Tag Archives: cross stitch

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?!



Reading List: My favourite blogs

22 Feb

Mmmmm, pondering what to write today, it occurred that there are a gazillion great blogs out there, but tracking them down can be tricky.

Some of the ones I like are well known, some not so much, but all are worth a peek, I hope you’ll agree.

So, here we go!

1. Posie Gets Cozy

Portland designer Alicia Paulson has an impossibly beautiful home, an incredible collection of sweet felt, cross stitch, embroidery and crochet patterns, and takes truly beautiful pictures. I’ve made A LOT of her designs. Go Alicia!

2. Yarnstorm

Quilting, baking, knitting, crochet, art and gardening, with Jane Brocket, who has a spectacular eye for colour and a ‘can do’ take on life.

She started me on my quilting journey. And hurrah for that! (More quilting here this weekend if that’s your bag)

3. Brooklyn Tweed

Jared Flood has superstar status in the knitting world, but is also an accomplished photographer, and now has his own yarn range. If any designer will persuade you to get into knitting, he is it.

Here’s his Rock Island shawl. Not one for beginners but totally GAWJUS.

Rock Island

Photo (c) Jared Flood.

4. Craftiness Is Not Optional

Mum of two and sewing genius Jess posts daily about clothes, with regular free tutorials on kid’s and women’s clothes and accessories. Great for last minute presents. I love her ric-rac flowers.

5. Feminist Ryan Gosling

This blog exploded just a few months ago, and riffs with exceptional humour on the whole F*ckYeah web meme that won’t go away. Succinct feminist theory and hot pictures of Ryan Gosling. What’s not to like?! This is my favourite post.

6. The Sartorialist

I love Scott Schuman for his coverage of the shows, but his street snaps are second to none. A superstar fashion blogger who deserves to be so.

7. Needled

Scottish knitwear designer Kate Davies takes you on adventures through the Highlands, and regularly reveals her latest, exceptional design. She has a penchant for ‘woolly wool’ and Fair Isle and great taste in dogs and hats.

Like this one…

8. Cotton and Cloud

Kyoko Nakayoshi is a talented Japanese knitwear designer, who I feel privileged to have worked with regularly over the past year. Her blog is full of useful knitting tips and techniques, as well as links to lovely products like these fab knitting needles. Knitscene recently named her one of the top 8 knitwear designers to watch in 2012, and deservedly so!

9. Birdface

Helen Ward is a graphic designer with a sideline in amazing paper art. She has occasional tutorials for everything from pretty Christmas decorations, to  leg warmers and is always inspirational. She rocks!

Here’s Helen with her fabulous knitted gate, which she created during Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland

10. Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear

Jen AC is a widely respected technical editor with a sideline in just-so designs. She’s also my friend, and the person who encouraged me to go for my job on The Knitter. Thanks Jen!  Her blog is a lovely mix of knitting, stitching, foodie loveliness and good old common sense.

Enough from me. I’d love to hear about your favourite blog, so leave me a comment!

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…

Vintage sewing thread: Heritage in a box

18 Jan

A  couple of years ago my mum gave me a box full of vintage stuff which was kind of hard to open. It was my nana’s old sewing supplies.


When nana died and my family cleared out her tiny house, they found scraps of fabric no bigger than 1cm square, hoarded away ‘just in case’ – a mindset leftover from the two world wars she lived through.

We couldn’t keep all of it, and yet, mum didn’t let the thread go. Originally there were two boxes that she gave me, both smelling musty and in an absolute jumble. So I took a deep breath and put my ruthless hat on, getting rid of anything plastic, anything that was just too tangled and unuseable.

I kept the real vintage stuff. Embroidery silk wrapped so neatly onto cardboard tubes, 10 yards on each…



Wooden spools of thread, including the ‘Patent Glace’ cord that shines like a midnight thoroughbred…


Scraps of paper she’d wound her leftover thread around – a Christmas card that talked of rationing…



A letter about ‘terms’ in old money, I think from a landlady…


What looks like the cover ripped off a ration book, entitled ‘The Week’s Food’…


A shred of newspaper advertising emergency beds and reporting a bombing in Bucharest, with German troops putting out the blaze, in the tiniest type.



And more. A ball of ecru crochet cotton…


Darning silk in tan and pink and brown, plaited together and tied with a green bow…


Linen carpet thread and silk for mending hosiery…


I cannot spend long looking at some of these things. To know that she touched them but she is gone is sometimes too much. I open the box and tears come, even after all this time.

But her spirit  is in there, among all this vintage haberdashery and scrappy paper and so, as part of my constant quest to make the best of what I have, and only keep things that are truly beautiful or useful, I am going to make a little display of it all, instead of keeping these fragments of her history shut up in their Cadbury’s biscuit tin.

I found a box frame, and it should be here in a couple of weeks. so I’ll show you how it turns out then. Ttfn.

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!