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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.