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.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

New Modern Jacobean hand embroidery patterns

Jacobean embroidery has always been and will likely remain popular. I can’t comment on what exactly it is about this style of embroidery that appeals to others, but for me it’s about the broad variety of stitches and unashamedly floral and leafy look of the designs. 

Traditional Jacobean designs are still as popular today as they were a few centuries ago, but in the spirit of needlework innovation I saw it as a challenge to try and combine my more contemporary embroidery design style with the traditional stitch techniques you usually find in these patterns – trellises, triple rows of chain stitch in light, medium and dark shades of the same colour, blanket stitch edgings and the like.

So that's how this latest range of designs, which I've simply called Modern Jacobean, came about.

There are five contemporary designs in the range: Burnesque, Shylock, Oakenfold, Regality and Sweetsong. And each of them has a distinctive colour palette, from bright sherbet hues to more regal colours. And the names of the individual patterns were part of the creative process, too.

The embroidery patterns are available in all three of my online shops – on Etsy and Craftsy for international buyers and in my local shop exclusively for South African embroiderers.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Naming designs the Jacobean way

So you’ve come up with new designs, sketched and drawn them up, chosen colours and embroidered them, all the while referring to them in your mind as Jacobean 1, Jacobean 2, Jacobean3… But then you get to the point where the embroideries are nicely mounted and ready for photographing, the patterns are being drawn up and you now need proper names for each of these designs.

Sometimes it takes a while for the penny to drop, sometimes the names come to you almost instantly. And although I do often like going with straight down the line, call it what it is kind of names, at times I like to challenge my inner wordsmith and indulge in a little wordplay.

As you may have guessed by now, the imminent new designs I’m talking about fall under the banner of Modern Jacobean – contemporary designs and colours, but still using traditional Jacobean embroidery stitch techniques.

A quick flip through some of my older Jacobean and crewelwork books brought up project names like Arabesque, Baroque, Heraldic Gold, Ascension Balloon and Springtime. Generally quite grandiose names with a whiff of old English about them, which makes sense knowing that the style became popular in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

In keeping with this theme, I was interested to see if I could take the idea and come up with contemporary versions to go with my Modern Jacobean designs. And I think I managed alright. How do Burnesque, Shylock, Oakenfold, Regality and Sweetsong sound? Look out for the new patterns in the next week or two.