What are these flights of fancy that Mabel has? Well, they are short snippets about anything that I've been doing, stitching, designing, thinking about, experimenting with, and so on, which I think you may be interested in. They'll tell you about new designs, how I come up with names, changes I'm making in designs I'm working on and so on. I can't promise posts will be regular or terribly frequent, but I'll do my best not to neglect this page for long periods of time! By the way, some of the pictures are thumbnails, so you can click on them for a larger version; if you hover over one and a little magnifying glass with a + appears, it's clickable.

Indian inspiration

No, not more shisha flowers, promise! And actually I’m not sure I’m altogether accurate in calling it “Indian”, but it alliterates so nicely with “inspiration”. A few weeks ago a kind lady from our church lent me a book about Bengali Kantha embroidery, which I’m enjoying very much. Although I am unlikely ever to stitch a Kantha quilt, I was intrigued by one of the motifs that kept recurring, the Tree of Life. I say “one of the motifs”, but from the pictures there doesn’t seem to be one standard tree of life – the only thing most of them have in common is that they consist of a stem, often quite straight, with a leaf at the top, and then more or less symmetrically placed leaves-on-stalks down both sides; some were pointy, some round, some had three or five leaves to every stalk, and some were more like flowers. In all the pictures I saw, the leaves were disproportionately large, and there were usually less than a dozen in total.

The various shapes appealed to me, especially since the large leaves would lend themselves so beautifully to being outlined and filled with all manner of different stitches. You could have a Tree of Life sampler, a bit like the differently worked petals on the Bloomin’ Marvellous flower I stitched recently. And then there was its name. I understand that the concept is well-known in all sorts of religions, mythologies and belief systems, but as a Christian I was immediately reminded of the description of the new Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. “On each side of the river [of life] stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” What with all the terrible news we’ve been hearing these past few months, that last phrase was the one that really struck a chord – “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”.

Such a wonderful vision that it seems almost frivolous to make an embroidery design and call it Tree of Life. I am under no illusion that needlework can repair all that has gone wrong in the world, or that stitched leaves will ever heal the nations (although needlework can be a great comfort to people in difficult circumstances, provided they can get some materials and a reasonably quiet spot to stitch in). But I would very much like to create something that, whenever I look at it, reminds me that one day the healing of the nations will be a reality.

First doodlings for a Tree Of Life design Final design with stitch instructions Cleaned-up transfer chart, with caterpillar Tree of life with verse from Revelation

Silks, shisha and a SAL

In preparation for a holiday (and because I simply want to do some more surface or free style embroidery) I’ve been putting together a project folder. Five Kelly Fletcher flowers transferred to 55ct Kingston linen, and this: a box of silks from my stash – Chameleon Shades of Africa, various Gumnut silks and a wool/silk, Kreinik Silk Mori, Caron’s wool/silk Impressions, Au Ver à Soie Soie d’Alger, and Vicki Clayton’s Hand-Dyed Fibers.

Silks for Kelly Fletcher designs

There is another small project I set up over the Easter weekend; it’s a floral cross, one of Mary Corbet’s designs (from which I have omitted the crown). It seemed just perfect to stitch at Easter, but my husband cruelly but rightly reminded me that I was trying to finish Orpheus, so back to the eyelets it was. This will be added to the holiday project folder (although I do not for one moment believe that I’ll have time to finish a cross and five flowers!) The threads here are Alyce Schroth‘s fine silk, very matt and dyed with natural dyes; Pearsall’s Filoselle, which seems to have been discontinued while I wasn’t looking, and Au Ver à Soie Soie de Paris. I’ve only got two shades of green and blue so my shading won’t be as delicate as in the original (and not just because of the limited number of colours – I’m still finding my feet with needle painting), but I hope it will look all right anyway. From the pictures it seems Mary used stem stitch for the cross; I may go for long and short stitch. We’ll see.

Materials for a small cross with flowers (minus crown) by Mary Corbet

Fun though it is to put together quite unnecessary projects, other things were getting a little urgent – coming up with a shisha design for the Percival Guildhouse day class, for example (not to mention having to produce a stitched model of it). Going with variations on the shisha-mirror-in-a-paisley-motif theme, the first one was too simple (can’t have students finishing before lunch!), the second one too big (I want it to fit in a 6″ hoop as I have lots of them so I can lend them to students), but the third one turned out to be my Goldilocks design, just right smiley.

A simple shisha design - too small A more complex shisha design - too big Enough detail, and fits a 6-inch hoop - just right

Someone wrote to me recently to ask whether there would be another SAL. Well, I’m certainly working on it, and the aim is January 2016 – but I’ve run into a problem. Planning the SAL (if planning isn’t too grand a word; “thinking it would be a jolly nice idea” is probably more accurate most of the time), I doodle shapes and make lists of possible filling stitches, bars and surface stitches whenever they happen to occur to me (a notebook by the bed is essential). It soon became clear that I wanted a circular theme; unfortunately a large proportion of the surface stitches I’d like to include are linear. The solution?

Christmas. (To be continued…)

Stitching props

When you’re stitching or designing, it’s very important that your stitching nook is comfortable (so you can settle down for a good long time without getting cramped or stiff) and has all the necessary equipment right there (so you don’t have to keep getting up to find things). Some things are the same whether you stitch or design: comfy chair, cup of tea. Then for stitching add a stitching stand, a hoop or frame, scissors, needles, chart and all the necessary threads. For designing, substitute paper, pencils and graphic pens, rubber, lap tray, cat…



Lexi aids the designing process

Always helpful, our Lexi. She does assist me with my stitching too, patiently worming her way onto my lap and underneath the frame. It’s not too inconvenient except when I need to flip the frame to finish off at the back of the work.

And talking of frames, I’ve been using the Millenium frame a bit more, getting on with Orpheus *virtuous glow*. It is really good, keeping the tension beautifully when I pull for all I’m worth to open up the eyelets. There is really only one disadvantage: it wobbles. The Lowery stand clamps it on the left only, and the Millennium is a big and fairly heavy frame (relatively light for its size and solidity, but still quite a bit heavier than any other frame I’ve used), so it vibrates whenever I pull the thread through unless I steady it at the same time, which is not always possible. I did consider Needle Needs’ matching Aristo lap stand (check out the video review by Nicola Parkman) but although it does offer room for a cat (very important) I’m not sure a frame resting on my lap would be very steady. And even if the Aristo is absolutely ideal, it won’t be mine any time soon, being quite a major purchase. So what to do in the meantime? This is where it comes in very handy to have a husband who is an engineer. He likes solving problems. He thinks laterally. He came up with this:

An addition to the Lowery stand and Millennium frame

It worked, let’s be clear about that. No more wobble. But, well, it’s a tray shoved down the side of the chair. Surely we can do better! A bit of wooden shelf, nicely sanded and varnished, with the top carefully jigsawed into a series of sloping steps, would be lovely – but far too complicated to make. So we dug out two ancient tubs of Lego, and I set to building a narrow wall with a stepped top. It looked very colourful, and it didn’t work at all. It wasn’t flexible enough, so it just buckled and fell apart. What we needed was something you can build with which has a bit of give in it. Enter the old Meccano set. Some experimenting later we had an upright prop with a foot that slides under the chair cushion and a small ledge to balance the bottom right-hand corner of the Millennium frame on. It may not be the most elegant solution, but it works, it’s easy to use, it’s adjustable, it’s a lot cheaper than the Aristo, and it has the Lexi seal of approval. I’m happy.

A Meccano solution (with cat) The Meccano prop in place

More flowers!

This morning I bobbinated the Colour Stream silks that arrived earlier this week, and it struck me again how beautifully tactile these threads are. The thicker of the two especially, Exotic Lights (which is very like Kacoonda’s Thick Silk and Treenways’ 8/2 silk), is incredibly soft and smooth – fluffy angora bunny rabbit soft and I-wish-my-legs-felt-like-this smooth, and I had a lovely time just feeling the threads pass through my fingers as I wound them on the bobbins. You don’t need to stitch with threads to enjoy them smiley!

Some lovely Colour Streams silks

But I was going to write about flowers; the first being Bloomin’ Marvellous (so there is a bit of a silk connection there), which is finished. The double row of up & down blanket/buttonhole stitch worked well, with but one mistake, and that not made with the needle: because the transfer line for the petal had faded rather I went round it with a pencil to make sure I’d be able to see it, and added a fairly strong line down the centre. That line wasn’t the problem, as it got covered up, but because the stitching has gaps in it on the outside edge the outline, of course, didn’t. It showed. Not, perhaps, very noticeably to anyone who didn’t know it was there, but it was very visible to me. Nevertheless, it’s only pencil, so with a bit of luck you should be able to erase it, even on fabric. I took a rubber to it, a new one which still had sharp corners, to get at the lines between the stitches, and fortunately most of it came off – there are still traces there if you look closely, but I’ve decided simply not to look closely. Among my (rapidly dwindling) stash of little frames I found one that was just the right size, and Bloomin’ Marvellous now adorns our mantelpiece.

Bloomin' Marvellous finished Bloomin' Marvellous framed

And then there’s a few more shisha flowers. yes, I know, I’ve stitched quite enough already, but these are different variations; and variations on variations. The first one is worked in long-armed fly stitch, with 24 petals in perle #5 or 32 petals in perle #8. In the latter version the stitches overlap, which gives rather a nice cross stitch effect around the edge of the flower.

Long-armed fly stitch shisha variation, 24 petals in #5 perle Long-armed fly stitch shisha variation, 32 petals in #8 perle

And possibly my favourite (as well as being very easy), a herringbone variation: 24 petals in perle #5, 24 petals in perle #8, and 16 petals in perle #5. I’m thinking of turning this one into a kit, probably using the middle version, but with a sort of scrolly frame around it rather than a leaf and stem. I’ll do some sketching over the weekend!

Herringbone shisha variation, 24 petals in #5 perle Herringbone shisha variation, 24 petals in #8 perle Herringbone shisha variation, 16 petals in #5 perle

A silken flower

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Kelly Fletcher’s Bloomin’ Marvellous flower, which also turned out to be a great opportunity to use the Shades of Africa silks – in fact I’ve printed off half a dozen of the Bloomin’ Marvellous set to stitch with these silks, though not necessarily using the stitches that Kelly Fletcher charted. When I’ve finished this one, and after I’ve done higher priority things like Orpheus, I’d like to try some of the other flowers on the 55ct Kingston linen, or possibly on the blue cotton I’m using for the shisha workshops. They might be just the little projects to take on our family visit to Holland!

Most of the design is stitched in 3 strands, with only the satin and chain stitch in 2 strands. I did actually choose to stitch the right-hand petal using 2 strands as it was getting a bit crowded, partly because I reduced the size of the design. I started with the stem, which is stitched in, uhm, stem stitch. It uses three strands and looks nice and chunky. But it takes only very little thread, so I had plenty left when coming to the satin stitch, which is stitched in 2 strands. Now the instructions (which for the freebies consist of what stitch to use in which shade using how many strands – you have to go to her website for the stitch diagrams) didn’t say anything about outlining the satin stitched parts first, but Mary Corbet always outlines parts that will be done in satin stitch, generally using split stitch. One strand for that, I would have thought. OK, so don’t fasten off but split the three strands into 2 + 1, keep the two out of the way for the time being and use the single strand for split stitch. Split stitch is not my forte, so apologies for the lumpy look. When the outline is finished, go back to the two strands and start the satin stitch.

Splitting the thread into 2 and 1 The split thread in close up The split thread from the back The finished split stitch outline

I’m using slightly different colours as well, as the Chameleon silks of course don’t come in all the DMC shades. Although her combination of dark rose and brown is quite striking, I couldn’t quite make it work in the colours I have, so I picked two shades of rose. I also mixed the two colours up more, instead of working all the petals on the right in one colour and the ones on the left plus the little dot in another. And finally, I used yellow beads to pick up on the yellow lattice rather than beads the colour of the petal. The petals are really interesting to do because almost every one is different; no chance of getting bored! There’s only one to go now. The last petal (well, the middle one, but the last one I’m doing) is worked in up & down blanket stitch, in two rows (I’ve sketched in a central vein to help with placement). I like this stitch with its tied pairs of legs, but I don’t find it particularly intuitive, so I’ve been practising on a scrap of calico; once you get into it it’s a really interesting stitch to work, and you can create quite a variety of shapes depending on the position of the legs and the length of the binding stitch! With a bit of luck I’ll be able to finish the flower tonight – and then it’s on to the next flower! (after I’ve finished Orpheus…)

Bloomin' Marvellous nearly finished

Golden (and silver, and copper) temptation

Ah, ’tis cruel, ’tis cruel. My dear sister-in-law, who allowed me to have an order of Alison Cole goldwork materials sent to her address in Australia to save on postage, brought the parcel back with her last week. My original plan was for her to leave it at her parents’, where I would then pick it up at our next visit in late May. My second plan was to pick it up from her at her daughter’s wedding, which would be a week or so earlier. Both these plans would definitely exercise my patience, and be a good character-building opportunity. And then she goes and sends the parcel to me – in the middle of a working week and just when I am in the throes of getting some designs ready for publication! It’s not that I don’t appreciate it; I do, greatly. But imagine receiving this and not being able to unwrap every little bit of tissue paper, lovingly decant the sparkly contents into acid-free envelopes and mark them and organise them and play with them.

An order of goldwork materials

Oh all right, just the one then!

The copper bright check unwrapped

By the way, this was in the parcel as well, bought from the Embroidery Den with a voucher I got for Christmas from my two step-sons: two shades of Colour Streams Exotic Lights and Ophir. Aren’t they silky and beautiful?

Some lovely Colour Streams silks

An in-between flower, green cats and great customer service

I shouldn’t have. But I did. We were going to go away for a few days and as I usually take a small stitching project on such occasions I decided I might as well, why not, take one of Kelly Fletcher’s freebies. I know it wasn’t strictly speaking on my To Do list, but after all Time Away is meant to be different from Time At Home, isn’t it? As it happens we had to come home early, so I either had to abandon the project for the time being or redesignate our unexpected Time At Home as Time Away Within The Meaning Of The Act. Guess which…

When considering materials for the KF designs I wasn’t sure I actually had a suitable fabric, as I haven’t done that much surface embroidery up to now (by the way, can someone explain to me why it is called surface embroidery? Surely most embroidery is done on a surface?), and what I have done has been on dupion silk or coloured cotton. For this I wanted a very fine linen. Now you may remember I did order some recently, but as it was from a Dutch shop the fabric was sent to my mother, where we will pick it up on our holiday next month. I do have a nice piece of 36ct Zweigart Edinburgh linen, however, which judging by Mary Corbet’s blog and other sources might work. Off I went to my linen bag (that’s a bag of linen fabrics, not a bag made from linen) and found to my pleasant surprise (and slight embarrassment in having forgotten all about them) a piece of 40ct Zweigart Newcastle linen in a stony colour, a piece of cream 48ct Gander linen, and a piece of antique white 55ct Zweigart Kingston linen. I bought them some time back for stitching miniatures on, but then found that silk gauze was easier to work on. Never mind, they will now Come In Handy!

Feeling very virtuous in having found the right fabric (or several right fabrics) in my stash, I added to this by deciding to use some of my collection of silks instead of the prescribed DMC cottons. Do you know how you sometimes keep certain special threads, fabrics, embellishments for a special occasion, and somehow there is hardly ever an occasion sufficiently special? Of course sticking to that principle rigidly enough will only lead to leaving behind an impressive collection of untouched silk threads in the hope that one of your nearest and dearest will want to use them. Now I’m not quite that bad – I have used several of my silks, but I’ve decided to use them more, and these two projects seemed the perfect start to my resolution.

So here is the set-up for Bloomin’ Marvellous 2: The Gander linen with four shades of Chameleon Shades of Africa silk, which is overdyed Soie d’Alger. I plan to use the recommended number of strands, but as I shrunk the design a bit that may come out too chunky, so I may change it for some or all of the petals.

Ready to go with Bloomin' Marvellous 2

And here is the set-up for Cats on a Wall; well, the materials – I haven’t transferred the design yet (like the flower it’ll be smaller than intended by KF). The fabric is the Newcastle linen (the shade is called Flax), and the threads are Rainbow Gallery Splendor stranded silk. The design uses four shades of green but I had only three in this series, so I’ll use the lightest one for two cats. Incidentally, I wound these threads several years ago but never noticed until now that I put the initials wrong on two of the bobbins. “RSG”. Tut.

The materials for the cats, for when I have time...

Talking of using up “special stash”, I’ve been doing just that in putting together the shisha kits: the variegated green stranded thread used for the leaf comes from my collection of Carrie’s Creations stranded cotton and silk. However, they are not easy to come by here in the UK, so it would be a good idea to have an indigenous thread standing by for when I run out. Like Tamar Embroideries’ Fine 5-Stranded Cotton, shade 243. It looked just the thing on their website, but would it go with the DMC coton a broder I am using for the stem? I contacted them to ask, and instead of having a look themselves and replying Yes or No (or, as some companies might have done, simply ignored it) they sent me a generous sample so I could try it out for myself!

A sample of Fine Stranded thread by Tamar Embroideries

And I think it’s a pretty good match, wouldn’t you say?

A good match

I haven’t stitched with it yet, but from the look of it the strands seem to be about the same thickness as DMC stranded cotton; the whole thread looks more tightly twisted so the strands have a more wiggly look than DMC. The only other difference I can see is that it is 5- instead of 6-stranded. There’s another shisha variation I want to try so I’ll use the Tamar thread for the leaf and I’ll let you know how I got on with it, and how it looks with the coton a broder stem.

Tamar's Fine Stranded and DMC stranded

Unexpected goldwork

Remember I said there was another project for which I wanted to use the Millennium frame? It’s an unexpected piece of goldwork. No, not the little Jacobean design I mentioned last time – I’ve written to the magazine again with my husband’s clever proposal but haven’t heard from them yet – this one came to me more or less by accident! A few weeks ago Mary Corbett wrote about Benton & Johnson goldwork kits, and in the comments someone mentioned the intriguingly named “Air Balloon Goldwork Kit” which unfortunately doesn’t have a picture with it. I’d visited B & J’s website before in my search for goldwork materials, but they sell in rather large quantities more suited to resellers or teachers making up kits. However, on revisiting the site I saw they had moved to a new address in London, very close to one of my regular walking routes when I am in town for the Knitting & Stitching Show; but it wasn’t very clear whether the address was actually a shop which you could visit. So I rang them to find out.

Neil Halford at Benton & Johnson’s very kindly explained to me that it was really only a showroom for their ceremonial work, and that any purchases had to be made via the website or over the phone. I took the opportunity of asking him about the balloon kit. “Ah”, he said. “We haven’t actually had that stitched yet.” And before I knew it he asked me whether I would like to stitch it for them. Very tempting, but I felt I ought to tell him that I am a bit of a beginner when it comes to goldwork. Which reminds me, I don’t think I ever showed you the finished RSN day class project – very remiss of me, so here it is, on its own and framed in a happened-to-have-this-and-it’s-just-right frame.

The goldwork watering can finished The goldwork watering can framed

Anyway, we talked some more and he said how difficult it was to find model stitchers, so I took a deep breath and said that if he was willing to take the risk, I’d be more than happy to have a go and take pictures and write comments etc. A week later, the postwoman brought a goldwork air balloon. Well, a potential goldwork air balloon. It uses padded kid, lots of couching, some chipwork, and as far as I can see no techniques that I’ve never done before, which is a reassuring thought.

When I opened the envelope and took out the kit, one thing immediately struck me. Can you guess what it was?

The Hot Air Balloon Goldwork Kit

That’s right: it’s already got a picture of the stitched design. I rang Neil and he said it was a very bad photo, they couldn’t use it to fit in with the format of the other kits, and they didn’t really have any information as to how good the instructions were so they needed a stitcher to tell them. Well, I’m happy to oblige smiley. I also asked whether it would be all right for me to blog about the project and how I got on with it, and he said that was fine, so expect various updates over the next few months. Rather wonderfully, there is no deadline, so no pressure – just enjoyment.

It’s always very enjoyable to dive right in and take all the bits and bobs out of the kit and see what’s there, but I noticed there was a content list on the back so I read that first. It definitely looked promising! The materials were all snugly enclosed in the instruction booklet which looks quite comprehensive, with colour photographs to illustrate the various steps.

What's in the kit Instructions with colour photographs

It really makes me want to promote this to Current Project, but unfortunately I can’t quite start on this yet, as there are several other things that have priority (see last Wednesday’s post). When I do, however, the first thing will be to mount it on the Millennium frame. This means finding my own backing fabric, as B & J’s very understandably don’t provide a piece large enough for the purpose; the included backing fabric is actually larger than stated in the content list and is easily big enough to mount the whole thing in a hoop, so no criticism there (it does annoy me so when the fabric supplied with a kit is only about half an inch bigger than the stitched project – you can’t work like that). The blue silk fabric is also of a good size, but with rather a strong crease in it; I’ll have to see how that irons out. Then there are two squares of dark gold felt and some extremely shiny gold kid leather which will definitely attract the eye in the finished piece. The last thing in the kit is a bulky acid-free envelope – another thing to unwrap, it’s almost as good as a birthday! Inside are beeswax, beads, coloured metallic threads and various gold threads and purls. Now of course I don’t know yet how much thread this balloon will take, but at first sight there seems to be an extremely generous amount of everything, and it all looks beautiful and shiny and very tempting. Let’s see how long I manage to resist…

Fabric, kid, felt, and a glassine envelope Lots of metal threads

The Millennium frame and a DIY lightbox

There hasn’t been a lot of stitching going on in the Figworthy household recently – instead, I’ve been drawing diagrams and writing instructions for some designs that will appear in Stitch magazine, as well as putting together what feels like innumerable shisha flower kits for the upcoming workshops, and trying to improve the design and choose the materials for the shisha day class. And all the while I am itching to try out some new stitches and start on Kelly Fletcher’s Cats on a Wall. Alas, not until I’ve sent instructions, diagrams and stitched models off to Stitch, which has to be done by Good Friday.

I did manage to frame up the fabric for Orpheus, and even do some stitching on it. I really like the set-up I’ve got with the bar covers I made some time ago for a clip-on scroll frame (they turned out to be just the right size for the Millennium frame) and my DIY needle minder stuck to the cover rather than to my stitching fabric. Usually when I am using a larger hoop or frame I clamp it to the Lowery stand and leave it there, but although the Millennium’s chunky stretcher fits quite snugly into the clamp, I get the impression that the weight of the frame puts a little more pressure on the clamping point than with other frames – which is odd because working with it the frame doesn’t feel particularly heavy. Even so, I will put it in the clamp only when I am actually going to work on it, and take it out when I’m done for the day (or week. or month.)

Orpheus mounted on the Millennium frame

It’s not had a lot of use yet, but it has had a significant use: the pulled eyelets. Would that lovely fabric tension stand up to being pulled about quite severely? Yes, it did. The fabric was taut when I started, and it was taut when I finished. I love my Millennium frame! What a shame it’s rather too expensive to have a spare… because you see, there is another project that I would very much like to work on it. Oh well, I’ll just have to swap projects – after all, one of the nice things about this frame is how quick it is to mount the fabric!

A week or so back I was in The Netherlands, and in a shop selling art materials I asked whether they had any small lightboxes. (Rather embarrassingly, I couldn’t remember the Dutch word for lightbox. *sigh* That’s what comes from having been an ex-pat for nearly 10 years now.) The very helpful girl I spoke to said they didn’t have any, but why didn’t I just make one with a box, a light and a transparent top? Brilliant. I am already using several bits of glass from photo frames to trace the designs for the shisha kits, but so far I’m holding them up to a light source which means I have to do my tracing vertically – not ideal. Once back home I quickly found a Chinese takeaway container, my husband supplied me with a nifty LED torch which shines from its side as well as its front, and with my bits of glass I had all the elements for a DIY lightbox.

The ingredients for a DIY lightbox

Unfortunately it didn’t work. The light was too bright and the individual LEDs were visible, even with a tissue on the top as a diffuser. But as I was experimenting with the various bits I realised that putting the torch in my lap, shining up and with a tissue over it, and then holding the glass with the design and fabric a little way away from it, does work! So that’s what I will be doing.

Freebies, cats and awkward goldwork

Earlier this week, as I was continuing my chronological journey through Mary Corbet’s blog, I stumbled across some lovely freebies – always something that brightens up the day (even if it doesn’t particularly need brightening). Writing about some of her favourite websites, she mentioned a designer who was doing a series of Jacobean leaves. Now I’ve only got to 2009 on Mary’s blog, so it does happen that interesting-looking links turn out to be no more, but fortunately Kelly Fletcher’s site is still very much alive. I really like the clean look of her designs, lots of deceptively simple outlines filled with a variety of stitches; her cut fruits are great fun, and I have fallen in love with the four cats on a wall. The peachy corally flower is a close second. And then there is a very pretty set of 12 floral designs plus a Christmas tree which she offers as free downloads on her Craftsy page – numbers 2, 4, 7 and 11 are now officially on my To Do list! (What a happy coincidence that, taking advantage of the weak Euro, I have just ordered some very nice surface embroidery fabric from my favourite Dutch needlework shop…)

Cat design by Kelly Fletcher Flower design by Kelly Fletcher

These were not the only inspiring designs I found on Needle n’ Thread; some posts earlier Mary had discussed a needlework magazine called Samplers & Antique Needlework, and she included pictures of some back issues she had managed to get. The one that immediately drew my attention was the Spring 2005 issue, with a lovely little goldwork project on the cover.

Samplers & Antique Needlework vol. 38

Isn’t it dainty? I like the traditional motif, straight from Jacobean crewel work, the fact that it uses fairly basic goldwork techniques (nothing I haven’t come across yet, anyway, so it can’t be too advanced smiley, its modest size – but these are all rationalisations after the fact; the simple truth is that it immediately appealed to me, and I wanted to stitch it. To do this, I will of course need the magazine. And that turned out not to be quite as straightforward as you might think. There are second-hand copies about on eBay, but they are all in America, and postage alone is over $16; even if I got it at the lowest price offered it would come to nearly £13, a bit steep when all you want from the magazine is one small design.

But wait a minute, Mary mentioned back issues. Off I went to see if the magazine had a website. The good news is that it does. The even better news is that they do back issues, and they do them as downloads, so no postage. Yay! Then I looked a bit more closely and realised they only went back a few years. It was possible that they had back issues that were not on the website, so I contacted them to ask. The lady who replied said that no, they didn’t have digital back issues that far back, but they did sell a very good goldwork book, and she’d forwarded my email to the editorial department. The goldwork book was one I already have, and more to the point it doesn’t have the design I was asking about, but perhaps the editorial staff will be able to help.

If not, I will try my husband’s idea. I showed him a fairly large picture of the design that I had found on the internet and pointed out what techniques were used. I sighed that I could easily stitch it from the photograph if it weren’t for the fact that I am a serious respecter of copyright. He then suggested that I write to the publishers, and offer to pay them the cover price of the magazine, in return for which they allow me to stitch the design. They get the same money as if I had actually bought the magazine, but they don’t have to send me anything (although if they did want to email me a list of the materials used so that I don’t have to make an educated guess, I wouldn’t complain) and I save the postage. Are there any drawbacks at all to this brilliant plan?