It’s a small world

It is! And to trot out another cliché, life is full of surprises, not to mention coincidences. Let me tell you the story.

Last week I received an email from a lady who wishes to start a cut flower business. Good luck to her, I say – being Dutch I thoroughly approve of anyone providing more flowers for the adornment of our homes – but you may wonder why she contacted me about this. Well, in her online search for images to use as a logo she came across an embroidery featuring a single flower and leaf (which would go well with the name she has chosen for her new business) in colours similar to the ones she was planning to use. It was this embroidery:

The SANQ goldwork design stitched using Pearsall's crewel wool

That’s right, it’s the little Jacobean goldwork design that I first used for two crewel wool experiments; this is the one using Pearsall’s wool. I was flattered, of course, and wrote to the lady saying so, but also noted that although the stitching and the interpretation were mine, the design was not; it doesn’t really look the way the designer originally intended, but even so I was of the opinion that the copyright of it probably still lay with him or her. Nevertheless, I promised I’d ask the opinion of the Cross Stitch Forum, whose members feel very strongly about copyright and some of whom have looked into the matter in some detail.

One person there sensibly suggested contacting the designer. An excellent suggestion, but I didn’t feel very hopeful about its success; I contacted the magazine last year when I was hoping to acquire this particular design (which I’d seen on a picture of the magazine’s cover on Mary Corbet’s blog), and apart from a fairly standard reply saying they’d forwarded my question to the editorial department (and pointing me to a book they had for sale on goldwork) I didn’t get any further replies, neither from their main email address nor the editorial department.

Samplers & Antique Needlework vol. 38

Then another member suggested looking at the original pattern to say if it said anything about “free use”. Now I hadn’t actually looked at either the pattern or the instructions since I printed off an enlarged version of it; I use that print to transfer the design whenever I want it, and I’m not actually following the instructions but going loosely (very loosely…) by the photograph of the finished pincushion. Moreover I only have the pages with this design on them, not the whole magazine, so any copyright rules covering the magazine generally would probably not be there anyway. Still, I unearthed the original pages and had a look. That’s when the coincidence/small world thing came in.

The designer turned out to be Barbara Jackson of Tristan Brooks Designs ; that sounded very familiar, but it took me a while to remember why. And then it came back to me – Barbara Jackson was the very helpful lady who sent me some twill samples all the way from America last year so I could try them before deciding which one to buy! We had quite an email conversation at the time and we spoke on the telephone as well. As the time difference meant that she was probably at work when I realised this, I rang and explained the situation to her.

It took her a while to remember the design, actually, and when she’d worked out which one it was and I told her my fairly convoluted reason for ringing her she said “I was afraid you were going to ask me for the instructions!” Anyway, she was perfectly happy for me to pass on her permission to use the design, or rather the picture of my rather different version of the design, and so I did. Don’t you just love happy endings smiley? If the flower lady does indeed decide to use the embroidered flower as her logo I’ll post a screen shot when the website goes live!

When the stitching bug deserts you

As I mentioned earlier this month, my urge to stitch is not particularly high at the moment. I’m keeping up with a few necessary projects (like a set of coasters ordered in aid of the Church Building Fund, and second versions of the SAL designs so I can take pictures for the blog), and I do enjoy those, but there isn’t really any project that’s making me eager to kit up and get started. And that is quite unusual, especially as there are several designs in my yet-to-be-stitched folder that a few months ago I was itching to start, like a goldwork daisy-and-bee, an autumn leaf arrangement and the Tree of Life in two versions.

I have done something about the Tree of Life. As playing with stash (sorry, I mean of course “studying the supplies I have in stock in order to find the best ones for the project under consideration”) is a lovely relaxing thing to do I got out my collection of Pearsall’s Heathway Merino crewel wool to see whether any of the shades I’d picked for Tree of Life from their starter pack would be better replaced by some of the shades I had added to the hoard later. Here are the shades I’d originally considered:

Heathway wools for Tree of Life

Very pretty, if a little muted. But a different set of greens and browns lifts it, I think, and makes the palette look more lively.

different Heathway wools for Tree of Life

Add to that some pretty goldwork materials (pearl purl, smooth passing, metallic kid leather) and you know what, I think that itch is faintly considering coming back! While I was at it, I also picked out some shades for a more autumnal version; originally I’d envisaged that in coton à broder, but if I do decide to do it in wools, these beautiful warm shades I feel would work very well.

autumnal Heathway wools for Tree of Life

When stitching is temporarily just not the thing, there are other things you can do besides petting, organising, admiring, and re-arranging stash – one of them is putting things together for other people to stitch! In the coming months I hope to introduce a selection of kits: a second Shisha card, the Little Wildflower Garden (at the moment only available as a chart pack), and the Christmas Wreath both as a card and as an ornament. Just so you can start your Christmas stitching in good time smiley.

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!

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.

Pearsall’s, and disappearing silks

Some years ago I picked up a small collection of vintage silks made by Pearsall’s Embroidery, called Filofloss. They were stranded, flattish silks with a lovely sheen, made during the 1920s and 30s as far as I can remember. Lovely, and unfortunately discontinued. But Pearsall’s continued with a different stranded silk, Filoselle, which I used for the stems and the blue flower in Mary Corbett’s small cross design. It has more twist than Filofloss, and is a little more springy, but it has the same lovely sheen. Unfortunately, despite the label shown on Pearsall’s home page, Filoselle is no more. When I spoke to Carol at Pearsall’s to ask whether they would be at the Knitting & Stitching Show she explained that the silks had been very much the domain of her business partner John, who sadly died in 2012. Since then, all their silks apart from surgical silks have been phased out.

What they do still do is crewel wool. After my recent re-acquaintance with Appleton’s (about which more when I post about my twill experiments) I felt I would really like to try a crewel wool that doesn’t have thin bits which make one’s stitching look more irregular than it needs to, that doesn’t pill, or fluff, or untwist. Serinde over at the Cross Stitch Forum suggested either Renaissance Dyeing or Pearsall’s Heathway Milano crewel wool.

There is a lot to be said for Renaissance Dyeing’s wool. For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper than Pearsall’s. But Pearsall’s has a wider range of colours, and these are much more conveniently laid out on their website. I’m finding it almost impossible to work out from RD’s page of wools how to put together a set of three or four matching shades of any one colour. For example, presumably Light Orange #0302 goes with Pale Orange #0301, but they are several rows apart, their pictures separated by seven completely unrelated colours; in some cases shades that are probably related are so far apart that you need to scroll from one to the other so you can’t see them together. Another thing, do you go by name or by proximity of number? Does Dark Apricot #1205 go with Light Peach #1203? I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and this confuses me. I will try and work it out because anything Serinde recommends is likely to be lovely to work with, but for now I decided to concentrate on Pearsall’s.

Because Pearsall’s have a Crewel Starter Pack – 30 skeins of wool plus two good-sized pieces of twill at a considerable discount to what it would cost to buy all the bits separately. True, you don’t get to choose the colours, but the picture seemed to indicate that there would be four shades of seven different colour families, plus black and white, which is a useful start to a collection but also varied enough to be useful without having to add to it. I decided to ring them and spoke to Carol, who was incredibly helpful. She actually went through several of the packs she had in stock to tell me what combinations they contained! Determined not to impulse-buy I said I’d go away and think about it. I did. For at least 10 minutes. Then I called back and ordered one of the starter packs. This was about three o’ clock on Friday afternoon; on Saturday the postwoman delivered this:

Wool from Pearsall's starter pack

Aren’t they gorgeous? And the picture can’t tell you how beautifully soft they are – I was fondling them for at least five minutes before putting them away for the moment. When the Wedding Elephant is done, I’ll do a Kelly Fletcher flower with some of them to see how they are to work with.

Talking of KF, I finished Bloomin’ Marvellous 7 (yes, it was on hold; but for various reasons I didn’t get round to setting up the Elephant on Saturday, so I finished this while watching the VE Day concert). Besides some Chameleon Shades of Africa silks (the two yellows) it uses some of Vikki Clayton’s Hand-Dyed Fibers premium stranded silk. A little chunkier than standard strands, and lovely to work with, but it seems Hand-Dyed Fibers is yet another brand that has ceased to exist – the website is down and although I can find references to Vikki Clayton online, I can’t find anything to indicate that she is still producing these silks. I hope not too many silks go the same route or we won’t have anything to stitch with but DMC and Anchor! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen beautiful projects created with stranded cotton, but there is just something about working with silks that is a little bit special, not to mention their place in the long history of embroidery – it would be a shame if they all went.

Bloomin' Marvellous 7 finished