Monthly Archives: January 2012

Finished Embroidery: an embroidered ‘Rose Cottage’, designed by Carolyn Pearce

I’ve just finished making this little embroidered cottage (it’s about three inches high). Isn’t it lovely?! The design appeared in Inspirations magazine, Issue 35 (published by Country Bumpkin, in Australia, quite a few years ago, now), but I’ve been meaning to make it ever since I first saw it.

The cottage  is made to have a pincushion for the roof. The button loop under the doorstep is so that the house lifts off the base, and you can store something like a tape measure or thimble inside.

As usual with Inspirations magazine’s projects, the instructions are really detailed – lots of diagrams, a pull-out sheet with the designs on, and full thread lists. Carolyn Pearce likes using lots of different threads in her projects, but I changed them to be almost all Anchor threads, as I own a full set (as I use Anchor threads in the kits that I sell on my website). I used 3mm wide silk ribbon for the roses, as I didn’t have the 2mm that Carolyn recommends in the article – so my roses are a bit ‘oversized’!

The flower borders all around the house were lovely to stitch – very small impressions of different types of early summer flowers, but each recognisable – daisies, bluebells, lavender, and so on. Almost all of the embroidery was done using one strand of Anchor cotton, with stitches such as French knots, blanket stitch, stem stitch, fly stitch and colonial knots.

I’d been unsure as to how successful the ribbon roses would be, as I haven’t done much ribbon embroidery, and this was very small scale stuff. Also, the fabric I was using was quite fine silk, and I wasn’t sure how much ‘pulling around’ it would take, if I had to tug ribbon through it repeatedly. Actually, it worked really well, and I think the roses have come out great. It’s an unusual stitch – a combination of a colonial knot, worked about an inch and a half away from the fabric, and then the needle is run through the remaining ribbon back to the fabric surface before taking the needle to the reverse, so that ‘concertina folds’ are made in the ribbon – this makes the petals of the rose. The roses are very effective, and very cute! I can see me using this stitch on other projects, now.

The assembly was a bit tricky, to put it mildly! The tube that makes up the sides of the house has to be lined with wadding and backing fabric, then a layer of plastic inserted between the layers to stiffen the structure. Considering this house is only two inches in diameter, that’s not easy!

The ceiling design is gathered over a padded plastic circle, then slip-stitched onto the top of the walls. Then I gathered a length of olive coloured silk near to the edge, using a piece from along the selvedge so that I didn’t need to hem it, and slip-stitched that onto the top of the walls too, finally gathering up the centre to finish the roof (stuffing the space with wadding to make the pincushion first). Carolyn suggests using wire-edged ombre ribbon in the article, but I didn’t have any of that, but I was pleased with my substitution. The stitched model in the magazine has ribbon roses on the top of the roof as a decoration, but I like mine plainer.

The base is made from two circles of fabric gathered over padded plastic – one has a spray of flowers the same as those on the ceiling, and the underside has my initial ‘J’ embroidered in tiny back stitch with French knots.

To join the two circles together, I used palestrina stitch around the edges. This worked successfully until I got to the ‘hinge’ part, where the instructions say to make a ribbon hinge to join the house to the base, then work palestrina stitch aross the join. Hmm, well, you try it! It’s not the neatest part of this project, so I’m not going to show you a close-up photo of it. Not surprisingly, I think, even the stitched model in the magazine isn’t shown from the back, so I suspect that that part of the project is very hard to do neatly (or perhaps that’s just me justifying myself!).

This project took just over a week of  ‘spare time’ to make. The assembly took about the same length of time as the embroidery did. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll keep in the cottage, but it will have to be something, special, I think, to do it justice.

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A tiny bolster for a doll’s house

I’ve just uploaded a cute new doll’s house bolster kit to my website – the design is called ‘Barbara (green)’. You can’t really tell from the picture, but it’s about two inches long! The bolster kit is for twelfth scale doll’s houses (i.e adult collectors’ scale), and is to be stitched on 32 count silk gauze. The kit contains everything you need to complete the bolster – the silk gauze fabric, Anchor stranded cotton threads, stuffing, colour block chart (the design is not printed on the fabric), and detailed instructions.

Here are some other bolster designs that are also available –

If you would like to see exactly how to put this kit together (including how to make the tiny tassels!), then take a look at the Tutorial on my website, which shows you what to do.

The January Sale is still on, so if you buy this kit before 1st February, then there’s 10% off the usual price (£11.65 instead of £12.95). P&P is free worldwide on any order of £10 or more.

Book review: ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’, by Susan O’Connor

‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’, by Susan O’Connor

This book is the epitome of stylish instruction in the art of embroidering monograms. It is sumptuous in all aspects – the gorgeous photos, the eight projects (from beginner to advanced), and the wealth of detail. I’ve seen many books on monograms for embroidery, but this one is the only one I’ve ever been tempted to buy, and I’m really glad I did! The book starts with a chapter on the history and traditional use of monograms, and then moves swiftly on to discussing how to use monograms in contemporary ways. Suitable fabrics, threads and needles are discussed (very important, as, if you use unsuitable threads, particularly, you can end up with a very inferior piece of embroidery, which is disheartening).

My favourite method for padding a shape, as shown in the book

I liked the chapter on the actual stitches and techniques the best. There are so many good ideas here, and each one is illustrated with photos showing every stage. The padding under the satin top-stitch is what makes or breaks a successful monogrammed embroidery, in my opinion, and all the secrets are explained here. I used information from this chapter when I was making a large banner for a Chapel I used to attend – it took me almost a year to embroider, so I needed to know that the technique I would be using would be successful, if I was to invest that amount of time in the project!

The banner I made, which measures about three feet by four, using lettering and crewel embroidery

Fortunately, the lettering came out really well. Each letter took about an hour to complete. I used the method explained on page 34 onwards – I outlined the shape of the letter first in split stitch, then used stem stitch padding to fill the shape within the split stitch outline (using all six strands of Anchor in the needle each time).  After that, I used the ‘perfect satin stitch’  section on page 48 to make…perfect satin stitch!

Perfect satin stitch, achieved with the help of this book!

I really enjoyed making the banner. I’d thought that maybe the crewel flowers would be interesting to stitch, but that the lettering would be the boring bit, but I actually enjoyed doing the lettering too, as it came out so successfully. ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’ covers more than just letters, though. Eyelets, shadow work and applique are all covered by the book, as are various finishing techniques such as pin stitch hems, scalloped hems using blanket stitch, and so on. There’s so much in this book!

The lavender sachet project

Towards the end of the book are the projects, so that you can try out your new skills. From small items such as lavender sachets to a very fine Christening shawl, the projects are all clearly explained. The book is published by Country Bumpkin (the publishers of the beautiful Australian embroidery magazine ‘Inspirations’ that comes out bi-monthly) – and, as with the magazine, this book has several pull-out sheets with all the designs on, for you to trace off using your favourite method. Full alphabets are given in several styles, including a cross-stitch one for the lavender sachet design. All Country Bumpkin publications are wonderfully produced, with an attention to detail that is often missing from other publications. The style shots are enough to make this a lovely ‘coffee table’ book, even if you have no plans to ever make anything using monograms!

The delicate tones of one of the style shot photos

The step-by-step photos in ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’ are mainly done on oatmeal fabric using white thread, so it is easy to see exactly what you need to do to replicate what is being shown. If I have any niggle at all about this book (and it’s only a tiny niggle!), then I’d say that with the style shots of the finished items, as they are mainly white embroidery on white fabric, the detail is sometimes indistinct. This is a shame, as the fineness of the embroidery is lost.  If you just flip through the book quickly, the pale colour of all the photos gives a kind of insipid feel to the book, which can have a negative effect on the reader, unfortunately. But try to get past that, and slow down to look at the information packed in these 134 pages. Susan O’Connor has written a wonderful book that should be available more widely. The book was only published in 2007, but I think it’s already out of print, so if you come across a copy second-hand, grab it while you can. This one is a treasure. Details: ‘Monograms – the art of embroidered letters’, by Susan O’Connor Published 2007 by Inspirations Books (Country Bumpkin Publications) ISBN 0 9775476 0 4

Doll’s house embroidery kits on sale throughout all of January

Doll's house scale needlepoint items you can make from kits

Do you want to stock up on mini stitching kits to keep you busy during the winter months? Want them at a discount?

Then don’t miss out on my sale! Every miniature needlepoint kit on my website is in the sale – over 180 kits, plus chart packs and accessories.

The January Sale is in full swing – discounts available on every item on my website. Click here to grab yourself a bargain.
Remember that, for items ordered via the website, p&p is free, worldwide, on orders of 10 GBP or over (under 10 GBP, there is a flat rate charge of 1.25 GBP per order).