Last week I went to Harrogate again for the Knitting and Stitching Show – last year I didn’t, because I was recovering from Covid and in spite of the fact that it would plainly have been silly to go, I missed it dreadfully. So my day, as is now traditional for me, began and ended at Bettys, and in between I padded around the show, seeing old friends and meeting new.
One of my other traditions now is that I work from a kit, or work something absolutely away from my usual style and subject, in the period between Christmas and Twelfth Night. My version of the Fabulous Shoes is going to consist of Louboutins with red soles, but other than that, I’m not clear how they’re going to go!
I also bought some materials which must remain a mystery as they are destined for people who I know read my blog, a dress pattern which may unlock a headache I’ve been having with some silk, and a rather gorgeous print for a blouse. The fabric is polyester, but it’s a recycled polyester, from Fine Fabrics of Harrogate, who have made something of a speciality for some years already of sourcing from Europe at the furthest, Britain as far as possible. Were I not already well supplied with coats and jackets, the Boiled Wool, sourced from dyers in Bradford (if I recall correctly – I didn’t make notes!) would have come home with me too!
But the real triumph and excitement was the solution of what was, to me, a forty year old mystery.
When I first started to embroider, I used to use patterns from my Grandmama’s copies of 1930s “The Needlewoman” magazine, and one of the threads they often demanded was Anchor “Flox”. When I decided I wanted to work the dragon Kai Lung, as I called him, I wanted to use the threads demanded in the instructions.
My local needlework shop had never heard of it.
So I wrote to Coats, who owned Anchor threads, asking, did it still exist, and could I have some?
No, they said apologetically, there was a fire in our Archive twenty years ago, no-one who’s left remembers it , and we’ve no idea what it looked like.
But last week, the Embroiderers Guild stand was selling off various donated stashes, and among the threads, there was some Anchor Flox!
So a couple of bundles have come home with me, and in a few weeks, when I’ve finished Anthea Darracot, I shall leaf through those “Needlewoman” magazines for something gently frivolous to use them in.
A little while ago, we were in Paris – a trip planned last year, and carried on with, sanitiser in hand, in spite of the certainty of quarantine when we got home.
Amid a variety of adventures (we were staying with family) we went on a Textile Tour of Paris with Rebecca Devaney.
We met at Metro Quatre Septembre, and Rebecca guided us to the various shops, telling us about the history of the atelier system and the particular histories of the various shops as we went. Even my non-embroidering engineer uncle found things to interest him – there was a poster for a manufacturer of sewing machines which pivoted (to use the modern term) to aero engines during the first world war! – but in fact, all of us found something to respond to our particular interests.
The shops are all very different, and now I’ve visited them I will be better prepared for another visit, perhaps with plans in mind. What they share is knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff – in fact one of those in Au Ver A Soie is doing an RSN course. Online, in these days, naturally, but it was a great delight to see someone else’s work, if only on their phone.
If you get a chance, when travelling is easier, do take a tour with Rebecca. She’s delightful, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, and the extra bits and pieces of information you have, not to mention some sense of all the interesting materials you can find, are all well worth the effort.
As you can see, I was fairly restrained in my purchases, because I had not travelled with extra suitcase space, or planned in advance. The grosgrain ribbon matches the stone in my engagement ring, the brown ribbon with irises is for a hat, and so is the orange flower lace, the silk thread from Au Ver A Soie and the fil dentelle from Sajou are just to play with, and the little ostrich kit is my entertainment for the period between Christmas and New Year!
And in other news, Episode 27 of SlowTVStitchery is now live, and discusses reaching an important turning point, and the delights of solving embroidering puzzles.