Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 3 – outlining the flowers and leaves

I’m starting to do the stitching on this ‘Flowers for Elizabeth’ sweet bag design from Inspirations magazine Issue 51. It requires outlining the flowers and leaves with one strand of thread in Split Stitch first, to define the areas. That’s a  lot of outlining!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Once I got in the rhythm of doing it though, it was really nice to do – it meant that I got a lot of colour down on the fabric early on, which is always nice to see 🙂 This area is the honeysuckle flower in the bottom left hand corner.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

These are the strawberries, pansies, and large leaves – the leaves will be filled in with Long and Short Stitch last.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Once the main shapes have been outlined, the stem is then stitched. For this, I laid bands across the width of the stem, and then worked Raised Stem Stitch Band up the stem until it had narrowed quite a bit.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The Stem Stitch is only worked under the short stitches of the banding, not through the fabric as well. It’s also necessary to use a tapestry needle for this bit, rather than a sharp needle of any kind, so that you’re not catching any of the threads of the background fabric.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Once the main stem had narrowed, I continued with ‘normal’ Stem Stitch to the ends of the stem. This part seemed to take me ages….then I read the instructions again, and found that I had been using just one strand all that time, when I should have been using two! So, it looks nice and fine, but took hours and hours!!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Once all the stems have been stitched, though, the nice swirling shapes of this design become apparent. You can also see that I decided to replace the moth from the centre of the design with a butterfly. I hate moths – their bodies are a bit too squishy and ‘maggot-like’ for me! Butterflies are much better!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I’m pleased with the progress so far – next, I’ll be doing the short stems and tendrils.

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Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 2 – transferring the design to the fabric

This is the beginning of my new project, the ‘Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag’ from Inspirations magazine issue 51- I’m transferring the design to the fabric. With quite a detailed design like this, I use a light box. I’ve chosen Damask fabric rather than a plain surface fabric, for interest, but that does rather make the pictures hard to see here, sorry!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I’ve got barely enough of the Damask fabric to make this, so I have stitched strips of cotton sheeting up the sides to make the whole piece wider, so that it can be placed in my 12 inch hoop for stitching.

I traced the design from the Inspirations Issue 51 pattern sheet, then taped that to my light box, and placed the fabric on top.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I used a mechanical pencil to trace over the lines onto the fabric. I can get a very accurate design outline that way. Here’s the tracing, and the fabric.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

The design instructions say to ‘design an initial for the reverse of the bag, using elements from the sweet bag front’. Well, to be honest, that’s a bit of a cop-out on the part of the magazine! It’s not a problem for me – I’m an embroidery designer by profession – but I think many readers of the magazine would struggle with this part! A basic alphabet is provided on the pullout sheet, but it’s up to you how you place the design elements. Anyway, I designed my ‘J’ to look like this!

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

I then transferred the design onto the fabric using the light box, as before. It goes quite a long way down on the fabric, rather than being placed centrally, to allow for the drawstring section at the top of the bag later.

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

Itching to get started on the stitching, now!

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Flowers for Elizabeth embroidered sweet bag: 1- kitting up to get started

I’ve decided on my next major project now, and this week I’ve been kitting up ready to get started on it. It’s called ‘Flowers for Elizabeth: an embroidered sweet bag’.

For anyone who’s followed my blog for a while, you might remember that I’ve talked before about an embroidered sweet bag that I made from a design in Inspirations magazine Issue 36 – it’s this one (this is an image from the magazine):

Inspirations issue 36 embroidered sweet bag

It was lovely to make, but the reason I don’t have an image of the one that I made is that it got stolen from my car (along with my luggage and just about anything else ‘removable’ from the car!) while I was at a wedding reception in 2001. It really affected me, and for a long time I thought I’d have another go at stitching it, but I could never bring myself to attempt it, due to the negative memories.

But Inspirations magazine featured a few other sweet bags over the years, and this one particularly caught my eye. It’s from Issue 51 (about 2006, I think). It uses paler colours, but the overall look is the same:

Inspirations issue 51 Flowers for Elizabeth sweet bag

So, as you can see from the skeins alongside the magazine, this is the one I’ve decided to stitch! I’m going to stitch mine on a piece of damask tablecloth fabric that I bought in an antique shop years ago. I’ve got all the called-for threads, and I’ve even found some tiny 3mm gold sequins to attach around the embroidery itself.

This is another wonderful design by Susan O’Connor, who has been designing for Inspirations magazine for years. I love her designs, and have done several of them in the past. This one should be great fun!

If you’d like to stitch it, although the magazine is no longer available as a back issue, the pattern for the sweet bag itself is available to buy as a digital download from here: https://www.inspirationsstudios.com/product/flowers-for-elizabeth/

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Stolen embroidery

I posted recently about two needlecases that I’ve made during my life – one when I was 12, and one much more recently. In that post, I mentioned that the first needlecase (on the right in the image below) had been part of a set, but that the scissors case had been stolen out of my bag on the day I took both pieces into school to show my needlework teacher.

It made me think over the other times in my life when I’ve had stitching stolen. It’s a horrible feeling when something you have taken so much time and care over gets taken from you, because it can never be replaced. I’ve also found, over the years, that even if I still have the pattern for a particular project (which I obviously do if it’s one of my own designs!), for some reason I can’t face stitching it again. Most of my embroidery, then, is a ‘one-off experience’. I don’t want to have the same stitching experience twice, if you see what I mean. And knowing that I would be stitching something simply because the original had to be replaced would just make the whole experience unpleasant, somehow.

After having the scissors case stolen, my stitching collection was ‘safe’ for several decades. I must have got complacent! About ten years ago now, I had been visiting a friend of mine who is also an embroidery designer, so I had taken my latest finished project to show her. It was an Elizabethan sweet bag from Inspirations magazine, Issue 36. A really lovely piece to embroider. I did it very much like the one in the picture below – only changing the thread colours a little, as I stitched it in Anchor stranded cotton, rather than the shades suggested in the magazine. I really enjoyed making it – it took about two months of  ‘spare’ time.

On the way home from visiting my friend, my husband and I went to the wedding reception of other friends of ours. Obviously, you can’t walk into a wedding reception with your suitcases, so we left our stuff in the car. Bad idea. Halfway through the receoption, there was an announcement that the owner of a blue Ford Fiesta needed to go and speak to the Hotel Manager. You guessed it – our car had been broken into while the wedding reception was in full swing. All our luggage had been taken, including the embroidered bag. What almost made it worse was that, when I was explaining to the police what had gone, and I mentioned the bag, one of them said, ‘Oh, they wouldn’t be interested in that. That’ll be tossed in a hedge somewhere. I meant anything of value’.

And that’s part of the problem, really. It makes it worse if you know that what’s been stolen won’t even be valued. Who steals embroidery to order, anyway? It’s not as if it’s ‘art’, apparently.

However…..

The last needlework show I attended as a standholder was a two-day event at Bakewell, in Derbyshire, about five years ago. I had attended dozens of shows over the previous ten years, but I was starting to reconsider whether it was financially worthwhile to attend shows, with all the hassle of getting there, setting up, staying in hotels, etc. Online selling is so much easier! My husband and I set up the stand with our kits for doll’s house embroidery, as we always did. The first day was OK, but not that busy, but we were assured that the Sunday would be busier. As usual with these multi-day events, at the end of the first day, we just put dust sheets over the stand, and went to our hotel for the night. In the morning, we didn’t actually notice that someone had got to our stand before we had, and had taken some of our stitched models of the doll’s house carpets that we sell, and had moved the rest of the models up so that a gap wasn’t noticeable.

‘Elizabeth’ miniature carpet design – it measures 9 x 9 inches, and is stitched on 18 count canvas with one strand of Appleton’s crewel wool

The two carpets that they stole were large ones (by doll’s house standards, anyway!). And, as I don’t do commissions, I presume they weren’t stitchers, and felt that to buy a kit and stitch it themselves just wasn’t their thing. Anyway, the designs they stole were ‘Elizabeth’, the first design I ever stitched as a miniature carpet (it’s the design featured on the front cover of my book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’), and ‘Karen’, which was named for my friend Karen who lives in Wales, and who loves William Morris designs. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to face stitching them again, as stitched models are often used in publicity photos in my business, but I haven’t been able to get to that point yet.

This doll’s house room setting shows the ‘Karen’ carpet design, along with several other designs from my range of kits

I am very wary, now, of taking any of my stitching out of the house. Of course, it’s still possible that one day we could be burgled, and things could be stolen anyway, but the risks seem to increase out of the house. I don’t really know what the answer is. And I don’t feel that insurance is the way forward, either – for one thing, insurance companies simply don’t understand the value of stitching.

Reading back over this, it sounds like quite a depressing post – sorry! I didn’t set out to write a depressing post! What I think I’m saying is, appreciate the stitching you’ve done, but be aware that it might not always be around. Value what you’ve done, and the time you’ve put into it.

And if you ever see a little Elizabethan sweet bag on beige damask with forget-me-nots made out of blue seed beads, with gold tassels along the bottom, and the initals JLG on the back, would you let me know ?  🙂

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