An adventure on the (distant) horizon

I have been asked to plan a week of embroidery next July for The Watermill, Posara, a rather wonderful place in Tuscany that hosts painting and knitting holidays among other things. Bill and Lois Breckon, who run The Watermill, have been gradually restoring and improving it over the past thirty years or so, and they have a gift for unobtrusive excellence of organisation I’ve never seen bettered.

At the moment, we are thinking of running an embroidery week along the lines of the knitting courses, with studio time alternating with the excursions and fabulous lunches, and I have been thinking quite hard about what might make for an interesting week.

The painting classes are “plein air”, so involve setting up somewhere and painting all morning, followed by a delicious lunch (when I painted this watercolour I had my back to the trattoria where we had lunch) and painting some more in the afternoon. Apparently the knitters sometimes set themselves up somewhere and Knit In Public as well – the locals in all the destinations being so accustomed to artists and tourists that they barely even notice.

My idea for the embroidery week is to go adventuring Beyond Long And Short Stitch, to play with the ideas that are my first love in embroidery, the use of the ornamental stitches and varied threads to recall texture and pattern, to bring pictures to life without too much detail: “Impressionism in stitches”, if you will.

So I’ve started to plan Impressionistic stitcheries inspired by The Watermill and the excursions, which can be put together into a Watermill Sampler. The first (this is a detail) is inspired by the stands of bamboo which are merrily naturalising themselves up and down the valley, and by a recent post on Queenie’s Needlework blog about a stitch she calls “Danish Knotted Cross Stitch” (since the book she found it in didn’t give it a name at all!). When the stitch appeared I was already thinking about the Bambouserie, as they call it, and it occurred to me that it might make an effective stitch for the joint in the bamboo stalks – and sure enough, it does!

The long, rustling leaves of the bamboo are worked as clusters of long Detached Twisted Chain stitches, which I think are somehow much more evocative of the rustle than straight stitches would be. “Bambouserie” has set quite a high bar for my next “Watermill Stitchery”!

Episode 65 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which we make an early start to avoid Noises Off, and thoughts of the sky as a sampler of graduating colour lead to a reconsideration of the idea for canvaswork cushions inspired by the Ironbridge and “Coalbrookdale by Night”.


  1. Meredithe says:

    Oh My Goodness!! How wonderful! I do wish I lived closer as I’d love to come. Maybe one day….. I’m sure it will all be fabulous.

  2. Oh, how wonderful! I am green with envy as I know I will be nowhere near Tuscany next year. I am sure it will be a great success.
    Those bamboo joints look very realistic, good to know you have found a neat place to use the Danish Knotted Cross Stitch. I also like the leaves made up of Twisted Chain.

  3. Sue Jones says:

    The bamboo looks very free and loose, almost in motion, but that effect is clearly produced by a great deal of thought and care about the stitches and the colour choices.
    Tuscany sounds wonderful and I am sure you will have great fun – after a lot of time spent planning and organizing, that is.

  4. Jen Mullen says:

    How exciting! It looks like a beautiful place to practice your lovely stitches, meet new people, and enjoy excellent food! I’m sure you and your students will have a wonderful time. 🙂

  5. Lin says:

    Looks like a wonderful place to be. xx

  6. Alex Hall says:

    I think the painterly quality of the stitching will work perfectly with the landscape. Very envious!

  7. Carolyn Foley says:

    All your plans sound so exciting. After all the constant dullness of the lockdown it is wonderful to hear about something so inviting.
    I have taken note of the use of the stitch for bamboo, I will be using that one.

  8. karen says:

    amazing, I am so excited for you! Having taught overseas myself I am aware of the prep, the time, the work required beforehand but it’s oh so worth it.

  9. This sounds absolutely fantastic – if you ever need a guinea pig, you know where I am…! I do love the effects on that bamboo too, really pops off the fabric.