Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bobbin Lace

As well as embroidery, knitting and now spinning for the last couple of years I've been learning to make Bobbin Lace - in particular Torchon.

Every Thursday evening I drive from my home on the edge of the middle of nowhere along some tight windy country roads and arrive in the depths of the middle of nowhere. There I sit for the evening before an Aga in the front parlour of a very old house having my lesson.

I was nine years old when I first thought I might like to make bobbin lace but it was over 20 years later before I started.

There are many crafts/hobbies that look difficult - like knitting - but actually are quite easy - learn to knit and purl and everything else is a mix up of those two stitches. I have never heard anybody say making lace is easy.

This is part of one of my two current wips - I started in on October 5th 2006 and I think there's about another 6 weeks work in there. It's an oval and the pattern is repeated 4 times. I admit this isn't one of those things like knitting that you can just pick up and do 5 or 10 mins whenever you feel like it. To sit down at my lace I must not be tired, drunk or angry. Although I can chat I can't watch TV, listen to the radio, music or podcasts. I must be at the dining room table and cannot just get up and walk away - leaving it needs to be more planned. For example if you walked away in the middle of a half stitch trail there is no telling what mess you would find on your return. And as for not fastening in a spider - forget it.

This means that other than my weekly lesson I get very little time to sit and make lace. This is the one thing I do that completely proves I am a process person.

I love making lace............

The pillows are gorgeous - I currently have two but am in the market for a third.

The bobbins are beautiful - my favourites were made by a talented man who is no longer with us and whenever my fingers recognise one of his my heart sings with memories.

The spangles are .......................well they are sparkly - need I say more?

This isn't an expensive hobby - there are very few shops even online ones are rare. I have two opportunities a year to shop for lace making stash - one in October and one in March when the Lace Fair comes to town. However, once set up there isn't really much to buy - in the last 12 months I have spend about £15 (excluding lessons) on stash. If you add a nought then you are closer to what I've probably spent on knitting and stitching in the same time.

I love the fact that lace making was once such an important part of peoples lives in the UK and by learning the skills I'm in some way keeping those memories alive. Although this is true for knitting there are so few people making bobbin lace that I fear it's a skill that may very well die out.

These are all the reasons I love to make lace - why does this make me a process person...........................'s because I don't really have any use for the finished product.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alpine - Part 2

Since coming out of the cupboard Alpine has been getting a lot of attention - so much so that part 2 is now finished.

Well.............that's not quite true....................I haven't finished the over one. I was getting so frustrated with it and not really liking how it was looking that I'm going to go back to that bit. I think if I do a bit at a time whilst I'm doing the rest I wont notice it so much!!!!!

I started part 3 last night. Its all backstitched alpine flowers and goes all the way around what's done so far. It looks ever so complicated. I'm taking it one section at a time. I know the placement of the centre is correct so I'm checking with each bit that it's lined up right. I think if I do one section a day during the week and two or three on Saturday and Sunday I should get to part 4 quite quickly.

Last night my DH told me how much he's going to enjoy looking at it once it's finished as not only is it very pretty but he'll appreciate all the work that's gone into it. pressure then!!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How perfect

I love living in the middle of nowhere - it's beautiful, quiet and keeps me in touch with nature. The main disadvantage is that I have to get in the car whenever I go anywhere. The shortest journey would be to the patchwork shop at 15 minutes, the needlework shops are 20 minutes in one direction and 30 minutes in the other (you can tell where my priorities are forget supermarkets, school and work). There is one and only one exception - Embroiders Guild meetings.

A year or so ago the local branch moved from one end of the Dale (20 minutes away) to the other. They meet in the church hall which is a 5 minute stroll down the hill. I started going when they first moved and then haven't been able to make a meeting for almost a year - until yesterday.

As I strolled along the lane the sun was shining, the view was spectacular. It was a crisp and brisk October day. I had my needlework over my shoulder and knew I was going to spend the day with like-minded people.

Although it's been a long time I was welcomed kindly and spent a lovely morning stitching and chatting. I wasn't sure what to take to work on. Alpine is just too big and I would have had to drive. In the end Pretty in Pink was chosen.

This has been a WIP for ages. Originally started as a SAL on Aion but I haven't worked on it with any regularity. As I'm doing the Kloster blocks it's perfect for a stitch & chat. I find it quite hard to read pattern sometimes but thanks to Colly (the best Hardanger designer in the world) who colour coded the chart for me it's been much easier. This isn't going to be a finished piece for a long time but it is a really relaxing stitch.

During the afternoon we had a speaker "Liberating the Liberty Bodice". The part of the talk I found most interesting was how from a scrap of an idea a whole project germinated. She talked about what inspired her to move from one aspect of the project to another - fascinating.

At the end of the afternoon I struggled back up the hill home - the sun was shining, the trees were beautiful - a perfect day.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gardening with stitches

I have always wanted to be a gardener. I love the thought of spending a day in the garden, digging, weeding, planting, caring for the plants and at the end of the day sitting back with a glass of wine made with the fruits of my labours and enjoying natures beauty.

My reality is very different. I think I’ve tried to garden twice. I’ve gone out with the trowel and dug, weeded and planted and the bit I was ‘practising’ on looked lovely when I finished. Yet nature did her best and within a few days my piece of garden was doing what it wanted again and it looked beautiful. I just can’t bring my self to tame nature, to cultivate and make it do what I want………………so I don’t garden.

I love visiting beautiful gardens, reading gardening books and watching the TV programmes I just don’t do it.

Yes I know this blog isn’t a gardening blog - it’s a stitching blog……………………….I’m very excited…………………yesterday I got this from the library.

I’ve been considering buying it since it came out last year but unusually for me I resisted. So many embroidery books that I have bought in haste I have been disappointed in. However, be assured that this has just gone on my wish list and will soon be living in my house forever.

I’ve been trying to work out why I think this book is so wonderful:
  • It’s very well written from both the practical and historical point of view.
  • The pictures are stunning.
  • It’s humble – and by that I mean that I don’t feel the writers are claiming to be an expert in anything (despite the fact that they are). It feels as if they genuinely want to share their experience.
  • It’s inspirational – I want to go out and visit gardens with my sketchbook, camera and a flask of hot coffee.

I have a favourite garden – Chalice Well in Glastonbury, Somerset (UK). It’s a sacred site that has drawn pilgrims for centuries. It has a well, a water feature, a swing seat, beautiful plants, quiet spots, yew trees……………………………………….

This is my inspiration – my sketchbook is open my brain is buzzing and my fingers twitching……………………………….

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Traditional Embroidery by Penelope

I am very fond of charity shops, when money is tight I can often find just what I need/want.

The other day I popped into my local Oxfam and my eye was immediately drawn to this……………..

It was on special display on top of some shelves. Intrigued I picked it up and quickly glanced through it. I had to buy it – it cost less than £10.00.

There is no date in it. New it cost 3/- and was published by WM Briggs & Co in Manchester, UK. The introduction is written by Lady Smith-Dorien, Principle of the Royal School of Needlework, Kensington, SW7. She starts by saying…

“It has always been an ambition of the Royal School of Needlework to put correct period designs within easy reach of the many needlewomen in Great Britain and The Empire…..”

I don’t think I have ever read the words Great Britain and The Empire in context in my whole life.

The designs featured are lovely and the instructions, such as there are, assume good knowledge of needlework techniques for example for this piece….

… part of the instructions read

“All the stems and leaves in the design are in shade (297) but peacock blue shade (82f) is continued into the serrated leaves in the form of veins. These veins you will notice, take two rows of stitchery in most cases."

There are at least three pieces that I would really like to try and stitch. I’ll need to look up the recommended threads and fabrics to see if they are still available and if not substitute them. I think this may be a really challenging and satisfying research and stitching project.

I have no idea how it ended up in Oxfam but I am very pleased it did.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stitching Bloggers Question of the Week

"What for you means to achieve mastery as a stitcher?"

I was 9 years old when I first picked up a needle to embroider – that’s 29 years ago and a needle in my fingers feels as much a part of me as my own heartbeat.

As I considered this week’s question I thought about being a stitcher and these are some of the things that I thought of. This is the list I came up with:

  • I understand about using different types of needles.
  • I know about cotton threads, silk threads, metallics, over dyed and know of different ways to handle them to ensure good results.
  • I love speciality stitches and marvel at how a piece can come alive with a carefully place Rhodes stitch or row of mosaic stitches.
  • I know that I like to stitch on 28 count – but never linen I HATE stitching on linen.
  • I have a very expensive pair of scissors that only ever cut cotton or silk threads and NOTHING else.
  • I have a favourite designer (Martine Weber) and have spent an absolute fortune on materials for some of her designs.
  • I never stitch in hand and have a wonderful collection of frames to suit any project – and I have my absolute favourite frame.
  • I use a Lowery Workstand (and have both corner and side clamps) I saved up for almost a year to get it – and I wouldn’t be without it (I also have a sit on frame for workshops although I am saving up for the Lowery table top stand)
  • I have friends who are specifically stitching friends and we drive for 2 or 3 hours to meet up.
  • I am a member of the Embroiders Guild.
  • I go on workshops and occasional weekend courses.
  • I won a cup at our village show this year

Do I think I will every achieve mastery as a stitcher?

I hope not.

I am a process person and love the challenge of either approaching something new or doing the old better and finding new ways to approach the same difficulties.

Take stitching over one – or rather don’t. I love the effect but it can be so tedious, fiddly and slow. Try tent stitch to achieve the same delicate effect in a fraction of the time. It might not work – but then again it might.

I love my hobby and everything about it. Our relationship isn’t perfect sometimes we fall out, sometimes I sulk and wont stitch for weeks – but most of the time our relationship is one of mutual respect and love and I would hate to ruin it by assuming mastery over it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stitch Debt

There is a popular concept these days called Sleep debt. "Sleep debt is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. A large sleep debt, for example, would suggest that a person is mentally or physically fatigued due to insufficient sleep" Wikipedia.

As I was lying awake last night tossing and turning I realised that perhaps I'm suffering from Stitch Debt.

Earlier this year I lost my stitching mojo and for about 9 months the only stitching I did was on a RR. Thanks to Colly (my bestest stitching friend) my stitching mojo came back and has been slowly gaining momentum.

Yesterday I decided to dust off a large WIP. Alpine Garden was regulated to the craft cupboard at the start of the year - now it's in the frame on the stand and yesterday I spend 5 hours happily stitching (this is how it came out of the cupboard).

So why stitch debt?

I am completely obsessed by this piece - it was the last thing I thought of before I went to bed and it was the first thing I thought of this morning. When I slept it featured in my dreams. I am irritated because I have to go out this evening and wont be able to stitch on it. In fact I'm horrified to realised that it will be Saturday afternoon before I can next sit down and pick up the needle.

"A large sleep debt, for example, would suggest that a person is mentally or physically fatigued due to insufficient sleep."

Well I believe that my large stitch debt, caused by not doing any significant stitching for 9 months has resulted in my becoming obsessed with this piece.

However, unlike sleep debt which can cause health problems the only difficulties I can see with stitch debt is that the house will remain untidy, the cloths unwashed, the cupboards bare and tummies empty.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I've had a weekend of finishing niggling little chores:

Finished mending my bosses polo neck jumper - ended up reknitting the polo bit - been procrastinating for weeks/months still that's done now.

Finished audio typing something for a friend - it's taken ages and once again I was procrastinating.

Finished avoiding starting my needleroll for the exchange and stitched almost all of it - got to get some threads to finish a tiny bit - but done all I can for the moment.

Finished the second sock for my SIL - just needs blocking and then I'll post them when the postal strike is over.

Finished about 6 loads of laundry.

Finished eating the apple cake I made yesterday.

Finished making another apple cake for my friend.

Phew I'm exhausted but it sure does feel good.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Knitting Socks

I like to knit socks.

I knit my first sock a couple of years ago - it took a long time............I never knit the second sock but I learnt a lot.

The next pair I knit for my DS but by the time I'd finished the second sock they no longer fitted him I wear them now.

Then I was on a roll and managed to knit a pair in about six weeks for me - they are lovely and I wear them all the time (except when they're stinky and waiting to go in the wash!!!!)

Then another disaster I decided to knit a pair of jaywalker socks. Now although these weren't my first pair of socks I made some real errors on the heel flap and only knit half of the required number of rows before picking up the stitches. Then for some reason when I was doing the second sock I did the kitchener stitch the wrong way round

As if that wasn't enough my gauge was well off and they are so narrow it's ridiculous - I suppose I should just rip them out.........................

Not to be deterred my next pair of socks (well the second one isn't done yet) are in Alpaca Hummingbird - they will be perfect to keep my feet warm when I'm camping. I wanted them for this August but I got distracted (with the BSJ) but they will be perfect for the next camping trip.

On the needles at the moment is yet another pair of socks using my favourite pattern and yarn - both from Opal.

These are a gift for my SIL. I'm down with the lurgy at the moment so I'm off to finish them now.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Needlework Tin

A few years ago as I wandered through M&S I saw a beautiful tin.

It was a beautiful shade of blue/green, the lid had delicate japanese style blossoms at each end and the sides of the tin was covered with cream polka dots.

It wasn't large about 10 inches by 4 inches and 2 inches deep.

According to the label the tin held a luxury belgium biscuit assortment. I noticed how lovely it was and walked on by. I kept thinking about this tin for a couple of days and eventually went back and spent about £4 on a tin of biscuits. Although the biscuits were lovely I wasn't interested in them at all. The tin however, has remained by my side.

It is the perfect size for the notions that as needleworkers we collect and even use from time to time. When I am in my stitching nest it is to my right on a shelf just below the level of my chair so within perfect reach.

The lid is upturned and really useful for pens, pencils a highlighter and things currently being used. The main tin has in it most of my odds and ends that I might use during my stitching. Out of curiosity I have taken everything out and photographed them...............

OK so there's some odd looking things in there - do you know what they are all for?