Embroidery Kit Makeover: Allo-Aro Flowers

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green pine trees growing against various green-hued mountain ridgelines. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Crafts sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

To everybody who doesn’t want another embroidery-themed post, I apologise. Another lockdown has taken my anxiety disorder to just short of “breakdown”. I’m in what I call the “spending my days desperately trying not to think” stage, in which anxiety or distress about one big thing leaves me unable to manage (read: “muddle through with”) my many normal anxieties. Since there’s no immediate release from the main trigger, I’m floundering.

(While Australia is having conversations about lockdowns and mental health, there isn’t enough acknowledgement of the way a pandemic–our health now more obviously impacted by other people’s actions–creates additional stresses for folks who already couldn’t trust family, friends, doctors and politicians to ensure our health and safety. This stress doubles when we’re still required to interact with those people who placed their privilege, convenience or pleasure above our health.)

Sewing provides me the distraction needed to steer my brain past the jagged rocks of crying panic. As I had one more K-Mart embroidery kit, well.

A bamboo embroidery hoop sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. The hoop is filled with cream cloth featuring a garland of assorted flowers and leaves around the centre-positioned text "be kind". The text is written in a loose, handdrawn type and backstitched in green. The leaves and stems are stitched in green, aqua or light blue, and feature a variety of black, chain, split, straight and satin stitches. The flowers are stitched in white, gold, yellow and dark pink, and feature a variety of chain, satin, straight, woven wheel and god's eye stitches. Small seed beads in pink, gold and aqua fill the centres of some flowers. All colours used in the piece are taken from @neopronouns's allosexual aromantic-spectrum flag.

This kit is the best (platitudes like “be kind” aside). It uses all five stitches demonstrated on the how-to sheet: straight, back, satin, split and chain. The design accommodates other stitches (I added French knots, god’s eye and woven wheel stitches) and allows for easily swapping the recommended stitches between leaves and flowers. (My backstitched leaves, for example, are meant to be sewn in straight stitch.) While previous kits focus on back and satin stitches to the point of monotony, this kit offers experimentation, variety and texture.

I filled chain-stitched leaves with smaller chain stitches, larger flower centres with woven wheel stitches and flower petals with chain stitch before outlining them with split stitch. Glass seed beads–taken from my doll jewellery stash–form the centres of smaller flowers. Not all such experiments work, but I enjoyed testing out new stitches and stitch arrangements/combinations.

Anxiety aside, sewing this was fun.

Don’t, however, start with this kit if you’re an embroidery beginner and an anxious perfectionist (like me). I needed to gain experience and confidence from the filling-stitch kits to appreciate–and know how to play with–this more-complex design. I’m so glad that I sewed this one last!

To reproduce an allosexual aromantic-spectrum pride flag, I used a mix of eBay and K-Mart embroidery flosses. As the bright pink in @neopronouns‘s flag clashed with my usual thread choices for aro green and allo-aro yellow and gold, I swapped in a darker, magenta-ish shade. This flag’s colours are a great fit for floral-themed embroidery, and the yellows/golds stand out compared to my other pieces:

Four embroidery hoops hanging from a set of white brackets on a lemon-painted wall in the corner of a room. Beneath the hoops sits a white desk, holding a black PC flatscreen stacked on a pile of trade paperback books, red speakers, a black keyboard and a black cable. To the left sits a block of brown cardboard boxes turned into shelves, holding a pen caddy, a mouse, a jar of beads, an acrylic box of patches, and various fidget toys. To the right sits a brown cardboard block of draws, with cardboard pen caddies sitting on top. The hoops contain, on cream fabric, all four K-Mart kits: aro monstera plant, idemromantic be your best self, nebularomantic rainbow and allo-aro spectrum floral wreath. The idemromantic hoop is partly hidden by the flatscreen.
All four finished K-Mart embroidery kits hanging on the wall above my (small) desk. The kit I like least, alas, is partially obscured by my book-stacked display monitor.

Unfortunately, I again fought my floss: in sections of overlapping threads on the reverse side, my current thread kept sticking to the previously-sewn floss when running my needle beneath my stitching to finish a section. While trying to tug my needle free, my thread pulled too tight as the floss–again!–stuck to itself. This resulted in fabric buckles and pulls that I can’t fix without unpicking entire sections. Despite the cross-stitcher in me screaming otherwise, next time I might knot cheap floss instead of running the end beneath previous stitches!

The outside edge of the wreath also sits close to the hoop’s inner ring. This necessitates repositioning the fabric if you want to stitch without cursing the needle, physics and life itself (read: catching the needle on the hoop). Happily, the fabric just fitted inside my 20 cm hoop, so I worked it in this larger hoop before framing it with the kit’s 15 cm hoop. (Chronic hand pain means avoiding unnecessary fussing about!) The inner ring of my kit hoop, however, is a little undersized and oval-shaped … resulting in a piece that’s a smidge lopsided.

Having completed this set of embroidery kits, I’ll conclude with this: they’re cheap. Material quality isn’t high and isn’t consistent: one kit has a misshapen hoop, another a misprinted fabric. But, given that sewing isn’t a cheap hobby, they’re a more-affordable way to learn and experiment. If you have access to floss, they make a great base for creating subtle pride-themed art–especially for identities poorly represented in extant pride merch.

(Speaking as a genderless aro, though, I’d like to see affordable kits containing fewer platitudes and pastels: embroidery can feel suffocatingly pretty. Geometric designs, perhaps? Dinosaurs? Trees? Frogs?)

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