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Back to school sampler

14 May


I can’t believe Storm will be starting school in September. It wasn’t so long ago she looked like this…


Storm was a pretty teeny baby, born 10 days early and weighing 6lbs 7oz. Al had to go out to buy premie clothes for her as everything was just too big.

Unknown to us until a few days before she was born, Storm had been breach, sitting cross legged like a little Buddha for probably 2 months. It was a long time before she ‘unfolded’. Her legs would always ping up inside her sleep suits so we took to tying the legs (the romper’s  not hers, haha) out of the way.

But she grew mighty fast and now everyone thinks she’s older than she really is.

It’s her 4th birthday over Jubilee weekend, so, as she’ll be one of the young ones in her school year, I thought I’d give her a helping hand.

I’ve already started one alphabet sampler, but I’m also making her a cross stitch one, which I’m enjoying more, basically because it’s easier!

It’s Alicia Paulson’s Winterwoods design and I am a little in love with it.

My favourite bits are the teapot…


and the wellies…


and the deer…


but it really is all lovely…


I slightly worry the letters might be too stylised and therefore not as helpful to Storm as they could be, but I hope she likes it anyway.

Man they grow up fast, don’t they?!


Mini book review: Jane Austen’s Sewing Box

6 Feb


Oooo, I do love a charity shop find. I’m a bit obsessed with embroidery at the moment, so when I spotted this gem for £3.50 I couldn’t resist.

Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, by Jennifer Forest is an absolute treasure trove of crafty happiness.

Jennifer’s charming book looks at what arts and crafts meant to Regency women, as reflected in Jane Austen’s novels and letters. There are 18 lovely projects, which include pin cushions, thread cases, and pillow covers, but for me it is the story behind each of these objects which elevates JASB to a higher level.

The hidden code of craft at this time is absolutely fascinating. Women in high society were expected to stitch (by hand) linen shirts and trousers for their brothers and husbands, nursery sets for poor village families, and also be highly skilled in embroidery. But plain sewing was strictly done behind closed doors. Only the ‘finer’ crafts were appropriate for company.

I have just embarked on my most ambitious embroidery project to date, and my stitching skills are woeful compared to what would have been seen as acceptable in the 1800s, but to read this now gives me a real sense of connection to women in the past.

I wonder what they would think of the craft culture of today…




Heritage in a box frame…

1 Feb

Thanks so much for all your lovely words about nana’s sewing box. The frame arrived this week and so I have started playing around with what’s going in it.


I got quite a small frame so that everything is quite tightly packed in, much like it was in the Cadbury’s tin where so much of this resided for so long. I’ve been arranging and rearranging all these treasures in the tin lid as the dimensions are so similar.


The crochet cotton was a little tangled, so I rewound the last few metres back onto the cardboard spool more neatly. That felt a bit strange, but nana was pretty tidy so I think she would have wanted everything to look its best.

I didn’t realise until now that some of the silk thread is really fine. Not embroidery thread at all I think, but for stitching up evening gowns perhaps. It’s also taken me this long to notice that some of the colours we love are the same – the teals and soft greens. That feels good.


I do need to work out how to get everything to stay put, having not framed this kind of stuff before, so if this is your forte, I’d be grateful for any tips!


I’ll be back with the finished piece soon…

Experiments in stitching: Blackwork

11 Jan

OK, so I am a little obsessed now. I may just be transferring my passion because I’m on a yarn diet, but I think it runs deeper than that.

Emboldened by finishing my first ‘proper’ cross stitch sampler last week I’ve embarked on something more ambitious – blackwork embroidery.


Blackwork was made popular in Tudor times and if you look at paintings of wealthy people from that era, you can see it all over their clothes.

Having done only a smidgeon (the work of several evenings) I’m now rather in awe when I see it in that context, like in this portrait of Elizabeth I. Just imagine how long all those flowers would have taken…

Anyway, here’s a close up of my somewhat feeble attempt by comparison…


Once again, it’s a project from Alicia Paulson‘s lovely book, the Embroidery Companion. It was immediately my favourite design when I was given the book, but seemed a bit much for my first ever project!

I like that it looks modern, but is actually very old. When I sit working on it, I feel a strange connection to all those women throughout history who sat and stitched by candle light (although my preference is a strong reading lamp and new Danish series Borgen for company).

Storm has been keen to join in whenever I’ve taken it out of the rather unceremonious blue market carrier it’s residing in, so it’s a strictly evenings only project. I suppose I’ve only got myself to blame after getting her interested in sewing recently.

If you’re experienced in embroidery you’ll probably be slightly concerned that I’m stitching so close to the edge of the fabric (28 count evenweave) – that’s because this was all I had left after my last project. I am very definitely breaking the ‘rules’ but hopefully I’ll be finished before the embroidery police come get me!

Tying up old threads

6 Jan

Is that a phrase? Anyway, it seems suitable. After starting this counted cross stitch sampler way back in April last year (!) it lay, like many of my projects, almost finished bar a couple of evenings work for ooo, eight months…


Happily a recent foray into sewing with Storm reminded me that I really do like embroidery, (which surprised me when I first tried it again after a 30 year break since giant cross stitch in infant school). So out of the bag it came, and yep, a couple of evenings and it was done.


The design is from Alicia Paulson’s lovely book The Embroidery Companion and the finished piece will go in Storm’s room. She’s got a thing about rabbits and her room is blue, so that’s perfect. An Easter present perhaps?

I enjoyed finishing it so much I started another project from the same book immediately. It’s in blackwork, a style of embroidery made popular by Catherine of Aragon.

I’ll show that to you soon, but in the meantime, I need to toddle off and press and frame this piece of loveliness before it languishes in a bag for another year!

First ever sewing – crafting with kids.

31 Dec

“Look Dada, I knitted you a pie with fabric!” Storm’s words of absolute glee this morning after finishing her first ever piece of embroidery.


OK, so she’s a bit muddled on the terminology, but she was completely engrossed in this little project, for which we used some hessian (about £3 a metre from Fabricland – brilliantly retro website) a blunt needle, some pink wool, and an embroidery hoop to keep everything stable.
(When sewing with kids, knot the yarn around the needle, so that it doesn’t slip off – top tip from Amanda Blake Soule’s lovely book The Creative Family, which is a great source of ideas for projects with little ones, but has a slight tendency to make you feel like you are Not Doing Enough, ho hum.)


Anyway, the deep concentration this little bit of work involved was quite something to see, with Storm breathing heavily and singing Winnie The Pooh and Jingle Bells in a whisper to herself as she worked.

Later on today I had a request to do some more ‘sowding with noodles’. Bless.

I have got a ‘proper’ New Year’s Resolution – I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. But I also hope that, now Storm is older, and I have a little more time, I can spend many more mornings like this one, wrestling with needles and thread, and yarn, and hooks, and beads and wire, and fabric and lace, and feathers, to show my little one that the possibilities for creation in this life are endless.

And yes, I am going to frame it.

Thanks for stopping by in 2011. Have a wonderful New Year!

O’ Christmas tree!

17 Dec

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I have been poorly and so I had to put the Christmas countdown on hold while I was busy feeling very sorry for myself and distinctly unChristmassy.

No more! Yes, I still feel rather rubbish, but we dragged ourselves out of the house today to get our tree, and I am really glad we made the effort.


Our tree was from the brilliant Riverside Garden Centre (playground, lovely cafe, friendly knowledgeable staff, and lots of little extras, like a working beehive and bird spotting area).

I love Scandinavian red and white, so perhaps our tree is a little cliched and twee, but I love it!




Our live tree from last year is looking a bit poorly, so I thought I’d give it this Christmas off so we got a traditional cut Norwegian spruce instead. Part of me wishes we had an artificial one, so that we could put it up much earlier, but it wouldn’t be the same.

I also thought you might like to see Storm’s Christmas throne. I don’t really like tinsel, but I know kiddies do, so…


The garland is based on the Peppermint Hearts Garland in Alicia Paulson’s first book Stitched In Time. Storm’s face was an absolute picture when she saw it for the first time! Heck, we can’t have everything uber-tasteful now, can we?!