Grooming a horse

I’m practically neighing with excitement: after well over three years (I first mentioned him on FoF in November 2018) Hengest the Medieval Unicorn is finally nearing completion!

Hengest is getting there!

But there are, to employ a horsy metaphor, a few hurdles to overcome before we get to the finishing line, and I’m hoping they don’t turn into a full-blown steeple chase. One of these things is his horn. Since his conception Hengest has diverged fairly dramatically from the horse on the Steeple Aston cope which inspired him, not least by becoming a unicorn. The original, therefore, has no horn which I could use as a model. Now I had envisaged stitching the horn in two shades of dark golden yellow, in short lines curving around the horn; probably two or three lines of the lighter shade, then one of the darker shade, and so on.

The plan for Hengest's horn

When I got to the point of actually stitching the horn, however, I started to have my doubts. These would be very short lines, especially towards the tip. And would I be able to keep the curve even along the length of the horn? Wouldn’t it be very difficult to keep the edges neat? And wouldn’t it be better to have long lines along the horn to contrast with the stitch direction in the surrounding mane? I decided to do some sampling. One horn with the lighter shade stitched in long lines and the darker shade over the top, and one with both shades worked in curved lines across the horn, three light to one dark.

Two types of horn

What did I learn from this sampling? Well, the first thing was that unless I have very good light, I don’t see pencil outlines. One thing I liked about the right-hand horn is that it kept its pointy tip better. Closer inspection shows that this is because I didn’t fill the whole shape (purple arrow). So we’ll ignore the relative pointiness and concentrate on other things. In the left-hand horn, with dark stitches worked across the long lines of lighter ones, the first cross lines I did were too straight (blue arrow). I like the effect better when they are more diagonal (red arrow). In the right-hand horn, with both colours worked across, I found at first that my stitches were different lengths from one shade to the next (yellow arrow). That can be sorted with proper attention – I was stitching these samples while chatting and having tea at my embroidery group – and so is not a deal breaker. More difficult was to keep the edges straight (green arrows). And the colour difference between the two shades is not as clear as in the other one. On the other hand, I think it looks more natural when the stitch direction follows the spiralling pattern of the horn.

I’m undecided.

So shelving the dilemma of the horn for the time being, I concentrated on the eyes. You might wonder what the problem is there, as they have already been stitched. Well, the trouble is that they don’t look the way I meant them to. They evolved quite a bit from the first sketches: from big black eyes looking sideways, to smaller ones looking slightly up, to ones with blue irises (added when I noticed that the Steeple Aston horse had them) still with that slightly-up orientation.

The evolution of Hengest's eyes

But what I had actually stitched was this:

Hengest's eyes in wool

There are a couple of things there that I am not altogether happy with, neither of which is easy to change. His eyes are quite boldly outlined in dark grey (in my first attempt they were even more boldly outlined in black, but that was quickly knocked on the head). This is at least in part because the Steeple Aston horse has boldly outlined eyes – but quite a lot of the rest of him is too, whereas I opted to stitch Hengest without any outlines, so the eyes stand out more than I really intended. Stitching them in a grey one shade lighter would make a difference, but unfortunately the dark grey is so completely embedded in and connected with other stitches that unpicking it is a complete no-no. The other issue is the direction of his gaze: straight upwards, which I think makes him look rather goofy. Mind you, not as goofy as the original horse, whose uncoordinated eyes appear to be in some disagreement about direction.

The uncoordinated gaze of the original horse What direction am I looking in?

Still, goofy. Could this perhaps be changed with a few extra grey stitches? I tried to position a tiny bit of dark grey wool over some of the iris to see if that would look any better. It was very fiddly, but it was also immediately clear that trying to show the effect on one eye only wasn’t going to help!

Trying the effect on one eye only is no help

I tried it with bits of wool on both eyes – better, in the sense that he looked a little more sane, but I wasn’t sure I liked the effect. It makes the pupils an odd shape, and loses part of the irises.

Even with two eyes, the effect is not what I'm after

So what to do? Well, both before and after I expressed doubts about the eyes, stitching friends have described Hengest’s gaze as “expressive”, “regal”, “heavenward”, “noble” and “magic”, so I’m beginning to think I should accept that I am in a minority of one describing them as goofy, and leave well alone smiley.

Just so I didn’t feel all this had been a futile exercise, I added a little white to his eyes where I had previously left the fabric uncovered:

I can see the whites of his eyes!

And while I had the white in my needle, I also added two stitches to his body to improve the outline.

A slightly uneven outline A couple of remedial stitches

Now for a decision on that horn…

Hooked on mending

Most of my stitching, let’s face it, is decorative and of little practical use. Some of my stitching does get made into things that get used, like cards, coasters, thread boxes etc, but that has never been my aim. I enjoy embroidery, which I think is an excellent reason for doing it and really the only one needed. But sometimes my needle is plied in a more utilitarian fashion, mending, for example, the zip on one of my favourite boots or a torn sleeve or buttonhole on a dress (note: I would not generally recommend mending clothes while you’re in them; this was a just-about-to-leave-for-church emergency).

Mending a boot Mending a sleeve Mending a buttonhole - very carefully...

I have even been known to darn Mr Figworthy’s socks! But I’d never tried my hand at mending crochet before. Until my daughter-in-law asked me whether I could mend a crocheted blanket she’d inherited from my mother-in-law, which she would like to use as a table cloth but which unfortunately had got damaged (before she got it). She asked me this back in July 2021 – the very fact that I am writing about it in January 2022 will tell you how confident I felt about this undertaking. Still, a fresh new year calls for a fresh new challenge, so I went to the depths of the cupboard where my bag of crochet hooks and yarn is stored (and largely forgotten for long stretches of time). There I found, besides the yarn I was looking for, some small projects I did years ago, which reminded me that I do actually know how to crochet; a reassuring thought.

A crocheted heart A crocheted band of tulips A crocheted angel

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the damage before I started on it, but what seems to have happened is that some of the threads had frayed, which had caused part of the stitching to come undone. My first task was to find out which frayed bits were still attached to something and which had come loose entirely; then I tried to work out whether the bits that were left could easily be re-attached to each other. But no, I found that some of the frayed and broken threads must actually have been lost before we got to it, and I was left with a hole covering three rows of crochet over a stretch of two to three inches. The original yarn was a variegated one, but luckily the missing bit was mostly in off-white, and I found one in my stash that was reasonably close in thickness and shade. I set to work adding in treble crochets (double in US terms). The trickiest bit, I found, was to match up the stitching where the existing row would originally have been worked around the row that I was adding in. It took a while, but then the gap was filled in and I breathed a sigh of relief.

First stage of mending

That would have been it, if it hadn’t been for two issues. The first one: another frayed thread. This hadn’t led to a hole yet, and I managed to knot the ends and pull them into the existing crochet.

Another frayed thread Safely knotted and the knot tucked away

The second issue was more one of aesthetics. The patch I mended looks very light. Because of the sometimes quickly changing colours of the yarn used, that’s what it would have looked like originally (there are parts where the lilac/pink shade clusters together in a similar way) but it looks like it is because of the mending! Could I perhaps work in some of the brown crewel wools from my Jacobean Certificate piece to make it blend in more?

Should I work in some brown?

Well, no. The colours looked close enough when placed on top of the blanket but when I tried working one of the shades into the crochet it looked awful (partly I think because the original brown has a pinkish shade to it) so I took it out again. This was one issue that couldn’t be solved.

There was a possible third issue, which was that the original crochet wasn’t always regular (something that makes me wonder whether it was in fact my mother-in-law’s own work). Sometimes there were four treble crochets where you would expect five, or the other way around; some stitches were worked around the previous row, some pierced the previous row – it made it difficult to decide sometimes how many stitches to put where! And in one place, that had led to a larger gap than I would have liked.

Even so I’d folded the piece away and let my daughter-in-law know it was done, when I realised I really couldn’t bear to give it back to her with that larger gap, so I brought out the hook and yarn and added two more treble crochets, blending them into the original stitches as much as possible. The two pictures below unfortunately don’t show the same side of the blanket, one is of the front and one of the back, but they do show the difference between the gap after my first go and with the added stitches. I’m happy with it now, or as happy as I’m ever going to be smiley, and it’s ready to go back to its home and be used. What more could I want?

The annoying gap No annoying gap!

Stitching a memory, part 2

First of all a very happy and healthy new year to you all! May there be joyful meetings with loved ones, plans which do not end up being cancelled or postponed, and oh yes, some stitching as well smiley.

Generally you look back on New Year’s Eve and forward on New Year’s Day, but I hope you won’t mind if I start with a memory, or rather, a memory bear. Having decided on prick-and-pen (like prick & pounce, only you make the dots by going through the holes with a fine drawing pen) as the transfer method most likely to succeed, I traced the signature printed at 5½cm wide, pricked it and tried it on the foot, only to find that it looked rather smaller there than I had expected. As it would be easier to stitch the larger it got, I tried several other sizes before settling on 7cm. The heart was there to be transferred later if I needed an extra bit in which to fasten on and off, but that turned out not to be necessary.

Five-and-a-half centimetres is too small Seven centimetres fits perfectly

Having carefully poked the drawing pen’s tip through all the holes, I then joined them up and fastened on.

A dotted transfer Joined-up writing Fastening on

In order to get comfortable using the sewing method rather than my usual stabbing style, I started with the lesser challenge of the underlining. Back stitch one way, whipping in the opposite direction, and then take the needle up to the writing itself. I had cut a ridiculously long thread so that I would only have to fasten on and off once, and had planned my route accordingly.

The line completed, I move on to the lettering

Fortunately the bear hadn’t been stuffed too firmly and the foot had plenty of give, so the sewing method presented no great problems. On top of that, the vintage Filoselle silk behaved beautifully (what a terrible shame it’s been discontinued!) even at this unprecedented length, so that my worries about whipping the backstitch soon dissolved. I’m glad they did, because it is the whipping that makes it look like one continuous line of writing rather than a line of dashes.

The lettering in backstitch only Whipping added

And here it is, finished. Not all the lines are as even as I would have liked, but it is recognisably Elizabeth’s handwriting, in Elizabeth’s silk, on Elizabeth’s jacket. A bear of many memories.

The writing finished The bear with its signed foot

Stitching a memory

After my mother-in-law Elizabeth died earlier this year and we were clearing out her apartment, my daughter-in-law Andreea asked if she could have the jacket Elizabeth wore at her wedding. Not because it was her colour or her size or her style, but to be made into a memory bear.

The wedding jacket

I’d never heard of memory bears so I looked them up – it’s rather a lovely idea, turning a piece of clothing or a blanket or some other piece of fabric belonging to a loved one into a keepsake bear. Well, last month the bear arrived.

The memory bear

Andreea showed him to us when we were visiting, and asked whether I could embroider something on him to identify him as a memento of Elizabeth. I was a bit taken aback – it’s quite scary being part of making a memory! Can you imagine getting it wrong… But it was also an honour to be asked, so we talked about what she would like embroidered, and where. We decided on “Granny”, to be stitched onto the sole of one of his feet. After we got home I thought it would be rather a nice idea to stitch it in Elizabeth’s handwriting, but when I asked Andreea she said she didn’t think they still had any of her correspondence. I sent out an appeal to the other grandchildren, and Issy (her of the door hanger) found a letter which she photographed for me.

A sample of Elizabeth's handwriting

Then the handwriting needed to be tidied up into a nice dark outline that would be easy to transfer. Mind you, I’m not sure how I’m going to transfer it to the bear’s foot – a lightbox is not going to work, is it? So I may have to go for some sort of prick & pounce, or dressmaker’s carbon paper.

Elizabeth's handwriting tidied up

It then struck me that it would be rather appropriate to use some of the vintage silk I inherited from Elizabeth; in spite of the claims on the label it may not be 100% colourfast, but then the bear is unlikely to be washed.

Elizabeth's vintage Filoselle silks (ignore the darning egg)

So there’s the start of the project: I’ve measured his foot and have printed the handwriting in three possible sizes to see which would look best (probably the middle one – how very Goldilocks smiley), and I’ve picked two colours of silk, which will need to be narrowed down to one before I start stitching. Then transfer the lettering, and work out how one stitches whipped backstitch straight onto a bear’s pad. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll stitch the word on a patch (possibly of the Irish linen I also inherited) and sew it on, but I’m hoping that won’t be necessary. Wish me luck!

A few sizes printed and silks chosen

Experimenting on robins and ladybirds

No no, there’s no need to call the RSPB and the RSPCA – only fabric was hurt in these experiments, by being repeatedly stabbed with a needle. In the case of the robin, I was trying out a herringbone variation which I found when researching stitches for the Canvaswork module. I put in a few rather faint guidelines and worked the first row; as the rows intertwine, my idea was to change the colour gradually from 2 strands of dark through one dark with one medium to two medium and so on. But just as had been the case when sampling this on canvas, it was terribly awkward trying to get the needle up underneath the previous row of stitches as per the instructions in my Anchor Book of Canvaswork Stitches.

Pencil lines as a guide The first line of herringbone stitch

Could you perhaps do it differently by going down underneath the previous stitches, which would be easier as you could push those stitches out of the way with the needle when taking it down through the fabric? I tried it on my canvas doodle cloth and yes, it works! The front looks pretty much identical (the blue line shows the stitch done according to the book, the pink line with the alternative way of working it) – any difference in the picture is, I think, the result of having done only two lines the alternative way, which makes it look less dense. It does use more thread on the back (the blue arrow in the second picture points to the tiny stitches on the back when doing it “properly”, the pink arrow to the longer stitches of the not-so-awkward variation) but on the whole I’d say it’s worth it for being much less frustrating and a lot quicker.

Herringbone done in two different ways look the same on the front But on the back they look different

So I gave that a try, and got to the first change in shading (dark/medium blend); then realised that I need to do the tail before continuing with the wing/body as it is further back in the design. I wanted to do it in satin stitch over a split stitch edge, so I have to come up at the body end, which would mess up the body stitching if I left it till later. In order to get the impression of texture in there in spite of the flat stitches, I chose to blend my dark and light brown, skipping the medium.

Blended herringbone A tail needs seeing to first, with a split stitch outline Blended satin stitch to make a perky tail

As for the ladybird, that comes from the needlepainting book I recently got. I’ve been wanting to try needlepainting, if only as a preparation for my Silk Shading module, and I also had some new (and older but not much used) fabrics and some new (and older but not much used) silks to experiment with. Fortunately the book comes with some beginner’s exercises and as there are three I’m going to try them with different combinations of fabric and thread. First up: a ladybird shell in Pipers floss silk on Empress Mills’ 440ct Egyptian cotton.

The first experiment set up

By the way, as I refused to believe that any cotton could have 440 threads to the inch (which is what the count would mean for a counted embroidery fabric like Lugana or Edinburgh linen), I did a bit of digging and found that in cotton for sheets etc. the count includes both the warp and the weft, so 440ct cotton will have 220 threads per inch horizontally and vertically. Still very fine, but not as eye-watering as it sounds at first!

The first, darkest silk for this is appropriately red, but the shading is not going to be subtle – I only have the Pipers silk in about seven jewel-like rainbow colours, so the shell will be worked in red, bright orange and bright yellow. The white will have to be borrowed from another brand of silk. Pipers floss silk is very fine, and being a filament silk it snags easily, which is why you can see the individual filaments in a few bits of the thread. Splitting the stitches took a lot of concentration, and very good lighting! The second picture shows the project with a standard match for scale (and in more accurate colours, having been photographed in daylight). It also shows that my initial row of long and short stitch does not have a very neat bottom edge, so I may unpick that part and start again.

Starting the split stitch outline The project in its 3-inch hoop

And that’s where I am with these two experiments! I hope to be able to finish them over the Christmas period, while also getting some Canvaswork homework in. But for that, I’m waiting for a Christmas present…

Baa, Baa, Rainbow Sheep

…have you any rainbow wool? Well, Catkin Crown Textile Studio do, and until Christmas Eve they offer 15% off their beautiful Heathway Milano crewel wools (25% if you’re a subscriber to their newsletter). I have pretty much all the shades I want plus spares of many of them, but fortunately I found a good excuse to make use of their generous sale even so: a sheep, and a sheep-mad friend.

You may remember Trina, who was the inspiration for both Whoo Me (by means of her painted pebble owls) and Trina’s Sheep (by means of being sheep-mad smiley).

An owl inspired by Trina A sheep inspired by Trina

Well, recently I came across another embroidered sheep, or rather a pair of sheep (well, rams) – Tanya Bentham’s Bayeux-stitched Bertie & Bartram. They are both fun but I just fell for Bartram (or should that be Baa-rt-ram?) with his rainbow fleece. And what better to stitch him with (in the absence of the more correct-for-the-period naturally dyed wools Tanya uses) than my very favourite Heathway Milano wools? And what better belated birthday present for above-mentioned friend than a companion sheep?

Tanya Bentham's two Bayeux sheep

So I had the fun of making up two project packs – one in more muted shades on Tanya’s invitingly soft wool fabric for me, one in brighter shades on vintage Irish linen (inherited from my mother-in-law) for her. By the way, the reason why her hoop/fabric combo is smaller than mine is that for some reason best known to herself my mother-in-law cut up the linen into very long narrow strips, and this is the biggest hoop I could fit it into; fortunately there’s just about enough room to manoeuvre. As for the threads, as you can see I haven’t got entire skeins of some of the shades, but, erm, did I mention something about a sale?

Threads for two rainbow sheep Two fabrics, with transferred designs

Oh, and I got a few more spares at the same time…

When you shop in a sale, you have to take advantage of it...

More stash, more students, a cross and a petal

As I was putting kits together for the course at Rugby’s Percival Guildhouse, I noticed I was getting a little low on some of the shades of Madeira Lana needed for the No Place Like Home project. There was plenty left for the class kits, but I have plans for this little house (watch this space…) so off I went to my two suppliers, only to find that one of them, from whom I got the larger reels of variegated Lana, no longer carries this thread! Fortunately most of the shades required were solids, and I didn’t need that much of them, so Sarah Homfray and her 25m skeins came to the rescue!

Madeira Lana for kits

One of the things I try to do in the course is to introduce different types of thread, and this wool/acrylic blend is one of them. It made its appearance in week 2. Which brings me to the students using the thread (who, in spite of the title of this FoF, are in fact the same students as the ones I mentioned last time, but “more students’ work” was a bit cumbersome). Here is how they got on with No Place Like Home (class plus some homework) and Butterfly Wreath (in-class progress). I’m really proud of how well they are doing!

Students' versions of No Place Like Home Students' versions of the Butterfly Wreath

When I manage to do some “free stitching” (that is to say not for future publication, or at least with no deadline for publication) I grab one of the many projects lying around that are awaiting completion. Some are fairly recent, like the hourglass stitched with Paintbox Threads materials (update soon), others were started as far back as early 2019, like Hengest and Llandrindod. Hengest is still languishing, but I’m getting on with the pretty jewelled cross. At the moment I’m working on the dark gold that surrounds the gems, and when that is done there is just the subtle bling to be added to the stones, plus possibly some decoration along the light gold circle. But for now I have to decide what to do when the split stitch of the gold frame doesn’t quite match up with the split stitch of the gems. Sometimes it’s a matter of simply filling in the gaps with more gold (orange arrow) – but should I perhaps make the gem corners a bit sharper by adding a few stitches in red (blue arrows)?

Gaps in Llandrindod

Perhaps I’ll work on something else while mulling that over… One thing which I hope to get to grips with in the not too distant future is silk shading or needle painting. You may remember that lovely book I got a while ago which has some exercises in it to try before starting on the full-blown projects – more about that in a future FoF, but another inspiration presented itself from quite a different corner recently. While we were having some pruning done in the garden a late rose got cut, and we put it in the kitchen in one of those tall narrow vases. It’s a lovely dark orange when in bud, but it goes progressively paler when it opens, and when it started to drop its petals I had a close look at one. Not only would the colours make for a lovely silk shading project, it looks like the stitch direction lines have already been pencilled in by the Creator smiley.

Our orange rose A petal with ready-painted lines for silk shading

Spangles, stash and students

It’s been a while since I last Foffed, but now I can burst in with a Hurray! Finally, the second of the two secret stitched models is finished (sneak peek of a tiny bit of it below) – but is it finished? Well, everything that is on my design plan is now on the fabric, but I keep thinking it may need a few more spangles before mounting…

A cutwork sneak peek

Which brings us nicely to the second part of this FoF. It’s always pleasant to get new stash, and although this doesn’t look particularly interesting it feels very nice: fluffy cotton wadding for mounting the models mentioned above (and probably the metalwork racehorse). It’s very much like the stuff the RSN gave me for mounting Bruce and is meant to compensate for all those lumps and bumps on the back of goldwork caused by the plunged and oversewn ends. By the way, having used lightweight, open-textured polyester wadding for years in cards and to put behind embroidery when mounting, and having seen pictures online of “batting” which looked more like this soft but more solid cotton (or wool), I thought they were two different things. Turns out they are all wadding if you’re in the UK, and all batting if you’re in the US. Ah, language, I love you smiley.

Cotton wadding for mounting the stitched models

As for students, I’ve been seeing nine of them for a few weeks now at the Percival Guildhouse in Rugby, and so far they seem to be enjoying themselves which is a good sign! They came to the course with varying levels of previous experience, from a lady who wants to brush up her embroidery skills after a lull of some years to one who has done mostly cross stitch until now and wants to “have a go” to some who have never done any stitching whatsoever. I was impressed with how dedicated they all are, working hard on the new stitches in class and then showing me what they’ve finished at home the next week. Here are some of the Little Wildflower Gardens (the Week 1 project) which they brought to class the week after, several of them complete with bullion knot bee – Well Done Students, is what I say!

Three students' Wildflower Gardens

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

The final furlong

Last Wednesday I should have had my first official Canvaswork class. Unfortunately I have a chronic tum condition and it decided to flare up; not the best conditions for concentrating on what is essentially a new technique to me. But the RSN were very understanding and helpful (“oh you poor thing, just drop us a line and we’ll arrange something”) and cancelled it for me even though I let them know only a day in advance, with the money credited to my account for a future class. With the summer recess coming up that won’t be until September at the earliest, however, so I decided that my stitching time would be dedicated to getting the racehorse out of the way before moving on to the commissioned project.

The racehorse (or Queen’s Silks as it’s officially called) has had a few adaptations and alterations already, most notably the eye, and I’ve also substituted my own check thread for some of the rococco parts. But in one place I stuck with the rococco: the lower part of the gold hind leg. As the shading or detailing in the other, copper hind leg had already been done in rococco I decided it would look better to echo that in this leg.

Rococco detailing in the hind legs

My next stitching session was in bright sunshine, and you’d think that would make everything easier to see. Well, it did help with the stitching part, but it made the black design lines (never particularly clear on the dark green fabric) practically invisible – the thing that may look like a design line is actually the shadow of my couching thread! I resorted to working without my glasses with my nose all but touching the silk as I worked on the pearl purl outlines of the neck and front leg. I’m using the pearl purl that came with the kit, even though the gold is a bit yellow for my taste. On the other hand, it does provide extra contrast (you’ll see later just how much contrast with some of the other gold).

Invisible design lines Pearl purl outlining the neck and leg

That last picture also shows the swirly couching around the shoulder, which took quite a while to get right. The copper part going up to the neck had to be completely unpicked when I realised I’d once again entirely missed the outline. The second version came out much better – just as well, as I wasn’t going to unpick it again! While doing that part of the horse I’d forgotten to fill in the couching in the bottom of the swirl, so that was next. By the way, can you see the mellow gold pearl purl in the top right-hand corner? That came from my stash because I didn’t like using the yellow one for the head. Quite a colour difference.

The shoulder swirl finished

For the detailing in the front legs I ignored the stitched model; it used the large rococco in the gold leg and S-ing in the copper leg, but I didn’t think that worked very well going round the rather tight curves of the leg, so I opted for check thread in both. In bright light the gold check thread looks almost silver against the yellow pearl purl!

Check thread in the copper leg Check thread in the gold leg

Finally it was time for the last bit of the neck and the head. I took a bit of a shortcut in the copper cheek detailing by using a doubled thread starting with a loop; this meant the top lacked the subtle curve, but it did save on plunging and securing (easier with check thread than with rococco, but still to be avoided whenever possible, to my mind). The other parts were done pretty much as they were in the stitched model. And there he is, racing ahead in all his metallic glory, and I’m jolly pleased with how he’s turned out.

The neck and head The finished horse