Paisley Ponderings

2014_09090002I had been making good progress on the paisley designed cushion cover but I suspect I am about to take some steps backwards.

In my last post I mentioned how frustrated with the transfer method suggested with the pattern in the Stitch magazine I was.  I used a transfer pencil and despite repeating the process several times the pattern was barely visible even with my glasses on!  So I decided enough was enough and drew in the design freehand which turned out to be quite easy really given the simplicity of the design.  I definitely prefer the pounching transfer method.

Anyway having transferred the design I have made good progress on the largest motif.  The outline is in stem stitch, with the flowers made up of detached chain stitches and French knots.  I have to say that I have felt that any doubt I might have had about French knots have definitely been put to bed. I also enjoyed the crewelwork project much more as I like the complexity of the stitches and effect achieved.

All seemed well until I realised that my approach of using a waste knot was failing dismally. I had learnt this method of starting off a new thread on the previous project where it was great.  Essentially you start the thread off going down from the top side of the fabric a little way from where you will be stitching.  Then when you have finished you snip of the knot and the thread is caught up with the stitches on the back of the work.  This worked well with crewelwork due to the density of the stitching but with the current project it hasn’t work since the stitches are quite well spread out and so there is nothing really to catch the thread. I really should have twigged this a little earlier.

Therefore I am going back to my old approach for the rest of this project catching the thread under previously sewn stitches and I think I might have to re-do some of the work I have already done but I think I will come back to that at the end.

I am still pondering the Embroiders Guild course.  I think I might go for it as it will bring out my creative imagination which must be lurking somewhere, although if I could find some sort of distance learning course through which I could learn skills such as goldwork, blackwork or stumpwork I would prefer to go for one of those.



Pomegranate Flower Crewel Work Completed


Back on the 1st January I blogged about learning a new skill – crewel work.  I have an inability to sit and do nothing of an evening so I tend to either knit, crochet, blog, or do tapestry.  Many years ago I used to do embroidery but always from pre-printed kits and I fancied the challenge of trying something more advanced and learning some new stitches.

The kit is from The Royal School of Needlework and comprises the fabric, thread, pattern to transfer and instructions.  As I said in January the first challenge was learn to transfer the design using pouncing.  I enjoyed doing this but then lost my nerve at the next stage which was the Trellis Stitch in the middle of the flower.

2014_08250002However, picked up the work again I conquered the stitch and went on to learn Burden Stitch, Spit Stem Stitch and Padded Satin Stitch and with each one my confidence has grown as has my enjoyment and desire to learn more.

My interest and curiosity has grown and I am toying with signing up for a course with the Embroiderers Guild which will teach me how to design my own images rather than relying on others.  I am pretty confidence with a wealth of stitches but have no idea of how to start with a blank piece of fabric.  I have joined the Guild and find their quarterly magazine Stitch quite inspirational and this is where the next project is going to come from.

10580170_649766538452738_6500227930921311408_nI am having a go at a cushion. In theory this will be simple as the stitches are fairly straight forward being mainly Chain Stitch and French Knots but I have already been frustrated this afternoon at transferring the design using a different technique to the pomegranate but a solution has been found so now for the enjoyable bit.

As for the Pomegranate I think I will get it framed as I am rather pleased with it.

Pinning Dinner – Olive, Caper & Tomato Dressing

unnamedI have a real weakness for Pinterest.  It keeps my over active mind engaged in the evenings especially at the moment when there is little on television apart from sport.  I rarely pin recipes as many of the Pinners I follow are in the US and the recipes are often hard to translate due to their different measurements and with ingredients I can’t find.

However, the other day on a particularly warm evening I came across this recipe, Chicken Escalope with Olive, Caper and Tomato Dressing, which was just the right thing to cook on a summer’s evening when the thought of another salad or BBQ was too much.  The recipe, is on the Simply Delicious blog written by Alida Ryder.  It seems Alida was trying to come up with a recipe to use some Calamata Style Olives which she had to develop a recipe for.

The recipe is wonderfully simple so requires little time in a hot kitchen.  You escalope the chicken breast, flour it and fry in some oil.  You make the dressing with cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice – you can access the actual recipe here.  The dressing is the star of the show – the combination of ingredients gives a nice blend of sharp, salty, bitter and fresh taste. It is very refreshing.

unnamed dinnerI added some new potatoes and yes I know I will win no prizes for presentation, there is too much dressing on the chicken and possibly too many potatoes but the meal was only for me so it doesn’t matter.  I have  made the dressing again already this time to go with some pork escalope.  I think it might also go well with oily fish such as mackerel or sardines – maybe I will give that a go next week.


Roman Blind Project


I could start this post by saying its ages since I posted etc etc but I hate that so I won’t instead I will show you one of the projects I have completed this weekend – The Roman Blind.  I think it needs capitals as it became a bit of a cause celebre in my house and I am sure both my sons are pleased that it is finally completed and they don’t have to listen to me on the subject of ‘The Roman Blind’.

I have said before on this blog that in my late teens I used to make my own clothes including complex designer Vogue patterns without a second thought but with age and a loss of confidence for reasons I won’t bore you with I find myself struggling at time to believe that the project will turn out as I imagine it in my head.  I am also a very tough self-critic – never a good thing.

Anyway, the downstairs toilet has been a room that has been unloved by me since we moved here 9 years ago.  It is the domain of my son and was alright but not one of those facilities you would necessarily be in a rush to suggest guests use.  Last Autumn I decided to give it a face-lift.  The room was painted a soft grey to bring out the colour in the tiles and my youngest son put down a new floor which has a black slate effect.  Very smart, very masculine.  The room is a strange shape and has a recess which isn’t enough for a shower but is wasted space so we put in some book shelves – why not? I also around this time found a mahogany framed mirror at the local flea market and so I match the toilet seat to this and the whole space took on a new feel – masculine but more elegant; my eldest says it makes him think of a ‘Gentleman’s Club’! The only problem was that the room is flooded with sunlight and the books were in direct line of the light and I didn’t want the covers bleached.  I didn’t want another roller blind, as the old one was never used, but I wanted to dress the window in such a way that the strength of the sun was reduced.

I spent some time on Pinterest looking at instructions for making false Roman Blinds, before coming to the conclusion that I might as well go the whole hog and make a real Roman Blind. How hard could it be, after all its only a rectangular of fabric with some cording.  It’s not the cording that is the challenging bit but the mathematics that go with making such a blind.  I chose the material; a grey toile pattern which  I think added to the Edwardian feel of the space.  My local soft furnishing shop are very good.  They started off by giving me some printed instructions to take away to look at and which showed me how to work out the material I needed and how many folds etc I should have.  It wasn’t that hard once my head was in the right place so having completed my maths test I went back and bought all the bits and pieces – it came to around £45, a lot less than I paid for a similar blind on another window to be made.

I started at Easter cutting out the material.  I dither when it comes to cutting material as I am convinced I am going to make a mistake.  I did this time as I got confused somewhere along the line between the instructions in inches and centimetres so instead of adding 2″ for the slot along the bottom I added 2cm – whoops.  I have never made any window dressings nor lined anything so the lining took a while to work out but I got there.  By the end of the first session I had sewn on the lining and sewn the bottom slope for the bar that weights it all.


Two months have nearly passed while I have been busy with this and that mainly to do with the garden but also making excuses for not finishing the blind.  It sat there on the side goading me until this weekend I decided enough was enough and to deal with it.  I sewed the velcro along the top and then after some more sums to adjust my measurements for my decimal/imperial mistake I sewed on the tape and inserted the rods.  I was dreading the cording bit but this was actually the easiest task.

Luckily at this point my 6’6″ son came to help  and saved me from going up and down a step ladder. He put the other half of the velcro on the batten using the opportunity to play with my new staple gun! He then screwed in the eyelets and threaded the cording through them for me and hey presto it was up. The cleat that you wind the cords around to keep the blind up still needs to be done but this morning when I had another peak at the blind I was really pleased with the result.

It definitely reduced the glare of the sun and the folds are beginning to settle into shape. I think I now have the confidence to make another one for the landing window when I decorate that area, which is the plan for this winter.  I will though make some notes on the instructions including some large notes reminding myself not the muddle imperial and decimal.  Luckily the blind just fits the length of the window and isn’t really intended to be down much so the lost few centimetres don’t really matter.

So if you have pondered making a Roman Blind I would say go for it, just double and triple check your measurements and sums before you start!

Freestyle Cushion Cover


As I have mentioned before I am a restless soul and I often have to find something to occupy me when I am watching television in the evenings. At the start of the year started to learn crewel work but this is new to me and I have been getting stressed with it not looking as amazing as the picture. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to take a bag of cotton I bought from a local flea market and crochet a cushion cover.

It was completely liberating as I had no pattern, no instructions, I just made it up as I went a long. Flicking through some magazines I spotted the idea of doing a flap to close the cover and rummaging in my button box I found some suitable buttons. Doing the buttonholes was easy and to finish off the edges I did a couple of rows of double crochet. It isn’t perfect as some of the tidying up of loose ends show if you really look hard but I am very pleased with it and as I don’t have any picture or pattern to compare it to there is nothing to say I didn’t do just great!

I wonder if this is why I struggle with patterns as there is, for me, a pressure to replicate the picture and standard. I think there will be more of this freestyle creativity in the future as it is just so liberating.

A New Year – A New Skill to Learn

2014_01010054In 2013 I taught myself to crochet, admittedly I am not extremely skilled but I have mastered the basics and can just about navigate myself around a pattern.  Whilst I have enjoyed learning to crochet I have churned out countless scarves, snowflakes, small animals and even a blanket.  I need a new challenge, something to occupy my hands in the evening whilst I watch television.

I used to embroider when I was younger so when I stumbled upon Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n’ Thread blog an old  love was rekindled.  I used to sew pre-printed kits and am a master of cross stitch, satin stitch, french knots etc but I still wanted to learn something new.  Mary’s blog shows very elaborate and detailed embroidery with skills such as gold work.  This coupled with discovering stump work on Pinterest led me to the website of the Royal Society of Needlework and a discovery of a whole range of other types of embroidery such as black work and white work.  Looking through the techniques I decided to start with learning Jacobean Crewelwork. I love the way the shapes are shaded and being passionate about early English history this style of embroidery really appeals to me.

2014_01010055I ordered my first kit from the Royal School of Needlework – a Pomegranate. However, I was in for a surprise when the kit arrived as unlike the kits I had done as a teenager the fabric was not printed with the design!  However it turns out that this is how proper embroidery is done and as I want to be able to do my own designs in the future transferring a design to fabric is definitely a skill I need to learn.

2014_01010056It turns out that to do this you need to prick and pounce the design.  A bit of research led me to order a prick and pounce kit.

Today, being the start of a new year, I set to with the kit.  First up I had to prick holes along the lines of the design (top photo) with the pin provided.  Then I pinned the design to the fabric and pounced charcoal through the holes with the pad provided (second photo).  This was rather worrying as I wasnt sure it was working.  Lifting off the design I was left with the design marked on the fabric.  The final step was to use some grey/black watercolour paint to sketch in the design and then blow off the remaining charcoal (see below).

2014_01010057So the first stage has been completed and a new skill learnt and I am very pleased with myself.

Next up is to start the embroidery by using trellis stitch to fill the central part of the pomegranate flower.  I haven’t done trellis stitch before so this kit is proving to be a real learning curve.