Tuesday 16 August 2022


 Eight months!! I blame the three L's. Lassitude, Life and Laziness.

I've been busy, but I couldn't share until after the ANG Seminar in Tucson. We got back last Monday and slept for two days, but now we're catching up.

To bring you up to date with "The Big Project" I kept mentioning, it was for the Exhibit at the ANG Seminar, so I didn't want it to be seen until then. It was both a risk and an adventure I will probably write more about later, but here is the finished article.

It's called "Heraldic Carousel" and measures just over 12 inches high. Each side is 4" across and the baseboard is 12"x12".

It does what it says in the title, it's based on heraldry, and it's a carousel. 
The sides along the bottom are the heraldic ordinaries set in shields. The ordinaries are gold or silver (Or and Argent), with the couching on the shields in the heraldic tinctures of red (Gules), green (Vert), blue (Azure) and Purple (Purpre). The background to each panel is Milanese stitch, also in the heraldic tinctures, with a Basketweave border in brown.
The creatures are the heraldic beasts, Unicorn, Leopard, Griffin, Hippocampus, Lion, Dragon, Sea Lion and Wyvern. They are all double sided. The 'beasts' are worked in Kreinik braids and the background in Soie d'Alger, in Basketweave.
Above them, the red and blue swags, are Beattie stitch turned on its side to emulate hanging fabric. The tent like top is natural calico.
All the embroidery was worked on Congress Cloth. 
The frame is balsa wood, because it had to be light enough to carry, and inside is a musical movement which plays Brahms Lullaby when the handle at the top is turned.

I have to say that when I submitted this as an Exhibit entry I had no expectation of winning anything - possibly an Honourable Mention because it is a bit unusual. The main reason for creating Heraldic Carousel was to make people look at it and think "S**t! You can do that with Needlepoint? Wow!" It certainly got that reaction.

Surprisingly (to me), when it appeared in the Exhibit it did so with a Blue Ribbon - First in Professional Original! Later in Seminar it was also awarded "Creative Inspiration" and, I had to stuff my napkin in my mouth to stop me screaming when the next one was announced, "Best of Show".

Ribbons are so cool. Creative Inspiration is a beaded Gila Monster, Best of Show is a perfect little hummingbird.

And did it work?

It took me nearly 900 hours to make Heraldic Carousel. There was much failure, much pain and much heart rending, and I doubt if I'll ever do something like that again.

Thursday 25 November 2021

Return of The Pod People

 As we come to the end of November, what we call "The Pod People" return. Looking out of my back window I can see this:

Every year at this time there is a gathering of Christmas Trees for distribution in the yard next door. Wrapped as they are, they always remind me of the 1956 film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I think if you look at the still from the movie it's kind of self explanatory.

Back in May I mentioned that I had been selected to teach my "Flame Fan" at the American Needlepoint Guild Seminar 2022, in Tucson, Arizona. I didn't feel quite right about sharing "Flame Fan" until the classes were advertised, but as they are now up on the ANG website, I think its OK to do so.

I was supposed to be running a pilot class this week, but due to various circumstances I have had to postpone it until the end of February.  (If you live near Edinburgh, places are still available.) I knew there was a lot of work in running a class, but I don't think I understood how much. Still, we live and learn.
Having done the grunt work, I'm looking forward, with a little trepidation, to the pilot, and then to the class itself, which will be in August.
Flame Fan is 7" x11", and is worked on Congress cloth. The flames are all worked in couched Kreinik gold, using the same variegated Anchor floss. Stitching time was about 30 hours.

I have been busy on other things too. "The Big Project" has come to a temporary halt because I haven't had the git-up-and-go to move on to the next stage. Mr.G's tablecloth proceeds in small increments,

and another group of bears is off to a new home.

Not so many this time, which is good as I had so many other things going on, but the request for half-a-dozen was filled. They're obviously keen to get on their way, the fellow in the green trousers is already stretching his leg out towards the door.

Friday 17 September 2021

I lost August

Last week was July and suddenly we're in the middle of September. I'm sure that someone out there is speeding up time.

Not that I have nothing to show for it. My attempts to learn Hardanger continue with limited success on the technical side. I can Kloster and Eyelet and Buttonhole, but I'm still having problems with my woven bands. The finished diamond is a mess, but I hope to do better with the next one. At least this time I didn't cut the wrong threads and have to re-weave them.

The poor thing is getting a bit creased with being carried around, so I'll need to sort that out, but The Mysterious Mr. G seems pleased with it so far.

I've been taking this to my Monday group, Leith Friendly Crafters. Crochet is the in thing at the moment, but I'm working on them. One of these days someone is going to join the embroidery corner of the table.

I also got volunteered by a friend. She runs a craft group at CafĂ© Sentosa, in Albert Street on a Wednesday evening (5.30 to 8.30).  "Would you come along and bring whatever you're working on? You just have to sit there and give advice, or show people how". It seems to be going well, though there are things we take for normal (as learned in the USA) that are new to people here. When I brought out a frame weight they were impressed, when I stripped and laid threads on 'The Big Project' they were fascinated.

'The Big Project' is still taking up a lot of my stitching time, but I'm now onto the inner base. Only four more of these to do and the main part of the stitching is complete. Next comes the frame. That's going to be fun. I know where I want to get to, but I'm still not 100 percent sure how to do so.

I know I'm going to need advice and probably assistance for the next bit. I may start with a visit to our local Model Railway shop. How do you link Needlepoint and Model Railways? I haven't an answer on that yet, but when this project is finished I intend to create a dedicated page with the whole story.

And somewhere in that lost time I baked our Christmas cakes. Plural. Every year I make one for us and one to share with friends. They get baked on the last weekend in August or the first in September and then every two weeks they get taken from their boxes and given 'a wee dram'. According to the recipients, it's best not to drive after a slice.

Friday 23 July 2021

Maybe Next Month

Is it me or are the months passing more quickly? Jane-Beth says it's my age. I'm not so sure, but then that might just be my age. 

It only seems about a week since I wrote about my leap into the world of Hardanger, but it's been a month. It's been an exciting month in its way. With lockdown easing I have been able to visit my Chiropractor and my Dentist. That's exciting? Maybe not quite the right word. Pleasing doesn't fit either, but I was 'well pleased' to discover that after nearly a year and a half of lockdown and shielding I didn't need any dental work. With the Chiropractor, it's back to the old monthly 'adjustments', which I feel the better for. 

The relaxation also means that I can get together with the other "Leith Friendly Crafters".

Photo Courtesy of "Inspiring Leith"

This is me alfresco stitching in the summer sun with some of the other members of the group. Yes, there are two men. I'm still working on finding men who do embroidery and persuading them out of their corners. And yes, that is me at the front left, working on a test piece for my current "big project".

What about the Hardanger? How is that going?
The Mysterious Mr. G decided I should start his tablecloth. Three rows of Klosters as a border and five diamonds of them in the middle, he instructed. I obliged.

I'm working in the traditional white on white using Hardanger linen and DMC Perle 5 and 8. The Klosters are all worked in the Perle 5. It took me 20 hours to get this far. 
Next, Mr.G pronounced that he wanted a Blanket Stitch outer border, and could he have eyelets in the central row of the outside Klosters? And a long-ship motif in each corner?

Why not? After another 7 hours, the Blanket Stitch border is complete and the first corner of eyelets and long-ship are in place. I am using the Perle 8 for the eyelets.
I don't think I fully realised how thread hungry Hardanger is. It took two skeins of the Perle 5 to complete the Klosters and the Blanket Stitch. When the excess linen is cut back to the Blanket Stitch, Mr. G's tablecloth will measure 9" by 12". 
Considering it's my first piece, I don't think it's too bad, though there are some fairly rough bits. 

The Mysterious Mr. G. inspecting the work so far.

I'm not sure what we're planning to do next, but I did hear him muttering about cutting threads and woven bars.

Still, it's nice to have something I can put in my pocket and work in-hand.

Tuesday 15 June 2021


 Last time, I mentioned that I had been trying Hardanger. I started from the basics, using Janice Love's "Hardanger Basics and Beyond" and of course the support and advice of Jane-Beth who said that I should start with Kloster Blocks.
I tried to find an ISBN for the book, but I think it's self published. The back cover credit is to a shop called Love'nStitches in Athens, (Georgia, not Greece). One thing I loved about this book is that at the end of each section Janice gives instructions for left handed stitchers.

I always think of Hardanger as being white on white, but I decided that since I had no idea what I was doing I'd work with a coloured perle. I started with a vibrant orange on green. That was a disaster - vision wise - so I gave up and tried orange on white. Why orange? It just happened to be at hand, as did the teal and the red.

My first 'doodle-cloth'

Kloster Blocks are simple. (Left side of image.) Well the basic stitch is simple, but then you have to remember how to move to the next block without leaving a trailing thread on the back. Trailing threads are a no-no. It's not that Hardanger is 'double sided', but as it's used for table cloths and such like, the stitches should be well enough finished that it should be difficult to tell front from back. I'm not going to embarrass myself by showing you the back of my doodle-cloths.

My second 'doodle-cloth'

After Klosters, Buttonhole. I'd not tried that before. It didn't go well to start with, but it's one of those stitches you can get into a rhythm with - until you come to a corner. I got lost on them to begin with, but perseverance was rewarded.

My Third 'doodle-cloth'

After about 30 hours I have reached the stage of the image above and tried eyelets, which I had done before, wrapped bars (bottom right) and woven bars (top right) both new to me. I also managed to cut the wrong threads.
It still needs lots of practice, but 'The Mysterious Mr. G' of whom I have written before has decided that I am almost competent enough to make him a table-cloth. He may have to wait a little longer.

Speaking of whom, in earlier blogs I've mentioned his army of knitted bears, using which he plans world domination by teddy-bear. I recently received a picture of some of his minions starting their work.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

May? Already?

One and a bit years after our first lockdown things are starting to look more positive. I have had both vaccinations and Jane-Beth gets her second today. Lockdown is easing, little by little. The pubs are starting to open and I am getting back into the garden. Not my Dad's, the house has been sold, but I have a couple of friends who need what muscle I can provide, so with a bit of decent weather I will soon start to get rid of my lockdown flab. 
And the dentist has reopened! What can I say? I dislike going, but I know it's necessary, and I haven't been able to go since March (last year).

I seem to have let this blog slip since the arrival of Covid. It's not that I've been doing nothing, but the time has been sucked up by other projects.
I have recently become a columnist for Needlepointers, the magazine of the American Needlepoint Guild. I was sort of volunteered for it, and it's been an interesting experience. The feedback has been positive too, which is a bit of a boost for the ego.
In an earlier entry I mentioned that my "Flame Fan" design has been selected as a class for the American Needlepoint Guild Seminar in 2022. I can see at least one column for Needlepointers and a future blog entry or two coming out of that!

"Would I mind if the other designs were offered to the Distance Learning Team?" I was asked. Of course I didn't mind. The ANG Workshop By Mail team asked if they could have "Golden Gyron". Ab-so-lootley! So it will be appearing in Needlepointers in a few months and will probably run from February to April 2022.

"Golden Gyron" is 5" x 5" and is worked entirely in gold, with the 50th anniversary of ANG in mind, but also as a sampler of stitches aimed at the less experienced needlepointer. I'm hoping it will go down well.

Work continues on 'The Big Project' which I hope to have finished for Seminar 2022. This is my first trial of how I might finish the beasts. The idea is to have them hanging, with the animal on each side, but with a different colour of background. I need to work on it a bit more! Luckily I have a couple of beasts that I'm not going to use, so I have material to practice on.

I've also been trying Hardanger, but my efforts so far are so execrable that I'd be embarrassed to put in a picture. Maybe next time.

On the down-side, no in person American Needlepoint Guild Seminar again this year. I'm not sure yet whether I will sign up for any of the on-line classes. However, I remain hopeful that next year at Tucson will go ahead (and that we'll be able to travel from Scotland).

Friday 26 March 2021

Things you find in odd corners.

I was searching for something else when I came across this piece. It wasn't exactly that I had forgotten it, but once its purpose had been filled, I put the box in a corner.

A year and a half ago we made one of our regular visits to The Georgian House to attend a talk on 18th Century dress. One of the young ladies giving the talk was working on a piece of embroidery, so of course I had to go and speak to her. (No names, it wouldn't be fair to embarrass anyone.)

She had never tried surface embroidery and it wasn't going well. Someone had told her to use one length of thread without explaining that there were six strands. I don't think I need say more than that. She had also managed to get a massive and unentangleable (not sure that's a real word) knot. My heart went out to her. I explained that she should only be using one or at most two strands of the six, and that she was using far too long a length of thread. It was more fingertip to underarm than fingertip to elbow. She was keen to learn how to do it properly, so I said I'd come back the following week with a partly stitched piece.

As usual, I got carried away and by the time I returned I'd stitched most of this:

It's a flower spray based on a design I found in "18th Century Embroidery Techniques" by Gail Marsh, ISBN 978-1-86108-476-7. It's a pretty cool book, with lots of diagrams and pictures. The petals are worked in a single strand of Soie d-Alger using silk shading.

Let me say here that I hate doing silk shading on canvas, but I do like a bit of surface shading on other fabrics. 

We talked about transferring designs. She had heard of pricking and pouncing, but not how to do it. My advice was 'Don't'. I suggested that she trace the main outlines of her chosen design on thin tissue paper and baste it through. In my opinion it's better than prick and pounce and much better than drawing the design on the fabric, and the tissue comes away easily if you use short stitches.
We talked about weight of thread, the above is all worked with one strand, the joys of French Knots, and stitch direction for silk shading. I also advised outlining areas such as the petals in a stem stitch to give a smooth curve and a firm edge.
Of course I also showed her how to do some of the stitches.

AND I hoped I hadn't bored the young lady to death.

The finished piece measures about 6" across and lives in an i-pad box.