In the Pink

I seem to be in pink mode at the moment!

I’ve a few projects on the go at the moment and one of them is a quilt for a friend, she’s going through difficult times at the moment so I thought I’d make her a quilt. I asked her what her favourite colours are and (to my surprise) she said red and pink. I decided to concentrate on the pink!

I’m not very keen on buying fabric on line, but needs must, I don’t find it easy to see if the colours work together. I had a look at the wool warehouse site and found you could pull the ones you liked onto a wish page and check how they worked before you bought, it did help. My starting point was the one with butterflies, this gave my the turquoise second colour as well as including several shades of pink. The ‘plains’ with the bubbles on is Lewis & Irene blueberry range, I’ve used it quite a bit recently. In this case I’ve decided they’re bubbles as she likes swimming, especially in the sea! I also realised when they arrived that the teal one with the blue flowers on has also got tiny octopi on it! The coral pink one I admit if I’d been in a shop choosing, I probably wouldn’t have included it, however it’s exactly the shade of some of the butterflies and also flowers on the pale blue one. In real life it doesn’t look quite so orangy, it’ll be fine!

I wanted a fairly quick block, I decided on a disappearing 16 block. The quilters amongst you have probably heard of the disappearing 9 and 4 blocks, this is made along the same lines. The block pattern is for sale on the UKQU site, it’s by Lyn Butler, she’s made it into a gorgeous Christmas mat with lights and darks from a charm pack.

Rather than light and dark, my fabrics worked better as pink or turquoise. I cut a couple of 5″ squares in each fabric and had a play arranging them. Once I was happy I stitched them into a block of 16. I used the chain piecing method which is where you don’t actually cut the threads between the blocks, you just stitch one row of pairs, then add a third square to each row and so on. It does make it easier and there’s no threads to snip!

Once it was all pressed it was time for the scary bit! I cut it either side of the diagonal line, turning the board rather than moving the block. The diagonal strips were then moved round one space and the block was re-stitched. After my first block I retrieved my Best Press spray from downstairs and sprayed each block liberally, all theses second seams are on the bias, so you do have to be careful not to stretch the fabric. The starch made a big difference.

If you decide to make this pattern and you want it a little bigger, one thing to bear in mind is the size of the first set of blocks. I thought about using 6″ squares so a set of 9 blocks would make a good sized throw without a border. I only decided against it as my fabric was 21″ wide, so 6″ blocks were a lot more wasteful than 5″ blocks. However, having made my 16 block up, it only just fitted on my A2 cutting board and my 24″ ruler was only just long enough. The bigger blocks would have caused problems.

Once the blocks were re-sewn, they measure 17.5″, I made nine altogether and decided on the final layout. With only nine blocks it didn’t take long to stitch them together. I concentrated on getting the square intersections matching rather than the diagonals, I decided they wuld be more obvious if they missed. Some of the diagonals are perfect, some not so!

I wanted it slightly bigger, I had just enough fabric to have a one inch border in the turquoise and a two inch border in pink, I had to use both shades of pink, so I made the corners darker.

I’m pleased with it so far, I’m just waiting for some backing fabric to arrive so I can finish it and post it off to my friend.

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As Busy as a Bee

Last week I decided to make a little present for my MIL, she always admired my bumble bee pincushions, but having stitched it three times already, I wasn’t sure I was ready to stitch it again just yet. I also realised it was also a lot smaller than many people realised – the bee is only about 2″ square!

Whilst I was having a bit of a sort out during lockdown, I found a lovely panel of a bumble bee in a furnishing weight fabric, together with a co-ordinating piece for the backing, isn’t it gorgeous! I bought it at a quilt shoe with the idea of making my mum a cushion,before I realised just how many cushions she had in her room at the time! It was perfect for my MIL.

I decided it needed some kind of simple trim such as piping, just to finish it. I found some thick piping cord in my stash and some smudgy dark drey/black quilting cotton. I cut some bias strips, covered the cord and stitched it round the front panel.

If I’m making cushions for myself, I often don’t put an opening in such as buttons or a zip, I just stitch it up and if it needs cleaning I unstitch it again. However as this was a gift I thought I ought to do it properly! I cut the backing piece in half so it would overlap, finnished the edges and then stitched the front and back together. I found some bee tape in my stash which worked really well for ties, I even managed to alternate the colour of bees across the three pairs of ties.

I had an 18″ cushion pad, so my bumble bee cushion was complete, ready for delivery in an afternoon…and she loves it 🙂

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Sheer Pink

It’s a couple of weeks or more since the Sewing Weekender event, this is usually a weekend away for about 100 people in Cambridge with lots of sewing, chatting and speakers. It sounds great fun but obviously sells out in a matter of minutes. This year one silver lining to the current situation is that the organisers made it on-line instead, so numbers were pretty much unlimited. It only cost around £15 and there were lots of speakers on youtube, a goodie bag of lots of discount codes and lots of camaraderie over the weekend, with zoom meetings of everyone sharing their makes. It was all good fun, though I didn’t get as much sewing done as I hoped! Lots of money was raised for charity too.

I decided to pluck up the courage and make a shirt from sheer fabric. It was on my to do list this year, I seem to have ended up with a few sheers in my stash – I keep falling for them on Dewsbury shopping sprees!

I decided to make this gorgeous burnt-out chiffon – at least I think that is what it’s called. It’s sheer, but it does have a little bit of body to it – it’s not as fluid as some I’ve sewn with. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

I chose a Style Arc pattern called the Artists Tunic. I bought it a couple of years ago with a sheer shirt in mind as it is pictured in a sheer fabric. It’s the first time I’ve used a Style Arc pattern. It is the last time I will be using a Style Arc pattern!! It is already in the bin!. When I first looked at the instructions I thought they were a bit minimalistic but the more I sewed, the worse they were! To give you an example for the dressmakers out there, it said stitch sleeve side seam, so I made a nice neat french seam. Next stage, stitch sleeve placket!! Now how are you meant to sew a full sleeve placket with limited access due to the side seam being stitched! I quickly gave that up as a bad job and just bound the edges of the slit instead. OK, having made lots of shirts over the years I should have twigged instead of just blindly following the instructions but I didn’t…

Having had my moan about the instructions, the actual shirt has come out OK!

Luckily when Bluprint had their free classes at the beginning of lockdown I watched one on sewing sheers and made lots of notes. I picked up lots of tips such as the size of needle, small stitch length, not doing a back-stitch at the beginning and using organza as an interfacing. I’ve decided when I next visit a fabric shop I’m going to buy some plain organza to have in my interfacings box, I ended up rummaging in my fancy textiles box, there was a silvery one and a slightly bronzy one which twinkles a bit but they did the trick.

I used french seams throughout except for the armhole which I just zig-zagged. I edge stitched round the collar and cuffs as well as the front button placket, it just helped to keep the edges crisp.

I finished it a week or so ago but I didn’t have any buttons, so the photo below is the buttonless one! I ordered some on line, they’re a ruby red shell button. I rather like the shell buttons as they’re very light weight. This evening I made the buttonholes as stitched the buttons on.

Have you ever noticed that even if you practise the buttonholes beforehand, the automatic buttonholer makes a beautiful buttonhole until the moment you relax, usually about three or four buttons in, before it throws a wobbly and jams half way through. This means that even if you start with something like the bottom one just to make sure it’s working OK, it always blobs on the most obvious one, like the bust buttonhole!! At least it’s covered up by the button!

I’m really pleased with my shirt, I just need to make a camisole for underneath and something to wear it with – I’ve a pattern for a Morticia (Adams) skirt which might just work.

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Antique Quilt HQAL

I haven’t got very far with my antique quilt, but I have made a start. This is an unfinished quilt which my daughter found when clearing her grandmother’s house. It’s a tumbling blocks pattern and from what we can deduce from the backing papers, it’s from around 1880!

Having taken advice from a nearby museum which specialises in textiles, I am aiming to finish it but also make a record, such as a book, of what I have done and anything I’ve discovered. The main body of the quilt is about 85″ by 58″, there’s also several part-pieced strips, waiting to be added, so I can fairly easily make it a little wider.

I decided to remove the remaining papers before I stitched the pieces together. I realise this isn’t the usual way of doing English paper piecing, but having been stitched down for nearly 150 years, I think the crease will stay there. More importantly, many of the papers won’t survive the handling involved when I try to stitch it, some are just newspaper which is already starting to disintegrate. These papers are the only chance we have of working out who may have made it.

As you can imagine, I kept getting distracted trying to read the snippets from the papers…

Henry Charles Butler, of Downland House, Bramshott, in the county of Southampton, Esquire, hereby give notice that I will NOT be RESPONSIBLE for DEBT or DEBTS my wife, ELIZABETH ANNE BUTLER…CONTRACT without my written authority and permission. I further Give Notice that she has no authority in any way to use my credit”

Ooh dear!

Or how about this …

FOR LADIES ONLY; Things a married woman cannot help thinking;

That she was a very pretty girl at sixteen. That she had, or would have had, a great many good offers. That all her lady friends are five years older than they say they are. That she has a very fine mind. That if her husband had acted on her advice he would be a richer man today. That her mother-in-law is a very trying woman.

As I said, I got waylaid! However, I have found a couple of useful snippets, two dates, one of 1876 and one of 1880, and a piece of a document which mentioned Sheffield. This is important as it suggests which branch of the family made it. Several years ago I looked into their family tree for my daughter and I recall a branch lived in Sheffield at about that time.

It’s been interesting looking more closely at the quilt. The stitches are so tiny, I counted one section to be about 20 stitches to the inch! Many of the diamonds themselves are also pieced and some of the seam allowances are very narrow! Some of the pieces are stained, but as the adjoining ones aren’t, I can only presume either the fabric was already stained, or it was stained as a prepared diamond but used anyway. There’s a huge variety of fabric, some of it feels almost waterproof, as if it has some kind of coating on it. I even found a pin still in the fabric, I’m not sure what it’s made of as it looks black and not particularly rusty.

I’ve counted the spare blocks and I have enough for another two rows which would make it more of a square. I just need to find some vintage creamy white fabric which will blend in for one row of adjoining diamonds.

I love the complete mix of fabrics, especially the occasional pop of red, it’s a true scrappy quilt! Hopefully next time I share this quilt with you I’ll be stitching the blocks together.

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

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Autumn Leaves

Yesterday I decided it was time to stitch another entry for a travelling sketchbook from my Embroiderers Guild. This is the last one in the current round. The book this time was on the theme of leaves. I had a perusal on Pinterest for a bit of inspiration, but nothing really caught my eye. I did see one which was like a little crazy patchwork sort of thing with a leaf in one quarter, so that was my starting point…

I started having a rummage in my textile box and found some Harris tweed squares in autumnal colours. I happened to spot a scrap from a chiffon shirt I’ve just made which had a dark red leaf in just the right size. A further rummage in my box and I found a scrap of chiffon/silky stuff in gorgeous autumn colours and some stuff which was part of an experimental dying session at an Embroiderers Guild workshop. I can’t remember what it started out as, but it was the right colour, gave a bit of texture and reminded me of skeleton leaves or rough bark. I cut a narrow strip for the centre and later some leaf shapes from a different colour batch. It was starting to take shape…

I used variegated DMC threads mainly. I used a simple running stitch to hold the main pieces in place with calico on the back for support. The centre strip is stitched on with a simple leaf design using fly stitch. In the bottom space I did a simple back-stitch outline of a leaf and then used what I think is called chevron stitch to fill it in, the back-stitch somehow gives a neater edge.

I wasn’t sure at first how to fill the long space to the left, I decided to do a chain stitch stem with spaces for thee leaves, initially planning to embroider the leaves. I then spotted the other piece of stuff I’d dyed which was a perfect colour for autumn leaves, they could be stitched on again with fly stitch.

My final bit of stitching was to add a silver running stitch round the red leaf to look like a frosted edge, it just helped to lift it.

I’m pretty happy with how this one came out, I think the different textures and colours give a good representation of autumn leaves.

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts on Sunday for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link for more stitching inspiration.

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Pink Dragonflies

At the weekend I finally got round to having a photo taken in a dress I made a couple of weeks ago. It’s sort of a practise run for sewing with sheers as one of my challenges this year (2020 Vision) is to sew a sheer shirt. On one of my trips to Dewsbury to fabric shop I fell for a raspberry pink cotton lawn. It’s very fine, I think it’s called acid-etched cotton as the design is the sheer bit. I’ve fallen for this type of fabric three times now, all from Lucky Fashions in Dewsbury, probaby for around £5 a metre. I made a dress from a length in teal in 2018, I’ve worn it quite a few times…

This time I made the pink up, as you can see it’s very pink, what I would call raspberry pink and the pattern etched out is a multitude of dragonflies. These fabrics are not as sheer to wear as you would think, you can see the top area with my arm behind really isn’t that see through, though with a bit of light behind it’s a different matter! Having said that, I do need to make an underskirt of some kind to wear for a bit of modesty!

I decided to make a shirt waiter dress, a nice cool looking one for summer. I rifled through my patterns and decided on Vogue 9371, it’s part of the Vogue Easy Options and as shirt-waister dresses go, it is pretty simple.

It’s very loose fitting, there’s no darts to shape the back or front, and only side seams to stitch for the main body. I didn’t want to use a white interfacing, however thin, so instead I used some pink batik fabric I had in my stash which was the perfect colour, I just hand stitched it round the collar pieces and stitched as one, it worked really well.

I lengthened the skirt a bit, I do like my summer dresses pretty long. The cap sleeves were edged with bias binding and as it happened I had a perfect match of bias in my stash, I think it was some that someone passed on to me when clearing a house, it was meant to be!

I didn’t have any buttons to match but I did find just enough self cover buttons, not all exactly the same, but near enough. I made them with the batik behind again both to give a little strength and to stop the white plastic from showing through.

Please ignore the lockdown hair!!

It’s a pretty dress, I’m just not 100% sure about the pattern, I don’t feel it’s the most flattering, with all the gathering being created by the sash it’s not easy to get it to look neat. Maybe a proper belt would be better, or maybe I just need to wear it a bit, get used to it!

Posted in Dressmaking, Serendipity, Sewing | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

I spent all day Saturday working on the front garden, I’d been feeling a bit down for a couple of days, just fed up of the whole situation at the moment, coupled with being tired from my return to work. Anyway after a day in the garden I felt so much better – and the front garden looked better too! I weeded my worries away!

This area in front of the house is actually quite big, at a rough estimate I’d say 10′ – 15′ deep and 30′ long – it’s L-shaped. I’ve got a few nice shrubs but it is overrun with marestail in particular. I’ve been trying to clear it and dig it over for the last few months, digging out as much marestail root as I can. I’m aiming to clear as much as I can and then put a double layer of membrane down and some mulch, anything that comes through (and it will, marestail grows through tarmac!!) will be weed-killered. I’ll plant a few more shrubs and roses, trying to make it lower maintenance. I’ve a friend who’s a gardener, she came round last week and she’s agreed to do a morning in my garden this week, I’m hoping this will be a monthly occurrence! Just a little help to help me get on top of the garden.

I’m also hoping we’ll be able to thrash out a plan as I feel I need a path down the middle of the bed, mainly for access, but it does also reduce the planting area! I’ve a handful of ‘precious’ shrubs such as the purple and the gold cotinus and the magnolia tree to work round. I love the gold cotinus in particular, it’s grown to a lovely shape and it’s one you don’t often see. Other shrubs such as the spirea are easily replaceable, so if it’s in the way of the path it’s not the end of the world.

Anyway on Saturday I dug up all the shallow rooted weeds such as buttercup, pulled up annual weeds and just pulled up marestail stems. It will grow straight back but I couldn’t see the weeds for the marestail!!! This area to the left is much heavier clay too, though it’s much easier to work after the rain we’ve had.

My friend and I had a good catch up in the back garden, she had a wander round and I had to laugh at her reaction to my hosta bed – ‘What on earth have you been feeding those with!!’ One of them in particular is like verging on thigh height! I admitted I hadn’t fed them anything, they just seem happy there!

My foxtail lillies are starting to flower, they look great next to the self-seeded foxgloves, lots of spires! This is in the Amber & Amethyst garden.

There’s also lots of foxgloves around the obelisk too, you can also just see the astrantia, I think it’s called Hadspens Blood, it’s a lovely deep ruby red colour. The starry eyingium is starting to ‘flower’ too, I only put this in last year and I can’t remember how big it will be, but the ‘stars’ look pretty impresive so far! I’m pleased with the rose too, it’s a ramber and this year I spent an afternon tying the stems down, twisting them round the obelisk as the horizontal stems flower much better. It’s certainly the best year so far with blooms all the way down.

Our weather at the moment is very mixed, cold and wet one day, warm and sunny the next, so the poor plants keep putting blooms out only for them to be bashed by wind and rain. This is a gorgeous peony which is doing it’s best!

My roses are just starting to flower – they’re quite late as I was very late pruning them. This one is down by the arch on the patio, it’s mingling nicely with the geraniums and the astrantias, I think this one is Gentle Hermione…

In the same bed is this huge geranium, I think it’s Anne Folkard, it has lovely magenta flowers, it’s just getting rather big and it seems to have spread to the bed above! I’m undecided what to do with this one as it is getting rather large, but I also know it’s the worst soil of the garden, so I’m just pleased it’s happy. I keeping planning to dig over this bed, add loads of compost and start again…maybe I’ll just spread the compost and let the worms take it down!

Overall, if you don’t look too close at the weeds, the garden is looking pretty good, there’ll be a bit more colour once the roses start to flower properly. If I can just get on top of the perennial weeds it is actually quite low maintenance, as from late spring to early autumn, the beds are so densely planted I struggle to get on them. I just need to beat those weeds!!

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Bethlehem SAL

Last year I went on a workshop at Fabbadashery in Halifax, they hold some pretty good embroidery classes there. This one was by Deborah Mullins, I had been on one of her earlier courses and made a bookmark from a strip of Palestinian style embroidery…

Deborah spent three months in Israel and Palestine when her husband was on a sabbatical there. She chose to learn all she could about the different styles of embroidery there. Each area had a distinct style originally and Bethlehem embroidery was considered the best. The next workshop I attended of Deborah’s was called Bethlehem Embroidery, she was keen to point out it is inspired by and not a true representation of Bethlehem embroidery, especially as it’s on handmade felt, rather than dress fabric.

It was a one day workshop and Deborah taught us the various aspects of the embroidery, there wasn’t time to finish it, so by the time I left it was looking like this…

I’d learnt the chevron stitch, couched the central spiral of copper wire and couched a decorative thread next to it. I’d just started couching spirals of wire round the next border…and there I stopped until last night!!

The copper spirals are quite fiddly to do as you have to estimate how much wire you need, fold the end loop and then form the spiral in your fingers before stitching it down. The tricky bit is the estimating! Some of mine are bigger than others, some more widely spaced…it’s organic!!!

I’m just stitching the last spiral, so it looks like this now…

I now have to decide how to proceed. Bethlehem embroidery is traditionally done with lots of continuous couching patterns – the bookmark above is made with one thread going up each side of the central wiggle, forming the flowers, hearts and loops. I might do a bit of couching to accentuate the spirals but then use other stitches around it. I haven’t decided which thread to use either, as the thread used so far is like a thick perle, I have very little like that so I have to decide whether to order some, or use a finer thread, or change to DMC stranded cotton. ..decisions! If you follow the link to Deborah’s website you will find several examples – here work is stunning!

This SAL is orgainised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we share our progress on a project every three weeks, please follow the links to see what every one else has been creating.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

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Cornflower Cross-Stitch

Last night I finished another page for my Anthea Calendar SAL book, this is the SAL by Faby Reilly, we get a new design each month of a seasonal flower. It can be stitched as one big picture with all twelve months on or as a dozen separate pictures…or it can be made into a book! I’m also stitching a wordplay page at the end of the month on what the month means to me and what I’ve been doing that month (I didn’t anticipate a lockdown when I thought of this plan!!)

Anyway, I’ve just finished June. It’s beautiful! It’s cornflowers, with their lovely intense blue. I did have a short delay as I didn’t have enough of one of the colours – typically any other shade I could have managed with a couple of lengths, but not the one I was short of – it is the main shade of blue, so I had to stitch as much as I could and then wait for the post.

There’s a lot of back-stitching this month to make the cornflower’s raggedy petals, in fact I think it’s probably the trickiest design so far – I really had to concentrate!

I love the way Faby incorporates different stitches into the designs, this month it’s spiders web stitch. I usually try to include different aspects of the design in the wordplay, so this month I’m thinking of one of the buds, some gold lines and stars, together with a couple of spiders webs as fillers, I’ll probably start it in a few days time..

We’re half way through this stitch-a-long, so here’s the first six months…

Don’t they look gorgeous 🙂

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts on Sunday for Slow Stitching Sunday, so please follow the link for lots of stitching inspiration.

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long, Textile Books | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Under the Sea

I decided to tackle another embroidery for the Travelling Sketchbook project from my Embroiderers Guild. These are A5 sketchbooks which are passed round and you stitch something on the chosen theme. The theme this time was ‘Under the Sea’, which I found much easier to be inspired by than the last one ( Rex quondam, Rexque futurus)

Initially I was thinking of a general deep sea scene, with fronds waving up and little fishes swimming along. I had a perusal on Pinterest for ideas and saw an embroidery of a jellyfish…

Jelly fish for me bring back memories of childhood holidays at my grandparents at Prestatyn in North Wales, I remember jelly fish the size of dinnerplates stranded on the beach, terrifying me in case I accidentally stood on one, even worse they would shimmy past when I was swimming in the (very cold!!) sea. However, if you look at photos of jellyfish on the computer, they are a thing of beauty with their central manubrium (that long stalk like frothy bit – it took me a while to discover that on google!!) and their tentacles floating round.

My starting point was a square of ‘stripy’ batik fabric in sea colours and a square of silvery organza. I cut a circle of the organza and made a running stitch round the edge to gather it in a little. I stitched the bottom half of it to the background fabric and added a couple of lengths of organza, twisted around gently and inserted into the circle to make the manubrium.

Jelly fish in the making

I was looking through my thread stash when I found one of those mixed packed of threads I get tempted by at shows. It was silvery blue/grey, perfect. My initial idea was to individually stitch threads into the main body, however and realised it would be just as effective (and a lot quicker) to cut a length off through the whole wadge of threads, fold it in half, and stitch the whole lot into the body at once! I wrapped the folded bit with a length of the organza to add a bit more body to the jellyfish.

It worked brilliantly! Well I’m pleased with it anyway! I stitched the top half of the body down gently with some silver thread. I tried adding a few twinkly beads to the tentacles but they were just lost, I stitched a couple of rows of feather stitch in silver lame thread, just as a way of anchoring the tentacles a bit, I didn’t do much as I felt it was flattening the 3D effect.

Tentacles in place

In the end I decided it was finished, I trimmed the edge, allowing some of the tentacles to drift off the fabric, trying not to catch them in when I was blanket-stitching round the edge. With hindsight I should have interfaced the batik before I started, particularly as it’s a lighter weight one, instead I used 505 spray adhesive to lightly attach a square of calico before stitching the two layers together round the edge.

A jelly fish!

I think it just shows how a fairly simple idea can actually be quite effective. The next (and last in this series) travelling sketchbook is on leaves, another theme that I’m looking forward to creating.

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link for lots of hand-stitched inspiration.

Posted in embroidery, Serendipity, The Travelling Sketchbook | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments