Saturday, 11 October 2014

Owls and flowers for a baby girl

Remember the rather ambitious rose and daisy blocks crochet blanket I embarked on two years ago now? It got upscaled by four to an envisioned double-bed blanket and then ... well ... downscaled by four again back to a baby blanket this year. 

There'll be a new addition to the family in the form of my niece in a few short months' time and I'd just finished joining all the blocks when we heard my sister was going to have a girl. While I was crocheting the border, I realised it was perfect for a little girl.

Her room is already filling up with embroidered and crocheted owls and flowers and leaves and bunting in delicate shades of lilac and yellow and hopefully this blanket will not only add extra colour, but see her through quite a few years as it's a fairly decent size.

My mom's been hard at work on the cot bumper, which is filled with appliqued and embroidered owls, flowers and leaves:

And she crocheted this stuffed owl off the top of her head, no pattern! Just a line drawing that she used as a rough guide for the general shape of the body.

There's also an embroidered owl clock in the making (my mom), so plenty of "made with love" for this new little one. And maybe being surrounded by all this hand stitching will get her wanting to pick up a needle or crochet hook herself one day. One can always hope.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Standalone embroidery edition for Ideas magazine

This week saw the culmination of a big project I've been working on for the past few months - a standalone embroidery supplement for Ideas magazine, here in South Africa.

Ideas is a monthly publication packed with, well, ideas for everything from craft to food to life. And this year they decided to bring out four special standalone editions: Ideas Knitting, Ideas Crochet, Party Ideas for Kids and Ideas Embroidery.

The first three are already out and Ideas Embroidery, which is where I come in, comes out in early December. There'll be print and digital editions, so I'll keep you posted. And you can pre-order your copy by calling Lucille van der Berg on 021 408 3038 (0027 21 408 3038 from outside SA) or sending Lucille an email:

Ideas Embroidery will be jam-packed with fresh, modern embroidery and sewists will benefit too, as full sewing instructions are included for the various items that I've embroidered. Obviously though, I can't show any photos yet as that would ruin the surprise!

But my box of embroidered goods made it safely to the Ideas office in Cape Town this week and the talented, anything-is-possible ladies who run the show down there have now taken over.

Judging by the previous three standalones they've put together, this one should be good!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Five new Scandinavian style hand embroidery patterns

I love the clean, crisp look of Scandinavian design and wanted to try and emulate that with these new patterns. I also wanted to experiment with limited colour palettes - Scandi Birds uses just two shades of blue. To balance things out, I used a variety of different stitches, keeping the designs interesting to embroider.

There are five designs in the Scandi range - birds, flowers, fruit, hearts and a teapot with teacup - all with a distinctly Scandinavian feel and stitched in bold colours.

The patterns are available in my Etsy and Craftsy shops as instant digital downloads, and in my online shop for South African embroiderers as PDFs emailed within 48 hours. They include a complete requirements list, instructions for three different transfer methods and clear embroidery instructions. The design is given at actual size and in reverse for creating iron-on transfers.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Ecclesiastical embroidery at St Luke's

One of the advantages of this year’s Ighali Embroidery Festival being held at St Luke’s Retreat and Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth was that we got to see the ecclesiastical embroidery that had been put out on display for the festival. 

The chapel, being a quiet and beautiful place to spend time, was the perfect setting for the embroidered robes. I spent a peaceful half-hour admiring the detailed surface embroidery and goldwork adorning these masterpieces (and enjoying the sunlight streaming through the windows).

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ighali 2014 round-up

So the Ighali Embroidery Festival 2014 has come and gone. And what a great experience. 

I had a group of six ladies in my embroidered appliqué workshop and we spent a day and a half stitching and nattering about nothing but embroidery and quilting 99% of the time – what a treat to be able to discuss the minutia of stitches and fabric and embroidery paraphernalia with others who are just as passionate about needlework.


Lorette and Kim are standing at the back. Lorette, on the left, is from Port Elizabeth and does a lot of quilting (and Pinning). Kim is from Johannesburg and has been embroidering for about 25 years, but was looking for something modern and fresh to stitch.

Seated, from left to right, are Aneeba, Beryl, Sue and Kathy. Aneeba is originally from Pakistan, but lives just outside Johannesburg now and belongs to the Witwatersrand Embroidery Guild. Beryl lives in Port Elizabeth and is part of the PE Embroidery Guild. Sue came through from Grahamstown for the festival and is a quilter who’s done lots of appliqué. Kathy came down from Joburg with Kim and is a quilter who’s been doing embroidery for about four years, and was likewise looking for something fresh to stitch.

What a pleasure to spend time in the company of these ladies. And they taught me as much as I taught them, so thank you.

Outside of the workshop, it was so nice to meet other embroiderers and some of the other teachers giving classes at the event. I didn’t get to meet all of them sadly, but was thrilled that I got to chat to the likes of Trish Burr, Hazel Blomkamp, Penny Cornell and Odette Wright for a bit.

The PE Embroidery Guild also put together a great exhibition of embroidery that has inspired me to try out some new techniques and styles, once my workload lightens... I took loads of pics, but will have to break those down into a few different posts, there was so much on show.

Elsa le Roux and her committee from the PE guild outdid themselves. It was my first time at a big embroidery event like this and I’m rather looking forward to Ighali 2016 now, which the Knysna guild is hosting and organising.

Elsa is also the driving force behind Embroidery Network South Africa, an umbrella organisation for all the local SA guilds. The website is full of photos and information, as well as a forum – called Ask and Share – where anyone from around the world can get involved in or start a conversation with other stitchers, so go and take a look at the site when you have a free moment.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Coming soon: Ighali Embroidery Festival 2014

The Ighali Embroidery Festival in Port Elizabeth is less than a week away now, where I'll be teaching my embroidered appliqué workshop over two days on Wednesday and Thursday.

There are still a few last-minute spots open if you'd like to come and join in - the sign-up details are all available on the South African Embroidery Network site. But you're also welcome to walk in on the day, just be at St Luke's Retreat Centre and ready to start stitching by 2pm on Wednesday 27 August.

I'll be showing those attending the workshop some innovative ways to catch down appliqué using creative surface embroidery stitches and the workshop is for embroiderers and quilters of all skill levels. Everything is prepared for you, all you need to do is sit down, begin stitching and get inspired.

And if Port Elizabeth is on the other side of the world for you, keep an eye on my Facebook and Twitter feeds to see how it all unfolds.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Stitch tutorial: Straight stitch, dot stitch, seeding, granitos and beetle stitch

Straight stitch is probably the most basic embroidery stitch there is. But it evolves into a number of other stitches depending on how many times you stitch over the original and how you format a group of them.

Straight stitch (single satin stitch, isolated satin stitch, seed stitch, spoke stitch, stroke stitch): To make a straight stitch, simply bring your needle up through the fabric and then take it down again a little way away. I’ve used three strands of DMC cotton thread here.

Dot stitch (double seed stitch, double back stitch): To turn a straight stitch into a dot stitch, make another stitch over the first by bringing your needle up and taking it down again through the same holes.

Granitos: Turn a dot stitch into a granitos stitch by making another one or two stitches over the first two. Vary the number of stitches to change the look of your granitos.

Beetle stitch: Make five or six stitches through the same two holes using all six strands of your thread to create a beetle stitch. Allow your thread to fall above or below the needle naturally. The end result is a deliciously fat ball of thread sitting on top of the fabric.

Single seeding (speckling stitch, isolated back stitches, matting) is when you scatter straight stitches randomly, usually to fill a section of a design. You see this a lot in Jacobean embroidery.

Double seeding (speckling stitch, dot stitches, matting) is the same principle as single seeding, just using dot stitches. It’s a bolder filling stitch that stands out more.