A Gashly Little Gift

Edward Gorey Embroidered Pillow

One of my very dearest friends was about to turn 24, and I simply could not decide what to give her in honor of the occasion.

Molly has given me many thoughtful gifts over the years I’ve known her (including several of my favorite mugs!), so I wanted to be sure to give her something equally special. My usual strategy of a hand-knit gift wasn’t going to work here though, since she is an even more prolific knitter than I am.

Eventually, however, inspiration struck.

I had been browsing the Internet for cross-stitch patterns neither maudlin nor obscene (a rare breed), when I came across this post from Making Islands Where No Island Should Go featuring Edward Gorey-inspired embroidery.

As Molly and I have both been avid Gorey fans since long before we were ever roommates, I loved the idea of making her her own Gashlycrumb Tinies keepsake.

For the uninitiated, The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an intricately illustrated abecedarian poem by Edward Gorey detailing the varied and unusual deaths of 26 small children (yes, it’s as morbid as it sounds). You can find the full text here if you’re curious.

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

Thanks to conversations about the poster print of the Tinies that hung in the college dorm room we shared (and that still hangs in my apartment today), I knew Molly’s favorite panel was the letter N, for Neville.

N is for Neville who died of ennui.

While I liked the idea behind the original Making Islands piece, a I wanted to create something a bit more complex and true to Gorey’s original drawing. I did not, however, have the time or patience to hand stitch each pen stroke. So, after some consideration, I decided that appliqué would be the way to go. And since I needed to present Molly with a finished product, I decided to make it a pillow.

Now, before this project I had never made a pillow, or worked with appliqué, or, for that matter, done any kind of free embroidery at all. I had also never stitched a project without a pattern.

So, with more enthusiasm than any clear sense of what I was setting out to do, I took the Metro to the end of the line to visit Jo-Ann Fabrics and collect supplies.


Later, supplies in hand – including some absolutely irresistible Gothic lace for trimming – it was time to embark on the project. Given how much improvisation and hand-stitching was involved, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and easily the pillow came together. I finished the whole thing over the course of one weekend!

Here are a few detail shots of the finished piece:

I’m so pleased with the Neville pillow that I might just have to stitch another one for myself!


Good thing I have lots of extra fabric.

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