Thoughts on my new working light

My primary purchase at Harrogate was a new, floor-standing working light. I’m hoping it will make a difference to working during the poor light of winter, since otherwise whole days go by when it is too dark to embroider.

Lighted Magnifier
Lighted Magnifier

First of all, if you’re thinking of getting one, think as hard as you can beforehand about what you want it to accomplish and when you will use it. Then if you can possibly go somewhere to meet your potential lights, do so. The technology has been changing a great deal, and there are several varieties on offer. The advantage of doing this at Harrogate was that The Craftlight Company had a whole stand of different types of light, and several people available to talk to.

My choice has now arrived, and I have to say that the early signs are good. The reach of the light from the source is much better than on my old desk-lamp type working light, which would be fine for a desk based form of craft but isn’t so good for embroidering at a floor standing frame or even in an armchair. It was easy to set up, and I’m beginning to learn what adjustments have the better effect. Since the lights are set around a magnifier, I have the option of using it as a standard lamp or as an illuminated magnifier, and I’ve yet to settle on my preferred option.

All this is being complicated by the fact that I have a new prescription for my embroidering glasses!

I do, however, offer one warning – apparently the light is also good for sufferers from SAD. I remember reading once that such lights are most beneficial when used at particular times of day. It’s certainly a very “wake-up” sort of light, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d better not use it after dinner, because the one time I did, I was awake for hours longer than I wanted to be!

A Very Useful Visit To Harrogate

Harrogate 2017
Harrogate 2017

It’s That time of the year again!

No, not Christmas (not yet!), but the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. This is my best chance to stock up on the obscure, the intriguing, or the plain difficult to find. It’s also a good chance to meet up with old friends (it was lovely to see Elizabeth again), and sometimes even to make new ones.

This year, as well as some sock yarn  and some tangled reel ends of silk (which are a very useful source of odd colours for odd purposes, often in quite fine thread, which might be hard to find), I spent some considerable time looking at, and finally ordering, a new worklight, which I hope will extend my working hours on those days when I can settle to it.

I also bought a couple of books, one on needlelace, which at the moment I have no particular reason for, except that I want, one of these days, to write up my Grandmama’s needlelace tablecloth. I’m sure I will find something I want to work in needlelace. The other is a book of crocheted hats. Something different to do, as a change of pace!

The most important purchases, however, were made at Golden Hinde. The Akhenaten embroidery is going to involve a good many materials and techniques I am only vaguely acquainted with. So I took with me the pricking for Akhenaten, so I could show the sizes and shapes I was trying to fill, and describe what I was trying to achieve. Soon a torrent of purls, twists, and silver plate were tumbling into my basket, accompanied by much advice from Sarah and Sue. I’m still wondering whether I will succeed with this one, but I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Harrogate Haul..

The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate is my main opportunity to stock up on thread, fabric, materials and oddities.

Yes, I know we all buy online these days, but so often I am looking for something slightly obscure, or I know what I want to achieve, but not how. The opportunity to look and feel before buying, and to talk to the specialist suppliers who are there, is absolutely invaluable.

Flat Silk for Necklace Embroidery
Flat Silk for Necklace Embroidery

This time I was semi-organised, and as soon as I arrived, I went to Midori Matsushima’s stand with a shopping list of colours for the Faience Necklace designs, when I get to them. I’m hoping that now I have the silks I will have an incentive to pull my ideas into focus, because I feel that the Dreams of Amarna panels need more colour in them.

Felt and Thread
Felt and Thread

I also bought some wool felt and silk threads, some because I have plans for it, and some to have something frivolous to do. I still have a couple of those wooden pots to put pincushions in…

This slightly less dense felt – some from 20th Century Yarns and some from Oliver Twists – is much easier to stitch than the dense felt sold to crafters which is stocked everywhere. I also like the somewhat rougher texture.

Silk fo Spinning
Silk for Spinning

I went to a workshop introducing wet felting, which I am planning to use as the initial colour blocking for the “Vision of Placidus” panel, but what I actually bought was more silk to spin into thread for the second layer. I’ll have to wait until the sore elbow and shoulder have healed, but this is something I can do in preparation for the project while I’m still working on the Dreams of Amarna. I’m thinking about Placidus quite a lot in my odd moments!

A good reference book
A good reference book
Blanket Selvedge
Blanket Selvedge

Finally, I bought a book – only one, but it’s a cracker! – and a ball of wool selvedge, for purposes that will remain a mystery for now…

Housekeeping

An Extensive Collection
An Extensive Collection

My mother and I are planning a panel for next year’s Christmas Cards, and I went in the loft recently in search of an embroidery frame of a suitable size.

I brought down every bit of wood that looked vaguely embroidery-frame-like, and spent a puzzled hour or so putting them together.

And got a very nasty shock. I’m quite sure I didn’t buy all of these.

Do they breed?

An assortment of frames
An assortment of frames

Actually, in my own defence – some years ago a local embroideress died, and her daughter wanted to give away all of her stash and equipment. Preferably all at once, to one person.

So I toddled off, burdened with I-didn’t-know-quite-what, and – not needing any of it at the time – put it in the loft. Then life got very busy and I didn’t get around to doing the stocktake I’d intended.

Until now.

And the most galling thing of all is that not one of those frames is big enough for the project we have in mind!

Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show

For The Thistle
For The Thistle

The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate is always great fun, if totally shattering – imagine what it’s like for the stallholders, who get four days of it! – but since I have no local needlework shop, it’s my one chance to stock up.

I admit that sometimes I don’t get around to all the projects I stock up for as quickly as I might like – I bought the threads for the Hittite Amulet at Harrogate in 2010! – but as we all know, sometimes a project undergoes considerable modification in the period from first concept to finished piece.

When I visited Elmsley Rose in the summer, she gave me some silk wrapped purl – three shades of purple. I’ve decided I want to work a thistle – more or less heraldic in style – so I’ve bought some wool felt, some coloured purl, and some lovely wool thread. Thank you to Lizzy Lansbury and to The Golden Hinde for comment, advice, and encouragement. The chance to talk to people with knowledge and experience is the real advantage of the Knitting and Stitching Show, after all. Even when I had a local embroidery shop, no-one who worked there had ever worked with metal threads, for instance!

Tweed For Skirt
Tweed For Skirt

I usually wear my Autumn Leaves Skirt for the Show – what better time to wear it than among people who will enjoy it as much as I do! – but next year I may have another possibility. I’ve bought some lovely swatches of Donegal tweed to appliqué to a different skirt. The scatters of thread – wool, stranded cotton, and exotics – all come from my (extensive!) stash. My current thought is that the appliqué will be circles of different sizes. I only hope I bought enough tweed to do the job!

Stitching With Rowandean
Stitching With Rowandean

And finally… I’ve known Ted and Katrina of Rowandean Embroidery, on and off, for about twenty years, since the days when I was making counted cross stitch kits. I’ve always admired the verve and invention of Katrina’s designs, and I love talking to them. But this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down with Katrina – I joined in on a Make and Take, playing with layers of sheers and a few bits of stranded cotton. It was a lovely break in all the trotting around of the show, to be able to sit down and stitch, instead of simply taking about it.

And on top of all that, I had lunch with Elizabeth of Sew-In-Love, who is the fourth blogger I’ve met in real life this year. We had a lovely time, although, in what seems to be a pattern, I don’t think we spoke very much about embroidery!

The Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate

Stef Francis Threads For Amarna Project
Stef Francis Threads For Amarna Project

Since I don’t have a convenient, well-stocked local embroidery shop, and have discovered over the years that colours often don’t display well on screen, leading me to spend lots of money on the wrong thread, I now concentrate almost all my embroidery shopping around one event: The Knitting And Stitching Show in Harrogate. I had a wonderful weekend there last week, and even managed to take tea at Betty’s Tearooms, and to visit the Royal Pump Room Museum which had few items from Amarna, as well as a rather fabulous painted and embroidered screen from the early 1900’s.

Pearsalls Silk and Gold Jap For Christus Natus Est
Pearsalls Silk and Gold Jap For Christus Natus Est
Pearsalls Silk and Silver Jap For Hittite Amulet
Pearsalls Silk and Silver Jap For Hittite Amulet

It’s particularly useful when I am planning to branch out into a form of embroidery I’ve not tried before. There are always stallholders with a deep knowledge of the particular technique I have in mind, and they are always willing to talk, and share tips and ideas.

This time I am planning two or nué pieces, so my first stop (after buying some merino/possum blend wristwarmers from Jamie Possum) was to visit The Golden Hinde. I described what I had in mind, and soon had a spool of gold and a spool of silver to use for those pieces. Then on to the Pearsall’s Embroidery stand to buy the silk to couch it down with. I’m not sure how much I will need, so I bought one skein of each colour. Since these are single colour threads, I can re-order if I need to.

Oliver Twist Threads for Amarna Projects
Oliver Twist Threads for Amarna Projects
Silk Threads For The Second Dig House
Silk Threads For The Second Dig House

I also bought some more turban cotton and faience-coloured threads from Stef Francis and from Oliver Twist, and some silk threads to make another attempt at the Dig House. I’ve been looking for threads that resemble some of the other colours I will need for the Dreams of Amarna panels – the carnelian and jasper and other semi precious stones the Egyptians used, but some of those aren’t so easy to find. I am going to need to do some more reading in my references to get a clear idea of some of the colours I will need.

I’ve found I’ve bought more silk threads than cotton, this time around. All this work using silk for the Floral Glove Needlecase Course and the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass is changing my habits!

Floral Glove Needlecase Kit – first stitching

Floral Glove Needlecase - Beginning To Stitch
Floral Glove Needlecase - Beginning To Stitch

So, here is my progress so far. I’ve ended up buying a floor standing frame with a clamp so I have it ready to hand and don’t have to hold the frame, and I have bought a magnifier on a clamp as well. I’ve not had them up and running for long enough to comment on whether they really help!

There will be some goldwork in the later stages, but the first month concentrates on the silk embroidery. I’ve never used silk thread before, but it’s a lovely thread to stitch with. The thread is six strands and separable, like stranded cotton, but the resemblance ends there. The silk thread is supple, soft and shiny, and while not being difficult to work, doesn’t feel as lifeless as cotton sometimes does.

The first scare was to read the instructions and discover that the chrysanthemums were to be outlined in stitches about a millimetre long. Eeek! Then again, long and short stitch is not my favourite way to fill a shape. I admire the silk shading one sees at Royal School of Needlework shows, but it doesn’t fire me with a desire to emulate it. Still, Grandmama could do it (I shall photograph some of her embroidery and blog about it later), so I really think I should have a stab at learning.

I’m running a little behind, because of deadlines in other work, but when I get a combination of an afternoon of good sunlight and time to stitch, I become a very happy girl!