A novel use for ice lolly sticks

As the new ickle slate frame doesn’t fit on trestles (just as well, as that was rather the point smiley) I use it with my trusty Aristo lap stand; but you may remember that the Aristo’s arms were just a little bit too short to accommodate the slate frame reliably – and you don’t want the frame to slip off right in the middle of a tricky bit of goldwork! So Mr Figworthy and I teamed up to create a Meccano solution.

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This worked well, but when I first took it to a class it managed to lose a nut in transit. Another slight drawback is the fixed width; surely there must be a more flexible way of doing this? Enter the ice lolly stick (or rather, four of them), courtesy of a friend from church who teaches Sunday School and therefore has a craft stash you wouldn’t believe. Two glued pairs of sticks and four rubber bands later, hey presto!

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And does it work? It does. It won’t win any design awards with its Make Do And Mend look, but after several months of use without any problems I’m happy to make do with it!

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Counting down in Latin

Remember the rainbow birthday card I stitched for a girl who had her birthday during the second lockdown? Well, her younger brother will soon have his birthday during this third lockdown, so their mum has asked people to send him birthday cards as well. He likes dinosaurs, which are very much not my cup of tea, but fortunately he likes sea creatures too, and as he turns seven:

Meet Septimus the Septopus!

The first sketch The tidied-up design

Now from the start this octopus-with-a-leg-missing and his surroundings suggested something very textured to me. So a great opportunity to rummage through my stash of lumpy, bulky, fuzzy, stretchy threads and any other bits and bobs I could think of to create tentacles, sand, seaweed, coral and the like. Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I go on a rummage like this invariably there are things that I was sure were there, but which aren’t. I thought I had some small round and square stone-coloured buttons, and also a very lumpy red thread. I don’t. But I found plenty of other things so I’m good to go!

Possible ribbons, threads and beads

And what will all this be attached to? I decided to go for a blue cotton to give an instant watery background. Unlike the cotton duck and heavy sateen I’ve been using for the recent baby cards, this does need a backing fabric, especially with heavyish threads and beads couched all over it; some time ago I bought an Egyptian muslin which because of its fairly open weave unfortunately doesn’t work as a backing for any detailed designs, so it’s good to be able to use it up in projects like these. Next step was to transfer the design, and play with placing the various threads on the fabric to see what they look like all together.

What goes where?

Sometimes with projects like these you need to get creative. One of the things I thought I had was a blueish wavy thread which would work for the surface of the sea right at the top of the design. Well, I have the wavy thread, but it’s grey. However, as the fabric is blue I think I can get away with grey, especially if I combine it with a very fluffy white thread. After all, when you look at the sea (especially the North Sea, which is the one I grew up going to for beach trips) it is rarely blue, and in fact grey is probably a lot more realistic. Also, there’s going to be plenty of colour in other parts of the design to compensate. In the previous picture, did you notice the red variegated thread? That’s going to make a bit of coral, and as it is not a lumpy thread as I originally though, I’ll use it with a lumpy stitch instead!

Combining threads

As I prepared to start stitching, there was one last decision to make: after creating this one and sending it off to the birthday boy, is this going to be a “commercial” design? If so, I need to take notes, think of the instructions, make sure I use only widely available threads… No. Although most of the threads and bits & bobs I’m using are available (though some of them not what you would call widely), others are unlabelled or I can’t remember where I got them from, and really I just want this project to be fun. I want to play around with what I’ve got while creating something that will hopefully bring some cheer to a lockdown birthday.

This meant I could relax and just get on with stitching! I will mention the materials I used, partly for my own benefit (“what on earth did I use for that coral?” I may wonder as I look at a photographs of this project years down the line) and also for reasons which will become clear later. By the way, apologies for the quality of some of these pictures, I took them as I was stitching in the evening by artifical light.

First up was the sea surface, couching grey Rainbow Gallery (RG) Fluffy Fleece twisted together with white RG Arctic Rays. The seabed consists of three lengths of a beige RG Ultra Suede, also couched. There’s a lot of couching in this design, which does make it relatively quick!

Sea surface and seabed

Next came the seaweed, and more couching. On the left a variegated thick silk from The Thread Studio; I think I picked this up at a Knitting & Stitching Show some years ago. The shade I’m using here, Marble, doesn’t appear to be part of their range anymore. The other bit of seaweed is a nameless silk ribbon from my silk ribbon bag. I did look at some hand-dyed Au Ver à Soie ribbon, but the colour changes didn’t quite work for this short a length so plain green it was, couched down in twists. For the rocks I used some rose gold pebble beads (appropriate name); I bought these online for a children’s project years ago, and found them infuriatingly uneven in shape and size. In this project, that was a bonus!

Seaweed and rocks

The coral was the first thing to be stitched rather than couched; using a thick spun silk from Oliver Twists (again bought at one of the Knitting & Stitching Shows) my first idea was to use either Palestrina stitch or (possibly the most obvious choice) coral stitch, but the rather complicated shape I’d drawn and the thickness of the thread made that too complicated, so it’s a combination of French knots, small straight stitches, and some knotted stitches that I made up as I went along. Septimus’ head is outlined and shaded in stem stitch using two shades of RG Treasure Braid Petite (21 Copper and 27 Ice Pastels). I chose that blend because it seems the best match for the metallic in the thread I’ll be using for his tentacles.

Coral and a head

The moment I started planning an octopus/septopus I thought of one of the speciality threads from the Paint-Box Threads Inspiration Pack I got for Christmas as being ideal for the tentacles. The metallic part snaking in and out does a great job of suggesting suckers! Unfortunately it turned out to be too thick and fussy to do all the tentacles in it – they would have been impossible to tell apart – so three of them were worked in doubled Anchor metallic perle #5 (white/gold). For the eyes plain DMC was an option but I wanted them to stand out so I opted instead for Kreinik #4 braid 5760 Marshmallow and RG Treasure Braid Petite 05 Black, both in satin stitch. The white is stitched across the ovals, the black pupils lengthwise.

What's in the box in detail The eyes done, but what about the tentacles? Tentacles in two different textures

The last part was the figure 7 in bubbles, for which I used unbranded iridescent beads (probably a size 8) They got a bit close to the sea surface, but I think they still work. What surprised me, though, was how different the beads and other parts of the project looked with different lighting! Below is the finished piece, once photographed with the light coming from the right, and once with the light coming from the bottom.

Finished and lit from the side Finished and lit from the bottom

And so on to finishing. From memory I thought the aperture in the card I had in mind for this was 10cm square, and because I wanted a tight fit that’s the size at which I printed the design transfer. Unfortunately the aperture is 9.6cm… So a slightly tighter fit than intended, but with a bit of fiddling I got it all in. Phew.

It will fit...just The finished card

And now it’s over to you – whether you’re making a birthday card (add the desired age in bubbles) or just a Cheer Up! card, get out those odds and ends in your stash and start experimenting. The Septimus Freebie download has the design in two versions, the original Septimus and a more traditional octopus with the full complement of tentacles. Enjoy!

Assessing an assessment: Jacobean

Last week I got an exciting email: the assessment for my RSN Certificate Jacobean module! Just so you don’t have to skip ahead to the end, I passed smiley. But I thought it might be interesting to show what such an assessment looks like, and also to go through the assessors’ comments to see what I can learn from them.

We were off to a good start with my name being spelled wrong in the general information section; I just hope that won’t cause administrative hassle further down the line. It then shows the range of markings. In practice these turn out to be points from 1 to 5 for each criterion within a section, or a multiple if the section is given more weight. In the Stitches section, for example, the five possible marks are multiplied by three. This means there is no option of awarding, say, 14 points – if you don’t score the perfect 15 it’s down to 12 as the next highest mark.

General comments at the start of the assessment

The assessment proper started with some general comments with quite a bit of appreciative attention paid to The Two Critters. When Lexi found out she was mentioned by name it quite turned her little feline head; I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was actually referred to as Alfie/Lexi. I was really pleased that James’ shell, which was enormously fiddly to do, was praised for being very precisely executed.

Lexi the cat James the snail

Well, what can I say about the First Impressions section except that I am astonished they found no alien fibres! The amount of cat hair I removed from that piece of work in the course of its creation would probably make up at least a small kitten – somewhat surprisingly I must have got rid of it all successfully. I’m pleased they were happy about the thread condition; several times I unpicked things and used a new thread because it started to look fluffy, or was too irregular in thickness to begin with, or had inclusions. It’s nice to know that paid off.

Assessment: First Impressions

On to the Design section. This looks at two aspects of the design: as it was drawn (these are criteria that would apply even if it were never stitched) and as it appears on the fabric (is it straight, is it like the drawing, etc.)

Assessment: Design

Here I lost one point each on three criteria. One of the sides (I’ve asked them to clarify which right side they meant…) is thought to be a bit empty, causing a lack of balance; the accent colour has been over-used; and they would have liked to have seen more stitches from what you might call the “leaf family”. To begin with the second one: fair point. I loved the orange shades and there would have been even more orange areas if I hadn’t restrained myself; notably the fringe on the big tulip, which I changed to brown, and Lexi who was originally Alfie our ginger tom. I still like the way it works in the design, but I agree that it does not comply fully with the brief.

An empty area and a lot of orange

As for the slight emptiness on one side, I’m guessing they mean the area indicated by the purple arrow. I did, in fact, have a flower there in an early stage of the design process (not to mention a bee, with a balancing fellow on the other side), but the tutor thought they made it too busy overall, and I must say I agree with her, it would have looked fussy. Possibly a slightly bolder flower and no bees would have satisfied the assessors while avoiding the over-crowded look.

A flower and some bees

Finally the point about the leaf stitches. It is true that I have used none of the stitches they mention from that particular family. In hindsight this rather surprises me, as I really like fishbone stitch and closed fly in particular for leaves. Possibly this is because there are no smallish leaf shapes in the design that I could have filled that way. On the other hand, for the gap in the tree trunk I used Cretan stitch, which is essentially a shallow feather stitch, so the category has not been completely ignored. But I appreciate their comment about including more different textures, and in future designs will pay extra attention to that aspect when appropriate.

Cretan stitch

The next section is called Stitches, and accounts for the majority of points available (120 out of 205) partly because each criterion is scored in multiples of three points. This was also the section that felt most important to me as it is concerned with the actual thread-on-fabric stitching, and with how well you, the student, have mastered the technique. I was therefore chuffed to bits to have dropped only three points, the minimum you can drop in this section. (Obviously I would have been even more chuffed with a perfect score, but I’m definitely not complaining!)

Assessment: Stitches

Although I was quite pleased with how the long & short stitch leaves on the big tulip had come out, as the assessors point out there is visible banding. Avoiding that is definitely one of the things I find most difficult to achieve in long & short, and I’ll have to do quite a bit more sampling and practicing before I do the Silk Shading module! I’m pleased with the shading on the left-hand flower though, so I hope they were referring only to the tulip. Choosing to work the trunk of the tree deliberately stripy rather than shaded (which I noted in my log) may, in hindsight, not have been the right decision. The hillocks are stripy by the very nature of the stitches, and Lexi is stripy by the very nature of being a tabby, so I can see why they wanted a bit more shading demonstrated.

Slightly stripy shading Better shading

Scoring full points for smooth outlines (purple arrows) and sharp points (green arrows) was very gratifying as I’d worked really hard on those, with a fair amount of unpicking and restitching. Good to know that was worth the effort!

Outlines and points

The final section is Mounting, which accounts for about a fifth of the total points (more than Design, which seems quite a lot). Some of the criteria here are about getting the balance right: pulling the fabric taut, but not so much that you bend the mount board. Others are about accuracy in the securing stitches.

Assessment: Mounting

Well, I’d expected to lose points here, as I had never mounted my work in this way before, and I did. Most of them on the looseness of the fabric, both front and back. And as much as I expected to lose points here, I will admit that this annoys me a little. I’m completely with them as regards their comments about the corners of the linen, some of which were not 100% square, and I’m perfectly willing to take their word for it that the grain was not completely straight to the edges. But both when I had the fabric pinned and when I had finished the mounting Angela did the finger test (pushing your finger along the fabric to see whether it ripples) and pronounced it a good stretch. In fact, I asked her after the initial pinning whether I should let the fabric relax and then re-stretch, as some people do, but having tested the tautness of the fabric she said she didn’t think that was necessary. So I can only assume that the fabric did relax during the longish wait for the assessment, but I’m not sure what I could have done to prevent this.

The mounted piece, front The mounted piece, back

I’m sorry to end the discussion with a bit of a grump, and even more sorry if this makes it sound as though I’m not satisfied with the result. I am most definitely elated to score 94% on my very first module! Next time I will do a re-stretch and see if that makes a difference to the mounting outcome, but on the whole the points that really matter to me are in the Design and Stitches section, and with those I am more than happy. And now on with Bruce the golden kangaroo smiley.

Babies galore

Another baby! Unlike baby Evelyn, baby Noah is known to us only through his paternal grandparents, who are members of our Small Group (groups within our church that meet for Bible study, chat, support, prayer, encouragement and so on, all by Zoom at the moment) so just one card needed this time. But not simply a repeat of Evelyn’s motif; that would just feel like a production line!

What then? Well, with a baby called Noah what could it be but an ark? I grabbed a scrap of paper to sketch a quick idea (and only afterwards noticed it had some scribbles on it for last week’s group meeting – how appropriate). The smudgy lines at the top are a rainbow, the circle outline is the size of the aperture of the card I want to use.

Sketch for Baby Noah's card

Then it was a matter of tidying it up in my image editing program, where I also added a cloud and some words. I didn’t draw in the individual rainbow lines; instead, I intended to do the top line in red, the bottom line in purple, and then work inwards from both ends spacing the colours out more or less (as it turned out definitely less) evenly. At this point I didn’t decide whether to go for a solidly filled rainbow or just thin lines of colour, but thought it would probaby be the latter as the rest was going to be outline-only as well. The cloud would have a detached buttonhole frilly edge, possibly in a fluffy thread like the clouds in the Hope designs.

The tidied-up design

Just because I could I printed the design out in three sizes, and found aperture cards to go with the two larger sizes. And then I decided that although the smallest size would probably look really nice done in one strand of cotton, the detail would be easier to show in the largest size, stitched using two strands. I would keep the smallest one to stitch in one strand at some later time, but for now go with the version I could be reasonably sure would work.

Which size to pick?

Time to start stitching! Cotton sateen again, as it doesn’t need a backing fabric, and this time simply good old DMC stranded cotton; it has so many colours to choose from, which makes a nice change from some of the speciality threads.

Picking the colours The transferred design and the colours

As you can see I pre-wrote “BOY” in silver gel pen, intending to stitch “it’s a” on top of the rainbow; I mean, on top of the stitching. That was clearly not going to work but I pushed that problem away for the moment and got on with the rest of the design. I do like this non-solid way of stitching the rainbow, though!

First progress shows the rainbow lettering won't work

Eventually I wrote the additional words in a very fine blue drawing pen, and outlined the silver letters. Then I added a frilly edge to the cloud. I caught the thread once or twice so it’s not as neat as I would have liked it to be, but then clouds aren’t regular, are they? Inside the card I quoted a children’s song that was part of our online Sunday service only a few days before he was born: “The Lord was good, the Lord was strong / And Noah lived his life for Him”.

The main stitching finished with the writing in the cloud With the fluffy cloud edge Made into a card

By now the card has been delivered, but I’m still playing with the design and tweaking it here and there. The boat definitely needs some colour besides the three browns, but the ones I used were a bit too different from the rest of the design. I will try using colours from the rainbow, or slightly lighter shades from the same series. I also picked a slightly lighter green for the rainbow and lowered the windows a bit. The fluffy cloud detached buttonhole edge works OK in the larger version but for the smaller version I’ll go with stem stitch in fluffy thread, and I may also try simply stem stitching the outline without any fluff at all. And when I’m happy with them I’ll write the instructions and pop it on the website for you to create your own celebratory ark!

Trying out the tweaked design in two sizes

Golden memories

On the day that I should have been at my fifth class, a FoF about what was accomplished at my fourth class, and what I’ve done since. The fourth class, my goodness – I’m half way!

The first thing was to discuss with the tutor (Becky Quine) whether to leave or unpick the couched cloud. She said for rococco you would normally ignore the wave but couch by distance, making bricking easier. That makes sense but I wish I remembered where and when I was told to go by the wave; I’m fairly certain I didn’t just make it up! Becky agreed that the couching on the cloud was a little wide because of my trying to follow the wave but advised leaving it as taking it out might cause damage to the fabric (even though I hadn’t plunged them yet). So I plunged and secured the threads, and we’ll see what the assessors think.

The cloud is finally plunged

The picture above shows the start of the mixed couching on Bruce’s back. I had decided to use alternating pairs of very fine rococco and Jap; Becky said to use the larger rococco only as the very fine doesn’t come in the kit you get at the beginning of the module and it might be an issue in the assessment. I told her that I didn’t get the kit because I had pretty much all the materials already so Angela said to work from stash; and had also approved my using different sizes of rococco because the size isn’t specified in the brief. We agreed that I’d note my decision to use the very fine rococco in my log.

As I was couching a pair of the rococco I noticed the gold wrapping was rather gappy, showing the core thread. It would have annoyed me whenever I saw the piece if I left it, so I took it it out and picked a better bit to replace it with. Towards the end it needed a single very short line of rococco to cover the felt completely, which was fiddly but necessary to make sure it looked neat and tidy. Well, except for the spaghetti ends sticking out everywhere.

Some of the gold wrapping on the rococco was gappy Mixed couching leads to a lot of spaghetti

To practice creating a nice edge I first plunged the side that will be bordered by the couched Jap in the haunch, then the edge that would remain exposed. And that’s what the front looked like at the end of my fourth class.

The first edge plunged And the second At the end of the fourth class

Besides stitching there was a lot of discussing various bits of the design. I asked about the teeny details such as Haasje’s nose and Bruce’s nostril – as I can’t possibly do them in any of the threads in the brief, do I just leave them out or would I be allowed to stitch them in a thin metallic thread? Becky confirmed that for anything this small a thin or stranded metallic like Ophir is permitted. Unfortunately Ophir has been discontinued and I never managed to get hold of any, but in my goldwork stash I have a very thin Kreinik Jap #1 and a Madeira 3-ply Heavy Metallic, 1 ply of which should work well. I’ll take them to my next class to see what the tutor thinks of them.

At home the first task was to secure all the plunged ends of the mixed couching on Bruce’s back; as I mentioned in an earlier FoF, I couldn’t manage with the John James needles and I broke my last curved beading needle after only half the oversewing. Fortunately the Creative Quilting needles arrived not too long after and I could finish it. They are very nice to work with indeed, stronger than the beading needle but a bit finer and more flexible than the JJ ones; just what you need in a dense area such as this.

Bruce's back fully plunged and secured

Next was the front leg. I’d worked out two possible arrangements of the couched Jap, and I felt I couldn’t properly visualise them on paper – some sampling was called for!

Two possible front leg arrangements

Now this sampling was not done as neatly as I hope the real leg will be done, simply because I didn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time getting it neat when the aim of the sampling was simply to compare the look of the two “layouts”; moreover, in order not to use up lots of precious Jap I used some unidentified Jap of a similar thickness which I rescued from a tangle in my mother-in-law’s work chest, and which is decidedly less than pristine in places. Because of this, it didn’t behave as well in tight turns as the proper stuff will. But it definitely gave me some idea of which I preferred.

The front leg sampled two ways

I expected to like the one on the right best, and I do like the way the lines run in that one (more like the way you would fill in that leg if you were drawing or painting it), but the version on the left is a lot neater. Purely in isolation that would be fine, but I feel that the gold going across the top makes it look cut off from the rest of the body, instead of flowing into it. Hmm, some thought and tutor input needed there.

So that’s where I am at the moment, and the question is, What next? I do need to get some homework done, especially now that my next class may well be a couple of months away. Well, not the front leg. That needs bouncing off the tutor. I was advised to do the line of grass later as it is so close to the bottom of the frame and it might get damaged if I lean on it to get to higher-up bits of the design. Still, I keep it covered when not working on it, I don’t lean on my frame much anyway as it’s so small, and it’s done in couched twist which seems quite sturdy, so as long as I don’t put the chips in I should be OK. I’ll probably do some work on the rear leg as well, as I’ve discussed the arrangement of that (starting with a loop start in the toe) in quite a bit of detail with two tutors. And then? If there’s no class in sight yet, I will put it away and go back to the racehorse – that way I will keep in practice with goldwork, and not risk ruining anything important smiley. And if there are still no classes when the horse is finished, well, I may just possibly have bought two of Alison Cole’s goldwork kits the other day which arrived at unprecedented speed and are therefore winking at me seductively from my craft room desk…

Alison Cole's Pearl Butterfly Alison Cole's Beetle Wing Floral

Speedy triplets

Well, a baby in triplicate. Last week we had the lovely news that a baby had arrived safely into the world: little Evelyn. Both the new parents and all three grandparents are church friends of ours (I actually taught the baby’s mum in Sunday school, which makes me feel terribly old), so three cards were needed. I had to find a nice baby motif, and also decide whether to embroidery the name on each card.

Now many years ago in one of the many cross stitch magazines that I used to pick up at car boot sales I found a very pretty pattern of a baby-on-a-frilly-blanket, and I stitched it for a friend’s daughter’s first Christmas. Some years later I stitched it again (with darker hair, to match the baby in question) for the newborn son of friends of ours. That was quite an interesting card to make as there was a power cut halfway through, and as I was going to see the family the next day I finished stitching it by the light of an Aladdin lamp.

Stitching during a power cut Card for baby Rakan

I felt this would be a good motif to use for the three cards needed this time, but doing it in the original cross stitch version would take far too long. Fortunately it wasn’t difficult to turn it into a line drawing and transfer it to three bits of fabric. For the threads I decided on floche with possibly some Blomstergarn (Danish flower threads) – I have a sum total of five skeins of it and tend not to use it much because cream, two yellows and two greens don’t give a lot of scope beyond the odd buttercup or dandelion. But I wanted to make the romper suits different colours so they don’t look like a job lot, and the yellow and green would make a nice bright splash of colour.

The materials for the baby cards

Baby #1 was soon finished and I was particularly pleased with the frilly blanket, but a few tweaks were needed. The eye was too dark, so I took it out and re-did it in a lighter brown after this picture was taken. I also decided that in the other two I would work the face outline in whipped backstitch instead of split stitch – it makes a cleaner line – and use a slightly darker pink. As for the name, the embroidery would have to be very fine and fiddly and take rather a lot of time, so I settled for writing it on the fabric in silver or gold gel pen when mounting them in the cards.

Baby number 1

Baby #2 had the tweaks incorporated, and I did like the face outline better this way. In my quest to make them all different I left out the detailing in the hair and stitched the romper suit in two shades of green with the darker one used at the tummy and the far sleeve; I also added some petite beads.

Baby number 2

Baby #3 was given a yellow romper suit and darker hair; I couldn’t tell from the few photos I’d seen what Evelyn’s actual hair colour is, but her mother is a fair ginger and her father quite dark, so it’s anybody’s guess. This time I added tiny sequins, which I wanted to put in the same arrangement as the beads. Unfortunately I miscounted when getting them out of the bag and I found I was one short, but by that time the bag had been put away in the craft room and Lexi was comfortably curled up on my lap with no intention of moving. Explaining to Mr Figworthy exactly where in the craft room to find a small bag of 2mm sequins was just too complicated, so I re-spaced the sequins I had.

Baby number 3

Now all that remained was to turn all three into cards. I found three aperture cards in colours roughly matching each of the romper suits, but that looked a bit dull so I mixed them up. I added the baby’s name making sure the whole thing still fitted inside the aperture, and then had a think about what to write on the card. “Congratulations” would be the usual thing but for some reason I didn’t like that; you sometimes see “A new baby!” or “It’s a girl!” but that sounded a bit obvious. And then I remembered the baby’s middle name – perfect smiley.

Three babies made into cards

Is it stash or stock?

I felt very virtuous this morning because most of the embroidery-related things I’ve been ordering recently have been necessary stock: postal boxes for my goldwork and appliqué kits, lightweight calico which is the backing fabric in all the non-counted kits, plunging needles and bamboo hoops for the goldwork kits. But then I came across part of a purchase which I couldn’t quite classify – is it stock or stash? Or both?

The items in question are two lengths of coloured purl. A dark pink one called Berry which will be used for the little flower in the goldwork kits, but which might of course also end up in some of my own projects. And a Bottle Green which is definitely for one of my own projects – a goldwork snowdrop I’m planning. But as that is likely to become at least a chart pack and possibly a kit, perhaps it still counts as stock?

There was no way, however, that I could pass off the things that came with the purls as stock – they were just pure indulgence. It started with a Facebook post by Sarah Homfray showing some octagonal display frames. As I love finishing projects in hoops I thought they’d be ideal, especially as they are the perfect size for a lot of what I do. And as they are quite bulky and fell into the higher postage band anyway this was a great opportunity to add the wingnut tightener I’d been eyeing for some time.

Octagonal frames and a wingnut twizzler

Then, as I thought the postage might stretch to a bit more, the purls were added. I like to be able to offer a nice range of colours for the small flower in the goldwork kit, and that snowdrop had been in my sketch folder for yonks so it was about time I did something about it. And then, as I browsed the rest of the site, I noticed some printed fabrics for two crewelwork fruit trees. They used to come as kits, I think, and they were a set of four: apple, orange, lemon and pear as far as I remember. I really liked them but didn’t really want the kits; I have plenty of threads and the stitching on them was fairly straightforward. Now the apple and orange were there as a “fabric only” option – great for relaxing in-between projects to use up odds and ends of threads in whatever stitches I feel like at the time! They duly made their way into the shopping basket, and as they didn’t tip the postage over into the next band, they were duly ordered with the rest. I’m going to enjoy those!

Printed trees and coloured purls

By the way, having stocked up on postal boxes and small bamboo hoops I’ve been thinking of converting some of the other kits I offer to boxed ones including a hoop, especially the kits aimed at beginners. On the other hand, a beginner at Shisha embroidery may well have done other types of stitching before and therefore already have the necessary hoops. What do you think?

When we had classes…

A belated Happy New Year to you all! This post was meant to appear earlier this week, and it should have started: “As I’m now halfway between classes, it’s about time I gave you an update on the Goldwork module”. Unfortunately, because of lockdown I am no longer halfway between classes, as they have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Disappointing, of course (especially the fact that assessments are also on hold) but completely understandable, and so we just get on with things as best we can.

But first we must go back. I realise that the last thing I showed you (apart from a couple of looks at the back of the work) was the state of affairs after my November class, so today I’ll show what I did in the run-up to the December class, and next week what was done when I got there. You may remember I’d couched the cloud outline but was leaving the ends unplunged because I wasn’t altogether sure about the bricking, so ignoring that for the moment it was time to couch some pearl purl (PP). To get into it with something not too challenging I started with the outline of the sun.

The sun's outline in pearl purl

The next bits (the far legs) were more intricately shaped, and I wanted the line drawing near so I could keep referring to it. My needle minder was pressed into multitasking as a paper minder, and helped me keep an eye on the outline I was trying to create. You might think surely the paint lines would do that, and most of the time they do. But sometimes the paint lines (remember the smudged pounce debacle?) are not exactly like the line drawing, and although they have to be covered, a bit of careful placing of the wires here and there can improve the outline… I was going to say “considerably”, but in reality I’ll probably be the only one who notices smiley; still, for me that makes it worth the effort.

A way of keeping the line drawing near The far legs completed

For Haasje (worked in the thinner PP) having the drawing there was even more important – after all, it’s essential to the look of the finished piece that I get his expression right. And this was the bit where the pounce had got smudged most. In a couple of places my decision to create the outline I wanted especially for Haasje’s head may have left a teeny bit of paint visible, but I came to the conclusion that whatever the effect on the assessment, making Haasje look the way I wanted him weighed more heavily with me. And I’m happy with the way he’s turned out, even without his big spangle eye. But my goodness some of the smaller and curvier bits were fiddly!

Haasje outlined

The final bit of PP was the inner line of Bruce’s ear, and then it was on to the twist outline. As Helen had said single twist is always couched using the “invisible” method, that’s what I did, including some challenging pointy bits. I also had to work out which bits of Bruce’s outline were behind which other bits, so the overlaps looked as natural as possible. And then I plunged one bit of twist a little too short… fortunately I managed to tease the end back out and plunge it a little closer to the line. Phew.

Bruce's inner ear A pointy ear in couched twist Plunged just too short Re-plunged in the right place

The first ear was followed by back and tummy, head, other ear, front leg, and finally rear leg with haunch.

Bruce's back and tum outlined And his head And his other ear And his front leg And finally his rear leg

That’s a lot of twist, I can tell you, and at that point I’d reached homework saturation point. It was time to take Bruce and Haasje to class, show them to Becky Quine (who was taking over last minute from Helen Jones), and decide what to do next. To be, as they say, continued!