Thursday, 26 March 2020


I attend the ANG seminar for many reasons. One of them is to take classes from top teachers and designers.
Petuniamonium is a Carlene Harwick design. I hadn't taken a class with Carlene, but when I saw the picture in the Seminar Brochure wanted to go on this one. What I loved about it was the simplicity of the basic outline design enhanced by the use of laid, couched and layered stitches.

There were stitches here I'd never heard of, Keenan Stitch, Sandy's Slide and Damask Darn. There were stitches I'd used before, but Carlene gave them a twist, for example, Nobuko Stitch using two threads, a floss and a metallic. There were lots of filling stitches such as Burden, Laid Filling and Small Burden. Practically every petal is different in some way and the variegated threads used for the leaves provide a touch of realistic shading. I just loved it from start to finish.

Petuniamonium is stitched on Congress Cloth and measures 11" x 13". It took me 47 hours to stitch.

Thursday, 12 March 2020


"Remember The Alamo."
Not that I do, but when I heard that the American Needlepoint Guild Seminar for 2011 was to be in San Antonio it was probably the first thing that came to mind, closely followed by John Wayne throwing a burning torch into the magazine and "The Green Leaves of Summer".
San Antonio? Had to be!  To paraphrase Congressman Crockett, "Work can go to hell, I'm going to Texas!"

Next question. What was I going to submit to the Exhibit, the annual exhibition and competition? I was looking for some sort of connection, a link that would inspire a piece of work.
Long Story Alert!

There's an old Scottish myth (well not that old) about a Scotsman, fresh from 'The Old Country'. He gets off the ship in Texas and starts walking inland, looking at the place, wondering where to set down roots, when he reaches San Antonio.
The town is in a ferment. There are people building barricades and herding animals into 'yon auld kirk'.
Being inquisitive of nature he stops as passer-by and asks what all the excitement is about.
"Mister," he is told. "Texas has declared its freedom. General Santa Anna is marching towards us with an army of fifteen thousand men. There are one hundred men garrisoning the Alamo, and they aim to stop him."
"Weel 'jings'," quoth the Scotsman. "That's no fair. son. Thoosands against a hunner?"
"General Santa Anna says that when he arrives he will march over the Americanos in the blink of an eye."
"Och he does, does he," said the Scotsman. "Weel if yon's his attitude, I think I'll just hae tae ging in ta yon fort and gie them a hand."

Unlikely or not, I decided I'd do some research. I found the Alamo website. What I discovered was educational, enlightening and made me a little proud of my Scots blood.
There was not a Scotsman at The Alamo, there were four. I also discovered that 30 of the defenders had Scottish ancestry. This was less surprising considering the influx of Scots into America following the Jacobite Risings, but still quite a high proportion.

I was looking at pictures of The Alamo when inspiration, thankfully, struck. I had a link, and I had a general idea of the image I wanted to create. I even had a working title. 4:30:1836 was, if not born, in gestation.

The front view of The Alamo is an iconic image. I decided to take the curve, to ignore all the architecture apart from the front door and the upper window, and use the tartans of the four first generation Scots defenders. The door and window would be replaced with numbers, 30 for the defenders of Scots ancestry, 1836 for the year of the battle.

Simple? Well no, not really. I had to graph out each of the tartans, then I had to manipulate them slightly so that the horizontal and vertical lines met in a continuous pattern that drew the eye from one tartan to the next. My notes tell me that I took 70 hours to design this.

4:30:1836 is worked in tent-stitch on congress cloth using two strands of Soie d' Alger.  It is 7½ inches square and it took a total of 240 hours to stitch.
And I was awarded Ribbons!!!

The ribbon on the right is The Princess Grace Award for the best piece of basketweave/tent stitch in the Exhibit. I was overwhelmed, I was even speechless for a moment when it was announced. It was also awarded 3rd place in Class and, at the end of Seminar, the Delegates Choice Ribbon. The Princess Grace Award also comes with a rose:

This lovely piece of porcelain lives under a glass dome, and I admit to being so proud to have received it that I'm inclined to show it off.

I couldn't have done it without the four Scotsmen, so I'd like to introduce them:

Richard W. Ballentine was born in Scotland in 1814. He travelled to Texas from Alabama aboard the Santiago and disembarked on December 9, 1835. He and the other passengers signed a statement declaring, "we have left every endearment at our respective places of abode in the United States of America, to maintain and defend our brethren, at the peril of our lives, liberties and fortunes."

John McGregor was born in Scotland in 1808. McGregor lived in early 1836 in Nacogdoches. He took part in the siege of Bexar and later served in the Alamo garrison as a second sergeant of Capt. William R. Carey's artillery company. It is said that during the siege of the Alamo, he engaged in musical duels with David Crockett, McGregor playing the bagpipes and Crockett the fiddle.

Isaac Robinson was born in Scotland in 1808 and came to Texas from Louisiana. He took part in the siege of Bexar and later served in the Alamo garrison as a fourth sergeant in Capt. William R. Carey's artillery company.

David L. Wilson, son of James and Susanna (Wesley) Wilson, was born in Scotland in 1807. In Texas he lived in Nacogdoches with his wife, Ophelia. Wilson was probably one of the volunteers who accompanied Capt. Philip Dimmitt to Bexar and the Alamo in the early months of 1836. He remained at the Alamo after Dimmitt left on the first day of the siege.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

The Invasion of The Cuddle Givers

No, not a 1950's horror movie, and certainly not the later remake which was, in my opinion, a total turkey.

Yes, He has been at it again. The mysterious Mr. G. is sending more of his minions out into the big wide world. Destination Idlib, Syria.

Mr. G. gives a rousing speech to the next 35 'agents'

When asked, 'sources close to Mr. G.' disclosed his master-plan. He believes that if he can insert a a Teddy-Bear or TBE (Teddy-Bear Equivalent) into the arms of every child, over time every person in the world would have one. The Bears would then take over and we would have world peace, prosperity and unlimited honey under his bearnign dictatfurship. (Personally, I think he's most interested in the unlimited honey!)

When it was pointed out that this could take centuries, the source replied with a shrug "He's a Bear."

Friday, 28 February 2020

Roofs and Domes

I stitched this for an American Needlepoint Guild Charity Auction. I have no information about the designer of this canvas, it came with no stitch guide, no instructions of any kind. I don't actually remember choosing this, so I'm going to blame it on Jane-Beth or one of our American stitching friends. I'm sure it was thrust into my hand with a comment along the lines of "see what you can do with that, clever-clogs".

What could I do with it?
It was a painted canvas, so the colours, roughly, were already set. I could have worked the whole thing in basketweave, letting the colours do the work of showing the design, but though that would have been much quicker, it would have been much less interesting. Instead, I decided that I wanted to throw stitches at it to give each building its own texture.

I can't claim to be well travelled, but I've been about a bit and I've noticed that not only do buildings in different countries and regions have different shapes, they have their own local textures. (Even modern concrete and glass has a different feel in different countries.) The buildings on this canvas looked as though they came from different places so, in my mind, they cried out 'Texturise me!'

I used a different stitch or variation for every building and roof, but used a Kreinik gold somewhere in every building to unify the whole. Looking back through my notes, I used Basketweave, Diagonal Brick, Lattice, Satin Stitch, Milanese, Brick, and Jaquard Stitch. The threads were Anchor and DMC, both floss and perle.
Because each area was quite small, I never reached the 'hate' stage on this piece, though as usual I did have to struggle with compensation in some places.

It took me 86 hours to stitch Roofs and Domes.

Thursday, 20 February 2020


Every year the American Needlepoint Guild holds a Charity Auction of needlework donated by members.
One of the joys of stitching something for the auction is that you can choose a canvas that looks as though it would be fun to stitch but which you wouldn't necessarily want to own permanently. In 2010 I chose two different canvases. The first was Halloween. I don't know who the designer was, and there were no instructions or stitch guide, only the painting on the canvas.
I'd love to hear from anyone who recognises it.

Obviously, being Halloween, it had to be 'loud' and the letters had to be in the same stitch. I had the ugly pumpkin orange and just knew it was what I wanted. I considered making the O the same colour as the other letters, but decided that the silhouette witch would look better against the sickly yellow. The background had to be night-like, and in a stitch that was complementary but sat back from the letters and figures. It had to be a dark blue, black tends to be deadening, and grey would never have worked, neither supporting or clashing with the orange.

The figures were fun. I did most of them in tent stitch, but I used fluffy threads for the cats and the owl, and a variegated wool for the tree. The green of the goop from the cauldron had to be yucky of course and the pumpkins had to have lit up eyes and mouths. The witch, following the best traditions of wicked witches, had to have stripy stockings and purple hair.

Halloween, with apologies for the  over-run
It was fun to choose colours that went together, but didn't quite, if you follow me, and I enjoyed playing with ideas for the figures. It took me 88 hours to stitch Halloween.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Crossing The Spectrum

This was the second of the two classes I took in Milwaukee. When I saw the picture in the Seminar Brochure I fell for the colour gradations. It is stitched on Congress Cloth using Splendor silks and Kreinik #4 braid. I love Congress cloth, and Kreinik and I don't think I'd used Splendor before I took this class.
Then I got to class and discovered thread blending. That was cool, and not a concept I'd really considered. Once I tried it I could see that it was both easy and difficult. The easy bit is to take two strands of one colour and one strand of another and stitch with all three. The difficult bit is to find colours that lend themselves to it. Sue Reed is an expert at it. I just followed the instructions, but I could see that it was another useful lesson.

The thread blending happens in the outer border where the colours merge as they zig-zag round the main design, which kind of reminds me of a portcullis. My poor photography does not do justice to the variety of stitches we used, Cross Stitch, Scotch Stitch, Slanted Gobelein, Tied Cross Stitch and Eyelets. I had lots of fun stitching this.

Crossing The Spectrum was designed and taught by Sue Reed. She has to be the most patient person I know, and one of the most knowledgeable on Needlepoint. She was always happy to answer questions and repeat demonstrations, and she was generous with needlepoint tips.

Crossing the Spectrum measures 7.25 x 7.25 inches and is framed up to 12" square. It took me 150 hours to stitch.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Persian Star

Still in Milwaukee.
After tourism, Seminar. I took two classes in 2009, The first was "Persian Star", designed by Jane Zimmerman and taught by Leigh Shafer.

I chose this class for a number of reasons.
I've always been drawn to the geometric and I liked the design when I saw the picture in the Seminar brochure. Then I read the class description; Novelty Japanese fillings, novelty pattern couching on metallic foundation, Burden Stitch, Lattice on satin and layered satin patterns. What wasn't to like? What I did miss was that there was pre-work. Approximately 3 to 4 hours it said.
A word on pre-work. It has to be accurate. Get it wrong and you throw the whole design out of kilter, so don't hurry it or skimp on it. When the teacher tells you it will take so long, it's best to allow a couple of hours more. The pre-work on Persian Star, outlining the main shapes, took me 6 hours. When I'd finished I swore I'd never do a class with pre-work again.

Cool or what? The design is thread heavy, with layers of stitching one on top of the other. The Burden Stitch was indeed a burden until I got the hang of it, and the various lattices and fillings were a lesson in accuracy. One stitch out of line and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Unfortunately, Jane Zimmerman, who created the stitches and the design, was unable to teach the class, but Leigh Shafer stood in for her and was an excellent substitute, cool, calm and patient. Under her guidance we tackled a little of each stitch and by the end of two days I was confident that I could finish Persian Star at home.

Persian Star measures 9½" square, mounted in a 15" square frame. Including pre-work and class time it took 132 hours.