Important, though unseen

Does it matter how the back of embroidery looks?

I never thought it did. Neither did my mother who first taught me embroidery. And Ms. Maybury, who taught needle-work in junior classes, was happy enough if we managed to get each stitch to look like it was supposed to. After all, who was going to look at the back of the thing? I ended each bit by weaving the end of the thread into any convenient part of completed embroidery at the back.

In the 8th grade we had a new teacher for needle-work: Ms. Patricia Hunter from England.  The assignment for the term was a wall-hanging embroidered with a zodiac sign. Each of us chose one from the twelve designs she displayed. She had them printed on pieces of cloth and handed them to us at the next class.

First, the edges had to be folded back exactly 1 cm with a herringbone stitch because it looked better than a mere hem. It was at the back of the wall-hanging and therefore invisible, but she considered that irrelevant. Maybe it’s just a British thing, we thought.

Towards the end of the term I turned in my embroidery. “Good”, she said, “now let’s look at the back”. Her face registered disapproval, almost horror, as she noted how I hadn’t inserted the ends of threads into the parts with the same color as she had instructed. She made me re-do the whole thing till the back looked almost as good as the front. “Good”, she said with obvious satisfaction.


What Ms. Hunter taught me went deep. I mean needle-work was not something that mattered academically and could have been treated lightly, as teachers usually did. But she didn’t. As the old adage goes, ‘If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well’.

The incident stayed with me. Over the years it got fixed in my mind as an illustration of integrity: do the right thing even if nobody’s going to check. No one may discover your wrongdoing, but you won’t feel good about it because you know. Ms. Hunter made this a part of me, and I’m glad she did.

And to think I learned this in needle-work class!

(5th Sept is Teachers’ Day.)


3 thoughts on “Important, though unseen

  1. Yes if we all could get into this habit of doing our work well … even the unseen parts…. imagine WHAT a world this would be…..


  2. Life’s most important lessons learnt through a piece of embroidery … amazing! Thank you for finding the common thread and weaving it into such a beautiful narrative.


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