A loss, a change of plan and a future project

The past few days have been sad ones for us; after several days of uncertainty, we found out last Tuesday that our lovely ginger cat Alfie had died. The kind gardener who found him had given him a decent burial, which we really appreciate although it meant that we could not say goodbye to him. We’ll miss our Alfie.


As I get used to being able to stitch without an affectionate but very heavy feline presence leaning on my arm, I find myself fighting an ever so slight panic. The Counted Wishes Festival is nearly upon us – the deadline for submitting my “booth” of designs is in less than two weeks’ time – and the design I had intended for it is nowhere near completion; it’s not merely that the stitched model isn’t finished, it hasn’t even been started! Beadazzled, a sampler of beaded stitches, has been charted but I’m not happy with some of the stitches, and have since thought of some others which I would like to include. So for the time being, Beadazzled will remain a DIP (Design In Progress), and I’ve picked another design from the Planned page to take its place at the Festival. There will be a lot of frantic stitching over the next week or so.

Yesterday I received another stash parcel, this time from Cross Stitch Heaven. I rely on them for cards with larger than usual apertures – their 6″ cards are just right for my small designs like Round Dozen and the Song of the Weather SAL. The cards in this parcel, however, are not just for the odd project here and there, they have a particular purpose! Yes, the decision has been made: I will do another Stich-Along in 2015. Here my grandfather would have said “zo de Here wil en wij leven” – “if the Lord wishes it and we live”; and I quite agree with him that of course I have no idea what will happen between now and then. But all things being well, on 1st January 2015 you should be able to start on the Round in Circles SAL! There will be a dedicated 2015 SAL page nearer the time.

Cards for the 2015 SAL

White on white

Last month Serinde commented on my Stitching in the Netherlands post saying she’d like to stitch some Mabel designs in traditional white on white. Serinde is at least partly responsible for the existence of Mabel’s Fancies as she greatly encouraged me when I started doing Hardanger, so I take note of what she says! And so, instead of working on planned projects as I ought to, I stitched Song of the Weather February in white on white. What do you think, Serinde, does it work?

February in white on white

More variations – and another SAL…?

“There is one more variation that I want to do” … Well, perhaps make that two variations, as I just stumbled across a rather attractive combination of maize yellow fabric and a DMC Variations perle. Irresistible, wouldn’t you agree? Just the sort of springy, sunny look we need right now!

more variations

In spite of declaring on the Cross Stitch Forum, with sincere and utter conviction, that once every five years is about the right frequency for a Mabel’s Fancies SAL in order to keep my sanity, I have found myself scribbling ideas for another 12-month project. Oh-oh. Like Song of the Weather it would involve twelve small individual projects, all based around Hardanger but with lots of different surface stitches as well. Working title: “Round in Circles” (although my husband suggested “Round the Bend”). Would anyone out there be interested if this came up in, say, 2015?

A gross of SAL stitchers and another Guildhouse model

Having been born on the Continent I am generally happier thinking in decimal units than the interesting but confusing collection of weights and measures the English use, but I thought I’d stretch a point today as I am celebrating a gross of SAL stitchers. Yes, there are now a dozen dozen of you, and the SAL Gallery bears witness to what a very talented and creative bunch you are. 12 times 12 stitchers each stitching 12 months, that’s … *counts on fingers* … 1728 projects; I may need to build an extension to the Gallery!

Apart from finishing March and taking all the photographs needed for the SAL blog, I have also been recharting Walled Garden – I’ve solved my knotty problem, fortunately, and am now finishing the bars and filling stitches. And then there’s the Guildhouse projects. Over the weekend I finished the fourth project for the first course, leaving me with just the second project to stitch. This one, intended to be finished as a coaster, uses Dinky Dyes perle #8 and includes fan, rice and chain stitch.

Hardanger with fan, rice and chain stitch for the 2013 Guildhouse course

A Song of the Weather and a speedy stitcher

Happy new year! Mine started rather nervously at 8pm this morning as I was still busily writing the SAL blog, editing the pictures for it and getting everything ready to launch the Song of the Weather Stitch-Along (abbreviated by some to SotW). Yes, the SAL is now live! and on the whole it all seems to work, although some SAL stitchers have contacted me to say they are having trouble downloading the chart pack. I’ll reply to the emails individually, but just in case others run into problems as well, here’s how it works:

  • Go to the SAL blog. When prompted, fill in the password you were sent in your Welcome email.
  • Click on the link for January (just above the Comments)
  • At the top of the January page it says “Download the January chart pack”. Click on the word January to start the download process.
  • You will now be asked for a Username and a Month Code. Your username is the one sent to you in your Welcome email (so NOT the one you chose to register with Flights of Fancy, if that is different). The Month Code is in the email sent to you this morning.
  • Click on Enter. The download should now begin. If you continue to have problems, email me and if all else fails I will send you the chart pack by email.

Fortunately it seems to work for most people, and one stitcher got so carried away that she finished the whole design in one sitting! Take a bow, Amanda – your version of SotW-January is the first to join Mabel’s stitched model in the SAL gallery.

Threads, SAL message, Christmas

In between finally decorating the tree and some last-minute gift wrapping I found some time to try out those pretty Tamar threads. I’m stitching four versions of my usual “thread trial motif”, and so far I have finished the Kloster blocks on all of them. Tonight I hope to be able to do some cutting and perhaps a few bars. If you’re looking for a small motif to use when you want to try out some new threads, feel free to use the one below – it has Kloster blocks, bars, a filling stitch (use whichever one you like) and some backstitch, which should suffice to test most thread combinations!

Thread trial motif

Now for the SAL message. No, not the fact that it’s only a week until January (exciting though that is) – but the rather worrying circumstance that some of the welcome emails have not got through to people joining the SAL. When you sign up, you should receive a welcome email with your username and the password for the SAL blog very soon afterwards; usually the same day. If you’ve signed up but haven’t received the email, please check that it hasn’t ended up in your spam folder; if it is nowhere to be found, contact us and we’ll re-send it.

And finally a very happy Christmas to everyone – with many stitchy presents under the tree, and the greatest present of all lying in the manger.

Happy Christmas!

Stef Francis and the Song of the Weather SAL

Why this combination? Has Stef Francis decided to sponsor the SAL, showering all subscribers with their splendid hand-dyed threads? Alas, no. (You didn’t really expect that, did you?)

The only thing they have in common, so far, is that both of them “happened” today. Yesterday, as I was writing about independent needlework suppliers, I went through my list of shops and companies that supply speciality threads. Of course I had the Stitch-Along in mind while doing so, as I want to incorporate lots of different threads in the version I’ll be stitching over the coming year! Anyway, I ordered two thicknesses of thread in two shades, and today the post brought me a parcel filled with purple and mauve loveliness – a pleasure not expected so soon.

Stef Francis hand-dyed perles

The SAL didn’t “happen” today in the same sense; after all, it doesn’t start until January 1st (plenty of time to get all your bits and bobs together). But from today you can sign up, joining other stitchers from around the world and becoming an official Song of the Weather SAL participant!

One more stitchy thing happened today – a Cross Stitch Forum friend (you know who you are, Mrs MBK!) mentioned a Cornish supplier of hand-dyed threads, Tamar Embroideries. Their colours are gorgeous, they do a #12 perle cotton and some of their other threads look as though they could well work in Hardanger. I fear for my budget …

Working on the SAL

November is getting nearer, and so I’m starting to get just a little bit twitchy. The whole SAL has been charted and half has been stitched, but that still leaves 6 projects to finish with only 10 days to go until the Materials List is due. Oh well, nothing like a challenge.

It still surprises me how you can completely miss things about charts you’ve drawn yourself until you actually stitch them. So far I have corrected missing bars, elements that aren’t quite lined up, and Kloster blocks with the stitches going in the wrong direction.

And of course there are the usual things which crop up whenever I work a stitched model – in one design I stitched part of the border only to find that I really disliked the way it looked. So one of the two speciality stitches in it was ruthlessly cast aside, and the border now consists of two off-set rows of the other speciality stitch.

Then I realised that two types of bar which I thought were part of the SAL had in fact not got into in any of the designs. Some quick recharting was called for, which took a bit of doing as I didn’t really want to start making changes to any of the months that I had already stitched!

While stitching one of the models I started wondering whether it would be possible to incorporate beads in bars, but instead of being sensible and experimenting on a scrap of spare fabric I just tried it out in the model I was working on. It didn’t work. Unpicking beads from bars is not easy … Even so I’m not giving up the idea entirely; I still think it may work with a different type of bar. Watch this space.

Quite a few things may still change in the designs for July to December, but as they stand now the whole series will contain (besides Kloster blocks and other typical Hardanger satin stitch elements) six types of bars, 11 filling stitches, three different ways of using beads, one ribbon stitch and 26 or so speciality stitches. I hope you will enjoy them!

January has been charted and stitched!

General rejoicing and all-round jubilation! Having had a stack of pencil sketches and scribbled notes stare at me accusingly from my desk for the past few months I have finally got the first of the SAL designs charted and even *gasp* stitched – only 11 more to go …

I was slightly hampered by the fact that I have lent my only 6" hoop to one of the students at the Guildhouse course, and it’s the 6" hoop I need for these 12 small designs. Fortunately I remembered that somewhere in the back of a drawer of my stash cabinet there were a few Siesta bar frames which I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show a couple of years ago, and one of them was a 6" one. They work by slotting the four sides together and stapling the fabric to it; doesn’t do the edges of the fabric much good but it’s fine for projects that are small enough not to have to be moved around.

Bar frame, front Bar frame, back

You will notice the fabric in the picture is empty. I’d have liked to show you the finished January project, but as it’s supposed to be a Mystery SAL that will have to wait until next year. However, it’s beginning to look like I will be able to put up the complete materials list on 1st November as planned, which is encouraging!

Designing in secret – SAL & Rainbow Wings

Hello again! A vintage car event at which we had a trade stand, plus a week’s holiday in my native Holland, not to mention the resulting backlog, have kept me from doing anything much in the stitching line for some time; not much stitching, not much FoFfing, and not much designing. But I hope to have some more time in the coming weeks/months (barring the weekend my sister-in-law gets married, and the big annual vintage car trade fair in September). I’d better, because there are two design projects with a deadline!

I’m not really used to designing with a deadline; generally designs happen when they happen, and some months I have 3 or 4 ideas, and some months I have none. Not a problem. But now there is the Song of the Weather SAL, for which I promised I’d have the materials list by the beginning of November (which means charting and stitching 12 designs by the end of October), and the Counted Wishes Festival, for which all exhibitors are advised to have at least one completely new design. This needs to be stitched, photographed, and made into a chart pack by the beginning of September. And I am without one of my design aids.

When I’m designing I occasionally find it helpful to bounce ideas off other people. My fellow members at the Cross Stitch Forum are usually my first port of call, the weekly stitching group I go to is another, and my husband is invaluable to get the non-stitcher’s point of view. But for two projects which I am designing at the moment, the first two providers of feedback are denied me. The SAL is a Mystery SAL, and so it would rather defeat the purpose to discuss it with stitchers who may wish to join in when it goes live. And the design for the Counted Wishes Festival is meant to be revealed only when the Festival opens. So I’m on my own here – but I thought I could at least show you the colours for Rainbow Wings! (Well, the colours minus one, which happened not to be in my stash *gasp*. Oh dear, I will have to go shopping at Sew & So …)

The colours for Rainbow Wings