Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 26/04/21

More progress this week, to the point where I’m about a quarter of the way through. (I’m taking it off the stand later today and sneaking in another project.)

The border is quite time-consuming and fiddly (it needs concentration as it’s very easy to go astray on the backstitch), so I’m doing the side borders as I go; plus it means I won’t have to keep scrolling through the sampler.

 

This week’s additions: finished the alphabet, added the quote, and two butterflies.

The quote is one of my favourites because it’s so uplifting. It was written by Julian of Norwich – from chapter xxvii of Revelations of Divine Love, the earliest surviving published book written in English by a woman, and the only known book written by an anchoress. In 1373, aged thirty and a half, Julian fell seriously ill. The night she thought she was on her deathbed, she received sixteen ’shewings’ (visions); she recovered, wrote her book and spent the rest of her life as an anchoress (i.e. she withdrew from secular life to concentrate on religious observance). I’ve modernised the spelling (though I was very tempted to keep to the original!). Stitched in Anchor 162 (surf med), and the attribution is in DMC 413 (pewter grey dk).

 

The blue butterfly is a Madeleine Floyd design (clipped from a magazine – I loved the feeling of movement). I’ve always been fascinated by blue butterflies, ever since I was a tiny child and saw the Margaret Fountaine collection at Norwich Castle museum; there are lots of chalk hill blues at Warham Camp, which I used as a research location for my book ‘A Will, a Wish and a Wedding’.

The swallowtail is from littlebeachhut.com; although we didn’t actually get to see any swallowtails during our research trip to Wheatfen Broad (same book!), we saw plenty of peacock butterflies. And I finally got to see a swallowtail at the Horniman Butterfly House in London (along with a blue morpho).

Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 19/4/21

Started the ‘my favourite things’ sampler on 7 April 2021. Pleased with how it’s looking so far.


The top and side borders are based on a Textile Heritage design, though I’ve changed the colours of the jewels. Originally I wanted a border in green, white and violet (suffragette colours!) but couldn’t find one I really liked. This one is more of a medieval knot type, corresponding with one of my favourite literary periods, and the dog design at the corners (taken from a Celtic internet page) reminds me of the little dogs you see at the feet of a knight on an alabaster tomb (ticking another of my interests).

Close-up:

Notional details:

Borders and dogs, using DMC threads:

* dark gold 832 (golden olive)
* light gold 834 (golden olive vy lt)
* red 326 (rose vy dk)
* green 700 (green bright)
* purple 333 (blue violet vy dk)
* blue 3839 (lavender blue med)
* black 310 (black)
* white BS5200 (snow white)

The alphabet is from a DMC pattern – I really liked the font, and I also liked the idea of having flowers round them (similar idea to the lettering in medieval illustrated manuscripts, and the shape of the flowers is closely connected to the ‘jewels’ in the border).

The letters are stitched using Anchor – 168 (surf blue lt) for the main body and 169 (surf blue med) for the outlining. The flowers are stitched in DMC: petals 600 (cranberry vy dk) and centres 726 (topaz lt).

Stitching, Writing life

A new writing tool…

As a student, I used to do tapestry and cross-stitch. Then I was busy with work and professional exams, and it kind of fell into the background. Until a couple of months ago, when I decided to pick up a needle again. I started off with bookmarks (I particularly like the Textile Heritage kits – beautifully designed and relatively quick makes), and now I’ve got the confidence to move on to tweaking patterns to suit a project, and to do bigger things.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck on a book, I need something that will occupy the front of my mind, and let things brew in the back. I’ve used online word games a lot, but it means I spend too much time on my phone and makes me feel unproductive. Counting things always helps (hence reps in the gym, or steps in ballet where I have to think about what I’m doing).

And then it occurred to me at the beginning of the second lockdown.

Counted cross stitch.

So I get to occupy the front of my mind (counting), I’m doing something where I can see the result, and it’s also good for stress. (Hmm – why didn’t I think of that in the first lockdown??)

I bought the first kit – a rose – and remembered how much I enjoyed sewing. So people close to me are getting bits of handmade needlework! Sometimes they get to choose; sometimes it’s a guess by me based on what I know of their tastes.

This was my first batch of makes:

The mini sampler is for my best friend Fi (in Suffragette colours), who sent me a gorgeous cross-stitch book. Bookmarks, left to right:

  • the rose for me (my first bit for years, really to get me back up to speed)
  • bluebells for my best friend (learned to mix strands to change colours)
  • cows for my daughter (chosen by her – and they were SO cute to stitch; the outlining made a huge difference)
  • a Celtic knot for my son (chosen by him – that taught me a lot about geometrics)
  • tulips for my favourite cousin (again, geometrics – her fave flower)
  • a dinosaur for one of my best writer friends, Scarlet Wilson (first time I’d tried using a pattern from the internet – also, using colours close together in shade, in preparation for a very ambitious project next year)
  • carnation for my dear friend Debbie – her favourite flower and I got to mess about with borders (and kind of designed this from a mix of patterns)

Second batch:

  • Dachshund and daffodils for one of my best writer pals, Liz Fielding (Dora the Dachshund from one of her books, and daffodils because she’s Welsh – the dog was tricky and also taught me that I need to check shades, as I like using DMC and the colour conversion from Anchor doesn’t always quite work)
  • Scotties and Westies for my friend Sarah, who has a Westie and introduced me to Radley handbags (Scottie dogs!)
  • Puffins for one of my best writer pals, Michelle Styles (my first bird – and I loved doing the feather on this because it’s in preparation for another of my ambitious projects, this year)
  • Coaster for my friend Jo, who tends to read ebooks rather than paper so I thought something for her mug of tea would be better than a bookmark
  • A second dinosaur, for my favourite cousin’s daughter
  • Lily of the valley for my sister-in-law (her favourite flowers) – very dense stitching, plus some shading, which will again be helpful for the big projects

Third batch:

  • Turkey coaster for my husband, who’s a turkey farmer
  • Daffodils for my stepmum (her favourite flower)
  • Guitar for my husband (tweaked this slightly as the pattern used black for the outer line of shading but in real life it’s chocolate – and I had chocolate thread!)
  • Sunflowers for one of my best writer pals, Annie O’Neil (her favourite flower – the original pattern had 5 flowers, but I wanted 7, so I tweaked it a bit; also outlining was done in a lighter shade because I thought black was too harsh)

Where next?

I’m currently doing a sampler on evenweave (given to me by my RNA pal Anne Styles, who’s an amazing seamstress and has been very kind and supportive to me). It’s an easy pattern, but evenweave is very tricky! It has, however, made me think that I’d like to design my own sampler, with motifs of my favourite things, so I’ve been having fun putting ideas together.

On the advice of my lovely neighbour and friend Vicki (also an excellent seamstress – the socially distanced tutorial on French knots was fun, though anyone seeing us would probably have been convinced we were doing charades!), I’m going to keep doing little projects at the same time as bigger ones, so I get the fun of finishing things to motivate me to continue (haha – this is SO like writing!). I bought a couple of projects and have been given some more, so as well as my personal sampler I have a wonderful peacock, a spaniel who’s the spitting image of Archie (that’s going to be HARD as there are lots of similar colours), a smaller spaniel which will be a quicker make, a bee flying across tulips, a Shakespeare sampler and a family tree sampler. And then there’s a stash with Noah’s ark.

I do plan to do some for reader giveaways; and I have a list of things I want to do for friends – the fun bit is sending them out as surprises 🙂 I might casually ask about favourite flowers or birds (I like stitching flowers in particular), and the answer is being carefully stored away on my list. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but I can follow a pattern and tweak things. And stitching is much better for me than endless word games on my phone – but I’ve learned that I need a timer to limit myself on Pinterest…