It’s that time of year again, and usually I try to do my Harrogate Report over the weekend when I’ve come back. This time, however, I went straight from Harrogate to help with the MathsJam Gathering, and didn’t really get home until Wednesday.
The two pieces of silk are to give me choices for the Faience necklace, the Sheepjes Whirl and pattern are for the next trip to see The Australian’s family (I don’t know when it will be, but I’m ready!), and the figured organdy matching silk and silk thread are honest stash: I fell for the organdy and got the others on spec. I’ll think of something to do with them eventually. Yes, really. I’m determined to!
I met up with Elizabeth of Sew In Love Stitch Art (always great to have a coffee together, and a wander through the halls), and met in person for the first time Georgina and her lovely goldwork animals, and Tanya and her modern medieval embroidery, inspired by the Luttrell Psalter. I bought her kit of Hounds to help me reboot myself over the holidays. I fell in love with those hounds months ago, but Akhenaten wouldn’t let me buy them. He doesn’t get a vote now I’ve finished him!
I also got Katrina Witten’s new book – signed by the author, no less. I’ve always loved what Katrina does, and there are ideas percolating in the back of my mind.
There are two reasons for going to the Show over two days, firstly because it makes the buying a little calmer and more methodical, and secondly because it means there are opportunities to attend the workshops without everything else becoming crowded and stressed.
This time, I investigated “Contemporary Fabric Manipulation” (I’ve no idea what, if anything, I will do with that) and “Drop Spinning”, using an absolutely gorgeous blend of baby alpaca, baby camel, and silk. I don’t know what I will do with it, but it’s lovely!
Then when I got to the MathsJam, an old friend popped up with a small box, which turned out to contain a gorgeous pair of Ernest Wright “Stork” scissors (pretty sure he doesn’t read the blog, but just in case – thank you!), Sue of TortoiseLoft appeared with some rather nice Sajou threads I’ve never seen before (thank you!), and Scott Elliot gave all of the attendees one of his very newest puzzles (thank you, too).
So, what with one thing and another, I have many new things to play with!
The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate has been a yearly treat ever since I first went there. It’s a chance for friends to gather to talk about embroidery (or anything else, in the case of my lunch with Elizabeth from Sew In Love Stitch Art!) or to make new friends, to stock up on weird and wonderful materials you can’t get anywhere else, and to look at exhibitions and go to workshops.
Oh, and I have breakfast in Bettys of Harrogate, which is a treat in itself!
This year I had a very short shopping list, and managed to get almost all of it on Thursday night! I got a copy of the new Goldwork book produced by Sarah Rakestraw and Susan Hinde of Golden Hinde Goldwork – signed by the authors, no less! – as well as having a long conversation with them both that resulted in a few ideas for unlocking my logjam with Akhenaten. I also bought a couple of threads that I hope will make it possible to try again to create the uraeus on his crown. The book is a good, thorough work of reference that will be very useful in the future. Yes, I know I already have others, but you would be amazed how often someone’s explanation fills in the gap in someone else’s!
I also found some light navy blue wool (lighter than it appears in the photo), which I hope will provide a background for the panel of The Golden Fleece, if I get to it before the Conversion of Placidus (or maybe even after…!) and a couple of reels of silk which I hope might help me to do another version of Akhenaten’s face. It’s not really strong enough as yet…
One of the really striking exhibitions was entitled The Needle’s Excellency, a display of stumpwork caskets worked by Nichola Jarvis and her students at the Ashmolean Museum. They are beautifully worked, the tops all largely similar, and all the sides worked in different designs created by the students from episodes in their lives or motifs they particularly liked. I believe there are thoughts of running the course again in a couple of years, so if you are interested, keep an eye open!
Finally, there was, of course the Harrogate edition of the “100 Hearts” project of the Embroiderers Guild. There were some old friends I recognised from the exhibition in Liverpool, but most of them were new to me, and there were some fantastic pieces of work, providing food for thought and some pointers to yet more untold stories.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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?
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.
And the most galling thing of all is that not one of those frames is big enough for the project we have in mind!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!