I've gone a bit stitch mad. It's because I keep finding all these amazing old reference books, with stitches that are only vaguely familiar or completely new to me.
My latest acquisitions include Anchor's 100 Embroidery Stitches (okay, this one's not old), The Stitchery Book: Embroidery for Beginners by Irene Preston Miller and Winifred Lubell, Embroidery Stitches by Barbara Snook and Design and Embroidery by Valerie Cliffe and Edward Arnold. I love the old covers and layouts, and the pages and pages of stitch descriptions alongside black and white, hand-drawn illustrations.
But part of the appeal is definitely in the finding, as well as the funding. I love a good find and I love it even more at a bargain price (must be some of my throwback Scottish DNA filtering through).
I picked up the Anchor booklet at Die Wolwinkel (Afrikaans for "the wool shop"), which we found by chance while driving in the town of Klerksdorp recently, for R25 (less than £2 at the moment). I also finally got around to browsing the second-hand bookstore down the road, where the bright red cover of The Stitchery Book caught my eye from the bottom shelf of the craft section. That set me back all of R24.95. And I found Embroidery Stitches and Design and Embroidery in the bookstore of a warren of Hospice shops in Orange Grove, here in Johannesburg, which along with three vintage embroidery and crochet magazines cost me R30 (about £2.30).
At this point, I feel I have to share the fact that I also got two vintage cloths featuring the most minute appliqué, a vintage pillow cover, a delicate piece of crocheting and a handful of buttons, bias binding, braid and cotton tape for a mere R20 from the linen, fabric and haberdashery section. (Couldn’t resist a little gloat.)
But getting back to the stitches. This bombardment of stitch books and the fact that I've just finished stitching the sampler project for the next issue of The Stitch and Thimble have got me thinking a lot about samplers. I'm keen to try my hand at designing a few, using all these new/old stitches that are swirling around in my head. Traditionally, it seems you stick either with a row-by-row approach or designs made up of sections of stitches, which definitely work. But I'm after something a little more innovative, a bit different. I've put it on the brain backburner, so that's something I'll be pondering for the next while. I'm sure all these stitch books will keep things ticking over until something springs to mind.