Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Hoop Hoopla

My latest foray into creating new and exciting items for my Etsy shop is hoopart.  Based on trends in my Instagram feed by other extremely creative embroidery artists and stitchers, it appears to be quite a popular, modern and artistic form of home decor.  So with that in mind I thought it was worth using my own cross stitch designs in wooden hoops on a range of different coloured evenweave fabrics to gauge the effect.  And...I am not disappointed.

I have chronicled the process -

A beautiful grey-swirl evenweave fabric from Sew-it-All was chosen to complement the vivid red colours of the striking Sturt Desert Pea.  The fabric was first machine-edged to prevent fraying whilst stitching and then placed firmly in the hoop before tightening to keep tautly in place.  The relaxing job of stitching the design then began. 

Once finished, I used the 'measure twice/three times - cut once' rule (and a good dose of dutch courage!) to cut a 2cm edge around the outside hoop edge which was enough for folding over into the back of the inside of the hoop with a little extra allowed for tucking under.  As I wanted the wrong side of my work to be covered, I devised a method where a piece of wadding was cut to the size of the inside of the hoop as well as a plain black cotton fabric - with an extra 1-1/2cm added all round the circumference.  A tacking stitch was then used around the edge of the black cotton and slightly pulled in to evenly encase the wadding.

It was then just a case of folding the evenweave fabric over the back of the hoop and placing the black encased wadding into the open space, pinning the two fabrics together at close intervals to keep in place (I could've used half a dozen hands here) and then neatly slip-stitching together.  

This is now a stable piece of work and with the addition of complementary narrow black ribbon attached to the screw top, ready for hanging on a wall in an area of the home that needs a little bit of brightening and cheering up.

This is the first hoop in a series yet to be stitched in preparation for the next Hustlin' Womens Markets on April 8 where I will be having another stall.  


'Home is the nicest word there is'.  -  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Design Release - Geraldton Wax

Welcome to February.

So happy to be able to release a new design today which I have just finished working on and that is of the Geraldton Wax which, as the name suggests, is endemic to Western Australia.  It's a beautiful and hardy medium to large shrub bearing either white, pink or purple blooms and aromatic leaves and can grow to a height of 4 metres which, as you can imagine, would look just spectacular when in flower en masse.  I can only imagine the fragrance too.  This also makes the plant highly attractive to bees and pollinating insects.  The petals have a unique circular shape which are separated from each other and quite robustly formed.  

Image result for geraldton wax white

The Geraldton Wax is a well known Australian native flower and extensively used in the cut flower industry for its beauty and longevity.  Many years ago when I was doing floral work, Geraldton Wax was pretty much the only standard 'fill-in' flower for arrangements and bridal bouquets - as well as Gypsophilia (Baby's Breath).  Sprigs would be used in corsages and buttonholes to complement the bride's and bridesmaid's bouquet.  What I do remember most about working with the flower was its rustic and heady fragrance and the almost woody feel of the stem in comparison to other more fragile flowers. Today native flower bridal bouquets are quite popular and with such an array of beautiful native flora on the market, it's great to see the Geraldton Wax has stood the test of time.

My design is 64 x 76mm (2.5 x 3in) in dimension when using 14/inch fabric or 35 x 42 stitches.  It uses 8 colours and double strands for the stem and needle-like leaves to give the impression of strength and robustness.  Both stem and leaves are stitched using filament threading whereby a single thread of two different shades or colours are threaded in the needle and then stitched together as one.  Small french knots for the centre of the flower and larger and thicker french knots for buds complete the design. 

As with all my designs, instructions are clearly set out on all kits and charts and available now on my website.  In time, this design will be stitched as an item and listed in my Etsy shop.  I feel as though the shape of the design could lend itself quite well as a needlebook and look quite pretty on complementary evenweave and contrasting cotton.  What a great excuse to buy more fabric!!


'If you love life, life will love you back' - Arthur Rubenstein

Friday, 30 December 2016

Reflections on 2016 we are again - end of another year and the New Year looming!.  And if you're like me you may well ask yourself just what you achieved this year.  When I checked my diary it turned out to be very quiet on the designing front - something which I intend to work on in 2017.  But I won't be too hard on myself because I achieved a lot in other areas.  

At the beginning of the year I was privileged to be accepted as a tutor with the Queensland Embroiderers' Guild for their children's holiday classes.  It was a most enjoyable experience as the two young girls in my charge were well mannered young ladies who were focussed and worked diligently enough to finish their project in the 2 day workshop and felt justifiably proud of themselves.  

Soon after, our neighbours were having a massive clean-out in preparation for a downsizing move and when lengths of fabrics, threads or craft of any type were found I was fortunate enough to be the lucky recipient.  But it was the plastic bag containing cut-out shapes for a large stuffed teddy bear that had already begun to be embellished with lace, ribbons and embroidery that caught my eye and I decided to surprise my lovely neighbour by creating a keepsake for her out of those pieces.  A crazy patchwork cushion came to mind and so I set about painstakingly sewing the fabrics together and then using the embellishments and varying stitches and techniques to create a proud masterpiece.  I can't begin to tell you how happy and amazed my neighbour was when I presented her with the cushion and the tears that sprang to her eyes were definitely appreciative ones .  I can tell you though that this cushion has it's own special place in her new home - that's reward enough for me.

For a while I had been entertaining the idea of updating my cross stitch software (cost was a major factor here) to enable the ability to provide symbol on colour charts with my kits and charts that I sell.  I finally took the plunge and set about the massive task of re-configuring instruction sheets for all designs.  I had under-estimated the time involved for the graphic and administrative work required and I am pretty sure that as a result of constantly using the computer mouse that I gave myself RSI in my forearm and elbow.  All is fine now but it took a little while to heal. Despite the time-consuming effort and injury sustained I am now so very happy with what I can offer my customers.

A new design - the West Australian Seahorse - was released and I set about stitching needlebooks for my Etsy shop.  Six in total have been stitched and proven to be quite popular with all needlebooks receiving good reviews.  

Early in the year my web designer wisely suggested the advantages of setting up an Instagram account to highlight my work which was met with a lukewarm response on my behalf (more technology to get my head around!!!).  But with the encouragement of my Gen Y daughter, I made the plunge and am now a total and utter convert.  I simply love seeing the work of other like-minded crafters and have followers from all around the world making for a wonderfully interesting network of stitchers and lovers of flora and fauna.  Instagram has also helped with my photography skills and of course, you can still follow me on Facebook.

Arguably one of the biggest decisions I made this year was to exhibit and sell my work by manning a table at the Brisbane Hustlin' Women's market.  In August I set myself a target and schedule of products to sell and stitched like a 'mad woman' to meet my self-imposed deadlines.  The products not only included what was already listed in my Etsy shop, but new ideas of framed stitched work and spectacle cases which required the tweaking of some of the original designs.  I am pleased to report that I was able to not only complete all of my targeted stitched projects but on market day covered stallholder costs and managed to make a worthwhile profit.  Woohoo!  The experience also gave me a good insight into customer interest of certain products which I can now use when planning for the next market which, at this stage, will be in April.  Spending the day with like-minded crafters just made the day so much more enjoyable too.

I've also been attending monthly stitching afternoons with the Guild and oddly enough tending to administrative work for Etsy and the website is something I don't mind.  It's where my articulate secretarial background comes into play, but I must admit though that if don't keep on top of it, problems can certainly arise.

Next year, I plan to make opportunities to pursue the designing of many more subjects as I feel I've set some very good foundations this year on which to continue.  Already I've looked into other avenues of community craft teaching or at the very least mentoring and sharing the gift of stitching and crafting.

For now my best wishes to everyone for a safe and Happy New Year.  

'There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind' - C.S. Lewis

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Market Preparations

Today is an overcast, gloomy and slightly showery day in Brisbane - quite different from our previous glorious Spring days earlier this week and so a perfect opportunity to spend some quiet time in front of my computer updating everyone on what I've been working on of late.  

A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge of manning a stall run by Brisbane Hustlin' Women whose next market will be close to Christmas on December 10.  Markets have always scared me just a little bit because of the amount of stock needed which of course means lots of stitching and which all stitchers know is quite time-consuming.  Throw pricing, table display, branding and marketing techniques into the equation and it's all enough for me to throw my hands in the air and claim that it's all too hard particularly when there's no guarantee of making any sales or a profit on the day.   However, the thought of spending a day with other creative ladies and coming face-to-face with prospective customers sends a certain thrill through me so with my family's encouragement, I've been beavering away and stitching like a mad lady to meet a personal schedule that I believe is doable (hopefully) without putting too much stress on myself.

I kind of figured that the items already in my Etsy shop ie. cards, magnets, keychains, bookmarks and needlebooks would all be great starters as well as selling charts but I've decided to add a couple of other items also.  Spectacle cases are something I have always thought would look special using my designs and will also be included in my Etsy shop.  But I have also decided to try something a little different by framing just a couple of designs and seeing how well they are received at the markets before deciding whether to include them in the Etsy shop.

My worktable at the moment contain works in progress -

The box on the right contains six finished designs all ready for framing -

The frames have been prepared by way of filling gaps with putty and sanding smooth - I can thank by husband and son for working on these.  It's now up to me to undercoat, paint in an appropriate contrast colour and clear varnish seal for each design before attaching the fabric, a protective sheeting over top and a hanging hook. 

 Below is the first of the spectacle cases - the Superb Fairy Wren - which is stitched on evenweave fabric in the colour Stone (really a fawn colour) which highlights the design beautifully.  I've loved working with this beautiful fabric and with seven other cases to make am really looking forward to seeing how they all turn out.  I plan to use a contrast fabric (much like the needlebooks) to line and bind the case and as this is the first spectacle case worked, I think I'll sew and finish it first to iron out any little problems before stitching the others first. Sound like a plan??

As well as all the stitching, I've also been gradually printing out and packaging charts of all my designs.  Yes I could do it all at once, but thought it would become very monotonous so I've just been doing a set few (or 10) each day or so.  That strategy also means that I'll get stitching in each day and my fingers won't suffer from 'itch to stitch' syndrome.

In the top photo on the right you'll also see my schedule listing of what needs to be stitched and crossed off as it's done.  No I don't suffer from OCD, but have found it really helpful to keep me on track and knowing that there won't be a mad rush closer to market date when there's still so much to do.  Also I'll be out of town a couple of times between now and December so I've had to factor that into my timeline as well.

The next big test will be a display table practice.  I have no real skills in this area but a wishy-washy idea in my head of how I think I want it to look.  My husband has kindly offered to make a couple of wooden display stands for the cards and frames so there's another job to do.  I am feeling rather confident at this stage that all will come together and be a success but for the moment it's head down and stitch, stitch, stitch.


'Live daringly, boldly and fearlessly.  Put forth the best within you.' - Henry Kaiser

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Design Release - Superb Fairywren

Today I am pleased to release a new design of one of Australia's cutest little birds - the Superb Fairywren - sometimes also known as the Superb Blue-wren or Blue Wren. Commonly found across south-eastern Australia, there are six sub-species groups recognised with three larger and darker forms from Tasmania, Flinders and King Island and three smaller and paler forms from mainland Australia and Kangaroo Island.  Their habitat consists of dense undergrowth for shelter in grasslands, woodlands, heaths and moderately thick forests but have, however, adapted to urban environments and can also be found in domestic gardens across Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

What is most spectacular about this pretty little bird is the male's bright blue almost iridescent blue plumage during mating season in order to attract a partner for breeding.  All other non-breeding males and females have brown/grey colouring.  Their height is approximately 14cm (5 1/2") from tip of claw to tip of tail with the tail alone being approximately 5.9cm (2 1/3").  With the Superb Fairywren's food source of mainly insects and seeds on the ground making them vulnerable to larger and more aggressive birds as their predators, they tend to forage in small groups under cover for protection and in winter when their food source is scare, ants make up the most of their diet.

My cross stitch design consists of eleven (11) colours with the finished sewn size being 40 x 85mm (1.6 x 3.4in) or 22 x 47 stitches and is available through my website in kit, chart or PDF format.  It would be an ideal design for any fauna enthusiast.

I really can't finish this entry without a story which 'tickled my fancy' a couple of years ago. My family and I were in Hobart at the famous Salamanca Markets in Salamanca Place. This view below is looking back up Salamanca Place with Mt. Wellington in the background.

Amongst all the craft stalls there I came across one of an Australian graphic artist featuring her beautiful work on postcards, greeting cards, magnets, etc.  At that particular time, the artist was absent from the stall and her husband was 'holding the fort'.  Her work really interested me and after checking what might be suitable to buy I came across a couple of small-sized flat compact/purse mirrors that featured artwork on the front and the mirror on the back.  But I had to decide which one (always an issue for a Libran!) and it was only when her husband mentioned that they lived at the base of Mt. Wellington and had little Superb Fairywrens in their backyard that I knew that that was the design I would choose. But then went on to say - in typical male Aussie style - that '...well they look a little bit scruffy right now but they'll soon get their act together when they need to look for a breeding partner'.  It just made me realise that all male Aussies - no matter what species - are all the same!!!

Anyhow, here is the compact/purse mirror which incidentally I use a lot.  By placing a couple of skeins of thread it gives an indication of how small the mirror is and how neat the artist's work is.


'Life if really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.' - Confucius

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Posing a Stitchy Question

At the beginning of the year my website designer suggested that I should probably be using more social media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest to help gain followers for my designs as I have such a visual product and my first reaction was .... oh no more technology to get my head around!  It just takes me a little time to get the hang of it all.  My Gen Y daughter (who seems to be across all forms of social media) thought it would be a good idea too and tried to explain how it all worked, how to set it up, etc. and I was left with my head spinning and so the whole idea was put in the 'too hard basket' - at least for a little while.  But never let it be said that I don't give things a try.  With a bit of googling here and there I had soon set up my own Instagram account and posted my first photo.

If I can be totally honest I love Instagram because I am following some absolutely amazing stitchers and embroiderers and their work is so beautiful. From small and simple projects to large and stunning designs I feel like I am part of a global community where we share a common interest and gain inspiration from each other and that gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  One of the things I love in particular is seeing photos of other stitchers' WIP's (Works in Progress) of the larger projects as it's always lovely to watch the design come to life and I've been interested to notice how some stitchers work differently.  What I am talking about is the technique of 'parking' threads.  I've noticed how the stitching is started in the top left corner and worked either line by line or grid by grid down the design with the threads 'parked' or left loose on the front of the fabric ready to be re-threaded when needed again.  

This photo is courtesy of 

Now, I have worked on a number of large projects myself over the years and was always informed that it is vital to start your stitching in the centre of the fabric so as to ensure that your work has left an even border and sufficient fabric needed for framing or trimming.  And I have always worked with one colour at a time within a certain space and in a certain direction to help get the feel for the design whilst at the same time marking off the symbols on the pattern with a coloured pencil.  Perhaps I should have taken the time to grid the fabric but I managed quite okay working this way.   I understand that by gridding the fabric with thread or marking with a pen that it is possible to use mathematics to count up the design and match where on the fabric that the design would start on Line 1 and then logically work down from there.  That I get.  But I look at the technique of 'parking' the threads and I have to wonder how not only do they not become tangled, but if it really does save time if you are having to re-thread the needle each time and be careful that the 'parked' threads are kept out of the way. 

When I was stitching my large projects I had a cross stitch needle organiser which allowed me to thread all the colours required for the project on a needle and when not in use placed into foam which had been wedged on to a frame-like device against a very small window where the corresponding symbol for that colour could be written.  

Perhaps this thread parking technique has been around for quite a while and I've just not been aware of it, but I have to say that in all the workshops and groups of stitching that I have been a part of, this is something I've not seen before.

So I would be very interested to hear from anyone in the cyber stitching community with their thoughts on this stitching method and its advantages.  I would also be interested to hear of any other helpful ideas for working on large projects with regards to using different colours over a small area within the design.  It's always great to be able to help each other.


'Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens' - Jim Hendrix

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Needlebook Nostalgia

For those of you who don't follow me on Etsy or Instagram, you may be unaware that I am now stitching and listing needlebooks in my Etsy shop.   They are stitched on subtle coloured evenweave linen to match and highlight the chosen design and complemented with a contrast cotton fabric lining using an array of colours all with the intention to reflect Australia's natural beauty.  These projects have been really creative to stitch and sew, but I have to admit that I was unprepared for how I really enjoyed working my designs on evenweave and linen.  The plan is to continue so I guess that just means building up my stash of more coloured linens.  Oh well...what's a girl to do!

Research on the internet has revealed a plethora of needlebooks from the simply constructed using basic materials to the intricate and beautifully designed and exquisitely stitched works of art which seem almost too precious to use.  Check on Etsy, Pinterest and Google images and you will see what I mean.  So it was quite the coincidence when I was going through some paperwork the other day that I came across a torn out article from a craft magazine from years ago on needlebooks.  I have no idea how old the magazine and article are but the story outlines the history, inception, marketing techniques and nostalgic values which I found incredibly interesting and felt worthy of sharing.  

Between the 1920's and 1950's, advertisers used the marketing strategy of offering paper needlebooks as giveaways and a goodwill object (complete with company logo, contact details and graphics) as something to give to women which would be used on a daily basis to provide a constant visual reminder of their product.  Being approximately the size of a postcard, the lightweight cardboard needlebooks included sets of different types and sizes of commonly used needles and often included unusual needles which also revealed a lot about the period because housewives of the early 20th century often had to turn their hands to all sorts of running repairs around the home.  Whilst the assortment of needles attached to cardboard, foil or cloth inside the book indicated the items women were familiar with, just as important were the graphics on the outside such as hairstyles, fashion trends, leisure activities, world events, building and industry advances all which gave a reference guide of the social history at the time of production.  Common themes were used and it was interesting to note how a particular graphic of a group of women stitching, when reissued over a period of time, reflected current trends and created a time line of fashion styles.

Needlebooks of the previous century have become highly collectable items and depending on their condition and subject matter can range in price significantly.  They were never designed to be anything but a temporary or ephemeral object which means their conservation over the years have been compromised and despite the fact that thousands were produced, there are not many original examples.  Reproductions are easy to locate and obtain perhaps because of the popularity to recapture the nostalgic desire for the simplicity of the past.

The magazine article points out that women have always loved experimenting with designs and techniques and that needlebooks have always been a favoured gift for sewing friends as a token of affection - no matter what the generation.

My mother was a dressmaker by trade and still to this day sews and crafts, but I'm pretty sure I can remember seeing a couple of these needlebooks in her basket and top drawer of her sewing machine table when I was young ... make that younger.  Brings back wonderful memories.

If you would like to check out the needlebooks in my Etsy shop just click on the logo at the top of this page.


'Our life is a creation of our mind' - Buddha