An impromptu bunny rabbit

One of the ladies who came to the first Wildflower Garden workshop earlier this month is also a member of the stitching group I go to every Monday afternoon during term time. On one of those Monday afternoons she told me she’d finished the Wildflower Garden and had added some other flowers, but that she would have liked to have added a hare. Idly I remarked that you could probably put together a decent enough hare peeping out of the grass using only the stitches used in the rest of the design, and went on with my stitching.

But her words had obviously set something in motion in the back of my brain, because a few minutes later I could see quite clearly two ears made from lazy daisies and a little face made from a fly stitch. I had a pencil handy because I was working out the best route for some wrapped bars in one of the SAL designs so I quickly got it down on paper before it disappeared.

Bunny rabbit doodle on a bit of SAL

And that’s where it would probably have ended if I hadn’t come across the paper last Saturday, when I was at home with a doodle cloth handy – a doodle cloth with stuck into a corner a needle ready-threaded with brown perle #5! It was a Lugana cloth rather than the uncounted fabric I had in mind when scribbling down the sketchy leporid, but I felt that for a quick let’s-see-how-it-works-out that would be fine. And here he is, possibly more rabbit than hare, but I like him, and he does use only Wildflower Garden stitches: lazy daisy, fly stitch, French knot and straight stitch. If at any time you have need of a quick and not too detailed bunny face, feel free to use him.

The bunny rabbit on one of my doodle cloths

My husband suggested that I might like to add a stitch to indicate the top of his head, and of course that would be quite easy to do. I may try it and see if I think it looks better, but here I was trying to stick as closely as possible to the original doodle; also, I rather like his sketchy outline – somehow it seems to go quite well with the informality of the Wildflower Garden that inspired him!

Helpful equipment

One of the things I’ve always liked about embroidery as a hobby is that you need very little “stuff” to enjoy it. Fabric, threads, needle, scissors – that’s about it for the essentials, and if your teeth are good and you’re not doing Hardanger you could probably dispense with the scissors (no, I wasn’t serious there). You can go mad and spend a fortune on hand-dyed fabrics, speciality threads, heritage-quality frames and stands, daylight lamps, silks, goldwork materials and what not, but you don’t have to. Nor is it the case that you can only do simple things or beginner’s projects if you stick to the basic equipment. A talented needleworker can produce works of art using standard cotton threads and plain fabric. It’s a great hobby!

That isn’t to say, of course, that I reject all equipment that isn’t strictly necessary. I could learn to stitch in hand, but I prefer using flexi-hoops – to me they make my stitching easier and more comfortable. More extravagantly, I love my Millennium frame and Aristo stand for larger projects; again, they make stitching more comfortable, and on top of that they are beautifully made and very strokeable smiley.

Another piece of equipment I am very pleased to have found is my Vario Light Pad. I’ve got the A4 version, which is plenty big enough for any designs I’m likely to want to transfer. Yes, I could use a well-lit window and tape the design to it and place the fabric over it and try to draw on a vertical surface. Or I could use the prick-and-pounce method of transferring, about the only one that will work on practically any fabric, but that is more complicated and anyway requires its own equipment. But for transferring lots of small designs onto relatively thin fabric the light pad is unbeatable, especially in combination with very thin Pigma Micron drawing pens.

The Vario Light Pad Sakura Pigma Micron pens

And so a couple of nights ago, while we watched the Queen’s 90th birthday party (recorded from ITV so we could whizz through the adverts and some of the more annoying presenters) I set about tracing another 26 Little Wildflower Gardens onto light blue cotton, stopping occasionally to give my full attention to the riding skills of the Azerbaijani horsemen (and women) or the percussion antics of the Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps (where do they practice drumming if they want to stay top secret?). A very pleasant combination of activities, and I’ve now got enough designs transferred for the next two workshops plus a few extra!

The fabric for the Wildflower Garden workshops with transfers

A successful workshop and a swarm of bees

Last Saturday was the first of the three Freestyle Embroidery workshops in aid of the Dunchurch Baptist Church building fund; I found myself doing some last-minute preparations around lunchtime (transferring the design to twelve pieces of blue cotton and putting them in hoops with some backing fabric) but fortunately got everything done in time *phew*.

When we got to the church, 45 minutes before the workshop was about to start, two ladies were already waiting – they were from relatively far away and hadn’t been sure how long the journey would take, although I hope their early arrival was at least partly due to enthusiasm and eagerness as well!

The twelve participants came from a wide range of ages, from 14 to 90, which was lovely; but they were all women. Not that I mind women, you understand – I am one myself, after all – but I know for a fact that there are some very talented male stitchers out there. What keeps them from attending these stitching workshops? Is it seen as unmanly? Are they afraid people might spot them as they stealthily creep out of the church, clutching a piece of stitching? I hereby call on all men, stitchers or not, to come and have a try; it’s not difficult, or scary, or dangerous, and if you can wield a precision screwdriver a needle and thread should hold no terrors for you.

By the way, do you remember Katie my helpful guinea pig, who tried out workshop kits for me to see if they were suitable for young stitchers? She was there, and was by far the fastest stitcher. That’s what dedicated concentration does for you smiley.

Everyone enjoyed the afternoon, and in spite of a good amount of chatting, and some time spent on tea or coffee with biscuits and buttered scones (the latter kindly donated by one of the participants), by the end of the afternoon twelve wildflower gardens were flourishing in various degrees of completeness.

Fierce concentration A relaxing cup of tea Good progress

I have been told of at least three that have been finished since then – and indeed more than finished. Jenny was not satisfied with her first bee, and so with laudable determination she kept on trying until she was. If any of the flowers in her garden fail to get pollinated, it won’t be for lack of effort on her part!

A swarm of bees

One workshop down, two more to go, and in an attempt to be more organised I am getting the kits ready now. Ironing the fabric, cutting it to size and transferring the design to it; printing the instructions and attaching the cover photographs to them; sticking 2 needles per kit into a bit of felt; folding the cards, inserting them into their envelopes and adding a piece of wadding each; and my favourite bit, getting the threads together. Don’t you just love playing with colourful stranded cottons?

The Wildflower Garden kits, without threads Threads for the Wildflower Garden kits