pristine! She continued to look with wonder. Every thread imaginable was there: silks and silk twists, cottons, metallics, pearl cottons, space-dyeds, rayons, rayon twists (Yes, maybe I -am- in Hell, she thought when she saw those!), blending filaments and braids and ribbons, furry threads, frond-y thread, tubular nylon, Japan thread, and every other specialty thread that had ever been created. Her eyes lit up when she saw the piles and piles of fabrics. There were bolts and bolts of every color and every type. An array of beautiful thimbles was hers for the choosing, as were scissors and clever needlework gadgets; all were organized just as she would have done it on earth, had she had such a glittering array.

And there, beside her favorite earthly stitching chair, were all her UFOs! Yes, she thought, you -can- take it with you! I have all the time I want now, and I'm going to finish them at last!

The stitcher's fingers were just itching to get going! She turned to Beelzebub and said, "This is -heaven-!!!"

"No," he rejoined. "This is Hell. Do you see any needles?"

Ten Ways to Know that Martha Stewart
Has Visited Your Sewing Room Before Christmas Day

Author Unknown, rewritten by Martha Beth Lewis

10. There's an oh-so-tasteful wreath of greenery, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and star anise on the door leading to your sewing room.

9. Your sewing machine has been cleaned, oiled, and gold plated.

8. Your thread has been organized by color and size, and the loose ends all have a piece of tape on them.

7. Your pins have been sorted by type and are all facing the same direction.

6. Your sewing box is now so neatly arranged you can actually find things without dumping everything out on the floor. Your scissors are sharpened and your needles run through an emery. Bits of ribbon and lace have been wrapped around acid-free cardstock. Buttons are sorted into sets, along with an inventory of how many of each kind, color, and size.

5. Your pin cushion is now filled with potpourri.

4. All of your patterns have been folded and now fit back into their original envelopes. Also, all of the patterns have been arranged by type and size and have been placed in scented, color-coded boxes.

3. That growing pile of mending you've been meaning to get to no longer exists.

2. Your fabric stash has been grouped by color and type of fabric. Each piece of fabric has an index card clipped to it with yardage information and magazine pictures showing potential uses.

1. The dead give-away: All of this year's Christmas projects have been completed and wrapped in hand-made paper with elegant bows, and all of next year's projects have been started!!

The Low Cost of Quilting

by A.B. Silver

"How do you afford it?" our friends always ask. "But doesn't all that fabric cost a fortune?" or "But don't all those quilting supplies cause bankruptcy?" I always answer that we -can't- afford it, that fabric does cost a fortune, and that buying quilting supplies -does- cause bankruptcy.

Darling Wife, the quilter, however, has a different answer for each of those question. Her answers have to do with the fact that she has developed a quilter's brain, which is probably at an angle or pointed or squared off or stripped.

No doubt her brain cells form a kaleidoscope, or her brain is now pieced together following some pattern from a manual for beginner quilters.

"How much did that fabric cost?" I asked innocently.

This was in her second month of quilting. She had just come back from some trip to some quilt shop where quilters talk to one another in secret code and encourage each other as if they were all members of a 12-step quilting support group. All twelve steps, no doubt, have to do with spending more money at each step of the addiction that quilting brings to the innocent.

"Not much," she said, starting down the hall.

"Not much how much?" I called after her. She stopped and looked over her shoulder.

Before she took up quilting, she would tell me how much she spent. Now, no doubt, after she had taken some quilter's vow of secrecy, she might evade, sidestep, mislead, or circumvent, but she would never lie.

"I got a great bargain," she said, sidestepping, misleading, evading, and circumventing, and continuing down the hall.

"How much did the bargain cost?"

The trick was to be persistent. Our retirement depended on it. We didn't have Social Security yet and wiping windshields at stop signs didn't exactly appeal to me as a future job.

"Less than I thought," she said, her words floating at me from her sewing room.

"How much less?" My tone of voice was designed to show my impatience with her answers.

"Do you want to know exactly?" She recognized my tone and poked her head around the door.

"How much did the fabric cost?" I asked, enunciating each word.

"Twelve ice cream cones," she said, smiling and ducked back into her sewing room.

That conversation was eleven months ago and marks her first use of quilting math.

Quilting math, according to my dear wife's new way of thinking, is designed to show that through careful budgeting, all her quilting is essentially cost-free. In fact, as she was going to prove over the next quilt-filled shopping months, it would -save- money.

"Ice cream cones?" I asked her that day, walking toward the sewing room. "What would you want with twelve ice cream cones?" I reached the doorway. "You couldn't possibly eat twelve ice cream cones!"

"I'm not going to -eat- twelve ice cream cones, dear," she said, looking up at me from where she sat on the floor sorting and re-folding fabric.

"What -are- you doing to do with them?" I asked her that day.

"Substitute," she said. "The money I saved from not eating the ice cream cones will pay for the fabric." She was delighted with her version of new math, quilting math.

I narrowed my eyes at her.

"Remember when you bought the computer four years ago?" she said brightly, trying to distract me.

"Yes," I said cautiously.

"And remember what you told people when they asked how you could afford such a nice computer?"

"Go on," I said, still treading carefully.

"You told everybody that you didn't buy the more expensive car you wanted but settled for a less expensive one and used the difference to buy the computer."

"I said that?" (I did say that. It made sense to me at the time.)

"You did! So, -I'm- not going to eat twelve ice cream cones! That way I can buy the fabric with the money I don't spend."

"That makes -sense- to you?" I said, conveniently forgetting that I had been guilty of the same creative accounting.

She had the good grace not to point that out. Instead she demonstrated some more of her substitutions. "I also have six dollars a day to spend because I don't smoke two packs of cigarettes."

"You haven't smoked in forty years."

"Right. I bought the sewing machine with all that money."

"I thought we bought the sewing machine with the money from the trip we didn't take to Fiji."

"We used -that- money for the trip to Paducah to see the quilt museum.

"I thought we paid for that trip by not eating caviar for breakfast each day."

"You don't like caviar," she pronounced.

"I like turkey," I said.

"Yes! And I was able to buy all that batting by not buying a hundred cans of cranberry sauce."

"And we didn't have yams this year," I said.

"You don't eat yams. I bought bias tape with that money."

"And what else that I don't eat didn't you buy?"

"You're allergic to shrimp, so that paid for the quilt templates."

"How much shrimp didn't I eat?"

"About ten cans. I could have not bought fresh shrimp and saved even more money."

"I don't eat squid. I suppose you didn't buy any of that, either?"

"Oh, dear. I didn't think of that. But I do need some more black thread for the next quilt. I think not buying squid would take care of that."

"I seem to be making all the sacrifices."

"I gave up having my nails done."

"What? You've never paid to have your nails done in your life."

"And I don't plan to in the future. I used that money to buy the three rotary cutters and the three Olfa mats."

And so it went, and so it goes. Whenever I show her evidence of our going broke, she begins to sacrifice new things. This morning she was looking through the catalogs to find some new fabric for the border of the quilt she's working on. Halfway through the second catalog, she looked up at me as I crossed the room.

"What?" I asked, knowing what was coming.

"Let's not climb Mount Everest for New Year's Eve," she said.

"I don't plan to go anywhere," I said. My tone was somewhat grumpy, I'm not too proud to say.

"Good! Then I can get the new quilt book, too."

"As long as it doesn't cost us anything," I said.

"Don't worry!" she assured me. And with her doing the accounting, we will probably make money on the purchase!

(Note: Thank you to Starr Standafer, who came to my rescue with the author's name.)

The Speeding Car

Author Unknown, rewritten by Martha Beth Lewis

Two highway patrol officers saw a car speeding along the highway and started out after it, in hot pursuit. The car must have been doing 90 mph!

As the officers pulled alongside the miscreant, the officer closest to the other car rolled down his window. "Pull over!!!" he yelled to the woman.

"No!" She yelled back. "Scarf!"

DMC Math

by Carol Leather

I asked my husband a question this afternoon and was totally surprised by his reply.

I am hopeless at figures, so I asked "What is half of 744?"

He answered, "Green."

Totally confused, I asked for an explanation.

"Well, 372 is a green thread, isn't it?

I wonder how on earth he had remembered that one! And, no, he doesn't stitch, but does cut up the threads for my kits!

(Used here with permission. Please contact Carol for reprint permission on this one.)

from The Needle's Excellency, by John Taylor (1634)

Obviously this is not humor, but I thought it a nice poem and want to share it.

Flowers, plants and fishes,
beasts, birds, flies, and bees
Hills, dales, plains, pastures,
skies, seas, rivers, trees:
there's nothing near at hand or farthest sought
but with the needle may be shaped and wrought.

Copyright 1995-2010, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission unless noted otherwise.

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Last updated February 11, 2010.