A selection of embroidered boxes with Sufi themes

During the past year, whenever I’ve had some spare time (ha! what’s that??!), I’ve been making these little embroidered boxes. Most of them have the same motif on the top – the ‘heart and wings’ emblem of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, which is the spiritual path that I follow. The boxes are just the right size to store prayer beads in. I am going to a Sufi summer school next week, where I hope to spend a lot of time doing Dances of Universal Peace, and these boxes, hopefully, will be sold at the market that is held on the Wednesday afternoon, when the participants, who come mainly from Germany (as that’s where the summer school takes place), share items that they’ve made.

The boxes are covered in satin. I’ve used various fabrics for the lids, depending what I had available in my stash – mostly Dupion silk – and the feathers of the wings are in either DMC silver thread, or Ophir gold thread. Each feather is a lazy daisy stitch, with the outer row having a straight stitch down the centre as well. The little hearts in the centre of the motif are padded with a felt patch first, just a bit smaller than the top shape, which is fine metallic kid leather (bought from the Golden Hinde website).

The tricky bit with each box was getting the design on the fabric in the first place, as any drawn outlines would show (especially on the design with wings) – so I thread traced the design through tissue paper, ripping the paper off to leave the design, and then unpicking the thread as I stitched the design.

Some of the boxes are of Arabic calligraphy, using Stef Francis variegated silks. These were lovely to do, but very time-consuming, so I didn’t get as many of these finished as I’d have liked.

The three framed pictures are done in one strand of Anchor on 32 count evenweave, showing the Sufi phrase ‘Toward the One’ (one of them says the phrase in German, for the benefit of the Germans at the summer school!).

I don’t often make completed stitching to sell – usually, I sell kits for miniature needlepoint, so it will be interesting to see how these go down with people.


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Cross stitch thread winder pocket – 1

Now that I’ve finished the stumpwork Bride’s Bag, which was lovely to do but took absolutely AGES, I feel I want to make something simple but quick. I hadn’t done any cross stitch for months and months, so I sorted through my ‘kits waiting to be started’ drawer (quite a full drawer, that one), and dug out this kit:

It’s a little pocket for a vintage style thread winder – both kit and thread winder are sold by Just Nan (if you’re in the UK, then buy both from www.sewandso.co.uk, and save yourself a fortune on shipping from the USA!).

There are several styles of thread winder available (such as a cute owl, and an oval ornate pierced design), but each would  fit in the finished pocket. I chose the butterfly, as that’s what the image on the front of the kit showed, and I love butterflies.

The pocket measures about three inches square when finished, with a fold-out flap where you can keep a few needles. The kit contains the fabric ( a lovely pale green 28 count Zweigart fabric called ‘Angel Song’, with subtle twinkly bits woven in it), chart and instructions, some tiny beads, two press studs, a small piece of Weeks Dye Works wool fabric for the needle-holder flap, and a length of gorgeous overdyed silk thread in shades which vary from turquoise to fuchsia pink to jade green. What you need to supply are the ‘main’ threads – DMC shades are suggested, buy I prefer Anchor stranded cotton, as that’s what I use in the embroidery kits that I sell on my website, so I just took some colours from my own stock. You’ll also need a small piece of iron-on interfacing.

I started stitching from the bottom edge of the chart, and worked my way up. The design grows quite quickly, and there are only eleven shades, plus the variegated one, but they are used really skillfully in the design. The variegated thread is used for edging the design with one row of cross stitches, which pulls the whole design together, and is very effective.

It’s going to be a nice ‘quick project’ to complete  🙂


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Embroidery in progress: An Elizabethan Stumpwork Bride’s Bag – 11

I didn’t take any ‘ in progress’ photos while I was actually stitching the lining into my bride’s bag, as I found that if I let go of it for even a second, it all slid about and went wrong! Not the easiest of stages to complete, but I’m pleased with how it’s come out, and it covers the messy back of the embroidery, and all of the binding, really well.

I attached the lining in the same way that I had with the embroidered side – using a few dressmaking pins to hold the lining onto the binding, and then slip stitching the lining in place. The instructions said to cover the binding completely, so that I was really slip stitching the lining to the embroidered fabric, rather than the binding. But it makes for a very neat finish, even if it did take ages!

So….here it is, finally completed!

I’d like to thank Shirley Holdaway for designing such a lovely project. If you’d like to make one, the design is in the book ‘Festive Elizabethan Creations’, published by Georgeson Publications Ltd, of New Zealand, although it’s available in the UK at the moment (was out of print a while back, but not now).

I have been very inspired by doing this project. Partly due to the supportive comments I’ve had on this blog, and elsewhere, I’m going to start designing my own range of surface embroidery/stumpwork embroidery kits, to run alongside the miniature needlepoint kits that I already sell. See my website for details – I’ll have a newsletter sign-up form on there soon, so that as soon as some kits are ready, you’ll be the first to know!


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Two needlecases that I have made…over thirty years apart!

The yellow needlecase on the left was made by me in 2007. The one with cherries on the front, on the right, was made by me in 1974, when I was twelve. I only made the yellow one because the original one was falling apart, but I still love the old one. I keep it full of needles, still – I couldn’t face emptying it – so I go to it occasionally, when I know that a ‘special’ needle will be found there, and not in my new needlecase.

Although it is tatty now, the construction has held up well for the 30 or so years that I used it. It was made using two rectangles of felt, whip-stitched over cardboard, which I had scored into three panels. The stitching was worked in Anchor stranded cotton, in long and short stitch, with stem stitch outlining. The design on the front was from a 70’s book on embroidery, but I can’t remember which one, now! It’s not one that I own, anyway. I have a feeling that I got the motif from a book that my needlework teacher had in her classroom. At that time, girls were still allowed to do embroidery as part of their ‘Home Economics’ lessons (that changed while I was at secondary school – by the time I was 14, I wasn’t allowed to do embroidery as a subject any more, and the needlework/dressmaking classes were scaled down drastically. We had to make ‘gender-neutral’ items, as the classes now had boys in them as well as girls. The boys were bored stiff, and liked to spend their time breaking the sewing machines). I do remember that the needlecase was part of a set of designs, and that there was a scissor scabbard with a pear motif on it as well. At home, I made both that and the cherry needlecase together, and took them into school to show my needlework teacher – and during that day, someone stole the scissor scabbard out of my bag, before I had time to show her  😦

I made the yellow needlecase in 2007 (33 years after the first one – by that time, I was 45!). The motif on the front of the yellow needlecase was transferred using a light box, and then stitched in Anchor threads and gold blending filament. The design was from Issue 44 of Inspirations magazine.

The pattern for the needlecase itself was from Jane Nicholas’s wonderful book ‘Stumpwork Embroidery: Designs and Projects’, published in 1998 by Milner. The design she chose for the front of her needlecase is a beautiful little squirrel – he’s very tempting, but at the time I really wanted a yellow fabric for my needlecase, and I decided the colour of the squirrel’s fur would clash with the fabric. So, the cute squirrel with his gorgeous fluffy tail will have to be stitched another time.

The pages of the yellow needlecase are white felt – one page each for crewel needles, beading needles, etc. The pages were backstitched to the cover along the central spine, and then the functional backstitch disguised on the outside of the cover by stitching a row of coral stitch over the top.

It’s come out well enough….but I think I like my needlecase with the cherries the best!


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