Monday, May 10, 2021

Time for a Break

I am taking a little break from the blog. 

Hello Friends,

Today is just a quick little note to let you all know, I am taking a break from the blog. 

I have been sharing my embroidery and little bits of what I get up to when I don't stitch here for quite a while now - and it has been fabulous. I truly enjoy sharing my stitching journey and pass on things I have learned or discovered with you all and appreciate your support and friendship. 

So why am I taking a break? 

There are some technical stuff that I won't bore you with. 
More importantly, I am having less and less time to embroider, be creative and do other things. I have a list 'as long as my arm' in my head of designs bursting to be created, but my needles are for the most part sitting idle.  
Putting a blog post together takes time. I am hoping that I can free up a bit of precious time and get back to what it is really all about for me: Creating & Stitching. 

But this is not a goodbye 

The blog and all the posts will still be here and I will still be here - just more quietly. The links to all the How-To & Tutorials I have posted over the years will still be here. 
I am sure there will be more I want to share with you in the future and I will post them here as well - after all, they have a perfectly good home here, so I have set up a New Page with all the links so they are easier to find. 

So what happens now? 

I will still be sharing 'snippets' of what I doing on Instagram and Facebook and I hope to see you there. 
I will also be using the Newsletter more to keep in touch and let you know what I am up to in more detail. I know many of you already receive the Newsletters, but if you don't and you would like to stay in touch, you can Join Here and continue to receive regular-ish updates in your inbox.

I hope, you will continue to join me and my stitching meanderings (until I come back). 

Best Stitches Always,

Anna XXX

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Out & Back from the Outback

The studio has been quiet for the past two weeks while Adrian & I went on a driving trip to the bush, so there is nothing 'stitchy' in this post.

The original plan had been a trip to Perth but because the summer season has been mild, the grape harvest was late, so we didn't get away early enough. Just as well, since we would have got caught up in a snap lock-down. 
Instead we went to some truly remote places in South Australia. 

We travel 'lightly' with the work ute getting converted to a camper with a rooftop tent. It may not be everyone's 'cup of tea' but I like it (as long as it is not too cold). 
We started off in the Gawler Ranges, easing ourselves into camping mode by staying in a visitor cabin on a friends sheep station for a couple of nights. The distances and space out there will never stop to amaze me. Kolendo station where we stayed covers a little more than 870km/square (approx 540 miles/square) south east of Lake Gairdner - a large salt lake. 

We spent a good day, exploring the station, climbing Mount Kolendo before heading out to the lake. 
We were so lucky with the weather that day. It had been cool and overcast all morning and the moment we got to the lake the sun came out and the lake looked like a blanket of ice in the middle of the bush.

It is massive! The little person to the right is me. Walking on this stuff is an odd feeling. It crunches like when you walk on ice, but at the same time is a little spongy and of course not slippery at all. 

We then headed into the Gawler Ranges National Park for a couple of days. More beautiful vastness, more walking, more spectacular views and incredible rocks. 

We seem to always climb up on everything LOL. Even when we go for a walk along a gorge we somehow end up on the top of the mountain - but those views... It makes it so worth it. 

It was basic living out there. The weather was stunning but even though the days are warm(ish) as soon as the sun sets it gets chilly so it was a good excuse to get a fire going in the evenings.

The weather was still sunny and mild so after nearly a week in the bush we decided a few days on the coast might be nice. 

The Southern Ocean was on its best behavior - strange to think next stop south of here is Antarctica...

The wind off the water was pretty icy so we found a sheltered bay to camp, fish and relax for a bit. 

We really had not planned a great deal before leaving. The only thing that we (Adrian) really wanted to do was to drive Goog's Track. I didn't know anything about this track, other than it is a 4WD track through the desert. A somewhat challenging and bumpy ride, you might say. 

Now I know, Goog's Track is 154km (96 miles) of sand track, through an arid semi desert landscape, crossing 360 sand dunes on the way. It is a pretty special place, empty and full of life at the same time (if that makes sense). 

Along the way are some rather incredible landmarks. Goog's Lake, another salt lake, where we saw plenty of bird life but were surprised by the number of different animal prints in the sand and on the lake. And in one spot a large slab of flat granite rises out of the sand in the middle of nowhere and forms a watering hole for native wildlife. 

No, I did not do any of the driving - only posing for the photographer LOL.

We have seen some incredible places in the last few weeks and been to places not many people get to go. I am so grateful to have experienced it and spent time in this vast wilderness.

Now it is 'back to normal' (whatever that means).
I was meant to fly to Perth on Tuesday. I was so excited to be heading out to teach, but sadly we have had to cancel the trip due to lock-down. It will be rescheduled but right now, I am just really disappointed. 

So what's next? I have a few ideas floating around, so hopefully I will have some embroidery to share with you all shortly.
Until then, stay well, stay safe and look after yourselves and each other.

Best Stitches,
Anna X

Friday, April 9, 2021

Leaf Sampler - Part 3, Fishbone stitch

The third little leaf of my leaf sampler is ready and after having played with the 'How to', I stitched put them all together on a little tree, but more about that at the end of this post.

~ ~ ~ Basic Fishbone Stitch ~ ~ ~ 

This last leaf is stitched using Fishbone Stitch. Unlike the previous two, Fly Stitch and Cretan Stitch, Fishbone stitch doesn't make a strongly defined center vein. It looks more like satin stitch but slightly raised or embossed down the middle because the stitches overlap.

As with Cretan Stitch, Fishbone stitch is usually illustrated worked over four parallel lines and forms a decorative but not very leaf-looking filling.

1) Bring the thread to the front at A on one of the middle lines. 
Take the needle to the back at B, on the outline furthest away from A. (The thread should cross the        other middle line for the stitch to work).
Emerge at C on the opposite outline. A long stitch will from across the full width of the shape on the     wrong side.
2) Take the needle to the back at D on the middle line furthest away from C, crossing over the first stitch.
Emerge at E on the other middle line, directly below A.
3) The first stitch forms kind of an uneven cross.

Repeat step 1: Take the needle to the back at F, on the outline directly below B. Make sure the spacing is the same as A-E in step 2.
Emerge at G, on the opposite outline, directly below C and parallel with F.
5) Repeat step 2: Matching the spacing of the stitches, take the needle to the back at H, crossing to the middle line directly below D.
Emerge at I on the other middle line, directly below E. 
6) Continue to repeat these steps down the shape, keeping the stitches evenly spaced.

Closed fishbone stitch 
7) When you place the stitches close together, fishbone stitch will cover the shape. 

HINT Remember when you stitch in a hoop, the needle should be taken through the fabric in a stabbing motion, not in and out in one go as in the pictures - I only do that to make it more clear how the points relate to one another.

~ ~ ~ Fishbone Stitch Leaf ~ ~ ~

When using fishbone stitch to fill a leaf, I don't mark double lines for the center vein. Instead, I place the stitches down the center, crossing under the marked line. This also makes it easier to use the stitch if you are following a pattern as most designs only have the single center line marked.

1) Start with a straight stitch at the tip. I prefer to stitch from the tip (A) of the leaf to the top of the center vein (B).
Bring the thread to the front at C, on the outline and closely against the center stitch.
Crossing the center stitch, take the needle to the back at D and emerge at E. D and E are level with B.
2) Crossing the center stitch, take the needle to the back at F on the opposite outline closely against the middle stitch.
3) Continue down the leaf, taking the needle from outline to outline at the top and under the center line down the middle. 

4) Make sure you keep the stitches close together to cover the shape. I find that to maintain the stitch direction, I place the stitches closer together on the outline and ever so slightly spaced down the middle.
5) Depending on shape of your leaf and the angle of your stitches, you may need one or two straight stitches at the bottom to finish it nicely. 

I did try to fill my leaf with an open Fishbone stitch (right). I am not so sure about that version, but it would make a lovely pinecone if it was stitched in brown.

The difference between the three leaf stitches is subtle, but enough to add a bit of variation. What I like about all three is that they are so easily interchanged, so I drew up another little tree, one with more leaves than the previous.

It is only small and even though it is 'just a sampler' I thought I would put it to some use. 
I have a small magnifying lamp. I rarely use the magnifier but the led light is good especially when I take photos while I work.

I am always worried that I will leave it in a spot where the magnifier will get light through it and cause a fire (it happens - so be careful where you leave your lamps or make sure you cover them).

With that in mind, I decided the little tree would make a pretty magnifier cover so rummaged through my stash and found a nice cotton print to match for the back.
I made a (very quick and very rough) template for the shape by just drawing halfway around the magnifier and then cut both pieces to make a sleeve/pocket.
After sewing the pieces together, I folded the hem in to make a channel for elastic. Only to discover I am out of elastic..! For now it has a drawstring to stop the pocket sleeve from slipping off. 

I hope you are all keeping well, and if you are in the northern hemisphere that spring is starting to brighten your days. We are heading into autumn in Adelaide and the late summer weather has been spectacular. Even so, it doesn't matter how long I have lived in Australia, I will never get used to not having spring bulbs starting to flower in the garden over Easter. 

While I write this, Adrian has been getting the truck ready and we are heading off on another road trip for a break. We did have plans, then they changed and they may well change again. That is what I like about road trips - you never quite know where they lead you. One thing is sure; we will be heading bush so there will have no internet (distractions) for at least a few days. 

Take care of your selves and each other. 
Stay safe & Keep on stitching.
Anna X

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Pillow with Braided Cord Trim

It is done.

I have made the crewel embroidery into a pillow 

And now that it is done, I wonder just why it took me so long.

I knew, I wanted the pillow edges somehow and had thought about using my Simple Edge Pillow pattern

Simple Edge Pillow made with

This pattern forms a narrow, flanged edge that can then be decorated with stitching. I have used it for several of my crewel work pillows, like Scarlet Glorybut I felt the Reflections design needed something a little more substantial and decorative - some kind of decorative braid.

I had a (very half-hearted) look around for a suitable braid, but finding something the complimented the embroidery would not be easy, so I decided to make my own using the same yarns as I had used for the embroidery. 

I figured that making one long braid would be near impossible, so I started by cutting bundles of yarn to make four braids - one of each side of the pillow. I blended two tones of yarn for each bundle.

Even though I know, braids take up quite a bit of yarn, it still caught me by surprise just how much yarn I needed to make the braids long and thick enough. 

Making the four braids used up very close to 6 full skeins of yarn, one of each colour used. 

Here you can see the braids laid out around the embroidery. The colours work, and the thickness is ok, but what to do about those knotted corners?

After sewing the pillow, I hand stitched the braids to the pillow so they lay flat over the seams. I then untied the knots before securely winding and stitching the ends at the corners. Then I trimmed them and fluffed them up - a bit like a pompom. 

I have mentioned before, that I really don't like the 'making up' part of an embroidery project. Having said that, once it is done, it really is very satisfying.

In between grape harvest, work and pillow making, I have finally also managed to get the REFLECTIONS KIT for this design ready. 
To everyone who have been asking and waiting for it - I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your patience - Thank you!!  
Without you, I would not be doing what I do so I want to do something a little bit special for you in return. Please use the coupon code REFLECTIONS at the checkout to get  10% OFF your Reflections Crewel Work kit.

The kit is will also very soon be in the Etsy Shop for those of you you who prefer to shop there. The same coupon code works there also. 

For me. We harvested our last lot of grapes today, so I am going to just catch my breath for a day or two; catch up with our boys, and (because we are lucky to be able to) maybe relax for a day with extended family. Then, I am about to start something new....  

To those of you who celebrate: I wish you a lovely Easter.
To those who don't: I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Best Stitches,
Anna XX

Monday, March 22, 2021

Leaf Sampler - Part 2, Cretan Stitch leaves

With March being harvest time for wine grapes - when the grapes are ready, they are ready. The grapes don't wait and neither does the winery it is all hands on deck to get the vineyard ready and picked as quickly as we can. 

With that all over and done with (apart from a tiny parcel of late ripening fruit) I was finally able to get back to my leaves. 

Cretan Stitch used for the sepals.

This next leaf stitch is using Cretan Stitch. Cretan Stitch is quite possibly my favorite stitch to use for small and long, slender leaves. I will choose this version over the more commonly Fly stitch because I just love the 'plait' that forms along the center vein of the shape

~ ~ ~ ~   Basic Cretan Stitch   ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When you look up Cretan stitch in most Stitch book or online (there is a fine picture tutorial here ), it is usually demonstrated, stitched over four parallel line and looks nothing like a filling stitch. To me, it looks more like a staggered feather stitch.

Cretan stitch is always shown as an open stitch placed over four parallel lines. The outer lines mark the outer edges and the two lines in between, mark the cross over points along the length. Be aware, that when Cretan stitch is worked this way, it will not cover your marked lines, so use a marker that can be removed.

1) Bring the thread to the front at A, on the left outline. 
Take the needle to the back at B, on the middle line furthest away from A. 
Emerge at C, on the middle line closest to A, making sure the working thread is under the needle. 

2) Pull the thread to. Take the needle to the back at D on the right outline.
With the thread below the needle, emerge at E, on the right middle line (directly below B).

3) Pull the thread through.

4) Keeping the thread to the left and below the needle, take the needle to the back on the left line at F (directly below A).
Emerge on the left middle line, at G (directly below C) making sure the thread is under the needle tip.

5) Continue to repeat steps 2 - 4 down the shape. As you can see, this forms a pretty, staggered line stitch with a kind of zig-zag down the middle.

6) When the stitches are placed a little closer together it begins to look a little more like a filling stitch.

Remember that if you are stitching in a hoop, you should be using the needle in a stabbing motion, rather than sliding it through the fabric as in the pictures.    
Mary Corbet has a YouTube tutorial here  that shows you  the needle movement when stitching in a hoop.

~ ~ ~ ~   Cretan Stitch Leaf   ~ ~ ~ ~ 


To use Cretan stitch for filling leaves, I place the very close together and the cross-over along the middle only just straddle the marked center vein.  

To get a nice sharp tip, I start my Cretan stitch leaves in the same way as my Fly Stitch Leaves

1) Start with a straight stitch from the tip of the leaf to the top of the center vein.
2) Bring the needle to the front on one side of the straight stitch. 
Take the needle to the back on the other side and bring it to the front on the center vein, through            the same hole as the straight stitch.

3) Move the thread to the left. Take the needle to the back on the left outline close against the previous stitch. 
Emerge to the left of the center line, close against the previous stitch. 
The thread should be under the needle tip.

4) Pull the thread through.

5) Move the thread to the right. Take the needle to the back on the right outline close against the previous stitch. 
Emerge to the right of the center line, close against the previous stitch. 
The thread should be under the needle tip.

6) Pull the thread through.

6) Continue to repeat steps 3-6 down the shape, placing each stitch closely against the previous so you get the good coverage of the shape.

7) As you move down the leaf, the stitch crossing the center vein will begin to form a plait.

When you see the Fly Stitch Leaf (left) next to the Cretan Stitch leaf (right), you can see the difference. As I said at the start, what I really like about the Cretan Stitch is the lovely plait that forms down the middle. Aside from that, I find, once you get the hang of it, it is slightly quicker to stitch - but who is in a hurry?

~ ~ ~ ~   Cretan Stitch Leaf   ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I thought, I would have a try using a more open version of Cretan Stitch to fill a leaf. 

As I mentioned earlier, this stitch does not cover a line, so I had to draw my little leaf differently with no apparent center vein. 
I then worked the Cretan Stitch open, as it is normally shown in most stitch books. As you can see it does not cover the lines, so it will need an outline to look really nice. And although I replaced the center line with a double line, the lines are still visible under the stitches.

If I was to use this on a project, I probably wouldn't mark those lines at all, but 'wing' the placement. I do quite like the effect so who knows, you may very well see this version of the Cretan Stitch Leaf in a future project. 

I have been stitching these leaves on a little tree. Since my last post, I started again after adding a few more leaves around the main tree so that I can include some of the stitch variations. 

I have placed this FREE Pattern HERE - and I will be adding to it as we finish the last leaves. But it is there, if any of you would like to play along with me. 

Until next time.. Have a lovely week everyone.
Anna X

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Leaf Sampler - Part 1, Fly Stitch

I am still here...

...and I haven't forgotten you, nor the leaves I promised to show you 'next week'. 

I guess that sometimes life just has different plans but I feel terribly guilty that 'next week' has turned into a month! In fact, I had to check my previous blog post to remember exactly what it was I had intended to show you.

Wee Tree Leaf Sampler 
Fly Stitch; Cretan Stitch and Fishbone Stitch.
FREE Pattern Download

I had promised: '...three different stitches for the small leaves (not counting satin stitch) so next week I will show you those three stitches and how they compare and can so easily be interchanged.'

Fly stitch; Cretan stitch and Fishbone stitch.

I piled all three into one blogpost, but it ended up going on Foreveeeeerrrrrr....

So I have decided to divide it into three posts, one for each stitch. That way it will also be much easier to find later on if you want to search back to it.

~ ~ ~ ~ BASIC FLY STITCH ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Fly stitch is a stand alone stitch. Each stitch is completed before you move on to the next. It could be called 'Y' or 'V' stitch as the shape of the stitch, resembles those two letters.

1) Bring the thread to the front at A. Take the needle to the back at B and emerge at C. 
C is midway between and below A and B. Make sure the thread is below the needle tip.

2) Take the needle to the back at D, directly below C. 
I refer to this stitch as the 'anchoring stitch' as it secures and completes the fly stitch. 

The appearance of fly stitches can be varied by the length of the anchoring stitch and how deep or shallow the 'V' shaped part of the stitch is. To fill leaves, it is most common to use the version at the bottom in the picture above, where the anchoring stitch only just covers the thread.

~ ~ ~ ~ FLY STITCH LEAVES ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Fly stitch is possibly one of the most commonly used stitches for filling small to medium leaves. It is relatively quick and forms a nice center vein down the leaf as you stitch. 

1)     I always start my leaves with at straight stitch at the tip. This gives the finished leaf a nice sharp point. 
Work the straight stitch from the tip of the leaf to the top of the center vein.

2)     The first fly stitch is placed closely around the straight stitch. 
Bring the thread to the front on one side, near the tip (A) and take the need to the back on the other side (B).

3)     Bring the needle to the front on the center vein, at the base of the straight stitch (C). 
The needle should be through the same hole as the straight stitch and inside the thread loop.

4)     Pull the thread through so the loop sits snug around the thread. 
Take the needle to the back, just below the loop.

5)     The anchoring stitch should just cover thread.

6 & 7)     Repeat steps 3 and 4, stitching through the marked outline for the leaf. 
Make sure the stitch is snug around the first fly stitch.

8 & 9)     Continue down the leaf in this way.  After a few stitches, you will see the anchoring stitches begin to form a center vein. 

~ ~ ~ ~   Fly Stitch Leaf   ~ ~ ~ ~ 

As with most stitches, a few little tricks can often make all the difference to the finished result.

Tip #1:     Keep your stitches nice and close along the sides. 
One of the most common problems with fly stitch leaves, is angle of the fly stitches becoming more and more 'flat' as you near the base of the leaf as shown in the picture(s) above . This happens, when the stitches are not placed close enough along the outer edges of the leaf. 
I use the tip of my needle to feel that I am touching the previous stitch, before pushing the needle through.

Tip #2: Lay your stitches. 
To lay my stitches into the right position, I start by pulling the thread straight up, away from the fabric (pic 1).
Once the thread loop is snug against the thread, I lay it down in the direction towards the base of the leaf. The movement help place the fly stitch nice and evenly flat.

Tip #3: Finish with straight stitches.
At times the fly stitches will not match the shape of the leaf at the base. Rather than trying to make them fit, use a few straight stitches to fill any extra bits of the leaf.

~ ~ ~ ~   Fly Stitch Leaf  ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I couldn't help but have a play with the standard fly stitch leaf.

Variation 1

1)     If you make the anchoring stitches just a little longer, the fly stitches will be slightly spaces. It gives a nice, more open appearance to the leaf. 
2)     You could leave the edges open, which does look quite feathery. If you do so, you will need to remember to mark the leaf with a pen that can be erased.
3)     I outlined my leaf with stem stitch (I think it looks a little too heavy).

Variation 2

1)    For this one, I started with a spaced fly stitch in the same way as Variation 1.
2)    Use a second thread (I changed colour to get a stripy effect) and place a straight stitch into each of the spaces. It is easiest to work these stitches from the outline into the centre vein to avoid accidentally splitting the previous stitches.

Here are the tree side by side; the Standard Fly Stitch Leaf; an Open Fly Stitch Leaf and a Stripy Fly Stitch Leaf. I am sure, there are other variations to the Fly Stitch Leaf theme. 

Next up is one of my very favorite leaves: Creatan stitch: