An exciting plan

Over the years I’ve been to several Royal School of Needlework workshops and day classes; they are always well-taught, well-organised and very enjoyable, and the workshops especially have been a great way of finding out in a relatively economical way which types of embroidery are just not my cup of tea (I’m talking about you, stumpwork) and which are not just my cup of tea but a whole afternoon tea at the Ritz (hello goldwork!)

Whenever I’ve found something I enjoy doing (like calligraphy and various embroidery techniques), I tend to read as many books about it as I can and then just have a go (for example with the padded gold kid in Treasure Trove, and my present goldwork Work-In-Progress the Jacobean Flower).

Jacobean Flower in progress

But sometimes it’s helpful – not to mention a lot of fun – to get some formal instruction. After the first RSN goldwork taster workshop I did in 2012 (the dragonfly) there followed another one at the next Knitting & Stitching Show (the bee; which did end up looking a little different from the original design…); then I found the RSN occasionally did day classes in Rugby and treated myself to one as a St Nicholas present (the watering can). And this year they’re offering another one! I’d hoped they would do an Intermediate level this time, but oh well, I’m happy to take what I can get smiley so I am now booked in for April, where it looks like we’ll be stitching a goldwork ankle boot.

The goldwork dragonfly in all its glory The goldwork bee framed in a flexi-hoop The goldwork watering can finished

This is, you will agree, quite as much excitement as a stitcher can be expected to handle, but there is more! Following a link in the RSN’s recent newsletter I found that they offer private one-to-one tutorials.

I’ll allow some time to let that sink in a bit.

A private lesson, taught by one of the RSN tutors, at Hampton Court Palace *starry-eyed look* – what more could any stitcher wish for? Well, a bigger needlework budget would be nice. It would be lovely to book a whole day (10am till 4pm with an hour off for lunch) (who needs lunch?) (actually, I would; I like food quite as much as I like stitching) but a quick look at the latest bank statement suggests that a 3-hour class is probably more realistic. So I took the plunge and rang them, and I am now pencilled in for a goldwork tutorial on Wednesday 11th October, an extension to my usual Knitting & Stitching Show jaunt. It is as yet dependent on them finding a tutor available, so I’ll let you know when I hear more!

Slow progress is still progress

Remember the Craft Fair last Saturday? The organisers had asked people with stands if they could give demonstrations at various points throughout the day, and several did, among them a lady spinning wool, and a woodturner. I offered to demonstrate goldwork embroidery, which proved a good opportunity to finally get some work done on my SANQ/Jacobean flower project! I’d already been playing fast and loose with the design so I decided to leave the picture of the model, which is usually magneted to my frame, behind and just do whatever I liked. Ah, liberty! The two petals, originally intended to be done in paired gold Jap, I did in silver, and I intend to have some tiny silver spangles in there with the charted green silk. The cone, or whatever that other bit of the flower is called, was likewise charted in paired gold Jap with fairly chunky pearl purl on the outside; I swapped this for very fine pearl purl and some of the check thread I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show. I really like the effect of the wavy line bordering the delicate purl, and will definitely use it again.

To show the progress, here are some Before and After pics.

Gold and silk Silver and some wavy gold added

Some years ago I designed a series called Floral Lace; as my husband won’t let me forget, it started out as a small collection of three designs but kept growing until in the end there were 18. Some of these came out in late autumn and it gave me the idea of doing a Remembrance pair as well. I decided on Poppy and Rosemary, made some sketches none of which quite satisfied me, and so they disappeared into my When I Get Fresh Inspiration folder. Then one night last week I woke up with the design worked out in my head; the next morning I quickly got it charted up in my design program and so after well over two years “Floral Lace: Remembrance” is finally finished. I’ve even started stitching it, at my Embroidery Group yesterday afternoon with a bit more work done in the evening.

Floral Lace: Poppy - in progress

It seemed oddly appropriate to be stitching a remembrance-themed project at the group meeting yesterday, as we recently lost one of our long-standing members, and a number of us will be attending her funeral today. It’s a nice thought that this piece, as well as symbolising a more public remembrance, will also remind me of Jean.

A belated start

Having made an enthusiastic start on getting my little goldwork project up and running, it all rather ground to a halt after the initial transferring. There were several reasons for this; for one thing I got terribly distracted by those pretty floral gems, and they in turn reminded me that I needed a good stock of cards and coasters to sell at the church Christmas Fair, and so far I didn’t have that many. There were also some occasions that warranted hand-stitched cards, and they naturally had priority.

And then there were a few things connected with the goldwork project itself. You may remember that the transferring process didn’t go altogether smoothly, and both the drawing pen transfer and the pencil one ended up with rather thicker lines than I’d aimed for. The pencil one being marginally the finer of the two I picked that one, but it wasn’t ideal. Next came the framing up. The piece of dupion isn’t large enough to be stretched on the Millennium frame and even if it were, it would still need a backing material. The usual procedure is to attach the dupion fabric to a larger piece of calico by means of herringbone stitch all around, and then to stretch the calico; the dupion will then automatically stretch with it.

In theory.

I’ve done it before, and it has worked just fine. But this time I just couldn’t get the top fabric smooth. However I attached it (and I tried at least three ways) the moment I got the calico taut the dupion started wrinkling. In the end I attached it top and bottom only, got it as smooth as I could, and decided to just ignore the slight wrinkles that were left and hope I’d be able to get rid of them after I’d completed the project.

Goldwork project finally set up

So I finally got to stitch *yay*! As this is meant to be a relaxing project where I can just go where the fancy leads me I’m completely ignoring the instructions – I’ve attached the colour picture from the original magazine article to my frame and will go roughly by that, but if I think a different thread or way of doing things will suit me better, that’s what I’ll do. And as I’d chosen to make it rather bigger than the original minuscule pincushion I’ll need different thicknesses of thread and wire anyway.

Working from the colour photograph

The first thing I did differently was the way of starting the Japanese threads for couching the leaf. I had cast a glance at the instructions before deciding not to use them, and it said to cut two 9″ lengths of Jap thread, couch them leaving an inch at the start, and then to plunge the two ends at the start and the two ends at the finish. Plunging means to take the ends to the back of the fabric and attach them there as a way of fastening off. The method employed in the magazine would mean four ends to plunge, and I dislike plunging – it’s necessary but cumbersome and involves fiddly stitching with a curved needle, and the more I can avoid it the better I like it. Why not cut a double-length piece of Jap and fold it in half, with as sharp a fold as possible, and attach the fold with a single stitch before couching the two halves together? To my delight this worked just fine, although I did have an uncomfortable moment when I realised that the 9″ length was calculated for the original pincushion size, not my double-sized version. Fortunately the magazine writer chose to err on the side of caution, and I found that my doubled-up 18″ piece was ample to do the entire leaf with.

Starting with a fold

The second bit I did differently was unintentional. I’d forgotten to transfer some of the little green leaves-inside-the-leaf, and the ones I did transfer had come out a bit on the small side. I’m really pleased with the way the Threadworx overdyed Vineyard silk stitched up in the satin stitch leaves, but there is too much empty space within the left side of the leaf, so I will probably add a few spangles there. And finally I chose to use two different sizes of pearl purl for the main stem and the leaf stem; partly because I haven’t got that much of the #2 (the thicker of the two) but plenty of the Super (the finer one). Unfortunately the Super is too thin to use throughout, so I may have to get some more #2 at the K&S Show…

gold and silk

Having got this far I find that the wrinkles do annoy me too much to ignore, so I’m going to try and stretch the dupion sideways and get it smoothed out just a bit more. And then it’s on with the flower!

A goldwork indulgence and a cheeky Christmas tree

Right. The most urgent deadline stuff is out of the way, with the next one not due until October (except for getting all the workshop kits ready, but I’m going to devote a large part of the coming weekend to that), and there is nothing that I absolutely Have To Stitch Now. This means that for my next project I can choose whatever I jolly well like – luxury!

At this point, my mind went blank and I had no idea whatsoever as to what I wanted to stitch. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want to do anything that would need photographing or monitoring or tweaking or serious thinking. This ruled out any of my own designs. Well, I have quite a few designs by other people tucked away in my One Day folders, so I had a good rummage through those and found just the right thing. You may remember that earlier this year I saw a little goldwork pincushion on a magazine cover shown in Mary Corbet’s blog and fell completely and unreasoningly in love with it. I eventually managed to get the chart, but then used it not for goldwork, but for two crewel wool experiments: one with Renaissance Dyeing crewel wool and one with Pearsall’s Heathway merino wool.

The SANQ goldwork design stitched using Renaissance Dyeing crewel wool

The SANQ goldwork design stitched using Pearsall's crewel wool

So now is the time to actually get it done in goldwork. One of my favourite stages in any project is getting the materials together – I love playing with stash and have been known to put project boxes together for projects that subsequently didn’t get stitched. No problem, everything just gets put back into the storage boxes and I have the pleasure of doing another project box when I do get round to that design!

My usual project boxes, the ones with little compartments, don’t really work for goldwork; for one thing, the acid-free glassine envelopes that the various precious metals are kept in won’t fit unless I fold them over, and some of the reels of thread will only fit at an angle, taking up a compartment each. I resorted, therefore, to borrowing a small lunch box from one of the kitchen cupboards. Here it is with the tools and metals and threads – doesn’t it look inviting? And this picture was taken in a shady spot; the one I took in direct sunlight had so much sparkle and shine on it that it was unusable smiley.

Project box for the SANQ goldwork

Of course it takes more than the threads and metals; we need fabric too. I decided on some cream satin dupion, stitching on the shiny side. I transferred the design with one of my fine drawing pens, but unexpectedly the line bled rather severely, leaving a much thicker line than I wanted although it may still work. To see if a different method would work better I did another transfer using an ordinary pencil, and this came out better. It did take a lot of going over the lines to make them visible enough, though, and the tip of the lead occasionally got caught in the fabric. I’ll have to see if there is a more effective method for dupion, and I also want to try transferring to the less shiny side, to see if that makes a difference. Another thing I would like to experiment with is to draw the design on the calico backing in black, to see if it will show through the dupion sufficiently to work from. In that case, if a transfer goes wrong, I’ve only wasted a bit of calico, not my pretty fabric.

So here is the whole caboodle, everything that is needed for the project, including both transfers. I’ll need to decide which one to use, then iron the calico and attach the dupion to it with herringbone stitch, and mount it on my Millennium frame. By the way, you may have noticed that there are two green threads, and that not all the goldwork materials are gold. The original design used a variegated silk by Pearsall’s which unfortunately has been discontinued – in fact, all their embroidery silks have been discontinued *sniffle*. There are two candidates to replace it: a Vineyard Silk Shimmer in a light greyish green with sparkle (which, incidentally, seems to have been discontinued as well) and a Treenway 8/2 reeled silk. I may use both as they are equally lovely.

All the materials for the SANQ goldwork

The reason for the silver and copper purl getting in on the act is because I’d like to try some shading in the chipping used on the flower head. Yes, once again I just can’t seem to work the design as originally intended. Oh well. I’m also seriously considering using overstretched purl with a silk core for the stem, and I’ll probably attach the spangles using tiny petite beads instead of chunky purl chips. I’m sure it’ll still be recognisable. More or less.

One disadvantage of the goldwork project is that it isn’t exactly portable, even using the lap stand, so it’s not really suitable to take to the monthly craft group meeting at the local library tomorrow. Another project was obviously called for, and as I was going through my One Day folders this Christmas tree freebie by Kelly Fletcher cheekily suggested that it was Just The Ticket and that it was about time it got stitched. I’ll do this on Rowandean’s cotton fabric, which I got at last year’s Knitting & Stitching show. Interestingly, it has a plain side and a slightly fuzzy side; last time I used the plain side, so I’ve decided to go fuzzy this time. The threads are Caron Watercolours and Wildflowers. I may use different stitches for the baubles from the ones Kelly Fletcher suggests, and definitely will do on the bucket/basket in which the tree sits. Let imagination roam free!

Materials for Kelly Fletcher's Christmas tree

Adding bling to your SAL to make the most of postage

It makes sense, doesn’t it? You order one small thing that you need for a project, and pay the standard postage. And then you realise that the same standard postage would apply if you added a few other things. Which you’d be getting practically for free. Well, postage-free anyway.

True, unsympathetic persons will probably point out that the only thing it really means is that you are spending more than you originally planned; but anyone who has the sort of hobby for which you buy materials in smallish amounts will recognise the argument, especially when “buying only the one thing you need” turns out to mean paying twice or three times in postage what the item itself costs.

So how does this sound principle lead to adding more bling to your SAL? Well, you may remember that one of the items on the SAL materials list is metallic kid leather. It is optional (I realise not everyone wants to get into goldwork), but if you decide that you’ll give it a go and you don’t already have metallic kid in your stash you will have to buy some. And unless you are lucky enough to have an uncommonly well-stocked local needlework shop, that means buying online, and paying postage.

Golden Hinde sells sensible-sized bits of metallic kid for 70p. Which sounds very affordable indeed until you find out that their minimum postage is £2.60. So what are the options? Well, one option is to buy one small piece of kid and pay £3.30. Another is to go for one of their larger pieces (9 times as big but only about 7 times the price) and still pay £2.60 postage. Or you could think of it as your golden opportunity to collect some serious bling and experiment with it in the SAL.

Without increasing the postage you can go for the larger piece of kid leather, and add 1 gram of 3mm gold spangles (about 70, more than enough for the SAL) or 4mm silver spangles (about 40, still enough) as well as 18″ of a purl of your choice. Purls (except for pearl purl, which I love and which has a brilliant name but wouldn’t work in these projects) are thin, flexible tubes of wound gold/silver/copper wire, shiny or matt, circular or angular, which you can cut into “chips” (short lengths) and use as you would seed beads or bugle beads. For the SAL, a size 6 would probably work best.

The aforementioned unsympathetic person would no doubt point out that including the unchanged postage your shopping basket now stands at £14.40 instead of £3.30 – and he’d be absolutely right. So if you’re fairly certain goldwork isn’t your cup of tea, this would be the moment to close the Golden Hinde website and stick to beads, sequins and a scrap of gold or silver lamé, a 22mm round sequin or even some shiny card instead.

But if your budget can stand it and you’d like a not-too-daunting introduction to using some of the standard goldwork materials, think about it. Because, well, don’t they look pretty?

Optional goldwork materials for the SAL, gold Optional goldwork materials for the SAL, silver

Goldwork balloon – felt padding

After a long interval, a small update on the Benton & Johnson goldwork balloon. Let me start with a bit about the instruction booklet. Besides list of what’s in the kit, there is a very comprehensive list of what else you need, in great detail.

Slightly puzzling from reading just the list: there is a gold thread in the kit marked “for couching”, but the list of “Additional Requirements” also lists “Yellow couching thread which matches the gold”, with suggestions for suitable threads. Will some things be couched using the gold thread that comes with the kit, and others using a yellow sewing thread? The answer to that turns out to be “yes” – the gold thread will be used to attach the metallic leather. Not quite couching, but close enough.

This shows that it can be very helpful and illuminating to read through the whole instruction booklet in a kit before starting (as they advise at the beginning of the instructions). From long experience I’d say it is hardly ever disastrous if you don’t, but it can save a lot of trouble and confusion and running out of threads, so it’s time well spent (even though what you really want to do is get stitching!).

The booklet also contains very detailed preparation instructions, about ironing and framing the fabric. Several methods of transferring the design are mentioned, with one (tacking stitches worked through tracing paper) described in more detail. The instructions also state explicitly that the balloon outline is all that needs to be transferred. Beginning stitchers who feel that surely there ought to be more on the fabric before they start stitching will be reassured by this, and hopefully deterred from adding additional lines that might remain visible when the project is completed.

The next section gives tips for starting and finishing, and then it’s on to instructions about attaching the various bits of felt. It was nice to get some actual needlework done on this project at last smiley!

The first layer of felt padding attached to the silk The second layer of felt padding The second layer of felt padding attached

Things I noticed about this part of the project:

  • The instructions are very detailed and helpful. It’s difficult for me to read them as though I’d never done any goldwork at all, but I think someone new to goldwork but with a bit of other needlework experience shouldn’t have any problems.
  • the felt shapes don’t appear to fit quite accurately inside the design transfer, and I can’t get the whole balloon to line up with the two half balloons. The first mismatch may be because I stretched the silk fabric after transferring the design, so the outline is probably a bit bigger than it should be. As for the second, could it be because I ironed the tracings on? That could have pulled the felt slightly out of shape, I suppose. I must check the drawings in the instruction booklet; perhaps photocopy them and then cut them out to see whether everything lines up.

When I next get round to this project, I’ll be attaching some of the gold bits – the gold kid leather, to be exact. Shiny…

Finally getting started on the goldwork balloon

It’s a good thing the kind gentleman at Benton & Johnson didn’t give me a deadline to work to – in fact, I may come to regret my tongue-in-cheek remark, when he said there wasn’t a deadline because this design had been on the backburner for two years, that at least I’d make sure it wouldn’t take another two years. At the rate I’m going, two years is beginning to look distinctly optimistic. I was sent the kit at the end of March, and nearly two months later where are we? Well, the silk fabric is on the Millennium frame…

In my defence, getting it mounted was a bit of a saga on account of the calico backing which turned out to be anything but rectangular. But with the help of the Millennium frame and a spray bottle of water, I got that sorted out and last time you saw the project it looked like this:

The silk pinned onto the now much straighter calico

I hadn’t quite decided yet whether to attach only the top and bottom of the silk, or all four sides, but I thought I’d start with the top and bottom and then see how well that worked. It worked quite well, but not perfectly – the silk obviously needed a little sideward pull. I had worked the top and bottom herringbone with the fabric on a slightly slack tension, but for the sides I stretched it a bit more; not quite taut as a drum with the Millennium frame stretched to its maximum reach, but definitely tight. The result: a perfectly flat piece of silk to work on.

Attaching the silk to the calico with herringbone stitch One beautifully taut piece of silk

To attach the silk I had to use the frame’s side bars at their maximum extension, but for the actual goldwork embroidery I could do with a smaller area; and I much prefer that if it’s possible because I don’t like using the frame at its full 10 inches, for fear of overstretching and damaging the mechanism. So I repositioned the calico on the rollers, cut off the excess fabric, put on the roller guards and my needle minder, and collected my faithful helper. I was ready to roll.

The fabric rearranged on the rollers, and my helper in place

So have I done any stitching at all? Well, no. But I’ve done some more preparatory work! There are a number of felt shapes to be cut out for padding. As I find it very difficult to draw on felt, I decided to make use of some thin Vilene. I traced the outlines of the felt shapes on to the glue side of the Vilene, so that when it was ironed on to the felt they would be back-to-front. This meant that the cut-out shapes, non-Vilene side up, would be the right way round. The design is not quite symmetrical, so this is important.

Tracing the felt outlines onto the back of the Vilene, right way round The Vilene ironed on to the felt, back to front The felt shapes cut out, right way round

There is some leather to cut as well, but I will leave that until it’s needed. First I’d like to get some proper stitching done on this balloon, even if it is only attaching the padding.

Finally, a few remarks on the kit so far.

  • The crease in the silk that worried me, and which I couldn’t get out completely with ironing, is a lot less noticeable when the fabric is stretched, so it should be all right.
  • The silk is generously cut, with a 2½” margin all around the design.
  • The felt, too, has plenty of room for all the parts.
  • The felt outlines are numbered, and the instructions very clearly explain in which order they need to be attached. They explicitly point out that it is unusual for the small shape to be sewn on top of the larger one, so that stitchers who have done some padding before won’t get confused by this.
  • According to the instructions, the two “half-balloon” shapes go underneath the full balloon shape. Although this is the usual order (smaller underneath larger) in this case I didn’t expect it, as the gap between the two half shapes is there to accommodate a line of pearl purl, and I’m not sure how this will work with the full balloon shape on top. It’ll be interesting to see it develop.

Now stretch up that frame, it’s time to start stitching!

Smoked eels, pleasant post at home and abroad, a cross and some flowers

It’s been a while – we’ve been to The Netherlands to visit family, but now I’m back from the old country, and as usual I’ve brought back lots of things I can’t get here, like my favourite shampoo, various types of biscuit and sausage, salt liquorice, and (a special birthday treat) these:

Smoked eels

They’re smoked eels. All right, so they don’t look particularly attractive, but they are very very tasty, apart from which they remind me of my grandmother with whom I used to eat them. Lovely smoked eels and memories of Oma – an unbeatable combination.

With the Euro looking encouragingly weak against the pound this was obviously a good time to order things from the Netherlands, especially as I could have them sent to my mother and so save on postage. So when we got there, two interesting parcels were waiting for me: one contained several very thin marker pens for transferring designs on to fabric, the other a piece of Kingston linen and a piece of Normandie fabric (a non-count cotton/linen blend). I’ve never tried the latter before, but it feels very nice so I’m looking forward to stitching on it; perhaps a pretty strawberry design from the out-of-copyright book Samplers and Stitches by Mrs. Archibald Christie. I have a fancy to stitch it relatively large, in stem stitch outline only.

Sakura Pigma Micron pens Kingston linen and Normandie fabric

Of course when we came home there was a stack of post waiting for us; the usual pre-election leaflets, bank statements and other decidedly less-than-exciting stuff, but some gems as well. The first one was almost literally a gem, as it contained some goldwork materials from Golden Hinde. Two thicknesses of Rococco in gold, silver and copper, some lovely lacy milliary wire (one of which is destined to become a caterpillar in a toadstool design I’m working on), and some spangles.

Rococco and milliary wire from Golden Hinde

The next one was rather surprising – I’d ordered a few things from Sew & So last month, and they’d emailed to say the parcel had been sent but without the 5″ flexi-hoop I’d ordered, which was out of stock and would be sent later. However, when the parcel arrived, it contained the whole order, including the flexi-hoop. “They probably got some new ones in just after they’d emailed me,” I thought, and went off to the Netherlands. But there among the post was another S&S parcel, with another 5″ flexi-hoop. I rang them to find out how to return it, but they said not to worry and to keep it with their compliments. Great service, as always.

And finally there was an envelope from America. After an email conversation following some enquiries of mine, Barbara at Tristan Brooks (who was extremely helpful about the cost of sending things to England, and describing fabrics) sent me two samples of twill fabric: the Legacy Linen Twill they sell (and which is one of Mary Corbet’s favourites) and a Scottish twill more like the ones that are sold in the UK (which they don’t sell but she happened to have a bit of). This way I could feel the difference before deciding what I needed. Customer service beyond the call of duty is obviously going strong on both sides of the Atlantic!

An extra hoop from Sew and So, and two types of twill from Tristan Brooks

So, while on holiday, did I manage to stitch the floral cross plus a few of the Kelly Fletcher flowers I’d taken along? Ha! Or in other words, no. I didn’t even finish the cross. But I did get quite a long way, with only the blue flower left to do. Having no access to Mary Corbet’s version as there is no internet at my mother’s, I rather made it up as I went along: split stitch outline and long-and-short stitch for the cross, in three shades of brown which unfortunately weren’t the best combination as the two lightest ones were nearly identical, and the darkest one was quite a lot darker. Oh well, I did say I’d work with the silks I already had in my stash (this is the Alyce Schroth silk). I’m not altogether happy with some of the stitches on the curved edges of the cross, but couldn’t quite work out how to make them into a smoother outline while covering the split stitching. Some work needed there.

Split stitch outline for the cross The cross filled in with long and short stitch

Next was stem stitch in one strand of medium green Pearsall’s silk for the stems (with slightly padded satin stitch for the little bobbles on the ends of the tendrils), fishbone stitch in one shade of green (light or medium) for the small leaves, and long and short stitch in two shades without first outlining for the larger leaves; I can’t say I see a great difference, but perhaps a closer look in good light with my glasses off will show that there is one. As I said before I haven’t got much experience with l & s stitch, and on some of the leaves it looks more like split stitch filling, but on the whole I’m pleased with the way it turned out. Oh, the little rosebud is also l & s, in two shades of pink/red Soie de Paris using one strand. The blue flower will be outlined in split stitch and then filled with l & s in two shades of blue Pearsall’s silk, with the centre and some little lines in yellow. I picked up most of these Pearsall’s Filoselle silks in a lovely needlework shop in Cumbria some years back, where they were in a half price sale. They are lovely to work with and have a beautiful sheen – it really is a shame Pearsall’s have discontinued them. Incidentally, the difference between the two greens isn’t very big, but it is more noticeable in real life than in the photograph; very annoying that the camera won’t simply see what our eyes see!

The leaves and bud finished (flash) The leaves and bud finished (no flash)

So all the prepared flowers are still waiting, drawn on the fabric but unstitched, in my little surface embroidery folder. But although I haven’t been stitching them, I have been thinking about them, and I’ve decided I will probably make them into single-stitch projects – or as much as is feasible, anyway. That is to say, one flower will be done in buttonhole stitch only, and another in chain stitch (or the heavy variety) only, and a third in closed Cretan stitch only and so on, with a bit of stem stitch (possibly knotted) or back stitch for those parts that can’t easily be worked in the stitch chosen for that particular flower. Together, they should then become a sort of floral stitch sample; I may even turn them into a little fabric book.

Golden (and silver, and copper) temptation

Ah, ’tis cruel, ’tis cruel. My dear sister-in-law, who allowed me to have an order of Alison Cole goldwork materials sent to her address in Australia to save on postage, brought the parcel back with her last week. My original plan was for her to leave it at her parents’, where I would then pick it up at our next visit in late May. My second plan was to pick it up from her at her daughter’s wedding, which would be a week or so earlier. Both these plans would definitely exercise my patience, and be a good character-building opportunity. And then she goes and sends the parcel to me – in the middle of a working week and just when I am in the throes of getting some designs ready for publication! It’s not that I don’t appreciate it; I do, greatly. But imagine receiving this and not being able to unwrap every little bit of tissue paper, lovingly decant the sparkly contents into acid-free envelopes and mark them and organise them and play with them.

An order of goldwork materials

Oh all right, just the one then!

The copper bright check unwrapped

By the way, this was in the parcel as well, bought from the Embroidery Den with a voucher I got for Christmas from my two step-sons: two shades of Colour Streams Exotic Lights and Ophir. Aren’t they silky and beautiful?

Some lovely Colour Streams silks

Unexpected goldwork

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.

The goldwork watering can finished

The goldwork watering can framed

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?

The Hot Air Balloon Goldwork Kit

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 smiley. 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.

What's in the kit

Instructions with colour photographs

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…

Fabric, kid, felt, and a glassine envelope

Lots of metal threads