A whole lot of pincushions

Regular readers will have observed that I’ve not been posting much recently. I’ve been too busy a) working and b) making pincushions to have much time for anything else. I’ve just finished a pile of 8, as shown in the first photograph. Pincushion towerEach pincushion is 4 inches square (approximately 10cm square) and each has a button top and bottom. It’s been a great opportunity to explore my button box which otherwise doesn’t get touched very often. I’ve put a small button on the embroidered side of each pincushion and a larger feature button on the plain side. Here’s a plain side to illustrate:Plain side of pincushion with feature button

And finally, here’s a close up of one of the recent additions. Close up of pincushionWhy so many, and what am I going to do with them? Well, there are many because I’ve simply enjoyed making them very much. And what will I do with them? Sell them, I hope. If my work goes into the next Prism exhibition I’d like to put some items into the shop. And I keep returning to the idea of opening an Etsy shop and these little items would be ideal. I may even get round to it someday.


More pincushions

After making one pincushion (see previous post) I was seized with the notion of making a few more. I’m currently busy with some work that I intend to submit to the 2017 Prism exhibitions (this is not a typo – there are two exhibitions, one in London and one in Birmingham in 2017). In this work I’m exploring some ideas in black, white and my favourite chromatic greys. It’s very absorbing but it’s not what you’d call colourful. So, embroidering some pincushion bases in a riot of colours makes a lovely change from the more sombre colours. I’ve prepared several of these pieces. The one pictured below was finished this morning:Pincushion base

It looks a bit of a mess, but will look much better when it’s made up into the finished article. I prepared eight of these in advance and took them away on a recent trip,  and I’ve spent some very contented hours stitching them. Before I left I stuffed some threads into Ziploc bags, divided into eight colour groups. Choosing the thread colours has been a lot of fun. With something like this you can try out mad colour combinations just to see if they work. Having said that I’ve stuck, broadly, to complementary colour theory. So in the piece above there are yellow/purple and red/green complementaries. Most of the scraps of fabric here are silk. They include (second from right) a little strip of Margo Selby woven silk, which I just love. I got a small remnant bag from her shop a few years ago and much of that small amount is now gone. Wonder if I can get some more?

Here’s a close up of the stitching. Pincushion close up to show stitchingI just use whatever stitch comes into my head at the start of a line. So liberating.



Here’s a pincushion I made a couple of weeks ago:Pincushion

I was looking for something to send my sister in New Zealand as a birthday present. The important characteristic of presents sent to NZ is that they should be lightweight (the cost of postage is staggering). Small is a bonus. She’s fond of stitching and I know she’s admired my heron embroidery scissors in the past, so I decided to send her a pair. Then I found some nice pearl-headed pins. Then it occurred to me that she might like a pincushion, and that this would be both small and lightweight. As I was short of time, I thought I’d have a look on Etsy. Well, I used up lots of time looking through apparently endless pages of pincushions, but couldn’t find one that I liked sufficiently. So, in the end, I made one, and that’s it, pictured above. It’s four inches square. The underside, that you can’t see here, is a gorgeous purple cotton that I found as a remnant in an organic cotton shop. The button on the underside is bigger than the cream-coloured button that you see in the picture. I so enjoyed making this little item that I immediately planned some more and have got cracking on them straight away. It’s a great way of using up very small pieces of fabric that I just can’t bear to throw away.

Yesterday I had to go to Newcastle on the train, a round trip of around 6 hours, so I had plenty of time available to stitch. I actually did a few other things – read the paper, had a somewhat lengthy snooze, stared out of the window at the fabulous Northumbrian countryside…. but I also managed to finish the stitching for another pincushion and after I’ve written this blogpost I think I’ll go and assemble it. One of the fun bits is selecting the buttons. I have built up quite a collection of buttons, but never know what to do with them – well, here’s a way of using them, if only two at a time.

I know I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but I have been posting occasional photos on Instagram. I think Instagram is rather a good thing, and hope I can keep to the discipline of posting something there, even if I can’t manage to do it here.

Winchester Cathedral

I can’t believe I didn’t know about the fabulous floor tiles at Winchester Cathdral. Nobody ever mentioned it. Can’t think why not.Floor tile Winchester Cathedral

Over the years I’ve been to many cathedrals and churches around England, but had never been to Winchester until last month. You have to pay to get in, but that’s fair enough as it must cost a fortune to keep these ancient buildings going. I was very impressed by the building and by the modest memorial marking the resting place of Jane Austen. But it was the floor tiles that I liked most. I’m sure you can see why, especially if you know of my penchant for grids and repetitive pattern.

Ive been out and about a lot over the last two or three months, entirely within England, and to some places I’ve rarely, or never, visited. Perhaps I’ll write some more about this. Although, there again, I might very well not, as my shortage of time is likely to continue into the middle distance. So, more to come…. perhaps.

Oops, what a long time it’s been

Oops, what a long time it’s been since I blogged. The usual reason applies, i.e. too busy at work. However, I have been doing some work on my stitching, and you can see some samples of it if you have a look at my Instagram (use the link on the home page). I’m quite enthusiastic about Instagram because it’s so easy and quick to use compared with writing a blog post. However, I don’t intend to abandon my blog, as it’s the right place to write up longer and more complex experiences and ideas.

One of the things I’ve done in my several week absence from the blog is to produce a new website for my friend and fellow stitcher Brenda Burkitt. We’ve been talking about this for ages, and finally decided to get round to doing something about it. Brenda didn’t want a blog, just a good-looking and stylish website, so I didn’t see any need to set it up in WordPress which is geared towards a blog. I recommended, therefore, setting up a site using Squarespace because I’d heard from another textile artist that it’s really pretty simple to use. So, Brenda came along one day towards the end of June with lots of images of her work and we got cracking on working out how many pages she’d want, what kind of format she’d like for presenting the images, and so on. She had quite a lot of fun playing around with the text colours. This is one of the best bits of setting up your site. She chose, in the end, a deep and lovely purple which I think works very well. Have a look at her website here.

What about Squarespace then? Weeeellll, it’s definitely easier to set up than WordPress, but it wasn’t quite as straightforward as I’d hoped. The range of designs available is pretty good, and the style is generally nice and clean and bright. I didn’t find it completely intuitive, but having said that, there are lots of tutorials available and when you have a query it can be easily answered by simply putting the query into Google. I couldn’t (still can’t for that matter) work out how to make the image on the title page smaller so that you can see the whole page without scrolling down. Another drawback is that, currently, you can’t transfer your own domain name into Squarespace. So, if I wanted a Squarespace website (which I don’t – I’m happy with this one) I’d have to register a new domain name with them.

But if you’re looking to set up a website yourself, Squarespace is definitely worth a look. I spent the best part of a day with Brenda discussing images and styles for the site, then about 4 hours on my own working on it. I even managed to persuade Brenda that she should have a photograph of herself in the ‘About’ page. She was very reluctant but went along with it. I took a couple of dozen photos of her, and there was one that was the standout best so we used that. I’m very pleased with it, and was reminded of the advice a photography tutor gave me years ago when I did City & Guilds foundation photography. He said the professionals get good pictures just by the simple process of taking loads of them and then picking the best one out of maybe 100 images. I’ve followed that advice every since and found it invariably works.


Well, Instagram, there’s a new thing. And a new icon on the front page of this website. I’m rather hesitant about adopting new social media, simply because of the additional time it soaks up. So, having developed my own website (and here you are, reading it!) and my Pinterest pages, I’ve waited a long time before doing anything else. I keep on toying with the idea of Facebook, and I may get round to it sometime. In the meantime, Instagram. The catalyst for this was reading about an Australian textile artist, Liz Payne, who said in an interview that she’d been very lucky to meet other artists through Instagram. This really struck a chord with me. I’ve very much enjoyed keeping this blog going, and I hope to continue writing it for some time to come. But I can’t say that it’s been ideal for meeting other artists, or anyone else for that matter. I had hoped when I started it, well over two and a half years ago, that it would generate comments, and I would be able to get into conversation, online or offline, with other people who shared my interests. This hasn’t happened. I’ve had a handful of comments, some of them from people I know anyway in the real world, and there haven’t been any significant conversation starters. Really, I’ve been talking to myself here.

There are some advantages in having a conversation with yourself, recorded in a specific place. It’s a bit like keeping a diary, a thing I’ve never been able to do consistently. This is my best attempt yet. And it’s a useful record for me of events, feelings and experiences that I might otherwise forget. I quite like reading through my blogposts; it reminds me of what I thought about things at a particular point in time.

instagram-logoSo, will Instagram be any different? Don’t know. I think it will certainly be easier to keep going, as it’s just a case of taking a photo, maybe doing a bit of photo editing, then adding a comment, then whoosh, it’s out there. I got my account set up on Saturday, then posted a few pictures to it and it was all hassle-free and easy. At the time of writing this (and I will schedule this post for publication some time this week) I had five photos of my current sample stitching, and a charming cat photograph. I don’t intend to photograph the cat on a regular basis, but yesterday I thought she was lost and was so relieved when she came home that I shared the moment with my extant followers (who numbered two at the time) – my daughter and one of her best friends. This morning, another of daughter’s best friends started to follow me, so at the time of writing this I rejoice in three followers.

Incidentally, do look up Liz Payne’s very beautiful work. I was alerted to it by Pinterest, which I do absolutely love looking at. I really like the way she’s created something very original and unusual through the medium of embroidery in wool. This serves to demonstrate how something new is always possible, even using only old methods and materials.

If you’d like to see my Instagram pages, please click here, or click on the icon on my home page.

Prism exhibition

The Prism exhibition ended a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve been weeks packed out with work for me, so I’ve not written any posts of late. Regular readers may have noticed this – sorry! I had a grand day out at the Prism exhibition on the 8th June, but boy, was I exhausted by the end of it. I went down to London on the 7th and stayed overnight, then travelled back up north on the evening of the 8th. The weather was poor and there were storms with flash floods in London on both the 7th and 8th. However, despite the weather there were plenty of enthusiastic visitors to the exhibition on the 8th, and they seemed to be having a good time. There was a lot to see and absorb, but also I spent quite a lot of time chatting both with the visitors and with the other Prism members who were stewarding that day. As I barely know anyone from the group it was a great opportunity for me to make some contacts.

It was a lovely ego boost for me to see my three pieces in the exhibition. It’s a pity that none of them sold, but on the other hand I did sell some of the smaller pieces and cards. Just at the moment, I don’t actually know which ones sold because my daughter collected the unsold work at the end of the exhibition. It’s as well for me that she was willing and able to do this, because otherwise I’d have had to make another expensive trip to London. So, the unsold work is currently at her house, and I won’t see it until I go down in August. Once I’ve got the work back I’ll be able to think about alternative outlets for it. I’m quite inclined to set up on Etsy but I’ll have to ponder further on this. It’s all time and effort… and I continue to be short of time. Work does get in the way.


I’ve been doodling with thread. I felt I needed a bit of a break from the small blocks of satin stitch which is all I seem to have done for ages. Not that I won’t return to it – I think there’s still some mileage in the Paul Klee-inspired work, but I want a change. My chosen stitch for doodling is couching and its variants. I picked up a piece of cloth a couple of days ago and worked with the threads I already had in my basket (emptied in there from the Ziplock bags after the cycling adventure). I worked on the big concentric circles at the bottom left of the photo first, then decided to see what would happen if I worked more circles over them. Then I added the four freestanding circles on the right hand side. Then I wondered what it would look like inside a square, so I worked one. Then I thought I might investigate what would happen if I put in a background behind the circles….. and so on until I felt I’d done enough on it. I just love working like this, seeing what will happen. Making samples is just fun, and it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is. They’re fairly quick to do and you can abandon them if you don’t like the way they’re going. If you do like a sample, you might just be inspired to create a larger piece, or even something that’s going to be important for your own development. Doodling with couching

It’s caught my imagination – which is one of the points of sampling, after all – and  today I’ve just started on a set of samples (in 2inch squares) on traditional linen. The intention is to explore different ways of filling in a small area with couching. I’m going to stick to the same very limited colour palette but I might extend the range of materials to wool yarn, ribbon, even beads. I always like the idea of beads but I think they’re difficult to use well. But in a sample, it just doesn’t matter! I’ll let you know how I get on.


Just a brief post today on a little serendipity. You’ll know, if you’ve read my most recent posts, that I’ve been preparing work for sale in the shop at the Prism exhibition. I took lots of photographs of the pieces before I sent them off. The day was dull, with heavy grey cloud and constant rain, so I put the pieces as close up to the window as I could manage. And this is one of the photographs I got:


I mounted most of the pieces onto white or cream mountboard, but put a couple onto black, which can create a bit of drama. The black mountboard with a layer of cellophane on top of it was particularly difficult to photograph because of the reflection. But, and this is the serendipitous bit, look at what a lovely pattern it creates on the left hand side. The reflection is partly of the teapot on the windowsill, but mostly of the tree immediately outside the window. Here it is, cropped, so that you can see it in a bit more detail:Serendipity image

I think I can use this. Not sure what for, but I think it’s lovely.


Smaller pieces for sale

I wrote three posts not too long ago about making smaller pieces for sale. Before I went on my mammoth cycling trip I mounted six of them on large pieces of mountboard, enclosed a label, then wrapped the finished pieces in heavy duty florists’ cellophane. This entailed the purchase of new supplies:

  • Mountboard, obviously, but also some thinner card to tape onto the back of the pieces so that the underside of the embroidery is concealed
  • Double sided sticky tape, heavy duty so that the pieces won’t fall to bits
  • Cellophane

I did quite a bit of research on sourcing materials of the right quality. All these new supplies were quite costly, but I don’t want the presentation of these pieces to look cheap. Fortunately, I already had a mount cutter (which is what gives you the nice bevelled edge); I bought it several years ago on a whim, never knowing how useful it would turn out to be. Accurate measurement is, obviously, really important. I work with a centimetre ruler (not inches, even though when I was at school we still used imperial measurement only and it took me many years to come round to metric measurement) and I measure everything at least twice before I cut. Even with a fair bit of care, I did make the odd mistake, but I found that, as with all repetitive tasks, I got better at it the more I did.

After the cycling trip, I mounted four smaller pieces on some of the smaller offcuts of mountboard that I had left over. I’ve got plenty of mountboard left over for the next time I do this exercise. Here is one of the smaller pieces. all wrapped up: Smaller piece for sale

You’ll see that it really is quite small, but what I was aiming for was a range of items at different prices, so as to appeal (I hope) to as broad a group as possible. In total I have mounted 10 pieces and the price range is from £10 for the smallest pieces, up to a maximum of £40. These prices in no way reflect the massive amount of work involved – but see my earlier post on that topic…

I’m hoping that these will be sufficiently appealing to sell. Although, actually, I’m rather fond of some of them, so if they come winging their way back to me I might put one or two on my own walls.