New direction for this blog

I’ve been having a think over the New Year about how I’d like this blog to develop. I still love doing embroidery of all kinds – not just the mini sort, that I sell as kits for adult doll’s houses in my business Janet Granger Designs, but also the surface embroidery, stumpwork and cross stitch designs (sometimes my original designs, and sometimes kits and charts by other designers) that I have kitted up and have ready to go in my huge stash.

The print room in my first doll's house

The print room in my first doll’s house

But I also spend quite a bit of my time making and collecting miniature things for my own doll’s house collection – I now have three doll’s houses, with two of them being ‘newish’, and never written about before.

The collection of 'smalls' from the Carolyn Pearce 'Home Sweet Home' workbox etui set

The collection of ‘smalls’ from the Carolyn Pearce ‘Home Sweet Home’ workbox etui set

So, my decision needs to be about this: do I ‘diversify’ this blog, and start sharing more about what I do for my mini hobby (making and collecting), or do I keep it purely ’embroidery focussed’? Do I start a separate blog, to keep ’embroidery’ posts separate from ‘miniatures’ posts, or blend the two in the one blog (this one!).

I’d love a bit of feedback here, so please comment below and let me know what you think. Would you enjoy reading about both subjects? Do you, too, have an interest in both hobbies, or not? Would you prefer there to be two blogs, so that you can visit or follow the blog that interests you, and not read the other one?

Talk to me!

Book review: Stumpwork embroidery designs and projects by Jane Nicholas

I have owned this book, ‘Stumpwork Embroidery: designs and projects’ by Jane Nicholas, ever since it first came out in 1998, and it is one of my all-time favourite embroidery books. It is the book that got me started on doing stumpwork embroidery.  So, although it’s definitely not a new book, it most certainly is a classic, so I thought I’d do a review of it.

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Jane Nicholas is a stickler for detail. Her stitching is so neat, it’s unbelievable. I should think the back of her stitching is as neat as the front, but she’d never let you see, I bet!

This book covers instructions for 26 different projects – from single pansy flowers, to drawstrings bags, needlebooks and more complex pictures. The photography is very clear and detailed, and there are hundreds of diagrams to show you exactly how to achieve the results that Jane describes so eloquently in her text.

The book is a large (8 1/2 x 11 inch) hardback book, with 192 pages. Each project is carefully explained, with lists of materials required, the order of work, and the patterns needed, all together (rather than having to turn to the back of the book for the pattern templates, for instance, which is common in other books). There is a stitch glossary and index at the back, and also thread conversion information. This is a useful section, as Jane realises that although she loves to use the more unusual/expensive threads such as Soie d’Alger, many people do not have access to these, so the thread conversion page gives alternatives for Soie d’Alger, Madeira Silk, Cifonda and Minnamurra thread to DMC equivalents. Very helpful! There is also a good bibliography too.

Jane’s take on Elizabethan stumpwork, updated for today, is just wonderful. Take this, for example:

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Or these roundels, stitched on black and white silk:

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My favourite project in the book is this drawstring bag etui set, with woodland animals and plants embroidered on the pieces:

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I made the hedgehog pipkin from it a few years back.

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And I have used the squirrel needlebook assembly process (but not the squirrel motif) to make a needlebook (although the design on the front is still by Jane Nicholas – but this one appeared in Inspirations magazine, as a motif for a sweet bag!).

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It is not always available in the UK, but Amazon.co.uk has it at the moment.  Maybe it’s on it’s way to being out of print, so if you’re interested, I’d track down a copy sooner rather than later. Embroidery books as good as this one are few and far between!

Stumpwork Embroidery: designs and projects by Jane Nicholas.

Milner Craft Series

192 pages

ISBN 186351 208 X (Hardback)

£19.99 / US$24.95

Christmas 2016 stitching prezzies and mini prezzies

There’s nothing I like better than getting prezzies for Christmas that give me something to make during the next few months. This year, I was very fortunate to get a bumper crop of really lovely gifts that will keep me quiet for AGES!!!

The first is this wonderful book, ‘A Passion For Needlework‘, which is a new one from the publishers of Inspirations magazine, featuring lots of gorgeous embroidery ideas from various designers from all over the world.

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As with the Inspirations magazine itself, the book has the patterns for the designs printed on large sheets which are bound into the back of the book, for tracing onto your fabric.

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I love almost all of the designs, but this one, by Susan O’Connor, is my favourite – an Elizabethan-inspired panel of flowers, stitched mainly in satin stitch and long and short stitch on Duchess satin fabric. When complete, it measures about 10 inches by four.

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The original is stitched with Au Ver a Soie silk threads, but I think I’ll do a version in Anchor stranded cotton, as I have a full set of that already, and to buy all the threads needed as listed in the book would set me back about £80!

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I also got some miniature kits this year, as I’m starting to make two doll’s house shops (an announcement about a new blog for those will be made soon!).

One of the shops is going to be a toy shop, so I am going to need lots of tiny toys, to fill it. This is a 1:144 scale kit from Severn Models, made from brass sheet, with incredible detail. The sheet shown is about six inches by four. When assembled and painted, the house should look like the image that’s just beneath the brass sheet, on the flyer, and be about 2 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. You can even get furniture to put inside it, but I think that’s taking things a bit too far!!

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I also got several kits from Tower House Dolls (who make dolls, obviously, but also many kinds of little toys – both finished and as kits). This is a kit to make a Punch and Judy theatre, with scenery and metal puppets too. It’s about four inches high when finished.

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This kit is to make four pull-along toys on wheels.

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And this kit is to make a toy theatre with Alice in Wonderland characters, which fit in the little drawer in the base.

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These are the characters – and yes, they do all fit in a match box! The tiny silver thing in the top right of the match box is a collection of little magnets, and one will be glued to the base of each character, so that when they are set on the stage, which has a magnetic sheet under it, the characters will stay put. Clever, eh?

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This little kit was suggested to me by someone on Facebook, who reads this blog, and knows that I love making Victoria Sampler’s Gingerbread Village buildings. When she came across this kit by Sakoran, she told me, and of course I had to let Santa know that it should be added to my wishlist! It’s to make a tiny gingerbread house, less than two inches long, to hang on the Christmas tree. It’s stitched in cross stitch, with French knots and whipped backstitch for the gingerbread details.

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One more present completes my haul for 2016 – a pair of fluffy socks called HotSox, which you heat up in the oven or microwave, and has little beads inside which hold the heat so that your feet don’t get cold. Whenever I sit and stitch in the evenings, my feet get really cold as I’m sitting still for too long, so my husband thought these might help  🙂 They are so cosy…the only problem is you can’t actually walk in them, which takes a bit of remembering! And they look a bit daft, but I’ve got to the age where I don’t really care about that. I just want to be comfy, and these are incredibly comfy!

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January sale bargains to be had!

January is the time of year for bargains! And over on my website, Janet Granger Designs, there are LOTS of bargains to be had in my January Sale.

If you are the proud owner of a doll’s house, or know someone who is, you’ll find lots of ideas for mini needlepoint kits over on the website.  Here are some ideas for what you could make.

These little cushion kits are £4.45 each in the sale. They are to be stitched in needlepoint on 22 count canvas, with Anchor stranded cotton. They’re each 1 1/4 inches square when completed.

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There are lots of tiny sampler kits to choose from. This one is called ‘Hearts and Flowers’, and is £8.95 in the sale. It’s to be stitched on 32 count evenweave fabric. The varnished wooden frame is included in the kit.

The teacosy and tray cloth matching designs are called ‘Crinoline Lady’. The teacosy kits are £12.55 and the tray cloth kits (including the mahogany pieces to make the tray) are £10.75 during the sale.

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This Summer roses design is one of the most popular in my whole range. It appears on over a dozen different kits. These latest two are for a pole screen kit (£17.95 in the sale) and firescreen kit (£18.85 in the sale).

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These little handbag kits come with either 32 count or 40 count silk gauze, depending on the design. They are £9.85 each in the sale.

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Even if you’ve never made anything in this scale before, you’ll find it’s much easier than you thought. There are tutorials on my website showing you how to do the stitches and make up each type of kit. And if you need inspiration for how to use the different kits when they’re finished, you really must see the Customers’ Stitching pages, where my talented customers show off the stitching they have done, in their doll’s houses. Here are a couple:

This room was made by a longstanding customer of mine called Annette. She has stitched the Tree of Life rectangular stool in front of the piano, the Gwen carpet that the stool stands on, and the Tree of Life bellpull in the background:

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Deborah has made this beautifully ornate room, and stitched the Summer Roses firescreen and bellpull from kits of mine. She also adapted the Carole pastel carpet from a chart pack, and made the design much bigger than the original, using her own choice of colours, to make this gorgeous carpet.

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Tempted? Go and have a look – there’s over 280 kits to choose from, dozens of chart packs, and lots of eye candy!