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.

Reducing coasters

Some years ago I found that if you’re a small-project girl like me, coasters are a really good way of displaying your work; they are useful, they keep the embroidery clean, and they make great gifts into the bargain. I found some made of good durable plastic with elegant rounded corners and a display area of about 8cm, and soon worked out that this made them just the right size for any of the Round Dozen designs worked on 25ct fabric.

Round the Year in coasters

Then I was asked to supply some stitched items to a sale in aid of Elijah Gambia, a charity set up by friends of ours, and coasters and bookmarks seemed the most saleable. Now I did have a simple and quick design for felt bookmarks, but not for coasters – and Round Dozen, however attractive, was a bit too labour-intensive for mass production. So I set about simplifying the Round Dozen idea, with a little less cutting and worked on 22ct Hardanger instead of 25ct Lugana, so that a smaller design would still fill the coasters satisfactorily. In the end I came up with 3 or 4 variations on a theme (if you do have to stitch something over and over again it’s as well to have some variation to keep it interesting), one of which made it into a kit.

Coasters with a simplified variation on the Round Dozen

As you may know I’ve been teaching workshops at the London Knitting & Stitching Show for several years now, and as I was stitching these coasters I wondered whether they would make a good workshop project. Well, what are the criteria for a good workshop project? It’s actually quite difficult to give an unequivocal answer to that, as they can vary from one tutor to the next, so the question is really “what are my criteria?”

Ideally I want my workshops to be accessible for beginners, without being boring for those with a little (or a lot) more experience, so the design has to be suitable for a group with mixed abilities. I’ve stitched these coasters with beginners and didn’t run into any problems, while the use of colour and the choice of filling stitch can add interest for the experienced stitcher. So far so good. Then I like the project to be made into something usable and/or displayable. A coaster ticks that box. And finally it’s a definite plus if the project can be finished, or almost finished, during the workshop. Ah.

By the time I’d stitched 50 or so of these coasters I was getting pretty quick at it, but even then each one took me more than two hours. Obviously some further reduction was needed to make them suitable for a 90-minute or even a 2-hour workshop. So I fired up my designing software and started playing around with the designs as used for the charity coasters. I wanted it to be suitable for 22ct Hardanger fabric; there are 18ct-fabrics which could be used, but that would need perle #3 for Kloster blocks and satin stitch. Not only did I want to keep the materials as standard as possible, I had my doubts whether a design worked in perle #3 would fit inside the coaster without being squashed out of shape, if it would fit at all.

On 22ct fabric I wouldn’t be able to reduce the overal size too much, or the design would look marooned in the middle of the coaster with a sea of empty fabric around it. I definitely wanted to keep the central Hardanger motif and the chain stitch diamond surrounding it, so what if I went for slightly smaller corner motifs and a border that sat level with the tips of the diamond instead of outside it? and if I made the border a sort of dotted line of cross stitches over one, that would be quite quick and easy.

That was as much as I could do on paper (or rather, on screen) – the time had come to try it out in fabric and thread. I took a print of my experimental design and material for two coasters with me to my stitching group and got stitching. As we meet for two hours, that would give me some idea of timing as well. Some idea, as there is also a certain amount of chatting going on, as well as looking at other people’s work and drinking tea and so it’s not 2 solid hours of stitching time. Also, as I was stitching the cross stitch border I found that I didn’t like the look of it, so I worked each corner in a different pattern, and then asked others what they thought of them. I ended up with 1) cross stitch over one thread, 2) alternating V shapes, 3) half cross stitch and 4) a smaller version of the satin stitch block border used in the original coasters.

Experimental coaster - cross stitch border Experimental coaster - alternating V border Experimental coaster - half cross stitch border Experimental coaster - block border

The cross stitch border looks a bit too solid and blocky to go well with the chain stitch diamond; the V border is very pretty but relatively labour-intensive, and would probably look better in a darker thread; the half cross stitches are too insubstantial; the block border has quite an interesting texture. It was between numbers 2 and 4, and in the end I plumped for the alternate V border because I liked the shape best, but I think I will chart the final workshop version with both borders so people can choose the one they prefer (I may even include a very simple running stitch border for those wanting to save even more time). Worked in a darker shade – this is Caron’s Tanzanite – the V border stands out well, and although there is more fabric around the design than in the earlier coasters, I do think it fills the coaster well enough.

Workshop coaster with V border

By the way, I always check coasters (the ones people use to mount their own projects) before sending them out to customers and remove any with blemishes. These can be used later for demonstration models. But this time there was one with a narrow black dappled sort of smudge which looked like paint but appeared to be inside the plastic. I didn’t think I’d be able to use that and was about to write it off as a loss when I realised the smudge was running roughly diagonally. I tried it with the experimental workshop coaster in dark blue and would you believe it, with a bit of manipulation the smudge was all but lost in the chain stitch line! (Could you spot it in the picture above?)

The blemish on the coaster is hardly visible

Variegated threads with a mind of their own

I like variegated threads, from the colourfast, mass-produced Anchor and DMC ones to the don’t-even-get-a-hint-of-dampness-anywhere-near-me ones hand-dyed by a lone enthusiast somewhere in the Welsh mountains or the Australian outback. They are such an easy way of adding a bit of extra interest to a project, and besides that, they’re just so pretty and colourful that I love looking at them (if in addition they are also beautifully soft and strokeable, like Gloriana silks or Caron Watercolours, they’re simply bliss to play with).

It won’t come as a surprise then that dotted around our house (awaiting the time when I have a craft room all to myself and all my pretties can live together in one easily accessible collection) are various boxes of them – Caron threads in my Dragonfly box, which lives on top of the stereo ever since Lexi decided it was a good place for a nap; ThreadworX perles and silks in a more sturdy, cat-proof box where the Dragonfly box used to be; House of Embroidery perles and Anchor & DMC variegated perles in two plastic storage boxes in a chest of drawers upstairs; Gloriana, Treenway, Thread Gatherer and other silks perles in a glass-fronted wall-mounted cupboard in the same room; Carrie’s Creation, Gumnut, Chameleon and various other silks in yet more plastic boxes in what is known as the Silver Cabinet (although it looks more like a specimen cupboard or something like that). I think that’s all of them. But I may find one or two surprises when I come to gather them all in for the move to the The Craft Room…

Caron threads Threadworx perles Upstairs storage Anchor and House of Embroidery perles the Silver Cabinet

Anyway, you get the idea, which is that I like variegated threads. That isn’t to say that I don’t see any drawbacks to them. For one thing, they can take over a design if you’re not careful, and you lose the picture or shape in a whirl of changing colours. Not so much a drawback as a slight inconvenience is the fact that sometimes it takes a bit of advance consideration to get certain colours where you want them, and that smooth transitions aren’t always guaranteed when changing threads or when stitching next to a previously worked area. There are ways, of course, such as cutting the new thread so that it starts with the colour that you will be stitching next to, bearing in mind the bit that will be used for fastening on – not insignificant in some fast-changing threads, where it could mean the difference between bright yellow and fuchsia pink if you’re not careful (I’m looking at you, ThreadworX Bradley Balloons!)

ThreadworX Bradley Balloons

But how about stitches that meet up again, like a closed chain stitch motif? How do you ensure that the end and the beginning match? Well, erm, you don’t. Luck of the draw. Great when it works out – I get all excited when I can see, half a dozen stitches before joining up, that this time the two ends will Match Up!

But do you know what is annoying? When magically, serendipitously, you’ve matched up the beginning and end so no-one can tell where the beginning/end is, but somewhere else in the motif there is a colour change in the thread so abrupt that it looks as though that’s where the join is. While I was in the Netherlands last week I was working on some coasters which have a chain stitch diamond surrounding the central Hardanger motif. In two out of the three cases I managed to make the join invisible, only for there to be a colour change right on one of the corners – mustard to orange in one case, yellow to mustard in the other.

An abrupt change from mustard to orange An abrupt change from yellow to mustard

I’m sure the people who ordered the coasters won’t mind in the slightest; in fact, not being stitchers themselves they may not even consciously notice. But I notice. And it annoys me.

Does this mean that I will now give my collection of variegated threads to a deserving charity and never ever consider using them again? Of course not; I still love the effect they have, the above “problem” (minor to the point of non-existence in the grand scheme of things) only occurs in a small proportion of projects, and anyway, it is a problem of pride as much as anything else – having managed (without any merit of my own) to disguise the join, it irks me that people might look at it and think that I did not manage. And in that light, perhaps these irritating colour changes are doing me a favour: they’re keeping me humble smiley.

When the stitching bug deserts you

As I mentioned earlier this month, my urge to stitch is not particularly high at the moment. I’m keeping up with a few necessary projects (like a set of coasters ordered in aid of the Church Building Fund, and second versions of the SAL designs so I can take pictures for the blog), and I do enjoy those, but there isn’t really any project that’s making me eager to kit up and get started. And that is quite unusual, especially as there are several designs in my yet-to-be-stitched folder that a few months ago I was itching to start, like a goldwork daisy-and-bee, an autumn leaf arrangement and the Tree of Life in two versions.

I have done something about the Tree of Life. As playing with stash (sorry, I mean of course “studying the supplies I have in stock in order to find the best ones for the project under consideration”) is a lovely relaxing thing to do I got out my collection of Pearsall’s Heathway Merino crewel wool to see whether any of the shades I’d picked for Tree of Life from their starter pack would be better replaced by some of the shades I had added to the hoard later. Here are the shades I’d originally considered:

Heathway wools for Tree of Life

Very pretty, if a little muted. But a different set of greens and browns lifts it, I think, and makes the palette look more lively.

different Heathway wools for Tree of Life

Add to that some pretty goldwork materials (pearl purl, smooth passing, metallic kid leather) and you know what, I think that itch is faintly considering coming back! While I was at it, I also picked out some shades for a more autumnal version; originally I’d envisaged that in coton à broder, but if I do decide to do it in wools, these beautiful warm shades I feel would work very well.

autumnal Heathway wools for Tree of Life

When stitching is temporarily just not the thing, there are other things you can do besides petting, organising, admiring, and re-arranging stash – one of them is putting things together for other people to stitch! In the coming months I hope to introduce a selection of kits: a second Shisha card, the Little Wildflower Garden (at the moment only available as a chart pack), and the Christmas Wreath both as a card and as an ornament. Just so you can start your Christmas stitching in good time smiley.

Getting supplies

No, I don’t mean in the sense of getting threads and fabric and beads for a project; that is generally a pleasant and stress-free experience (well, unless the fabric you want is sold out, or you can’t find beads that exactly match your perle cotton, or a look at your budget tells you that you can’t afford to stitch this special project completely in hand-dyed silks). But buying a large amount of squissors from a country far far away, after an occasionally frustrating two-month correspondence, and in the knowledge that last time they initially sent the wrong thing, is a different kettle of fish altogether. And so it was with some trepidation that I opened the bulky parcel this morning – what would I find?

Fortunately, I found some very good titanium-coated squissors smiley. One fewer than I had ordered, it is true, but at least they were exactly what I’d specified. Mabel’s Fancies is all right for squissors again for the foreseeable future!

A new supply of squissors

Hoop sizes, wreaths, and a lack of stitching

First of all a belated “Happy New Year” to you and yours! May it bring you all many good things, and may any challenges be pleasant ones.

Various family visits meant that we’ve been away from home more than we’ve been at home in 2016, but in the coming weeks I hope to make up for that with a prolonged period of domesticity – a period which will, with any luck, include rather more stitching than I’ve managed so far, which is two small Christmas wreaths. In fact, while several stitchers were sending in pictures of their completed January SAL projects (some as early as Friday 1st) I didn’t put in my first stitch of the new year until Saturday 9th.

For some reason I just couldn’t get myself to pick up any of my current projects. It doesn’t particularly worry me; most stitchers, I would guess, have periods in which stitching simply doesn’t happen. Perhaps life is particularly busy; perhaps the concentration needed for stitching is just not there because other matters clamour for attention. When the latter is the case I find that a few relaxing sessions organising threads and beads and ribbons (or “playing with stash”, as my husband calls it) work very therapeutically, as does a small, simple project that requires very little close attention.

Like the wreaths. Once you’ve got the foundation stitches in place, there’s no more counting; you start the raised chain stitch and keep going until you come to the beginning again; and all the beads are placed at random, in whichever way pleases the eye. Ideal.

I’ve already stitched this seasonal little design several times as it continues to develop. The original was in one shade of green, but you may have noticed that the one in my “Christmas card” was in two – light on the inside, darker on the outside. The greens I used were fairly bright, and the bow put together separately and sewn on.

Two-coloured wreath in bright greens

As I looked through my collection of aperture cards for one that would be a comfortable fit for a 4cm wreath, the idea struck me that it would make rather a nice Christmas tree ornament as well – it looked very jolly in its red flexi-hoop! the only problem was that the hoop, a 3″ one, was really a little too big. But I once got a smaller one in a job lot of hoops, which I assumed must be 2½”; it was light blue, so the effect would be rather different, but I decided to stitch another wreath in the smaller hoop to check it for size. Also a good opportunity to try out different greens, a pair of slightly more bluey, piney greens.

Two-coloured wreath in pine greens

The smaller hoop definitely looked better as a frame than the larger, so I started looking for places selling 2½” red flexi-hoops. There were fewer than I expected, but I found one and ordered a few to experiment with. Slightly to my surprise, they were more expensive than 3″ hoops, but still just about feasible for possible inclusion in kits.

The hoops arrived. I unpacked one. It was small. Very small. Smaller, surely, than my blue hoop. I measured it. 2½” exactly. What was the matter?

The matter was that assumption on my part. I had one 3″ hoop, and one hoop that was a bit smaller. Bear in mind that I didn’t grow up with inches, and that they still don’t come quite naturally to my mind. Centimetres I can visualise. Inches I have to think about carefully. I simply assumed that the size below 3″ would be 2½”.

A 3-inch hoop on the left, but what size is the other?

It wasn’t. It was 2¾.

3-inch, 2.75-inch and 2.5-inch hoop

So here I was, with five very small red hoops, and no idea whether you’d actually be able to wield a needle in something that size. Fortunately most of the stitching, apart from fastening off, is done at the front of the fabric, but the perle #3 used for the raised chain stitch needs a size 22 tapestry needle, which doesn’t come in the dainty category. There was only one thing for it – I’d have to stitch another wreath.

And it worked. A petite needle might be a tad more comfortable, but is not essential. I had used a scrap of left-over fabric that was just a little too small to finish off easily with the usual line of running stitch around the hoop to gather the fabric together at the back of the hoop, but for a kit I’d cut the fabric quite a bit larger anyway. In the end the wreath turned out to work in several different ways – in brighter or more muted green; with a tied bow or a pre-assembled one; in a card or as an ornament. Expect to see more of it!

Two wreaths mounted in aperture cards Two wreaths mounted in aperture cards

A last-minute rethink

Once upon a time there was a stitch. It looked lovely on paper. It had an attractive name. It got itself included in the Round in Circles SAL. It was stitched up in a model, and given a diagram and a description. So far so good.

But the more I looked at that stitched model, the less happy I was with it. Not with the design as a whole; that was fine. But with That Stitch. It looked fussy. And muddly. And not nearly as attractive as its paper counterpart. It had been stitched in two colours; I re-stitched it in one. It looked a little better, but not much. I re-charted it to be a little bigger, and had a go at various sizes and colour combinations on my doodle cloth. None of them did anything to brighten my day.

In the end I decided to go for a different stitch altogether. Unpick, re-chart, re-stitch, draw a new diagram and write new instruction – better that than putting out a design I’m not happy with!

And what was the offending stitch? A Maltese cross. I still like the name, and I still like the way it looks on paper. I even like some of its stitched versions. I did one myself four years ago, and it surprised me at the time by looking nothing like its charted version.

Maltese Cross

So what’s the trouble with it? I’m not absolutely sure. One problem may be that in the confines of a small design I chose to do a single “unit” of Maltese interlacing instead of this bigger version which consists of five looped sections (four for the arms of the cross, plus the central one). The larger version comes out as a highly textured cross, the single unit just looks rather blobby.

A single unit of Maltese interlacing

A few other ideas I picked up from images I found on the internet, and from doodle-cloth experiments based on them:

  • The stitch seems to work best (for me at least) in two highly contrasting colours, whereas the SAL will in most cases be either all-white, or two shades of the same colour.
  • The version I liked best uses the same weight of thread for the mesh and the weaving (which I didn’t in the SAL design), and quite a light weight for its size at that. I think my combination of a heavy weaving thread and a small size made it look too dense.

The Maltese cross below shows the high-contrast, lightweight look which I think works well, and which makes me think that even the small single-unit, low-contrast version in the SAL might have looked just about OK if it had been stitched in perle #12.

High-contrast, lightweight Maltese cross

However, I didn’t want to add yet another thread to the SAL, and by now I was getting thoroughly fed up with Maltese interlacing anyway smiley, so I will keep it stored away for future use in other projects, and use my alternative stitch for the SAL. And no, I’m not telling you yet what alternative stitch!

Five basic stitch types revisited

Well, I should obviously have written about those five basic stitch types before – because no sooner had I posted this than I serendipitously found the Henry Art Gallery’s rather grandly named
Embroidery Stitch Identification Guide. It’s a very apt name as that is exactly what it does: it helps you identify stitches by classifying them and showing what they look like. It’s not an instruction manual that tells you how to work the stitch; but once you know its name you can look it up in other books which do just that (the stitch descriptions even suggest books in which you can find these instructions).

The whole Guide is interesting, but from the stitch category perspective the most interesting part is their Stitch Classification. It is uncannily close to what I remembered. There are seven, not five, categories, but one of them I would probably discard as the “Composite” class consists of two or more named stitches combined. The added condition that they are “worked in one journey” may make a difference, I suppose, but I am interested in basic stitches – the ones that composite stitches are made up of. I would also leave out the “Crossed” class as it explicitly states that these consist of straight stitches.

That leaves five sections, three of which correspond closely to the three I identified. Their “Flat” class is what I called “Straight”, except that “flat” stitches don’t pass over or under anything, which is why they need a separate category for cross stitches and the like. Even after a certain amount of thought I can’t see the need for that separation, but do let me know if you think otherwise! Their “Knotted” and “Looped” classes use the same names I did.

So we come to the two remaining classes, which (random thought that just popped into my head) are the only two to contain stitches which could be worked in more than one colour, as far as I can see. You may remember I suggested that one of the remaining classes might be corded, laced or woven, and HAG’s stitch classification does have a class called “Interlaced, plaited, or woven”. I’d prefer a less complex name and would suggest “Woven” as a sort of simple catch-all term if it weren’t for the fact that things like Pekinese stitch (as used in the border of SotW June) are so obviously not woven. Perhaps “Interlaced” would be the better choice – do you think that could include woven stitches?

Pekinese stitch used as a border

Their final class is “Couched”, which makes sense. To me this would include lattice work, though I’m not sure the Indentification Guide mentions that. There is still some overlap between the categories if you go by looks alone; to take the Pekinese stitch again, it looks rather like a series of couched loops. It is only when you look at the process (the backstitches come first, and the loops are laced through them) that you can tell it’s not a couched stitch (where the loops would be laid first and then the backstitch worked on top of them to attach them – which would, incidentally, be a very fiddly thing to do).

So here are the Five Basic Stitch Types that I will be using from now on when classifying stitches based on how they are worked: Straight, Knotted, Looped, Interlaced, Couched.

I contacted the Henry Art Gallery for permission to use some of their images (to give you an idea of what their stitch illustrations look like and what level of detail they show), but haven’t heard back yet, so for the moment I can’t – you’ll have to browse the Stitches section yourself (hover over a name for a small picture, click on it for more detail). It’s worth doing so anyway, because you may well come across stitches you wouldn’t otherwise have known about, let alone tried out!

An experimental wreath

As I was trying out various stitches on my doodle cloth, I was rather taken with one of them, a raised chain stitch arranged in a circle. Lots of texture, relatively quick, and – after a bit of trial and error with a pencil and squared paper – it looked good on the counted fabric I was using (unfortunately not all freestyle embroidery stitches can be successfully transformed into a counted equivalent, so I was particularly pleased with that).

Raised chain stitch in a circle

Does it remind you of something? Forget for a moment that it is very pink. It may be the season that put it into my head, but doesn’t it look like a Christmas wreath?

A quick-to-stitch motif that looks a bit like a Christmas wreath – I don’t know about you, but I immediately think Christmas cards. It’s lovely to send hand-made Christmas cards, but unless you choose something fairly quick to do you’ll either be stitching Christmas cards the entire year, or you just give up on the idea. Could I perhaps transform this into something usable for next year’s Season’s Greetings? If so, what would be needed? Well, for one thing, it would have to be a bit bigger; this one measures only 2cm across, which is on the small side for a card motif. About twice as big would be nice.

Now when you’re working a stitch like this on freestyle fabric, you can make it whatever size you please without too much trouble. Especially if you have one of those useful diagrams of circles divided into segments, you just pick the circle size and number of foundation stitches you want, transfer the necessary lines to your fabric and hey presto, you’re ready to stitch. On counted fabric it takes a bit more work. So back to the paper and pencil, and after some more drawing and rubbing out and re-drawing a larger circle with more foundation stitches emerged. The smaller one had been stitched using perle #8 for the foundation and #5 for the raised chain itself, so in order for this bigger one not to look too spindly I decided perle #5 and #3 were called for. Fortunately I had a perle #3 in green in my stash, though if these do make it into production I might buy a slightly brighter, Christmassy green. The foundation stitches I worked in brown – not much of them is visible, but if some of the colour did peep through it would look like twigs.

Raised chain stitch in a larger circle, single chain

OK, not too bad – add some red and gold beads as baubles, and a ribbon bow at the top, and we’re nearly there. But in spite of the perle #3 it looked a bit thin. I showed the wreath-in-progress to my husband. He said it looked a bit thin. Couldn’t I add another round of chain stitch? Yes, I could, but the foundation stitches would have to be lengthened, and because it’s a counted fabric that meant more re-drawing. Still, if a thing’s worth doing it’s worth doing right, as they say, so back to the squared paper.

So let’s start a new wreath. First the longer foundation stitches, in a variegated brown perle #5 I happened to have lying around.

Foundation stitches for the double-width wreath

Then the first ring of raised chain stitch – the inner ring, because if you start with the outer one it will pull towards the middle.

The first ring

I thought it would add texture if I stitched the two rings in opposite directions, one clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. It didn’t – the two seemed to cancel each other out and the texture just went muddy. So unpick the second ring and do it again; when both are stitched in the same direction the whole retains its crisp look, and this method automatically provides little gaps for the beads to snuggle into later on. Best, by the way, to work both rings anti-clockwise; makes it easier to get the needle underneath the foundation stitches.

Both rings together

Now for a bow. Big needle with a 3mm ribbon, down and up just above the wreath, then tie as neat a bow as you can manage. Alternatively, get a small ready-made bow and sew it on… Finally some red and gold beads attached randomly; actually it would have been easier to do this before tying the bow. It looks nicest when the beads sit snugly in the little gaps. I used a white thread to attach them which unfortunately is visible here and there, so it might be better to use a green thread to match the chain stitch.

And here is the finished wreath, ready to become a Christmas card!

The complete wreath with beads and bow

Next year.

Adding bling to your SAL to make the most of postage

It makes sense, doesn’t it? You order one small thing that you need for a project, and pay the standard postage. And then you realise that the same standard postage would apply if you added a few other things. Which you’d be getting practically for free. Well, postage-free anyway.

True, unsympathetic persons will probably point out that the only thing it really means is that you are spending more than you originally planned; but anyone who has the sort of hobby for which you buy materials in smallish amounts will recognise the argument, especially when “buying only the one thing you need” turns out to mean paying twice or three times in postage what the item itself costs.

So how does this sound principle lead to adding more bling to your SAL? Well, you may remember that one of the items on the SAL materials list is metallic kid leather. It is optional (I realise not everyone wants to get into goldwork), but if you decide that you’ll give it a go and you don’t already have metallic kid in your stash you will have to buy some. And unless you are lucky enough to have an uncommonly well-stocked local needlework shop, that means buying online, and paying postage.

Golden Hinde sells sensible-sized bits of metallic kid for 70p. Which sounds very affordable indeed until you find out that their minimum postage is £2.60. So what are the options? Well, one option is to buy one small piece of kid and pay £3.30. Another is to go for one of their larger pieces (9 times as big but only about 7 times the price) and still pay £2.60 postage. Or you could think of it as your golden opportunity to collect some serious bling and experiment with it in the SAL.

Without increasing the postage you can go for the larger piece of kid leather, and add 1 gram of 3mm gold spangles (about 70, more than enough for the SAL) or 4mm silver spangles (about 40, still enough) as well as 18″ of a purl of your choice. Purls (except for pearl purl, which I love and which has a brilliant name but wouldn’t work in these projects) are thin, flexible tubes of wound gold/silver/copper wire, shiny or matt, circular or angular, which you can cut into “chips” (short lengths) and use as you would seed beads or bugle beads. For the SAL, a size 6 would probably work best.

The aforementioned unsympathetic person would no doubt point out that including the unchanged postage your shopping basket now stands at £14.40 instead of £3.30 – and he’d be absolutely right. So if you’re fairly certain goldwork isn’t your cup of tea, this would be the moment to close the Golden Hinde website and stick to beads, sequins and a scrap of gold or silver lamé, a 22mm round sequin or even some shiny card instead.

But if your budget can stand it and you’d like a not-too-daunting introduction to using some of the standard goldwork materials, think about it. Because, well, don’t they look pretty?

Optional goldwork materials for the SAL, gold Optional goldwork materials for the SAL, silver