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.

Designing a mini shisha project

Designs start and grow in very different ways, and I thought you might like to see one in action. This is a mini shisha project which I’d been doing some sketches for over the past weeks, and which got itself to the top of my list when a lady who attended the shisha mini workshop asked whether I did any other similar workshops. I told her I did a Hardanger one as well, but she said no, she meant another 2-hour shisha one. Now as I’d been thinking of putting together a second shisha mini kit anyway, I thought I might as well get it done so I could tell her and the other ladies in her craft group that yes, I did do another shisha workshop.

From the start, the two important things about this second design were a) to make use of at least one of the other shisha variations I’d already drawn and diagrammed and b) to use it in a non-floral way. Another consideration was using different stitches for the non-shisha elements. The existing workshop uses chain stitch and fly stitch, as well as sequins and beads. I was happy to use the latter again – you can’t beat a bit of extra bling in this sort of project – but I didn’t want to repeat the others. Probably stem stitch instead of chain stitch for any line elements, then, and one other stitch.

Size-wise, I wanted the new design to fit in the same aperture cards as the first one, and possibly have a leafy element so that the two could be worked as a pair; not identical, not even very alike perhaps, but with enough elements echoing each other for them to go together. In order to get away from the floral theme (which wasn’t easy as the shisha variations remind me so much of flowers) I decided on a scroll-type border. After some very sketchy sketches it was time to work things out a bit more precisely. I wasn’t too bothered about getting repeated elements exactly the same as I like the informality of much shisha embroidery, but placement is something I did get a little fussy about; I’m a bit of a symmetry nut and I felt that if things were too wonky it would probably keep irritating me. So roll on tracing paper, compasses and what back home we called a “geodriehoek” (geo-triangle), a sort of triangular ruler with angle markings on it. I’m sure it has a proper English name.

Sketches, tracing paper, compasses and so on

By the way, the robin is another mini design I’m working on, inspired by a 1920s starch advert. Who’d have thought starch could be inspiring?

But on with the shisha. When I’d got all the detail I wanted in pencil, I scanned it and continued work in my photo editing program, where I produced three variations, with 16, 24 and 32 dots around the central circle, to accommodate herringbone, Cretan and crossed long-armed fly stitch shishas, as well as the plaited fly stitch version of the first kit. I like to keep my options open.

From the start, this design had bits I was certain of, and bits that I wasn’t. Or more precisely, one bit. The definitely-here-to-stay bits are the shisha placed centrally, the four scrolly bits surrounding it, and the sequins; although I hadn’t quite decided whether to use cup sequins (shinier, but possibly a little too big and noticeable) or flat 3mm ones. The not-quite-sure-if-this-will-work bit was the leaf shape sitting in the “valley” of each of the four scrolls. They might or might not look right with the rest of the design, but to find that out I needed to stitch the certain bits first. Here they are, minus sequins for now.

The bits I'm certain of

Then I added cup sequins, and I do like the look of them. They are sequins, which links this design with the other shisha mini, but they are cup sequins, which makes them different from the other shisha mini (which uses flat sequins). I think I’ll stick with the cup sequins, but I will try one or two with the flat ones as well, just to see the difference. Finally, I worked the little leaf shapes. That is to say, I worked one. And it didn’t work. I’d opted for triple chain stitch (used in one of the Happy Hour designs), which is three reverse chain stitches emerging from three spots along a line, but anchored by the same stitch. In Happy Hour it is a nice, plump stitch. Here it just looked very thin and elongated. The problem was the size – I was trying to make it too big. Some stitches obviously only work small.

So what to put in its place? The triple chain stitches were indicated in the pattern by a small dash and three dots, all in a line, and I had already made four transfers onto some Normandie fabric, so if I could work something that used the same placement dots that would save me from having to scrap four pieces of perfectly good fabric (that’ll teach me not too get ahead of myself). I started with an asymmetric arrangement of three lazy daisies (bottom right), but neither I nor my husband, whom I bounced this idea off, liked it. All the other elements are symmetrical, and this just doesn’t fit in comfortably. Usable if absolutely necessary, but not ideal. Next up was a symmetrical arrangement of three lazy daisies (bottom left). Better. Definitely. But not as pointed as I had in mind – my original drawing shows something that is longer on the diagonal of the design, pointing to the corner, than it is wide. Still, keep that one as a possible. My third trial stitch (top left) was what I called Chinese lantern when I first drew it for Round the World: East and what I’ve since learned other people know as tulip stitch. OK, but a bit small, and just not what I wanted. Finally I tried a single lazy daisy (top right) with what would have been French knots if I hadn’t run out of thread; if you could imagine those tiny straight stitches as little round knots you’ll get an idea of what I intended.

Four options - and counting

I like the look of that final one, but it’s on the small side. And if you make a lazy daisy bigger/longer, it does what my triple chain stitch did in the first place, it goes narrow and elongated (I wish I’d remembered to take a picture of it but I stitched and unpicked it at my stitching group and I didn’t have my camera with me). So it looks like a few more experiments are called for; perhaps a more solid leaf using fishbone stitch, perhaps a leaf outline in buttonhole stitch or something knotted like Palestrina stitch. I’ll remember to take pictures and will report back soon!

Incidentally, the little robin I mentioned earlier gave me an opportunity to try out a new purchase – to transfer it I used an iron-on transfer pen from Sublime Stitching. It works really well! I was in a bit of a hurry so my tracing wasn’t the most accurate and some of the lines were definitely wonky or even double in places, but the ironing process was quick and easy (just remember to iron the fabric first so it’s warm) and the two transfers I got from this tracing were both good and clear; I could probably get at least one and very likely two more transfers from it, judging by how little difference there is between the first transfer and the second (in fact the second one, on Normandie, looks if anything a bit clearer than the first one, on twill). I’ll certainly be using this again.

Two transfers made from one iron-on pen tracing

Starting some finishing

Remember those shopping bags I bought a while ago? I have now picked out some projects from my completed project folders with which to embellish them, among them Wedgwood (the blue version), Coral Cross, Windmills, Horizon and Spring Romance. But before I attach them to the bags, they need to be hemmed.

Well, I suppose strictly speaking they don’t. I could just attach them straight to the bag with nun’s stitch or something similar, and then fray up to the edges. But there are a few drawbacks to that, although I will readily admit that most of them are to do with my personal preferences. For one thing, I dislike stitching on bags because it’s awkward working with one hand inside the bag, and pre-hemming means the attaching can be done with fewer stitches. For another thing, I don’t really like a frayed finish on a bag. Don’t ask me why – it’s not about things catching when the bag is in use, because you can just as easily catch the edge of a hemmed piece once it’s attached to the bag, especially when it’s attached in the way I generally use. Nor is it about securing the fabric edge; a frayed edge may be a little more likely to start fraying more, but really, if it’s attached with some solid stitching it should be fine. No, it’s just the look of the thing. It’s just me.

Hemming it is then, and I use the word in its very broadest sense to mean anything that will neaten the edge of the fabric and secure it. One of my favourite methods of hemming something that will be handled a lot, like bookmarks, is four-sided edging. Unfortunately I haven’t yet found a book that actually describes how you turn a corner with this type of edging, so I rather had to work this out for myself, but now I’m so familiar with this method of finishing that I can do it almost automatically. And the finish is secure. I mean really secure. Pull it about as much as you will, it’ll stay put. Besides that, it looks attractive, and you can trim the back very close indeed.

Working on four-sided edging for Wedgwood Mini kit bookmark

On the other hand, it is extremely labour intensive – and that’s in spite of cheating by starting out with a single line of backstitch rather than a double line. Even then, it takes a long time, however much you get a rhythm going. Also, for something that is going to be secured to a bag by yet another line of stitching, and which is not going to be handled a lot (the bag will, but the stitching itself won’t be that much), it’s overkill. So the blue Wedgwood will be the only one of this lot to be finished using four-sided edging.

What other methods are there? Well, there is buttonhole stitch. I could buttonhole all around the stitching, then cut very close to the buttonholing. Again a good secure finish, and quite attractive (see the Windows on the World bookmarks below), but like four-sided edging it takes a lot of time. And you can charge only so much for the finished bag. So the quest is on for quicker methods which are still secure enough to ensure a usable bag.

Buttonhole edging on Windows of the World bookmarks

So far I’ve decided on three methods, one of which I’ve used before (on a bag with two versions of Delft on it), and two of which are experimental. The first one, shown below, is a relatively widely spaced (4 fabric threads) blanket stitch all around, attaching the patch to the bag by backstitch along the bottom edge of the blanket stitching, which creates a look a little like four-sided edging (though without the scalloped looking edge). The two experiments involve folding over the edge of the fabric and working stitches along the edge through both layers of fabric, but a little way away (only one or two fabric threads) from the fold. This should create a slightly “puffed” edge, especially if I don’t iron or finger-press the fold first. I’ll probably use cross stitch on one, and surface hem stitch on the other, although herringbone stitch may work as well. The biggest problem is going to be turning the corners, which I’ll have to work out from scratch. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Blanket stitch edging on Delft


For some time now I’ve had leaves on the brain. Don’t worry, my mind isn’t like the railway tracks in autumn, cluttered and obscured by “the wrong sort of leaves” – on the contrary, these were very much the right sort of leaves, inspiring all sorts of scribbles and sketches. Some I photographed to look at in detail later, others I looked up on the internet. Which ones to include? Oak, chestnut, a maple of some sort… Before I knew it I had made line drawings of seven types of leaf, with and without detailed veining. Then I looked at the collection and decided it needed a willow leaf. And an ivy leaf. And then there were nine, ready to be rearranged in various designs, scattered, overlapping, in a line along the hem of a tea towel, who knows?

The leaves, ready to be rearranged The leaves, with more veining

While these drawings were in progress, whenever I was out for a walk I’d try and look at trees close up as well as from a distance, and I couldn’t help noticing (which the more observant among you probably noticed long, long ago) that trees are not green. Or rather, not all trees are green. Some are yellow, or red, or brown, or orange, even in spring and early summer; and even the ones that are green are not all green in the same way. And what amazed me most, none of these colours clash – they all work beautifully together.

Now of course God has a much broader palette to work with than DMC or Anchor, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to recreate the effect with any accuracy. But then, as mine are quite stylised leaves, perhaps that won’t matter too much. Still, it’s as well to get the colours as close to nature as possible, so off I went with a selection of stranded cottons to bother my neighbours with the request to be allowed to colour-match their trees. Next-door-but-two’s Japanese maple is a DMC 902.

Colour-matching a variegated Norway maple Colour-matching a Japanese maple Japanese maple = DMC 902

And so, after extensive and gruelling research (a sunny afternoon on a rug in the garden with some leaves, the cat and my boxes of DMC) I’ve picked a selection of colours that should work with whatever combinations these individual leaves are going to end up in. Watch this space!

A range of leafy colours

Finishing an elephant, 2nd attempt

The Wedding Elephant. It got finished in time. Just. And not quite the way I wanted. But I liked the stitching, and the card looked fine in spite of its rocky history, so I wanted one for myself as well – and as a model for Mabel’s Fancies in case anyone else thinks an elephant with a date is rather a nice way of commemorating a special occasion. As with the first Wedding Elephant, the stitching went well. I used Chameleon’s Shades of Africa silks this time, in rather pleasing apple green, coral pink and buttery yellow shades, and being overdyed Soie d’Alger, they are extremely nice to stitch with. But now for the finishing.

I’m going for a slightly different approach this time: I’ve sandwiched together the Normandie-fabric-with-elephant and a green felt backing in a nice roomy hoop, and will work a rectangle of stitches around the elephant. The next step is to add buttons. Unfortunately I have only one of those nice wooden flower buttons left, and I can’t remember where I bought them (well, at the K&S show, but I can’t remember the company), so I had a rummage through my stash and through the button collection of our local fabric shop. I came up with three possibles, all floral: shiny green sequins, largish light yellow pearlescent buttons, and small and fairly plain yellow-shading-into-a-white-centre buttons. Trying them all out with the stitching the sequins were rather too blingy and overpowering, and the pearlescent buttons just that bit too large and noticeable, so I’ll be using the self-effacing little flowers on the right.

The second Wedding Elephant with its felt backing A choice of buttons and sequins

Having attached the buttons I will then take the sandwich out of the hoop, cut the Normandie about ¼” outside the stitched border, and fray it. Unlike the first elephant it should not fall apart whatever stitch I use, as it will be attached to the felt. I like that sort of safety net! Then cut the felt with pinking shears about ½” outside the edge of the fabric, and we should have a Presentable Elephant. Fingers crossed…


Lynn, one of the members of the Embroidery Circle I go to, is of the opinion that anything worth stitching is worth displaying in some form or other, and she therefore heartily disapproves of my habit of consigning most of my completed projects to folders hidden away in dark drawers. In a way I agree with her – when I see some of the lovely projects completed by fellow stitchers I, too, think it’s a shame when I hear they will just be put away and forgotten about. And if I think that about other people’s projects, why not about my own? So I’ve decided to Do Something With Them. Well, some of them.

Obviously I can’t frame them all – there’s quite enough on our walls already. And only the smallest things can be made into coasters or bookmarks. But you can fit quite a variety of sizes on, say, shopping bags. Off I went, therefore, to the Clever Baggers, who as their name implies have lots of different types of bags as well as other items. I got a selection of bags-with-long-handles-and-gusset of the type I’ve used before, and a cushion cover, some tea towels and a napkin (not in the picture) to try out. The big canvas bag is for my own use – it’s roomier than the bag I usually take on my annual London visit so I hope it should be easier to take all the kits and materials, especially as I’m teaching two workshops this year. The next thing to do is go through my folders of stitched models to see what would look good on the various colours. My selfish side would prefer to keep all my stitched models as they are a record of what I’ve designed, but on the other hand there’s no point in them just lying in a drawer collecting dust. And bags were good sellers at the last charity Art & Craft Fair!

Cotton shopping bags in a selection of colours A big canvas bag and a cushion cover

Other good sellers were coasters and bookmarks, so I’ve been stitching up several as in-between projects to stock up for the Art & Craft Fair later this year. An additional set of six coasters was requested by my mother for her birthday, and being a good and dutiful daughter I of course complied smiley. The trouble with these coasters is that although they are quick and easy to stitch up, I am rather remiss when it comes to actually finishing them – ironing on black Vilene, cutting them to size, removing stray cat hairs, poking in any contrary cut ends and fitting them snugly into the acrylic coasters. Having finished the stitching on a dozen of them, it was time to get down to some assembling. The result: one birthday present, and another set of six for the building fund.

Coasters for Mam's birthday and the church building fund

By the way, if your appetite for small projects that make good presents has been whetted by my colourful dozen, I’ve got good news! Our new Coaster Kits are now available from Mabel’s Fancies. The design is similar to the one used in the picture above, and you can choose a single coaster or a pair, in ten different colours.

Threads for a tree

Recently I’ve been playing around with different thread ideas for the Tree of Life. The first colour scheme I picked was a selection of Rainbow Gallery Splendor silks in blue, green & purple for the leaves and brown for the stem, all in three shades, with some yellow touches thrown in. Quite a nice combination, although the blue is a bit more blue-grey than I would have liked.

Splendor silks for the Tree of Life in blue, green and purple

Then Serinde pointed me in the direction of Pearsall’s Heathway wool, and, well, you know what came of that. The blue in the starter collection I got isn’t any brighter than the Splendor blue, and the purple (“Aubergine” the shade is called) is rather subdued too, but even so it would work quite well for a traditional tree on twill fabric, especially if I switch to a slightly brighter blue (Lapis, perhaps) and a more muted green (I’m thinking Willow Green instead of this Laurel). At first I intended to use it for the version of the tree with the bird and lettering. However, will wool go well with small letters? Or would I need to switch to silk for that?

Possible combination of Pearsall's wool for the Tree of Life

And there’s the matter of the other colourway. I had an idea of doing one in autumnal colours. A bit inappropriate, come to think of it, as these colours are caused by the leaves dying, which is not quite the message you want a Tree of Life to give. On the other hand, autumnal colours are very, very beautiful, and as the dying of the leaves preserves the tree’s energy to grow new leaves when spring comes again, perhaps I can just about pull that idea off. But autumnal colours and caterpillars don’t go together very well either. Will the caterpillar, who strictly speaking shouldn’t be around in autumn, enjoy his hypothetical bite of leaf if the leaf in question has turned orange, however vibrant and lovely? Or am I being too literal-minded about what is rather a symbolic and stylised design anyway?

Very well then, let’s use the blue-purple-green colour scheme for the caterpillar tree, whether in Splendor silk of Pearsall’s wool, and keep the autumnal colours for the bird-and-lettering tree. There are birds in autumn, so that’s OK, and going with silks for this version also gets around the problem of having to use wool for the lettering. But. As with the other version I would really like to use at least three shades of every colour, and I don’t have them in Splendor silk. I have some lovely radiant yellows, vibrant oranges, mossy greens and warm browns, but not three shades of each. Nor do I have them in any other silk. I could buy some, of course (Soie d’Alger comes in a wide range of colours and is lovely to work with), but having splashed out only very recently on the Heathway wool I feel I can’t really justify any further speciality thread purchases for a while. And the Splendor shades do look the part – there would just be rather less shading. One way around that would be to have a dark yellow and a light yellow leaf, a dark orange and a light orange one, and so on. I’ll have to think about that one.

Splendor silks for an autumnal version of the Tree of Life

Or I could ditch the idea of silk altogether, and go with DMC Coton à Broder. Size 25 is about the thickness of two strands of stranded cotton, or perle #12, and although it wouldn’t be quite so plump as the Splendor silk (which is absolutely gorgeous to work with) it would show the texture of the various stitches rather nicely. And it comes in quite a lot of colours, some of which would make a lovely autumn tree.

DMC Coton a Broder for an autumnal version of the Tree of Life

Then there is the question of what to use in the couched leaf. Something gold, but of course that could be either a colour or a metal. In at least one of them I would like to use a pair of gold passing threads, probably on a tree that’s worked in silk. A more economical version could use one of the many Kreinik metallic threads – I’ve got their 1/16″ ribbon and #16 braid to try out. Still less of a strain on the budget, but not quite so shiny, is a golden yellow perle #3.

Various options for the Tree of Life's gold couching

Besides these versions I have a few other ideas as well, although I’m not sure if they will ever happen; how many Trees of Life do I want to stitch? (I suppose I could stitch as many variations as I want to try out and donate one to each of the churches in our village. Or parish. Or county.) But I can envisage a goldwork tree, for example – the outlines of the stem worked in overstretched pearl purl with a core of dark brown silk on the left and light brown silk on the right; and two curved lines of couched passing thread down the middle, worked in or nué with medium brown silk. As for the leaves, well, where do I start…

A workshop and too many projects

The weekend before last I taught the first of my three shisha workshops in aid of our church’s building fund. As one of the ladies attending brought cake for everyone, we can safely say it was a great success smiley.

Progress - with cake

But even ignoring the cake (not easy – there was chocolate cake, carrot cake, coffee & walnut…) it went very well, with ten ladies practising their needle skills and producing their very first piece of shisha embroidery. Would you like to see how they did?

Fleur's card Gill's flower Sam's card My doodle cloth

That last, rather abstract version is my doodle cloth (yes, that sequin is very purple), which I use to demonstrate stitches. The next workshop will be on 13th June, and the last one, which still has places available, on 11th July.

My preparatory stitching for these workshops has long been done, but there is plenty more on my Would Like To Stitch list; and being a bit of a serial starter I now have five projects on the go with several waiting in the wings. Actually being stitched at the moment (on a sort of rota basis): the goldwork balloon, my Pearsall’s wool experiment, the second Wedding Elephant, a set of birthday coasters for my mother, and Join the Band, a Hardanger and surface stitch band sampler. Nagging to be started: the Tree of Life, several Kelly Fletcher designs, and the little goldwork project whose design I’m using for my wool experiments. Waiting to be charted: a goldwork toadstool, flower & seahorse (not all in one design, I hasten to say), several “outline” designs to be worked in stem stitch, and the Round in Circles SAL.

Could someone please leave me a fortune so I can retire?

More wools – Renaissance Dyeing

Serinde very kindly sent me some Renaissance Dyeing crewel wools so now I’ve got two types to try out! You may recognise the design I chose for my comparison – yes, it’s the goldwork pincushion design from Samplers & Antique Needlework. It’s nicely Jacobean looking, so why shouldn’t it work in wools as well as gold? A brief aside – judging the colour of threads by what they look like on websites is very unsatisfactory; the Pale Apple (far right in the picture) is clearly green on the RD website but in real life it is more like a slightly green-tinged pale yellow.

A selection of Renaissance Dyeing wools

The RD wool is quite fine, and some threads have very occasional thinnish patches. To some extent this may be caused by part of the thread untwisting as I’m using it – as you can see, the thicker part of the thread looks much more loosely twined. However, even straight off the skein there seems to be some unevenness here and there. Still, it is very infrequent and otherwise the thread is beautifully even, and lovely to work with. As for the stitches used in this project, although I’d scribbled a few ideas on the design I’ve been changing things as I go along; one line of stem stitch looked far too spindly for the stem (perhaps I should have used a smaller version of the design) so I added another line, plus a line in yellow – good practice for my Tree of Life trunk! The leaf is outlined in Palestrina stitch (I told you I was going to play with that). I added two-coloured French and colonial knots roughly where spangles were in the original, and a thin yellow stem stitch line to one side of the satin stitch leaves. As for the decoration inside the blue Portuguese knotted stem stitch petals, fairly last-minute (just before starting the lazy daisies specified by the design, in fact) I substituted bullion knots in two colours so I could include the dark navy blue. The red outline on the flower is heavy chain stitch, and the wool behaved very well on that.

Unevenness in Renaissance Dyeing wool Stems and leaves in a variety of stitches Last-minute change to the petals

The orange inner line is Hungarian braided chain stitch, and with hindsight I don’t think wool is particularly suited to it. Its slight fuzziness makes it difficult to pick up the inner stitches without catching the outer ones. It doesn’t look too bad but the braided appearance isn’t as distinct as it would be with a smoother thread. Long & short stitch isn’t my forte but it did create the flame-like look I was aiming for. The three yellow French knots on the tip of the flower were added because there was a little dot of ink there which hadn’t been covered by the chain stitch…

The Renaissance Dyeing experiment, finished A close-up of the leaf A close-up of the stem and petal A close-up of the flower

I like this type of project – I can do pretty much whatever I like, change my mind half-way through, and add things and change things as the fancy takes me. It’s as close to anarchy as I am ever likely to get; very liberating smiley.

Finally getting started on the goldwork balloon

It’s a good thing the kind gentleman at Benton & Johnson didn’t give me a deadline to work to – in fact, I may come to regret my tongue-in-cheek remark, when he said there wasn’t a deadline because this design had been on the backburner for two years, that at least I’d make sure it wouldn’t take another two years. At the rate I’m going, two years is beginning to look distinctly optimistic. I was sent the kit at the end of March, and nearly two months later where are we? Well, the silk fabric is on the Millennium frame…

In my defence, getting it mounted was a bit of a saga on account of the calico backing which turned out to be anything but rectangular. But with the help of the Millennium frame and a spray bottle of water, I got that sorted out and last time you saw the project it looked like this:

The silk pinned onto the now much straighter calico

I hadn’t quite decided yet whether to attach only the top and bottom of the silk, or all four sides, but I thought I’d start with the top and bottom and then see how well that worked. It worked quite well, but not perfectly – the silk obviously needed a little sideward pull. I had worked the top and bottom herringbone with the fabric on a slightly slack tension, but for the sides I stretched it a bit more; not quite taut as a drum with the Millennium frame stretched to its maximum reach, but definitely tight. The result: a perfectly flat piece of silk to work on.

Attaching the silk to the calico with herringbone stitch One beautifully taut piece of silk

To attach the silk I had to use the frame’s side bars at their maximum extension, but for the actual goldwork embroidery I could do with a smaller area; and I much prefer that if it’s possible because I don’t like using the frame at its full 10 inches, for fear of overstretching and damaging the mechanism. So I repositioned the calico on the rollers, cut off the excess fabric, put on the roller guards and my needle minder, and collected my faithful helper. I was ready to roll.

The fabric rearranged on the rollers, and my helper in place

So have I done any stitching at all? Well, no. But I’ve done some more preparatory work! There are a number of felt shapes to be cut out for padding. As I find it very difficult to draw on felt, I decided to make use of some thin Vilene. I traced the outlines of the felt shapes on to the glue side of the Vilene, so that when it was ironed on to the felt they would be back-to-front. This meant that the cut-out shapes, non-Vilene side up, would be the right way round. The design is not quite symmetrical, so this is important.

Tracing the felt outlines onto the back of the Vilene, right way round The Vilene ironed on to the felt, back to front The felt shapes cut out, right way round

There is some leather to cut as well, but I will leave that until it’s needed. First I’d like to get some proper stitching done on this balloon, even if it is only attaching the padding.

Finally, a few remarks on the kit so far.

  • The crease in the silk that worried me, and which I couldn’t get out completely with ironing, is a lot less noticeable when the fabric is stretched, so it should be all right.
  • The silk is generously cut, with a 2½” margin all around the design.
  • The felt, too, has plenty of room for all the parts.
  • The felt outlines are numbered, and the instructions very clearly explain in which order they need to be attached. They explicitly point out that it is unusual for the small shape to be sewn on top of the larger one, so that stitchers who have done some padding before won’t get confused by this.
  • According to the instructions, the two “half-balloon” shapes go underneath the full balloon shape. Although this is the usual order (smaller underneath larger) in this case I didn’t expect it, as the gap between the two half shapes is there to accommodate a line of pearl purl, and I’m not sure how this will work with the full balloon shape on top. It’ll be interesting to see it develop.

Now stretch up that frame, it’s time to start stitching!