Jacquie Needlecase SAL

These three week cycles of the SAL seem to fly by, I’m stitching the Jacquie needlecase by Faby Reilly, she’s releasing a new section every two weeks, last time I had just finished stitching the organza wing for the dragon fly…

We’re now working on the final section, another piece of stumpwork for those of us who wish to try it. Firstly however there was the basis of cross-stitch and french knots. It did make me smile a bit as whereas the first dragonfly reminded me of a jelly baby, this one looked like a little green (blueish) man from Mars!!!

He’s surrounded by a haze of dragonflies. The french knots weren’t easy to place, Faby recommended gridding the area to help with accurate placement, of course I didn’t so some were a little out, I think I would have found it easier to stitch after the ‘Art Nouveau’ lines were stitched.

There’s quite a lot of stitching on this next section, so Faby has kindly given us four weeks to complete this bit.

The stems are stitched with whipped back-stitch, the eye’s of the dragonfly are padded satin stitch over the cross-stitch base and the tail of the dragonfly is a long detached picot stitch. Practise definitely makes perfect with this stitch, now I’ve got the hang of keeping the long warp threads taut and using my needle to get the weft threads to lie neatly, it’s my best one so far!

‘All’ I’ve got to do now is make two sets of wings on the organza again. I’m going to edge it with buttonhole stitch with just one strand of thread (as per instructions!) this time and if it looks 100% better I might even make another for the earlier dragonfly.

One tip I’ve just learnt from Faby is that when you are struggling to thread a needle, try turning the needle over, needles are made by punching the eye out, so one side is usually smoother than the other, a bit like when you punch a hole in paper. So far it’s worked at least 95% of the time for me!

This SAL is organised by Avis of Sewing by the Sea, we post every three weeks our progress on our individual chosen project, it does help enormously to motivate you on a long project. Please follow the links to see everyone else’s progress…


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Doodles and Growing Old

Over the last 18 months when my stitch group, Skipton Stitchers (formerly Embroiders Guild) met over zoom many of our members started stitching 4″ squares to make a display.The idea was that each month people would do a little embroidery on a certain colour which could then be joined together as a display. You could embroider in any style you wanted. I must admit that I didn’t join in over lockdown as I always had so many other projects to keep up with. However when I saw them all on display at Yarndale last month I did have a twinge of regret as they did look amazing…

When a request went out to make extra colours I immediately volunteered, turquoise and purple were the colours I chose.

I started with the turquoise one. I looked initially for the background fabric and found one just the right colour with twirls and swirls on. I then pulled out a variety of threads and beads to give me some ideas.

I decided to embroider over the twirls with different threads and different stitches. Some threads were variegated, some DMC,others were varying types of thread, textured ones, thick ones. I started off using blanket stitch, chain stitch, herringbone and couching…

I’ve decided turquoise is a very elusive colour! it sort of merges into blues and greens so it wasn’t easy selecting colours. The most ‘turquoisy’ ones were the thicker textured threads which I couched down, I tried to use a different stitch with each thread, there’s buttonhole, chain, whipped back-stitch, stem stitch, herringbone…

I added beads where the fabric had dots until I was happy I had stitched enough. I trimmed it to 4″ square, applied some iron on interfacing to the back to give it a bit of weight before neatening the edges with blanket-stitch.

My turquoise square proved quite time-consuming, so if I was to finish the purple one in time I needed a simple design. It came to me at around 2am – all the best ideas seem to appear overnight! Luckily I still remembered my idea the next morning…

One of my favourite poems is by Jenny Joseph, the first lines are

When I grow old I shall wear purple

I chose some purple bumbleberries fabric (by Lewis and Irene) not too dark but not too light either. Having practised on paper first I wrote the line in pencil on the fabric and with some calico behind to give support I used split stitch to embroider the letters. My idea was that I would fold the fabric so it looked like the front of a dress or shirt with buttons, I decided to tuck some purple lace under too and hand-stitched it down just with a running stitch down the side of the fold. All I needed then was buttons, despite having a drawer full of buttons I couldn’t find ones that were the right size and colour without breaking into a set of say 8 buttons. Eventually I resigned myself to some which came in a box of vintage buttons, they were to me your typical grandma’s cardigan button, somewhat old fashioned! I was just about to stitch them on when I had a brainwave, I stitched them upside down, so they are a much nicer plain button. I’ll still have a look in town tomorrow in case there is something else more suitable, but for now it is finished, ready to take to the meeting on Monday…

If you live within reach of Skipton you might like to know we’re having an exhibition on the 29th and 30th October of stitching we did during lockdown. It’s at Christchurch, it’s free and you might even recognise some of my work!

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Wednesday’s Wander Round the Garden

For a few days last week we had a bit of an Indian Summer, or that’s what we call it over here, a spell of unseasonably warm weather in late September early October. I’d just put my summer clothes away too so I got some out again when it was 20 plus degrees!

I spent the good weather in the garden, starting the autumn tidy-up. Sometimes I look at the garden and think it got away from me again, but then realism steps in and I have to admit that it probably took over six months to fully recover from the nasty wound infection I had last Christmas, so actually it’s not too bad!

I’ve started in the patio area down by the conservatory. The garden arch had gone rotten and was pretty wobbly, I was just waiting for the clematis to finish flowering before I cut it back a bit so I could remove it’s support. The rose on the other side (Teasing Georgia) hasn’t been good for the past few years, getting lots of blackspot and generally not thriving. It was one of the first David Austin roses I planted so it’s probably 15 to 20 years old, anyway I decided to dig it out, replenish the soil and buy a new rose.There’s always concerns about rose sickness when you dig out one rose and replace it, I’m hoping that removing the soil around it and adding lots of compost the next one will be happy. I’ve ordered Wollerton Old Hall as a climbing rose, it’s bare rooted so it won’t arrive until next month…plenty of time to build a new arch!

The whole bed where the rose was needed sorting as it was overrun with huge geraniums and astrantia, I love both plants but they were getting a bit much. So, I’ve dug up and moved lots of plants, I’m sure I won’t have got it all so there will still be geraniums there…just not as many! It also gives me chance to improve the whole bed, this bit has the worst soil in the garden with very heavy clay, so I’m putting lots of compost in and some pea shingle to help break it up.

Once that area was cleared I carried on tidying up the beds, cutting back perennials, weeding and thinking about what needs moving or splitting. The birdbath and the wire goose have re-emerged from behind all the foliage, the birds love to sit on the goose’s head when deciding which feeder to go for, or eyeing up the worms! There’s still lots to do but it’s already looking better,

The roses are still trying hard to put on a show, dead-heading throughout the season does help to prolong the flowering. This little pink one is down by the conservatory, I think it’s called Fairy,I needed a short rose there so it doesn’t block light into the conservatory and this one works perfectly. It’s still got lots of buds hoping to bloom…

Up by the summerhouse at the top of the garden the cotinus coggrhia is a gorgeous mix of reds and oranges. As you can see I haven’t started tidying this bit yet! The sedum is a lovely shade of dark pink at this time of year, it really needs splitting when I get round to doing this bit. It’s flopping in a huge circle and apparently that is a sure sign that it’s getting over crowded.

I really enjoyed the warm days in the garden at the weekend, we’re back to the usual October temperatures now, so it’ll be big coat time in the garden! There’s lots to do out there 🙂

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All the Trimmings QAL

Having dilly-dallied a bit with this quilt I cracked on with it this week, this is the free QAL by the Fat Quarter Shop, it appealed (apart from the fact that I love Christmas!) because it took just one layer cake and some background fabric, I happened to have in my stash a Christmas layer cake which needed using! There’s a matching cross-stitch design too but I’ve resisted that one.

This is a row by row quilt, I’ve always fancied doing one of these and I’ve really enjoyed it, there’s not so many repeats of a block that you get bored and each row has been fairly quick to do. The first two rows which I shared a couple of weeks ago were holly with berries and Christmas stockings…

The third row was garlands of ribbons. This block took a fair bit of concentration as the main block was half of one bow and half of the next…

The final row was three Christmas trees, in theory this shouldn’t have been too taxing! I realised too late that the pattern on the lower tier of the middle tree was one directional…and therefore I needed to be careful which corners I stitched the triangles to…the seam ripper came out several times! Even after all that hassle I realised when I had stitched it all together that I had completely omitted two of the triangles!! Luckily its the middle tree and still looks fine, I bet you wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t say!

The bottom rows don’t show up as much as I would like but I’m planning to sort that with the quilting. Once the four rows were stitched I stitched a 2″ strip between each row and officially the top is now finished…

…but I’m thinking of adding a border as I’ve got quite a few layer cake sheets left. It’s 33.5″ square at the moment, so wall hanging size. Just got to quilt it then 🙂

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Christmas QAL

Last month I started a quilt-a-long – another one! This is just a short free one from the Fat Quarter Shop. It’s called All the Trimmings. It appealed partly because I’m a sucker for Christmas stuff, but also because it just uses one layer cake with the background fabric, I knew I had a Christmas layer cake I’d bought off facebook a couple of years ago.

The first row was holly and berries…

As you’ve probably gathered it’s a little row by row quilt. The patterns were released each week but as I’m a bit behind I can now see all the other rows!

The second row is Christmas stockings…

I’m now half way through the third row which is proving to require a bit more concentration than the first two. The instructions are all on the Fat Quarter website and there’s youTube videos too. I’m enjoying this quilt-a-long, the instructions are nice and clear and it’s pretty straight forward. Just having four of each pattern to make does mean it doesn’t get monotonous or time consuming!

Hopefully I’ll soon have rows three and four to share.

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The Seaside Quilt HQAL

I’m making good progress on my Seaside quilt, this is the quilt designed by Kathryn Whittingham, the same designer as my favourite Cottage Garden quilt. This one is a similar layout but with seaside themed blocks, it reminds me of happy holidays in Whitby with my kids when they were little.

When I last posted about this quilt three weeks ago I was just over half way…

So over the last couple of weeks I have been working on the remaining blocks of the middle row. The next square one which balances with the little row of cottages was of three seagulls. I think many people have a love hate relationship with these raucous birds, they are noisy, big and sometimes quite scary birds – they think nothing of taking a sandwich from your hand. They are also part of the seaside atmosphere and as such you couldn’t have a seaside quilt without them!

There’s a fair bit of embroidery in these bigger blocks, especially with all the french knots to give a bit of texture to the sand dunes and the waves. I used pistil stitch too for the waves as it just sort of lengthens the french knot .

There were two more 4.5″ blocks to embroider too, another beach hut and an anchor. I’d stitched the lollipop at the beginning of the quilt when I stitched the ice-cream block. The anchor and the rope were a bit fiddly to cut out and position as the rope is threaded through a little hole cut in the anchor, but once it was stitched down with blanket stitch it was really effective.

This is the forth of six beach hut blocks I’ve stitched for the quilt. I’m not sure how much beach huts are mainly a British institution, so here’s a photo my friend Nancy took of beach huts down on the south coast…

The beach huts in Whitby are more of a uniform set of primary colours, which look very cheerful, but there obviously isn’t the opportunity to personalise your hut, I love the pale blue one.

With all the blocks stitched I could choose some 2’5″ squares to add to them and start stitching them together. I’m trying to get a balance with the little squares, mixing nautical, floral and abstract fabrics and scattering the more dominant colours, I’m getting a bit quicker at this now there’s more quilt done. The middle row is now finished…

I love the cheerfulness of this quilt, it definitely shouts British Seaside to me. I carefully pinned the top row and the middle row together and stitched the long seam, it went together perfectly…

Just one more row to make and then I can choose some borders and then start hand quilting it. I’ve already got in my mind how I’m going to quilt it, hopefully it won’t take too long.

The designer of this quilt, Kathryn Whittingham of Patchwork Katy, kindly gave me a copy of this book, but the views and opinions are my own. The book is easily available from her website, together with the Cottage Garden Quilt book, I’ve really enjoyed making these quilts and the instructions are great, aimed at someone with no experience.

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.

KathyMargaretDebNanetteSharonKarrin, and Daisy

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday

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Walking in the Lakes

Helen and I had a few days in the Lake District last week, staying in a lovely flat above the Wheatsheaf Inn in Lorton. Lorton is nicely situated in between Keswick and Buttermere, so all my favourite places to walk were within easy reach.

I spent lots of childhood holidays staying in Keswick, as a family we spent a fortnight each August in a guest house in Keswick, walking each day in the area. I first walked up Catbells under my own steam when I was four years old, bribed with squares of Kendal Mint Cake! In my late teens and early twenties I went up for a holiday each year with a friend of mine, spreading our wings a bit further to climb mountains like Great Gable and Helvellyn. Once I moved back to Yorkshire I could just about do it as a day trip with friends…Keswick and Derwentwater is my special place, it’s where I run to when things are bad, but also where I go to celebrate the good things!

Our first climb was Haystacks which is at the bottom end of Buttermere. It’s a great walk, it’s not big but it’s still quite a challenge. We planned to park in a little carpark at the end of the lake but when we got there there was a notice that it was closed for a couple of weeks. It turned out it was for a film crew, they were filming part of Mission Impossible there! Now I can’t say I’ve ever watched a Mission Impossible but we still waited a couple of minutes when we heard a helicopter coming in to land with Tom Cruise inside. Unfortunately they took off as soon as they landed, though he did wave through the window!

It’s a steady uphill climb to the top of Haystacks, a bit rocky but manageable. At the top it’s quite craggy, so it’s hands and feet time, I quite like that kind of scrambling. There’s about three small tarns on the top too. We found a spot with a good view for our lunch, the photo shows Buttermere in the foreground and Crummock Water behind…

On the other side was Great Gable, hiding behind a little cloud.

We descended down the other side, making a circular walk, a good walk though a bit of a challenge.

On Wednesday we spent the morning mooching round Keswick, walked through Hope Park so we could see the lovely statue of Max the springer spaniel. Max helped his owner Kerry through a really bad depression and eventually Kerry started sharing photos of Max and their walks on facebook and he has become quite a local celebrity. Kerry has three springers now, Max, Paddy and Harry and he shares his walks with the dogs on facebook, they love jetty jumping! He organises charity dog walks and has raised a lot of money and a lot of awareness of mental health issues.. The statue is lovely.

We sat on the benches overlooking the launch jetty for our lunch, Catbells is just behind the island, the one in the middle with a bobble on top is Causey Pike and the triangular one behind is Grisedale Pike.

We decided to walk up Catbells in the afternoon, I’ve been up many times, it’s very popular as it’s not too big but has amazing views. This also means that there’s a lot of erosion of the paths so every so often the National Park authority do some work to slightly re-route the zigzag up the fell. It may be my imagination (it’s about 5 years since I last climbed Catbells) but it felt a much more challenging route. There’s a lot of scrambling up craggy bits, but it’s so popular that the rocks have been polished smooth, so it was difficult to get a good grip or foot hole. We eventually climbed to the final section of the ascent, we saw a couple following a little path to the side which did look easier…at the beginning!

The path got narrower and narrower, but it also came over to the front of Catbells, rather than above the ridge, so if I looked down there was just a very steep hill drop to the bottom of the mountain and nothing to stop a fall! To add to my concerns, there was no firm rocks to hold onto, just grass and the path had little grip…it was one of those times when you don’t want to move forward but you know you have no choice as we couldn’t go backwards. Eventually I crawled over the final few rocks to the summit, very relieved to be able to sit on the top and eat my lunch.

The view from the top is amazing, I climbed up there in my younger days to watch the sunrise, it rose over Blencathra (to the right) as mist settled over the lake.

The walk down the other side was uneventful, in future I’ll have to go up and down the same way. I have to admit it has completely knocked my confidence at walking the Lakeland fells, I felt it was too much of a responsibility for my walking companions. It probably didn’t help that it was Catbells, which I’ve walked so many times and have a special little place for in my heart. I love walking in the lakes, it has a completely different feel to walking in the dales, I love that feeling of being on top of the world, but we’re thinking in future of using a mountain guide as they will know the more accessible routes.

On Thursday we did a much easier walk, we parked near Ashness Gate by Derwentwater and walked up the steep and winding road to Ashness bridge, stopping briefly at Surprise View…

The little packhorse bridge at Ashness is one of the most photographed views in the Lakes, with it’s backdrop of Derwentwater and Skiddaw. Unfortunately it was full of photographers standing in the way with their tripods and long lenses!!

We carried on walking along the hanging valley to Watendlath, a lovely little hamlet next to a tarn. We didn’t linger too much there either as there’s a hydro-electric pump being built so it wasn’t particularly peaceful! We continued over the fell and down to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale.

From there we could follow the Cumbrian Way path to Grange, where we had a very welcome cup of tea before walking across the duckboards to Lodore and back to the car. The weather was a bit moody but we didn’t need to put our waterproofs on all day. Despite our grumblings about the photographers etc we had a lovely walk, it was a great circular route without the scary craggy bits!

I was amazed to find we had walked nearly 11 miles. It’s the furthest I’ve walked since my operation and subsequent infection, so I was well chuffed with myself. Usually my friend and I find that however long the walk is, the last mile is hard work, but this time I still had some energy in reserve!

Of course we did manage to do a little fabric shopping! On the way home we stopped in Kendal to visit Cool Crafting – the home of Luna Lapin! It’s a lovely shop, much bigger than I expected, of course we couldn’t come away empty-handed, I bought a shirt length in a soft striped cotton – and I’ve already cut out a shirt!

It was lovely to have a few days with my daughter, I’ve managed to pass on my love of the Lakes as she has now set herself the challenge of walking all the Wainrights! I had a bit of a ‘woe is me’ day afterwards as sometimes it does feel like everything I enjoy doing is either bad for my neck or not safe due to my balance, I gave myself a good talking to, helped by my friend being keen to use the mountain guides too, and picked myself up again…I think it’s Ingleborough next 🙂

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Peppermint Purple SAL

I spent a lovely few days last week in the Lake District with my daughter Helen. We walked during the day and as usual I had a little sewing with me to do in the evenings. I managed a bit of a catch up on my blackwork piece. This is a SAL by Peppermint Purple, mainly on her facebook page, each week for the whole year another square or rectangle of pattern is released. I’m adding to the complication by incorporating a picture of Catbells withing the design. Last time I shared it with you I was just over half way…

The bottom row in shades of grey is the start of the reflection of Catbells in Derwentwater. I find it easier to sort the colours out if I do a few tiles at a time, this time I’ve been mainly working on the right hand side, the tiles do vary alot in terms of how much concentration they require! I managed another five whilst we were away…

It’s also interesting to see how the darkness of a square is more to do with the density of the stitching than the actual shade of thread.

So Catbells is taking shape, though I still haven’t decided whether to back-stitch the outline of Catbells or leave it as it is. My feeling at the moment is that it needs an outline to make it a bit clearer, but I think I’ll wait until it’s finished before I decide. I’ve a lot of border still to do too!

If you fancy a go at blackwork, there’s lots of lovely designs on Peppermint Purple and usually several stitch-a-longs too.

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Jacquie Needlecase SAL

These three week cycles seem to come round awfully quickly! Three weeks ago I’d just finished another section of this gorgeous stitch-a-long by Faby Reilly…

At the beginning of this SAL Faby explained that there would be two levels of stitching, intermediate and advanced, so I knew at some point there would be some stumpwork to try. I’ve done a little stumpwork over the years but not a lot, so I was looking forward to it. This next section has a beautiful stumpwork dragonfly, it was a bit of a challenge but I love it.

The changes in stitches happened from the beginning with the stems stitched using whipped back-stitch instead of just plain back-stitch. I thought it might make it look a bit bulky but it doesn’t, it seems to smooth it out and raise it off the background.

Once all the background cross-stitch was complete, there was the dragonfly’s eye to stitch, this is padded satin stitch using the cross-stitch underneath to pad it out to a lovely curved shape.

Next to stitch was the body / tail of the dragonfly. This is stitched using woven picot stitch. Basically a framework of three straight threads is made by looping thread round a pin or needle and the threads are then woven from top to bottom. The difficulty is keeping the width even as you progress down. My first attempt was too fat, my dragonfly didn’t look at all aerodynamic! I cut it off and started again. This time I put the tip of my needle in the loop next to the base threads as I was pulling my thread through. This meant I could pull the thread more firmly without distorting previous rows and keep a neater line. I also carefully moved the anchor pin a few milimetres further out once I’d woven about a third of the tail, this helped keep the base threads taut. It worked, I’m happy with my second tail, the end is anchored to the fabric with a couple of little stitches.

The final piece of stumpwork was the wing. This is stitched on organza incorporating wire to hold it’s shape. This again took two attempts, but that’s because I had a bit of a senior moment and didn’t follow the instructions properly!! I had a few days away in the Lakes this week with my daughter so I’d quickly packed a few needlework projects to do in the evening, including my dragonfly. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t packed all the instructions, the vital page with the outline for the wing was missing! In a moment (or several hours!!) of madness I thought Ooh, I’ll just use the outline from the cross-stitch pattern…of course that is printed at 10 to the inch, my stitching is 16 to the inch, so I now have a beautiful, large dragonfly wing, bigger than the whole dragonfly!! Once back home I found the correct size and made another one…the wire is shaped and then stitched to the organza with an overstitch or buttonhole. I found a lovely organza in my stash in lovely shades of blue and green, it works really well. I used buttonhole, the first time I’d used a single thread and it took forever! This time I used two threads and it did cover more easily..but it isn’t as delicate. I also used some of the metallic thread to add a few veins on the wing. Once it was stitched I applied a fine line of fraycheck on the edge before cutting it out right next to the stitching. The wires are then inserted through the linen and attached on the back. I’m pretty pleased with the wing, I think my double thread for the buttonhole has made it a bit bulky, but I didn’t fancy doing a third wing! Next time I’ll follow the instructions more carefully!!

By the time I post about my dragonfly again I’ll hopefully have finished the final section, then we just need to learn how to stitch it all together. If you fancy making this needle-case, just follow the link to Faby Reilly designs, she’s got lots of beautiful cross-stitch designs.

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we all post our progress on our own choice of embroidery every three weeks, please follow the links to see what everyone else has been stitching.


Posted in cross-stitch, embroidery, Serendipity, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments


I’m in a finishing sort of mood at the moment. I happened to look at the fabric folder where I keep quilt blocks waiting to be made up and embroideries waiting to be made into something and it’s bulging at the edges!!

I’ve taken two embroideries to be framed. I haven’t had anything framed recently, partly because I am seriously running out of wall space, but I’m so pleased with these that I felt they deserved to be framed.

The embroidery of my two children walking along the beach was a stitchclub challenge, it’s very simple but it works. It was made by tracing a photo onto tissue paper and then embroidering straight through. It’s being framed with a simple off white mount and a sort of denim blue frame.

The second piece is the Leafy Tree embroidery by Mary Corbett of Needle’n’thread. I love the colours and all the different stitches in this piece.

My stitchwheel was also waiting to be finished. I have an idea to have a display of hoop art above my cutting area. Sometime ago I ordered some pretty painted embroidery hoops from Etsy in several different sizes. Although I hadn’t yet used them I went back to the same Etsy Shop (Emma Astle Embroidery) and asked her to paint one in a dark purple. It goes perfectly with the greens and purples of my stitchwheel.

I didn’t fancy using glue to secure this piece of work in the hoop so I trimmed it and then laced the back. It wasn’t perfectly flat, but it was enough for me to stitch the felt on later.

On the back I wanted to have the names of all the stitches, I decided to write them on a cotton interfaced circle, which I could then iron onto felt. Of course despite writing it out in rough first I still missed one out, so there’s asterisks where that one is meant to be!! I used a silver gel pen and just wrote it as legibly as I could.

My original idea was to stitch the felt circle on with a neat buttonhole stitch but that proved too tricky so I just overstitched it on. I’m pleased with it, it looks neat from the front and I can identify the stitches on the back.

The last embroidery to be ‘finished’ is a little Rowandean kit I stitched a few months ago. I like the Rowandean designs, they’re simple to sew but very effective. I usually make a bee-line for their stand at the big Knitting and Stitching Show as they have a stitching table where for £5 you can stitch one of their designs, it’s a little oasis amid the hustle and bustle of a show.

I decided to use one of the smaller painted hoops, this one is a soft green with purple flowers on. I did glue this one and then glued a circle of card on the back to neaten it all off…

All I need now is to find the picture hooks and a hammer and start hanging them.

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