Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Heirlooms

Christmas is always a special time of year with varying reasons for different people. Decorating the home and the tree certainly adds sparkle and that little bit of magic but I've always thought that it reflected our personalities, lifestyles and beliefs also.

Quite a few years ago when my children were very small, I thought it would be a lovely sentiment to make a couple of 'extra special' decorations that would be given pride of place in the home, hold 'extra special' meaning and which could be passed down as heirlooms.  This 'Merry Christmas' cross stitch is one such heirloom which always hangs in our front foyer and with its colourful design mix makes for a beautiful welcome which has received many favourable comments over the years.  Unfortunately, the details of the design have been misplaced and cannot remember who the designer is, but I do know it was an enjoyable challenge to stitch. This photograph doesn't do it justice (the glass prevented clarity) so I have posted a couple of closer shots below to give a better idea of the design as well as the embellishments used.

I'm not quite sure really which letter I prefer because there's uniqueness in each one and no two letters are alike but the quirkiness of the design, even to this very day, has me spending time poring over it each year when it's unwrapped and ready for hanging.  But what's really special is that my daughter loves it so much that she's asked for it to be passed down to her in years to come.  Of course, that was always my intention.

But the heirloom which I intend to pass down to my son - a wooden Christmas wreath - was painted when I was studying folk art and as a young boy he was fascinated with the brightly coloured toy ornaments.  He laid claim to this when I personalised it by putting his birth year on the train.  It hangs proudly in our kitchen against the pantry and attests to the many, many, many time consuming but rewarding hours devoted to painting each and every design.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas with family and friends and a safe and happy New Year and look forward to sharing more of my projects and encounters with nature with my readers and talking 'stitchy' talk in 2014.


'The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time' - Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Royal Garden Visit

My son and I were enjoying morning tea on our back deck this morning when we were pleasantly surprised by the visit of this Sacred Kingfisher which landed on our clothesline.   He, too, was enjoying morning tea - a tasty small garden lizard or such - which didn't stand a chance when wedged tightly between its beak, but the by time I collected my camera (which is always kept close by the back door for instances such as this) it had been swallowed in one almighty gulp. 

The kingfisher did sense that he was on display and politely tilted his head this way and that as if posing for photo opportunities at a royal gala event, even twisting himself around so that his exquisite blue feathers and tail could be captured and admired at their best angle all the while spying us to ensure he was the centre of attention before flitting away.

In Australia there are 10 species of Kingfishers which are divided into three groups - Forest, River and the Kookaburra with the Sacred Kingfisher belonging to the Forest group and one of the smaller varieties and resting on the clothesline gives an idea of just how small this little fellow is.  The Kookaburra is the largest of the groups and we have plenty of visits from them as well, however, a visit from the Sacred Kingfisher is rare and quite exciting.  

Let's hope our royal visitor decides to stop by again soon.


'Smile - it is the ultimate beauty booster for inside and out'.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Design Release - Rainford's Butterflyfish

The release of my latest design coincides with the fact that Summer is upon us and with it the onset of long, hot, steamy days.  Here in Australia, of course, that means visits to our beautiful sandy beaches to soak up the sun and swim in our waters around the coastline and one of the most popular tourist destinations, both locally and internationally, is the famous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of northern Queensland.  It's in this natural environment of clear, coral-rich areas of lagoons and rocky reefs that you will find, amongst a myriad of other beautiful marine creatures, the brightly coloured Rainford's Butterflyfish living on a diet of algae and coral.

In actual fact, the Rainford's Butterflyfish 'home' extends as far south as northern New South Wales and north past Cape York Peninsula.  The size of this pretty little fish is quite small in comparison to some of its 'friends' at sea with it growing to an approximate length of 15cm (6 inches).

In order to be able to capture its overall beauty, a total of eleven colours have been used in the design highlighting the distinctive black strip over the eye, brightly coloured coral and water indicative of its natural environment.

I couldn't imagine anything more enjoyable and relaxing than stumbling across this happy little creature whilst snorkelling in the warm tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.


'Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others.  It is because we are different that each of us is special'.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gift Table Crafts

Twice a year the Queensland Embroiderers' Guild open their doors to the public to profile and display the varied works of its talented members and it is requested that we all contribute a couple of stitched items for the gift table to help raise funds.  There are no restrictions on what we make as long as it consists of some form of hand stitching and for some ladies it can be an issue deciding on just how much time and effort to put into an item that will be donated.  

However, for me the dilemma is always in deciding on what type of item to stitch as there are always so many small crafty ideas that I can think of whilst at the same time trying to keep ideas fresh and modern. Unfortunately, last year I foolishly forgot to photograph the slip book covers which had been embroidered with a variety of colourful basic stitches, but which I know sold rather quickly.  This year I decided to stitch my latest love for the delightful biscornu.

It was a wonderful way to perfect the technique and as you can see I stitched a couple of different sizes on coloured aida and linen fabric with ribbon attached to the two smaller ones for use as hanging ornaments.  Small beads (from my stash) were included as embellishments either during the stitch-up process or design stage and all were finished with a bead in the centre on the front and back.  With the exception of the far right biscornu in the purple and teal colours (a little creativity on my part) which was a design from a recent book purchase, the designs for the other biscornus were from a website - Wyrdbyrd's Nest- which listed quite a range of free patterns and well worth checking out.  

It was a joy and pleasure stitching these little treasures and I can only hope that whoever purchases them from the gift table will appreciate the love that has been put into them.


'Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you.  Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.'  -  Anonymous

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Cushion Talk

From the outset, one of the main objectives when creating my designs has always been their practical application.  Projects on the Projects Page of my website offer ideas and with just a little imagination or tweaking, beautiful and personalised items can be stitched with that wow factor.

For some time now, I have wanted to stitch one of my designs on a cushion cover so over the last couple of weeks have experimented by using a slightly larger count of more durable open-weave linen.  One thing I would like to point out when stitching on a larger open weave fabric is that in order to obtain better coverage and depth of colour, it's probably best to use three strands of thread for the cross stitch and two strands for backstitch. With the addition of ribbon sewn diagonally across each corner the design is framed simply but elegantly. Basic finishing instructions are given on the Projects Page, but this cushion was backed with red poplin fabric and a zipper opening to enable the cushion insert to be removed and the cover to be gently hand washed should it become soiled.  Of course imagination dictates how this cushion cover could be otherwise embellished eg. buttons, beads or extra stitching around the border.

Projects like this make beautiful statements, are feature pieces and refined works of textile art and therefore, most advisedly, should be kept well out of the way of men or teenage boys who simply don't appreciate the fact that they should NOT be used for pillow fights or to put their grubby, smelly feet on!


'You can only find out by trying' - Greek Proverb

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bottlebrush on Fire

Despite the fact that we are in the middle of an extremely dry and bushfire-wary Spring (it's been simply months since we've experienced any rain) and that everyone's gardens and lawns are sadly brown and dying, it's been wonderful to notice in the last week or so colour along streets and in parks due to the blossoming of the spectacular Bottlebrush flower.  The tree in our very own front yard (picture below) has already begun to burst into a mass of colour and also enticing birdlife - in particular Rainbow Lorikeets - to feed from the nectar within the flower.  What really amazes me though is that although the branches and leaves themselves appear brown and lifeless, it hasn't prevented the flowering process - in fact it gives the impression of 'Bottlebrush on Fire'.

So with this in mind, I thought it appropriate to give a few interesting facts about this native plant whilst in its glory. Belonging to the Myrtaceae family and a member of the genus Callistemon, the plant is found from the tropical north to the temperate south along the east and south east of Australia with two species found in the south west of Western Australia and whilst it thrives in damp conditions, it is hardy, frost and drought tolerant and requires little or no maintenance.  Bottlebrush grow in a variety of soils and requires full sun for the best flowering in spring and summer when it attracts nectar-feeding birds and insects.  Flower spikes are made up of a number of individual flowers and pollen forms on the tip of a long stalk called filaments which gives the distinctive 'bottlebrush' shape. The Bottlebrush make excellent garden plants and its popularity began soon after European settlement and then introduced to Britain by Joseph Banks in 1789.  

Some of the varieties of Bottlebrush that grow in most parts of Australia are Prickly, Crimson, Kingaroy, Lemon, and Weeping all growing to a height of 3 to 5 metres, with either red or lemon coloured flower spikes.  The Alpine is a compact 1 metre bush with yellow flowers and the Willow with white or greenish flower spikes which can also be found in the pretty colours of pink, red or mauve.  Harkness, Hannah Ray, Dawn River Weeper all have a weeping habit, Little John has blue/green foliage, and Reeves Pink and Mauve Mist have pink flowers.

My cross stitch design could belong to any one of the above red flowering varieties and was one of my very first designs due to my being surrounded by inspiration.  With the use of long stitch from the central stem to the outer flower overlapping each other it gives a three-dimensional effect and the black and yellow french knots finish the design beautifully.

In the past, I have placed cut Bottlebrush stems in a vase to inject a profusion of colour in the house. Unfortunately, the spikes or 'needles' are frail and drop quite easily leaving a mess and dry stalk which really is not very attractive, so now I prefer to appreciate the beauty in its natural form remaining on the tree and for our native birdlife.


'Life isn't about how you survived the storm ... it's about how you danced in the rain'

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Totes, Travel and Tears

This post is one of mixed emotions as our daughter and her very good friend departed Brisbane yesterday morning bound for a six week travel holiday to the United States.  Whilst we are so very happy and proud of them to have worked so hard to save money, showed independence by organising their own itinerary and made all the necessary arrangements themselves, I'm sure it's only natural that as a parent it has torn at the heartstrings to wave them goodbye at the airport and watch them head out into the big wide world on the adventure of a lifetime to fulfil a childhood dream.  Let me tell you that I'm not one that's good with airports or goodbye's at the best of times but the goodbye at the airport yesterday was ... well ... difficult.  With my son's comforting arm around me, I can only hope that people who saw me as we walked back to the car park assumed the reason for my tears and then just as I had some degree of control over myself by the time we arrived to pay for parking at the ticket machine, my daughter sent me a beautiful text from her iPhone - which, of course, only set me going again.  I have no idea how I drove home.

However, a 'little' part of me is travelling with our daughter on this journey.  A few years back when she began her travels around parts of Australia, I stitched a sachet bag for her which she always uses now for underwear and/or stockings to prevent them catching or snagging on other items in her luggage.

This design - Flap the Owl - was one in a range of 'funky' cross stitch kits from DMC which was packed from materials for Leutenegger. With the use of bright, block colours, the design stitched up easily and quickly and was then machine sewn onto contrasting fabric (from my stash) and bordered with bright ribbon to match the drawstring.

Because this idea has proved to be such a success, last weekend our daughter asked me if I would make her and her friend a couple of basic shoe bags (based on the same principle).  However, what she didn't expect was the opportunity this request offered to use my imagination to make something both personal and creative and so I set out by making three bags each using hard wearing fabric - drill and calico - from my stash.

The high heel shoe on the yellow bags were edged in button-hole stitch with contrasting coloured ribbon used for the drawstring according to the colour of the thread used and the 'Bon Voyage' bag was hand stitched using back stitch and red, white and blue filament-threading for the U.S.A. stitching.  The other slightly smaller bags featured the girl's names on each using colours to reflect their personalities and then those same colours used to form a posy of flowers with the lazy daisy stitch for the flowers and stem stitch for the stem.  They will use those particular bags for their flat shoes and sandals.  

It goes without saying that this project proved to be a very happy, pleasurable and rewarding one and the girls were simply overjoyed with them.  We wish them safe travels.


"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page" - Augustine of Hippo

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Groovy Babe Cushion

Today is a special day in the family with our daughter celebrating her 24th birthday and as my designing and stitching time has been drastically affected this year due to my Dad's health issues requiring my support, I thought I'd share the gift stitched for her a few years back.  Our daughter has always been a modern young lady, interested in fashion and bright colours, so this particular design suited her personality and tastes perfectly.  

Groovy Babe was one in a series of fortnightly designs from Cross Stitch Magic by Eaglemoss Publications where the graph, instructions and suggestions for materials and stranded cottons were provided as well as applications for each design, however, on this occasion I altered the colours to suit what was available in my stash at the time.  I chose to stitch the design on a panel, use contrasting fabric and a buttoned back enclosure enabling the insert to be removed and the cover to be carefully washed should the need arise.

The cushion is still lovingly displayed after all this time along with Groovy Babe's quirky posture, facial features, hair and dress sense.  


'That which is loved is always beautiful'  -  Norwegian proverb

Monday, 29 July 2013

A Quilted Gift

Nothing restores your faith in human nature more than the random act of kindness and generosity of strangers and this was clearly evidenced during the past week.  To give you a background, my very dear Dad has been sick for a few years now, but in particular this year has been quite a struggle for him as his health has deteriorated requiring numerous outpatient hospital treatment sessions and more recently three separate hospital stays in the space of four to six weeks. Along this journey, not only has he come into contact with and befriended many wonderful doctors and nursing staff, but allied health workers as well - physiotherapists, dieticians, pharmacists, etc. and on one particular occasion when Dad was receiving a regular treatment, he was paid a visit by a social worker by the name of Lyn.  Both my Mum and I were present when she visited and were impressed by her quiet, caring and unhurried nature.  On Dad's recent in-hospital stay, Lyn paid him another visit arming him with literature on tips for reducing stress including links to useful websites for meditation (all a little lost on a man of my Dad's age with certain attitudes towards such frivolous subjects, I'm afraid!).

So imagine our complete surprise and utter disbelief when, for no particular reason, Lyn presented Dad with a quilt to keep which she had hand stitched herself and carefully folded and neatly stored in another hand sewn carry bag.  On inspection it was clearly obvious that there had been many, many hours of tedious and skillful work spent on neatly stitching this large double-bed size and colourful quilt but to give it to someone who she had only known briefly left us all completely 'gob-smacked' (my Dad's words) and shaking our heads.  

Here is a close-up of  some of the colourful fabrics used in one particular section of the quilt.

However, what is considered quite the personal touch are three or four panels of hand stitched sayings strategically placed throughout the quilt which in itself would have been quite time-consuming.  This one shown here is an example.

Perhaps what was most touching of all though was the accompanying hand-written card stating washing and care instructions on one side and on the other side this heart-warming verse - 'May this quilt wrap you in a big warm hug - God bless".  

This quilted gift will be forever treasured.  Thankyou Lyn for your kindness.


"Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in things creates profoundness, kindness in giving creates love" - Lao Tzu

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Shamrock Biscornu

Perhaps I've been living on a different planet for the last couple of years and to some stitchers this may come as quite a surprise, but only just recently I discovered biscornus and think they're just so cute. The name, derived from a French adjective, means "skewed, quirky or irregular", "that which has an irregular form with projections" or "complicated and bizarre".  In fact they are small 8-sided wadding-stuffed ornamental pillows which can be used as pincushions, ornaments, key chain/mobile phone decorations, scissor fobs, sachets, etc. and are usually made of Aida cloth or linen and decorated top and bottom with embroidery, cross stitch or hardanger.  A button secures the centre of the cushion and helps give the small depression needed to finish the shape and beads, tassels, etc. can be used to further decorate and adorn and depending on the pattern added either during the design or finishing stage. Whilst biscornus can be of any size - small or large - it is, however, very important that both stitched sides are square and exactly the same size to ensure complete evenness during the stitch-up stage.  

My first biscornu attempt is this Shamrock Maze by Virginia Knutson of VeeandCo Cross Stitch Designs, a complimentary pattern she designed when we both participated as exhibitors in the Counted Wishes Festival a couple of years ago.  

As this was my first attempt, colours and buttons used were just from my stash and not the colours recommended by the designer, but it gave me the idea of the importance of keeping the work neat and square.

I won't go in to specifics on the finishing techniques of a biscornu as there are ample tutorials online.  A couple of helpful tutorial sites to visit though are and There are also books and a myriad of websites offering simply beautiful designs for inspiration. 

Recently I bought myself a book titled 'Teach Yourself to Make a Biscornu' from Bobbie Watts a fellow Aussie living in Tasmania.  She has produced some exquisite designs adorned with tassels, beads, cords and organza pom-poms and stitched with a variety of embroidery stitches and cross stitch.  I could very easily stitch each and every one of them - such is the stitcher's and crafter's dilemma.


'Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you' - Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Geranium Fairy

Like any little girl growing up, our now .. almost .. 24 year daughter has gone through quite a few phases and her bedroom has reflected those phases along the way.  Now, as a confident and independent young lady, her tastes are, understandably, modern and contemporary.  But let me think now......   There was the bold and colourful phase where everything was so bright that you practically needed to wear your sunglasses just to walk into the room, the frangipani phase where she just loved the fragrance and simplicity of the island flower, the owl phase where she tried to convince us that it was her personality imparting wisdom, but which her brother vehemently denied and dismissed as nonsense!!  And then there was the fairy phase.  Fairyland, as it became known, lasted quite a few years and consisted of fairy doona cover and pillows, fairy wall frieze, fairy curtains and fairy 'glow-in-the-dark' ceiling stickers.  The obsession extended to covering school books with fairy pictures, fairy stationery, fairy colouring-in books, fairy wall calendars and beautifully illustrated, glossy fairy books (which to this day, I might add, are still part of her special book collection) and so on.

When my cousin from Melbourne visited one time, she became totally and utterly enchanted with Fairyland and upon her return home, when shopping one day, found a fairy cross stitch kit.  There was only one person she knew of who would love and appreciate this design and as a very kind gesture, bought the kit and posted it to my daughter as an addition to her room.

The Geranium Fairy was one in a series of cross stitch kits which DMC Myart adapted from original artwork    by the talented and self-taught artist Cicely Mary Barker, who, despite any formal training, came to international acclaim as an artist with the publication of her Flower Fairies books in 1923.

As can be seen by these close-up shots, the 29 colours of stranded cotton ensured that the delicate brushwork, fine detail and subtle shading transferred beautifully into cross stitch art.  

I can't recall now how long it took for me to complete stitching The Geranium Fairy but I do know it was  finished and framed in plenty of time for it to be part of Fairyland and before my daughter moved on to her next phase.  Now it adorns a wall in my workroom and is a constant inspiration for my love of nature.


'The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind.  But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.' - Chanakya

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Release - Echidna

Today I proudly release a new design - the Echidna  - and would like to take the opportunity to explain a little about this rather unusual Australian mammal.  

Sometimes known as the spiny ant eater, the echidna is one of only three species of monotreme (mammals that lay eggs) in the world with the platypus being one and the other being an echidna restricted to the highlands of New Guinea.  They're common and widespread throughout most of Australia and can be found in a natural environment of open heathlands and forests and particularly common in dry open country on the east coast of Tasmania.  Echidnas grow to approximately 45cm in length and weigh anywhere between 2kg and 5kg but what makes this little creature so interesting is its body which is covered with cream coloured spines which are in fact modified hairs and which can reach to 50mm in length.  Fur ranging in colour from honey to reddish-brown and growing between the spines provides insulation.  What I found interesting when doing my research is the fact that Tasmanian echidnas are larger than their mainland relatives and that the fur is thicker and longer than those in warmer mainland areas which sometimes actually conceals the spines.  Because these spines are very sharp and can cause infections, echidnas should not be picked up without some form of skin protection.

The echidna has short limbs and powerful claws which prove very handy for rapid digging and elongated claws on their hind feet which curve backwards enable them to clean and groom themselves.  They are surprisingly good swimmers able to paddle with only their snout and a few spines showing.  Its long sensitive snout hunts for a diet of ants and termites and its strong claws tear open the ant or termite nest  and any insects in the nest are caught on its fast moving tongue which is covered with a layer of sticky mucous.

This shy little fellow moves slowly and carefully with a 'waddle' like gait and its activity differs depending on the location and temperature.  It is completely nocturnal in the warmer parts of Australia preferring to spend the daytime resting out in the heat sheltered in rotten logs, under bushes or in burrows whereas in the southern parts of Australia and particularly during winter, echidnas are active during the day.  They can live anywhere as long as there is a supply of ants and despite its thorny covering, this animal does have natural predators such as eagles and Tasmanian devils which, believe it or not, will actually eat the spines.

There is one thing that quite amazes me with the echidna and, to some extent, even makes me a little jealous. You see, when threatened by a predator, this clever little creature has the ability to disguise itself by rolling up into a little ball and seeking shelter usually under a bush, in a hollow log, burrow or such.  How many times in life, when faced with bad news and/or nasty and unpleasant situations (as well as nasty and unpleasant people) would it be so easy to just curl ourselves up in a ball and roll somewhere safe and hide where we didn't have to deal with such problems and hope that the world would just go away.

My designs contains 10 colours with two colours used as long stitches to denote spines, a pink tongue and black french knot eyes with backstitching only around the beak and claws.  Ideally sized for a card, this design would be perfect for depicting our natural Australian native fauna.


'Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it'  - Confucius

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Snow Flake Bush

Over the last week or two winter has well and truly arrived in Brisbane (even though we are still officially in Autumn) and one of the best things about winter in the tropics is that we have the most glorious of days with minimal rainfall and warming sunshine. Although a lot of trees may lose their leaves during this time, one bush that makes an appearance with a spectacular display - if only for a short time - is the Snow Flake Bush.  They are in full bloom everywhere in our neighbourhood at the moment and so I thought I would feature this flowering bush whilst currently at its most beautiful.  

Originating from Central America, the Euphorbia leucocephala bush is grown in many countries and as such has been given many common names, a couple being 'Snows of Kilimanjaro' and 'Pasquita', but here in Australia we are familiar with the name of 'Snow Flake'.  Closely related to the Poinsettia flower, this bush is a low maintenance shrub growing 1.5 to 2 metres in height and 2 to 3 metres in width in full sun to semi-shade and will suit an average garden, however, it doesn't tolerate frost.  Its best climate is in areas north of Sydney and Perth and mostly dominates the coastal perimeter.

The pretty creamy/white, petal-like bracts are dense blooming and cover the entire plant in fragrant flowers which attract butterflies and flower only during Autumn and Winter (April to July) when the days are shorter and there is the least amount of daily sun.  After flowering, the bush loses its leaves for a short while before again greening up from Spring onwards for the remainder of the year.  The stems contain a milky sap which could irritate some sensitive skins therefore it's advisable to wear protective gloves when pruning or taking cuttings.

All of these above photos were taken in my local street and considering we live in a tropical climate of extreme heat, cyclones and severe electrical storms and don't really experience bitterly cold winters, I find it wonderful to dream of being surrounded by 'snow flakes' even if it is a bush and only for such a short time.


"Failing to try is far worse than trying and failing" - Bryce Courtenay

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Tartan Thistles Needlecase

Let me start by wishing all mothers a Happy Mother's Day today.  I thought I'd show and share with everyone the gift I stitched for my own Mum and since she is someone who has always sewn, embroidered and attempted a variety of crafts, I knew she would appreciate the love and time devoted to this particular project.

Approximately 18 months ago, my elderly parents moved into a self-contained unit in a retirement village close to where we live and this came about not merely because of their age.  You see, in January 2011 their house was severely affected by the Brisbane floods and so they took the opportunity to move on to the 'next stage of their lives'.  Amongst the devastation and loss of so many personal and material possessions included the loss of most of Mum's craft fabrics, knitting needles and wools, crochet hooks, embroidery needles, threads, etc. and believe me when I say that she had collected a LOT over a lifetime.  Much has been replaced and she is still continuing to restock her supplies, albeit on a smaller scale and mostly this is because she has joined a weekly craft group within the retirement village which has given her a new and continuing outlet for her creativity.  Recently, I took her to the haberdashery section of our local Spotlight store to buy felt, fabric, wadding, needles and wool as the group were making small teddy bears for a charity which supplied them to a children's hospital.  Her teddies were so cute and very neatly stitched complete with satin stitch eyes and nose and blanket stitch around the body and I believe the other ladies were agog at the amount of effort she had put into the teddies, but Mum just shrugged and commented on how she thoroughly enjoyed the activity.

So when I recently attended the Brisbane Stitches and Craft Fair, I came across this needlecase kit which I thought my Mum would love and in particular the design, because she is of Scottish heritage.  The design is by Lesley Clarke for the Textile Heritage Collection and is part of a range consisting of a bookmark, sachet and scissor keep.

The placement of the stitching was very important because the fabric was to be folded in half and the edges folded over so measurement and centring was crucial.  The order in which colours were stitched was very important as well with the border and background stitched first.  The background colours were just long diagonal stitches held securely in place when the dark purple backstitch covered the grid.  The thistle design  consisted of cross stitch, backstitch and straight and diagonal longstitch over two or more holes.

Two separate pieces of cardboard slightly larger than each design were then cut and placed behind the two separate designs with the extra fabric firmly folded over and the corners neatly mitred and stitched in place.  The coloured felt which was part of the kit was cut in half lengthwise and one piece placed over the folded fabric and neatly stitched to the fabric - I used a herringbone stitch.  This was a time-consuming task, however it was necessary to ensure the fabric was held firmly and securely in place. 

The remaining length of felt was then placed inside and centred evenly over the stitched felt with the tassle loop slipped over and into the centre (between the two pieces of cardboard).  The loop was then neatly slip-stitched through all layers thereby holding the centre 'leaf' in place as well as the loop on the outside of the case slip-stitched ensuring that the tassle was held firmly in place.

I am pleased to say that my Mum was thrilled with her gift when I gave it to her last night when my parents were over for dinner and commented on how she will be able to put it to good use.  I can almost see her right now hard at work!


"We can do no great things, only small things with great love" - Mother Theresa

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Embroidery - Machine vs Hand

Recently I attended the Brisbane Stitches and Craft Fair (as a visitor) and as always, was  'like a kid in a candy store' and totally in my element being surrounded by all the different types of craft and creativity.  I found it interesting to see and learn the new craft trends as well as the ones that have stood the test of time proving their popularity and also the crafts that have made a revival, albeit with a modern twist.  What was particularly lovely to witness was the cross-section of ages attending reinforcing the fact that interest in craft will continue.  

I noticed that there was quite a large representation of sewing machine companies showcasing  the embroidery techniques of their latest machines and their capacities were nothing short of amazing and awe-inspiring.  However, it got me to thinking .... how does machine embroidery compare and differ to hand embroidery? 

Now, right from the outset, I want to make it quite clear that I do not wish to be controversial or state that one form of embroidery is better than the other.  Having used both forms myself over the years it would be rather hypocritical of me to be that judgemental.  I well remember purchasing my 'top of the range' Janome sewing machine in the early 1980's (and which I still  own to this very day) capable of multiple embroidery stitches and which at the time was rather 'state of the art'.   My children's clothes and bed linen were proudly and lovingly adorned with beautiful machine stitching, able to be washed easily and adapted as they quickly grew.  

The way I see it, there seems to be a few advantages and disadvantages to both forms:

-    Let's start with the time factor - obviously handstitching is a lot more time consuming than stitching by machine.  Depending on the design and type of stitches used, the machine would power through the work in no time and depending on its purpose and the number of designs needing to be stitched, ending up being quite labour and cost-effective.  
-    However, the initial outlay of a sewing machine is costly whereas hand stitchers' basic requirements are relatively inexpensive.  
-    There is a limitation to the type of stitches machines can produce though giving hand-stitchers a wider range of choice and skills.  
-     Portability of hand embroidery is a real bonus for stitchers with the ability to carry work anywhere, anytime and pick it up and put it down as opposed to machine embroidery where that is not possible.  
-     Whilst there are a wide range of threads for both forms, hand embroidery gives the choice of multi-thread use useful for textured work and three dimensional effects.  
-     Certainly the issue of cleaning is a consideration -  machine embroidered items can easily be put in the washing machine albeit on a gentle cycle whereas hand-embroidered work requires careful attention with gentle hand washing and drying, thus making it time consuming work.  

For me though, I think what makes hand embroidery so appealing is the fact that it is a calming and relaxing pastime, skills are continuously honed and you finish with a unique, heirloom quality item and a real sense of accomplishment.  Hand stitched items made with love and given as gifts are always appreciated also.  Whilst smart technology makes machine stitching a realistic way of the future, hand stitching represents a link to the past spanning simply centuries.

Here are two baby blankets given to me when my children were born.  

The first one was hand-stitched by a family friend and the fact that she took the time to choose fabric, ribbon, a design and stitch it with me and my new born daughter in mind, makes it very special.

This blanket, with its machine embroidered motif, was given to me by my dear aunt when my son was born.

Two blankets, two different forms, but both special heirlooms which I wouldn't part with for all the world.

I guess, like with everything else, it comes down to choice and I would be very interested to read comments and views on this subject.


'Seek first to understand, then to be understood'. - Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Saturday, 13 April 2013

King Parrot

Let me share with you what greeted me on our back deck this morning - this gorgeous, brightly coloured male King Parrot. 

My daughter and I spied two pairs washing and preening themselves in the rain on a backyard tree and when we went outside to get a closer look, this particular King Parrot flew away only to return to our deck and then turn himself around and shake off the excess water in his wings (which is why he looks all fluffed-up).  It then seemed as though he deliberately remained long enough to 'pose' for this photo before then taking flight and displaying his colourful wings.

We have lived in this area for 25 years and whilst we have daily visits of Rainbow Lorikeets and regular visits of cockatoos, kookaburras and galahs, it has only really been in the last six months that King Parrots have made their way into our garden, even though they are found along the entire Australian eastern coast and inhabit forests and eucalyptus trees .  They make a spectacular sight, not only because of their bright colour, but also because they're quite a large bird growing to an average size of 42 cm (18 in.).  The female King Parrot, whilst the same size, has a greener colouring on her chest and head.  

My design for the  King Parrot stitches up beautifully and uses vibrant, intense shades of colours.  It measures 60 x 96mm (14 count) or 33 x 53 stitches. 

The bookmark design is another favourite and one which can be stitched up quite quickly as a last minute gift for an avid reader.  

What I like about this bookmark design also is the fact that it would be suitable for a male by just using the cardboard backing but a feminine touch could be created by adding tassels, beads or bling.  


'Don't cry because its over ... smile because it happened.'

Monday, 1 April 2013

New Release - Rainbow Lorikeet

It seems an appropriate time right now to release this particular new design because we have more than the usual numbers of Rainbow Lorikeets frequenting our backyard and neighbouring gardens at the moment.  This very brightly coloured member of the parrot family feeds on pollen and nectar from native flowers and with our neighbour's yellow Grevillia bush in full bloom and dripping with honey-sweet nectar it has enticed so many of these native birds.  They're quite a social species also and often there can be as many as five or six feeding on the same bush at the same time before flying off together and displaying their colourful wings, so you can imagine how noisy it becomes - but pleasantly so.  Even as I write this, I can hear them squawking  in the trees outside. When the Bottlebrush plant is in bloom in our front yard, we have them visiting also. 

The Rainbow Lorikeet can be found in rainforests and woodland areas in coastal regions across northern and eastern Australia, so it's a bird mostly suited to tropical climates.

My cross stitch design - one of my personal favourites - consists of thirteen colours and was a joy to design because I could use so many bright and distinct colours and the finished product  just seemed to 'jump' off the fabric.  

I wish everyone a safe, happy and relaxing Easter and trust it provides a perfect opportunity for stitching and working on other 'to-do' projects.  


"When life deals you lemons - make lemonade"

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Poppies Birthday Card

Welcome to my blog.

I would like to use this page to showcase not only my own cross stitch designs, but to share with you many of my own personal projects which I've stitched over the years and discuss embroidery and stitching in general.  From time to time, I'd also like to touch on the subject of Australian flora and fauna and how it forms the inspiration for my designs.

First, though, I thought I'd show a birthday card recently stitched for a very special friend.  Sometimes I stitch other's designs and this is such an example because as soon as I saw the bright and cheery poppies, I knew it would be perfect for my friend because it matched her personality so well.  It was in Issue 67 of the Cross Stitch Card Shop magazine.

Incidentally she loved the card and not just because of the beautiful colours but for the time and effort taken to stitch it and the love put into it.