August 4, 2012

Native American Inspiration

Feather stitch alphabet

One month ago I visited a Navajo reservation to help my sister with a ladies craft class. Each year she returns to a small one-room church with a group that does a variety of service projects like painting, re-roofing, and re-tiling as well as organizing a Bible school and sports camp.

Before we left, I found myself suffering from jitters - I'm shy, and although I enjoy sharing my love of crafting, I had no idea what it would be like, and how I would cope without my morning coffee on schedule, limited access to plumbing, no bed, and no air conditioning in 100+ degree desert temperatures. Would I be crabby? (yes) Would I accidentally curse in front of the children? (no) Would I smell bad? (sometimes) Important considerations, all. ;)

pinning up

To alleviate my jitters, I grabbed a handful of floss, and a wonderful alphabet from the 1973 Handbook of Lettering for Stitchers by Elsie Svennas, and began adapting an alphabet to take with me.

Free alphabet design

Download the alphabet

The original alphabet has oodles of lazy daisy stitches, but I thought they'd be intimidating for beginners, so I traced the letter shapes and added small feather-like hashes in contrasting colors. I call it a feather-stitch alphabet, but FYI, it's not a real feather-stitch. :)

closeup detail

I had no idea how relaxing it would be to stitch this simple alphabet! I chose 7 neutral, lovely colors that reminded me of the desert, and brought it with me as inspiration.

7 colors

From left to right, in DMC: 946, 611, 954, 834, 3824, 832, and 3853.

Now, on to some photos from the ladies craft class... We met only for a short time each day, so I was only able to snap in-progress shots. They took their projects home to finish or would work on their favorites each day - I so wish I had finished pics to show you, but this gives you a taste of the stitching we did.

I had tons of gorgeous floss a wonderful person sent me years ago -after the class, we asked the ladies to take it home with them. I loved that I was able to pass on the generosity of one lovely person to these talented ladies.

ready to stitch

For weeks, I'd sat in front of my television, cutting out felt flower shapes from 2 free Purl Bee templates, found here and here, to use in our crafts.

felt flower pieces

I loved how much fun everyone had incorporating these bright, colorful shapes in their projects:

loveliness in progress

more stitching

I loved the creative way the ladies incorporated traditional Navajo designs in all of their projects, always making them their own. This woman is also a talented weaver, by the way:

pointed diamonds

I fell in love with this stitcher - each project we tried, she gave it her all and worked with patience, sweetness, and creativity:

beautiful stitcher

More of her impossibly tiny stitches:
tiny stitches

Every person I met was very gifted and creative, and would use projects as a springboard for incredibly detailed, beautiful work. I know I will carry the memory of their creativity and skill with me as an inspiration to make my work my own.

Lastly, how can I possibly summarize the beauty of the desert? I just can't. You have to see it. My pictures only sort of help. I warn you that you must see it yourself.

canyon de chelly

getting ready for some fireworks

Navajo land


wild horse

Hope you enjoyed a little bit of Native American inspiration!

Hi, I'm floresita, editor of Feeling Stitchy. I'm an avid stitcher, knitter, and crafter. You can see more of my stitching on Instagram and my blog. My vintage transfer collection is on Vintage Transfer Finds.

Feel free to email me with any ideas for the blog!


  1. So beautiful!  I can't believe they are using those twisty things with embroidery floss? That's great!  Did you get any shots of the finished works and what they did with them?

  2. I've never been to the desert, but it looks gorgeous. :) And thanks for the alphabet pattern! It's so sweet and I love the colors you chose. I'm definitely going to have to stitch it up!

  3. What a wonderful opportunity to share such lovliness!:) Do you have any photos of some the completed projects???:) So great.

  4. Those desert pictures are gorgeous and I love your finished alphabet.  Thanks for the pattern!  And that class looks like fun.  I just wish we could see the ladies' finished projects.  Maybe you can go out there again, Floresita, just to take pictures.  :)

  5. What an honor to be in room with such talent and heritage. Everything looked so inticing laid out on that bench. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Sadly, no! I would have loved to - but I do have a few pictures of their finished painting projects in my Flickr account - I'll be adding to that in the next few days!

  7. What a wonderful group!!! The desert is so beautiful! I love that alphabet. Thanks for showing!!!

  8. So wonderful to share all that, and what a lovely experience

  9. As a desert dweller myself, your color choices are perfect. I usually like to pick my own colors for patterns, but I'm planning to use your choices when I make this pattern. Definitely on my to-do list! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Your alphabet looks absolutely delightful! I think I need to try that one...