Goodbye, Ally Pally

Do you remember early March? When the news from abroad was worrying but the UK seemed to be carrying on much as usual for the time being? On 10th March, four months ago today, I got the usual email from the organisers of the Knitting & Stitching Show to submit workshop proposals for the October show at Alexandra Palace (they have to start planning in good time). I sent them a selection of seven or eight workshops four days later, and on 8th April I was sent the workshop schedule with the request to proofread my four entries.

I can’t tell you how odd it felt. Only the week before I had celebrated my 50th birthday in strict lockdown with my husband and the cat instead of looking forward to a big family party in the Netherlands, and proofreading workshops seemed strangely incongruous. Still, the show was six months away and it’s good to be optimistic, so I looked through the text and corrected or amended a few things. I was quite pleased with the workshops they’d chosen: it was a nice combination of the familiar (the Hardanger needle book has been a stalwart in the programme ever since my first workshop in 2013) and the new (this would be the first time the Christmas Wreath was included), and of counted (all of the Hardanger, and the foundation of the Christmas Wreath) and freestyle (No Place Like Home and the Butterfly Wreath).

The four workshops that are not to be

And then I rather forgot about the whole thing as lockdown really took hold, and it didn’t seem likely anything like the Knitting & Stitching Show would be allowed to go on. But a week or so ago I got an email from Wendy, who organises the workshop programme, to say they were planning a show with a difference. Booked tickets only, fewer stands, fewer but longer workshops to minimise traffic from one to the next, sanitising everything that doesn’t move and asking everything that does move (like tutors) to sanitise themselves… I don’t envy them the task because it will be a Herculean effort. And as she pointed out when I wrote back with some questions, they don’t even know yet whether come October they will be allowed to go ahead, but if they don’t start planning now they won’t have a show even if they were allowed to!

Unfortunately that meant that tutors like myself had to decide this week whether we would teach or not. It took a lot of thought and talking it over with my husband and close friends, but in the end I came to the conclusion that I would opt not to teach this year.

For those of you who love the workshops at the Knitting & Stitching Show, especially those of you who have attended one or more of my workshops in the past and perhaps were planning to come to another one this year, I’d like to explain why I made that choice. There is the obvious fact that none of us knows what the situation will be like in October, and making a decision now which involves a fair amount of travel on public transport to attend a show with people coming from all over the country in three months’ time was, I felt, too much of a risk. Although neither myself nor my husband is in a vulnerable or extremely vulnerable (shielding) group, several people I come into contact with are, and I want to be careful.

The other major consideration is the way I teach. As most of my workshops are aimed at beginners, if not of needlework in general then at least of whatever technique I’m teaching there, a lot of my time is spent showing students (either individually or in little clusters) how to work a particular stitch, what the next stage of the design is, or where to bring the needle up to make the next stitch easier; and of course helping them if something has gone wrong. All this would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, while maintaining social distancing, even if the distance has been reduced somewhat by then. I would in effect be offering them a kit with some extra verbal explanation, and that is not the workshop experience I want to give students.

It was a difficult decision, because I will miss teaching and meeting the stitchers there very much. But in the end I think it was the right thing to do this year, and I will just have to look forward to being back next year. And who knows, perhaps we can think of an alternative! If you would normally have come to a workshop but for whatever reason decide not to visit the show in person this year, would a one-on-one kit-and-Zoom-workshop be something you’d consider as an option? Let me know whether the idea appeals to you, and if enough people like it I’ll get my thinking cap on…

Workshops, a squirrel, a medieval tulip and some kits

Well, the Knitting & Stitching Show is over for another year, and I am back home (in spite of rail upheaval at Euston Station on Saturday), nursing slightly sore feet from all the walking I did outside Show hours (London is full of interesting green spaces!) and being on my feet throughout the four workshops. They all went well, with lots of positive feedback which is always tremendously encouraging. I usually try and take pictures of some of the students’ work, but I’m afraid I forgot most of the time; here are a few pictures just to give you an impression, including the rather colourful demonstration cloth I ended up with.

Appliqué Mug workshop Wildflower Garden workshop Wildflower Garden workshop No Place Like Home workshop
No Place Like Home workshop A participant's project A participant's project A colourful doodle cloth

One thing I will mention to the organisers in my own feedback is the lighting; you would have thought that at something called the Knitting & Stitching Show the setter-uppers (or at least the people deciding on the set-up) would realise the importance of good, bright and even lighting. Instead there were usually two extremely bright lights shining down from the middle of the left and right sides of the workshop booth, which meant that about four seats had splendid light but the further you got from those the dimmer it got. Dim, I mean, by stitching standards. Still, we managed, and most of the students got a fair way with their projects (the pictures above were taken some time before the end of the class).

Of course I had a good look around the show as well, and I saw some lovely kits, silk threads and goldwork stuff but restrained myself from adding either to my already tottering pile of WIPs or to my bulging thread containers. I contented myself with a spool of Madeira Lana in a variegated light green and a bobbin of Golden Hinde’s translucent couching thread in a muted gold (shown in the picture beneath two shades I already had), and felt very virtuous.

2019 Knitting & Stitching Show purchases

As I said I did a lot of walking when I wasn’t at the show, and besides coming across a man walking backwards in Highgate Wood (no, I didn’t ask him why) there was the excitement of being mugged by a squirrel in Holland Park. I’m not sure whether it could smell that I had chocolates in my bag, but it was definitely intending to have a look!

Mugged by a squirrel Bag check

On that same day I also visited Leighton House, where I unexpectedly learnt a bit more about my travel project.

Some time ago I came across a medieval Islamic tile in a museum. It was a bit of a chance find, because it was in one of the drawers underneath the display cases and I only opened a few of those. It was blue and white and it had a tulip on it – irresistible, even though it wasn’t from Delft smiley! As a friend later reminded me, tulips hadn’t made it to Western Europe at that time, but they were known in Persia and neighbouring areas. Well, wherever it was from, it was a very decorative design that just cried out to be stitched. The blobs and dots surrounding the circle in which the tulip sat were a bit irregular, so I evened them out, and also changed the white circles within the blue areas a bit. And because it’s small and only takes three colours, I thought it would make an ideal travel project to take with me to London. I even managed to do some work on it!

The tulip design based on a medieval ceramic tile Progress on the Ottoman Tulip

But what, you may be wondering, does this have to do with Leighton House? Well, in its collection there are quite a few tiles and plates and dishes that were described as Ottoman ceramics, or more particularly as Iznik pottery. And on many of them there were tulips remarkably similar to the one on “my” tile – that same rather elongated, narrow shape and the same sort of overlapping in the petals. I was intrigued, but unfortunately the museum does not allow photography, so I had to memorise them as best I could and make do with what images they have on their website to refresh my memory. With hindsight I should have asked them if I could trace one or two, or even just sketch them (because they may well not want visitors to handle the plates), but I didn’t think of that. Anyway, design-wise I’m happy with the one I’ve got – but following my visit to Leighton House I’ve renamed it from not-very-exciting Medieval Tulip to the more exotic-sounding Ottoman Tulip (Iznik Tulip would have sounded even more exotic, but is probably a bit too obscure).

And finally, a Special Offer smiley. After teaching workshops I usually have a few kits left, but because of their purpose they are a little different from the ones sold on my website. This year, in fact, I have some left that are not on the website at all (or at least not yet).

They are:

  • 1 Wildflower Garden freestyle card kit with the design transferred onto the fabric
  • 1 No Place Like Home (Little House) freestyle card kit with the design transferred onto the fabric
  • 3 Mug That Cheers appliqué embroidery card kits with the design transferred, the appliqué elements backed with Bondaweb and cut out, and one of the elements attached to the ground fabric (see picture below)

The Mug That Cheers appliqué embroidery kit

The appliqué kit will eventually be on the website for £10 including UK postage, but because of the above, and because the envelopes for the cards are missing, they will go for the same price as the other two, £7.50 including UK postage (postage to other destinations on request). If you would like one or more of these kits, email me at

The show is over

The Knitting & Stitching Show, that is. There was a lot to see, but in between workshops I managed to get round most of it (and quite a bit of London as well – I can recommend Golders Hill Park and the London Wetland Centre!)

There was a wide variety of exhibitions this year, and it was interesting to see the different things people create; some of it I really liked, some of it was not my cup of tea, and some of it I liked in spite of not expecting to, but all of it served to show that there is no “typical embroiderer/knitter/crocheter/quilter”. The pictures below show Toft Alpacas’ crochet display, a beautiful pictorial quilt, a box with a goldwork lid and pompom sushi made by a RSN (Royal School of Needlework) Future Tutor, one from a series of embroideries recording the artist’s mother’s life, including her last years with dementia, and a circular piece of knitting.

Toft's crochet display A pictorial quilt An embroidered sushi box Circular knitting

This year I taught three workshops: Hardanger, Shisha and freestyle. I got some good and helpful feedback, and pictures of finished projects from several participants. Two ladies actually completed their Shisha flower duing the class, including mounting it into a card, and a Dutch lady doing the RSN certificate (or diploma, I’m not sure which) and taking in the K&S Show as an extra stitch-related activity soon posted pictures of her Hardanger needle book.

A Shisha card finished at the workshop A Shisha card finished at the workshop Marlous C's Hardanger needle book

Another lady who came to the Shisha workshop bought the companion kit (the Shisha Tile), finished both at home and then used the techniques she’d learnt to embellish a Christmas quilt, creating a diamond-shaped variation of the stitch used in the Tile kit.

Barbara E's Shisha flower card Barbara E's Shisha tile Barbara E's Shisha tile variation Barbara E's Shisha tile variation on a quilt

And finally, did I buy any new and interesting fabrics, threads, designs? With so many stands selling all manner of goodies, could I possibly resist? Well, not entirely. After enjoying a walk-in demonstration by Sarah from Golden Hinde I bought some of the translucent couching thread she recommended, at a grand total of £2.20 smiley

Translucent couching thread

Shopping and workshopping

Some three weeks ago (where does the time go!) I was at the Knitting & Stitching Show in Alexandra Palace, having a jolly good time both as a tutor and as a stitcher going round the stands. I’m really enjoying the combination – my stash of fabrics, threads and other bits and bobs is so well-stocked after years of stitching that I’m not sure two days of solid shopping would on its own be a reason for going, but mixed with teaching workshops it’s great.

And I didn’t just shop, either: in between looking for silks and buttons I wandered onto a stand where you could learn to knit or crochet. I’m OK with crochet, but knitting, in spite of several attempts and in spite of having a knitting grandmother, mother, aunts and mother-in-law, has so far eluded me. I only had about 20 minutes before the next workshop, but the kind volunteer teaching me to cast on, knit and purl was so clear and helpful that I managed to produce something which, though not in any way aspiring to being useful (it will never become a jersey or even a dishcloth), did at least look like acceptable knitting. A very proud moment!

A tiny bit of knitting

I did do some shopping as well, of course, and bought a few supplies (spending all of £7). Having learnt the basics of soft string padding at my RSN goldwork class the day before, I got a card of soft string to practice with at home (well, I couldn’t possibly go to Golden Hinde’s stand and not buy at least one thing), and from John James’ stand I got some good value petite tapestry needles for the Christmas Wreath kits and the Butterfly Wreath workshop.

Purchases at the 2017 Knitting & Stitching Show

There is a third item in the picture above: ten little wooden floral buttons. They are the culmination of a two-year search, which sounds much more serious than it is smiley. You may remember I stitched an elephant for our niece’s wedding, and that after things going rather badly wrong during the finishing process it did eventually turn into quite a nice card, embellished with four small wooden floral buttons. As I’d originally bought five, at a previous Knitting & Stitching Show, I had one left. And I really liked them. So I tried to find some more, both at the K & S and in shops – unsuccessfully, until this October. Yes, this time I finally found the exact match to my remaining button – yay!

A Wedding Elephant Matched buttons

What I forgot to do, however, is make a note of who sold them, so if I want any more the whole search will have to be repeated … My task for next year: find the stand that sells the buttons and write down the name!

One thing I did notice – and it may not be as bad or as widespread as it looks to me; I hope it isn’t – is that fewer small independent shops have stands. Kate at Sparklies pulled out several years ago, and this year The Calico Cat, from whom I had hoped to purchase some 3-yard skeins of Gloriana silk, was absent. Both mentioned spiralling costs as one of the reasons that they didn’t come to the Knitting & Stitching Show any more. It seems to me that the K & S are shooting themselves in the foot here, as it is surely these small shops, often one-woman or husband-and-wife outfits, that make the show so interesting. Yes, being able to buy needles at a discount from John James, to name but one of the “big” names, is useful, but it’s the relatively unknown designers, the makers of unique hand-dyed threads and fabrics, the purveyors of kits you could only get from them, who make us come back year after year. Or am I projecting my own ideas onto everyone else? When you go to a Show like this (or if you had the opportunity to go), why do you/would you go? What makes it interesting to you? I’d love to hear.

And then there were the workshops. I do enjoy those! Especially when the people coming to them tell me that they have enjoyed them too smiley. Here is a small impression of what was produced at the Shisha, freestyle and embellished embroidery workshops, including my own very artistic doodle cloth. (Incidentally, K & S, slightly more inspiring surroundings to teach the workshops in would be really nice…)

The Shisha workshop The freestyle workshop The workshop doodle cloth  
 Some of the Shisha projects Some of the embellished projects Some of the freestyle projects Some more embellished projects

Win a ticket to the London Knitting & Stitching Show or get a discount

A special offer for all who love needlework (and who will be reasonably near London in October): we have three complimentary tickets to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace to give away!

Each ticket admits one adult on one day, and they are valid on Wednesday 11th, Friday 13th or Sunday 15th October all day, or Thursday 12th October evening only.

To be in with a chance of winning one, please comment to say what you think you would enjoy most at the Knitting & Stitching Show. The competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 12th July, and I will announce the winners on Thursday.

And if you’re not one of the lucky winners? Well, this year the K&S organisers have kindly given the tutors a discount code to share with their customers. Instead of paying £14.50 for an advance adult ticket, you pay just £12.00 (excluding any booking fees).

So if you have ever, since the start of Mabel’s Fancies on Easter Monday 2011, been a customer (or would like to become one smiley) drop me an email and I will send you the discount code!

Special offers for the Knitting & Stitching Show

2016 Knitting and Stitching Show

My annual Knitting & Stitching outing was once again very enjoyable. I always combine it with some serious walking around London, taking in a good number of parks (and the odd cemetery) on the way, and this year there were the added pleasures of the Opus Anglicanum exhibition at the V&A, and meeting up for lunch with an old friend, the Salvation Army Major who married my husband and me 11 years ago.

If you have the opportunity, do go and see the exhibition; it runs until 5th February 2017 and shows an incredible collection of medieval English embroideries – mostly ecclesiastical, but some secular as well. And although many of the exhibits are showing their age, being rather faded and moth-eaten, quite a few are remarkably colourful and sparkly still, and the ones you can get really close to give you an opportunity to see in detail what stunning work the embroiderers produced (and with what minuscule stitches). After so many centuries, some of the symbolism is lost on us, and I was particularly grateful for the explanatory notice beside a depiction of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, which said, “The striped leggings of Christ’s attackers were a marker of their sinful pride and bad character.” I had some stripy tights years ago, and never knew they revealed my bad character!

At the Knitting & Stitching Show itself I really enjoyed the many exhibitions, both great and small, of various forms of needlework; I also took the opportunity of adding my bit, or my bunny, to the Embroiderers’ Guild’s World’s Longest Embroidery which is in the Guinness Book of Records. It is officially finished but wherever it is displayed they encourage people to put in a small bit of embroidery where they can find a space, whether a small motif or just a sample of stitches.

Mabel's contribution to the World's Longest Embroidery

Of course I bought one or two things as well… although a large part of the stash I brought home was actually stuff I had ordered a month earlier from the Golden Hinde and was picking up at the Show to save on postage, so there may be some justification in not counting it as a Show purchase. On the other hand, why would that make a difference smiley? It is new stash, and I’m going to enjoy it! Some of this is for my Jacobean goldwork – I found I didn’t have a lot of pearl purl #2 left after using it for the stem, and I also wanted to try some of the wavy check thread as a substitute for the prescribed thread on the flower. The two coloured purls are an impulse buy; I thought they would make rather nice forget-me-not flowers with a gold bead in the centre.

Purchases from the Golden Hinde

At another stand I was chuffed to find Sadi threads, used in Indian embroidery. As they are rather less expensive than goldwork threads they are great for practice pieces or beginners’ workshops. They don’t come in quite so many sizes and types, but are very useful nonetheless (you can read more about them on Mary Corbet’s blog). I got Sadi fine smooth purls in silver and pale gold. My final stash purchase was a skein of Chameleon hand-dyed #16 perle; I love the Chameleon overdyed silks and have been wanting to try out their perles, and a #16 is new to me so will make an interesting experiment, probably as part of a Floral Gem project. Oh, I also managed to get good quality petite tapestry needles (for the Floral Gem and Christmas Wreath kits) at 2/3 the usual price but had already put them away when I took the photograph and anyway they really aren’t that exciting to look at smiley.

Other show purchases

It was nice not to have to worry too much about the expense of these pretties as the two workshops I taught easily covered them and my travelling costs. But quite apart from that benefit, I just enjoy teaching workshops! This year it was the freestyle Wildflower Garden and the Shisha tile, and I got some lovely feedback from the participants which was very encouraging. Below is a collage of some of their work.

Some of the Freestyle participants' work Some of the Shisha participants' work

At the Royal School of Needlework’s stand I picked up a leaflet with a special Show offer of 10% off their day classes – and there is a goldwork class in Rugby next year… To make use of it I will have to decide by 31st October; I’ll let you know!

A belated Knitting and Stitching Show report

It’s been a while since my last FoF, but for very pleasant reasons – first there was the Knitting & Stitching Show and my usual two-night stay in London (thank you kind sister-in-law for putting up with me once again), then my mother came to visit for a week which was lovely after her long and difficult treatment, and she was hardly on the plane back to Holland when we were off on a visit to my husband’s parents (stopping on the way to attend an auction). Now we’re back to what passes for normal here and I’ve got a little breathing space to catch up with my posting.

K&S was very enjoyable as usual; the workshop was fully booked, and in fact one lady asked if she could attend as number 13, but unfortunately I’d only brought 12 kits. Also, 12 people is really the most I can do in a workshop – even then it can be a bit of a struggle to make sure everyone gets enough attention. However, one person who’d booked didn’t turn up so the lady was able to join in after all. My favourite bit of the workshop has to be when we do the cutting, and suddenly there are gasps of surprise as the lacy look of the Hardanger almost miraculously emerges when the cut threads are pulled out – it’s always a great moment.

I had time to look around the stands as well, and had an interesting chat with the lady demonstrating goldwork at Golden Hinde where I got the gold and silver kid for Treasure Trove some time ago. I also took the opportunity of trying to find replacement threads for the discontinued Dinky Dyes perles. Stef Francis and Oliver Twists both had lovely threads, but none that would match the three DD ones. The Threadworx perles at West End Embroidery showed some promise, but still weren’t quite the thing. The people there were terribly helpful, though, going through the Weeks Dye Works threads with me and making suggestions. I noticed this at many a stand – needleworkers are quite simply a lovely helpful bunch of people! Nowhere more so than at the Calico Cat, where Carol went through all the Gloriana threads with me, and eventually gave me a skein each of stranded silk and stranded wool in the shade Monet’s Pond! If ever you need Gloriana or Valdani threads, or advice about them, do remember the Calico Cat – they haven’t got a website, but you can email them or call them at 07779 103280.

Another find was a Dutch lady selling Wonderfil threads. Most of them aren’t really suitable for Hardanger, but there was one which drew my attention: a 12wt Egyptian cotton called Fruitti (and yes, there is also a thread called Tutti. And Razzle. And Dazzle. I don’t like the names but you can’t have everything) which is similar in thickness to a perle #12. They had large bobbins which worked out cheaper but I picked a set of five small bobbins so I’d have more colours to experiment with. I’ll let you know how they stitch up. Anything else? Ah yes, five tiny wooden buttons. Remarkably restrained, don’t you think? You can see my entire haul in the picture (except for the delicious Linden Lady chocolates which had mysteriously disappeared by the time I took the photograph). By the way, isn’t the colour difference between Gloriana’s wool and silk enormous? And yet they are both given the same shade name. It makes me wonder what the silk perles of that shade are like; I mayhave to try them…

My modest stash haul

Finishing things

It’s Sinterklaasavond tonight – St Nicholas Eve. When I was a child in The Netherlands, this was an exciting evening; at 7 o’ clock there would be a mysterious knock at the door (courtesy of a kind neighbour roped in by Mum) and when we opened it there would be no-one there, only a basket of presents in gaily-coloured wrapping paper. I would already have received a chocolate letter in my shoe that morning, swapped for the carrot that was in it. And this suddenly makes me realise how odd one person’s familiar customs must sound to those raised with different traditions! We put out our shoe (or clog, if your proper Dutch smiley) with a carrot for St Nicholas’ horse. The usual return is chocolate coins, marzipan shapes or a chocolate letter. But St Nicholas has not yet made it across the Channel, so here in England I have to make do with baking traditional almond cakes, and providing for myself what I’m sure the generous old gentleman would have sent me if he were a bit more international.

What St Nicholas would have brought if he ever came to England

Perhaps because of my lack of St Nicholas celebrations I got to thinking about things that finish, and finishing things, and I got quite melancholy as I put the final wrapped bars into the Song of the Weather SAL’s final month. It’s hard to believe that I started planning this well over a year ago, and that my aspiration was to get 20 people to sign up; in the end, 192 did. It’s been a great experience, and one that will definitely be repeated, but not immediately – quite apart from stitching all the models (one each in standard perles and speciality threads) I had seriously underestimated the time needed to write and illustrate the twice-monthly blog!

There is another type of finishing, and it’s one I tend to avoid if I can: finishing stitched items so that they can be used or displayed and enjoyed rather than languishing in a drawer. Some people have a knack for it, and they produce cushions, wall-hangings, tea cosies, bottle holders, cot blankets, fabric bonbon dishes, stitcher’s etuis, mobile phone cases, keyrings and useful-boxes-to-put-things-in at the drop of a hat. I struggle beyond cards and coasters. It’s true that I have produced a fair number of bookmarks, bags (both shopping and gift) and box tops and even the odd pen holder and tray, but my problem is always that finishing items takes a lot of time if you want to do it properly. Take bookmarks. Both four-sided edging and buttonhole edging produce a lovely finish, but boy they’re labour intensive! And sewing a patch securely onto a cotton bag is very fiddly as you have to have one hand inside the bag all the time and feel your way blindly – not exactly quick.

That in itself needn’t be a problem of course, but the truth is that I’d rather be stitching a new project than properly finishing an old one. This is partly because I honestly believe that the enjoyment I get from a project while stitching it is reason enough to stitch, whether or not the resulting piece of embroidery gets used for anything – much like a walk along the beach or a visit to a concert (Stuart Townend was fabulous last night!) it’s about the pleasure of the moment. Even so, it is of course even better if you can go on enjoying it afterwards and in stitching, that is where finishing comes in. Fortunately quite a lot of my designs are just the right size for cards…

One thing I did have to finish was the model I stitched for my workshop at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia. The organiser had asked for a picture of the patch attached to something vaguely home or clothing related, and as I didn’t think it would be practical to carry a cushion along to the show I decided on a cotton bag. No, I’m not sure how that relates to home or clothing either, but she accepted the suggestion so I wasn’t going to argue. The design is surrounded by a broken border of coloured cross stitches so I attached the patch with an additional broken border of white cross stitches – and here it is:

The K&S 2014 patch sewn on to a gift bag How the patch is attached

There is something else I need to finish, in yet another sense. Yes, I am finishing designing for the Floral Lace series. Really. Honest. 18 is enough, and I’m running out of filling stitches. Although the kind gift from a fellow Cross Stitch Forum member has given me some ideas for a different beaded filling stitch… perhaps for the 2015 SAL?


Having finished all three stitched models for the Counted Wishes Festival (the two Windows on the World bookmarks, and – finally – Windmills) I decided to spend my spare time this weekend to do some teaching preparation. Not that I write step-by-step lesson plans or anything like that; I meant more down-to-earth preparations, in the form of kits and models. Putting kits together is a very relaxing occupation, I find, especially when it’s several identical ones. There is something oddly soothing about laying out 12 sets of instructions, and 12 pieces of card, and sticking 12 pairs of needles into 12 pieces of felt, and taking 12 lengths of perle #5 from the thread ring, and measuring out twice 12 lengths of perle #8, all accompanied by a mug of tea and Hugh Fraser reading a Hercule Poirot story on CD. And then there is the satisfying moment when there is a neat stack of 12 mini matchbook kits, ready for the Knitting & Stitching Show.

Kits for the Knitting & Stitching Show workshop

I’ve put them all in one of my 12″ square plastic project folders, together with my own supplies and squissors and needle threader and so on, and a tiny stapler to finish the matchbooks with. Mind you, together with the 12 pairs of squissors which the students can borrow for the workshop, and my overnight things, I’m going to be quite heavy-laden on my arrival in London! I usually have a nice walk round the various parks and perhaps a museum before heading for my sister-in-law’s who kindly puts me up for two nights every year, but I may have to cut down on my roaming a bit this time.

My other preparations are for this term’s Guildhouse course; when I was about to hand in my course overview I was told this term the short courses would be six weeks rather than five, so I needed an extra class. I’d worked out more or less what I wanted to do but hadn’t actually charted the project for it yet, so that was my first task. Then there is stitching the models. One has already been done: the mini kit bookmark, stitched on 28ct hand-dyed fabric using three thicknesses of perle.

Bookmark for the autumn 2013 Guildhouse course

That leaves another four (the last week I always leave for finishing off projects and asking questions), and the first thing to do was getting all the materials together. Two of them will be done on Lugana using standard perles, Caron threads and some beads, and the other two use standard perles and beads on some scrumptious Sparklies hand-dyed Hardanger fabric. Aren’t the colours just rich?

Materials for the Guildhouse models

In the evening I finally got down to some actual stitching, starting with the project for the first week. This is based on Flora, but has been adapted to include all the things I want to address in that class: a re-cap of the basic stitches we’ve tackled in the first course (Kloster blocks, woven bar, wrapped bar, dove’s eye and square filet) plus one new stitch/technique to keep things interesting, in this case the double-sided Kloster block. Like the other three that still need stitching, this project is suitable for making into a card, and as the last project is a bookmark, everything the students stitch can be used, not just completed and then put away.

First class for the autumn 2013 Guildhouse course

If you live near Rugby and you’d like to join, do contact the Guildhouse; enrolment has started, and there are 10 places available.

The Knitting & Stitching Show

Last week I went on my annual gallivant (as my husband calls it) to London to visit the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Well, I did some other things as well – I attended an opera lecture about L’Elisir d’Amore with my sister-in-law (and managed not to embarrass her by singing along), went for a lovely contemplative walk in Brompton cemetery, saw beautiful jewellery (including some that is typical of regional Dutch costume) at the V&A, and had lunch at my favourite Lebanese restaurant Le Comptoir Libanais. But the main reason or excuse was the K&S show, and I had a wonderful time there.

Some of the things I did there were Mabel-related; distributing flyers about the forthcoming SAL, delivering a sample kit to the lady who organises their workshops, and scouting out new threads and other materials. I found some lovely shades of hand-dyed fabric at Sparklies, but as Kate usually doesn’t bring any 25ct I tend to just make notes and order later. This time she did have one new shade with her, though, so I snapped it up. It’s called Caribbean and is a lovely light purply turquoisy blue. I also couldn’t resist a pair of Oliver Twists silks, although they are really too thick to use on my usual fabric. I may try them on 18ct and see how that works. Then there were some Miyuki seed beads – I usually use Mill Hill, but for some time now I have wanted to try Miyuki beads to compare them, and I found a lovely shade which happened to tone beautifully with the silks. How is that for serendipity! Some gold and silver pearl purl (wonderful name), a Japanese braiding implement, two tiny scissor charms and two strong magnets completed my purchases. Quite restrained, I thought!

Bits and bobs bought at the Knitting & Stitching Show

You may have noticed that the magnets aren’t in the photograph. That’s because they were already in use when I took it, stuck to my Lowery workstand and holding on to my scissors and needles. They really are remarkably strong and keep everything quite secure. The only problem is that my scissors have gone slightly magnetic and keep picking up the needle I’m working with …

Magnets at work on my Lowery stand

I always try to do at least one workshop when visiting the show, and if I do more than one I like to have at least one which is completely new to me. This year I did two, one on goldwork and one on bobbin lace. I did a RSN goldwork workshop two years ago (and must shamefacedly admit that I still haven’t finished the bee project) and thought this might refresh my memory. The bobbin lace workshop was going to be my big challenge, as I have never done anything like it and the thought of all those pins and bobbins makes my head spin. As it was it turned out to be easier and much more enjoyable than I’d expected, at least in part because the tutors had come up with a simple project that was not too scary for a complete novice, and that could actually be finished within the 1-hour slot! With the rather thick threads and no added twists it looks remarkably like weaving, which I suppose it is in a way. We turned it into a sort of flower or rosette which could be stuck to a birthday card. The goldwork dragonfly, as you can see, did not get finished on the day.

Bobbin lace and half a goldwork dragonfly

However, I didn’t want the dragonfly to languish like the bee, so I took it to my stitching group and finished it there. I’m really quite pleased with it and am now determined to finish the RSN bee as well some time this year!

The goldwork dragonfly in all its glory