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.

A needlework shop – with a tea room!

You may have noticed that Mabel’s Fancies has been closed quite a lot recently, and is closed again this week. This is partly due to family circumstances, partly business (the vintage cars, not Mabel), and partly the fact that my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary last week by going on a second honeymoon in the Peak District. We had a lovely, relaxing time driving and walking around beautiful countryside and visiting Haddon Hall and Chatsworth, and while at our cottage the absence of our usual feline was made up for by these friendly visitors.

Relaxing at Chatsworth Visiting chickens

Whenever I’m on holiday, I always try to find a local needlework shop. Very often, alas, there isn’t one, even if research beforehand suggests that there should be – remember the one I was hoping to visit in Edinburgh, which turned out to have closed about four months earlier? This time I didn’t do a lot of research; I found out some time ago that Wye Needlecraft in Bakewell had closed (or rather, it’s been taken over and moved) and didn’t look any further. Then, one day, we needed petrol. And as we went on a little detour to get it, I noticed a shop called White Peak Embroidery. A needlework shop!

Later that day we met up with local friends and while the husbands talked cars, Mary and I talked countryside, walks, and of course Needlework Shops. Did she know White Peak Embroidery? Yes she did and it was a lovely shop, with a tea room, and besides embroidery supplies they did quite a lot of knitting yarn as well. I wasn’t too interested in the knitting yarn, but the tea room certainly sounded interesting smiley.

A few days later we visited the shop, and I can’t praise it highly enough. Not only for the wide range of beautiful threads, fabrics, buttons, books and kits, and the lovely stitched models on display, but for the friendly welcome and knowledgeable service – this is the sort of needlework shop where you could easily spend most of the day, stopping only for a light lunch and afternoon tea at the attached Grace’s Tea Room (which also houses the knitting supplies). I took a few pictures but they really don’t do the shop justice, so do visit their website for a closer look or better still, visit them in person!

White Peak Embroidery The tea room at White Peak Embroidery Fabrics and threads Threads, ribbons and tools Speciality threads and kits

Of course I couldn’t leave without getting a few bits and bobs. The haul is two silk perles by Rainbow Gallery – these are Elegance, their #8 perle – and some silk ribbon which I think is YLI but I forgot to make a note so I don’t know the colour numbers. I may have to go back just to check…

Silk perles and ribbons from White Peak Embroidery

The best direction for whipping and the best length for stem stitch

One of the stitches I want to use in the Tree of Life is whipped backstitch. Mary Corbet points out that the direction in which you whip the stitches makes a difference to the look of the finished line, with pictures to illustrate this, but in order to fix the difference in my mind and have a sample to remind me which direction produces which line I thought I’d better work both types myself. Both are stitched using floche, which is an S-twist (that is to say the direction of the thread’s twist is like the slant in an S, top left to bottom right), and I prefer the line where the whipping is done as a Z-twist (on the right; it’s worked bottom to top, taking the needle through from right to left every time) – it’s tighter and more rope-like, whereas the other version lacks definition to my mind. Note to self: if using a Z-twist (like rayon or some silks) whip in an S-twist to get the same result.

Two lines of whipped backstitch worked in different directions

Besides some bands of Hardanger and satin stitch, the main component of Join the Band, for which I’m stitching the model at the moment, is guilloche stitch. It’s a very decorative band stitch, and although I’ve mostly seen it stitched on non-countable fabrics I’ve found it really works equally well on counted fabric, like my favourite 25ct Lugana. This goes for quite a few freestyle/surface stitches, as I’m finding out in charting the new SAL. But they do sometimes take a bit of working out; you can’t play with the stitch length and size quite so freely when you’re constrained by 25 holes to the inch. On the plus side, it makes consistency in spacing and length a lot easier!

One of the things I had to decide on was the stitch length for the two outer lines of stem stitch. It is worked in perle #5, so the stitches can’t be too short or it will look bunched up; on the other hand, make the stitches too long and you lose the rope-like look that characterises stem stitch. Some stitch samples were obviously called for. I stitched one complete band of guilloche stitch with the stem stitches stretching over 6 threads, and then an additional line of stem stitch over 4 threads. By the way, although the colours used in the sample are the ones used in the complete model, they are not distributed in the same way, so the final version will look a bit different. Also bear in mind that this sample was worked on a scrap of fabric which was too small to fit in a hoop (I shouldn’t be so stingy about using proper-sized doodle cloths); stitching in hand is not my forte, so the tension is, uhm, a little erratic. Still, it gives an idea of what the two stitch lengths look like.

Stem stitch over 3 and 6, or over 2 and 4

The trouble is that, having stitched a sample, I’m still not sure which one I prefer! To my surprise the longer stitch length actually produced a thicker line than the shorter – I hadn’t expected that, although come to think of it perhaps I should have; the shorter stitch is a bit like twisting a thread more tightly, which makes them thinner. The long stitch length gives the lines a looser look which I quite like, but they do seem to crowed the centre part rather. The short stitch length is thinner and also more regular, but it would be difficult to claim categorically that that is because of the stitch length; it may just be my varying tension.

I may stitch another sample on hooped fabric, using the other colour scheme, and see whether that makes a difference; or rather, whether it makes it clearer to me which one to use. I think for the moment I’ll decide to be indecisive…

And even more hemming…

Do you have special travel projects? Something small and not too complex, with few ingredients, perhaps? I do, although the latter criterion isn’t always strictly adhered to – last time I visited my mother I took a selection of Shisha minis, with all the beads, sequins and mirrors that entails. Great fun, but not exactly ideal airport stitching.

And talking of airports: there is an additional difficulty when choosing my on-the-go project as I travel with hand luggage only at the moment, so scissors are a no-no. It says at the luggage check that “scissors with blades over 6cm” are prohibited, implying that anything smaller is OK, but I have found the security people to be erratic in these things and I am not risking my favourite squissors or my small, very sharp, very pointy embroidery scissors on their benevolence. So I take this little gadget:

A safe little gadget for cutting threads

And very useful it is, too, for snipping threads, but obviously Hardanger is out of the question. As is hemming. And this time I had decided to take hemming. Lots of hemming, and nothing but hemming.

Six hemming projects

The plan being that I would finally finish this dull but useful work if I had no other projects to distract me. And it wasn’t until the airport that I realised I rely on my very sharp, very pointy embroidery scissors to cut the fabric very close to the hemming, something whihc is done evry time one side is finished. My mother has a pair of serviceable dressmaking shears but they would hardly do for this, so I could see myself returning home with a stack of projects all with one side hemmed, and three-quarters of the work still to do.

Then I had a brainwave. I could buy a pair of sharp, pointy scissors in the Netherlands, use them, and leave them there for next time! I found a useful pair in the local sewing machine/quilting shop and set to.

First up was Cross My Heart, which I worked in blanket stitch. It is a very useful and relatively quick finishing stitch, but it has one drawback – any individual stitch isn’t very secure until the next one has been worked. If you let the tension on the thread relax after finishing a stitch, it Doesn’t Stay Put. This is annoying.

The normal way of working blanket stitch The finished stitch isn't very stable

Now I remembered that there is a blanket/buttonhole stitch variation which is secure the moment you finish the stitch, but I couldn’t remember how it was done, nor what it was called in Dutch, so the local library wouldn’t be any help. Thinking I might go and google the stitch in English at my aunt & uncle’s (my mother doesn’t do computers, let alone internet), I found my mind equally blank in that language. Something like tailored or tailor’s buttonhole, and something with a knot of sorts… I decided to experiment a bit on a scrap of fabric just cut off Cross My Heart, and found that if you take the needle through the blanket stitch loop from the front instead of from the back, the extra little loop formed around the thread keeps it firmly in place once you’ve pulled through and given it a bit of a tug.

The reverse way of working blanket stitch The finished stitch Stays Put

I’m not sure whether this is, in fact, the official way of doing knotted or tailor’s buttonhole/blanket stitch, but it works and it’s pretty much as quick as the ordinary blanket stitch, so I’m happy smiley. BonBon got the looped blanket stitchtreatment, as did Dying Embers and Vienna. I was on a roll!

But I still hadn’t started on the one that I really want to get done. Spring Romance is intended for my big canvas Going-To-London-For-The-Knitting-And-Stitching-Show bag. The problem was that, much though I liked the looped blanket stitch (LBS from now on), I still wasn’t absolutely sure whether to use that or the other finishing stitch I’d been considering, the hemstitch/nun stitch variation. Moss Agate was the only other unfinished piece left so I thought I’d try that in hem/nun stitch to see whether it worked as nicely as the LBS.

It didn’t. I know I liked it originally and I still like the look of it, but what at first seemed an advantage (that the attaching stitches would sit very near the edge) on second thoughts struck me as unwise – a little further in feels much more secure – and although it is a lot faster that four-sided edging (most things are…) it is quite a bit slower and more fiddly than LBS. So I unpicked the few inches of hemming I’d done and finished Moss Agate as I had finished the other four. And when I finally got round to Spring Romance, that got finished in the same way. Not a lot of variation, but then is anyone going to buy several bags and then complain that they all use the same finishing stitch? And using the same stitch for each piece certainly helped to get a rhythm going and speed up the process.

So here they are, 10 recently finished projects plus one I had lying around, some waiting to be put on bags and some waiting for more bags to be put on. I’d better put in another order at the bag shop!

Eleven hemmed projects

PS don’t tell anyone, but I had to do some creative counting on Spring Romance – a slight miscalculation at the start which I didn’t notice until I’d already cut one side of the fabric. But if you don’t mention it and I don’t mention it, I’m sure no-one will ever notice…

More hemming

I’m still patiently (well, reasonably patiently; for me) hemming old projects preparatory to them being attached to shopping bags. My aim was to find a method that looks good, and is both secure and quick to work. Four-sided edging scores well on two out of three – quick it is not. Also, with most of its stitches being double, and the backstitch used to attach it to the bag doubling the single bottom line, it is a bit bulky. Better keep this for bookmarks and other items that are frequently handled.

Four-sided edging, front Four-sided edging, back

Blanket stitch looks a little less “finished” but is a lot quicker to work, and the attaching backstitch will fill in the gaps at the bottom to make it look like a less bulky four-sided stitch. This is definitely one to keep on the list.

Blanket stitch, front Blanket stitch, back

The next one was a bit of an experiment – cross stitch through both layers of the folded edge, but slightly away from the edge. By working this in two rounds the back gets a cross stitch pattern too, although of course this will be invisible once the fabric is attached to the shopping bag. This one will probably be attached with running stitch in the gaps between the crosses, worked in the middle of the line. it’s a bit difficult to explain in words, but it should look a bit like this: x-x-x-x-x-x

Cross stitch edging, first round, front Cross stitch edging, first round, back Cross stitch edging, second round, front Cross stitch edging, second round, back

Finally I tried combination of surface hem stitch and nun stitch. It’s not quite hemstitch, as the “teeth” are pointing outwards and it’s worked away from the edge, and it’s not quite nun stitch, as all the lines are single, not double, but it works, and will be attached by means of backstitch along the open top of the stitches. This means the attaching stitches are closer to the edge than in any of the other methods, so there will be less of a rim to catch on things. The third picture shows a change of direction only noticeable on the back – this stitch can be worked in two different ways, and the one I started out with made turning the corners very difficult if not impossible, so I changed horses mid-stream. It made the corners nice and secure, and will be invisible once the patch has been attached to the bag.

Surface hem stitch edging, front Surface hem stitch edging, back Surface hem stitch edging, back

The cross stitch version was quite fiddly to work so I don’t think I’ll use that one again; the hem/nun stitch is a bit more fiddly than the blanket stitch, but I like the look of the folded edge and the fact that it can be quite securely attached. Probably, then, future hemming projects for bags will use blanket stitch or hem/nun stitch as the fancy takes me. And with a bit of luck I’ll soon have some pictures of finished bags to show you!

Notes on toadstools and a robin

I’m having great fun with my toadstools! Of my several plans I decided to start with the medium-sized, insectless version, simply outlined in stem stitch throughout. At this point I had ideas as to what I wanted the fungi to look like, but nothing set in stone – probably golden yellow for the right-hand toadstool, cream with blue or purple spots for the left-hand one, and the middle one the traditional red-with-white-spots (the only thing that is non-negotiable!). An enjoyable hour or so with my boxes of DMC and an LED light (invaluable when selecting and matching colours in the evening) produced a nice collection of bobbins, but as any stitcher knows, colours on bobbins don’t necessarily look like those same colours stitched onto fabric!

Toadstools ironed on, and colours chosen

By the way, I used the black iron-on pen to do the transferring. It worked beautifully, but there are a few things to keep in mind for future transfers; not criticisms exactly, just notes-to-self. First, although the line drawn with the pen is quite fine, the ironed-on line on the fabric is a little thicker. On small designs where a single strand is used this may cause the line to remain visible. Second, the ironed-on line is much lighter than the pen line looks on the transfer paper. On the fabric, the “black” pen looks a pale blue-grey. This is not a problem in itself – the lines are perfectly visible as they are and it might even be a drawback if they were any darker, as it would be more difficult to cover them up. Finally, I have the feeling that the lines fade a little over time. I transferred two copies of the robin (more of him below), and the second one, which hasn’t been stitched yet, is a very pale blue now – still visible, still workable, but paler than it was when I’d just ironed it on. I think. It’s very difficult to remember accurately the exact darkness or lightness of a line two weeks later!

Back to the toadstools. They were worked in standard DMC stranded cotton, using two strands for the two outer toadstools, and three strands for the middle one and the grass. The grass is worked in two strands of dark green and one of light green.

Toadstools outlined in stem stitch

I quite like the look of it as it is, but I feel it needs a few tweaks. My ideas so far:

  • I like the contrast between the slightly heavier middle toadstool and the lighter outside ones. However, the outlines of the outer two toadstools aren’t as clear as I’d like, and the spots are a bit too heavy. Next time try 4 strands and 3 strands respectively for the outlines, 3 and 2 for the spots. The grass is OK at 3 strands (2 dark, 1 light).
  • The red is too orange and too bright; try tweeding a darker red into it. The line forming the underside of the cap is a bit dark; would it look better in a very dark red? Then fill in the under-cap area with gills in brown – either straight stitch, or stem stitch in one strand.
  • The ecru toadstool is rather light, probably even with an extra strand. Think of a different colour. Spots in blue rather than purple?
  • The outline-only version looks a bit empty (as does the no-insect bit). Try seed stitch (in 3 strands for the middle one, 2 for the outer two) of diminishing density top down (start at the top of the cap with dense stitching and become more scattered downwards, stopping at about the half-way point). Same principle for the stems, and the frill on the middle one.
  • Is there a blueish fungus of the left-hand shape? If so this might look better than the yellow. (Then the insect can be done in a warm shade.)

So there’s my homework for the coming time: experiment a bit more with the toadstools, both as regards colours and stitches. Incidentally, did you spot the addition to the design? Serinde suggested in a comment that a snail would be a good alternative to an insect, and I thought that was a spiffing idea, so I drew a snail version and also added it to the project in progress, as you can see above. It took me a while to decide on colours and number of strands for him, but eventually I settled on the dark brown used in the middle toadstool, and the purple used in the right-hand one, both in one strand. As this is a trial piece I’m afraid he wasn’t stitched as carefully as he should have been (the shape of his body is too much of a smooth arc, it should have some bends in it) but it gives an idea.

The toadstools with a little snail added The snail has been stitched

The little stylised robin inspired by a 1920s starch advert has been played about with as well. As with the toadstools, I decided to do one simply outlined in stem stitch to begin with. Well, apart from its eye, which is a black, round Rhodes stitch, to make it nice and beady (using that word makes me think I could just have used a bead; still, I like this look and a bead might have been a bit too shiny compared to the rest). For this one I used Rainbow Gallery Splendor silk, which is lovely and soft to work with. Just so that it wouldn’t look too “flat”, I tweeded quite a few of the colours, using one strand each of a darker and a lighter shade – it’s a simple way of adding a bit of instant shading.

On the whole I’m quite happy with this little chap, although I will do the legs differently next time – either outlined in one strand, or in two or three strands but as single lines. As they are here (outlined in two strands) they look too heavy compared to the rest of the bird. I was also thinking of stitching one filled in with long & short stitch, but on second thoughts I’m not sure that naturalistic shading won’t look out of place on such a stylised design. Perhaps using tweeded stem stitch as a relatively blocky filling would suit his look better.

The starchy robin outlined in stem stitch

Introducing the 2016 SAL

Remember the Song of the Weather SAL, way back in 2013? If not, have a look at the SAL Gallery and enjoy the wonderful ways in which lots of stitchers interpreted the monthly projects.

Nearly 200 stitchers around the world joined the Stitch-Along, which surprised no-one more than me smiley! And with the reactions all so enthusiastic, it seemed inevitable that there should be another one. In a bout of intense and completely misplaced optimism I thought I could get the second Mabel’s Fancies SAL organised for 2015. Not a chance.

What I did do was gather together a sizeable collection of sketches, notes, ideas, and scraps of fabric with stitch samples (some more successful than others). And at last that collection is big enough and organised enough to base a 12-month project on.

So today I am proud to announce *drumroll…*

The 2016 SAL

The 2016 Mabel’s Fancies Stitch-Along Round in Circles – 12 monthly projects of what you might call Hardanger Plus: Hardanger plus various surface stitches and embellishments, and a little ribbon work as well. And perhaps even a little optional goldwork…?

You can’t actually join yet, but on the SAL page you’ll find more information about the SAL itself and when various things will be happening, like the publication of the materials list. And before you know it, it’ll be January and we can start stitching and filling the new SAL Gallery!

Getting to grips with cats

Some time ago I set out to transfer Kelly Fletcher’s Cats on a Wall design to my chosen fabric, a piece of 40ct Zweigart Newcastle linen in the colour Flax, a stony sort of shade. Unfortunately this was before I had received or even ordered my lovely iron-on pens, or the promising-looking carbon transfer paper I got from Sublime stitching at the same time. Other, more traditional methods were called for.

Newcastle linen and Splendor silks for the Cats on a Wall

Tracing against a well-lit window (the poor stitcher’s version of a lightbox) turned out to be difficult because of the colour of the fabric – even with the sun right behind it, the lines of the design didn’t show up very clearly. Moreover, both the pencil and the micron pen I tried using sometimes got caught in the holes and skipped. This may be because at 40ct the Newcastle is a relatively low count compared to the Gander and Kingston linens, or possibly because it’s a fabric meant for counted thread work; there are linens specifically intended for freestyle embroidery which have a lower count but plumper fabric threads so that they present a nice full surface instead of visible holes to trap pencils.

Would prick & pounce have worked? It may have been lack of courage that kept me from trying (I have all the wherewithal for it – pricking pen & pad, pounce powder, little round felt pouncy thing – but as yet haven’t used it), but I like to think it was because I could see it wouldn’t work very well on this relatively open weave. I did try covering the back of the printed design with 2B pencil, then placing it over the fabric and tracing along the lines at the front (a sort of make-shift carbon paper which I’m sure most people have used at some time or other to copy things), but it left no clear line. Perhaps it’s simply not the right fabric for these sort of transfer methods!

In a last-ditch attempt I went over the filling stitches on the printed design in black pen to make them thicker, so they would be easier to see through the fabric as I went back to the well-lit window method. It was better, but still not altogether successful. Finally I had to ink in some of the filling stitches “free hand” by looking at the printed design and copying the lines by eye, so they are not quite as regular as intended by the designer. I also managed to get the outline of one of the stones in the wall wrong – I may have to cover that up with a single strand of silk in the colour of the linen! Even so, at least it’s been transferred and is now ready to go.

The Cats transferred to the Newcastle linen

And then I decided that I really want to do the Tree of Life first. Or the Leaves. Or the Toadstools. Or the Daisy-and-Bumblebee…

Toadstools and a daisy

Last Thursday we had a church meeting. And a very interesting meeting it was, too, with lots about the proposed new building. Throughout the meeting I paid close enough attention to be able to give a fairly detailed summary to my husband afterwards. I only mention this because I also doodled throughout the meeting, and I wouldn’t like you to get the wrong idea smiley.

Do you do that? Doodle during meetings, or in waiting rooms, or while on the phone? I do – I’m an inveterate doodler. Somehow it seems to help me concentrate better. Sometimes it also produces something usable, as it did in this case. I’d been thinking of toadstool designs for a while; in fact I’ve got a sketch and notes for a goldwork toadstool. And talking of buildings at the meeting brought them to mind (I used to love the toadstool houses that gnomes live in in fairytales). So I sketched a few toadstool shapes on the agenda. (Apologies for the slightly crumpled pictures – I had to retrieve this invaluable record of my designing process from the recycling bin…)

Toadstools initial sketch Separate toadstools Overlapping toadstools

As you can see I drew some separate toadstool shapes first, then decided they’d look better overlapping slightly. When I got home I drew a larger sketch based on the overlapping version. This was then scanned, to be tidied up in my photo editing program.

Larger sketch

While tidying up I decided that the left-hand side looked a bit empty, and as I love little creepy crawly critters as long as they are in needlework rather than in the flesh (or whatever real insects are made from) I added first a caterpillar (my favourite creepy crawly) and then an alternative beetle.

Larger sketch Larger sketch Larger sketch

I’m planning to stitch three versions of this, in three sizes, one outlined in stem stitch only, one mostly outlined and partly filled in using a variety of stitches, and one filled in entirely using long-and-short stitch and ste stitch filling.

As I was getting the toadstools ready to print, I thought I might as well tidy up a sketch I did some time ago of a simple daisy and bumblebee intended for teaching. I haven’t decided how to stitch that one yet; it could work in goldwork, or perhaps in freestyle outlines it would be a good one for another workshop in aid of the building fund!

Larger sketch Larger sketch

Wool again – back to Pearsall’s

Some time ago I treated myself to Pearsall’s starter pack, 30 skeins of their Heathway Merino crewel wool plus two pieces of twill.

Wool from Pearsall's starter pack

Of course they needed to be tried out, and for ease of comparison I used the same design as for the Renaissance Dyeing experiment. Originally I intended to use the same stitches as well, but then I came across the raised chain stitch band which, having worked it in perle cotton and loved the result, I simply had to try out in wool. As it happens, it’s not quite so successful in wool as in perle, although it still has an interesting look. The two wide pink/red bands on the flower cone (what do you call that thing?) are raised chain stitch band, with intentionally varied spacing (just so you don’t think it looks sloppy by accident…).

Starting on the SANQ pattern in Pearsall's wool

The main thing I noticed about Pearsall’s is that it feels and looks a little heavier than the Renaissance Dyeing wool. It’s not a big difference, in fact I sometimes wondered whether I was imagining it, but on the whole I do think there is a difference. It’s most noticeable on the three lines of stem stitch in the stem, and the little lines of stem stitch around the tiny satin stitch leaves. Talking of which, they are very irregular. I know. I was getting a little impatient to finish this because I really want to work on the Shisha Mini and the SAL, and so I wasn’t as careful over my stitching as I would have been if this had been a proper project. (That’s not to say these two Jacobean flowers are improper projects – just that they are more in the nature of samplers, or to hark back to the previous FoF, doodle cloths. Pictorial doodle cloths. I might do more of those, actually! Perhaps I could use some of those leaf outlines I’ve been drawing for one.)

The finished Jacobean flower

Apart from the slight difference in thickness, Pearsall’s crewel wool is really very much like Renaissance Dyeing’s. They work up very nicely, they don’t pill, and they are both so much better than Appleton’s! I like the feel of the Pearsall’s a little better, but on the other hand the RD makes really nice fine lines in stem stitch. Mind you, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t mix them.

Finally, just a few close-ups to show the various stitches used in this project. In the flower cone: raised chain stitch band, seed stitch, French knots (using two different colours in the needle which unfortunately doesn’t show up at all) and long-and-short stitch worked over a split stitch border which is now invisible. In the bluey-green petals: stem stitch (the vein), Portuguese knotted stem stitch (the outline) and bullion knots. In the stem: stem stitch in three shades of green, and French knots with two shades in the needle – here the colours were sufficiently different to show up. In the leaf: stem stitch, Palestrina stitch (the outline) and satin stitch (the little leaves-within-a-leaf).

raised chain stitch band, seed stitch, French knots and long-and-short stitch stem stitch, knotted stem stitch and bullion knots stem stitch shading and French knots stem stitch, Palestrina stitch and satin stitch

And now I can go and play with Shisha minis and SAL doodle cloths – yay!

Doodle cloths with a purpose

In a way I suppose all doodle cloths have a purpose – the purpose of letting you try out stitches to see whether you like them; of practising stitches and so getting familiar with them before using them on a “real” project; of comparing the effects that different types and weights of threads have on a stitch; of showing others how to work a stitch; of having a record (or sampler) of various stitches for future reference. Trial cloths, practice cloths, teaching cloths, reference cloths. In theory you could, presumably, have a purposeless doodle cloth, one that you simply pick up when you would like to do a bit of stitching but can’t be bothered or haven’t got the time to work on any of your projects. But in practice I think it would quickly turn into one of those four types mentioned above.

Ideally, doodle cloths shouldn’t be thrown away. No matter what their original purpose was, they can always be used for reference or to record what you’ve done and learnt over the years. Teaching cloths can be useful when, years later, you are about to teach a similar class or workshop. Colour combinations on a trial cloth may inspire a new design. I have once or twice consigned doodle cloths to the rubbish bin, and regretted it later.

But there is still a fair collection. The two Shisha Minis with four different corner motifs each fall into the reference category, even though strictly speaking they weren’t doodle cloths when I started them – they were mini projects that turned into doodle cloths because I couldn’t make up my mind. I have several cloths with large cut Hardanger areas filled with possible bars and filling stitches (and some impossible ones…) The doodle cloth I used at the shisha workshops (below left) was a teaching cloth from the start. The other picture shows a trial cloth on calico which, besides some stitches in just one version, contains several worked in different threads. It’s also a practice cloth for stitches I’ve never done before, which explains why some of them look distinctly wonky and, let’s be honest, rubbish. But that’s how you learn!

My doodle cloth Doodle cloth on calico

At the moment my most exciting doodle cloth is the one below. It’s 25ct Lugana mounted in a 10″ hoop and I will admit that it doesn’t look very exciting, being completely empty. But over the next month or so it should fill up with stitches to be used in the Round in Circles SAL, which I hope will start in January. Some of them will be counted versions of stitches on the calico doodle cloth, some will be different altogether, some will be familiar to people who did the Song of the Weather SAL, some won’t, but all of them are going to be my secret until 2016 smiley.

Setting up a doodle cloth on lugana