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?

Stitching goodies under the Christmas tree

Did you get any stitchy presents this year? I was thoroughly spoilt – besides non-stitchy presents including a set of good kitchen knives from Youngest and a lovely cross pendant from my husband there was an embroidery book and box of inspiring stash (also husband) and a selection of really useful bits plus some unusual bling (from Eldest, DIL and grandson). And with only the tiniest of hints; aren’t they clever smiley?

I’d rather hoped to be able to pick up my signed copy of this book at my latest Certificate class which was meant to have Angela as the tutor, but they changed the teaching schedule so it was Becky Quine. I could have brought her Crewelwork book (which is from the same series as Angela’s, and Lizzie Pye’s for that matter) and have it signed as well, I suppose, but I thought that would be a bit forward. Anyway, as the new book had to be sent, my husband decided it would make a good Christmas present – which indeed it did! I’ve had a first read through and there are lots of interesting ideas in there; I particularly like the use of Turkey rug stitch for a girl’s plaited hair (shown on the cover).

Angela Bishop's book about embroidering people

A friend on the Cross Stitch Forum had alerted me to the lovely hand-dyed threads of Paint Box Threads; they sell them individually but also in “Inspiration Packs” containing interesting combinations with hand-dyed fabrics and speciality threads. This is the one called “Period Drama”. The sateen is lovely and soft and matches the threads beautifully. The speciality threads look interesting, there’s a sheer ribbon and a neutral & gold thread which can be couched, and something extremely hairy which I’m not sure how to use but it’ll be fun to try!

Inspiration Pack from Paint Box Threads What's in the box in detail

And finally there was this lovely selection. Well, when I say lovely in some cases I just mean “very useful”; I am the first to admit that the 10mm felt for really high padding is not the most attractive thing to look at, but I look forward to using it in future goldwork projects. I’m thinking possibly a toadstool… anyway, that’s for later. The other bits are three gorgeously shiny silks for couching metal threads, a light grey drawing pen for transferring designs, a dinky little pair of pliers which will be great for pulling needles through dense embroidery and bending wires, and some unusual goldwork materials. See the gold and silver looped wire in the pictures? On Jenny Adin-Christie’s website it is called “miniadice”, a wire I had never heard of before. A quick google yields only one other link (to a German website), so I guess it is not very commonly used. That means it’s not really suitable for any designs I intend to publish on the website, but I can still use it to interesting effect in purely personal projects.

A collection of goodies from Jenny Adin-Christie Couching silks, pliers, transfer pen and miniadice

With so many things to read and play with, it’s a shame the Christmas holiday is nearly over! But I’m sure I’ll find opportunities to use my presents even when work occasionally gets in the way smiley.

The joys of curvaceousness

No, this has nothing to do with the festive season or the fact that I inexplicably tend to acquire a few extra pounds at this time of year. It’s all about frames and needles! (Digression – my husband asked how the finishing of plunged goldwork threads was assessed as it would be covered up. I explained that, as far as I knew, if the metal threads on the front didn’t wobble and there were no unsightly bulges the assessors would assume the securing had been done properly. “Ah yes” he said, looking meaningfully at the various Christmas treats lying around, “wobbles and unsightly bulges can be quite a problem.” I ignored him.)

Remember the two SAL Trees of Life that went off for framing? Well, they came back looking rather beautiful in their shared accommodation! One of the things I really like about the finished look is those curvaceous apertures. Because the design for the Tree is just a little taller than it is wide, I made things a bit difficult for our poor local framers by asking the mount to be cut not with two perfect circles, but with two not-quite-circles-but-just-slightly-ovals. I think they came up trumps, don’t you?

The SAL Trees of Life framed

Over the weekend we finally got round to hanging them on the wall. They join a painting I brought with me from the Netherlands when I moved here, and appropriately hang right next to my craft room door. This also means I look at them whenever I’m working on my Certificate or other serious projects at the dining room table – ideal!

And hung in place Right by the craft room!

More curves entered my life this month, this time in the form of needles. I mentioned the ones I ordered from Creative Quilting, but I also found a set of six semi-circular and curved needles at Restore Products. Because the website didn’t mention the diameter I rang them and asked what sort of thickness they were, and the gentleman told me they were surgical needles which they themselves used for box making and mounting. I took the plunge and ordered a set, and they too arrived a little over a week ago. They were a bit of a surprise, being much smaller than I expected; I obviously hadn’t visualised the measurements on the website quite accurately enough. The smallest one, I suspect, will need an implement of some sort to manipulate it through the fabric, much like you see surgeons do in medical programmes. Perhaps the nifty little pliers I got for Christmas… but more about that some other time.

Back to needles. The Creative Quilting ones look the most promising, being more or less the size I’m used to but (as Becky had said) finer than the RSN kit needles and sturdier than the beading needles, so the Restore Products needles have been put away in my needle box for the time being. I’m sure they’ll come in handy at some point; tools and bits of equipment usually do, don’t they? The picture, by the way, shows both sizes of John James curved needles but I’ve only ever used the smaller of the two; I have no idea what I’ll ever use the larger one for, if anything. It doesn’t show a curved beading needle because I broke my last one while waiting for the new needles to arrive…

Various curved needles

And here is the result of me plying one of my new Creative Quilting needles: Bruce’s back is properly and fairly neatly secured! I still managed to pick up a bit of the main fabric once, but fortunately I noticed before pulling the needle through so I could remedy that quite easily. In the not too distant future I’ll show you what the front of this tamed spaghetti looks like smiley.

Bruce's back fully plunged and secured

Golden curls for a brunette

Some time ago I finally got the book that accompanied the V&A Opus Anglicanum exhibition which I was lucky enough to visit in 2016. I’ve been dipping into it off and on (it’s not really a book you read from cover to cover in one sitting!) and last night I got to the final exhibit, the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers’ Pall. This is a beautifully embroidered coffin cover which was used at Guild members’ funerals. It features several depictions of St Peter, who was their patron saint, and of their coat of arms which is supported by an armour-clad merman and a mermaid holding a mirror. I’m afraid for reasons of copyright I can’t post pictures here, but you can see the pall and several other pieces in this V&A article. Have a particular look at the mermaid.

The Opus Anglicanum book shows her in a full-page close-up, which shows some wonderful details. For example, the mirror she is holding shows her reflection – how is that for attention to detail! But what really drew and held my attention was her hair. Let me post a close-up of a small segment of it, which I think is allowable for illustrative purposes:

The mermaid's hair

Can you see how the hair is stitched? I can’t be be absolutely sure just from the picture, but it looks to me as though the embroiderer worked a background of yellow silk (probably in split stitch, as that is the stitch most commonly used in Opus Anglicanum) and then couched gold threads on top in wavy curls. The result is wonderfully effective and 3D and tactile!

I was reading this and studying the picture at about 10.30pm, so setting up a bit of a doodle cloth and having a play was not really practical, although I was sorely tempted. And today unfortunately Bruce the kangaroo’s felt-padded leg took priority, and tomorrow her tail needs doing in time for Saturday’s class. But I definitely want to have a go at stitching hair like that, and for a very particular reason: Mechthild.

Remember Mechthild? She is going to be (when I get round to her…) the royal companion to Ethelnute the medieval king. She also has long flowing locks with just the sort of wave that the mermaid’s hair has.

Mechthild

There are a few things to consider. Challenges, possibly even snags. The least of which is the fact that Mechthild is a brunette, and gold couching is going to show up to rather more startling effect than I really intend. Nowadays some goldwork threads come in many colours, but I don’t think smooth passing (which is the obvious choice of thread for this) does; and even if it did, it would not be in keeping with the period at all. Silver would, and copper possibly, but neither would really solve the problem. She may just have to have a peroxide bleach. More problematic, however, is her size.

Working from a picture taken at an angle and some not very helpful measurements, my best guess is that the mermaid is at least 15cm from the top of her head to the bottom of her tummy (where her tail begins), and that her head (top to chin) is about 6cm. Mechthild is about 7cm high from crown to bosom, and 3cm from the top of her head to her chin. It would take some very fine passing to create the same effect.

And you know what? About a week ago I just happened to order some fine passing from America, among which there is a lovely rose gold, and which according to Royal Mail’s tracking information is at the moment in Langley (near Slough, my husband informs me). Once I’ve got Bruce’s padding out of the way, I feel a bit of goldwork hairdressing coming up!

Four shades of fine passing

A bit of a stretch

As I mentioned last week I ordered a pair of longer side stretchers for my Millennium frame, and because it didn’t make a difference to the postage a couple of other things made their way into my shopping basket – a wooden fabric-into-the-groove pusher and a pair of clever plastic gadgets for securely storing the grooved bars without the rods falling out. The tracking information for my order promised they’d be with me on the 9th; in the end they turned up today, 10 days after placing the order. Not bad! (The record is held, however, by a stitching friend who had a pair of bars for her Millennium frame delivered in 7 days. To France. Ah well.)

The longer stretchers and the wooden fabric pusher The bar guards

One reason for getting the longer stretchers was my plan of setting up the Millennium frame as an additional sampling cloth for the RSN goldwork module. The hoop works fine at home, but to use it at a class I need to take two different stands (the Sonata seat stand for the hoop, and the Aristo lap stand for the slate frame) and as they are both fairly bulky with lots of sticky-outy bits that is rather awkward. Much easier to take the slate frame and the Millennium frame which will both happily sit on the Aristo. So I’ve got together some calico, the original piece of silk dupion I bought which had the grain running the wrong way, the grooved bars, my new side stretchers, herringbone tape and parcel string (not to mention that implement for potentially inflicting serious injury, the bracing needle) and I’m ready to get framed up this weekend.

All the materials for a Millennium sample cloth

An added bonus is that I get another go at attaching silk to a calico background; practice makes perfect, they say! Admittedly it would have been more useful to have had this practice before attaching the “official” silk, but I’m sure the experience won’t be wasted.

A different focus (or two)

Last Saturday, when I was in Rugby anyway for my Certificate class, I killed two birds with one stone and picked up my new glasses. Not the everyday ones, I got those a few weeks ago – these are bi-focals. When stitching in the evening (my usual time for non-Certificate stitching) my usual stitching glasses have a disadvantage: I can see my embroidery, but very little else. Which means that when I look up to say something to my husband, or to watch something on the telly, both husband and telly are so blurred I might as well not look up. This is not very sociable.

Cue bi-focals – one bit for stitching, one bit for being sociable. I looked into getting extra-wide inserts (the bit for embroidery) but they turned out to be so eye-wateringly expensive that I went for the standard width. The lady at the optician’s very helpfully drew an outline of the inserts on the plain lenses in the frame I’d chosen, so I could see where they were in relation to my eyes, and I felt that would very likely work. Well, it does – they do! They take some getting used to (you have to learn to ignore the blurry line between to two bits of lens) and they need a little tweaking still (one lens needs to be higher, so a bit of frame-bending is required), but otherwise they are a great success.

New bifocals

In the picture you see them with a project I’ve just started, which is a Melbury Hill kit. After all those rainbows I wanted something less (excuse the pun) focused, with no need for taking notes, writing instructions or keeping track of how much thread I use. Just plain, straightforward stitching. As I’m working this upside down (I think it looks much better that way) interpreting the instructions involves a little mental gymnastics, but not too much. Even so, I found myself very carefully measuring the placement of stitches on the strawberry’s laid work (remember the Dutch “geometry triangle” I used for the battlement couching in my RSN Jacobean piece?); however, as soon as I realised what I was doing I chucked the triangle and went for a more rustic approach with slightly irregular pips; relax, woman smiley!

A relaxing kit Rustic pips

Stretcher bars, eyes and rainbows

Some days ago I found myself saying to my husband, “More threads isn’t always the answer”. Yes, I know – heresy! But I have redeemed myself by ordering a pair of longer side stretchers for my Millennium frame. As I was commenting on a fellow member’s Cross Stitch Forum post about Millennium frames and Lowery stands I wrote “with hindsight I would have chosen the slightly longer side stretchers” and then thought, well, why not actually get them! The idea is that with the larger stitching area I could use it as a sampling set-up for the RSN Certificate goldwork module, mimicking the slate frame set-up better than a hoop can.

Now Needle Needs, known for their excellent craftsmanship and their beautiful, sturdy and effective frames and stands, are unfortunately also known for slow delivery and less than ideal communication. Personally I’ve never had any problems, possibly because I just ring them instead of emailing, but I know other people have had difficulties. I’m not in a frantic hurry for these stretchers (I’ve managed very well without them so far, after all) but in view of wanting to use them for the goldwork module it would be nice to have them before I finish! So I rang them to ask for a time frame – and found that the gentleman I spoke to remembered me (and my husband’s vintage Austins) from when I visited their workshop to try out the Aristo lapstand back in 2015!

Trying out the Aristo lap stand

Anyway, he said he would be making some stretchers of the right size in the next few days, and yesterday I got an email to say they would be delivered by 9th November, exactly one week after I ordered them. There may, of course, still be glitches, but it all looks promising!

Until then I continue to do my sampling on the spare silk mounted in a hoop, which works well enough. Today I heard that next Saturday’s Certificate class will go ahead, with only two students which should make it nice and safe, so I’m glad I managed to do most of my homework to show Angela. Part of that involved “mixed couching”, where instead of using a pair of the same threads you couch a pair of dissimilar threads, for example rococco paired with twist. Because rococco is by far my least favourite goldwork thread I decided to practise mainly with that, starting with it combined with twist, and then trying to work a pair of rococco and Jap right next to it, bricking the couching stitches as much as possible.

Mixed couching

“As much as possible” turned out to be not very much – one of my questions for Angela will be how on earth you evenly brick anything that has rococco in it, with its wave that should be regular but in practice turns out not to be even when stitched in a straight line, let alone on a curve. Oh well, I’m meant to be learning so it’s just as well I have questions smiley. (The picture also shows some improvement in my stitching already: there is a definite gap between the two pairs where I start on the left, whereas they are much better abutted as I went on. Reassuring to know sampling helps to sort these things out.)

Another thing I’ve been sampling is kangaroo eyes. That rather sounds like a buffet I don’t want to try, but actually it was a very useful exercise. In the design drawing, the kangaroo’s eye is roughly triangular, and my original idea was to use chips of smooth purl to somehow fill in that triangle, either with the chips all running vertically (with the front one slightly curved) or with some used as outlines (another idea of making them all run parallel with the top sloping line never even made it to the sampling stage). As you can see both these options looked awful. So then I started playing with the idea of a spangle with two chips of smooth purl for the top and bottom outline. That effect was much more like it, and after some experimenting with spangle sizes and placement of the securing stitches I eventually decided on the one indicated by the orange arrow: a 2mm spangle with the slit facing forward and one securing stitch facing backward.

Lots of kangaroo's eyes

And finally, remember the rainbow project I called Hope? I’ve been stitching quite a lot of variations on the theme (including a personalised one for a young girl facing a lockdown birthday) and was hoping to put the chart pack on the website this month, but the design was taken up by a magazine for publication which means I can’t publicise it myself until after that issue of the magazine has come off the shelves (some time next spring). I think I can probably get away with a teeny-weeny sneak peek though…

Five rainbows

How a kangaroo ousted a seahorse…

…and was in turn endangered by a miniature gecko. The story of how a goldwork design can be influenced by fabric, bedtime stories, and a Baptist minister.

Once upon a time, in 2015 to be exact, I sketched a whole series of ideas for goldwork designs, among them a toadstool, a sort-of-daisy and a seahorse. Forward a year, and on a visit to the Viking Loom I bought some scrumptious hand-painted silk dupion in turquoise, blue and purple shades. Forward another four years, and I’m starting the goldwork module for my RSN Certificate. For which I need to stitch my goldwork design on silk dupion. Well!

Sketch for a goldwork toadstool Sketches for a goldwork daisy and seahorse Hand-painted silk dupion

No-brainer, right? Sea-coloured dupion, seahorse – done! Hmm, not quite. All these sketches were for designs without any rules other than what I liked. But the goldwork module comes with a brief; there are only certain materials you are allowed to use (no kid leather, no smooth passing, no rough purl or wire check, no silver or copper let alone any other colours) and there are certain techniques you have to use (bricked Jap, mixed couching, cutwork over soft string padding), sometimes with a specified minimum area. The seahorse couldn’t quite fit all that in, and I’d have to get rid of some of the materials I’d originally included. No worries (keep that expression in mind…), we can add to it. How about a treasure chest? I worked out that that could be made to include several of the required techniques, so I did some sketching to work out the proportions and positions of seahorse and chest to make them into a coherent design.

Adding a treasure chest to the seahorse

And then, in my pile of sketches, I came across an undated, very basic sketch of a sitting kangaroo with the scribbled note “find good pose. check eye shape” and an indication of padded cutwork along the tail, and some chipping on the haunch/hip joint. (It also had a small sketch of a hot air balloon, but I ignored that.) A kangaroo… well, it would be unusual; I’d found plenty of sea creatures when looking at previous Certificate goldwork pieces, but no kangaroo (although there was a koala). It wouldn’t work with the hand-painted silk dupion, of course – I’d need to buy some more shades to have a good range of options (oh the hardship). As I talked to Hilary at the Silk Route about this I mentioned that it was now between a seahorse and a kangaroo and she immediately plumped for the kangaroo, simply because it was so unusual; and Angela, my tutor, had also greeted my simple sketch with some enthusiasm, not surprising perhaps as she is Australian smiley.

A basic kangaroo

Anyway, I figured there was no harm in finding some more kangaroo pics and deciding on a suitable position, and what about a pouch and possibly a Joey? And then it hit me. Haasje!

Haasje (“little hare” in Dutch) is the cuddly toy my grandmother bought for me before I was born. For various reasons it was a very special welcome into the world, and Haasje became my constant companion. He was also my champion: when an older cousin told me that “earworms” (Dutch for earwigs) would creep into your ears at night and nibble your brains (I had no older brothers, but my cousins obviously did a great job as substitutes), I looked for a solution to keep me safe. One ear was protected by the pillow, but what about the other? Haasje, of course! For several years I slept with him snugly held against my ear; my mother didn’t find out why until I was a grown-up.

Haasje, my constant companion

Now when my favourite aunt lived with us for two years and told me bedtime stories every night, she chose Haasje as the protagonist, and in one particularly memorable series of tales he travelled all the way to Australia, where a passing kangaroo gave him a lift in her pouch. He wasn’t used to hopping that fast and high, so he clung on for dear life while nervously looking down at the ground. That was it. The seahorse was forgotten. I had a design!

Haasje in the kangaroo's pouch

As is always the case the design went through several changes before it was finalised – it gained some grass, and a cloud with the sun behind it – but the basis for me was a panicky Haasje travelling by kangaroo (I hope to convey his wide-eyed look of fear by means of a big round spangle). In class I did some more work on what materials to put where, where to have padding, and which bits to leave open to contrast with the solid gold parts; the cutwork for the tail remained, as did the chipwork haunch, and other techniques and materials were added in, making sure all the requirements of the brief were covered. When I got home I did a mock-up (not easy for goldwork) to give myself a better idea of the balance between open and solid, and I think I’ve got it about right. I also printed the cleaned-up design on tracing paper to make the pricking needed for the prick & pounce transfer process.

The colour mock-up The tracing for prick and pounce

Then in the middle of this whole process, after Haasje had been added but before my class, our minister shared a holiday snap during the Sunday service’s all-age talk of this teeny-weeny little chap (that giant white thing is a teaspoon), almost changing my mind a second time, but although I did find some lovely pictures of miniature geckos in beautifully sinuous positions perfect for goldwork, I decided to stick with Bruce (as I have called the kangaroo) and Haasje.

The miniature gecko shared by our minister

Remember I mentioned getting some more colours of silk dupion? Here is the selection I got, with the two at the top bought specifically for Bruce. The olive shade was not at all what I was looking for, so that became my doodle cloth, but I absolutely loved the shade called Ether. It was a bit of a surprise as the picture on the Silk Route website was rather brighter, but actually this less saturated look was just what I wanted.

A collection of dupion shades

Unfortunately, although the 28cm x 33cm cut was fine as regards size, it had the grain running the wrong way. Well, “wrong” for this particular design. In order to accommodate the design I’d have to use the fabric in portrait orientation, but in that case the grain (which is very visible in silk dupion) runs vertically, and Angela and I both agreed that that would look all wrong. So this piece of fabric will become a second doodle cloth, and I’ve bought a fat quarter of the Ether dupion which is easily big enough to cut a piece of the right size with the grain running horizontally.

This does mean I won’t be able to fully frame up until my next class, as I would much prefer to attach the silk to the calico with a tutor to hand. On the few occasions I’ve attached a piece of silk to backing fabric I’ve ended up with puckers in the silk at the end of the project, so I want to get this absolutely right. Apparently the secret is to baste the two layers together on the design lines when the whole sandwich is under tension.

However, we could get the calico framed up. Angela had never worked with a slate frame this small so it was a new experience for her as well! But apart from everything being rather smaller, the rest of the process is pretty much the same: sew the top and bottom of the fabric to the webbing, sew herringbone tape to the sides, and lace up using the lethal bracing needle (I won’t show you the wounds…)

Sewing the calico to the webbing Lacing the side tapes to the bars

By the way, do you remember the four protective flaps I made for the big slate frame? True, they overlapped quite a bit, but it will give you some idea of the size difference when you see the effect of a single flap attached to the new frame.

Four flaps covering the large slate frame One protective flap is enough

And that’s it so far! I’ve got my homework – getting the silk ironed, sampling some couching and s-ing, creating a tonal plan, pricking the transfer, cutting the layers of felt padding; Angela is definitely keeping me busy smiley. After the next class I hope I’ll be able to show you the silk all framed up and with the design painted on, and who knows even a bit of gold (although all the padding needs to go on first, so it may be a while before I get to play with the bling bits – but there’s always the doodle cloth).

Ready for my homework!

An unexpected twist

Last week I bought two sets of Sulky 12wt cotton to try, having heard a lot of praise for them, and having enjoyed using one of their 12wt “Blendables” (variegated colours) in the Butterfly Wreath. Some of them (with a few others acquired since) were bought with a third version of the Hope rainbow in mind; the set of muted pinks and greens has no immediate purpose, but I just found the colour combination irresistible!

Two sets of Sulky 12wt cotton

“12wt”, or “12 weight”, by the way, refers to the thickness of the thread, or more accurately to its length: it is defined as the number of kilometres of thread in a kilo. So 12 kilometres of 12wt thread and 40 kilometres of a 40wt thread both weigh 1 kilo. This means that the higher the number, the thinner the thread; 12wt is roughly equal to two strands of standed cotton.

Before the Sulky threads arrived I took the opportunity to compare the thickness of my Blendables 12wt with a Weeks Dye Works perle #12 (they happen to be stored together as I got them both – plus a few others – when looking for just the right variegated green), mostly to compare thicknesses as you would expect the 12 in perle #12 to stand for its weight as well.

Weeks Dye Works perle and Sulky cotton

But as I put them down on white paper together I noticed something unexpected: Sulky blendables is a Z-twist! I’d never noticed this before because the Butterfly Wreath doesn’t use it for a stitch that shows up the difference clearly, like stem stitch.

I remembered that some years ago I purchased a few spools of another brand of 12wt cotton at the Knitting & Stitching Show. I dug out a spool of Wonderfil and yes, that’s a Z-twist too. But the WDW overdyed perle is, predictably enough, an S-twist like most other hand embroidery threads.

Three twelve-weight threads An S-twist and two Z-twists

And that last bit (“hand embroidery threads”) turns out to be the pertinent fact in this twisty surprise. Some research online brought up an interesting page on the website of thread manufacturer Yli, which says that “A thread with a Z-twist, or left twist, is engineered specifically for the sewing machine. The action of the sewing process tends to increase the twist of a Z-twisted thread, but can actually untwist a thread with S-twist, or right twist.” We live and learn! The threads are still perfectly usable for hand embroidery – I’ll just have to remember to work my stem stitch as outline stitch. Fortunately I don’t think many of the other stitches in the Hope design are affected; other than stem stitch just the whipping, probably. I wrote about the effect of the whipping direction in an earlier FoF, finding that I liked a Z-direction whip with an S-twist thread (that is to say the whipping and the thread twist go in opposite directions), so here I’ll have to do the whipping in the S-direction. Oh well, think of it as brain training.

Incidentally, coming back to the relative thickness of all these threads labelled as a size 12 – the Sulky thread is clearly thinner than the other two. Could it be because of a difference in twist? Sulky’s appears to be longer/less tight than either the WDW perle or the Wonderfil cotton. Must do a bit more research!

A snowman goes public, and a silk gets overlooked

The latest issue of Stitch, the Embroiderers’ Guild’s magazine, hit the shops last weekend, and you may recognise a certain snowman in one of the small cover pictures – yes, Forever Frosty has made his first public appearance! It’s always great fun seeing your own project in print, and this time they gave me a full double spread especially for the goldwork diagrams as well as the main article with the usual photographs and instructions. I’m really pleased with it, but I can’t help wondering why colours never seem to come out quite right in photographs, even professional ones; the fabric is definitely blue-er in real life.

Stitch magazine, issue 127 Forever Frosty

Sending the stitched models to the magazine for photographing is always a bit fraught – the Stitch people are really careful with them, that’s not the problem, but their postal journey there and back is a time of nervous anticipation: will they make it, or will they become a Lost Item? So it was with a sigh of relief that I welcomed Frosty and the little willow that made it into issue 125 safely back home last week, in time for us to take them on our visit to my mother-in-law, who is a keen needlewoman and who I knew would like to see them.

So now I can concentrate on other things. The RSN Certificate, for one thing – but more about that in a later FoF. The other thing is Hope, my new rainbow design, which I’m currently working on in two different versions. I’m planning a third before putting the chart pack together, by which time the design should offer any stitcher a variation that suits her.

Remember the blues I was having a bit of a ponder about? Well, based on various digital shade cards I decided that Splendor 966 was probably the blue I really wanted: a little darker than the Splendor blue I already had, with the added bonus of being the same brand as all the other silks in that particular version of the rainbow.

Splendor 966, a slightly darker blue

I’ve been meaning to expand my collection of Splendor silks but unfortunately no shop in the UK has the entire range, and so for some shades I will have to resort to US sellers (I prefer Stitching Bits & Bobs who have been very helpful in the past) and just take the import duties and postage on the chin. But West End Embroidery, who are equally helpful and in the UK, have a fair few shades so I decided to start there – get as many of the shades on my list as they have from them, then go to SB&B for the others. Fortunately, Splendor 966 was one of the shades in their collection.

I went through my list, and their catalogue, and may have added a shade or two that wasn’t on my list, and finally hit the Check Out button to place the order. The order confirmation email duly arrived, and as I glanced through it I realised one shade was missing. Yes, I’d forgotten to order 966…

A quick phone call to Yvonne remedied that, so that when the order arrived, the blue which was the initial reason for the order was there among all the pretty colours which were not strictly necessary. It would have been terribly embarrassing having to place a second order for one single colour – I might have had to add a few extras smiley !

The whole Splendor order