A parrot, an unintended project and a border

First things first: Happy New Year! May only good things come your way in 2015.

It’s not often that I stitch other people’s designs nowadays; it’s the downside of having so many of my own things to stitch. There is a Victoria Sampler kit languishing in a drawer that I still want to do one day, and definitely some more goldwork too, but generally I work on models of my own designs because if I don’t, I can’t put them up on the website for other people to stitch!

Occasionally there is a solid reason for picking an existing design rather than charting one myself. Recently my mother reminded me that I had promised to stitch a bookmark for my eldest aunt, and in my stash of cross stitch patterns collected from magazines over the years I found a colourful parrot that was just perfect for her, so I used that.

A parrot bookmark for my aunt

Sometimes there is no particular reason at all, except that a design really takes my fancy. This was the case with a pretty little heart which a lady on the Cross Stitch Forum stitched using a hand-dyed thread, and which had come out beautifully; it’s a freebie and you can find both a picture and the chart on Olga Maxden’s blog. What I like about it is that it uses a variety of stitches – lattice stitch, French knot, double cross stitch, different-shaped ray stitches and so on – and only two threads, one perle and one stranded. Using a solid perle and a variegated stranded thread produces a very attractive effect.

Remember the Gloriana silk I was given at the Knitting & Stitching show by the kind lady at the Calico Cat stand? As it turned out it wouldn’t really do as a substitute for the Dinky Dyes perle used in Sunken Treasures, but it is a lovely thread with its subtle variegation of green, smoky blue and lavender, and with a pale blue perle just the combination for this little heart. I’ve gone for a 28ct opalescent white Lugana with perle #12 and two strands of Gloriana silk (three for the French knots, needed to recreate the nice and plump look of the original). Here’s what I’ve done so far, just the French knots to go (“just” – ha!):

Small Sweet Heart complete apart from a gazillion French knots

In spite of sneaky little projects worming their way into my To Do pile I did manage some work on Orpheus, on the first of the three borders. The inner and outer borders are long-armed braid, and the central one is a double feather braid; I was hoping for a nice contrast between the two stitches, and I think it’s working rather well: the long-armed braid is quite solid and 3D, and should form a nice frame for the airier feather braid. Here is a close-up which shows a little of the texture and height of the stitch, though unfortunately it’s difficult to get the picture to look like it does in real life.

Long-armed braid

A belated Knitting and Stitching Show report

It’s been a while since my last FoF, but for very pleasant reasons – first there was the Knitting & Stitching Show and my usual two-night stay in London (thank you kind sister-in-law for putting up with me once again), then my mother came to visit for a week which was lovely after her long and difficult treatment, and she was hardly on the plane back to Holland when we were off on a visit to my husband’s parents (stopping on the way to attend an auction). Now we’re back to what passes for normal here and I’ve got a little breathing space to catch up with my posting.

K&S was very enjoyable as usual; the workshop was fully booked, and in fact one lady asked if she could attend as number 13, but unfortunately I’d only brought 12 kits. Also, 12 people is really the most I can do in a workshop – even then it can be a bit of a struggle to make sure everyone gets enough attention. However, one person who’d booked didn’t turn up so the lady was able to join in after all. My favourite bit of the workshop has to be when we do the cutting, and suddenly there are gasps of surprise as the lacy look of the Hardanger almost miraculously emerges when the cut threads are pulled out – it’s always a great moment.

I had time to look around the stands as well, and had an interesting chat with the lady demonstrating goldwork at Golden Hinde where I got the gold and silver kid for Treasure Trove some time ago. I also took the opportunity of trying to find replacement threads for the discontinued Dinky Dyes perles. Stef Francis and Oliver Twists both had lovely threads, but none that would match the three DD ones. The Threadworx perles at West End Embroidery showed some promise, but still weren’t quite the thing. The people there were terribly helpful, though, going through the Weeks Dye Works threads with me and making suggestions. I noticed this at many a stand – needleworkers are quite simply a lovely helpful bunch of people! Nowhere more so than at the Calico Cat, where Carol went through all the Gloriana threads with me, and eventually gave me a skein each of stranded silk and stranded wool in the shade Monet’s Pond! If ever you need Gloriana or Valdani threads, or advice about them, do remember the Calico Cat – they haven’t got a website, but you can email them or call them at 07779 103280.

Another find was a Dutch lady selling Wonderfil threads. Most of them aren’t really suitable for Hardanger, but there was one which drew my attention: a 12wt Egyptian cotton called Fruitti (and yes, there is also a thread called Tutti. And Razzle. And Dazzle. I don’t like the names but you can’t have everything) which is similar in thickness to a perle #12. They had large bobbins which worked out cheaper but I picked a set of five small bobbins so I’d have more colours to experiment with. I’ll let you know how they stitch up. Anything else? Ah yes, five tiny wooden buttons. Remarkably restrained, don’t you think? You can see my entire haul in the picture (except for the delicious Linden Lady chocolates which had mysteriously disappeared by the time I took the photograph). By the way, isn’t the colour difference between Gloriana’s wool and silk enormous? And yet they are both given the same shade name. It makes me wonder what the silk perles of that shade are like; I may have to try them…

My modest stash haul

Silk perle in Hardanger

If I’ve managed to convince you that silks are A Good Thing and should be used as often as is possible in today’s economic crisis, what’s the next step for a stitcher who wants to use silks in Hardanger? The easy option is to go for silk perles. They work pretty much the same way as perle cottons, generally come in much the same thicknesses, and so if you can stitch a design with perle cottons you can stitch it with silk perles. My absolute favourites are Gloriana’s Princess Perle (similar to a #5) and Princess Perle Petite (between #8 and #12). Their shine is unbelievable, they are a joy to work with, and the fact that the Petite thread is just that little bit thinner than a #8 makes it great for very delicate filling stitches. They also come in the most glorious colours. Did I mention I love these threads?

I used the Petite thread in the model for Harlequin, but first tried them out in a little experiment. In spite of the fact that photographs never show a piece of needlework as it looks in real life, the picture does show some of the shininess of the thread.

Gloriana perles

Others to consider are Pearsall’s silk perle (although it only comes in neutral shades, white and off-white, and the thickest available is #6), Dinky Dyes silk perles (in thicknesses pretty much equivalent to #5, #8 and #12) and Thread Gatherer Silken Pearl (which I have not tried myself but looks good). Other silks come in thicker versions which are not exactly perles, but are the right thickness – treat yourself to a browse of Treenway’s website, or Colour Streams.
Enjoy!