The Last Stitch is Always the Best Stitch

The Last Stitch intro image
The Last Stitch intro image

When we decided to make an extended trip to the US this summer, I knew I needed a project. (Two and a half months is far too much time to be away from my art!) I was hopeful, but not sure, that I would make it to the Last Stitch. I’m delighted to report that I made it!

Stitching on the deck in Minnesota
Stitching on the deck in Minnesota

In July, I painted the next image from my series on fabric, then packed up my embroidery frame, stand, and a bunch of thread. When we landed in the Twin Cities, I was ready to stitch!

Stitch, Unstitch, Stitch Again

Keeping track of stitches and thread
Notes are good!

Choosing the stitches for a set of shapes is always a challenge. I “think” I want to go in one direction, get started, and then change my mind. Sometimes I make a good choice right off. Other times I stitch and unstitch two or three times until I find a combination that work.

Keeping track of what I’ve done is another big challenge. It makes me a little crazy when I want to replicate the look of something from a previous piece and I have to practically reinvent the wheel.

How would we take notes without our phones?
What would we do without our phones?

I’m not good a keeping a studio notebook, so I use my phone. Over time, I’ve developed a shorthand for keeping notes. I take pictures of my notes and the actual threads as I work, and add them to an album. And when I’m really ambitious, I drop the collected photos into a Stitch Notes document as a permanent reference.

(It would be really nice if that last step — the Stitch Notes — would just pop out of my head in a hurry at the end of a project. It’s much too easy to put that off to another day!)

The Last Stitch

The Last Stitch is in!

Stitching a piece this size (about 20″ across) is a lot of work. It requires a lot of hours, a lot of thread, a lot of butt-in-chair time, and a lot of patience.

And when the Last Stitch is complete? Wow. I get the biggest pie-eating grin on my face, do a little happy dance, and give myself a big hug. I so enjoy putting the Last Stitch in every piece I do. It’s magic!

Two Steps Down, One to Go

Even when I know that the Last Stitch is really the Last Embroidery Stitch, it’s a huge step forward on any given project. The image is on the fabric. The stitching is complete. There’s still plenty of needle & thread time in my future as I add beads to this lovely piece, but today I’m celebrating.

The Last Stitch is in. A big step is complete. My stitch-loving heart is thumping with joy.

Your Turn

Do you have a special way to celebrate adding the Last Stitch to one of your projects? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. CAROL SORVIG on October 24, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    It is good to hear from you again. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your sister.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:13 am

      Thanks, Carol. So far, the news for Sharon is encouraging.

  2. Janet Knapp on October 24, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Oh Shelly….your work is so incredible and inspirational as well. So nice you share these updates on your whereabouts and life in general. It sounds wonderful!
    Sorry to hear about your sister’s stroke…sharing prayers for her.

    I think it is about time to get put my paints out once again. I have been doing an extensive embroidery center for a quilt and find when the end is near, not so much a jig and a dance, but a tiny tear of happiness and joy. I really bond with a project as it is finished.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Oh, Janet. That is a lovely sentiment. I totally understand that thought of “bonding” with the project. When I finish one of my embroideries, I feel like I’ve stitched a tiny piece of my heart into the colors and pattern. A tear of joy, indeed.

  3. Rebecca Muir MacKellar on October 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Your project is magnificent! You should be very proud. I am eager to see the next project.
    I don’t have anything specific that I do when done, but I am always pleased and sometimes very relieved to be done.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Thanks, Rebecca. Relief? Oh yeah! Especially for the projects that seems to fight us each step of the way!

  4. Christie on October 24, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Beautiful Shelly. Wow!

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:19 am

      Gracias, amiga! You’ll have to pop over and see the final result. It’s even better with bling!

  5. Joy McClure on October 24, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Getting an email from you always brings a smile to my heart. I love your work and watching your process. Thanks for sharing! joy

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:19 am

      Thank you, Joy. Heart smiles are always the best!

  6. Susan Driussi on October 24, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Even though my interests have changed, I am thrilled to get what I term as your “Journal Entries of Your Life”! Your stitching is so beautiful and, I enjoy the enthusiasm you project into your work and your relationship with Jack. I miss my Joe…gone 16 months now but the hole is still as big as a crater. Big hugs and continued health.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:25 am

      Wow. Journal entries of life. Thank you for a lovely way to look at my blog.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your sweetheart. I’m not sure that hole ever gets filled. Other wonderful people will come into your life to be sure, but there will never be another Joe. Big hugs, amiga. And warm wishes for many good years in this new chapter of your life.

  7. Carol on October 24, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Love you piece and prayer for your sister

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Gracias, Carol. I appreciate your words of support.

  8. Maggie Martin on October 24, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Love your efforts and projects! Thank you for sharing your immense talent.
    Your sister is in my prayers.
    Have a great week.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:28 am

      Thanks so much, Maggie. After many years of working in support of other people’s art, I’m thoroughly enjoying making my own art.

  9. Karen MacDonald on October 24, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    That is an absolutely beautiful project. The colours of threads, fabric and your creative imagination is inspiring indeed.
    Appreciate you sending this out to all of us aspiring stitchers.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:29 am

      You are so welcome, Karen. I have to laugh when I look at the big picture. When I started quilting almost 25 years ago, you couldn’t pay me to do hand work. I used to say that I was allergic to needle and thread. How things change!

  10. Lexa Shaw on October 24, 2019 at 11:37 pm

    Love your work. Helps that I also love orange and blue!
    Do hope your sister progresses well.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Thanks, Lexa. I have funny stories about orange… But that’s for another day!

  11. Shirley Parrott on October 25, 2019 at 12:12 am

    Such a beautiful piece of art. I would love to do something as creative.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your sister. I hope she knows God’s love and that He is walking with her.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:39 am

      Thank you, Shirley. I’m delighted that you enjoyed seeing this piece. When I started playing with paints 20 years ago, I could not have even imagined the work I do today. When I joined my friend Jean’s embroidery group 5 or 6 years ago, I had no clue where it would take me. Each and every one of us is capable of making beautiful things if we can stay curious, stay engaged, and just keep going.

  12. Annick Cottom on October 25, 2019 at 5:31 am

    I love your use of colour and beautiful stitching; brightened up a very glum day here in the UK.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:40 am

      Thank you, Annick. I’m glad I was able to send a little sunshine your way.

  13. Midge Lewis on October 25, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Beautiful work, thank you for sharing your method for documenting you work. As we head for Florida for the winter from Michigan ….loaded with textiles and supplies..I can’t be without, I understand the dilemma. Thoughts and prayers for your sister.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:42 am

      You’re welcome, Midge. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to keep tabs on the steps I put into a piece. When I’m stitching, I just want to be stitching! Who want’s to think about taking notes???

  14. Norma Sherwood on October 25, 2019 at 8:40 am

    What a piece of art!!! Absolutely gorgeous and so expertly done. Extremely impressive.

    • ShellyStokes on October 25, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Muchísimas gracias, Norma! (That’s a “thank you” big enough to reflect your enthusiasm!) 😄

  15. Nancy Sullivan on October 25, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Hope your sister is recovering well. Strokes are so scary. Please Shelley…will this latest project and stitching instructions become a kit? I would surely be interested..thank you in advance…Nancy

    • ShellyStokes on December 4, 2019 at 3:21 pm

      Hmmm… no promises on kits or patterns. At least not yet. For now, I am truly enjoying just creating for the sake of creating. I’m having lots of fun exploring how to achieve different effects with the stitching. I need more time to learn before I think about teaching. But thanks so much for asking.

  16. Romney Keane on October 27, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    That is magnificant, Shelly. Great achievement.

    So sorry to hear about your sister; we will be thinking about her and you all.

    • ShellyStokes on October 27, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you, Romney. I’m really happy with this piece. I’ve been adding the beads and it’s even better with bling!