…and more silk.

Did you know that so far none of Mabel’s kits use silk? I know, it’s shocking! Time to do something about it, using that pretty little flower, the Quatrefoil. Putting together a new kit means sourcing supplies, which in this case means more silk. Ah, the sacrifices I make for my customers…

To begin with the fabric, I decided on a dark red silk dupion. The obvious place to go for that was The Silk Route, who were so helpful in finding just the right silk for Bruce. Unfortunately (it is a recurring theme, I know) it is very difficult to accurately judge colours on screen, so I rang them and they very kindly sent me two dark red samples to choose from. I then wondered whether dark blue wouldn’t work as well, rang again, and even though they had already sent off the first two samples, they popped another one in the post to me!

Silk Route samples

The blue turned out to be rather too dark, and of the two reds the lighter one was definitely the one to go for. They agreed to cut my half metre lengthwise, which means less waste and a few more kit-sized squares than if it was cut widthwise. It’s a power-woven silk dupion, which is smoother and more even in texture than the hand-woven type (this difference will come up in my Goldwork assessment FoF too). I like my kits to be accessible for stitchers who have no experience with a particular technique, so not putting too many slubs in their way seemed like a good plan.

Silk Route burgundy dupion

To do the silk fabric justice, the design is stitched using silk threads. I chose Rainbow Gallery Splendor silk because, well, really just because it is one of my favourite silks smiley with its subtle sheen and lovely soft feel, but also because it is, in my experience, one of the easier silks to work with. To complement the silk, and because a bit of bling always adds a certain je ne sais quoi (not to mention joie de vivre), the petals are outlined in gold Jap with a choice of couching thread: easier but more visible sewing thread, or bouncier and more slippery but practically invisible translucent couching thread. Add needles, an aperture card and some wadding and you’ve got the components of a new kit.

Making up the Quatrefoil kits

And after a fair bit of measuring, cutting, tying, winding, folding and packaging… *fanfare and drumroll* you’ve got our new Silk & Gold Quatrefoil kit!

One of the kits ready to be sent out

PS – Just to reassure anyone interested in the Quatrefoil kit in the light of my previous PS about filament silks, Splendor is a spun silk so hopefully no moths were harmed in the making of it.

Silk, silk…

I have got a new embroidery book. Yes, another one. Shush. Anyway, it is all Mary Corbet’s fault for writing yet another irresistible review. It will no doubt be very useful for the Silk Shading module of the RSN Certificate, but really that’s just an excuse. In fact it seemed to be the sort of informative and beautifully illustrated book that would be worth having and reading even if you never stitched anything from it – and so it turned out to be. Background information about pollinators, instructions for needlepainting, and lots and lots of lovely photographs of the exquisitely stitched projects. I love it.

Victoria Matthewson's needlepainting book Information about the plants and pollinators stitched in the book Very detailed photographs illustrate the needlepainting process

It joins Tanya Bentham’ Opus Anglicanum book on my current browsing pile, and they make a dangerous pair – because they mention various silks and materials that I now want to try out!

Do you remember Ethelnute the Opus Anglicanum king? He was stitched using Silk Mill silk, which like the ones mentioned in Tanya Bentham’s book is a filament silks, made from unbroken silk reeled off the cocoon of the silk worm (which is why some suppliers call it “reeled silk”). It is beautifully shiny, but not as flat as the ones Tanya uses, so the sheen on those should be even more spectacular.

Ethelnute mounted on his satin box

I’d never heard of tram silk, but it sounded rather interesting, so I ordered a taster pack through Tanya’s site. You can get full reels from the suppliers she mentions in her book, the Handweavers Studio, but getting a reasonable range of colours plus postage would be quite expensive, which led me to go for Tanya’s mixed pack of smaller cops. Exasperatingly, I received the book with its link to Handweavers the Monday after returning from London, where on one of my walks I passed through the street where their shop is without knowing it! Oh well, I will now have a few more shades to play with plus two fabrics I hadn’t used before which I popped into my shopping basket to make the most of the postage: ramie, a fine linen-like fabric, and a lovely soft wool fabric used for Bayeux-style embroidery.

A lovely range of tram silk colours and two fabrics Ramie fabric Wool fabric

Talking of fabrics, the Pollinator book mentions a fabric that I looked at on one of the stands at the Knitting & Stitching Show, a silk/cotton blend. I nearly bought a fat quarter and then decided against it because I didn’t know what I’d use it for. Sigh.

Back to silk. The other one that caught my attention was the silk produced in various weights by DeVere Yarns, especially when I found that it was mentioned in both my recently acquired books – quite a recommendation!

DeVere silks mentioned in the Pollinators book

I’d heard of DeVere Yarns before, and I’m fairly certain I’ve seen them at previous Knitting & Stitching Shows, but somehow I hadn’t tried their threads before. They are a family business and extremely helpful: when I decided to buy one of their Colour Packs but felt that it needed an extra shade between the dark and the medium blue they had a look at the colours while we were on the phone, then called me back later after they’d had a look in better light and found the right shade to go with the pack. Not only that, when I ordered that extra silk in a different weight from the pack they emailed me to ask whether that order was correct, and when the parcel arrived it included a sample card of their various silks and other threads as a bonus – very good service indeed.

The Pastel Palette with the extra shade How the extra shade fits in A sample card

You may think that all this is quite enough silk for anyone, but there has been more silken activity in the Figworthy household. No, I’ve not been growing my own silkworms – we haven’t got a mulberry tree. All will be revealed in the next FoF…

PS – I will admit to feeling slightly uncomfortable about filament silk because the moth is not allowed to hatch; at some point I will have to decide where I stand on that. Spun silk (which is not quite so strong and has a less exuberant sheen but looks beautiful in its own way and is very nice to work with) is made from the shorter remnants of the cocoon that are left after the moth has chewed its way out, and is therefore blissfully unproblematic; it’s not even taking something from the moth that it could conceivably still want (like honey from bees). Definitely the more worry-free silk.

Quick ways to store your needles

Once or twice I have mentioned a quick-to-make needle matchbook; it’s the finishing method used in the Hardanger mini kits, I made a set of ten recently for my course students and I have them dotted around the house for my own use. I’m fairly certain I also wrote about an easy felt needle roll at least once. However, when I looked for my FoFs about these needle storage solutions to send to a student, I found that I never actually wrote them!

A narrow needle matchbook for my own use An easy felt needle roll

The reason I haven’t written about the matchbook needle books became clear when I sought out the original site from which I got the idea: that had such a good description of the process that it would be silly to reinvent the wheel! You can find the post on the Make It Do blog. The only change I made to it for the Hardanger kits was to have the patterned side of the card on the inside, so that the Hardanger patch could be stuck to the plain coloured outside. I cut the card to 6cm x 17cm, and pre-score it 2cm from the bottom and 8cm from the top; for my little project books like the one shown above, which usually hold only a few needles and aren’t decorated with needlework, I use narrower strips of card and I don’t bother scoring them, but fold them by eye.

Hardanger kits finished as needle books

Much the same goes for the needle roll – that idea came from a Mary Corbet blog post which (of course) contains excellent instructions. I did happen to take several pictures when I put mine together, so I’ll post those here as additional illustrations to her description. First cut the parts that make up the roll: a larger rectangle of felt with two slits and a cord or ribbon fed through them, plus a smaller rectangle to hold the needles; I embroidered mine with a B (for “beading”) and numbers (for the various sizes) in backstitch. Place the needle felt on top of the larger felt and roll the layers up together, towards the cord or ribbon. The top layer will probably shift a bit while you roll them, so don’t start with it right up against the edge. Use the cord to tie up the roll. Done!

The two parts of the needle roll Place the needle felt on top of the larger felt Roll up the two layers together Use the cord to tie up the roll

So here we are, two very clever ideas, neither of them mine unfortunately, but brought together here for any stitchers looking for quick ways to store their needles. Both methods take only scraps of felt and card, so why not rummage through your stash and have a go?

Ally Pally, Bruce, cards and a new book

Well, I’m back after four days away, and more or less organised again after four days back home. London was lovely, especially as I tend to wander from park to river to green space to cemetery and avoid the busy shopping streets as much as possible, and I was lucky with the weather. It was wonderful to be back at the Knitting & Stitching Show again, too, even though it was very much a scaled-down affair. In fact I was having such a good time that I didn’t think to take very many pictures! Here are two things I did remember to photograph, the big Stitch A Tree project and one of the winning quilts which depicts a “missing” panel of the Bayeux Tapestry: the one with the people who actually produced it (that sewing machine in the border is just hilarious smiley!)

Stitch A Tree Project The Bayeux quilt

Shopping-wise I’ve been remarkably abstemious, helped (or hindered) by the fact that two of the shops I really wanted to see, Barnyarns and West End Embroidery, weren’t there. But I got this lovely hand-dyed fabric from Paint-Box Threads, and some green-and-red beetle wings from Golden Hinde.

Paint-Box fabric and beetle wings

One highlight of the Show was meeting up with fellow Dutch C&D student Marlous (of the Stitching Sheep fame) at the RSN stand and then sitting down to have a good chat.

Meeting Marlous, the Stitching Sheep

Marlous was also kind enough to take a few pictures of me with Bruce on the RSN display wall (well, I wasn’t on the wall – you know what I mean); the second one shows a bit more of the rest of the display. I was rather chuffed to hear from the lady on the stand that Bruce had garnered quite a bit of interest! Later that day when I returned for a last peek I was asked to talk to a couple of ladies thinking of starting the Certificate, to give them the student’s point of view. I also asked about adopting a stitch (you can see the Stitch Bank poster behind Marlous and me), and I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

Bruce and Mabel The RSN display

The workshops went well, but teaching with a visor did present some challenges, especially as I tend to look at any problems the students have by taking off my glasses and bringing the work practically up to my nose – you can imagine how that went! Below is the only picture I thought to take of one of the works in progress, a great effort by a lady who had done no embroidery before.

A Butterfly Wreath in progress

I always take three stitched models to any class or workshop I teach so that students can see several versions of the project in real life, instead of just the one picture on the kit cover, and it was a bit annoying to find after the second workshop that one of them had gone missing. Fortunately I had an unmounted Butterfly Wreath in a folder at home, so I could make a new one. At the same time I made up a stitched model for one of the classes in the Freestyle Embroidery course I’ll be teaching next month, the little silk and gold Quatrefoil.

Stitched models for workshops and classes

Craft Creations having been taken over by a new management who even after several years haven’t got back the same range of aperture cards, the Quatrefoil card comes from a new supplier, PDA Card & Craft. My first order from them arrived while I was away, so I had the pleasure of having an interesting parcel waiting for me when I came back. Well, the cardstock is of good quality but I wasn’t happy to notice that on the blue cards the aperture was clearly off-centre. However, an email I sent on Monday explaining the situation brought an almost instant reply with an apology and a promise to send out a new set with the correct aperture – very good customer service.

New aperture cards from PDA An off-centre aperture

Another interesting parcel arrived earlier this week: Tanya Bentham’s Opus Anglicanum, which is both an in-depth look at this style of embroidery and a project book. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but it looks very interesting, and I am reassured by Mary Corbet’s detailed review that it’s bound to have been a good buy! Some of the Opus Anglicanum-inspired kits and projects on Tanya’s site are not my cup of tea but the ones in the book seem to be mostly traditional in style with the occasional funny twist (Medieval Selfie Girl, for example).

Tanya Bentham's Opus Anglicanum

Unfortunately I won’t be stitching designs from this book any time soon, but I have been getting quite a lot of split stitch practice, having picked up Llandrindod as my Embroidery Group project. I’m looking forward to adding the little touches of sparkle soon!

Steady progress on Llandrindod