Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blanket Stitch Chat

We had a couple of super relaxing days over Christmas. It was such a glorious day so we finished the day watching the sunset at the beach while sharing a nice bottle of wine with a couple of old friends - Just perfect.

After spending each morning in the vineyard or in the garden, I have been working on getting the instructions for 'Golden Leaves' ready. I discovered that I had used quite a few variations of Blanket Stitch and it made me think about just what a versatile stitch Blanket Stitch really is. It is fabulous and I use it all the time - you may have noticed if you have been following along here for a bit.
'Golden Leaves'
1. Top left, close together to cover sections of leaves.  2. Bottom left, spaced and interlocked for a 'net' effect.
3. Right, open for grass, slightly spaced and opposite directions for the trunk, close together for the lower leaf section.
The basic Blanket Stitch is really quite simple, I have put the steps HERE if you need to see how to do it. What I find can be a little confusing is that when the stitches are worked close together, many stitch directories and patterns will refer it as `Buttonhole stitch`. I tend to ever only call it Blanket Stitch - my logic being that just because the spacing of the stitches is closer, doesn't make it a different stitch.

For my crewel work I often use Blanket Stitch to fill narrow shapes - I love the effect of the neat `purl` edge that the stitches create. When you use Blanket Stitch like that or if you have very long rows, you are bound to have to join a new thread sooner or later. If you simply anchor the last stitch and then start a new thread, you get this little lump and you can pick where the join is. There is a little trick to joining a new thread when working this stitch - you may already know it.

Blanket stitch - Joining new thread

1. When you are ready to start a new thread, take the old thread to the back as you would for the next stitch. Leaving a thread loop, bring the `old` thread to the front away from the line of stitching and un-thread the needle.
2. Secure the new thread and bring it to the front inside the thread loop.
3. Pull the `old` thread tail until the loop anchors around the new thread.
4. Continue stitching - and there you are, an invisible join.
The tail of the old thread can be secured later.

Happy Stitching,
Anna X

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Warm Wishes...

... from a beautiful, sunny Adelaide. I wish all of you a very, Merry Christmas with family and loved ones.

2013 has been an amazing year and I want to thank you for taking the time to follow what I get up to. Your comments have made me smile, think and wonder, and I have treasured every single one. The interest and support you have shown is both humbling, inspiring and ever so motivating and for that I am so very grateful. I do not have a crystal ball, but whatever 2014 brings I am ready and I look forward to sharing it here.

Anna xoxox

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dream, then Do...

I got this fabulous sweet gift from my dear friend and colleague, Ellaine.
Although it is that time of year, it is not a Christmas gift - and no, it was not my birthday either.

Yesterday was my last day at work. Yes, as from today, I am officially no longer employed!
It is both so exciting a really, really scary at the same time. Some of you may know that I have been working at Country Bumpkin for a rather long time, lastly as editor of Inspirations magazine. I had never in a million years ever imagined that I would be working in publishing, let alone editing a magazine. It has been an amazing journey - fun, hard work and an enormous learning curve. I will miss it and all the truly talented and fabulous people I have worked with and got to know over the years.
Anyway, it is time for me to move on - and, although it is sad to say goodbye, it feels so right to step away. 

So what has that got to do with a notebook, you may ask? Well, the next chapter I am about embark on has a lot to do with this blog and with my own design work and embroidery. I have many plans for next year and sometimes it is hard to know just where to begin. I was thinking that to make it all happen, I would need a very, very good New Years resolution - except, I don't know about you but they don't really work that well for me. I have usually forgotten about them within a few weeks. 
Then a few weeks ago I read about choosing just One Little Word for the year. Just one word - the idea really appealed to me and for once I decided to actually participate in the workshop. So that is the reason behind this beautiful gift, that I will truly treasure (I feel like writing in it already, but that would be cheating). 

Over Christmas, I will be sharpening my needles, dusting off the keyboard and trying to get some order in my piles of 'stuff', ready to dive into 2014. I don't anticipate that what I am planning is going to be easy, but I am looking forward to every minute of it and when it gets too hard I will look down at my new little pen and be reminded "Don't say No, say How".

Have a fabulous weekend, 
Anna x

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Starry Night Winner

It is a beautiful Wednesday morning in Adelaide and time to draw the winner of the Starry Night ornaments...

Thanks you so much for all your comments - I have had a great time reading them. There are some fun and fabulous Christmas ornament stories amongst them and I am so glad I am not alone in my lack of Christmas tree and decorations. Mind you, reading all these has brought the spirit of Christmas to my house - perhaps the box of decorations (not the tree) will come out after all.

GIVE AWAY - The winner is... 

'Arts Crafts and Scraps' - Congratulations! Hopefully these will get to you in time to help dress your half naked tree.
Please email me with your postal details and I will get them in the mail for you right away.

The pattern will be here until Christmas. They really are very quick to make, so if you didn't win I hope you will have the time to enjoy making your own.

Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.
Anna X

(I numbered your comments and used to draw the winner)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Free Pattern and a Give Away

There is something about this time of year that makes my fingers itch to make little pretty things. Do you know that feeling?   


We are having a pretty low key Christmas this year but I just couldn't help but make these little ornaments. 

The pattern is in my Etsy shop and on Craftsy , but you my dear blog friend, you just click HERE for your FREE DOWNLOAD.


Now the only problem I have with these two, is we don't have a tree to hang them on. The story behind that goes like this...

We bought a tiny but beautiful little spruce for our first Christmas in Australia. It sat in its little pot and I had great aspirations on its behalf of it one day, growing up to become a big beautiful Christmas tree. We cared for it and watered it, kept it in the shade and managed to keep it alive despite the not very Christmas tree friendly climate that we live in. One day, our sweet little boy then aged two came upon a pair of secateurs and decided to help with a bit of gardening. The first thing to go? Yes, you guessed it - the top of the Christmas tree! Following that we got a tree that would pack away neatly in a box. I don't know about you, but there is something about trees that pack away into boxes that is not quite right. It did the job but I never liked it. So last year I swore it would be the last time it ever went up, thus we don't (yet) have a tree this year. 



Since the ornaments have no tree to hang from at my place – what about at yours? 

* I am giving them away to a good home, so if you think they will be happy on your tree, or somebody you know needs a bit of cheering up, leave a comment below. 

* Since we are so close to Christmas and I would like for the ornaments to arrive at their new home before the 25th so we have to make it snappy. I will draw the winner on the morning of Wednesday 18th December (Aust CST)    

* I will announce the winner on Wednesday, so keep an eye out. If you win, you will need to contact me asap with your shipping information so that they can be posted as soon as possible.

Good luck and have a lovely week.
Anna x


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Over the hills

I have been stitching hills for the past few days.

I begun this piece some time ago, but there hasn't been much to show you until now - rather it would have looked really strange and not made much sense. I have for a long time wanted to embroider raised figures. I have done a few but nothing as big as this one. This will eventually have a large raised figure (no those funny looking violet sticks are not strangely coloured tree trunks, they will at some point become legs) as the main motif, but as with all things raised, I usually complete the background stitching first. It has been rather enjoyable filling each hilly bumps with its own pattern and getting them all to gel.

I haven't used any difficult stitches - the three hills above are filled with blanket stitch - with a scattering for French knots (or were they colonial?), chain stitch and the front one with close rows of cable stitch . 

I am particularly happy with the large hill above. Again the it is not a tricky stitch, just rows of spaced blanket stitch, three in each block and each row stitched into the previous. Like this:

I am hoping to finish the last two hills this week so that I can begin working on the figure over the weekend. Let's see how it goes.

Have a lovely Thursday,
Anna x

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Taking it easy...

... well, kind of. I am really, really terrible at doing nothing.

I have this week off work (bliss) and have absolutely nothing planned (even more bliss). It is kind of one of those 'time off' times where you just take time to catch up on all the stuff that you don't normally quite get to. I am sure you know the feeling of lots of little bits of unfinished business lurking on shelves, in cupboards, in piles - I have great 'piling' systems, and little jobs that you want to get sorted but never do. It is a nice feeling - catching up.

Starting the week winding down the best way I know how, with fingers in the dirt, the veggie patch is looking lovely. Looks is not everything when it comes to veggie gardens and I wish it would all hurry up and grow so we can pick other stuff than lettuce and spinach, but it will happen. Beans, tomatoes and cucumbers are going mad - poor corn, got eaten by some hungry creature, but luckily it is not too late to start again.
The vines are growing like mad this time of year - so hours are spent first with tractor (not me, I don't do tractors) then with hedging shears to keep them in check.

With the outdoors tended to, I cleared the first pile yesterday. It was a fun pile to clear too, turning the Crewel Creatures into little zipped pouches. I had fun with these. Franky Fox (I think this is my favourite), Silby Sheep, Goof Green, Wally Wombat and Spunk Sparrow are in the shop waiting for new homes.

As much as I enjoy teaching, and making patterns and kits - it is nice to just stitch. No note taking, no diagrams to draw, no thinking about why or how - just stitch, let the needle and thread do what it wants to do.

But some of you asked about the chequered grid pattern I stitched on the creatures. These are laid trellis or trellis couching, very typical of Jacobean Crewel work. Basically you place long straight stitches in a grid over a shape.


I have put a FREE stitches download for Trellis Couching HERE that will give you more detailed instructions. Have a go  - the main things to remember are: you need to use a hoop, your fabric must be kept drum tight while you lay and couch the grid (this will make sense when you see the how to) and take care not to stitch too tightly.

Super easy, quick (well as all things embroidery; relatively quick) and once you have the basic grid you can make so many different patterns. The large left hand leaf and Franky Fox's back are stitched in exactly the same way - Isn't it amazing how much a change of colour and a few stitches can make?

Have fun,
Anna X

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Golden Leaves progress

Do you sometimes sit down to stitch - ever so determined to finish what you are working on?

Finding my studio filled with beautiful sunlight yesterday morning made me pretty determined to finish my little 'experiment' playing with bright golden yellows - just a few small details to go, starting with herringbone stitch for the main stem...

... wrong! First of all, it just didn't look right along the main part but on top of that it simply did not work at the little curly bit at the base. Nothing like starting the day with a bit of reverse stitching is there?

Starting again - this time two shades of green and interlocking blanket stitch. This is such an effective way of filling stems and narrow shapes. You simply work one row of blanket stitch, spacing the stitches one thread's width apart, then stitch a second row in the opposite direction, placing a stitch into each space in the previous row

I am much happier with this solution and even though the stem is now filled in completely (which was not really the plan) I don't think it looks too heavy.
I didn't quite finish and I am starting to think about what to make it into. Any ideas are most welcome.

Happy Stitching,
Anna x

Monday, November 25, 2013

A good weekend

I may not have sewn a single stitch this weekend, but amongst the usual 'must-do-weekend-stuff' it has been pretty inspiring...

Good company (thanks Eleanor) + Bowerbird Bazaar = Best way to spend a Saturday morning.
It was the first time I had been to this fabulous design market and it most certainly won't be the last! Intimate, but not small - lots of great stands but not too big. And the best part... Everything was so beautiful and well presented - just a joy to look at. I didn't mean to buy anything, but it was impossible to completely resist when faced with utterly clever stuff like ...

... groovy belts made from up-cycled bicycle tyres from BUCKit Belts and the most delightful Dinosaur terrarium kits from The Maker.

Though I haven't touch a needle all weekend (no quite true, I did teach on Sunday), I have had fun just playing with a few scraps. You know the kind of 'sit back and let the needle do its thing and see what happens' kind of stitching.

1. I had a pile of small - no, tiny linen scraps + a hank of denim blue crewel yarn
2. I had some line drawings of really odd looking creatures...
3. Each creature fitted onto a tiny linen scrap...
4.... so I stitched a couple...
5. ...then I drew scribbled some more creatures...
6. ... and stitched them too.

Once I start, each take on a life on its own and just grow. No plan, the stitches decide for them selves what goes where - easy stitching and I am loving it.
I probably should do something with these little crewel creatures, but for now I am quite happy just to let the menagerie multiply...

Hope you too had a good weekend,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beating Around the Bush

The programme for Beating Around the Bush 2014 came out a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to show you what I will be teaching. Some of these you have seen coming along here on the blog, but this the reveal of the completed designs.

The Dainty Pink Daisy is my 1 day introduction to Or Nue. I ran this class a few weeks ago just to see how it goes in a class situation. Or Nue is sooooo slow - well in a nice way, but I was impressed with how far the girls got in just 5 hours.

Crimson Clover is a 2 day crewel embroidery class. It is a smaller adaptation of Meadow Bloom - which had turned out to be way too involved for a two day class. This one is kind of an introduction to crewel embroidery although I do get a bit carried away playing with stitches - but that is half the fun, isn't it?

My other 2 day class is this mirror frame, Illuminated Flora. It is a combination of silk embroidery and simple metal thread techniques with a bit of Or Nue thrown in for good measure. If you think it looks familiar, you are right. I originally stitched it for the cover of A-Z of Goldwork. It is a bit of an honour that the piece is also used for the cover of the Beating Around the Bush programme.
I am wondering though, if I should make up a smaller version of the design. Most of the elements are simply repeated several times around the frame so it would be relatively easy to make a smaller version, which has each element just once. What do you think?

For those who haven't heard of Beating Around the Bush before, it is an International needlework convention hosted by Country Bumpkin in Adelaide, South Australia every other year. I have taut at a couple of these conventions and they are just SO AMAZING to be part of. In essence it is a week of stitching, meeting new people, catching up with old friends and simply having a good time doing something you love - you can't really wish for more than that, can you?
As much as I love to teach, there are quite a few classes I wish I could do...       You can download your free class programme HERE to see the full line-up of amazing tutors from around the world. Bookings don't open until March so if you are able to come and join us in Adelaide, there is time to start saving or even add a class or two to your Christmas wish list.

Talking of Christmas - I have a pattern to finish this afternoon, so I'd better get to it.

Have a lovely weekend,
Anna x

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I am still here...

I certainly had no intention to be away from the blog for so long, but I have absolutely no idea where the last couple of weeks went!
I do know that last Sunday I taught these;

It was a fabulous day. Everyone got so much done and I am sure most will finish their Sweet Honeysuckle when we meet again in a couple of weeks. I know how easy it is to pop a class project in your cupboard to 'be finished later' only to forget about it and move onto other things. So I try to create class projects that can pretty much be completed during the workshop - it seems to have worked for this one. Hurray.

I had made extra kits for both the mini version and the larger Sweet Honeysuckle, so if anyone would like one let me know. There are so many little bits in kits so they were rather fiddly to put together and I am not sure I will be doing more in a hurry. So before I put them in the shop as a general listing, I thought I would let you know so that I can list them for you as 'reserved' via Etsy. Just send me an email. How does that sound?

Both kits have everything you will need for the embroidery; fabrics, threads, needles, wire, beads etc. and full instructions with diagrams. The small one is AU$40 and the large AU$55.

I do promise to move onto something else - and I do have a couple of things and ideas I want to share with you, hopefully doing the week. 

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend, 
Anna x

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Honeysuckle Finished

 Yeah - Miss Bee takes flight...

Thank you ever so much everyone for your kind thoughts and comments after last weeks wing disaster. The wings are now ready for flight and as any sensible bee would do, Miss Bee is of course heading straight for the nearest honeysuckle...

The wired leaves were a breeze to attach - and so, it is done....

Thank you for following along.

Happy Stitching,
Anna X

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I am inspired...

... by Frederique Morrel.

I have a million things to do this morning, but when I found these I just had to show you - oh how I love Pinterest!

The mission of this amazing French artist is to 'rescue the dying art of embroidery by giving it a contemporary twist'. Well it is fabulously twisted alright... She uses vintage tapestries (well they are needlepoint, but let's not get hung up on terminology here) to create these grand and exciting pieces. I have never been overly excited about 'tapestried' but this... this I find exciting.

I love this part of the philosophy behind Frederique's work - 
"We create artefacts to re-enchant our world. We knit links where generational transmission was lost. We occasionally speak to animals in their own language. We like materials that tell stories of simple, ideal happiness, and that have been caressed by many hands."

Do you get excited when you see embroidery used in new and inventive ways? As you can probably tell, I do most definitely. I get excited about it being removed from the 'retired spinster' category (we of course know better, I am referring the common public opinion) and put into exciting new context. As Frederique says; "I like the idea of giving the past a second look".

I won't be stitching an enchanted forest today - but it would be nice...

Hope you have a lovely weekend,
Anna x

Monday, October 21, 2013

Honeysuckle finished...

... or so I thought.

It was my intention to post on Saturday and show you the finished 'Sweet Honeysuckle' but things changed.
The vineyard called for spring attention, family visiting and a fabulous trip to the theatre to see this. It was my first ever opera and it was rather spectacular. So what made us go to the opera? Well, embroidery of course!
Last week when I was teaching, one of the girls in class was also the wardrobe mistress at the theatre. She brought in a sample of goldwork for one of the costumes - it was amazing!!!!!

La Forza del Destino, Adelaide Festival Theatre.
And this is it - 18kg of dress! Isn't it just spectacular? All those flowers... Those who have tried their hand at metal thread work and working with cut purls in particular, will possibly not be surprised when I tell you that according to Bronwyn it took a group of specialist embroiderers in India several months to complete - the workmanship is just exquisite! Did I get a look through the wardrobe? Sadly no.

Anyway, I am side tracking, but I simply had to show you. That was the highlight - the low-light (is there such a word?) and the main reason I didn't post was my rather 'bee-sastrous' Friday.

This is what my work table looked like on Saturday morning....

... doesn't look very much like delicate embroidery does it. It was time to finish the wired leaves and those tiny delicate wings for Miss-Bee.  

The leaves were a pleasure. At first glance they look similar, but look closely. Can you see the difference on the edge? The one to the left was done how I have always done it - outline with wire first and then fill in. The one on the right is done in the opposite order, something I picked up from Jenny Adin-Christie (one of the most talented embroiderers and the nicest person you could ever meet). The difference might be minimal, but it is there and I think it will be how I will be doing things in the future.

Next on to Miss-Bees' wings. 

Yes they are tiny, but really as long as you don't try and rush it they are ok (which is really hard when you are so, so close to finishing a project)... and yes, you have counted correctly, I did stitch six. It is so easy to accidentally cut a thread when you cut them out, so I will often stitch an extra fore- and hind wing, just in case... 
The middle picture also shows just one of the many reasons why magic tape is a permanent fixture on my work table. It is way too easy to get your thread snagged on all those wire tails and sticking them down like this fixes that little problem.

So, leaves done and cut out... lovely. Wings done and cut out (and I didn't mess any of them up)... fabulous. I attached everything, secured the wires (very thoroughly!) on the back and turned it over to admire the final project. - Ready to take photos and go - 'look it is done......'

- it looked odd...

- something wasn't right, but what...?

Oh noooooo... the wings....... 

In my eagerness to finish I had accidentally swapped the fore- and hind wings. Did I kick and scream and jump up and down? No, I very quietly and patiently unpicked the wires and as carefully as possible pulled the wings off without doing any damage to Miss-Bee. 

When I was certain she was ok, I got up, left the work table in a terrible mess (it hasn't changed since) and went to sow some veggies - then ending the day on a high note, taking in a spectacular sunset while enjoying a home-made drop of 'grape juice', just relieved that Miss-Bee and the Sweet Honeysuckle had survived the ordeal and confident that Miss-Bee will fly...

Have a fabulous week,
Anna X