Stash for projects, and vice versa

Sometimes (most often, perhaps) we stitchers buy stash with a particular project in mind. But sometimes you have to think up a project for some stash which inexplicably found its way into your shopping basket because it was too pretty to ignore/on special offer/added to make the most of the postage. The gorgeous green silk (Threadworx overdyed Vineyard silk in the shade Princess pea) falls somewhere in between the two categories, as it was bought for a specific project, which however is as yet only a few sketches on two Church meeting agendas (at least I won’t have a problem dating that particular design). The shiny flowers come unashamedly in the second category – I was stocking up on sequins for the Shisha kits when I got lured by the “Clearance Sale” link, where I found some very good-value silver seed beads, and these irresistible little gems at a mere 50p a bag. So I bagged one. Just in case I would think of a design to use them in. Which I’m sure I will.

Threadworx overdyed Vineyard silk and some floral embellishments

Simply Sequins always send a little complimentary bag of goodies with their orders, and this time it was mixed sequins and shapes. I picked out some particularly pretty ones with a broadly floral theme, together with a few beads and some things already in my stash, and a few of those lovely sparkly flower gems I’d ordered in the sale, and they are now all together in another bag, ready to be experimented with. Don’t they look inspiring?

A little bag of inspiration

I’m putting together a short course of embroidery tasters at the moment and was thinking of using ribbon embroidery for the fifth lesson, but I’m wondering now whether some extremely free freestyle embroidery with lots of sparkle might not make rather a pleasing contrast with the much more structured Hardanger project which is set to be the opening lesson. Hardanger embroidery – Shisha embroidery – Freestyle embroidery – Tactile embroidery – Go Mad with Bling embroidery. Does that sound nicely balanced?

PS. I admit it. I’m a pushover for sparkly pretties. I liked the floral gems so much I ordered another bag of them, in mixed colours. Just to use in the embroidery taster classes, of course! (And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything…)

More flowers

Good advice, gloves, and pretty threads

First things first – three cheers for Serinde who mobilised her husband and his knowledge of printers and advised me to hoover mine. Hoovering not being one of my favourite activities, this solution to my printer problem hadn’t occurred to me, but it did the job: it no longer thinks it’s jammed, I can now use up the spare cartridges I had already bought, and just in case it decides to throw another wobbly I’ve printed out an emergency stock of Mini Kits and Notebook Kits. I feel terribly organised and prepared, and terribly grateful to Serinde and her other half!

Remember the hat I showed you, as an example of what I’d like to go with the 1930s dress I wore to the vintage car rally? Well, I haven’t found one yet, but I have found some rather nice gloves. They’re crocheted and beige rather than cream, but because of the beige bits in the handbag and shoes that’s actually quite all right. One of them needs a tiny bit of repair, and they only just fit, but they look lovely and they’ve got a dinky little button to fasten them at the wrist which is such a nice little detail.

Crocheted gloves Just the right size

Talking of dinky, you may remember that Dinky Dyes are discontinuing their cotton perles, some of which I used in my designs. I finally got round to ordering the Threadworx perles that I thought might work as substitutes, and they arrived today. I do love Threadworx, they have such briliant colours! Mosaic (the blue/green/purple) may be a little too bright to work instead of Daydream, but I’m sure I’ll find other uses for it even if it is. Wild Poppies (the bottom thread) is a little less bright than I’d expected, but Wild Fires I think will do very well instead of Jaffa; I’ll enjoy stitching some samples.

Threadworx substitutes for Dinky Dyes - I hope

Other possible threads which I haven’t tried yet are produced by Tamar Embroideries; I’ve noted several shades which look as though they might be close enough to the Dinky Dyes ones. The one drawback is that they aren’t perles, but different threads of about the right thickness. So are the Treenway ones I’m considering, but because they are silk they do have that lovely shine, whereas most of the Tamar threads are a bit more matt. And then there is Stef Francis who has some possibles too – lots of pretty threads to play with before I make my decision smiley.

Storage solutions

I don’t know whether the word is still as fashionable as it was a while back, but do you remember how practically anything you could buy was a solution? Software solutions (programs), packaging solutions (cardboard and parcel tape), gardening solutions (compost, plants, seccateurs), stationery solutions (pens, paper, staples) and, of course, storage solutions (boxes). Well, once upon a time I had the perfect storage solution for my un-bobbined threads – hinged metal rings with thin varnished light wooden rings on them, and cheap & cheerful plastic clip-shut boxes.

Perle storage

Then the thin, varnished light wooden rings were no longer to be had. And the hinged rings weren’t easy to find in the right size any more. And the Dutch shop where I bought the plastic boxes was out of the size I wanted. Obviously, I should have stocked up in a big way on all those three parts of my storage solution when I had the chance! But is there any stitcher who has a realistic idea of how many threads she will have in a year’s time?

So I now have two half-sized boxes, smaller metal rings and larger, thicker and rougher wooden rings. Not ideal, but they’ll do, and it is still a joy to play with my lovely new threads. But when I’d finished putting the pre-cut perles onto my wooden rings, I came to the next challenge – Threadworx’ overdyed Vineyard silk. Unlike their perles and stranded cottons, the silks don’t come in pre-cut lengths. And unlike the perle cottons, which may look pretty and dainty but are quite sturdy underneath, the silks really are as delicate as they look and I wouldn’t dream of putting them on those untreated wooden rings, even though I did sand them to get rid of the worst roughness. So what to do with them? The obvious answer is to do what I do with all my other silks and wind them on plastic bobbins. But that means keeping them with the other bobbinated threads in one of my bobbin boxes, and I particularly want to keep them with the Threadworx perles as they are meant to go with some of the #8 perles instead of a #5.

Have you ever known an object really well only to realise after years of use that they have a particular feature? That sounds a bit complicated, but here is what I mean. I have wound threads onto bobbins for years. I know them back to front. Flat white plastic things with a hole in the top end. Subconcsciously I knew that hole was there. I even knew it was there because some people keep them on hinged metal rings. The metal rings are, after all, sometimes known as bobbin rings. But because I keep bobbins in bobbin boxes, this idea never really made it into my conscious mind. Until yesterday,when it suddenly came to me that I could have three rings of perles-on-wooden-rings, and one ring of silks-on-bobbins, and keep them in the same box.

So I did – but there was one last complication. There were rather more Threadworx threads than I’d realised so I now had four rings of perles and one of silks, and they wouldn’t fit into the half-sized box. A bit more stash rearranging was obviously called for, and eventually the Threadworx collection ended up in my wooden thread box, while my DMC/Anchor variegated perles now inhabit one of the half-sized boxes, and my House of Embroidery perles the other.

My Threadworx collection and how I store it Anchor and DMC variegated perles House of Embroidery perles

Storage problem solved!

For now…

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!

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

A silly mistake, pretty threads and a new idea

Last Sunday I was sitting with an elderly friend so his daughter and wife could both go to church for Mothering Sunday, and I’d taken Happy Hour 1 with me to stitch. Of the four designs in the set, it is definitely my favourite, and it is the one that uses the threads which inspired the set, those lovely Australian Cottage Garden perles. I’d picked an opalescent 28ct Lugana to work the model on, and as we were chatting I settled down to some serious stitching. #12 satin stitch centre in Oregano green, #8 satin stitch, almost Florentine, around it in Dahlia pink. Looking good! Leaf stitch in Oregano, and then on to some triple chain stitch. I’m sure I must have seen something like it somewhere, but I couldn’t find it in any of my stitch dictionaries, so I did my own stitch diagram, and wrote the instructions. It’s basically like a detached chain stitch (also known as a lazy daisy), but instead of only one loop of thread held down with a little securing stitch, I wanted to have three loops.

I had drawn a detailed diagram. I had written a description of every step. And yet it wasn’t until I actually tried to work the stitch that I realised its fatal flaw: I would have to come up in the hole that I’d just gone down in, not once, but twice. And I hadn’t noticed!

I decided to work the plain chain stitch border instead, and re-chart the triple chain stitch when I got home. Having considered two possible solutions to the problem, I eventually settled on a small anchoring stitch, and all three loops going underneath it but all starting in separate holes. The other solution, by the way, was to start all three loops in the same hole, and to anchor each one with its own little securing stitch, which would form a line together. Either way there are three different-sized loops siting inside each other, a very pleasing effect though not what I had in mind originally. You’ll be able to see what you think about the stitch when Happy Hour goes live.

And when will that be? Possibly sooner than I had originally thought – I’m enjoying them so much that they are my main project for the moment. Having finished three of the four there was a slight wait because I didn’t have the Threadworx perles needed for the last one, but they arrived this morning from trusty old Sew & So which means it’ll probably get finished tonight after choir practice! There is more #5 than #8 in this design and so it’s a bit of a shame that the lavendery #5 is not nearly so variegated as the #8, but I was pleased with how well it went with the green; it’s always a bit of a gamble, matching colours based on what you see on a computer screen!

Threadworx perles for Happy Hour

And finally, the new idea. As I was writing the church newsletter and looking at illustrations for the Easter services I came across one I did some time ago, which said “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” in various languages. One of them was Old English, the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, and I was thinking it would make rather a nice Easter project to have those Old English words surrounded by a knotwork border or something of the sort. There is no way I’m going to get anything like that charted by the end of this month, however, so watch this space when we’re getting into Lent 2014 smiley.

West End Embroidery are brilliant!

If I were wearing a hat I would take it off to Yvonne at West End Embroidery. Throughout the ordering process she has exhibited the patient of a saint as I kept asking for things that weren’t available or changing my mind about the colours I needed. And very reasonable prices too – highly recommended!

One of the problems, as I explained a few posts ago, is that West End Embroidery are pretty much the only online shop in the UK to stock Dinky Dyes perles, and they are phasing them out. Sew & So will order them in for me with no minimum order, but they are quite a bit more expensive; and both Yvonne at W E E and Margaret at Little Thread Shop said they couldn’t just order one or two skeins, which is perfectly understandable. Now for the Guildhouse project I showed you last time I will need about 50 yards of a hand-dyed perle #8; the one I used in the model is Dinky Dyes 095 Airlie which is very pretty and of which I have about half a skein left. Yvonne had only the one left, so on to Plan B – email Margaret as she had said she could order in if I wanted at least three of one shade. Unfortunately Margaret had already placed her order with DD and wouldn’t re-order in time for the course. It was clearly time for Plan C.

Earlier this week I telephoned West End Embroidery to make sure that all the chopping and changing I’d done hadn’t irreparably messed up my order, and she was very patient and helpful; for one thing I learnt that it was not just my imagination that there can be an awful lot of difference between Dinky Dyes dye lots. It doesn’t matter too much in my designs as I tend to use them as the only colour in an otherwise neutral piece (like Douglas, Heather and Round the World), but it’s something to bear in mind. She then suggested that I look at Threadworx perles as a possible alternative.

That was inspired. I do, in fact, use them already (in Scotland the Brave and the coloured version of Lviv), but they are not one of the “default” brands I think of when choosing threads. And there are so many lovely colours! The one I would have used for preference in the Guildhouse piece is the one I used for Lviv. It’s not a direct match for DD Airlie, but it’s got that same multi-coloured pastel look.

Threadworx 1078 Pastel Bouquet

Unfortunately it only comes in stranded cotton and perle #5, so I took the Threadworx perle #8 page as my starting point to find a few possibles. The only pastel rainbow one is a bit too sweet for my taste, and Bradley’s Balloons, though fun, is perhaps just a touch too bright. In the end I settled on a colour that isn’t in the least like Dinky Dyes Airlie, but which I think will look quite striking – 1040 Shanghai Nights. I’ll let you know when the threads arrive (and whether I managed to order what I meant to order)!

Threadworx 1040 Shanghai Nights