A new year a new book

I treated myself to  a new book from CT Publishing. Called “Joyful Stitching” It’s title really suits the production being bright and cheerful. I bought the ebook version.  Being in NZ international postage can be a killer for buying books. I then print the parts of books I want to use or think I’ll use. For this book that was 32 of the 60 pages. That’s not that good. The rest was how-to-do-stitches. Well if you can’t sew the basic stitches you probably wouldn’t start with these projects. Much better idea would have been to scrap the stitch instructions and put in more projects! That said I like that the diagrams don’t have all the outlines drawn. There is scope to individualize every project, which of course I did. I made the first project, an apple into a birthday card. I really like the result. It was an afternoons work, but I am a quick sewer. I know I will be sewing other projects.

If this book is your style, bright colourful and really simple stitching then go for it. The book is available from the publishers website or book depository if you want the hard copy but don’t want to pay postage.




Card blanks to notepads


I had bought a booklet called ‘Stitchin Retro’ online. When it arrived I really didn’t think I’d be able to use any of its transfers (which is all it is). But I hate waste so I came up with the idea for using some of my card blanks and turning them into note pads. Now a small town might mean I buy books online-sight-unseen (bad) but it also means our local stationery/ printers is owner operated and for a mere $1 !! (for all of them)  Simon cut down some little pads so they’d fit inside my card blanks (good).  The first two I made up were the 2 in the top left photo. These designs are from the aforementioned book.  (Do they scream retro to you?? – not me) Then I made a floral beaded one on thermal backed curtaining (pink flowers) and you can see an opened notebook in that photo showing the nifty notepads. I was on a roll and made 3 more. The best my mother has taken to use as a thankyou gift for a friend. The other two are below. This notepad idea is ideal for little gifts (think Christmas) just use designs appropriate for the recipient. You could still use them as a card as well, scribbling your “message” on the first page of the pad. The pads need to be thin for the card to still fold. I was experimenting with padding for the embroidery so that varies on all of these. Unlike cards I felt I could use beads etc as they are not intended as a postal item. Also being small designs experimentation is the name of the game. The one I don’t have to show you (sigh) was sewn in anchor reflecta and kreinik braid threads and it was, like the one on the left below, based on cross designs from Mary Corbett’s book of ecclesiastical designs (I love Mary’s stuff but this book is really just crosses in designs which are a bit repetitive.) Anyway I hope this inspires you.


Needle Book – a materials experiment


This design is my rendition of one in Kelly Fletchers “embroidered home”. I had found that angelina fibre and real metal “gold work” threads don’t look good on thermal curtain lining. So I took a step back and used fabric crayons and what I consider 2nd tier “goldwork”  threads.     Kelly’s book has good designs  which I have found “usable”.      [Not like 2 recent purchases which have been very disappointing; “Retro designs” a leisure arts publication and a book called “Little Stitches”. The designs in those books are often for children/ babies or designs I can think of absolutely no use for – if you are aged over 25, anyway.]   Back to this project. The picture bottom right shows the coloured paper and the coloured fabric. Work began (picture on left) with decisions on colour & stitch being made as I went.  As part of this experiment I wanted to see how sewing pieces of this fabric together would work. Top right shows the result when 2 pieces, wrong sides tog, were sewn. I used a metallic thread, but also an appropriate machine needle for that thread. Note the edge wrinkling which  I could not completely press out. What I could do was trim the seams right back (the pieces have been left with raw edges which are not fraying being thermal backed).  A couple of wool blanket pieces inside hold ample numbers of hand sewing needles. I am happy with this result. I like the colouring but have now found crayola fabric crayons seem to have disappeared from most NZ shops. Just when I’ve found a great use for them! As to the threads I used – most I can’t identify, except the bronze  coats reflecta. I used quality sequins and some cheap ones with no sparkle. A piece of gold, holographic sequin waste is buried in the centre of the yellow flower -it really sparkles.


thermal fabric card


Continuing my playing with thermal backed curtaining. I bought a metre of what I think is thermal backed lining – cost $2 at a charity shop. The transfer pens work really well on this. The orange, which can often be a hard one to print clearly came out very dark & clear. (Sadly the right photo is not clear – I am no photographer!) I then tried crayons. Using any old crayon like a transfer pen, ie draw on lunch paper then iron that on to fabric, worked, but a superior,  almost painted effect, is obtained with proper fabric crayons. These are put on the same way. The photo on the right shows me using a green fabric crayon very lightly (you can do much darker). I sewed my little sketch breaking one of my cardinal rules, choosing the  colours in artificial light. This time I got away with it. Next I want to try applying angelina fibre and perhaps some gold work….    And as an aside, I have been hot air ballooning and I recommend it – gliding across the coutryside in a creaking oversized laundry basket with no engine noise – fantastic!!!


Embroidered purse Part 2 – finished

What started as “just playing around with thermal backed curtaining” has turned into a great little coin purse.  I finished the central flower with 2 stranded cotton sewing – buttonhole, fly & straight stitches. Then I sewed a large blue/green sequin in the centre with a little pearl bead. The centres of the pink flowers are little pinkish glass beads. (Beads & sequins were in my stash of stuff) I also “found” a small zip & sewed it up.  The fabric around the zip is sewn normally i.e turned under. The main purse seam has a raw edge. Before being turned right side out again I cut the seam away to a mere 3mm or so – and it did not fray as I said it wouldn’t. I could have just sewn the seams in a “top stitching”  only manner but this is neater. (Warning: iron with baking paper on top of the fabric.) The purse holds it shape. “Normal” fabric would have needed stiff interfacing to get that same sturdy structure.  In short I found that thermal backed curtaining is easy to embroider, it doesn’t fray and it has its own “interfacing” built in! I have always ignored this stuff for embroidery before but not anymore. The trick is making sure its thermal backed, not the heavier “blockout” fabric, or one of the heavier “thermal backings”.  Also the real fabric side had a slight texture – would a plain cotton sort of fabric show holes if stitches were taken out. I welcome anyone elses experience. But for now I need to check out the charity shops for myself again….


Embroidered Purse

I was in a charity shop looking for fabric suitable for “carpet” for a dolls house I am decorating. This greenish grey thermal backed stuff seemed ideal. While the remnant was lying around in my sewing room I wondered if I could embroider on it. Unlike thermal backed curtaining I recall as a child the modern stuff is much lighter weight i.e. thinner and flexible. First test: would my “Sublime stitches” transfer pens work on this fabric? Answer yes! See the clarity of the unsewn centre. Next, would 3 strands of cotton work? Answer yes! I started with simple stitches then tried satin stitch and they all worked. If you undo the stitching does it leave holes? I was sure it would, but no – on the fabric side (rather than the thermal stuff) the holes got absorbed back into the synthetic fabric weave, as normal. So what use is this discovery? This stuff doesn’t fray. So for any thing that won’t be washed, you won’t see the wrong side, and you don’t want to fray – this stuff is ideal. Think bags, book covers or in my case a little coin purse. For projects where you want something firmer than felt, try this stuff. Next we’ll see how I get on with construction.  (nb design is from my rough sketch of someone elses design somewhere on the internet – sorry can’t recall who’s)

Book cover in Crewel

                                                                           (sorry photo isn’t the best but this has since been given away so can’t do another)

I decided to make a cover for a school exercise book. The design is from Elsa S Williams’ book “Heritage Embroidery”.  My paperback copy was purchased second hand online. It is falling  apart, the binding has collapsed but I keep taping it up. Elsa must have been an incredible woman,  I’m a big fan! This design was described as a beginners project. You need to scale her little drawing up. I did add a few extra stitches to the range she used. Elsa intends you to choose your own colour range. Hers was blues and mauves, mine reds and reddish browns. The embroidery was on a scrap of linen which was not big enough for the full cover and I had ” issues” cutting it square. But I like to think Elsa would have approved of the sewing!

My latest Crewelwork chair seat


            Starting with elements from a book of b&w Nancy Robb designs I sketched up a design for a little chair I had had refurbished a  few years ago. My design was made specifically to fit this chair. I wanted to use greens, reds and browns on my white furnishing weight drill.  As I began to sew  I found I didn’t have enough shades, so I bought more, I sewed, I needed more colours… Being 100kms+ from a store selling Appleton crewel wools I decided to buy at least samples of all the reds, greens and browns. I have no idea how many colours I have used. But I learnt even a little element looks better with 3 or more shades/colours. That is, even a tiny leaf may have say, 2 shades of one colour and one from a different numbered range. Seldom (if ever?), did I use shades from just one numerical colour range.  I had also addded yellows, a blue, a mauve..      A trick I learnt from Phillipa Turnball, was to sew with double thread – the stitching looks so much lusher!       I’m not precious about my chair projects. I use them as furniture once sewn. So my design was heavy at the base as the front of the chair seat gets wear. In any case I stuck to few stitches – mainly long & short. A book I read sometime (was it Constance Howard, Elsa Williams, Erica Wilson ?) said words to the  effect that if you use many colours  limit the number of stitches you use, conversely sewing a monochrome design can look wonderful sewn in many different stitches.    This design is not perfect. There are bits I wish were drawn differently but overall I achieved what I wanted.


WWI armistice day project

I’m dragging my feet on this project.  Living in a NZ town (pop approx 3500 then and now) where underground gold mining goes back to the 1890s, we had skilled miners available when war broke out. So a unit, about 100 men went and dug tunnels under the French town of Arras which was held by the Germans. A few of us local embroiderers are embroidering the names of all the tunnellers on cloth which will make up the lining of a cape to be draped (initially on armistice day) around the statue of a soldier  installed in  a local park in 2014. At other times the cape will be on display at the mining company’s education centre.  We are sewing 10 names each, I’ve done 7 of mine. A worthy project but…(big sigh). When I get my 10 names finished I’ll post pictures.                 Oops, was so glad to get it over with I handed them in without taking a  picture.


Greeting cards – beats yoga!

Busy with other things I didn’t lift a needle for a week! That’s unheard of for me.  I needed to relax, so I didn’t go back to my big projects. Instead I made some greeting cards. I haven’t bought a commercial card in years – I make them. I usually sew a card in a day, sometimes less. Colour, variety, bright and cheerful. Never mind the pleasure the recipient will get, I really love making them. I got on a bit of a roll and sewed away my stress. The photos show the results.  The honey bees design was adapted from a “Peoples Friend” short story illustration – I always look at pictures at possible embroidery ideas and I think the others are my versions of designs in old (1970s-80s) Ondori Publishing  books – which by the way are goldmines. Now relaxed I can go back to the big projects – or maybe another card…..



Crazy patchwork embroidery

I do not do patchwork – usually! A bad experience years ago put me off.  But now I tried a class with Carol at Katipatch (see her website katipatch.co.nz) It was fun. This was “real” crazy patchwork where you use fabrics that are simply placed and sewn – no preconceived design involved.  Carol is a good teacher and I recommend her classes.

For this class I used scraps from my enormous stash. Fabrics of different thread types that is polyester mixes, curtain samples… the lot. At the end of my “block” machining I set to with my hand embroidery threads. The great thing is you can do a little bit or a lot of any stitch or colour. I added little “pictures” on plain fabrics. They all represent something in my life. As to the seam decorations I used designs known for this sort of use as well as some very simple line stitching.  Stitches whipped with another coloured thread is so easy and can look so good.  Simply adding decorative basic knots along a row of a standard straightforward stitch gives it a lift. This sort of project is ideal for trying out stitches, combinations of stitch and colour as well as little pictures that you want to sew but can’t think what to use them for!  I turned my finished embroidery into a cushion cover. And though not perfect by any stretch I love it.