False starts and moonbeams…

What do you do when something just won’t come together the way you think it should?

I’ve just had a stitching false start. The piece I thought I knew what I was doing with, didn’t agree. We couldn’t come to terms, it was deeply frustrating.

And although I like the old Robert the Bruce adage of ‘if at first you don’t succeed…’, I do not have the same mettle as fugitive medieval kings or patient cave dwelling spiders.

No, I failed, and so I did what was the most satisfying thing I could think of at the time – I ripped it out of the frame.

Instead, I am now working on a new piece inspired by a gorgeous silk yarn from Eleanor at Solstice Yarns – Moonbeams on a Mystic Sea.


I am in love with this silk and I’m back in the flow – phew!


IMAG3286The word of the week here is WAITING….

Perhaps that should be anticipating.

I’m waiting for some new crewel threads to arrive for the current project – I’d sorted out the yarns I was going to use for the rest of it, but the tapestry wools were just proving too thick for the scrim – not fun to deal with, so I’ve ordered a selection of solid colours to complement the delicious 4-plys I’m already using.

My excitement at embroidery actually making it to the TV last week, has set me off feeling experimental – so I’m also waiting for a delivery of different canvas materials – I want to see what I can do with some alternative base fabrics – well it’s good to flex those creative muscles from time to time. I know I’m never going to be a proper embroiderer, but give me a piece of loose-weave canvas and well – who knows…

I’m also waiting for some extra long and strong bulldog clips to arrive – these will – I hope – make it easier to clip the thicker parts of the worked canvas to the frame (this is what passes as technical stuff around here) – suffice to say, the air can get quite blue around me when the plastic clips ping off the frame, leaving the canvas floppy and recalcitrant – I’m pinning great hopes on these new clips.

And a BTW – I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my new field guide to mushrooms (readers at Mostly Motley will remember) – found the recommended title online second-hand and a bargain to boot – thank you Catherine.

In the meantime, happy stitching.







The story so far…

It’s very nearly the end of the month, so I thought I’d show you a quick update on the current piece I’m stitching. I haven’t given it a proper name yet, although the astute amongst you might be able to see a tree hidden in the pattern, and I suppose tree might feature in the name eventually, but I’ll wait to see if it shows itself more clearly as I stitch, or whether it decides to remain obscure.

So don’t get too excited, this is slow art remember…

IMAG3165Nearly two months in and perhaps a quarter done.

I know you’ll be questioning the sanity of anyone who opts to use tent stitch only on a piece that’s the best part of 2′ square, but what can I say – it feels right to me, or should I say it makes me feel right, because there is undoubtedly a soothing sensation that comes with the act of stitching something relatively fine. And after the textures of the last piece, the urge to create something smooth was undeniable.

Many of us find a peace from the process of stitch – in its many forms – and this is especially true for me in this piece. There is nothing extraordinary about filling little areas of scrim with yarn, and yet, inch by inch, as I sew, the focus of my mind changes and I know I’m calming down, feeling tranquil. It’s that transformation that I love – the fact that at the end I can see a little more filled in canvas, is just an added bonus.

I continue to be delighted with the way both Natalie and Victoria’s knitting wools are performing, they stitch brilliantly, but best of all, as the tiny sections of colour grow and you stroke your finger over it, it feels soft and warm – it’s sensual.

I’ve started to incorporate a few sections in silk. It’s much more of the prima donna to work with – there are creative tantrums, but I want the occasional shininess to slip into the piece and silk does it like nothing else, so in it goes – in moderation.


So there you are – at this rate probably not going to be ready by Christmas, but that’s ok.

Happy stitching!





Splodge and overlapping…

And breathe…

splodge needlepoint


It’s finished. Five months of stitching, but to be fair I wasn’t really giving it as much attention as some pieces I’ve made – we’ve been having a lot of mundane ‘life’ for the last few months and somehow although the stitching is always relaxing when I actually get to sit and do it, sometimes I don’t get beyond the ‘thinking about doing it’ stage.

This is one of the first pieces I’ve worked with large sections of like-coloured wools. I’m not sure I really enjoyed that, perhaps the on-going decisions about which shades to use is part of the fun for me.

Now that it’s stitched, I think it has more Moorcroft than oil-spill about it, but Splodge has stuck, so that’s what it will remain.

As I was getting closer to the middle of Splodge (I worked from the outside to the middle), the usual thing happened – I started thinking about the next project I want to make. This has become the norm for me now, I think it’s my brain’s way of preparing for the loss of a project – a bit like buying a new puppy when your faithful old dog is starting to ail.

There is one particular piece I’m trying to work out based on the stone and glass textures in a section of a church wall, but so far I can’t seem to get it down in a way that works – yet.

But perhaps as a reaction to the palette I used in Splodge, I’ve found myself going back to the stained-glass approach for a bit of relief. So the project that has overlapped with the end of Splodge is going to look something like this…


I intend to keep this all in simple tent stitch. The first few stitches went in at the weekend, including some of the sock wool I bought from Natalie Fergie, which I have to say stitched like a dream. I’m seriously thinking about adding more shades from her collection, it has a fabulous texture as well as working easily.

So there you are, on to the next one.

Happy stitching.



P.S. The girls are on holiday, so I probably won’t be here much until September. We’re not planning any major expeditions, but I have to fight them off to get near my computer. I’ll try to keep up with all your blogs, but please forgive lack of attentive comments for a while.


Chilling out in the Peak District…

For nearly ten years, we’ve spent what I still think of as the Whitsun half-term holiday in the Peak District. And so for the last few days, this has been the view from our tent each morning….


Okay, to be fair the first couple of days were wet and we couldn’t actually see the field opposite, but then when the sun came out, it was marvellous.

I’ve long since stopped taking any sewing on these holidays. If I can keep my fingers warm enough to hold a knife or fill the kettle, I  consider I’m doing well, any thought of wielding a needle would be sheer fantasy.

But when the rain sets in, there’s always a trip to Bakewell and Wye Needlecraft. Of course I really did need some more threads – I did, honest…

IMAG1578Not too over-the-top, just enough to keep me happy.

And now as soon as I reach base-camp on the post-holiday laundry mountain, I’ll be able to get sewing again.

Happy stitching.


Meditation piece completed.

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Well the piece of tapestry that I’ve been working on as my meditation piece is now finished.

I’ve really enjoyed the process with this piece. I think that knowing right from the start that the nature of the canvas would produce quirky and uneven stitches has helped me by removing any imperative to keep it going anywhere in particular.

All along, the feel of the canvas (a piece of upholstery canvas), has been one of my favourite things. Although I am now ready to go back to regular weave, and even probably willing to go back to a frame, the freedom to sew as the piece draped over me was very liberating.

During the working of this piece, I have experimented with Appleton threads and with a few from Renaissance Dying. The addition of these subtle colours to my yarn palette has sent my mind off into new realms. Now that I realise that it is possible to find the type of shades that I particularly want to use, I feel much happier to work on some ideas that would have been too restrictive with the yarns available to me locally.

I do wish it was possible to see the range of Appleton’s wools somewhere near to home – the nearest stockist, although helpful, only has some of the colours and keeps all of them in the stockroom, so you have to tell them the shades you want and then hope they have them.

I’ve been buying the missing shades that I wanted online, which is fine, but I really appreciate being able to see them in the flesh. I know I could buy shade cards, but even then, it’s not always easy to see how one colour might respond to another. I’ve started to dream up a little shop of my own. Who knows, maybe one day.

I’ve experimented a little here with variations and combinations of colours. Some I like and will want to do more with, others aren’t so appealing.

I’ve no idea now what to do with this piece itself. I expect for the time-being at least it will go, rolled up, into the bag I normally put everything into when it’s finished.

Retail Therapy Morning

This morning it has rained! That’s put my in a good mood because we’d begun to imagine that we were living in a drought region, but I digress, no, this morning despite already being in quite a good mood, I decided to treat myself to some retail therapy.

I wanted to find a local shop selling interesting embroidery/tapestry wools. I don’t know about where you live, but around here, there is very little choice. There is in fact a lovely little shop in town, who carry a reasonable selection of the basic Anchor and DMC yarns, but ever since the VAT went up to 20%, they seem to have lost the plot a bit on their pricing. I know it’s probably easier for them to punch through £1 per skein, but when I can go to Hobbycraft and pay 89p, I’m afraid with the quantity of wool that I buy, I’m going to look for the cheaper option.

This is a shame, because I do like to support local businesses, but I’m not really impressed by their current pricing policy.

Of course I could buy online, and indeed, as you’d expect, this is considerably cheaper, even after postage is included. But often I’m quite intuitive about the colours and especially the textures that I want to sew with, and it just doesn’t make that easy when all you can see is a tiny patch on the screen. I like to be able to feel the colour with all my senses (I know that doesn’t make sense, but I’m right).

What I’d really like to find its someone selling individually dyed batches. I love the yarns that Stef Francis produces, but unless I’m being dense (quite possible I know), I don’t think they do wools – if you know otherwise, please let me know, as I love her silks and cottons. So is there anyone producing similarly exciting effects and shades in wools?

Well I haven’t exactly found anyone around here – yet, but I will keep looking. Nevertheless, this morning I discovered ‘Threads & Patches’ in Fenny Stratford, near Milton Keynes. Although I’ve lived nearby for years, this was the first time I’d been there. It’s a quilter’s paradise. The most amazing fabrics and lots of friendly people buzzing about. They have workshops there regularly so it had quite a community feel. The telephone barely stopped ringing the whole time I was there, so I’d say they were doing pretty well on the customer service front.

Photo by The Balancing Kiwi

One lovely touch, they have a ‘do-it-yourself’ tea room – what a fantastic idea!

I couldn’t find the Appleton’s threads I’d been hoping to look at, but Heather quickly obliged me, despite it obviously being quite a tricky request – why can’t Appleton’s supply display/merchandising units? Come on chaps, get your act together. Anyway, Heather was wonderful and I’ve come away the happy owner of some new colours to add to the piece I’m working on from the car boot sale.

I had a quick chat with a couple of ladies in the car park – (yes, they even have their own quite large car park) – who were clearly regulars at the shop. One lady told me that she came regularly from Luton. I told her it was my first visit and she said she thought I’d be coming back quite often now, and do you know – I think she’s right!

If I’ve managed to do it correctly, you should be able to click on the picture and go to The Balancing Kiwi’s brilliant post about the shop. If not, well try clicking here instead