What I got for Christmas this year…..

In our house, so that we get what we’d really like, we tend to make use of ‘Christmas elves’, who get a note in November with a nice list of ‘possibles’ – sometimes with details of exactly where to get the actual product from, in case the elf isn’t exactly sure!

So, this year, I was delighted, but not altogether surprised, to get some really lovely things for Christmas…

Betsy Morgan Willing Hands embroidery book

This is a book that I’ve been wanting to own since it came out in the autumn – it’s ‘Willing Hands’, by Betsy Morgan. Betsy’s book has 8 projects in, all created in her really artistic style, using cross stitch and other stitches to make lovely etuis. I’ll be doing a proper book review of this one soon.

Lorna Bateman Embroidered Country Gardens embroidery book

This is another book that I’ve had my eye on for a few months – this pretty ‘Embroidered Country Gardens’ book by Lorna Bateman has lots of projects in her delicate surface embroidery style, to make sewing accessories. I can never have too many sewing accessories!! I’ve got the scissor case ready to make up in my stash, but these all co-ordinate with it, so it’s really tempting to get on with it and make them all. It’s obviously a very different embroidery style from Betsy Morgan’s book, but I love the differences between the styles. I’ll be doing a review of this book soon, too.

St Petersburg Fantasy set watercolour paints

This is something new for me – watercolour paints!! I’ve been using coloured pencils ever since Johanna Basford’s colouring books became popular a few years ago, but watercolours always seemed a bit scary. But I’ve decided that I’ll have a go, as these two brands seem really good, and the colours are just gorgeous – very tempting to try. The large palette is by a Russian company called St Petersburg. The brand is White Nights, and this set is their Fantasy Set, as it has lots of bright shades, and very few browns (I don’t like brown!). I’ve also got 12 extra colours added to the spaces that are usually left in the centre of the box, so that I can have more purples than are usually included (you can never have too many purples!).

Metallic paints set

This small tin is very special. These are 12 metallic mica paints from KJDesignByKaren on Etsy- these are really lovely colours, and I can’t wait to try them out. Many people use these for calligraphy, but I’m going to use them for details in my Johanna Basford colouring books.

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Toy chest etui by Betsy Morgan: 5 – the last few toys in the toy chest!

Here are the last few toys that I made as sewing accessories to fit inside the toy chest etui. The whole toy chest and accessories are designed by Betsy Morgan of Willing Hands. They were really fun to make!

This cute drum is only about an inch and a half high. It has wooden drumsticks, made from thin dowel and beads, stitched onto the lid.

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The drum is decorated at the back with soft silk ribbon, laced up the seam, and then tied in a bow.

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The drum is lined with silk fabric. The drum is actually a container for a small cylinder of beeswax, which is useful to wax your threads with before stitching with them (waxing cuts down on static, and controls curled threads). The wax cylinder has metal ends, so that your fingers stay clean!

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But this next accessory is my absolute favourite! It’s a box about two inches square, with counted thread patterns all the way round.

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On the base, I embroidered my initials and the date.

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When you release the loop on the red bead, a little jack-in-the-box pops up! He’s on a spring, and has a ruff made of fine silk ribbon. In the instructions, it said to make the head from a piece of the checked silk fabric, so that it would just be a ball of fabric. I felt that he needed to have a face! So I made him from white cotton, and embroidered his face on once he had been attached to the spring (not easy!). The head is actually a container for emery powder, used to clean needles – to use it, you push the needle in and out of the fabric a few times, and discolouration is removed.

To be honest, I haven’t actually tried using it, although I did fill the head with the emery powder. I am worried that if I did poke needles in and out of his face, he might end up looking as if he’s got a bad case of blackheads  🙂IMG_2658

So, here is the whole toy chest, with all the accessories displayed around it. This took me about four months’ worth of my spare time of concerted effort to get finished. About half of that was the assembly of the pieces.

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It’s a really lovely project to do, and I’m so pleased with it – it’s one of my favourite possessions. It was due to getting withdrawal symptoms from finishing this etui set in 2012 that I decided to start the Carolyn Pearce Home Sweet Home one!

If you ever get the chance to take one of Betsy Morgan’s workshops, do make the most of the opportunity. Her designs are so creative, and her instructions are very detailed.

As I’ve said before in this series of blog posts, Betsy doesn’t sell these items as kits direct to the public, but instead you buy the whole project pack as part of the workshops which she offers, which last from a couple of days to a week, depending on the item being made (of course, you don’t *finish* the item in a few days, but Betsy shows you all the steps you’ll need to do, and you get the chance to practice, and ask questions, and get started at least!). Betsy is from the USA, but has been over to England a couple of times. In October 2016 she will be offering classes as part of the Beating Around the Bush stitching event in Adelaide, Australia, organised by Inspirations magazine.

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Toy chest etui by Betsy Morgan: 4 – needle case and pincushion

This lovely little needle case is part of Betsy Morgan’s Toy chest etui. I made it in 2012. It’s a holder for a packet of needles (which slip between the back sections of the silk lined case).

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The front is cross stitched with variegated silk thread, and the back is checked silk fabric, with a pocket incorporated in the hinge seam.

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When it is open, it looks like a paint box. Isn’t it pretty? The pattern at the end of the initials and date on the inside of the lid is a slot, reinforced with the stitching. Inside the slot, you can keep a flat metal needle-threader. The project pack comes with both the needle-threader and a beautiful enamelled charm of a paint palette, to attach to the end of the cord on the needle-threader.

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This is the paint box seen closed, with the needle-threader just poking out:

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Another accessory in the toy chest is this pincushion, shaped like a book.

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The edges of the ‘pages’ are stitched in rows of backstitch, in white. The cover is stitched in cross stitch and counted thread stitches. Each stitched panel of the pincushion is reinforced with fabric stiffener (a bit like petersham), stuffed lightly, and then slipstitched into a book shape.

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These designs are by Betsy Morgan of Willing Hands, and form part of the Toy chest etui set. She doesn’t sell these items as kits, but you buy the whole project pack as part of the workshops which she offers, which last from a couple of days to a week, depending on the item being made (of course, you don’t *finish* the item in a few days, but Betsy shows you all the steps you’ll need to do, and you get the chance to practice, and ask questions, and get started at least!). Betsy is from the USA, but has been over to England a couple of times. If you get the chance, go and have a look at her other items, and list of course dates on her blog. In October 2016 she will be offering classes as part of the Beating Around the Bush stitching event in Adelaide, Australia, organised by Inspirations magazine.

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Toy chest etui by Betsy Morgan: 3 – button box and ‘magic’ needle case

This little button box (measuring just an inch and a half square ) is part of the Toy chest etui by Betsy Morgan of Willing Hands. I made it in 2012, as part of the etui set – a toy box, filled with sewing accessories shaped like toys. The motifs on each side all begin with the letter B: button, bird, bee, erm…….rabbit (or bunny, I suppose!).

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Each side has a double border of cross stitches in different colours.

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The inside is lined in silk. I filled it with antique Victorian buttons (something else that I collect!).

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Then there’s THIS. This is a very special needle case. It has a design on the front and back of acorns and cornflowers. This is the front:

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This is the reverse side.

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But the special bit is inside. There is a loose piece of felt, which the needles are attached to. In the picture below, they are on the left side, with the holding ribbons straight across the felt. If you close it, and then open it from the other side…..

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….the needles have magically moved to the right hand side, and the ribbons are now crossed over them! This fascinates me. I know there’s a simple explanation as to why this works. But I assembled the thing, and I’m still not sure how it does it!!!

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These designs are by Betsy Morgan of Willing Hands, and form part of the Toy chest etui set.  She doesn’t sell these items as kits, but you buy the whole project pack as part of the workshops which she offers, which last from a couple of days to a week, depending on the item being made (of course, you don’t *finish* the item in a few days, but Betsy shows you all the steps you’ll need to do, and you get the chance to practice, and ask questions, and get started at least!). Betsy is from the USA, but has been over to England a couple of times. If you get the chance, go and have a look at her other items, and list of course dates on her blog. In October 2016 she will be offering classes as part of the Beating Around the Bush stitching event in Adelaide, Australia, organised by Inspirations magazine.

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