Further excursions into needlepoint

I blame Fiber Talk. There I was, perfectly content doing just Hardanger, freestyle embroidery, goldwork, Shisha, crewelwork, embellished embroidery and chunky stuff (not a technical term, but I don’t think the Christmas Wreath counts as stumpwork and I don’t know what else to call it), and they get me interested in canvaswork, or needlepoint as they call it. You may remember that I indulged in a little needlepoint recently, and I had rather hoped that had got it out of my system. And then, in my chronological trawl through the Fiber Talk archives, I came to this Midweek Chat. And I was lost. Because one of the pictures shown with the podcast was this:

Carole Lake's Bali Ha'i

It’s a Carole Lake freebie called Bali Ha’i. It uses Caron threads in the shade called Tahiti, which I’ve always loved. And in the middle of the design there is a double fan doubled, which I think is a perfectly irresistible name, like pearl purl. Until recently, I had never even heard of double fan doubleds, if that is the correct plural. But I love the name, I love the look, and here was one in one of my favourite Caron colours, in a project small enough to be doable in between all the other projects I should really be getting on with. What could I do? I downloaded it.

However, looking at the list of materials needed I realised two things: firstly, that even though the list was quite short, I had only one of the five required threads (and I wasn’t going to buy £15 worth of Caron threads just for this small project), and secondly, that the threads were chosen to work on 18ct canvas, and I had intended to do it on 24ct Congress cloth. And then there was a third consideration, which was that you can’t put Congress cloth in a hoop, and unlike my earlier small experiments this project couldn’t easily be worked in hand. It looked like the Figworthy Bali Ha’i was scuppered before it had even started. Or was it?

Looking at the picture of the design, it seemed fairly “open”, so working it on 24ct instead of 18ct would probably just result in a slightly denser look. I remembered once having bought some cheap stretcher bars, and after some rummaging found them in the back of my hoop drawer. And a quick trawl through my box of Caron threads yielded a rather pleasing green-and-yellow combination of Lemon & Lime Watercolours (3-ply cotton) and Waterlilies (variegated stranded silk), Jade Impressions (wool/silk mix) and an anonymous green Soie Cristale (solid stranded silk). Together with a not-quite-gold-not-quite-silver Kreinik #4 braid, which I decided would do as a stand-in for the required Kreinik #8 on my finer canvas, it made quite a pretty picture against the background of my black Congress cloth.

Black Congress cloth on 6 inch stretcher bars Green and yellow threads for Bali Ha'i

I was all set to go. But then I had a session of thread-rearranging, as some of my boxes were getting terribly crowded and threads don’t like to be cramped, and although the box of Caron variegated threads was one of the few that didn’t actually need rearranging, I did come across some orange Soie Cristale in one of my silk boxes which turned out to go very nicely with Caron Tequila, which I happened to have in both Watercolours and Waterlilies; I didn’t have an orange Impressions, but I did have a Wildflowers (an indivisible cotton about the weight of a perle #8). It’s not as matt or as soft as Impressions, but unless you knew the original design specified Impressions, you wouldn’t notice.

Orange/yellow/pink threads for Bali Ha'i

So now I had two possible colourways. It was beginning to look as if I’d have to do two versions!

Green or Orange?

After some consideration I decided to use the Tequila one first, on the grounds that it was brighter and therefore more like the original. I clamped the stretcher bars to my seat frame, and set about stitching my very first double fan doubled. It was a new thing for me to be allowed, nay told to work with a very long thread (72″ in fact) – I tend to use longish lengths of thread but every tutor at every workshop or day class or retreat always tells you to use short ones. Obviously needlepoint is different! I did figure, though, that 72″ on 18ct meant that 54″ should be ample on my 24ct. If not, I’d just have to start again smiley.

Now the instructions described the first few rounds of stitching in detail, noting exactly which previous stitches to weave over and under, but then it just said “continue to weave over and under”. Unfortunately it was clear from the first two rounds that it wasn’t a simple over-and-under, as you sometimes went over or under two previous stitches. I tried to work out the pattern, then decided to see if I could find a video. I found two, one without any comment or sound at all which was oddly disconcerting, and one by Debbie Rowley of Debbee’s Designs.

Now I know her from Fiber Talk (Gary must be her biggest fan) and I remember Christine mentioning in one of the podcasts that Debbie Rowley had said not to count but to feel the rhythm of the stitch. Hoping I’d be able to work out the rhythm from the video, I started watching. And right where my written instructions left off, she gave me the vital clue: over and under, yes, but over and under groups of threads, which (especially as she worked the stitch in two colours) were actually relatively easy to identify (even though she did work them opposite to my written instructions – over/under where mine said under/over). I watched the rest of the video, activated my sense of rhythm, and produced a… well, not perfect but perfectly acceptable double fan doubled. Yay me!

My first double fan doubled

The Kreinik #4 feels a little thin for the motif; I’m working at 3/4 scale (and yes, the 54″ length of Caron was plenty long enough), but Kreinik #4 is, as far as I know, half the thickness of #8, so the effect is understandably a little less pronounced. Still, it gives a nice bit of sparkle. At this point I wasn’t very happy with the threads showing through from the back – I worked them exactly as instructed, so the travelling threads are presumably where they are meant to be; perhaps it’s just that canvas is more open than the fabrics I’m used to. Fortunately most of the empty canvas around the central motif is actually covered as the project progresses, so I was hopeful it would turn out all right. But just to make sure the stranded threads filled as much space as possible, I even used my stiletto as a laying tool!

Using a laying tool

Then, as I’d done several bits of the Soie Cristale but had not yet used the Impressions (the two solid colours in the design) I realised that in the original these are a dark and a light red. In my green colour scheme the two solids did happen to be a dark and a light (albeit the other way around from the original) as those were the only greens I had in these threads, but for the bright colour scheme I had for some reason picked a dark orange silk that was very similar to the solid cotton Wildflowers thread I was using – and I did actually have two lighter oranges! However, there was no way I was going to unpick the silk stitches I had already done, so I looked for Wildflowers that might offer some contrast with the orange silk. In the end, I decided on the variegated yellow/orange; the variegation on it is gradual and mild enough to work as a replacement for the solid colour.

A change of colour

One of the things I really like about this design is that it looks complete at the various intermediate stages; the center with its mosaic stitch border works perfectly well on its own, and again when the Scottish stitch border is added, and again after the half Rhodes border (the outer one in the picture below). That one, by the way, was tricky to start and finish. On embroidery fabric like Lugana I would have used a waste knot running underneath the length of the border, but because of the open nature of canvas (even a 24ct canvas) that was simply not an option here. I’m getting quite creative in finding ways of fastening on and off! That did give me an idea, however. In time I want to work the green combination as well, so why not try that on 25ct Lugana or 22ct Hardanger fabric? It may turn out that fabric isn’t sturdy or stiff or solid enough to stand up to the needlepoint stitches, but then I’ll just find out, won’t I? And it will certainly make starting and finishing easier! I’ve even got ideas running through my head of a double fan doubled as the central motif in a Hardanger design…

Looking complete after the half Rhodes border

But let’s not get carried away, and get back to stitching on canvas. Two more borders to go, both very relaxing once I got into the rhythm (as were the half Rhodes and Scottish borders; it’s quite meditative, this needlepoint thing!) and Bali Ha’i was finished – my first proper needlepoint project (not counting the teeny weeny experiment). I’m quite proud! And I’ll let you know how the fabric version turns out.

Bali Ha'i finished

Incidentally, if you Google “Carole Lake Bali Ha’i” you’ll as likely as not find a link to the Caron site, where she was once a Featured Designer, and where you can also find the chart. This reminded me that once, at the dawn of Mabel’s career, I too featured on Caron’s website. I’ve not re-read it, so I can’t tell you whether it is by now horribly embarrassing, but it does have a link to a freebie design smiley.

Blue silks dispel the silk blues – now for purples. And greens.

The post was exciting this week, with several blue silks dropping through the letterbox. These are the “why not as they are on offer and I’m bound to use them” Caron silks – aren’t they beautiful?

Soie Cristale blues

Colourwise, they would definitely be an option; but if at all possible my preference was still to do the whole project in Soie d’Alger, even though there’s nothing in priniciple against mixing silks. So it was with a sense of anticipation that I opened the envelope from West End Embroidery, with a single skein of Soie d’Alger 4913.

A single skein only, but the sheer relief when it turned out to fit in exactly with the rest of the series, without even a tingle of purple, made me positively giddy!

The new Soie d'Alger fits in!

So now I have my series of three blue silks. In fact, I have a series of four. And that is, of course, fatal, because it means choice. Do I use the three darkest and discard the lightest, or vice versa? How does this fit in with the two other colour runs in the project? Well, here are the four blues together with the three reds and purples which are my current selection. Do you see the problem?

The four blues, with three reds and purples

That’s right, when matching the colours by lightness/darkness the gaps don’t line up. My husband’s view was that it needed a lighter red. Well, I just happened to have one!

The missing purple

Much better, true. But what I really want now is a fourth purple to fill the gap, and use the three lighter shades of each colour. The trouble is that those three purples are the entire series of that particular colour. And by now I know from experience that trying to choose a similar series containing at least four shades from the digital Au Ver à Soie shade card is a mispurchase waiting to happen.

And then there are the greens. Not the ones in Soli Deo Gloria, they’re sorted. But I’m thinking of re-using the blues, reds and purples in a Celtic cross together with a series of greens. I’m going to try something facetted rather than the shaded look in the trial colour version below, but even so I’d need at least three and preferably four shades of a bright, warm green.

Colour idea for the Llandrindod cross

So back to Yvonne at West End Embroidery, who must be getting fed up with me by now but who is far too polite to show it smiley. I’ll keep you informed!

I’ve got the silk blues

I love silks, I do, really. But sometimes when working with them (or trying to work with them!) I hanker after the predictability of DMC stranded cotton. In my project box for Soli Deo Gloria there are some lovely Soie d’Alger silks in reds, purples, yellows, greens and, today’s topic, blues. Here are those blues on the Au Ver à Soie shade card:

The blues according to Au Ver a Soie's shade card

And here they are (four of them) in real life. DMC-wise they are similar to 791, 792, 340 and 809 – spot the odd one out.

The blues in real life

So I contacted Nelly at Hardanger Atelier and asked if she had a 4913 without the purple cast (and how Au Ver a Soie allowed that dye lot out I will never understand!) – she hadn’t, nor was there any other blue that would go with 4914 and 4916; but she promised to see if there was a series that was like DMC 797/798/799, which would work with my chosen reds and purples.

Meanwhile I considered that not all the silks in a project necessarily have to be the same brand. Rummaging through my collection of silk samples (well, they are full skeins but I mean where I have just a few of a particular brand) to see which were likely to have the same look as Soie d’Alger I realised most of them were hand-dyed and over-dyed silks, and therefore not the solid colours I was looking for. The only suitable solid silk was Caron’s Soie Cristale, which unfortunately I have only in an attractive but irrelevant series of five yellows and oranges. My digital Caron shade card did throw up a series of likely-looking blues, but at about £4.50 a skein it’s rather an expensive gamble.

A series of blues in Caron Soie Cristale

I went to Sew & So’s website to see whether their catalogue pictures were anything like the shade card I have (this sort of comparison can give valuable extra information about what colour the thread is likely to be when you actually get your hands on it) and would you believe it, they had a Soie Cristale sale on! Not quite half price but jolly nearly. Well, I couldn’t ignore a bit of luck like that could I? So four blue Caron silks (the series minus the lightest one on the shade card) should be on their way to me now. If they turn out not to be quite right for this particular project, they may well be perfect for a bird I have in mind. Or that modern floral design. Or the Celtic cross. Or something.

Soie Cristale blues on the Sew and So website

Trying to cover all my bases, I then remembered West End Embroidery. I’ve bought silks and other threads from them in the past and have always found them very helpful. An email, a very quick reply and a phone call later a non-purple 4913 has been ordered, and I am looking forward to seeing it snuggled up to 4914 and 4916 and hopefully looking like one of the family, as it should. In which case the Soie Cristale will have to be put to some other use. Oh dear smiley.

Incidentally, you may wonder why I didn’t just use the next lightest shade I already had, which as you can see from the picture above does fit in colour-wise with the two darker ones. Well, here’s why:

The Soie d'Alger blues stitched samples

The sample on the left is two rows each of 4916, 4914 and 4912; the middle sample is 4916, 4916/4914 blended and 4914; the final sample is 4914, 4914/4912 blended and 4912. As you can see, whenever it’s used the 4912 just stands out far too much – in the blended section on the right the two shades don’t really blend at all, they just happened to have been used in the same needle!

It’ll do at a pinch, but this project is rather close to my heart and I want it to be just right! Even if it means building up an impressive collection of blue silks (the sacrifices I make for my art…)

Shops, ducks and snow

Do you recognise the feeling that a day after returning from holiday it is hard to remember that you were on holiday? Fortunately I took plenty of pictures to remind me of all the lovely things we’ve seen and done over the past week while we were in the Scottish Borders.

From a stitcher’s point of view, some of the most memorable things were the pieces of needlework that we found scattered around various museums and stately homes – including a beautifully embroidered waistcoat that was never put together, some lovely colourful beadwork, a multiplication table sampler worked by a six-year-old girl in mind-bogglingly small cross stitches, and the tiniest cutwork baby’s cap that I have ever seen. It’s a shame (though understandable) that I couldn’t take photographs of those items.

Before going I’d also done my homework and had pinned down two shops I wanted to visit. One was The Grassmarket Embroidery Shop in Edinburgh, which according to its website carries a good selection of speciality threads and other delectable goodies; the other was The Haberdashery & Craft Shop, which calls itself the smallest shop in Alnwick. Edinburgh came first, so after a lovely walk through Princes Gardens and around the town I dragged – I mean, gently led – my husband to the Grassmarket, and started looking for number 19. I found number 19. This is what it looked like.

No needlework shop where one should have been

We asked in the Milk Bar, and they told us that the lady running the shop retired last April. Oh well. There were plenty of other things to see in Edinburgh …

In Alnwick I did find the shop in question, and yes, it was tiny! Lots of Texere threads with interesting colours and textures, but not really suitable for my sort of needlework. Lovely to see them, though! My husband then found out from the wool shop next door that in a nearby street there was a needlework shop having a closing down sale. Aren’t husbands wonderful? It is always sad to see a LNS closing down, but as there was very little I could do about that I thought I might as well see if there was anything interesting in the sale. Some useful fabric was, alas, not included, but I did find Mill Hill beads at 60p, Kreinik braid at 60p, Au Ver a Soie metallic at 60p, perle cotton at 61p, and some Caron threads at 75p – I was very pleased with my bargain!

Result of a closing down sale in Alnwick

While in Alnwick we visited the Garden, too. We gave the Castle a miss, having heard from several people that it was rather overpriced, and definitely the lesser option of the two. Anyway, the weather was lovely and so being outside in a garden with lots of water features sounded very attractive. We’d bought some lunch at the farmers’ market, and after a while decided to sit down in the shade of some trees overlooking a rather magnificent duck pond (with an oriental pagoda duck pavillion) to have a bite to eat. The ducks thought this was a marvellous idea, and before we knew it we were practically trampled underfoot by various assorted waterfowl including some impossibly cute and fluffy ducklings. One kept running under my skirt and out between my feet. Fluffy ducklings tickle terribly when they do that. Trust me.

Coming for lunch Is there anything under that skirt? Ducklings tickle the toes

When we got home, I had another stitching treat – my order from Margaret at the Little Thread Shop had arrived, without my having to pay import duties or Royal Mail’s extortionate handling fee this time! 11 skeins of Caron Snow for about 2/3 the English price; and don’t they add a bit of sparkle to the day!

Caron Snow from Margaret's Little Thread Shop

And now it’s back to work, the day job as well as Mabel’s Fancies; I did hardly any stitching while on holiday, so I’ve got to finish a few projects before the next Counted Wishes Festival, and of course it’s nearly August, and time for another instalment of the Song of the Weather SAL; some stitch photographs still needed for the SAL blog. Isn’t it good to know that I won’t be bored this summer?

My parcels have arrived!

Having been held hostage for a week by Customs (don’t get me started on the extortionate Royal Mail handling fee!) my two parcels from Margaret at the Little Thread Shop arrived yesterday. Unfortunately work doesn’t stop just so I can play with new threads, so it had to wait until the evening. I’d sent Margaret two rather long lists of Caron Watercolours and Wildflowers, and on the invoices it said how many of each she was sending but not which particular numbers, so although I knew that one Watercolours and about five Wildflowers weren’t available, I didn’t know which ones. The first thing to do, then, was to sort through them, a very pleasant occupation and one that my husband thought deserved a photograph (apologies for my bad posture).

Sorting through Caron threads

And here is the complete haul, in numerical order. Already I’ve identified some very promising combinations, like Old Brick with Turmeric, and Caramel with Almond (apart from the Old Brick it’s beginning to sound like a recipe! Mind you, some of them do look good enough to eat). The parcel also confirmed how good Margaret’s customer service is – one of the Wildflowers she didn’t have was Parfait, but she sent me a skein of Blossom at no charge saying it was quite close to Parfait and might work (it does).

My new Caron threads

One of the things I did notice while having my little thread feast was what a difference dye lots can make. I have two skeins of Watercolours Caramel (one I bought in Holland because I didn’t remember it was part of my order from Margaret) and they are really completely different colours, one more golden brown, the other almost with a reddish, brick-like cast. The pair at the bottom are Watercolours and Wildflowers in what is meant to be the same shade, Sunglow, but you can see from the picture that although they look good together, they are definitely not the same. No fault of Margaret’s at all, but it is another reminder that there really is no substitute for seeing the threads in the flesh (or in the fibre), and also that if you’re going to need more than one skein for a project you’d better make jolly sure they’re the same dye lot!

Differences in dye lots

Now all I have to do is wind them all on bobbins …

Threads, threads and surprise threads

I’m having a bit of a thread orgy at the moment for various reasons. The first one you might call neutral – an order from West End Embroidery with threads I wanted to try out. These are mostly Threadworx hand-dyed perles, pairs of #5 and #8. I haven’t got particular projects in mind for them, except for one: the rather startlingly bright one on the right, called Bradley’s Balloons. I fancy that would work well on a sky-blue and white fabric for Windmills; it reminds me of the bright colours of those toy windmills you get at the seaside.

Threadworx threads from West End Embroidery

The second reason is rather sad: Margaret Roberts is closing down the Little Thread Shop for health reasons. This is of course first and foremost a blow for her and her family, but in a much smaller way it is also a loss for stitchers everywhere who benefited from her great customer service, helpfulness and competitive prices. As she is now clearing out her remining stock, I’m afraid I went a bit mad and placed a big order, then (encouraged, would you believe it, by my husband) another one, as this was a once in a lifetime chance to stock up on Caron threads without breaking the bank! The first half of the first order has arrived – two more parcels to look forward to …

Caron threads from the Little Thread Shop

And finally the very best reason of all for a stash acquisition! Sally, a wonderful fellow stitcher from Australia, sent me some gorgeous hand-dyed threads under the pretense that she wanted my help in identifying a thread from her grandmother’s sewing box. If I tell you that in the picture below the solitary pink thread on the right is what she wants my help with, and all the other threads are her very generous gift to me, you will see why I think she is a star, and a brightly shining one at that. There is a hand-dyed medium silk (the light turquoise one) from Jennifer Gail Threads, a perle #5 (pink/blue) and #8 (dark turquoise) from Jane van Keulen, Cottage Garden stranded cotton (red/green) and the absolute gem of the collection, a skein of Colour Stream’s Ophir silk perle (red/orange/yellow/purple). I have long wanted to try that one out, as I suspected it would be the same sort of lovely cord-like thread as Gloriana’s Princess Perle Petite and Treenway’s Fine Cord. I haven’t had time to try it yet, but I’ll let you know – it definitely feels delectable!

Threads from Sally

Stash & stitching in Holland

While we were on holiday in my native Holland we visited family and friends, the beach that I used to go to both as a child and as an adult (this time with a force 7 wind blowing), the Keukenhof which was a riot of crocuses rather than the hyacinths and tulips you’d expect mid-April, and a lovely little village called Oud-Zuilen where we delivered an Austin Seven wheel (of course). We also went to the market in my home town, and one stand had some craft materials. Mostly card making and stamping stuff, but suddenly I noticed two metal rings laden with Caron Watercolours! One of the great difficulties when buying online is getting an accurate idea of colours, so being able to see them for myself was lovely, and then on top of that they turned out to be cheaper than here in England. And I’d just been given a belated birthday present by one of my aunts (the other one gave us dinner at our favourite Greek restaurant), so I spent it on some of these lovely threads.

Caron Watercolours bought in Holland

I acquired some less unexpected stash as well; before we left for Holland I’d ordered several fabrics from the Hardanger Atelier, to be sent to my mother’s address, thus saving postage to England. I got some unexciting-but-useful Lugana and Oslo, and two small pieces of other Zweigart fabrics to try out: Colmar, a 25ct which is slightly textured (I’ve used the check version, Colmar Carré, before) and Modena, a 35 or 36ct with an unexpectedly open weave.

Zweigart Modena and Colmar

I also had time to stitch, and I’d brought the materials for those two Round Dozen variations that I wanted to try. Well, here they are. They are absolutely identical except for the materials – the one on the left uses white DMC perle on white Lugana with Caron Wildflowers (086 Tahiti) for the coloured bits, the one on the right is stitched on maize Lugana with standard DMC perle #8 (353 and 744) and DMC Variations perle #5 (4100). I’ll be using that combination again, those pinks and yellows look so cheerful together! And don’t the two look different; I think you could stitch quite a few birthday cards based on one design before anyone noticed they were all getting “the same one”, as long as you varied your colours!

Round Dozen variation with Caron Wildflowers Round Dozen variation with DMC Variations perle

A panic project

After several months spent stitching mostly for the Song of the Weather SAL, I felt I’d like to get my teeth into something a little bigger for a change, so I got out my 12″ hoop and the chart for Walled Garden. It’s stitched with nothing but Caron threads (and some beads), and I love the way they look together on that empty and expectant fabric.

Fabric & threads for Walled Garden

Last Sunday I was putting together a project folder for it so I could take it to my stitching group on Monday, when realisation dawned on me and panic set in – it was less than a week to my father-in-law’s 90th birthday, and not a single stitch had been worked on his birthday card yet! The Walled Garden project folder was abandoned, and I charted “90” using 1-2-3 and my husband picked a shade of Caron thread to suit his father’s taste: 236 Appalachia, a striking combination of green, purple and blue. Thinking it might get a bit too psychedelic if I used it for the border as well as the numbers, I looked for a slightly calmer shade to match it, and found it in an orphaned bobbin of Impressions (Caron’s silk/wool mix) 66 Jade. In fact they go so well together that I may have to add a skein of Watercolours and Wildflowers in that shade to my collection!

For the border I decided on four-sided stitch embellished with beads (a combination I may well add to the 1-2-3 chart pack as it looks quite effective). Unfortunately the number of squares in the border meant I couldn’t do alternate beads, nor a bead every 3 or 4 squares; and a bead in every square would just be too much. Some furious mental arithmetic and pencil scribbling resulted in a sequence of 2 beads followed by 3 empty squares, with a slight variation in the corners.

At one point yesterday I sincerely wished I’d never thought of including beads – on my way home from stitching group the bead container came undone, spilling its entire contents into every nook and cranny of the project folder and the cotton bag I was transporting it in. There are a lot of beads even in a tiny container. But with the help of my husband and fortified with a mug of tea I managed to round them all up, and apart from the ones now adorning the four-sided stitch border they are all safely back in my bead tin.

Now all that remains to be done is the cutting and the bars and filling stitches. For the latter Petite Treasure Braid seemed a nice festive touch – but which one? Gold or Silver? A straw poll at the stitching group ended in a draw, so I’ll mull it over for a bit; for now I have a vague preference for silver, possibly because of the blues in the thread and the bright white fabric. I’ll post the final version some time after the weekend, but here is the uncut version.

A 90th Birthday card

Mabel’s Sketchbook (IV)

Back to the sketch I showed you some time ago. You may have discerned a pumpkin shape with swirls around it and a girl in it. Well, that can mean only one thing, right? Cinderella!

Mabel's sketchbook

It all started with a Kloster block shape I’d idly doodled some time ago. It consisted of a sort of oval in the centre, and a curve or half-oval attached to it on either side. If you half-closed your eyes and used your imagination, it might pass for a pumpkin.

To some people pumpkins mean Halloween. But I don’t really do Halloween, so that was a bit of a dead end. They do remind me of Harvest Festivals, and churches decorated with fruit and vegetables, but I couldn’t quite see how to turn that into a workable design. And so it just sat there in my stitching program, forgotten and unloved.

I came across it again when I wanted to tinker a bit with a design that happened to be in the same file, and thought it would be a shame not to do anything with it. So I sketched a pumpkin shape and drew some swirls around it, and then realised it looked rather like a coach. A pumpkin coach. OK, but I didn’t want it orange or any other pumpkin colour. Silvery, or a very very pale blue, that would be much nicer. On a sparkly fabric perhaps? Another memory stirred – Serinde, a fellow-member of the Cross Stitch Forum and an accomplished Hardangerer (Hardangeress?) had mentioned that 28 count white opalescent Lugana went particularly well with a certain pale blue shade of Caron thread. And I happen to have both the fabric and the Caron threads in my stash! So that was settled. But if it was blue it wouldn’t look very pumpkin-like anymore; so add a stalk to the top to counteract that.

Now for Cinderella herself. What if I put her in the central bit, and used cutwork in the two other sections? She’d have to be cross-stitched over one if she was to fit the shape and still have a reasonable amount of detail. What about the colours? I didn’t want her to look like the Disney version – not because I don’t like it, but because I didn’t want to copy some else’s ideas. So a blue and red dress, and some flounces or ribbons. What about her face? Now if you have a close look at the sketch you will see that at this point I got a little bit over-ambitious – not only was I planning some fairly detailed backstitching in the face, but I also considered using open chain stitch to represent her ringlets. Nice idea, and I may use it some day, but not here. Cinderella would be all cross stitch.

Then all I needed to do was decide on colours and stitches for the scrolls that formed the wheels, and, as a last-minute addition, to add some sparkly stars all around the coach. I know the fabric itself will be sparkly, but that’s no reason not to add a bit more! One final idea occurred to me – wouldn’t this make rather a nice decoration for a little girl’s bedroom? And if so, wouldn’t she like to have her initial in there somewhere? So I charted a variation with Cinderella a little lower in the coach, and designed an alphabet to go with it. And there she is, ready for the Planned section, waiting to be stitched!

Cinderella Cinderella Initial

And what about the tray mentioned in the sketch? Well, I happened to pick up an oval tray with needlework in it a year or two ago, and have been looking for a design for it ever since. This might be just the right shape and size (I’ll have to do a few calculations), so you may see it in the Gallery some day.

A Caron giveaway

Rejoice, rejoice – after some unpicking and a bit of a dilemma over the right shade for the lettering, the anniversary sampler is finished and waiting to be stretched over a lavender blue felt, if I can find any!

Lustrum anniversary sampler

In the process of trying to find the perfect shade for the Kloster blocks and satin stitch, I ended up with two skeins of Caron Watercolours 038. Both lovely, but of course I’ve only used the one that’s more lavendery; after all, that’s what the whole search was about! But what to do with the other skein, the mauve and cream one?

That’s an easy one – give it to another stitcher! Either to try something new, or to add to an existing thread collection. So if you’d like to give this poor unwanted skein a good home, by the end of Sunday 1st April with your address and the answer to these two questions:

  • In Hardanger you use one ply of Watercolours – but how many plies does the full thread consist of?
  • The colour number of this skein is 038 – what is its name?

A random winner will be picked from the correct entries on Monday 2nd. Good luck!