A needlework bar crawl

Stitching the model for Extravorganza 2 I was trying to work out the best route for the woven bars; I was halfway through the first quarter when I realised I’d actually made it far more complicated than was necessary! So the route was changed and is now much easier to work, with lots of places where you can conveniently fasten on and off. This is why I stitch everything before putting it up on Mabel’s Fancies!

And this wasn’t the only change I made because of stitching the models. Originally all four Extravorganza designs had wrapped bars and spider’s webs. Then I stitched the two smaller ones and found that I had to take the needle through the wrapped bars for the necessary travel from one corner of a spider’s web to the other, not impossible but very fiddly and not something I would lightly impose on anyone but myself. OK, move the spider’s webs so we can make use of nearby Kloster blocks for any thread-travelling. Then realised I couldn’t – or at least didn’t want to – move the spider’s webs in the two larger ones as I liked the arrangement I had. So change to woven bars and square filets for those two. As it happens I could have used wrapped bars with square filets (as it is possible to work it so that there is no travelling through bars) or woven bars with spider’s webs (as you can travel fairly easily through the back of woven bars) but I’ve now completed Extravorganza 2 with the woven bar/square filet combo so that’s what it’s going to be smiley.

And here is a little preview of what that looks like; I’m away on a family visit until next week, but after that I hope to complete Extravorganza 1 fairly quickly and make the design available on the website.

Extravorganza 2

On a separate note, here I am with a perfectly good excuse for buying stash (see my previous post) and I still haven’t made use of it! There are several threads in my Sew & So basket but I haven’t hit Buy yet. Why not? I’m not absolutely sure; it may be the struggle between “I can’t possibly buy just two skeins, what a waste of postage” and “I don’t really need any threads or materials other than these”. With a bit of luck I’ll make up my mind before they discontinue Threadworx as well…

Introducing a new speciality thread – Lexi’s Fur

Have you ever seen that cross stitch design – Lizzie*Kate, I think – with a ginger cat’s head and the words, “Cat hair, just another speciality thread”? How true. The ginger hair of our much-missed Alfie definitely found its way into several of my designs, and now a new thread is about to be incorporated: the fur of Alfie’s successor Lexi.

Young enough to enjoy some boisterous play

We adopted Lexi through the local Cat’s Protection and picked her up last Tuesday. She’s already made herself right at home, and has a great time finding the best places from which to watch the birds in the garden (she’s not allowed out yet, of course). The large window is proving a bit confusing though, and just now there was the most alarming thud as she went for the pigeon on the bird bath.

Studying the local bird life

Two recent finishes were pre-Lexi and therefore guaranteed fur-free – two more Floral Laces. Five down, thirteen to go…

Floral Lace: Clematis Floral Lace: Forget-Me-Not

I have done more than just buttonhole, though: Extravorganza 3, the second smallest of the four variations (yes, I know I said there were five variations, and in fact I charted a sixth, but the three smallest ones turned out to be so very alike that I’m counting them as one variation). This one uses a rich blue (and probably some tabby), the next one will be green, and the other two most likely orange and purple, but don’t be surprised if I change my mind!

Extravorganza 3

A confusing start to a new project

One of my purchases at the Ally Pally Knitting & Stitching Show last year (and by the way, I’ll be teaching a workshop there again this year, on Friday 10th October) was a selection of hand-dyed silk organza squares.

21st Century Yarns silk organza

They inspired me to two designs, or rather two sets of designs: Veiled Delight, which will have no cutting but be stitched on a square of organza on top of 25ct Lugana, and Extravorganza, which contains five variations on a theme, in sizes ranging from 84w x 84h to 148w x 148h. The idea for this design is to have relatively large cut areas through which the organza shows, with the Hardanger itself in white-on-white and surface stitching in a shade of Caron Wildflowers to match the organza.

I had actually planned to start on one of the Orpheus designs – I’ve ironed the fabric (a lovely Sparklies hand-dyed), got out the roller frame, bought the threads, but somehow I don’t seem to get round to it. Perhaps because it’s one of my larger designs, and I am, as you know, a small-project girl at heart. Whatever the reason, when the time came for my weekly stitching group I kitted up Extravorganza, picking five organza squares and spending a very pleasant quarter of an hour choosing five Wildflowers to go with them. The three smaller variations, 84w x 84h and 92w x 92h, should all fit into a 6″ hoop, the first one easily, the other two with a bit less room. I decided to start with the smallest. As I got to the end of the Kloster blocks it became clear that with the coloured surface stitching surrounding the Kloster blocks it was going to be, not tight, but definitely not as roomy as I’d expected in a 6″ hoop. Could it be I’d miscalculated? Or had I picked up the wrong hoop?

The answer was much simpler. I was stitching the wrong design. Somehow I’d managed to turn over the chart and stitch the one on the back, which was the slightly larger size. Oh well, no harm done, they all need to be stitched anyway, but it did make me scratch my head a bit until I realised!

The Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally

Last week was my annual jaunt to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace – with a slight difference this year in that I was teaching for the first time! It was great fun to do, quite a few people finished or near-finished the needlebook, and two ladies stayed behind and told me how much they’d appreciated the workshop, which was such a relief to hear smiley. One lady who said she hadn’t done much stitching before did find it a bit of a challenge, though, and I’m wondering whether next time I ought to say something like “suitable for beginners at Hardanger with some general stitching experience”. I haven’t quite worked out the right wording, and any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Besides the workshop there was lots of time to look round all the stands. I love looking at the Guild ones, like the Spinners, Weavers & Dyers (did you know that buddleia flowers produce a vivid yellow dye?) and the Braiders and Embroiderers and Lacemakers and all the other techniques. Most of them I will never do myself, but it is very interesting to see. As was Jean Littlejohn’s exhibition A Timeline of Crewel Work; it was great to see a project that I had just read about in Stitch magazine in real life, and study the stitches in close-up.

Of course the things I am most on the lookout for are threads and fabrics, with a sprinkling of beads and other embellishments. This time, in fact, I took two bobbins of DMC to the show to find the right colour beads for Treasure Trove – and did I find any? No. three, four, lots of bead stands, and I still couldn’t find the right shade. I wonder whether it was partly because actually the light in there isn’t very good for comparing colours. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep looking! Fortunately there were plenty of stands with with lovely threads, variegated, hand-dyed, cotton, silk, the lot! I did get several but as they are for an exchange I won’t show them here, in case the intended recipient reads this blog…

I did notice that there was rather more wool and fabric around this year – a definite emphasis on knitting/crochet and sewing/quilting/patchwork, plus a surprising number of stands with felt and felting kits. There was really only one seller of counted fabrics, and I sorely missed Kate from Sparklies who wasn’t at the show this year. It makes such a difference when you can see hand-dyed fabrics in real life (even under the far-from-ideal lighting at Alexandra Palace).

And did I end up buying anything? Well, yes, I did, and I managed to stay well within my budget while getting some really exciting materials! Below are my purchases of the day (including some useful beads for the next Christmas Craft Event).

Purchases at the 2013 Knitting & Stitching Show

One of the stands sold lovely ceramic buttons, and although they were rather expensive I couldn’t resist getting two of them; I think they’ll make a lovely focal point in the centre of a small Hardanger design. Unfortunately I can’t remember who I got them from, so I will have to use them for private projects rather than Mabel’s Fancies designs which need to be replicable.

Ceramic buttons

This year I was especially inspired by 21st Century Yarns with their hand-dyed silks, felt and silk organza. The felt squares may be used as backing, or I may just do some free embroidery on them and use them as patches on a bag. The silk organza squares are dyed in gloriously rich jewel colours, and have led to a set of new designs which I’ve decided to call Extravorganza. I’ll admit it – I like puns, and I’m not afraid to use them smiley.

21st Century Yarns felt 21st Century Yarns silk organza

Unexpected inspiration came from the two small projects I had taken with me to stitch on the train and in the evenings. Combine the Systematic Round Dozen chart, two pieces of coloured 28ct Jobelan, some cream and white perle cotton and hey presto, two rather elegant little squares. They gave me an idea for another pair of designs, to be named Wedgwood – can you guess why?

Wedgwood variations Wedgwood variations

PS My husband calculated that the Systematic Round Dozen chart will, in theory, yield several hundred thousand variations. Don’t worry; I don’t intend to try them all.