Remember I said there was another project for which I wanted to use the Millennium frame? It’s an unexpected piece of goldwork. No, not the little Jacobean design I mentioned last time – I’ve written to the magazine again with my husband’s clever proposal but haven’t heard from them yet – this one came to me more or less by accident! A few weeks ago Mary Corbett wrote about Benton & Johnson goldwork kits, and in the comments someone mentioned the intriguingly named “Air Balloon Goldwork Kit” which unfortunately doesn’t have a picture with it. I’d visited B & J’s website before in my search for goldwork materials, but they sell in rather large quantities more suited to resellers or teachers making up kits. However, on revisiting the site I saw they had moved to a new address in London, very close to one of my regular walking routes when I am in town for the Knitting & Stitching Show; but it wasn’t very clear whether the address was actually a shop which you could visit. So I rang them to find out.
Neil Halford at Benton & Johnson’s very kindly explained to me that it was really only a showroom for their ceremonial work, and that any purchases had to be made via the website or over the phone. I took the opportunity of asking him about the balloon kit. “Ah”, he said. “We haven’t actually had that stitched yet.” And before I knew it he asked me whether I would like to stitch it for them. Very tempting, but I felt I ought to tell him that I am a bit of a beginner when it comes to goldwork. Which reminds me, I don’t think I ever showed you the finished RSN day class project – very remiss of me, so here it is, on its own and framed in a happened-to-have-this-and-it’s-just-right frame.
Anyway, we talked some more and he said how difficult it was to find model stitchers, so I took a deep breath and said that if he was willing to take the risk, I’d be more than happy to have a go and take pictures and write comments etc. A week later, the postwoman brought a goldwork air balloon. Well, a potential goldwork air balloon. It uses padded kid, lots of couching, some chipwork, and as far as I can see no techniques that I’ve never done before, which is a reassuring thought.
When I opened the envelope and took out the kit, one thing immediately struck me. Can you guess what it was?
That’s right: it’s already got a picture of the stitched design. I rang Neil and he said it was a very bad photo, they couldn’t use it to fit in with the format of the other kits, and they didn’t really have any information as to how good the instructions were so they needed a stitcher to tell them. Well, I’m happy to oblige . I also asked whether it would be all right for me to blog about the project and how I got on with it, and he said that was fine, so expect various updates over the next few months. Rather wonderfully, there is no deadline, so no pressure – just enjoyment.
It’s always very enjoyable to dive right in and take all the bits and bobs out of the kit and see what’s there, but I noticed there was a content list on the back so I read that first. It definitely looked promising! The materials were all snugly enclosed in the instruction booklet which looks quite comprehensive, with colour photographs to illustrate the various steps.
It really makes me want to promote this to Current Project, but unfortunately I can’t quite start on this yet, as there are several other things that have priority (see last Wednesday’s post). When I do, however, the first thing will be to mount it on the Millennium frame. This means finding my own backing fabric, as B & J’s very understandably don’t provide a piece large enough for the purpose; the included backing fabric is actually larger than stated in the content list and is easily big enough to mount the whole thing in a hoop, so no criticism there (it does annoy me so when the fabric supplied with a kit is only about half an inch bigger than the stitched project – you can’t work like that). The blue silk fabric is also of a good size, but with rather a strong crease in it; I’ll have to see how that irons out. Then there are two squares of dark gold felt and some extremely shiny gold kid leather which will definitely attract the eye in the finished piece. The last thing in the kit is a bulky acid-free envelope – another thing to unwrap, it’s almost as good as a birthday! Inside are beeswax, beads, coloured metallic threads and various gold threads and purls. Now of course I don’t know yet how much thread this balloon will take, but at first sight there seems to be an extremely generous amount of everything, and it all looks beautiful and shiny and very tempting. Let’s see how long I manage to resist…