The SAL approaches!

It is nearly the end of November and so in anticipation of the “Join the SAL” button appearing on 1st December I am ready and poised, with the whole SAL – all 12 chart packs with their charts, diagrams and instructions and all 24 blog posts with their explanatory close-up photographs – stored on my computer in glorious completeness, and a pile of 24 finished projects (12 on white fabric, 12 on coloured) mounted in cards and neatly tidied away in my project drawer.

If only. Or possibly even “yeah right”.

Don’t worry, we’re still on schedule here, I’m just not as far ahead of schedule as I would like to be. In some ways it would be reassuring to have the whole SAL ready for distribution throughout the coming year, but actually it’s much more fun to stitch the second set of 12 along with (or only a little bit ahead of) everyone else, and write the blog posts in real time – it also means I can react to feedback and rewrite descriptions or include extra photographs if that seems helpful.

And so I am gathering together lots of beautifully coloured Hardanger fabrics to use throughout 2016, and my doodle cloth is still at the ready to try things out and make last-minute changes if necessary. By the way, one necessary change has been to the SAL Materials List where some fairly vital words had got left out, and there was an “or” that should have been an “and”. So if you downloaded the list the moment I put it up, do please get the latest version.

And just to give you some ideas, here are the fabrics I’ve chosen for the White On Colour version: Sparklies’ hand-dyed Hardanger fabric in Cancer, Leo, Etain, Thalia and Ocean Depths, a solid coloured Hardanger (07 Dusty Green) from Spinning Jenny, and Chromatic Alchemy’s hand-dyed shade Dune.

Coloured fabrics for the SAL

As for the doodle cloth, does that provide a sneak peek at what will be in the SAL? Well, some of it does… and some of it doesn’t. You’ll have to wait and see which is which smiley.

Kate is brilliant!

My belated Christmas present arrived earlier this week: a collection of beautiful Sparklies fabrics. I’ve used Kate’s fabrics several times before – among others in Windmills, Frozen Flower, Flodgarry and Patches – and although it is of course possible to stitch those designs on standard coloured Zweigart Lugana, the irregular look of hand-dyed fabric just adds a certain something.

Windmills Frozen Flower Flodgarry Patches

And here are the ones I got this time: Fire, Gina’s Delight, Lemon & Lime, Pumpkin Patch and Triton; Dark Goddess in linen, and Harvest Blush; plus samples of Innocent Princess, Sunlit Forest and Pitch. Isn’t Kate brilliant thinking up and producing such a wide range of colours, from the palest pastels to the brightest oranges and pinks and blues, and that amazing dark purple?

My Christmas present from Sparklies

When I showed them to my husband he admired them admirably, but then asked the W-question: What did you get them for? Fortunately being a designer means that I can say “for inspiration”, and it’s true at that – as I ironed them and got them ready to be photographed, just looking at them gave me several ideas about threads to use with them, and I am now fairly certain I’ll use Pumpkin Patch (the muted orange) and Sunlit Forest (the sample of pale sage green) for the two Orpheus designs, which I’d originally planned on Zweigart’s Burnt Orange and Moss Green. The perle colours I had already intended to use with those two fabric shades also work perfectly with the two Sparklies fabrics!

Dark Goddess and Sunlit Forest Lemon & Lime and Fire Pumpkin Patch and Triton

Want to see my pretty threads?

First of all a very Happy and Blessed New Year to everyone! And I hope you had a lovely Christmas too. You may have noticed (but then again, with all the festivities going on, you may not) that Flights of Fancy was rather quiet over the festive season, and this was because my husband and I were away for most of it, visiting his parents for Christmas and my family for “Oud & Nieuw”, as the new year’s celebrations are known in the Netherlands.

Fortunately I did manage to get quite a bit of stitching in (the Floral Lace series is now almost complete), and even some stash acquisition. Some time ago I treated myself to a collection of Threadworks threads, but as I bought them from a Dutch company it was cheaper to have them sent to my mother’s address, so that I didn’t actually get to see and play with them until last week. They were worth the wait though – just look at those gorgeous colours! On the right are some perle #5/#8 combinations, then a few #5 singles, then some of their extremely strokeable overdyed Vineyard silks, and on the left some perle #8/Vineyard combinations. The silks are really soft and I have been petting them to within an inch of their lives smiley.

Threadworx threads

While in Holland I also picked up a few more thread storage boxes; well, they are just general purpose storage boxes really, but they are very useful for those threads that I keep on rings. I really wanted one box like the three I already have, but unfortunately they were out of those, so I bought two half-size ones. At a little over 1 euro each I didn’t think they were too extravagant a purchase…

I did make a rather extravagant purchase only yesterday, but I had an excuse: my very kind parents-in-law gave me some money to spend on stitching materials (well, on anything I liked, but I think they had a strong suspicion it would turn out to be stitch-related!) and I had for some time had a little wish list of Sparklies hand-dyed fabrics, so I had a lovely browse on her website and got my list plus two other colours and a few samples. Just got an email to say they are being dyed, so I should be able to show them off quite soon!

Walking with Windmills

No, it’s not the Dutch version of Walking with Dinosaurs – it’s an old Dutch saying (this reminds me terribly of the television series “To the Manor Born”, where the aged mother of one of the main characters used to preface many of her remarks with “we have a saying in old Czechoslovakia”, said in a strong Eastern European accent. But I digress). Walking with windmills, or “met molentjes lopen”, means to be a bit batty. But before you start worrying about Mabel’s sanity, let me put your mind at rest; I was merely reminded of this saying because I am trying to decide which fabric to use for Windmills. I’m hoping to start stitching the model when I’ve finished work on Three of Diamonds and Badges, and I’m really looking forward to it!

When I designed Windmills I intended to use a hand-dyed fabric, probably very light blue and white, to look like a summer sky with fluffy clouds (known in the Old Country as sheep clouds). I’d also picked a thread – Caron 154 Firecracker, a striking and rather patriotic red white & blue. Unfortunately when I got the thread it wasn’t quite what I had expected; the colours weren’t as disctinct as I’d hoped, so there was some slightly muddy purple between the red and blue. It’s a perfectly good thread and I’ll use it one day, but not for Windmills.

I put the design on the back burner for the time being, thinking a suitable thread would turn up some time. And it did. It’s a Threadworx perle called Bradley’s Balloons and you need sunglasses to work with it. It is bright, it is bold, it is brilliant, and when you first see it you wonder what on earth you could use it for. I love it, and I think it will be just perfect for Windmills; those little toy windmills you used to get on the beach were never very subtly coloured either, were they?

So now I just need to decide on the fabric. There are two candidates, both from Sparklies: a medium/light blue called Caribbean Blue, and a light blue/white called Summer Skies. Going by the names of course the latter seems the obvious choice, but I do like the richer blues in the other one. The thread seems to go well with either of them:

Two options for Windmills

For the moment I’ll leave both fabrics out with the threads on top, so I see them every time I walk past the dining table (where a lot of my stitching stuff lives – which reminds me we’ve got friends coming to dinner next week so I’d better do some tidying up!) in the hope that eventually one of the combinations will show itself to be The Right One. Or I may just have to stitch it twice …

Happy with fabrics, unhappy with horticulture

Let’s get the unhappy part over with first, then at least I can end on a happy note! The problem (besides having a new network & computers installed over the weekend which has caused a certain amount of upheaval) is Walled Garden. I’m hoping to use it as my new design for the Counted Wishes Festival in March, but that rather depends on getting it stitched to my liking and writing the chart pack for it, and I’m getting stuck on the first part.

The walls (Kloster blocks and a textured border) were fine, they came out as I had hoped. The satin stitch florals were OK too, with the Caron colours working as intended. The backstitch additions turned out according to plan as well. Then came the time to add some cheerful yellow in the shape of knots (either French or colonial, according to your preference). First I added some to the hearts of the blue flowers – which, incidentally, I had intended to be vaguely like periwinkles but which reminded one fellow stitcher of clematis; so much for my botanical accuracy! Anyway, I liked the effect of the knots there, so I continued with the rest of the knots, which formed swirly lines between satin stitch leaves. And they just look wrong. On paper they’re fine, but on the fabric I simply do not like them. And yet it needs that touch of yellow, and I still think knots of some sort are the way to go. I’ll have to do some serious re-charting over the weekend, and probably some unpicking and restitching as well!

On to more pleasant things. First a little more stash to show off, my most recent order from the Little Thread Shop. Some Weeks Dye Works perles, and Caron threads; the bright green is Jade, which I had in Impressions (their silk/wool blend) and used in my father-in-law’s 90th birthday card. I so enjoyed the shade that I decided to get the “companion threads” to it. The others are sheer indulgence – I have no purpose for them yet but I just loved the colours.

Threads from the Little Thread Shop

I am also awaiting an order of threads for the Guildhouse course from West End Embroidery including some Dinky Dyes perles. I contacted Jo at Dinky Dyes to ask about UK stockists, and something she said about concentrating on their silks made me slightly worried that the cotton perles might be under threat, but fortunately she reassured me that they have no plans to discontinue them; they just don’t promote them as vigorously as their silks. Heather and Douglas are safe *phew*.

And finally, the fabrics. I’d asked Kate at Sparklies whether she did hand-dyed Hardanger fabric, and she said she didn’t, but she could – and she did! Here are the three fabrics I’ll be using in the September course: 28ct Lugana Aries (for the bookmarks), and 22 ct Hardanger Thalia (purple) and Ocean Depths (blue-green). They’ll be stitched with Antique White threads and beads for contrast. I’m really looking forward to stitching the models, so I’d better get Walled Garden sorted out as soon as possible.

Sparklies fabrics for the Guildhouse course

Support your independent needlework suppliers

If you’re not one of those lucky stitchers who has a local needlework shop to supply their stitching needs, don’t immediately head for the nearest Hobbycraft! For one thing, they won’t have any speciality threads or fabrics anyway so it would be a waste of time – time that would be much better spent studying the covetousness-inducing price list of Margaret Roberts’ Little Thread Shop or browsing the delectable Sparklies website for Kate Burgess’ vibrant hand-dyed fabrics. The Little Thread Shop was a great find, and I am grateful to a friend from the Cross Stitch Forum for recommending it. You can email Margaret direct if you want a different combination of threads, her shipping costs are very reasonable indeed and she is most helpful in working out how much you can have sent to the UK without incurring import duties! So now if I want a few Caron threads, or decide to treat myself to Gloriana silk perles or Thread Gatherer hand-dyed silk ribbon that’s where I go – and just have a look at some of the lovely things I got from her this year …

Caron threads from Margaret Roberts Thread Gatherer silk ribbons from Margaret Roberts

Sparklies is more local to me (in the UK instead of in the US!) and so I occasionally get the chance to see her fabrics in real life at the Knitting & Stitching Show (although I’ve just heard she won’t be doing Alexandra Palace next year, which is a shame as that’s the one I go to). What I like about Kate’s fabrics is that besides the pastel, subtle shades that you often get in hand-dyeds, she does some extremely bold and vibrant colours which definitely make a statement! For most colours you can choose aida, evenweave or linen (with pictures that show the difference in colour between the various fabrics) and a good number of thread counts. I tend to go for my favourite 25ct Lugana, of course, but Kate has promised to dye me some Hardanger fabric for a course I hope to be teaching next year. And if you can’t decide what shades would be right for your project, you can order some samples – an economical way of making sure you go for just the right colour, and great to use in their own right for mini projects.

Sparklies samples

And sometimes when you buy things from different shops it’s not until you see your purchases together before putting them away that you realise you’ve just bought a magical combination that cries out for a new design. Here is Sparklies’ Fire combined with Caron Bittersweet and Flamingo. Doesn’t it just zing?

Caron and Sparklies


How annoying colours can be! Doing a version of Patches on hand-dyed fabric (a beautiful rich variegated yellow by Sparklies) I carefully picked two shades of DMC yellow perle to form the basis of the design, and purely by accident found in my stash a lovely shade of Dinky Dyes stranded silk which went with them perfectly.
I stitched the darker shade of perle and the silk and that looked fine, then added the first patch of lighter yellow and it just looked wrong. It’s the exact shade of the lighter yellow in the fabric, but it simply didn’t gel with the rest. Argh!
So I tried a slightly darker yellow to see if there would still be enough contrast, and that fortunately did work. Phew! So unpicked the light yellow and am now steaming ahead, hoping to finish Patches later this week.