Monday, 17 August 2015

Lavender pillows - and sulky sons.

So, it was my nephew's Toby's girlfriend's birthday, (so glad I got the hang of the possessive apostrophe thing!) and he asked me to stitch her a personal sampler. 

This was a week before the Birthday Meal and Gift Presentation.

I love him, but in such a short time, I just couldn't produce a sampler that would be personal to her, especially as I had never met her and therefore, apart from her name, knew nothing about her. 

So instead I made a stack of little lavender pillows.

You know when you think to yourself "Tons of time for these little things"?

The Birthday Meal was an hour's drive away and we were due to meet at 6-30. 
At 4-30 I was still stitching the beads around the last one.

I had warned my son that I needed to devote all the time I had to finishing these pillows or else we had nothing to give. 

I sat in my stitching chair, shouting 
'Bring me stuffing', 
'Bring me lavender' 
'Bring me beads'

These, to my son, totally obscure demands, were interspersed with hysterical screams of
'Not that cupboard'
'Second shelf, SECOND shelf'
'They ARE there, just LOOK'

By the the time we settled into the car for the journey we were both exhausted, and I must say, ominously quiet!

But Heyho.

Emily loved them and we loved her. You know when you meet someone with your sense of humour, who can build on a story and create absurd pictures? That's Emily! 

I must say, my gift wrapping, through the necessity of having no time at all, was inspired. I stacked the pillows and tied them with ribbon. Crumbled up lilac tissue into a round box, added the pillows with more tissue on top, put on the lid and tied with a broad organza ribbon, but the really clever bit, in my opinion, was grapping a few stalks of fresh lavender from the garden as I rushed past and inserting them into the ribbon. It looked so fresh and smelled divine.

So here are the pillows, starting with the largest.

I really cheated quite a lot to do these in the time I had, as well as shop, and eat, and clean - oh - and sleep.

I pulled a few variegated threads in green and lavender, mostly GAST, and just interspersed them where I felt I needed to. It saved a lot of thread changes and still looked pretty.

This final one I thought could be a key or scissor fob and I tied it onto the ribboned stack.

Oh - I could have out it in the outside!!! Just thought of that. Darn it!

My sister took the pictures for me, I just didn't have time.

And sadly, I don't now!

Thanks for stopping by, comments always welcome and gratefully received


Irene xxx

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Tall Year Square and foundlings

I thought at first I might be a changeling, you know, the offspring of faeries or elves exchanged for a human child, but actually I now suspect that I am in fact, a foundling.

I believe that many years ago I was born a Princess, a girl child of royal blood, I mean really, Royal Blood.

All I can think is that I was conceived during a loving, nay, passionate, but forbidden liaison berween a Prince of the aforementioned Royal Blood and a poor servant girl. The Family refused to acknowledge me or my beautiful fragile mother who immediately died of a broken heart. I was given to a childless couple far away from the Palace in the coldest most Northern part of the country and brought up as their own child.

This couple were kind and generous and loved the little one as their own and the infant gave them so much joy that eventually, eleven years later, they had a baby of their own to be a sister to the Royal child.

And so on.

Sorry.....I got a bit bored with all that.

But how, you query, do you know this?

Well, because, obviously, I was born to stitch with silken threads on fine linen.

Some years ago, I attended a workshop with the wonderful Betsy Morgan when she visited The Sampler Guild here in the UK. I chose two kits to stitch, the Tall Year Square and The Elizabethan Casket. I loved the pre-stitching and was inspired by the work we did in class so I came home and put it all away in a cupboard for several years!

But recently I found it again, blew off the dust and set to work.

I can't tell you how luscious it all is. 

The threads are Gloriana silk, soft and glowing and beautiful, the linen - perfect pastel pieces. The perles are DMC, chosen to match the linen so beautifully and the slub silk linings - Absolutely Glorious.

And I finished it. 

I know, the whole thing, stitched together, on my own. And it worked. It actually is exactly the same as the one Betsy made. I am taking a lot of credit for this of course, but perhaps some credit should go to Betsy's gentle informed teaching, her detailed charts and impeccable finishing instructions.

So just pictures from now on with my usual inane comments that accompany them.

The completed box. As if that wasn't obvious.

The box opened, with some of my little treasures - bone laying tools and thread winders. The stitched square on the scissor fob moves up and down the cord. I know!

The cube in the middle was the pre-stitching project which we joined together in class.

This might be Spring, but it might not because it was dark when I took the photos, but I think there is a little frog just visible amongst the lilies.

Or is this Spring with the bunny rabbits? I think these two photos might be interchangeable.

Autumn - easy!

Winter, also easy. Those cardinals are such a giveaway. I changed the back of the fob to echo the design of the bottom of the etui which I have forgotten to photograph. 

I wanted to show you the lid, mostly to demonstrate how Betsy covered every little detail. Under the button which holds down the lid are four Algerian Eyes stitched in the perle colour of the cords which run through them. You don't see them unless you really look but when you do find them it brings a little smile to your face.

We made those barrel button tassels too.

So there we go. How nice is that?

I just wanted to add one more photo before I finish.

My young dog, Cassie, cut her her foot on the beach and needed to have it stitched.

And here is the picture of that.......

No, not really!  

Next to the Vet's Surgery is a garden which has been allowed to run wild, it is very overgrown and quite a bit of litter has accumulated there, but just against the fence, barely visible in all the rubbish, grows a rose bush and this is a picture of the rose I stole, took, borrowed - rescued.

It is one of those really old-fashioned roses, velvet red with a rich heady perfume. 

I saw it - I wonder how many people walked by without seeing it?

Of course, they won't see it now because I pinched it!!

Enjoy the sunshine if you have it,

Love Irene xxx

I've just published this and checked it and the pictures are pathetic. Even if you click on them, they are pathetic. Look - just pop round and I'll show you it!

And....I've just seen the date - 5th July. That's when I wrote this and have only just taken the pics to go with it. I am sorry.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sea, surf and sun

And drizzly rain!

It is an overcast morning here in the UK so I took my newly finished ornaments outside to photograph them. I set everything up and was only then aware that there was just enough drizzle in the air to curl my newly straightened hair.

The things we do for our art is unbelievable.

I just re-read that. 'Set everything up'. Sounds a bit studio and arty, but I just took a board outside and plonked everything on it. It took me - well - a minute? 

So this is what I have to offer after my long absence from my blog.

Lots of new seasidey themed ornaments for my Summer tree display. They are a bit different from my usual projects. These are stitched with bright primary colours on a white 28 count linen over one thread. I hardly ever do that. Use white linen and primary colours I mean, not stitching over one.

I needed something bright and cheery to get me back into my stitching mood which was lost for a little while.

Shall we look a little closer?

I call these two 'Swim' and 'Sun'.

After much soul searching, I called these two 'Sail' and 'Shell'. I actually think 'Shell' is my favourite as it leans a bit more towards my usual style. The shell is stitched in a Kaalund silk thread. I have a few of these threads which are beautiful soft muted variegated colours.

The seabirds are not by the same designer, but 'Blue Beach Hut' and 'Sailing Ship 5' are. 

I know what you're thinking  - "How does she come up with these titles?' 

It's not that easy, believe me.

Last two.

'Sea' and 'Yellow Beach Hut with Life Belt'. 

They're very summery aren't they? I will display them with some big shells I have and maybe hang a few small shells on the branches too.

One last piece to show you.

I went to a meeting of our local Embroiderer's Guild and the speaker there, Lynne Hardy, was demonstrating traditional Assisi work. So bearing in mind my Seaside theme, I completed these Seahorses. How far-thinking was that? Sadly I was not far-thinking enough to make them into an ornament when I did the others and only remembered them after I had put fabric, stiffening, cord, and the iron away!

I will complete it soon though.

Well, that's it folks, sorry I am so very tardy with my postings.

By the way, did you know that if you press the exclamation / comma key on your iPad keyboard for a little longer than normal you get an apostrophe? Cool eh?

Thank you for staying with me and I hope you enjoyed my peek into those lazy hazy days to come.


Love Irene xxx

PS. The book these designs came from is 'Sand, Sea and Cross stitch' by Anna Field. Forgot to mention that!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Do you see what I see?

BYou concentrate, you focus, you stitch. 

You press, you hem, you join, you bead.

And ONLY when it is completely finished and hanging on its appointed twiggy branch, do you see it.

Then you fret, you worry, you blame. You disbelieve.

How could I have done all that and NOT NOTICE?


Do you see what I see?

Look at the little purple flower-thing.        It's all wrong!            Oh my!

I am considering taking it apart to re-stitch the flower, because when I look at this little Spring piece, ALL I SEE IS A MISTAKE. 

Hey ho.

I decided to make a few smalls to hang on my newly-purchased afore-mentioned twiggy tree.

Sadly I don't know who designed them, they were odd charts I found in my growing pile of odd charts.

I impulsively stitched the next one on black 28 count linen. Not a usual choice for Spring but I love the jewel like result. It is edged in purple cord which also made the hanger. All of these ornaments are very small, stitched over one with one strand.

Heartsease? Violas? Pretty though, eh?

Final one for today, although I have four (4!) more stitched and ready to make up.

I know!! 

How good am I?

How dusty is my house?

So this a little blue bird. Like you couldn't see that! I think it may be a freebie but again I don't know by whom.

And to finish..........


Puppy sleeping.

Oh alright, I know she has food stuck to the bottom of ears, but you try washing the face of a hyperactive six-month old Irish Setter.

It's just not going to happen!

I have taken this moment ( for that's all it will be ) whilst both Bronte and Cassie rest and recuperate after their walk this morning, to catch up with my blog. 

Hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Thank you for your comments - always, always appreciated.

Have a lovely Easter

Irene xxx

Edited - one problem solved, the Blue Bird design is from The Little Stitcher.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Serbian Proverb

I just loved stitching this adaptation of Plum Street Sampler's 'Serbian Proverb'.

I was pondering for a long time about possibly stitching a welcome baby sampler for the girl who helps by walking my two dogs a couple of times a week. I wanted something longer lasting than the usual storks and alphabets but couldn't find anything that seemed just right.

Then I remembered this lovely sampler and thought it was just perfect. I needed to adapt it to fit my needs but that was easy and I hope I didn't spoil the simple spirit of Paulette's design.

I showed the design to my friend and told her with some confidence that it was a 'Surburban Proverb' for my baby walker! 

I tell you, old age and senility are rushing towards me at an alarming speed.

Do you want another example??

My sister bought me two 'Tiny Container Bead Storage Trays' ( I am befuddled remember, so feel free to rearrange those words if need be).

They look like this anyway, you will have seen them around.

I must say, I have had a lovely time and whiled away many happy hours filling the little ( tiny) containers up with my beads. I am not quite finished which is why these are not arranged in colour columns. 


I wouldn't dream of leaving it in this higgledy-piggeldy fashion.


I was filling up some of the containers whilst my friend Anne looked on. I carefully clipped down the lid and then placed them in their column, making sure to put it the opposite way to how I had taken it out. I wanted the lid on top and the clear plastic underneath.

I carried on for some time, with Anne watching. Eventually I remarked " I don't understand why they have put the containers in this way. They need to be the other way up. It doesn't make any sense"

Anne looked at me, and then without saying a word, leaned over and carefully turned the whole tray round.

I looked at her and we laughed so hard. It was ages before we could compose ourselves.

Before she left she helpfully gave my son the names of a couple of Homes for the Bewildered that he might want to check out.

"Soon" she said "You need to do it soon"

Well that's it for today. 

We had Spring here in England this morning with blue skies, sunshine and snowdrops and Winter this afternoon with real snow drops. Brrrrrr.

Lots of love
Irene xxx

Monday, 16 February 2015

Strawberry Sampler Book

I love this.

It was difficult to stitch because, and apologies to Jane Greenhow, the instructions and charts were terrible. The reproduction of the charts was really poor too and at times it was impossible, even on this original chart, to distinguish one symbol from another.

It was a kit, by the way.

So - moaning  over - this is The Strawberry Sampler Book. 

It is stitched on double pages which are hemmed and then the double pages are stitched together to hide the 'workings'.

It really is a sampler book, with various embroidery techniques, making it interesting and challenging to stitch. It has pattern darning, hardanger, pulled stitches, blackwork and has ribbons and beads as embellishments. I bought separately the tiny scrimshaw strawberry to use as a bookmark.

I think the pages speak for themselves.

So here there are, chattering away.

So, stating the obvious, the book closed, tied with a ribbon bow.

The index page. 
Bullion stitches!! 
Two colours of linen were used in the book, as you can see here. 

The first 'easy pages', cross stitch.


I know, you can't hear what the pages are saying for the noise I'm making!

More darning.
And hardanger.
With red silk behind so that the finely wrought stitches show.
Oh, alright, not finely wrought, but they're not bad. They've got those birds eye fillings and everything.

More hardanger.
Pulled stitches. These were new to me and enjoyable.
Beaded strawberry flower.

More of the afore-mentioned things and some Smyrna stitches.

Are these pulled stitches too?
I think they might be. With beads and ribbons - to embellish!
And to finish - blackwork.

The front and back of the book.

So that's it.

It's nice isn't it?

My friend Anne stitched this at the same time, and to be honest, she was the pioneer. She worked it all out, page by page, in spite of the appalling instructions, and I just copied. If she hadn't, it would be languishing in the UFO drawer.

But hey, now it sits on my dresser and I take the praise.

Thanks for ploughing through, (plowing through?). If you can think of something to say, please do and I'll make sure these darn pages shut up long enough for me to hear it.

Lots of love,
Irene xxx

OK. So I've published the blog and the photos are not showing the full two pages which is, to put it mildly, a bother. I've had a fiddle and now the last picture is tiny and you still can't see the two pages. My life is fraught. 
EDIT.   My super friend Anne has pointed out two things in her comment. On the picture which says 'Strawberry Fields' they are drawn thread, not pulled stitches. You cut the thread and weave it back through at the side to hide it. We did panic!
Also, if you CLICK on the pictures you can see the whole thing. 
Thank you. Xxx

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Stressing about distressing?

A lot of people stress about how to make their carefully worked project look old - look distressed - as if it had been around for at least a hundred years.

Is that you?


Well, allow me to help you out.


These first couple of pictures show how easily linen can be made to have that old, found in the bottom of a dresser look.

This is a 32 count Tin Roof linen, note the tiny holes and pulled threads? These are all at one edge of the linen, suggestive of many years of storage and perhaps moth nibbling? It happens!

Not so noticeable here, so if you need a more subtle look, this might be for you.


Many stitchers choose to age their threads after stitching, but may I suggest this?

Now here, as you can see, the threads have been pre-aged. This is a very quick process which, if not monitored, can quickly make your threads unusable, but rescued at just the right time results in a stiff darker hued thread, often separated into its component strands, supremely convenient for stitching, especially as the single strands are of different lengths, allowing you to choose the right length for the project in hand. The freeing of the threads from their labels enables a more random, casual colour scheme.

Now, here is something I think you may not have considered in your quest for authentic ageing.

This embroidery hoop has, as you can just make out, a rough uneven surface. This can, without any effort on your part, catch on your linen, allowing threads to break, and to snag and drag, resulting in tiny holes similar to, but different from, those illustrated earlier. You may also find, for that final touch of authenticity, that it can result in minute specks of blood being scattered on your project, which quickly darken to brown stains which are almost impossible to remove. A wonderful, antique, much sought-after look.

All I need to do now is to reveal how you can achieve this look, add more prims to your dough bowls, suspend more ornaments from your feather trees.

There are many makes available on the market, some of which you may be familiar with, but throughout the many years I have been stitching, I have found the most effective to be this,

The Irish Setter puppy.

This little creature will, without even being asked, turn it's attention to almost any craft.

Here, a rare picture of her at work as she stretches a piece of crochet to a more convenient size.

And here she unwinds a ball of wool, ready for use.

So there you have it. 

If you prefer your work vintage, buy a puppy.

Better still, buy this one.

Final thought, you can have her. 


Irene xxx

Monday, 12 January 2015

Poppies and musings.

So, I didn't want this new-found enthusiasm for posting to fade and decided to do a shortish posting showing a very pretty poppy ornament.

I always start off with the intention of a short posting but then my fingers run away with me and I don't know where to stop, but this time ......

I'm not sure how I found this designer - I think maybe seeing some of her biscornu on Pinterest but she is so clever.

Her name is Faby Reilly and she is French, although her web site is also available in perfect English.

It's odd - I said in a previous posting how much I loved Stacy Nash designs, and I do, but these are entirely different and I love them too.

I wonder what it is that defines our taste? Why some things appeal and others don't, why things at almost the opposite ends of the spectrum can have the same attraction? 

These philosophical debates are for another time, methinks. ( remember 'short' posting?) but it's interesting isn't it?

I read somewhere once that we could be attracted to our romantic partners looks because someone of similar colouring, eyes, face shape once peered into our pram when we were babies. Scary thought eh? 

Faby Reilly designs beautiful biscornu, where the stitching creeps across the join lines, but also other projects too, like needle cases, humbugs, purses, hanging ornaments, all following a theme - poppies, wild roses, a Christmas collection. Lovely. I bought tons. Of which I have actually stitched? 


But a nice one.

These photos seem a bit dark, but I hope you get the idea. I finished the ornament with a black bead edging and hanger and added little tassels with red bead accents. There are also little beads used in the design. Those red circles are not buttons. Oh no sirree. They are woven-spider-web-stitchy-things. I am not just an expert on the sewing machine and an expert technician, I am an accomplished embroiderer too. Why the Royal School of Needlework haven't picked me up is a mystery.
See how the poppy buds come around onto the back? 

So there you have it.  Hopefully a new designer to you. Go have a look at her site. I could add a link here but I don't want to blind you with science.

We are experiencing gale force winds in the UK. The shipping forecast for ships at sea around the UK predicted severe Gale Force 10 winds overnight. Let's hope everyone stays safe. And that the enormous DEAD pear tree in the garden next door does not squash my house. 

What would I grab first? Presuming all living things were safe. Tell you next time!

Thank you again for your comments, and just for reading this, even if you don't comment. It is always appreciated.

Have a lovely, safe day,

Love Irene xxx

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Garden Maiden Sewing Roll.

Well, look at this, I'm back again.

Obviously this can't go on, two postings in one week, but when the muse strikes......

This project was an exclusive kit from Nashville Market last year, designed by Lori Markovic from La-D-Da. It contained everything needed to complete the sewing roll.

The threads are a mixture of GAST and WDW and the linen a lovely 30 count from Weeks called Confederate Gray ( or if you're English 'grey')

I must admit that I have quite a decent stash of threads and linen now, thanks in particular to my blogging best friend Carmen Sutton of Cardman Antiques who has sent me lots of lovely things, especially linens. But even so, there is a pleasing comfort in having a kit with everything there. You can settle down to stitch with such a shiver of anticipation. Carmen was responsible for getting hold of this kit for me too. Thank you so much.

Also, here in the UK unless you are very lucky, you never get a chance to handle ( well, fondle really) linen and to see some of the different shades. This Confederate Gray was lovely to use, as was the  Dolphin used for the Emilia Poole piece. I don't think I would ever have chosen the Dolphin to order online - too risky - but it was beautiful.

This is the roll rolled. It looks quite wobbly here, but it isn't. ( Say this with certainty and it will be believed)

This is the roll unrolled. Really nice isn't it? 

The inside of the roll. Just in case you couldn't work that out.

Now - I put off stitching this because it really needed some machine stitching. Quite precise machine stitching really. And I am soooo bad with a sewing machine.

But ..... look!

I did it. And it looks fine. I even managed to stitch the ribbon in without being able to see it. 

I could probably make a wedding dress now, if anyone needs an expert seamstress?

I will finish with a picture of the two dogs. I think this one just captures the look of resigned despair on Bronte's face. Cassie is sitting on her back and before and after this photo was chewing on her ears.

Don't worry, I don't let this nibbling go on for too long. I take my turn too!!! My ears are equally chewed.

Thank you so much for your comments on my last post. It is so gratifying to know you are there, my loyal blogging friends.

Irene xxx
PS. Just checked the blog online and only part of the pics are showing. Need to work on that!! Try to imagine the missing parts! 
PPS. Had a fiddle and the pictures are better. I could probably work for Microsoft now if anyone needs a expert technician? 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A return. Emilia Poole and puppy news.

I know. 

Just ages. 

People always say 'Life got in the way' and it does. But not Life with a capital 'L' - no - just life. An ordinary, mundane, shopping, cleaning, eating, sleeping, stitching sort of life. 

But a good life for all that.

So I decided, again, to reinstate my blog on January 1st - a new year, a new beginning. Check out the date today. January 3rd. Failed again!

I have quite a bit of stitching to share, but I will do it gradually over several postings, if you can bear to stay with me for a little while.

If you have kept me on your list of blogs. Thank you. I hardly deserve it, but thank you.

So, today, Day 1, I will show you Emilia Poole by Stacy Nash. I love her designs more and more, she just seems to hit the spot with me.

This is the front of the oval box. Nothing like stating the obvious! 

The front of the needle case book. 

Now - this should be the back cover, but I was so absorbed with getting the woollen binding stitched properly, that it became the inside instead. Well, I won't tell anybody if you don't. The initials are those of Anne and Carmen as we did this as a stitch-a-long.

I added a little strawberry scissor fob using the lining fabric which is not very clear here, and the woollen pin cushion.

This was my first attempt at lining and completing a box finish and I really love it. The scissors are an old pair I picked up at an antique market for a few pennies. 

I have just one more thing to share before this shorter than usual post. 

This is Cassie. She is just 12 weeks old and is another Irish Setter puppy. We lost our gentle Meg a short time ago and she left such a big hole in our lives. Cassie is soooooo sweet and sooooo naughty. 
She is fast becoming friends with Bronte who is now 3 years old.

 They play together a lot and Bronte has the patience of Job with this needle-toothed baby! 

I was contently sorting beads - as you do - at the dining room table and could hear the two dogs 'playing' in the drawing room. I was engrossed sorting the very pale pink from the pale pink and chose to ignore the rumpus happening in the next room. My son eventually asked me to go have a look and I discovered they had brought down 2 rolls of toilet paper and were having a grand game. The room was fast disappearing under this soft comfort tissue!!!  

Well, no doubt there will be more to tell and to show next time. 

If you chose to read this, thank you, if you choose to comment, it would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Happy New Year!

Love Irene xxx