Floral fun (with silk and gold)

On a FB group someone posted a video with “embroidery tricks”. Most of them weren’t really tricks at all, just types of stitch, although there was an interesting example of disguising a tear with embroidery. But a little flower caught my imagination – a very simple, small, four-petalled outline filled in quite quickly (yes, I did allow for the speeded-up filming smiley) with satin stitch, some straight stitches and french knots. This is what it ended up looking like in the video:

A small embroidered flower

Because at no point the needle or the hand of the stitcher was shown, it was difficult to gauge the size, so I drew a similar flower, printed it off in sizes ranging from 2 to 3.5cm and decided on the 3cm one. After completing the first stage it was clear that that was too big (or rather, not small enough), and the one in the video seemed more likely to be the 2.5cm version. (As it happens, it wasn’t – more about that later. What I should have done, of course, was stitch a cluster of one fat French knot with six French knots around it, measure it, and take the size from that.)

As per instructions I started with the white satin stitch, using four strands of Rainbow Gallery Splendor silk (their strands are about the same thickness as DMC). A few points for improvement: according to the video the white stitches should actually have stopped short of the central circle (I went right up to the edge of the circle) and I didn’t get those edges curved enough, especially on the first petal, which is practically straight (blue line). Never mind, learning “curve” smiley.

Room for improvement

The purple streaks didn’t present any problems, but when I came to the central circle it soon became clear that there was no way of filling it with only seven French knots. Even with four-strand, three-wrap knots it took eight for the outer circle and three in the middle. OK, so it didn’t look quite like the original – but I was rather pleased with the result anyway!

Not quite like the original, but nice!

I did feel it could be improved upon, however. But first I decided to try the 2.5cm version – surely that would be small enough for seven French knots to be sufficient? Well, no. And for some reason the flower also ended up rather elongated horizontally. All in all nice enough, but not as nice as the bigger version, which I felt looked a bit less cramped.

The smaller flower didn't work quite as well

As the smaller flower was the less satisfactory of the two, I wasn’t going to bother with an even smaller version just to see if I could get one whose centre would be completely filled by seven French knots. I returned to the 3cm version, which (although without trying the 3.5cm one I can present no actual evidence of this) seems to be the Goldilocks size. What about giving it some leaves? It looked a bit bare as it was.

An idea for some leaves The leaves completed

I liked the way this framed the flower. But it lacked just that little something… What about the tangle of Jap I was given by my mother-in-law, and which was sitting on the little table by my stitching chair now neatly wound onto a reel? Its gold wrapping suffered slightly in the untangling process, and I will probably never use it for projects which take several weeks to complete or which will be framed, but that makes it just perfect for jazzing up inconsequential little projects like this flower without feeling decadent or wasteful! Incidentally, I’d started calling it The Mini Quatrefoil, and don’t you think that has a sort of gold-rimmed sound to it? It also made for a good opportunity to try out the translucent couching thread I bought at the Knitting & Stitching Show. The Quatrefoil was too small to take the usual double line of Jap, so I worked a single line, around the petals only (it would look too fussy to have the leaves gold-rimmed as well).

Adding a little bling

When looking at it close up you can see the imperfections in the Jap, but bear in mind that the actual flower is only 3cm high – in real life it really isn’t noticeable. The translucent couching thread was very easy to work with, and is practically invisible – I’ll definitely be using that more often! As for the overall look, I like the way the project has developed away from its video inspiration; and it turns out to be just the right size for some aperture cards I’ve got in stock (left over from an abandoned Christmas card idea several years ago).

The mini quatrefoil made into a card

As the whole thing takes only a few colours, a small scrap of fabric, and about an evening, that makes it a great last-minute card design, and it would also work well as a travel project. Add to that the fact that you can play around with the colours to create several different-looking flowers to go with all those different shades of card I’ve got, and the Quatrefoil turns out to be a very lucky find. The Serendipitous Quatrefoil – now there’s a grand name for a small flower!

Could you use…?

When you are known to be a needleworker, sooner or later you will be asked the question “Could you use…?” The item in question may be a great aunt’s collection of half-finished canvases, threads once bought but never used, inherited patterns, or fabrics, needles, hoops or beads which the owner can’t use anymore because of deteriorating eyesight or increasing arthritis. It often includes a great many things which frankly you will never be able to (or want to) use, but there are gems, too. And knowing other needleworkers means that it is rare for these donations not to find a good home eventually.

Recently a gentleman who came to our house to purchase parts for his pre-war Austin Seven (Mr Figworthy’s main line of business, when he is not assisting Ms Figworthy in attaining world domination in embroidery) noticed the various bits of stitching dotted around the house, and asked The Question. In this case it was what he described as “a bag of designs” that once belonged to his grandmother. Last week he dropped them off, and it turned out to be parts 1 to 34 of a series called Embroidery Magic, complete with all the iron-on patterns and two ring binders. Judging by the style they date back to the 1980s, and I’m going to have fun looking through them and picking things which I may want to stitch before taking them to my various embroidery groups for the ladies there to fight over smiley.

Embroidery Magic

Rather longer ago my mother-in-law gave me a box of unidentified silks on cardboard tubes. So far I haven’t done anything with them, but from the start the colours suggested peacocks to me. I’m now thinking of using them for a split stitch version of the miniature cross stitch peacock I designed for a pendant (the picture shows the anonymous silks at the top, followed by discontinued Eterna silks, Piper silks with a couple of discontinued Filofloss, and Threadworx hand-dyed Vineyard silks).

A box of unknown silks A peacock in silk

Or perhaps it could become a miniature-stitching-on-silk-gauze workshop? I have acquired a few inexpensive pendants which I hope will be perfect for that. Now to convince the Knitting & Stitching show that silk gauze embroidery is just what they need on next year’s workshop programme!

The mini peacock in my own silver locket The original pendant and the possible workshop ones The miniature peacock fits the new pendant

Variety is the spice of stitching

First let me play the sympathy card: I hurt my stitching hand in a fall, so for the past week I’ve done no stitching whatsoever. The last thing I did (and probably shouldn’t have) was finish Forever Frosty last Sunday; after that, nothing. How did I manage to restrain myself, I can hear you think. With difficulty, is the answer, and mostly because of the knowledge that this week I will be attending the 2-day Medieval Embroidery retreat at Coombe Abbey (thank you, oh husband-who-understands-the-desires-of-a-stitcher’s-heart) for which I want to be in good shape. Angela Bishop, one of the tutors, assured me that the retreat is “a combination of demos, talk, stitching (and eating!) so not all stitching”, so there should be plenty to enjoy even if I can’t quite keep up with the other embroiderers in the practical parts.

Of course this enforced stitch-less period comes just when I’ve got about five different projects either in progress or hooped up and ready to go! Some people like to stick to one project at a time, and they have the perseverance, concentration and self-control to stick with that one project until it’s finished (all the more astonishing when it’s one of those fully covered pictures consisting of half a million or so stitches). I, on the other hand, am fickle. I start a project, and half-way through I want to do something different. And that’s with designs which hardly ever exceed 10 inches, and generally aren’t solidly stitched. But in embroidery I will allow myself this fickleness – it is, after all, my hobby, which I’m meant to enjoy! And so I gather around me many different projects, preferably in different styles or techniques, and stitch whichever of them appeals to me at any given time. So what projects am I surrounded by at the moment? Here they are, in no particular order.

Line sampler project pouch. This was inspired by pictures posted on the Mary Corbet Facebook group by a lady who stitched line samplers in the shape of hearts and letters. I had just bought a couple of stitchable pouches meant for large tablets, which I think will work very well as travel cases for small-to-medium embroidery projects. Because I find it very difficult to be completely random in my stitching, and because I sometimes need a quick reminder of stitches that I don’t use very frequently, I’ve printed out a list of my stitch diagrams suitable for stitching lines. The letters will be worked in five different colour combinations, each based on and outlined in a shade of Anchor Multicolor.

Line sampler in letter shape on a project pouch

Carousel, a Hardanger design. After lots of freestyle and other embroidery I decided it was time to get back into Hardanger, and to ease myself into it I started with the non-cut designs of Veiled Delights. This was both a good idea (simple motifs) and a bad one (stitching through organza is predictably less easy and relaxed than stitching straight onto the evenweave), but on the whole I think it did re-ignite my enthusiasm for Hardanger, so I have hooped up a proper Hardanger design with cutting and filling stitches and everything. It’s called Carousel because many stitches in it have a “whirly” quality to them. I had various colour combinations in mind, and may well stitch it in other colours besides this one in the future, but for now it’s bright blues on bright white.

Carousel, a Hardanger project

Come Rain, a goldwork umbrella. And yes, there is a Come Shine as well – a parasol. Strictly speaking the umbrella is silverwork, on a teal ground, while the parasol will be done in gold on an orange fabric. Both will have some appliqué as well as a variety of metal threads. I’ve worked out which threads and wires and techniques I want to use where, but only while I’m stitching will I be able to decide which sizes will work best (it wasn’t until I was actually stitching Forever Frosty that I realised the pearl purl I’d chosen for outlining his body was far too thin). This is the one that’s really calling to me at the moment – perhaps I can make a start next weekend.

An umbrella in silverwork

Soli Deo Gloria, a silk & gold flower. I was so taken with the combination of colours and materials I used for my interpretation of a Kelly Fletcher freebie that I designed a flower of my own to work in those colours and techniques. As I was putting this together I decided on different silks, and possibly some of the gold threads will be slightly different too, but the look and feel of it will, I hope, be the same. I called it Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”) because the colours of the petals and the use of goldwork threads were originally suggested by a Bible verse about furnishings made for the Tabernacle: “They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen – the work of skilled hands” (Exodus 39:3).

Soli Deo Gloria in silk and gold

And finally, a Kelly Fletcher design on a tea towel. You may remember the Classic Creations kit I got a while ago; it comes with fabric for two of the twelve designs, and as I was looking for a suitable fabric for the others I came across some tea towels and napkins I bought as “postage filler” when ordering shopping bags from the Clever Baggers. A tea cup seemed a suitable design for a tea towel, so I’ve ironed on the transfer, making sure it’s far enough from the corner for me to get a hoop around it (I cannot stitch comfortably without a hoop). I will have to remember to finish everything off very securely (not usually a priority when most of my projects end up in cards, coasters or boxes), and keep the back neat (likewise)!

A Kelly Fletcher design on a tea towel

And what about you? Are you strictly faithful to one project from start to finish? Or do you lavish your affections on many different designs? If so, do you work on them according to a strict rotation or do you stitch whatever takes your fancy? Whatever your ways and methods, enjoy your stitching. I hope to be enjoying mine again in a few days’ time!

The woes of a multiple starter

Originally I was going to call this post “The woes of a serial starter”, but then I realised that if only my starts were serial, there wouldn’t be a problem. It’s because they are concurrent that I get into trouble, and that trouble is summed up in the question “which one do I work on this evening?”

From fairly early on in my embroidery life I found that one project at a time didn’t do it for me. All right, I get bored easily. I am not the work-on-the-same-enormous-project-for-three-years-running type. Quite a steady and patient sort of person in everyday life, I somehow seem to crave variation and instant gratification in my needlework. Oh well, one has to get one’s excitement somewhere smiley.

And on the whole, it works just fine. If I have two or three things on the go, and they are not too similar, I can pick up whichever I feel like at any given moment. I may work on the same project for several days (even weeks) on end, or I may change from one stitching session to the next. But don’t you find sometimes that too much choice can be paralysing? As with flavours of ice cream (so much easier to decide when vanilla, chocolate or strawberry were the only options), so with too wide a selection of available embroidery projects – if there are so many things I could do, I sometimes end up doing none of them and watching Countryfile or a murder mystery instead!

At the moment I find myself with two projects actually being stitched (a Kelly Fletcher design re-imagined in silk and gold and a silk sunflower), two hooped up with the materials chosen (a goldwork workshop model and another sunflower), two transferred with the details still to be decided on (a tiny sheep to be done in silverwork and a project pouch – really a tablet pouch – to be worked in plain DMC), one charted but not yet transferred (a six-petalled flower to be done in silk and gold), and one tantalising me with its possibilities but with no definite stitching plan as yet (a really useful canvas moon bag).

A Kelly Fletcher flower re-imagined in silk and gold The start of a sunflower A goldwork workshop model Two sunflowers
A tiny sheep to be worked in silverwork A project pouch with Mabel on it A six-petalled flower to be stitched in silk and gold A moon bag waiting to be stitched

So will I get any stitching done tonight? As Tommy Cooper said, “I used to think I was indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.” Is there a Midsomer Murders on anywhere?

Unknown silks and a Mexican bird

Recently we were staying with my in-laws where one of the challenges was finding a way for my mother-in-law, a keen needlewoman, to embroider with one hand as her left arm has been fitted with some impressive looking metal scaffolding following a fall. We took my Lowery stand to see whether that would work. Unfortunately it didn’t, or at least not with the embroidery she was working on before the fall. If anyone has any ideas, or experience with this sort of problem, I’d be grateful for your suggestions.

There were some more successful stitch-related moments during our stay, however (quite apart from a good bit of work on the Shisha Mini) – my MIL had been given a box of cones of silk which she said I could have if they were of any use to me. She hadn’t been told what brand the silks were, or what type, or what they had originally been used for. They certainly have a lovely sheen, and the blue-purple-green end of the box immediately made me think of peacocks. I haven’t had a close look at them yet so don’t know whether they are all the same weight/thickness, or even if they are all silk (I have my suspicions about the light blue, which looks like cotton), but aren’t they a pretty collection?

A box of unknown silks

Whether it was thinking of peacocks, or whether I was just looking at their kitchen in more detail now that I was doing the cooking, I suddenly noticed a print that has been there for as long as I’ve visited the house, but which so far had been no more than rather colourful background noise. MIL told me that it came from Mexico and had been a present to herself. With its bold lines and colours it struck me as particularly suitable for embroidery, so I asked if I could copy it. We couldn’t find any tracing paper, but some grease-proof baking parchment did the trick. It’s rather thicker than tracing paper so I couldn’t go for absolute accuracy, but then that didn’t matter particularly as I don’t intend to create an exact copy. When we got home I scanned the drawing and started cleaning it up; it’ll need quite a lot of work, so it won’t be stitched any time soon, but when it does perhaps the silk cones could be incorporated into it – that would be rather appropriate.

A Mexican bird print The Mexican bird tidied up

Silks, shisha and a SAL

In preparation for a holiday (and because I simply want to do some more surface or free style embroidery) I’ve been putting together a project folder. Five Kelly Fletcher flowers transferred to 55ct Kingston linen, and this: a box of silks from my stash – Chameleon Shades of Africa, various Gumnut silks and a wool/silk, Kreinik Silk Mori, Caron’s wool/silk Impressions, Au Ver à Soie Soie d’Alger, and Vicki Clayton’s Hand-Dyed Fibers.

Silks for Kelly Fletcher designs

There is another small project I set up over the Easter weekend; it’s a floral cross, one of Mary Corbet’s designs (from which I have omitted the crown). It seemed just perfect to stitch at Easter, but my husband cruelly but rightly reminded me that I was trying to finish Orpheus, so back to the eyelets it was. This will be added to the holiday project folder (although I do not for one moment believe that I’ll have time to finish a cross and five flowers!) The threads here are Alyce Schroth‘s fine silk, very matt and dyed with natural dyes; Pearsall’s Filoselle, which seems to have been discontinued while I wasn’t looking, and Au Ver à Soie Soie de Paris. I’ve only got two shades of green and blue so my shading won’t be as delicate as in the original (and not just because of the limited number of colours – I’m still finding my feet with needle painting), but I hope it will look all right anyway. From the pictures it seems Mary used stem stitch for the cross; I may go for long and short stitch. We’ll see.

Materials for a small cross with flowers (minus crown) by Mary Corbet

Fun though it is to put together quite unnecessary projects, other things were getting a little urgent – coming up with a shisha design for the Percival Guildhouse day class, for example (not to mention having to produce a stitched model of it). Going with variations on the shisha-mirror-in-a-paisley-motif theme, the first one was too simple (can’t have students finishing before lunch!), the second one too big (I want it to fit in a 6″ hoop as I have lots of them so I can lend them to students), but the third one turned out to be my Goldilocks design, just right smiley.

A simple shisha design - too small A more complex shisha design - too big Enough detail, and fits a 6-inch hoop - just right

Someone wrote to me recently to ask whether there would be another SAL. Well, I’m certainly working on it, and the aim is January 2016 – but I’ve run into a problem. Planning the SAL (if planning isn’t too grand a word; “thinking it would be a jolly nice idea” is probably more accurate most of the time), I doodle shapes and make lists of possible filling stitches, bars and surface stitches whenever they happen to occur to me (a notebook by the bed is essential). It soon became clear that I wanted a circular theme; unfortunately a large proportion of the surface stitches I’d like to include are linear. The solution?

Christmas. (To be continued…)

Model stitching for the Guildhouse course (II)

Two more models for the course have been completed, and neither of them changed very much! But before I tell you a bit more about one of them, here is some work the students did in the first week:

Student blackwork Student blackwork Student blackwork

On to week 2, when they were going to get to grips with silks. I love silks, and I’m always happy to point people in the direction of stash they didn’t know they needed. So the project was a proper, old-fashioned sampler – a piece of stitching that shows samples of threads or stitches or patterns that the stitchers wants to keep for future reference. Six different stitches (Rhodes heart, leaf stitch, colonial knot, satin stitch motif, chain stitch and cross stitch in two sizes) and six different silks, yielding 36 possible combinations. And having all those combinations in one piece will show very effectively which silks look best in which type of stitch.

The silks used are Carrie’s Creation stranded silk (red), Vinyard Silk Classic (blue), Caron Soie Cristale (yellow), Eterna stranded silk (green), Thredfairy silk cord (cream) and Midori Matsushima Japanese flat silk, 10 suga (purple). I thought all these threads were still available but have just found out that Eterna silk, that affordable flat stranded silk which came in about 500 colours, is no longer available. A sad day for silk lovers. Here, however, it is "in action" with its five fellow-silks.

Silk project for 2012 course

It was lovely to stitch this sampler and feel all the different textures; Carrie’s is a twisted silk, Vineyard consists of two flat and slightly fuzzy plies, Caron is very lightly twisted and has a bit more body than Carrie’s, Eterna is a 12-stranded silk whose strands are practically flat, Thredfairy is a tightly twisted perle thread, and the Japanese silk is so soft and flat and beautiful that just stroking it is a pleasure! It snags on absolutely everything, but a few gentle strokes with finger or needle and it’s ready to go again. The difference between the six silks show up more clearly in real life, I’m afraid, but photographing the sampler with flash helps a bit to show the different textures and the way they catch the light.

Silk project for 2012 course, flash

So were there no changes at all to this design before it got used in class? No, but there are two things I will probably change if I ever use it again. First of all I would probably use a soft silk like Crescent Colour Belle Soie or Gloriana Silk Floss instead of the Caron thread, which doesn’t contrast enough with Carrie’s silk. Secondly I would replace the chain stitch diamond with a flower made up of lazy daisy stitches, as I found that this section was very challenging for a number of the students. And there will have to be a third change as well – I’ll need to find a good substitute for Eterna!

Three more new silks – Treenway

Some years ago I bought a grab bag of odds and ends from Treenway Silks, a Canadian company selling hand-dyed silks. They have since changed owners and moved to America, but the silks are still gorgeous, and the people are very helpful.

In their range of silks there are three which are of interest to any Hardangerers out there (a lovely term coined by Midge of the Cross Stitch Forum) – from thin to thick they are Fine Cord Reeled Silk, 20/2 Spun Silk and 8/2 Reeled Silk. Should you wonder, reeled or filament silk is taken from the cocoon in one unbroken thread, which can be combined and twisted to make a thicker thread; spun silk is made from shorter fibres, for example the ones from cocoons from which the moth has emerged, or from the leftovers of reeled silk. Reeled silk is stronger, less prone to fuzziness and fraying (so longer threads can be used), and generally shinier (although that depends also on whether it is flat or twisted).

Treenway describe these three types of thread as being equivalent to a buttonhole twist, #8 perle and #3 perle. I’ve not yet worked out what exactly a buttonhole twist is, but the few threads I’ve seen which go by that name seem to be tightly twisted perle threads somewhere between #8 and #12. Treenway’s #3 thread is interesting in that at first glance it is not very perle-like as it doesn’t have a very strong twist, and it doesn’t look nearly as thick as a #3; in fact, it looks more like a very slightly more chunky #5. So I decided to try it for Kloster blocks, with the 20/2 silk for the other stitches.

Treenway

Like some other thick silks and also Caron Watercolours, the effect of the Kloster blocks is less textural than with a perle cotton, or a tightly twisted silk perle like Gloriana, but I rather like the look of these blocks with their five stitches almost blending into each other. Coverage is great, as you would expect from a thicker-than-#5 thread, and not too bulky. The 20/2 works well as a #8 substitute, but feels a little thicker. I didn’t stitch the little backstitch motifs in this experiment, but I think the thread would have been a little too thick for them to be well-defined.

Would the Fine Cord perhaps work better? At this point I only had the grab-bag threads, so it wasn’t easy to find pairs of threads that would go together, but I managed to find a green 20/2 and a variegated green Fine Cord which made a usable combination. Having to use the thinner of the "perles" for the Kloster blocks meant using a finer fabric, so I tried this combination on 28ct.

Treenway

As you can see, the 20/2 is not quite thick enough to give good coverage in the Kloster blocks, even on 28ct. It’s just about acceptable, but cut ends keep poking out. The Fine Cord is gorgeous – easy to work with and what a lovely shine!

Ideally, then, I’d use the 8/2 silk and the Fine Cord together on 25ct (and they’d probably work fine on 22ct as well). There was one problem: the grab bag had not contained any of these that would go together. Oh dear. It looked like I’d have to buy a few colours just to experiment with …

I did (bet that didn’t surprise you). I got two sets of 8/2 and Fine Cord, plus a single Fine Cord in their delectable shade Tangiers to use on one of the Round Dozen. And here is the result (this shade is St Thomas):

Treenway

Like most silks, especially hand-dyed ones, these threads aren’t cheap. But for a special project, or as a treat to yourself, they are just perfect.

More Mulberry silk

Last week I tried out some Mulberry silks which I’d had in my stash for some time, to see how well they were suited to Hardanger. The Thick and Medium silks I tried first were both a little on the chunky side compared to #5 and #8 perle cottons. I don’t mind that so much for the Kloster blocks, where good solid coverage is a bit of a bonus to my mind, but if you’re going to use the thinner thread for backstitch as well as worked bars and filling stitches it can look better when it’s a bit thinner than a #8. On the other hand, too thin and you end up having to work an endless amount of weaves or wraps to give your worked bars decent coverage.

I intended to try out Mulberry’s Thin silk as a substitute for Medium, but just looking at it on the bobbin made it quite clear that it was going to be far too thin. Mulberry give the thickness of their threads in the x/y format which I’m still trying to get my head round. It means, as far as I’ve been able to work out, that the thread consists of y number of plies, and each ply has the thickness x, where a higher x means a thinner thread. Apparently it’s all based on the number of 840-yard hanks you get from a pound of thread. I assume that’s an imperial rather than a metric pound, but whichever it is, after about ten seconds of trying to work this out my eyes start to glaze over and I decide that I can spend the time much more enjoyably stitching.

It boils down to this – as with perle cottons, the higher the number the thinner the thread. And a 30/3 thread is equivalent in thickness to a 20/2 thread, although I’m sure it makes a difference whether it is, for example, very tightly twisted. Anyway, Mulberry Silks’ Thick silk is a 10/3, Medium is a 30/3 and Fine a 100/3. So the trick would be to find something between 30 and 100. Enter their Quilting silk, which is a 70/3.

The Quilting silk is lovely for the little backstitch motifs, with a very nice shine and crisp detail,and it makes a beautifully lacy square filet, but it is quite thin for the woven bars and takes a lot of weaving to get good coverage. Probably the best solution would be to use Thick for Kloster blocks, Medium for bars, and Quilting for filling stitches and backstitch.

Mulberry silks

Yesterday the postman brought me some lovely Treenway silks to add to my collection – watch this space for a further silk Hardanger experiment!

Enabling and two new threads

There are words which mean something completely different depending on the context. On my favourite stitching forum we often use the term "enabler". It means someone who tells you about a new supplier, designer, fabric, thread, embellishment, piece of equipment, anything stitch-related, really – and thereby enables you to add many lovely things to your stitching stash. Although this may lead to a severe strain on the budget, it is generally seen as A Good Thing. Imagine my surprise when I found out today that out there in the non-stitching world "enabling" may also refer to "unhelpful help", for example by making it possible for an alcoholic to keep feeding his addiction. This "enabling prevents psychological growth in the person being enabled". Oh dear. Well, I think I can safely say that stitch-enabling has no such negative effects; provided you handle your stash budget sensibly, there are few things as pleasant as finding new materials, browsing a site, deciding which colours to get and what you’ll use them for.

My unconditional thanks, therefore, to that kind fellow-member of the Cross Stitch Forum who pointed me to an eBay seller called michigandoctor; she has the most amazing collection of hand-dyed threads including some beautiful silk perles, and is extremely helpful and quick to reply to emails. I should have some Gloriana and Thread Gatherer silk perles coming my way soon …

Meanwhile I decided to alleviate the waiting period by playing with some more of the silk threads already in my stash. I like buying one or two skeins of silks (and other speciality threads) that I don’t know, to see what they might be used for. You may remember the Gumnut silk Hardanger experiment on 36ct linen I did a while back. Well, there were some other threads which might be good for Hardanger but which I hadn’t tried yet.

The first two of these are Mulberry Silks’ Thick and Medium Silk Twist. Mulberry Silks come in lots of different weights or thicknesses, and most of the sets they sell are Medium and Fine weight. For Hardanger on 25ct these are too thin a combination – Fine looks rather thinner than a #12 perle, and Medium is about the thickness of a #8. Their Thick silk twist feels a bit heavier than a #5. But enough of the numbers, how do they stitch up and are they nice to work with?

Well, the Thick silk gives great coverage on 25ct Lugana – perhaps a little too much even, as it can be tricky to get the satin stitches in a Kloster block to lie neatly parallel. They do look lovely and plump, though, and getting rid of those pesky cut ends is no trouble at all with such a lot of Kloster block to hide them in. The Medium silk has a lovely sheen and produces a well-defined dove’s eye, but if you like a lacier effect the Fine silk may be the better choice. I did not stitch the little backstitch corner motifs I usually include in my Hardanger experiments, but I feel that the Medium silk may be just a little too chunky for that.

Mulberry silks

All in all lovely threads to work with, the only drawback being the limited number of shades in which the Thick silk is available. As for the Fine silk, I may need to stitch another experiment to see how that one looks "in action" …