Thursday, April 25, 2013


Inspiration is a funny thing... 


I have a quite a few class projects to prepare over the next few months. One is for a two day 'introduction to stumpwork'. Fabulous, nothing like a bit of fine stitching but I was a bit stuck for ideas… panic? Not really, I know that if I just let it 'smoulder' in the back of my mind, sooner or later a picture will start to emerge - I have no idea where it comes from.

The other day I flicked through a couple of books including one of my favourites when looking for ideas for this sort of thin: Thomasina Beck's The Embroiderer's garden, a fabulous source with great illustrations. 
A few days later my  Pinterest page filled with Honeysuckle in all shapes and sizes. I love Pinterest – it is so perfect for collecting and creating mood boards...

To be continued....
Anna X

Friday, April 19, 2013

Creative day

The weather was gorgeous  today - again - beautiful, crisp autumn sunshine.

Still no rain, which we desperately need. One thing is that the ground is so dry it is scary, but we don't have mains water and our tanks are getting so low, we will all have to start showering at work if it doesn't rain soon.

I don't know if it is because it is Friday or because the weather is so stunning, but the thought of spending the day in front of the computer was simply unbearable... I did try. After a few attempts - ok, rather half hearted attempts, I decided to allow myself a creative day of stitching.
I have had a lovely piece of light blue cashmere velour blanketing, a pile of soft yarn and a rather 'Folksy bunch of flowers' bunched up in my 'when I get time' pile for a while. What better day to take time?

I LOVE embroidering with wool on wool. I am really not sure why more people are not getting into it. It is fabulous to work with - so forgiving compared to cotton and silk. Anyway, if any of you have tried embroidering onto wool you will know that really the most painful part of the process is getting the design onto the fabric because there is no way you can trace onto blanketing or other woollen fabrics.

I use the 'old fashion' method of tacking through tissue paper. It is very easy, but it is time consuming. I still prefer it to other methods, it is rather enjoy meandering my way over the design and getting to know it better on the way. I really don't transfer a great deal of the design detail either, just the main outlines - the rest is done 'on the eye' as I go.
I took a few pics as I went and put a little tutorial for Transferring with Tacking here.

I know many who use a water-soluble stabiliser such as Solvy for wool embroidery and love it, but I am personally not a fan of it, mainly because wool is one of the few types of embroidery I work without using a hoop - I just love the feeling of it in my hands. I don't have any stabiliser at home, because I never use it, but I am might get some and show how it works so that you can see the difference and make up your own mind.

After just having finished a project where the stitching was super fine and delicate, it was bliss to sit and soak up a bit of sunshine and fresh air while happily stitching away. I just love these crewel yarns. They are from a smallish New Zealand company and are called Strand. Half mohair and half merino wool, they are super soft and have a lovely sheen to them. They are a little bit tricky to get hold off unless you shop online, but if you get the chance, I can thoroughly recommend them.

Before I head off to enjoy the rest of my weekend and you to yours... thank you so much to everyone for the wonderful comments on the finished Blue Birds. It really meant a lot to me. Have a lovely weekend - I hope you find a bit of creative time.

Best stitches,
Anna x

Transferring with Tacking

Transferring designs by tacking through tissue is my preferred method of transferring designs onto wool blanketing.
All you need is:
Tissue paper and sewing thread in a colour that similar to your fabric or your embroidery threads

1. Use a fine pen or pencil to trace the embroidery design onto the tissue paper. I usually just trace the main outlines, not the finer details.

2. Lay your wool fabric out flat and  position the tracing over it. Pin it in place around the sides. For larger designs you might also need to put pins in a few places across the design so that it doesn't shift while you are tacking.

3. Keep the fabric flat on the table and begin to tack along the design lines. Try and keep the stitches long on the front and shorter on the back, that way you get a clearer design outline. On really thick blanketing, the stitches may not even show on the back - that is ok as long as they catch.
Don't worry about starting and ending your threads neatly. As long as they are on a design line or in an area that will be covered by stitching, it is fine.
Remove the pins as you go.

4. When all the lines are tacked, use the needle to score the tissue paper along the design lines - still with the fabric flat on the table. I find it easiest to place my left hand flat on paper and pull the line I am working along taut between my thumb and index finger (sorry, no-one here to take a picture of that bit), that way the needle runs smoothly to score the paper,
Hint: This process can be made a little easier if you wipe the tissue paper with a damp cloth first.

5. Simply pick out the tissue paper as you go.

 6. The finished outlines are enough to work from and you don't have a lot of lines to cover.

7. When you stitch, the tacking will be covered so there is no need to remove it. Easy.

Cons: This method is not so great if you want to transfer lots of fine details.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bye, bye blue birds...

The Blue Birds are Finished.... 
hot of the frame and I just had to share it...

So I was supposed to do work, like real work today but all I had left to do on the birds was a few beads and metallic threads, so...
 ... I finished the birds heads. The upper part of the necks worked out really well with a very fine metallic blue thread couched in a lattice over the satin stitch, so I used the same metallic thread to couch the blue silk around the outlines.
The flowers on the chest was to be filled with beads, but I decided to place gold pailletets underneath each bead for a bit of extra sparkle. 
When I originally embroidered the berries, I left a few holes here and there. They did look a bit half finished and rushed. If you saw them then. you were probably wondering why on earth I had not stitched them properly. Well the holes were there so that when the beads were added I could pull them well into the knots, instead of having them sitting on top.
Only the outline of the wings to go... might as well finish while I am at it...
The wings were to be outlined with gold metallic thread and I had a smooth Jap thread and a rococo to choose from. The rococo won because rather than outlining the chest with couching, 
I had used twisted chain stitch. I thought the rococo would complement the texture of that nicely and it is slightly thicker.
  Couching the 'bumpy' thread around the wings seemed really quick...... 

 ...and ... drum roll...

(sorry about the terrible photo)

I am now sitting here, almost a little numb, starring at it. It is done. 
The blue birds have been fabulous to work, an absolute pleasure, but now what? I am sure many of you can relate to that feeling of satisfaction of completing a project, mixed with even quantities of empty-handedness (you kind of grow a bit attached to these things when you spend so many hours completely engrossed in them) and excited anticipation at the prospect of starting something new.
All there is left for me to do is pack them up safely and send them on their way back to Nicole. I believe they will be made into a little cushion in time for her show in July. Unfortunately I won't be seeing the show, so if you happen to be in London between 6 July and 22 September, please pop by the William Morris Gallery and say 'hello' to the birdies for me. 

Looks like I will now be spending my weekend catching up on the 'real work' I should have done today - never mind, it was so worth it!

Have a stitchable weekend,
Anna x

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blue Petals

I had a lovely time teaching a workshop at the SA guild on Sunday. It was fabulous meeting the group of ladies, who as always all made me feel so welcome. It really was a pleasure spending the day in your company, sharing one of my favourite embroidery techniques...
...yes, crewel work! Everyone seemed to enjoy stitching this little project. You might remember it from earlier. Even though this is kind of an introduction project, there is still quite a few different stitches to play with. That is one of the things I really love about this style of stitching - there is simply no end to the stitches you can try and apply to a design. I think my favourite parts of this particular one is pinwheel berries (I have a bit of a 'thing' with pinwheels at the moment) and the little domed dot in the middle.

We did talk a great deal about stitches and one of the girls, Yolanda did ask me if I had a favourite. I don't think so really, but you will very rarely find a bullion knot in any of my work. So many people do them so beautifully and those knots and I just don't get on.
Do you have a favourite stitch - or one that you simply can't get your fingers around?
I was on a bit of a roll when putting the kits for the class together and made a few extra. They are now in my SHOP as well as the pdf pattern if anyone would like to have a go.

Where ever you are, find time to stitch and have a wonderful week.
Anna x

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Autumn sunshine

I have been neglecting my stitching badly, but...
...we have had the most beautiful autumn weather and it has just been too tempting not to get in the garden. My poor veggie patch really suffered this summer and apart from some fabulous corn, I pretty much gave up on it. It was looking so, so sad. So, last weekend I cleared all the beds - like a good spring clean only at the opposite season. If felt really good! The only things I didn't pull was a few broccoli that I did manage to keep alive - they are now just starting to form, along with a few couple of peppers. 

Carrots, beets, leek, Asian greens, broad beans and other winter things have been sown. In a few weeks all that bare soil will hopefully be covered in green again. No, I don't grow milk cartons! They just make such fabulous little shelters for seedlings. I simply cut the base out and pop one over each plant. It protects them while they get going and it takes the snails a little longer to find them...

Today it is back to the Blue Birds. They need to fly back to Nicola next week and there is still plenty to do.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, spending time doing what you enjoy most.

Anna x