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.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

An overdue catch-up and some new pattern sneak peeks

As usual, a flurry of bugs and viruses has heralded the start of winter here on the tip of Africa. But this is the first time I’ve succumbed to two bouts in quick succession – and taken more than my usual two or three days to recover. I’m generally fairly resilient so feeling unwell like this over what was for me a rather lengthy period caught me unawares and has made me fully appreciate my usual good health. 

Fortunately I am now well on the mend, but what little energy I’ve had in the past three weeks has been spent on keeping the bones of my needlework business ticking over and so my social media presence has been fairly non-existent. I have some new designs sitting here, though, waiting to be mounted and photographed, and have made a start on drawing up the patterns. So I hope to have those up in the shops fairly soon. Here are some sneak peeks:

And I’m about to start the embroidering phase of an exciting project I’m working on for release later in the year. I love having a lot of embroidery projects to work on during winter, because it allows me to spend hours at a time on the couch where the light is good – usually in the afternoons – stitching away while catching up on podcasts and new music. Bliss.

And this year there’s the World Cup in addition to Wimbledon on the sporting front, so even more excuse to sit and stitch, although most of the football games are in the evenings here so there’s more crocheting going on then than embroidery. It’s a great way to wind down the day though, and I’m finally making some real progress on the blanket of rose and daisy blocks (watch this space).

A couple of really great opportunities have also presented themselves in the past week or so, out of the blue. So I’ll be mulling and jotting down concepts and ideas for those, too, while embroidering away my winter afternoons. Mornings are and will be spent on the computer teasing out ideas, writing and drawing up patterns.

Of course my regular freelance editing work fits in between all this, so I have a busy time ahead. But winter is perfect for hibernating and immersing oneself in embroidery (any excuse will do, really). But this is all sounding far too enticing now, so I’m off to my sunny spot on the couch for some actually rather rare Sunday morning stitching.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Etsy Craft Party and embroidered appliqué papercraft

I follow Nadia van der Mescht on Twitter, having attended one of her workshops for creative businesses. So when I saw her tweet calling for giveaways and prizes for the Etsy Craft Party she’s hosting in Durban next week, I saw it not only as an opportunity to give away a couple of free patterns and be a small part of what Nadia does with and for creative souls, but also as a chance to try out an idea I’ve been toying with since giving an embroidery workshop to scrapbookers earlier this year – embroidered appliqué on paper. 

The winners of the giveaway can choose whichever embroidery pattern or edition of The Stitch & Thimble they want from my online shops. But Nadia obviously needed something physical to give them at the event, so I printed and embellished two vouchers with embroidery and appliqué. And it’s the appliqué in particular that I’d been wanting to try out. 

A scrapbooking tool called a craft pick (which my scrapbooker friend kindly gave me, thanks Kim!) came in handy to make the holes through which I was going to stitch. Once I’d made those, the embroidery was easy. 

But the appliqué was a bit trickier than I’d anticipated, because the fabric shapes slide around on the card. Not only do you have to make sure it’s in the right place before you take every stitch, you also have to work holding the card and fabric up to the light so you can see the holes through the fabric. That said, it’s far from difficult; it just takes a little more time and effort – and the end result is well worth it. Hopefully the giveaway winners think so too.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Ideas magazine, June 2014

I generally work on my own so it’s great when you get the chance to collaborate on a project, which is what happened with the one you’ll find in the June edition of Ideas magazine. They had the idea and I came up with the designs and embroidered them – six plates on a tablecloth, each featuring a family member’s favourite flower and positioned at their place setting. A sort of six-in-one design, if you want to look at that way.

You’ll find complete designs for red and pink roses, two peonies, a fynbos paper daisy in bold blue, a sprig of delicate orchids, pink and yellow frangipani and brightly coloured cosmos (which you often see here growing in great swathes along the verges on road trips). It’s up to you if you want to use them individually or recreate the tablecloth in its entirety. Either way, they’re a pleasure to stitch and suitable for beginners right through to more experienced embroiderers, so give them a go. You'll find instructions for all the stitches used in my Stitch Directory.

You’ll find the project in the June edition of Ideas (and the Afrikaans Idees), which is on shelves now and should be for the next few weeks. If you live outside South Africa or just prefer pixels, grab a digital copy from

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Inspirations magazine 81

I finally got my hands on a copy of issue 81 of Inspirations magazine. Turns out my contributor's copy - kindly sent by Ellaine on the editorial team to all the contributors featured in each edition - was held up at customs. 

It had been opened, pawed through and held in custody for what I presume was quite a while as it came out in February and the next issue is almost due out. But I was so glad to finally see my latest project for the magazine in print. It's one thing to see a pic of the styled embroidery online, but quite another to see it all beautifully photographed and laid out in the paper version, something Inspirations does so well.

If you're a fan of the magazine and you live anywhere in the First World, read no further. But if by chance you've also only just gotten hold of a copy or aren't familiar with the publication, see if you can find the issue. It's filled with floral projects of all shapes, styles and sizes, including a contemporary wool blanket by Anna Scott embroidered in a gorgeous colourway of mostly blues and reds.

The attention to detail from the editorial team - from the styling to the photography to the layout to the little added extras - is one of things I admire about the magazine. Even though a lot of the projects are quite traditional in style and colour, there's always something to learn: a new stitch or interesting way of working a design. And it's filled with insight into the working of stitches, including diagrams and instructions on things like how best to fuse your applique shapes to the background fabric:

The project I contributed to this issue, Petal Power, combines applique with embroidery and because it's not always easy to find the same or similar fabric, there's a handy section on how to create your own colourway of fabric and thread:

I know for a fact that at least one person in England and another in France has been embroidering this project, with a few maybes here in South Africa. It's been designated a project for "practising" different surface stitches as it has a fair few incorporated into the design, and has the added element of embroidered applique. If you're keen to give it a go but don't want the hassle of finding the right thread colours, you can buy a thread pack from publisher Country Bumpkin:

And if you do decide to stitch up this project, I'd love to see your version, so don't be shy about sending some pics. The magazine is available in print and digital editions and you can get your copy here.