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.

Stitching on wood

Although thread on fabric is still the most usual combination for needlework, there is no reason to limit yourself to that – you can stitch on all sorts of things! Fortunately for those of us who find car doors, slices of bread or tennis rackets a bit too challenging, there are non-fabric ideas which are a little less daunting. Pre-drilled wooden pendants, for example. Some of them are so small that they will take only a few stitches, others have a bit more room to play with, although that may make them a little less wearable too. Even so, I went for the latter, mostly because even though I like small projects I wasn’t sure I’d be able to design anything memorable in 4 x 5 stitches.

Wooden pendant

I really liked the look of the pendant when it arrived, but then I noticed it was damaged – a small chip had come off one of the scallops. Fortunately Sew & So were very good about it, as usual; not only did I get a replacement but I was told to keep the other one! I’ve since coloured the chipped edge to blend in with the rest and so it will be fine for experimenting with.

Now, what to stitch on them? I had a vague idea that perhaps I could use the little peacock I designed some years back, but that turned out to be too big. So I drew six outlines in my charting program, to make sure I wouldn’t stray outside the stitchable area, and set to fitting something attractive into a smallish space, preferably an animal or something floral. I ended up with a ginger cat, two small flowers and a tulip.

Three designs for the wooden pendants

You will notice that there is a problem with the above designs: there are three of them, and only two pendants. That is why one of the stitched models will be done on fabric. But they will definitely all fit the pendant!

I decided to start with the ginger cat because I like pussycats smiley. The pendant is a little over 11ct so as I wanted good coverage four strands seemed called for, with the added advantage that I’d be able to use a loop start. The size 24 needle I would normally use on a low-count fabric with four strands turned out to be too thick – wood is much less flexible than fabric, in fact it’s got practically no flexibillity at all, and the needle got stuck trying to pass through holes with previous stitches. A size 26 worked better, although it was still a bit of a fiddle when doing the whiskers and coming up in holes where four stitches were crowded in already. Those whiskers, by the way, were a bit of an afterthought – you may have noticed they weren’t in the original design shown above. Then a lady at my embroidery group, on seeing my ginger Tom, said he was lovely but could really do with some whiskers. A moment’s consideration showed her to be absolutely right, so I added them there and then.

Cat cross-stitched on a wooden pendant

On the chart I’ve lowered the cat by one hole, as it seemed to be a bit too high up, but you could also use the space at the bottom to add some initials or a short name. If you’d like to stitch your own pendant using the ginger cat design, or if you’d like to use it for some other purpose, head to the Freebies page where you can download it; the other two will be added once I’ve stitched them.

Daylight table top lamp

Oh dear. It’s time to admit it: middle age is creeping up on me! I used to be able to work quite happily on 36ct without any special light or magnification, but I’m beginning to find anything over 28ct a struggle, unless I take off my glasses altogether and work in extreme close-up – which is fine for a few stitches but not for a whole evening, especially when I’m trying to follow NCIS at the same time. As I needed new glasses anyway, and the optician had said that reading glasses might be a good idea (even though I could read the finest print at the bottom of their reading chart without any problems), I looked into varifocals. After a lot of discussion with the very helpful gentleman at Vision Express (and some experimental stitching at their premises) we decided that was not the way forward. Plain glasses plus a pair of stitching glasses, a little stronger than the reading glasses the optician had recommended.

Getting used to my new glasses (or rather my new frame) has been a bit of a struggle, and is taking a lot longer than I had expected, so I’ve tried the stitching glasses only a few times, but they definitely help and I will probably use them when working on anything very fine or detailed like goldwork – projects that need concentration, and that I’ll be working on without any distractions. Not for my usual evening’s stitching, however, as I can’t see the telly very well with them, and I tend to combine the two (did I mention NCIS?)

Obviously an additional aid was needed, and after some research I settled on Daylight’s table-top lamp. It has quite a few accessories which I’m not using at the moment, and it would have been nice if the lamp were available at a discount without them, but it isn’t – I rang the company and asked. Fortunately I found the lamp on offer at Sew & So at a price well below any others I could find, so it doesn’t feel like I’m paying for something I won’t use, and anyway, I may well feel the need for a magnifier, a chart clamp and a storage tray some time in the future.

And does it make a difference? Yes it does – a lot! Not only does it help me see smaller stitches, but the colours are more true to life, meaning I can choose fabrics and threads and beads in the evening and actually find the next day that they still match smiley. It does also show up in rather ghastly detail that our chairs could do with re-upholstering, or at the very least a good wash…

Daylight's table top lamp, off Daylight's table top lamp, on

So all hunky-dory then? Well, no. As you can see the shade is a milky white, and when the lamp is on, even after we’d changed the 20W bulb for a 12W one, the whole shade becomes a big glowing blob of whiteness. It’s a bit distracting to me, using it (I would prefer all the light to be on my stitching, not radiating all around), but even more so to my husband, who sees it not only from the corner of his eye, but also reflected in the television screen. Did they do dark shades for them, he asked. Alas, no. Some lateral thinking was called for.

I temporarily draped some black Lugana around the shade, and this made a noticeable difference, but the light still shone quite fiercely through the holes. Right, a fabric without holes then. Felt! Fortunately the lamp doesn’t get very hot, so that shouldn’t be a problem. After playing about with some paper templates and full circles of felt (felt does not pleat very successfully…) I managed to cut out a shape that wrapped cosily around the shade without too much ruffling. Another one followed, as even the felt could not contain the lamp’s output with one layer. Because felt sticks to itself I now have a double-layered lamp jacket which is easily put on and removed. Marital harmony preserved by a piece of felt!

The lamp with its felt jacket, switched off The lamp with its felt jacket, switched on

Four shades of green

Not quite 40 shades of green in the Figworthy household at the moment (although if I went through all my thread boxes I could probably get together at least that number; but let’s not go there) – four are quite enough for now. They are the variegated greens I am trying out for the wheatear border on the third Floral Gems design, which will be made into a workshop, and they are Weeks Dye Works (WDW) perle #12, Cottage Garden (CG) perle #12, Chameleon perle (Cham) #16 and Sulky Blendables (SB) 12wt.

Four shades of green to try

Let me start with an apology and a spoiler – this is not going to be a detailed analysis, just an impression of what the threads are like to work with; and I like all four threads.

Having got that out of the way, let’s have a look at the four threads in close-up. WDW (top) looks a little heavier than the other threads, even though CG is a perle #12 as well. SB is a 12wt which I had assumed (although I have not been able to find any very clear-cut information about it anywhere – thread weights are complicated!) to be about the same thickness as a #12, but it looks thinnest of the four, possibly because it is quite tightly twisted. It wasn’t until I looked at this close-up picture that I noticed another difference between SB and the other threads: it is a Z-twist, whereas the others are the more usual S-twist. I knew some silks and rayons are Z-twists but didn’t think there were any cotton ones – you learn something new every day! (I’ll say a little more about Z-twists later.)

The four threads close up: WDW, CG, Cham, SB

In all of the following samples I worked with 90cm (1 yard) lengths; far too long according to received wisdom, but I dislike fastening off and on too often, and it seems to work for me. Well, generally. With perles, which are twisted, it can lead to the thread bunching up (very noticeable with Treenways’ fine cord, for example, which is a very tight buttonhole twist – you very definitely need shorter lengths there!) The stitch is wheatear, which gives the wreath outline a bit more interest than a plain chain stitch. It is essentially a reverse chain stitch (shown here by Mary Corbet) with straight stitches sticking out, and like chain stitch works well in a circle.

First up is WDW perle #12 (2171 Emerald). It was occasionally a bit tangly but the variegation has a lovely effect, it’s a beautiful colour (I got another shade, 2166 Bayberry, which is even closer to what I was looking for, but it came too late for me to use it in these experiments) and it’s exactly the right thickness – it has enough body to show off the colour, but is thin enough for the stitch to have good definition.

Weeks Dye Works perle #12 Weeks Dye Works perle #12 close-up

Next is Cham perle #16 (Fennel). I knew Chameleon Threads, a South-African company, from their hand-dyed stranded silks – in my silk boxes you will find most of the colours from their Shades of Africa range (used in Remember the Day). I found this #16 perle at the Knitting & Stitching Show; it’s a relatively new range, as yet available in a fairly limited palette which fortunately for my purpose includes this attractive, subtle green. It’s a nice, well-behaved perle to work with, and although obviously a bit thinner than the WDW it still gives enough coverage in the stitch to be an effective frame for the design.

Chameleon perle #16 Chameleon perle #16 close-up

The third thread is CG perle #12 (809 Oregano). Cottage Garden is an Australian company, and their range includes stranded cotton as well as #8 and #12 perle (but no #5, which means I can’t use them for Hardanger on my usual 25ct fabric). Although off the skein it looks a bit thinner than WDW #12, it stitches up with more or less the same look. It’s fairly well-behaved, even with my 90cm lengths.

Cottage Garden perle #12 Cottage Garden perle #12 close-up

And finally SB 12wt (4086 Cactus). As I mentioned above, this is different from the other three threads not only because it isn’t a perle, but also because it is a Z-twist. This means that when looking at the twist in the thread, the slant has the direction of the diagonal of the letter Z; in an S-twist the slant goes the other way. There is a little bit more about it in this post about whipped stitches, and a lot more in this recent post on Mary Corbet’s blog.

SB is very tightly twisted, but unexpectedly it doesn’t bunch up like some of the others – it is a very pleasant thread to work with, and (not unimportant when considering threads for workshops or kits) it works out much more economically than any of the others. It has a nice crisp look, and although the variagation is a bit stronger than I would have liked, it doesn’t break up the unity of the wreath.

Sulky Blendables 12wt Sulky Blendables 12wt close-up

So which do I like best? If I were just looking at the threads, how they handle and how they stitch up, I’d go for Weeks Dye Works; it is my favourite where colour and variegation are concerned, and in spite of some tangling it is comfortable enough to work with. I just really like the look of this thread in wheatear stitch. Chameleon and Cottage Garden I will happily use again, but they wouldn’t be my first choice. In the end, however, I have to bear in mind what I am choosing this thread for – kits and workshops. The materials have to be of good quality, but it is just not viable to pick anything too expensive. In trying out several hand-dyeds I was probably being a bit unrealistic to begin with, and Sulky makes a good alternative – it is a high-quality thread with the interest of variegation, but mass-prodused and therefore more affordable than the more labour-intensive hand-dyed threads. So in spite of its rather unfortunate name (whoever thought that was a good idea?) Sulky Blendables will be my choice for the Floral Gems.

The start of a craft room

After a couple of years of empty-nesting we have had both fledglings back temporarily (though not simultaneously), something which could have meant an indefinite delay to The Craft Room.

The Craft Room has existed in concept practically since we moved into this house 11 years ago. It has, you see, a small downstairs study, just the thing to be turned into a little nook for the lady of the house. One day. Because with two teenagers in the house it first became The Telly Room, a.k.a. The Den. Their need was greater than mine. I could wait.

And so my various bits and bobs got distributed around the house, in a chest of drawers, a wall-mounted bookcase, a specimen cabinet, a drawer under the bed and a blanket chest, as well as The Temporary Craft Storage Shelf, a.k.a. the dining table.

The present craft storage, a.k.a. the dining table

But Youngest (the fledgling currently at home) has generously said he can now do without The Den, and so the transformation is in progress. The old telly has been taken to the local charity shop, my hi-fi (brought with me from the Netherlands but rather superfluous as my husband already had a better one) has been claimed by Youngest as it has a record player and he is into vinyl. Several other items which had made their home in that room for the past decade have been returned to their respective owners, to be stored in their own room/flat. The Craft Room To Be is getting emptier.

The telly room, window side The telly room, door side

Of course when I say “emptier” I use the word in its loosest possible sense… That blue behemoth is a sofa bed which we hope someone will want to come and collect, the boxes and stuffed animals on it are things from my mother’s flat waiting to be sorted out, and the trays of Austin Seven spares in the middle of the room are part of our trade fair stand in need of re-organising. But we’ve made a start!

Eventually, when the room is empty apart from the bookcase and the low coffee table, it will be time to start filling it up again. I’m sure things will get re-arranged more than once, but this is the provisional layout:

Floorplan for the craft room

The bookcase (minus the video tapes and DVDs it holds at the moment) will be moved to the opposite, north-facing wall, so that even with the curtains open there won’t be too much light falling on whatever is stored there (probably all my thread boxes). The coffee table will remain where it is, and a very tall unit for CDs will snuggle in beside it and hold my audiobooks. A desk that is at present in our storage room will go by the window, with a small Ikea filing cabinet (not bought yet) by its side. The desk has three drawers which I think will be just the right size to hold my hoops, including the sets of workshop hoops.

The light grey rectangles drawn inside the desk and table are plastic storage boxes; they are the sort advertised as under-the-bed storage, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t sit quite as comfortably under anything else on legs smiley. By the way, one of them has now got a dark lid – when I got them home I found one of the lids was cracked, and although Wilko were happy to replace it they didn’t have any transparent ones. As they’ll be hidden away anyway I wasn’t too bothered.

Under-the-bed boxes

The rectangle between the desk and the coffee table is what the shop called a “Really Useful Rainbow Storage Tower”, which is as good a description as any. It did need a little adjusting, though – originally the pink drawer at the top was positioned between the red and the orange drawers!

A rainbow storage tower

Now I know that it’s really silly to start filling boxes and drawers when I haven’t got a place to put them yet, but I couldn’t resist. And so the rainbow tower and one of the storage boxes now hold all my fabrics. (I’ve since changed my mind about the other box with the hoops – as mentioned above they will probably go into the desk drawers instead.)

Beginning to fill the boxes A fabric tower

Until I have sorted through Mum’s boxes, and we’ve got rid of the sofa and moved the trays of spares, any further Craft Room arrangements will have to be made on paper, so I’m happily occupying myself with measuring shelves and drawers and boxes and seeing what will fit where.


There are a few other things that aren’t on the floorplan yet – the sewing machine which is to have a permanent place on the desk in the hope that I will actually start using it, the wall-mounted cupboard/shelf unit which my mother used as a coat rack and which used to be my grandparents’, and possibly another wall-mounted unit if I can convince my husband that our storage room doesn’t really need it. If everything goes to plan, I should have a fully furnished craft room some time this year!

An exciting plan

Over the years I’ve been to several Royal School of Needlework workshops and day classes; they are always well-taught, well-organised and very enjoyable, and the workshops especially have been a great way of finding out in a relatively economical way which types of embroidery are just not my cup of tea (I’m talking about you, stumpwork) and which are not just my cup of tea but a whole afternoon tea at the Ritz (hello goldwork!)

Whenever I’ve found something I enjoy doing (like calligraphy and various embroidery techniques), I tend to read as many books about it as I can and then just have a go (for example with the padded gold kid in Treasure Trove, and my present goldwork Work-In-Progress the Jacobean Flower).

Jacobean Flower in progress

But sometimes it’s helpful – not to mention a lot of fun – to get some formal instruction. After the first RSN goldwork taster workshop I did in 2012 (the dragonfly) there followed another one at the next Knitting & Stitching Show (the bee; which did end up looking a little different from the original design…); then I found the RSN occasionally did day classes in Rugby and treated myself to one as a St Nicholas present (the watering can). And this year they’re offering another one! I’d hoped they would do an Intermediate level this time, but oh well, I’m happy to take what I can get smiley so I am now booked in for April, where it looks like we’ll be stitching a goldwork ankle boot.

The goldwork dragonfly in all its glory The goldwork bee framed in a flexi-hoop The goldwork watering can finished

This is, you will agree, quite as much excitement as a stitcher can be expected to handle, but there is more! Following a link in the RSN’s recent newsletter I found that they offer private one-to-one tutorials.

I’ll allow some time to let that sink in a bit.

A private lesson, taught by one of the RSN tutors, at Hampton Court Palace *starry-eyed look* – what more could any stitcher wish for? Well, a bigger needlework budget would be nice. It would be lovely to book a whole day (10am till 4pm with an hour off for lunch) (who needs lunch?) (actually, I would; I like food quite as much as I like stitching) but a quick look at the latest bank statement suggests that a 3-hour class is probably more realistic. So I took the plunge and rang them, and I am now pencilled in for a goldwork tutorial on Wednesday 11th October, an extension to my usual Knitting & Stitching Show jaunt. It is as yet dependent on them finding a tutor available, so I’ll let you know when I hear more!

Colour squared


Two-tone square filets

doesn’t look much like this

The first scribble

does it? And yet that’s where it started, with a midnight idea and a scribble in thick and thin pencil lines. The idea was as follows: when working a square filet, unlike with a dove’s eye, the thread goes down into the fabric. And if one colour goes down into the fabric, a different colour may come up. Furthermore, unlike for example the spider’s web, the square filet is made up of equal “passes”, so that any colour changes will result in a regular, symmetrical pattern.

As the square filet consists of four passes, in theory it would be possible to work a single four-coloured one:

A four-tone square filet

That would take rather a lot of fastening off and on, however. Perfectly doable, but much easier and more efficient to get the effect when working a set of them. The scribble was based on a cross shape, simply because of the design I was working on at the time. The four passes in this case would be four V shapes of incomplete square filets. I was working in two shades of the same colour, and started with a dark pass.

First pass for two-tone square filets

Fasten off, then pick the sequence up with a light thread.

Second pass for two-tone square filets

Then another dark pass and finally a light one to complete the cross shown in the very first picture. I could have used four colours, in which case the central square filet would have shown all four and looked like the diagram above. To have four colours throughout would necessitate taking the needle through the intervening woven bar between every pair of square filets, and I’m not sure the effect would be worth the effort! However, it is possible to work sets of square filets in straight lines in four colours relatively easily.

Four-tone square filets in straight rows

I may try this out one day. If I do, FoF will have the pictures!

Ideas for a tree

Ever since I saw my mother-in-law’s Suffolk puff Christmas tree, I’ve been wanting to make one myself. I knew I had some cream fabric with holly leaves and berries left, but not enough for half a tree; so I would need another fabric, rather darker than this cream background, and some gold lamé. As it happens there is a fabric shop right next door to where my weekly embroidery group meets, and they had put all their Christmas fabrics on sale – 50% off! So I came away with a lovely red, green & gold fabric, but no gold; they were out of gold lamé. The proprietess said she would be ordering in some gold satin lining which might also work, so yesterday I went in again to see if it had arrived. It hadn’t, but in the section of satin dupions I suddenly spotted two golds which I hadn’t noticed the week before – then there had only been a rather pale champagne shade. The lady on duty said that she had rearranged that section only that morning, and they had probably been hidden at the back before. She gave me two swatches to take home and compare to my Christmassy fabrics.

Fabrics for a red, green and gold Christmas tree Possible golds for a red, green and gold Christmas tree

In my stash I also had some non-Christmassy fabrics scraps from previous projects (silver lamé and patterned white for the Frosty Pine ornament and a patterned blue/turquoise for our niece Isobel’s door hanger) which I thought might work rather well together for a less traditional Christmas tree; though that one will have to be smallish as all three fabrics are left-overs and I can’t remember where I originally got them.

Fabrics for a blue, white and silver Christmas tree

Now I just need to finish all my current projects and I can start on these – probably the very earliest I have ever started a Christmas project!

How a variation becomes a new design

The twelve parts of Round in Circles were designed in pairs; to be, so to speak, a positive and a negative of the same shape. If in one design a central horizontal band was cut, then in its counterpart that central band would be solid, and the half-moon shapes above and below it would be cut. One of these pairs (Rounds Six and Twelve) was designed around a diagonal cross, cut in Round Six and solid in Round Twelve.

Rounds Six and Twelve

When charting the diagonal cross, I had several options; two of them looked almost identical on paper, but because one of them used floating Kloster blocks (which are purely decorative and are not needed to keep the fabric from fraying) and double-sided Kloster blocks (cut on both sides) whereas the other used only standard Kloster blocks, they had a different distribution of cut holes (shown by the pink and blue dots in the diagrams below).

Two diagonal crosses

I stitched both of them, with their whipped backstitch circle but without any surface stitches or cutting, and eventually decided on the one which included non-standard Kloster blocks – both because that shape was the exact negative of its counterpart, unlike the one using standard Kloster blocks only, and because it meant an extra technique to include in the Stitch-Along. The unused model went to the bottom of the pile, to be used at some later date for something or other.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was looking for a small Hardanger project, and remembered the discarded diagonal cross. I didn’t want to use the same surface stitches, and the filling stitches used in the SAL version wouldn’t work because of the difference in cut holes, so I copied it into my charting program and played around a bit. Because of the triangular nature of the solid parts I thought of a heart-shaped stitch of some sort; after dismissing a few other possibilities I chose Rhodes hearts. I liked the French knots surrounding the spider’s web stitches in the SAL version (well, I wouldn’t have designed them like that if I didn’t smiley) but wanted to get that dotted effect in some other way. Sequins! and if I worked the hearts in one colour, and attached the sequins with another, I could then use both colours in the filling stitch.

But what filling stitch? Being rather fond of nutmeg and mace stitch at the moment, I charted the design with a two-coloured version of those for the time being. Then I started stitching the surface stitches, and doing the cutting.

As I was poking in the cut ends Lexi decided that my lap was the perfect place for a cat to be, and in such a position that going on to the bars wasn’t really an option. I did some sketching instead as I suddenly thought this might make rather a nice pair if I could come up with a matching design. Not the positive/negative match, I wanted to keep that as a Round In Circles thing, so what else? Well, a diagonal cross might be rather nicely matched with an upright cross. Both with hearts and sequins, fillings to be decided on later.

“Later” turned out to be around midnight as I was in bed, falling asleep. Fortunately there is always a notebook by my bed, and even more fortunately my scribbles still made sense to me the next morning! A bit more experimenting is needed, but suspended sequins are likely to feature, and a two-coloured version of square filets.

Sketches for new designs

As for the scribble at the top of the printed page, that was to remind me to check Shakespeare’s Richard III for the exact quotation which I seemed to remember included something like “even so thy breast encompasseth my poor heart”, in the hope that it might furnish me with a catchy name for the design. It didn’t. The two circles with Rhodes hearts and blingy sequins will instead be known as Heart’s Treasure.

A surprise in the post

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – stitchers are lovely people! On a damp, grey, rather dreary day the postman brought a parcel containing this:

A surprise book and card

A beautifully stitched card (now where have I seen that design before…) and a book on Hardanger, sent by a thoughtful fellow stitcher. She told me that the book had come to her via a charity shop to which it had been donated by a Dutchwoman! No, it wasn’t me smiley (that would really have been the coincidence to top all coincidences) so I will enjoy reading this new edition to my stitching library.

Squeezing Delft into a coaster

Recently several people have asked me about designs for coasters. More specifically, one lady asked whether the Round In Circles designs would work with the acrylic coasters, and if not, which designs would; another lady wanted to know whether the Floral Lace designs would fit. In case other FoF readers have been wondering about this too, I thought it would be useful to put the answers I’ve been giving together and share them here.

The Round In Circles designs are just about the right size for coasters when done on 25ct (and if you leave out the circular border they will fit very easily); the same goes for the Song of the Weather designs (the previous Stitch-Along), which are the same size. However, it’s because I try to include lots of texture and techniques in the SALs that they are not all suitable for use in coasters even when size-wise they would fit. The flatter the better, generally, when finishing something as a coaster; so try not to use very textural stitches; raised chain stitch, for example, would simply get squashed out of all recognition, and padded goldwork (if you could sqeeze it in at all) would lose the very reason why the padding was added in the first place! French knots may just fit if done in relatively thin thread – as such they might work as a substitute for beads, because being thread they are at least squashable, which beads aren’t.

Floral Lace is too large for coasters as it stands; the stitch count is 82 square, which even on 25ct would be too big to fit. Without the gold cross stitch border, the size would be ideal on 25ct and would probably also work stitched on 22ct. On 28ct fabric they would fit with the border, but the floral cross stitch motifs, which are worked over one fabric thread, might be a bit challenging. The biggest problem here, however, is the beads, which are a pretty integral part of the design in this series. Beads, as I mentioned before, will not be squeezed into coasters, so an alternative would have to be found. Very small gold French knots could work, or 2mm sequins attached with two stitches and with the central hole in the same place as where the bead is charted. See below for this idea in practice!

Is Hardanger on the whole a no-no for coasters then, unless you’re willing to do an awful lot of adapting and fiddling? Definitely not, I’ve done stacks of Hardanger coasters myself – but you need to bear all the above in mind when choosing your design.

Hardanger coasters, variations on the kit design Some of the Round Dozen designs in coasters Kaleidoscope in coasters

Generally, any Hardanger without beads or particularly chunky stitches should be fine. The design in the Coaster kit works of course (I should jolly well hope so!) and all the Round Dozen designs fit (on 25ct), as do Kaleidoscope and Happy Hour (on 22ct). From the Small section, Jewel, Frozen Mist and Snowflake work when done on 25ct.

And finally, some designs will work if stitched on a finer fabric; the Afghan Squares, for example, although originally designed using chunky threads on 18ct afghan fabric, would fit perfectly into a coaster when using standard #5 and #8 perles on 28ct fabric – including the border! One of the designs which I actually stitched on 28ct Lugana to test my own advice is Delft. Here I could try out two aspects of all that I’ve written above: using a higher count fabric, and substituting 2mm sequins (which I happened to have in my stash – I knew when I bought them at the sale for no particular purpose that they’d come in handy one day smiley) for the beads.

It took a bit of squinting and some extra light – my own fault for choosing to try this on dark green fabric with some of it stitched in dark green – but it did work! The design fits, and the sequins stand in well for the beads, even though I had to lose one of them in each of the backstitch motifs; possibly I could have fitted in two, but I felt it would look too full and decided to go with a single sequin with room to breathe.

Delft in green on 28ct fabric 2mm sequins used instead of beads

There was a slightly tense moment when it came to ironing on the thin black interfacing. Would the sequins stand it? They are generally not happy about being subjected to intense heat, as I found out when ironing a shisha design some time ago… But fortunately they survived intact (probably because they were protected by the interfacing, be it ever so thin, and the extra layer of baking parchment needed to keep the interfacing from sticking to the iron), and during the final assembly they didn’t keep the coaster from snapping shut – victory!

Delft on 28ct mounted in a coaster

It’s not the quickest coaster to make; if speed is of the essence (a last-minute birthday present, for example) you are better off with a smaller design, especially one without the need for sequins, on 22ct Hardanger fabric. But as coasters are such useful items and ideal presents for anyone who drinks tea or coffee or hot chocolate or hot toddies (does that exclude anyone?) it’s good to know that many designs can, with a bit of thought, be used to make them.