Pretty Pincushion

For several years in July I went to the Tea and Tents unofficial WI camping festival, they were brilliant, 600 ladies from all over the country sharing skills, ideas and friendship. It was all done on a voluntary basis, everyone did their bit at either holding a workshop or activity or helping with the running of the camp. It was sadly a victim of it’s own success as it became too much like hard work for the organisers and the last one was a couple of years ago…

…until this year! It was decided that due to the current climate, we all needed a bit of cheering up, so a virtual Tea and Tents was held on zoom. Many ladies set up camp in their back garden – or their living room! There were talks and workshops on zoom throughout the weekend. It was lovely to see old friends again.

I booked onto a course held by Paula who I met several times over the years. She was demonstrating an embroidered pincushion. The design was by Corrine Lapierre, she kindly made the pincushion pattern and a needlecase available on the WI website, but kits are available on her website, she does have some very cute felt kits.

I rummaged in my stash and found some lavender and peach felt, I then just chose a selection of DMC threads to co-ordinate.

Paula talked us through some suggested embroidery stitches and the making of the pincushion. It’s just made with two strips of felt for the sides and three circles for the top and bottom. The instructions are actually really clear and easy to follow, it was just nice having the social side of a zoom stitch-a-long!

The workshop was just for an hour, which wasn’t long enough to complete the pincushion, but by that evening it was finished. I used lazy-daisy, french knots, pistil, fly stitch and some straight stitch vaiations.

I stuffed it with a little bag of crushed cockle shells at the base – otherwise known here as pigeon grit – cheap and easily obtained at a petshop! It’s not too coarse but gives a bit of weight to the pincushion to help it stay stood up.

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon stitching with virtual friends, with a very cute pincushion made a long the way, felt is so forgiving for embroidery, it was a perfect project for an afternoon with friends.

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Change of Plan!

I’m having a bit of a break from my vintage quilt, I’m just not feeling it at the moment – we’re having a bit of a rubbish time at home at the moment and I just need projects I can stitch and enjoy without too much concentration – there were too many important decisions with that one!!

Instead I’ve started a new quilt, it’s one I’ve been planning for a while – I bought some fabric for it at the Knitting and Stitching show last year but I wanted to get a few other quilts finished before I started this one.

The quilt is called the Cottage Garden Quilt. It’s in a book of the same name by Katherine Whittington. Kathryn does the quilting classes at Fabbadashery in Halifax, as soon as I saw the photos of the quilt on facebook I ordered the book. It’s gorgeous. It has lots of hand-embroidered panels of garden scenes. The instructions are for hand-piecing, sorry but mine will be hand-embroidered but machine pieced. I still haven’t decided on the quilting yet – that’s a long way off!

I decided to do the chicken panel first, it’s very cute! I used bondaweb to attach the applique shapes and I’ve now started blanket-stitching around them. I then need to add beak and legs and some flowers and grass for them to stand on.

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Margaret, TracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Kathi, Daisy, Connie, Monica and Sherrie

I’l also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link for more hand-stitching.

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Spring Orchard

In the last few days I’ve finished my Spring Orchard needlepoint. this was a kit by Derwentwater Designs which I bought on impulse (not like me at all!!) in Grassington. Last time I showed you it I had just done battle with all the french knots – lots and lots of them…

I still had a few more french knots to go on the border, but they didn’t take long. The border is a pretty cherry blossom design, with a double satin stitch row on the outer edge, it really finishes off the embroidery.

I really enjoyed stitching this one, I love the effect from all the different stitches, especially for the wall and the way the gate stands forward. It reminds me of the walks we’ve done in springtime when the blossom trees have all been in flower. The pattern was clear and easy to follow, my only criticism would be the amount of thread I had left- it’s easy to think Ooh, how generous, but when all’s said and done, we’re paying for it.

I clearly need to do some blocking to straighten it up as it is slightly parallelogram shape, though it’s not bad considering it was stitched without a frame. I’m thinking of trying to do this on my wool pressing mat as it is thick enough to pin it to. The finished stitching is actually only about 11cm square, so I’m just trying to decide how to finish it.

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see lots more hand stitching.

Posted in embroidery | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Bethlehem Embroidery SAL

It’s three weeks since I posted about my Bethlehem embroidery, this is the one I started at a workshop by Deborah Mullins last autumn. The design is inspired by Palestinian embroidery, particularly the style found traditionally in Bethlehem. Three weeks ago I was couching round the spiral copper wires…

I’ve not done much this time but progress is progress! I’ve finished the couching, I managed to unpick the bit at the beginning where I was couching in and out of the spiral – it’s not that easy to unpick on the heavy felt backing as the threads bed themselves in!

I’m still a bit undecided about how to fill in the gaps, but I decided to stitch the outer chevron ring first, so I can plan the fillers as a whole. I’m using two threads of perle at a time, just alternating the colours, I think it’s going to take a while!

This SAL is organised by Avis, we post our progress on our hand-stitching every three weeks, please follow the links to see what everyone else has been stitching.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Early Summer Reading

It’s been three months since I last wrote a book post. It may seem odd but I actually did less reading during lockdown than I did usually. Somehow I lost my usual reading slots – I used to read on the bus on the way to visit my mum, which was an hour each way, I would read on the train on the way to work. It took me a while to find new slots for my reading. When I did start again it was a very eclectic mix…

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham; I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who’s read this book. Chris is a TV presenter for The Really Wild Show, I have to confess I’ve never watched it so I have no preconception of what he is like as an adult. This is a memoir of his childhood. It is beautifully written, as one of the reviews says ‘Bold, beautiful, raw and lyrical’, as well as writing from his own perspective he also includes chapters seeing him from others views, such as the ice-cream man who he used to try and buy ice-creams from with his ladybird captured in a matchbox. He does come over as quite a strange boy, it’s also interspersed with sessions from his therapist as a young man. It’s quite a captivating read, his descriptions of nature and life generally are wonderful.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena; My daughter passed a couple of books on to me to read, this was the first one. It’s a thriller about a baby who goes missing, lots of twists and turns in the plot, I read it in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris; This was another book my daughter passed on. To be honest it’s not the sort of book I would usually read – I don’t ‘do’ war stuff, my OH loves watching war films and reading about it, I find the complete waste and disregard for human life too disturbing and upsetting. I know it went on, I’d just rather not read about it. As my daughter had passed it to me, I thought I ought to read it…it’s a brilliant book, it’s based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, he arrived in Auschvitz in 1942 and was given the job of tattooing fellow prisoners as they arrived. He fell in love with a girl he was tattooing and set about ensuring that both he and Gita survived. Although horrific acts are described, it is somehow an uplifting and positive tale. Enjoy is the wrong word, but I strongly recommend reading it.

Immunity The Science of Staying Well by Dr Jenna Macciochi; This was only published at the beginning of the year. It was recommended to me by a friend with rheumatoid arthritis. As I seem to be collecting auto-immune diseases, I bought it immediately. Dr Macciochi is an immunologist, she explains in detail all the different aspects of the immune system, how it works, what affects it, how to strengthen it without boosting it. It is written for the layman, but she does use a lot of medical terminology, explaining it as she goes along. It’s not an easy read – I’m a nurse and I had to concentrate, but if you or a family member have an auto-immune condition, it’s worth it. I’ve already made one change, it might be coincidence, but I feel 100% better – I stopped using ibuprofen as my go-to analgesic. I didn’t take it regularly, but if I had a headache, or general aches and pains or unwell, it was ibuprofen rather than paracetamol that I reached for. Dr Macciochi explained that such drugs wipe out the good inflammation as well as the bad, a bit like antibiotics leading to thrush. I’d had about 9 months of blocked nose and sneezing, it stopped within a couple of weeks of not taking ibuprofen!! There’s no quick fix for immunity, it’s lifestyle, diet, exercise, but it helps to have some knowledge on how to help yourself and which quack treatments to avoid!

Something a bit different you may be interested in joining in; The Yorkshire Festival of Story. This is on throughout August. I’ve not heard about it before but I presume it’s on line because of the current situation. There’s over 80 one hour talks and readings on a wide variety of subjects, and it’s free, though they not unreasonably ask for a donation. I’m booked on to three so far;

The Yorkshire Shepherdess – I’ve heard her talk before at a WI event and she was brilliant. She was born in a mill town near Leeds, her mum wanted her to work at M&S, but she set her heart on being a shepherdess. With no previous experience of farm life, she set about learning the trade. She’s ended up farming right at the top of Swaledale, married with nine children. Very entertaining. This embroidery is of the lower, gentler end of Swaledale – she is at the bleak top of the dale!

A Single Thread; Tracy Chevallier is reading from her new novel based around the people who embroidered the kneelers at a cathedral. I’ve got this book on order, so looking forward to this one.

Our Oldest Allies- Stories of Trees; this is also Tracy Chevalier, together with someone else, talking about amazing trees around the world.

There’s all sorts of talks and stories, follow the link above to see the programme.

Posted in Books, Serendipity | Tagged | 2 Comments

Dreaming French Knots

Every project I’m stitching at the moment seems to involve french knots, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy stitching french knots, but there are limits!!!

I’ve just finished July for the Anthea Calendar SAL by Faby Reilly. It’s beautiful, it’s got two bunches of lavender…with lots of french knots!

It’s based on Faby’s lavender design which I’ve stitched before – I made the scissor tag, card and lavender bag for my mum a few years ago, so I did know what to expect.

I enjoyed stitching this block – it was one of those satisfying ones where you could stitch the whole of one colour before moving on to the next. I love all the different stitches Faby uses – even the 200 plus french knots!

All I’ve got to do now is the monthly word play, but I haven’t even started thinking about that one yet.

The other knotty project is the cherry tree orchard in needlepoint. It’s a kit from Derwentwater Designs. Last time I showed you this project was at the beginning of July, I’d just finished the needlepoint in the centre and I was just starting the french knots…

By this point I was getting a bit fed up of french knots, so I drifted onto the border for a while before having a strong word with myself yesterday to just get on with them. I think I struggled because it wasn’t that easy to follow the chart to see where they were meant to go, especially once you started sewing a few. I realised I just had the mid pink ones left to do, so I ignored the chart and just filled the gaps in, much easier!

The border has some pretty cherry blossom flowers, it reminded me of a tapestry I did of sheep many years ago, it had a big paisley border with some strange colour combinations. I hated it until I started putting the background in and it all suddenly came together and I loved it. This border doesn’t look much until you get the soft green background with it. There’s a few more french knots to do on the flowers and a couple of stems too.

I love the way the designer has managed to get perspective into the embroidery, the gate really stands out in front of the trees.It’s only small is this design, about 11cm square altogether – there’s another two narrow satin stitch borders yet. Hopefully it won’t take me too long, then I just have to decide what to do with it.

Posted in embroidery, Serendipity, Stitch-a-long, Textile Books | 5 Comments

#sewing4thesoulbook

I first heard about #sewing4thesoul a couple of weeks or so ago, I’m rather late to the party but it’s just what I need at the moment, a bit of relaxed stitching for the enjoyment of stitching. It sounds similar to the Stitchbook Collective, but concentrating on the actual stitching, rather than trying different products and techniques. I hesitated at first as I was several months behind on the Stitchbook Collective, however I made a concerted effort over the last few weeks to catch up, so I feel able to start this one now.

#sewing4thesoul is a stitch-a-long organised by Anne Brooke, she’s the designer of Harold the Hare, she does some lovely embroidery kits too. She lives over the hill (well, a few hills!!) in Brighouse, not that far away. I think she started a stitching for the soul project at the beginning of the year, it was like a stitched roll. It was meant to last all year but when the lockdown happened, it was finished a lot quicker. She then started a textile book.

Harry the Hare

She’s released lovely, gentle, chatty videos on YouTube of the different pages she is stitching, I still haven’t worked out how often they’re being released, possibly weekly. Anne is stitching hers on a book made from batting. I can see it would make a lovely tactile book but I wasn’t sure about stitching straight into a book that’s already made – it sounds like it could be awkward as it fills up. I’m stitching mine using the pages from Untangled Threads – calico pages I can bind together later with beads.

I’ve just completed the first two pages…

Last year the Cone Exchange from Harrogate, which is a fantastic textile community recycling project, came to talk to us at Skipton Embroiderers Guild. He had a little stall too, I bought a fabric sample book – one of those with a range of furnishing fabrics in. It cost me all of £3! It’s beautiful, it has embroidered flowers, monograms, linen, expensive fabric! I decided to use this as the base for my stitch book. Anne suggested we chose one colour to go right through the book, not necessarily as the dominant colour, more of a continuing thread, so on each page there will be at least one thing of that colour, it could be some stitching, or a button, a piece of ribbon…I looked at the colours in the sample book and decided on a sort of ecru / taupe.

For the first pair of pages we had to create something with circles and squares, using just straight stitch. She talked through how she had developed her two pieces, giving us ideas on how to start. Straight stitch could include anything from running stitch, cross-stitch to seeding or stars.

I chose a few fabrics from my book, the first colourway was a soft red and a neutral ecru sort of shade. I cut some squares, the edges frayed nicely. The middle square is a checked linen and the top one is a lovely loose weave striped linen. One stripe is quite coarse, the other is gauze like. I cut the circle out of one of the fabrics with the monogram on.

I started off stitching everything down with a basic running stitch, I then carried on with running stitch around the circle and along the strips. The curly piece of thread is couched on with a cross-stitch. I’m pretty pleased with how this one’s turned out.

The second piece was to involve a circle cut out of fabric, so based around a hole. I found this one a bit harder to get started on, I think I found it harder to choose which fabrics would work. I cut the circle out of the checked linen again and laid the gauze striped linen behind, lining up the stripe with the check. I then had a rummage in my textile box and found a small piece of harris tweed which worked colourwise and it fits in with the other natural fibres. I cut part of a circle, so it would echo round the main circle.

I then played around with threads, lace and scraps until I was happy-ish. The frayed strip is a scrap off the gauze striped fabric – it frays beautifully!

The curly thread helps to link the design to the first one, it’s stitched on with long and short stitch. I did some seeding at the top, tied cross-stitches along the red line, running stitches to continue the lines across the circle and the stars at the bottom are a nod o the comet flying over us at the moment – not that I’ve managed tosee it yet – it’s always cloudy when I look out! The lace is an old piece I’ve had in my stash for years. I stitched the piece onto the page using a slanted stitch which follows the line of the tweed. I like this one but I’m still not so sure it doesn’t need something else to make it pop. It will have to stay pop-free as it’s stitched in now!

I do like it with the light behind it though…

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see lots more hand-stitching.

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long, Textile Books | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Scrappy Blooms

I’ve been talking about making a scrappy quilt for ages,years in fact, my scrap stash is getting a bit ridiculous! I currently have six of those IKEA cubes pretty full of scraps! I’m reorganising my sewing room at the moment and I could really do with getting it down to two boxes, so I guess I’d better get quilting!

I was thinking of doing a half square triangle quilt when I spotted the finished Bloomtopia quilt by Pat Sloan. It was a free quilt-a-long which has now finished, but all the patterns are still on the website. This also means I can go at my own pace without feeling any pressure.

Rather than completely, randomly scrappy, I’m hoping to use mainly the blue, green, purple, pink sort of colour range. I was going to try and unify it with one background fabric, until I saw how much you needed, I would have had to go out to buy some which somewhat defeats the object of a scrappy quilt! So I’ve set myself the restriction of using from the scrap boxes if poss, but for bigger blocks, a fat quarter which has been in my stash for ages is permissable!!

The first week pattern was for two blocks. I tackled the butterfly one first. Pat used the same fabric for the wings and the body, I decided to use one scrap for all the bodies. The background was left over from my Coming Home and Staying Home quilts.

The second one was fairly simple with just half square triangles and squares, I didn’t have enough fabric to fussy cut but one raccoon worked out perfectly! These are both 12.5″ square. The background for this one was left over from some bunting I made a few years ago.

I went straight on to the block for the next week. This time there was one big block – it’s 18.5 x 20.5″, with three lovely big flowers. If I used two different pinks I had just enough fabric to make the three flowers. The background was a fat quarter, which I only just squeezed it out of – and I mean only just! One set of flying geese was stitched wrong, to replace the rectangle I had to use two strips!! Print direction went out of the window, but luckily it’s the sort of print where it doesn’t matter.

So far it’s all going together nicely and I’m getting the hang of this scrap business – they look pretty good together. I’ve just got rather a lot to use before my sewing room is in order!!

I’m linking up with Quilting is more fun than Housework for Oh Scrap, a weekly scrappy blog party. Please follow the link for lots more scraps.

Posted in Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Stitchbook Collective

I tackled another box from the Stitchbook Collective over the weekend – I’ve caught up now, just the final one to do next month!! This box was all about making mock chenille. Apparently chenille means caterpillar in french, the fabric is so called as it does look a bit like rows of hairy caterpillars!

To make the chenille we sandwiched fabric in between two layers of denim. The layers were then all stitched together in rows, a bit like close lines of quilting. It could be done by hand, but I did the stitching on the machine. The rows were then carefully cut in between the stitching, leaving the bottom layer of denim. Then came the messy bit, the raw edges were brushed with a wire brush to make them fray, once all layers were fully frayed,, it was then washed, dried and then awaiting inspiration!

The first sample was made from two squares of cotton in between the denim. I stitched with straight lines. I found the denim frayed really easily but the cotton not as much. I’vejust kept this as a sample…

For the second sample I rummaged in my scrap box of silks – that sounds rather posh but back in the 1980’s we used to wear ‘ball gowns’ for parties, black tie do’s etc, I used to make dresses for my friends and I kept any scrap that was big enough to cover a coat hanger!! Anyway, I knew that silk dupion frayed very easily, so I chose two red and some orange silk. Instead of stitching stripes I stitched squares, so I could cut some away and not others. It did fray easily, but what I didn’t think of was that it was shot silk, so a different colour in the warp and the weft, what that meant is that the fibres hat were left depended on whether the cut was across or down. This sample was quite amusing when I washed it. Helen had warned us that the denim wasn’t colour fast – well neither is red silk, so there was lots of purple dye coming out as the two dyes merged!! This piece sort of reminded me of the red gingham and denim look, so I just added some red buttons..

The final sample was made by sandwiching a bag of scraps in between a folded piece of calico – in Yorkshire we’d call that a butty rather than a sandwich!! The scraps were all sorts of neutral fabrics which Helen had provided. I stitched this in a wave formation and boy was this a messy one when it came to brushing it!

Once it was finished it reminded me of rapids on a river. I decided to add beads like light twinkling off water. I rummaged in my bead box and sorted lots of pearly beads, sparkly ones, and just mixed neutral ones. I seem to have ended up with a lot of pearl beads – again this is from my twenties when I progress from ball gowns for friends to wedding dresses and bridesmaids!! This seemed a great opportunity to use a load!

I stitched them in lengths along the channels, fairly randomly. In fact the tiny beads were very random as I just stuck the needle into the mixed pot and used what came out! I really like this one.

So there’s just one more workshop to go, on weaving, then I can make a cover and put my textile book together. It’s been a great experience!

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Kunin Felt

I’m catching up with my Stitchbook Collective – this is the series of on-line workshops which Helen of Untangled Threads is organising. Each month I get a box with everything I need to try a new kind of textile media…only I was about three boxes behind! This week I tackled the kunin felt box.

There are three types of felt apparently, wool, acrylic and polyester. Kunin felt is a polyester felt, it’s totally eco-friendly as it’s made from recycled plastic bottles. The technique we tried was using the way it melts rather than burns. We cut shapes out such as flowers, hovered them over a candle until they started to curl and melt – it sort of reminded me of the craze of shrinking crisp packets under the grill when I was a teenager!

Helen provides everything – even a tea-light and a pair of tweezers so we don’t burn our fingers! I made some flowers to start with. They are simply made from a circle with snips in – we didn’t shape the petals at all, it’s just how it melts. I then tried strips and squares with holes. I then had to create something!

I stitched the red, yellow and oranges flowers onto the black felt with a leaf each, adding dots of kunin felt or beads for the centre. I found the braid in my stash which colour wise matched perfectly. It still needed something else, I rummaged in my button box and found buttons which echoed the flowers in someway…

I was left with the strips, purple flowers and holes!! Helen had provide some fabric samples and lengths of coloured cords to help us a long. The fabrics were mainly floral and not purple (!!!) but one was a soft purple check with lines of orange, blue etc. It gave me a starting point…

I couched some of the cord along the fabric lines,, running stitch along the orange one.

I quite like the flowers, I’m just not sure where I’d use them, maybe for vintage looking brooches…if I was into vintage looking brooches!! It’s fun trying all these things though and it is certainly pushing me out of my comfort zone as I try to create a piece of work from each box 🙂

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long, Textile Books, The Stitchbook Collective | Tagged , , | 4 Comments