There is a huge antiques centre about 20 minutes away from where I live and towards the end of the summer, my husband and I decided to pay a visit since it was far too long since we had last been for a good look around. The cafe there is pretty good too, which helped.

We bought a few smallish bits and pieces and one of the many things, big and small, which caught my eye was this unusual antique backgammon table.


Not only because I like playing backgammon, but because I realised that the game board was worked…


…in tent stitch.


I can only assume that the household weren’t big backgammon players, as it’s in lovely condition. It was also marked up at an eye-watering price. “I don’t think it would be that difficult to adapt an old table,” I muttered as I crawled underneath to investigate the underside of the top. My husband seemed indecently keen for us to look at something in the next room at this point.

Can’t imagine why.

My Auntie Sheila was a wonderful woman. She was warm, kind, always elegantly dressed and effortlessly glamorous, arty and creative and I thought she was amazing. The only openly artistic member of our very practical family, she made it OK for me to be creative. I just wish I had really got into my textile art before she died in 2005. I know she would have been fascinated and supportive.

When she died, my uncle gave me a big box full of her craft bits and pieces. Most of it was card making type stuff, but there was a very pretty traditional style quilted patchwork bag, full of pieced paper hexagons. Some cut out ready to stitch, some covered but on their own, quite a lot formed up into flower shapes and some into larger flowers.


Traditional hexagon patchwork has never really appealed, but Auntie Sheila had pieced these, so I put them in the back of the wardrobe as a possible project for the far distant future.

When I was packing for our holiday in the Lake District in May, I was looking for a fairly straightforward project to work on in the evenings alongside my (non-stitching) holiday diary and I don’t know what made me get it out, especially with so many other stitching projects littered around the house, but I did, and it was a winner. Since most of the hard work was done, it was quite soothing starting to put the larger flowers together and I worked on it again when we went away to the Scottish Borders in August.

I’ve nearly completed the middle section which is blues around a central cream and rust flower. It is a proper rust, not garish orange as the photo suggests.


For the next round I’m starting to sort through the pile of smaller hex flowers for ones in cream and rust and there are some florals in a similar colour which I think I’ll incorporate too. I want to use as many of Auntie Sheila’s blocks and fabrics as possible but I also want it to work pattern-wise, so compromises will need to be made. A long-term project, this one.

My little one has just started secondary school and has gone from packed lunches to school dinners. This has suddenly given me 10-15 minutes extra in the mornings and so I’ve started doing a little stitching before I head off to work.

The huge french knot piece is heading for the last leg. Last time I shared it, I’d got this far:


But a summer’s worth of stitching at boot sales, meetings and these new morning stitching sessions has got me to this point:


The bottom edge is now complete, the second corner defined and all I have left to do is the final edge. That said, there is probably hours of work still before I can put in the final stitch!

The other thing I’ve worked on is my amulet, although I’m thinking it’s more likely going to be a book cover. At the end of the workshop in July I’d feather stitched and beaded the printed fabric to the background felt and used beaded blanket stitch to attach a rusty washer to the centre.


Since then I’ve used my favourite metallic Madeira thread to back stitch all round the printed design. Just enough metal wrapping around the core thread to give a subtle sparkle. It’s twinkly rather than blingy!



To fit in with the found washer in the middle, I’ve added some large textured gold tone loops from a short section of chain. Each one is couched down and then french knots added at the ends of the couching stitches.



I’m amazed at how much I’m getting done in these little sessions, although it is extremely tempting to just do a few minutes more – and then end up late for work!

Back in May we had a goldwork initial workshop with Brenda Scarman and I started to work a letter ‘O’ for a birthday card for my mother. As it was her birthday a couple of weeks ago I can finally reveal something I’ve finished!

At the end of the workshop I had got this far:


I simplified the scrolls in the middle due to the thickness of the double couching thread and added more chips of silver purl, silver seed beads, turquoise bugle beads and french knots to the border.


Not happy with the squashed spiral on the lower left, so I restitched that.


Carried on beading and french knotting…


…until it was finally finished.

And then I decided I preferred it up the other way!




Simply framed with grey card to become a special birthday card. And a finish!!


I’ve also upcycled an odd clip on earring front to make a beaded brooch


…and turned some of my huge collection of sea glass and china into rings.

DSCN2584.JPG dscn2573dscn2591 dscn2609

Loads more projects still to get stuck into though!


The Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild AGM at the end of September was a real feast of embroidery. As well as some of the results from our workshop with Chris Gray in July from straightforward amulets…


…to composite arrangements…


…there were other lovely items stitched by members over the summer:


We also enjoyed an exhibition of the work of one of our founder members, Margaret Riding, who brought in a huge range of her embroidery for us to admire.


It’s become a tradition now for us to have some sort of collaborative consequences type activity at the AGM to be stitched for later in the year. In 2014 it was Consequences, last year (which I missed) were our acclaimed maps and this year Helen came up trumps yet again with Christmas Consequences. This time, instead of different people adding to the list of requirements, we each wrote our own wish list of things we would like to have on a Christmas gift to be stitched by another club member. The papers were folded and put into a bag and then we all pulled one out. Helen’s last stipulation was that the item needed to have a 3D element. This could be anything, from 3D embroidery on a card to the item itself – a decoration, bag, box etc.

This was the wish list I drew:


After several rather grandiose plans I decided to go for something a bit closer to my usual practice and I have an idea that I’m really pleased with. Under wraps until the December meeting though!

I’ve never been a quilter for several reasons – use of a sewing machine, length of the project, lack of small fiddly hand embroidery etc. But I do love looking at other people’s quilts and I adore beautiful fabric.

It was while visiting my son in London two years ago that I discovered an amazing quilting shop in East Molesley, just across the road from Hampton Court Palace, and I fell in love with a little charm pack of oriental themed squares in black, white and grey with touches of red. I experimented using them for a few potential layouts but they finally disappeared into the cupboard, appearing occasionally to be admired. That is until I came back from holiday at the end of August and decided that I was going to make them into a lap quilt for my middle one who is going away very shortly to Bangor University to study Archaeology.

My 90yr old Frister and Rossman was pressed into service and using black silk dupion for the alternating squares, I began to piece my first ever quilt top.

Strips first.


And then I sewed them into a rectangle for the quilt top.


I was determined to use fabric I already had for the backing and the binding, which for the back meant that I had to insert a strip of kimono fabric scraps into the black silk skirt gore I was using to make it large enough.


Then I sandwiched the front, back and the batting together and the Frister and Rossman rose happily to the occasion, stitching through thick layers of cotton, batting and silk to quilt the top. I went for a very simple option – just following the line of the fabric pieces to create a grid effect on the back.

DSCN2196.JPGNext was binding the quilt and as this is something I’ve never done before I went to YouTube and thanks to a very clear tutorial managed to add some cotton kimono fabric for the binding. The Frister and Rossman whirred gently and made short work of four layers of cotton/silk and the batting. I love that machine so much!


The tutorial actually showed how to do the binding with a continuous piece but I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough fabric to join all the pieces so I did each edge separately and then cobbled some sort of hand stitched mitre at the front…

DSCN2205.JPG…and something neat but not a mitre on the back when I hand stitched the binding to the reverse.

So pleased with the lovely neat finish.


DSCN2210.JPGFinally a label embroidered in floss silk to add to the back.


Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it once I’d appliqued it onto the back though! And the time taken for this project? Five days. Now to be fair, apart from cooking, washing and shopping I didn’t do much else for five days but it’s been lovely to see this project work up so quickly and turn out so well. I have a feeling it won’t be my last quilt.

As our meeting on the Saturday afternoon was to be followed by an all day workshop with Chris on the Sunday, at the end of the meeting we got a tantalising preview of all the goodies we were going to be using – piles of gorgeously dyed fabrics, threads, and beads, paints and box upon box of intricately carved wooden stamps all laid out ready. Talk about whetting the appetite!

The next day our task was to choose two pieces of the lusciously dyed fabrics that Chris had provided and print them up with one of Chris’ blocks to stitch into an amulet. If we had any of our own spare fabric, we could print that as well to take home.

Chris had told us a tale of a lady who never did any stitching on one of these workshops – she spent the whole day printing – and after experiencing the fantastic crisp images the blocks produce…


…I completely understood where she was coming from.


Everywhere I looked was another block I wanted to try.


I’d come out of the house in a hurry (as usual) and grabbed a handful of scrap fabric to print on rather than the whole bag. Ultimately this was a good thing because had I grabbed the bag instead I don’t think they would have got me away from the blocks.  Even so, I printed on everything I had. When the calico was covered, I printed on silk dupion, which turned out pretty well in spite of its slubby surface…


…printed and patterned fabrics,


odd shaped scraps and oddments…

…and I even ended up printing on ironed out silk carrier rods, scrim and chiffon and emptying out my workbag in case there was anything else remotely usable hidden in its depths. The scrim and chiffon were a revelation. We were printing with emulsion paint – no fancy textile inks or paints  – using blocks with very fine detail and the results were amazing. First the scrim:


Close up you can see how crisp the image is despite the crinkled nature of the weave.


Then the chiffon. I didn’t expect much of a result with emulsion paint on such a fine fabric, but I was over the moon with how well the blocks printed on it.


By this time pretty much everyone else was already stitching, it was nearly lunchtime and the blocks were being washed and packed away, so I resolved not to try and cadge any more fabric from anyone else and sat down to stitch the print I had chosen for my hand dyed fabric piece. Medieval tile pattern on turquoise of course and feather stitch around the edge to attach it to the black felt behind.


I love the rust-coloured patches in this fabulous thread and once the block was feather stitched down, I went back and beaded it with matte iridescent delicas in similar tones.


A rusty washer was perfect for the centre.


I attached it with beaded blanket stitch, using some more of the same beads and another favourite thread, my bronzy metallic Madeira.



Next step is to back stitch around the design in the Madeira thread.

Chris posted some more images of the lovely work done by everyone else here. And then if her generosity of knowledge and enthusiasm wasn’t enough, she presented us with this lovely amulet to be raffled at our AGM at the end of the month.


Thanks Chris, it was brilliant!