I have always been drawn to old things. It is as if they whisper a story to me of the past. As a creative I am particularly fascinated with made items and the instruments used to create them. It matters little if I knew the maker or not.
Recently I was thinking on why it is I am so drawn to these things. I have not fully answered that question but what I have arrived at for now has more to do with my own work than I originally thought. I believe we are created with purpose. Part of my purpose is to create things. These things that I create are little love songs from my soul. I know one day I will pass but likely my work will remain and the pain of thinking of it ending up in a dumpster or the back dirty corner of a goodwill hurts. So, when I run across the needlework of those that have gone before me, I take the time to admire what they have done and wonder a little bit about them, whoever they were and why they made what they made. I connect with these strangers and they become part of my work. Sometimes I bring their work back to my home.
The above sewing machine was pulled out of a dumpster. The bobbin was full and the needle threaded. I wonder what it sewed last? Below are a few of the rescues that have been distributed around my home. What have you rescued lately and why?
Oddly most of the best needlepoint resources that I have found were written the year I was born. The fatalist in me likes to think of this as a serendipitous indication of what was to be my fated path as textile enthusiast and needlepoint designer.
I have always collected these resources as I come across them at tag sales and thrifting excursions and often gave them away to other stitchers and designing friends as well as brought them along to workshops and craft fairs. With a now overflowing collection I thought that I might add them to my etsy shop to make them available to others that would benefit from these resources. I am selling them at a low base price of $5 with the hope that people would collect these for resources. They are really great references and very relevant to the contemporary needlework movement.
I am a firm believer that design built on the teachings of our predecessors has the strongest result and find immense fascination in exploring the work of our grandmothers.
What are some of your favorite resources?
How about making mom a sweet smelling lavender sachet to celebrate her special day? This “Mom” design is available through Kreinik as are all the super luscious threads that I used to stitch this.
To make the sachet, I made a little insert pillow by sewing two 5″ by 5″ pieces of coordinating fabric together leaving a small opening to add the filling. My sachet is filled with a mixture of rice and lavender to give it a little weight but you might want to do 100% lavender or blend it with another favorite flower or herb.
This needlepoint sachet cover was made by sewing a mini envelope pillow. Trim your needlepoint leaving about a 1/2 inch seam allowance. The Ikat fabric used for the back is upholstery weight. I cut two 6.5 inch by 4.5 inch pieces and hemmed the top of one and the bottom of the other. Then layered a sandwich with the needlepoint good side facing in on the bottom and the upholstery fabric good side facing down like shown below.
After pinning the sandwich securely together I carefully sewed around the outermost edge of the needlepoint. I stitched a couple extra rows to allow for this. I also use contrasting thread so I can see where my stitches land while sewing. Sew around all four sides. Trim off the excess, turn right side out and pop your sachet in. Happy Mother’s Day!
I have a treat for you this Monday. This month I had the opportunity to interview Hannah Bass, a new needlepoint/ tapestry designer. She just launched her contemporary tapestry business with a line of city map needlepoint kits at the end of 2014 and already has rocked the needlework scene. Her work is fresh, great quality and well priced. Why don’t we take the time to get to know Hannah a little bit better.
Jenny: What is your earliest memory involving needlework?
Hannah: Stitching in the countryside around a log fire with my cousins during the holidays. It’s pretty much a bit of a Jane Austin picture! I have a very big family – we have to hire a restaurant on Christmas day to fit us all in one room for Christmas dinner – so stitching was a way to keep us quiet for a bit as children.
Jenny: What was the main motive in starting Hannah Bass Contemporary Tapestry?
Hannah: I have always loved making things. As a child I was always making new homes for my Sylvanian Families. Coming from an Interior Design background, I wanted to make / stitch something that I could proudly show off in my home. I was struggling to find a contemporary tapestry to buy, which planted a seed in my mind. I made a London map as a hobby, and friends seemed to love it. It grew from there.
Jenny: What are some challenges that you face as a new designer?
Hannah: Time! There are so many factors involved in starting a company. Being a creative person, I have a lot of ideas – but I never have anytime to make them a reality. I have a long ‘to-do’ list and am learning to be patient. I have found that starting a company is ‘trial and error’, making mistakes is part of the learning curve. I have learnt not to be too hard on myself & grow broad shoulders. The biggest challenge for me is spreading the word of mouth. I would much rather spend my time designing a new tapestry than ‘marketing’ my product – I must make more time for this and do better!
Jenny: How do you view the industry as a whole in the UK? . . .internationally?
Hannah: I find the people involved within the industry are lovely. They are happy to give me time to share their experience and advice. I think this says a lot about the industry. However, I do feel that the industry could be ‘freshened – up’ & made more relevant to today’s trends to entice the next generation into stitching. I love selling my tapestries at fairs, to see my customers face to face. It’s so interesting, all age groups seem to be attracted to my tapestries – which I love!
Jenny: Who are some of your favorite artists/ designers?
Hannah: Has to be Emily Peacock, she got me back into stitching as an adult. I bought her large ‘Hug’ and ‘Kiss’ tapestries, took them both on holiday with me to Spain and stitched for 2 weeks solid by the pool. I have them framed in my hallway and they make me smile everytime I see them.
Jenny: What is your take on the “slow movement?
Hannah: I think it’s incredibly important to take a moment and reflect once in a while. It puts thing into perspective. There are so many technological distractions, sometimes I find it hard to sit there and just enjoy the moment doing nothing. I think it’s very healthy for the brain to slow down every so often. Stitching creates this meditative calm inside me, my can brain drift off to a different place even though Im still stitching.
Jenny: What is your favorite color composition?
Hannah: I like change, so I don’t have a favourite. But Im attracted to the bright hues in nature. You can’t beat bright contrasting wild flowers growing in a field. I love bright colours they affect my mood, they make the world seem a more happy place.
Jenny: Can you describe a typical day at work?
Hannah: Tea in bed at 8.30 where I answer my emails & get a fresh piece of paper to write the day’s to-do list. I get tremendous satisfaction crossing the list off one by one as the day goes by. I tend to work on my latest designs in the morning in my pyjamas. As I work from home it’s important to get out the house and break the day up, so I go for jog at 12. After this I get the days orders together and walk to the Post Office to dispatch them. I always stop at my local coffee shop on the way back and work remotely from there for a good hour sending out the days emails. This involves marketing, tweaking the website, working with suppliers, costings etc. The rest of the afternoon is spent on designing. Dinner is about 8. After this I’ll watch a couple of hours TV whilst stitching a new prototype.
Jenny: What is the best part of your job / work?
Hannah: Designing. I love it. It’s wonderful to spend time creating something and then see it come to reality.
Jenny: Who are your kits intended for?
Hannah: For anyone. I like the meditation of stitching rather than the challenge of it. So it was important to be that my designs were simple. That’s why the design is printed on the canvas, to take the strain away. You stitch the text first, then put the roads in. After this, it’s just a matter of filling in blocks of colour – easy peasy! Having done a number of fairs now, I have no idea who my demographic is, all ages seem to buy it, as does men, as well as women.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! xo Jenny
While I was at Target stocking up on last minute doo dads to stuff into eggs for our backyard Easter egg hunt I ran into these beauties put together by Todd Oldham’s Hand Made Modern for Target stores. This Embroidery box and this Embroidery Board were begging to come home with me. I quickly scooped them up and then returned to the egg filling challenge. The needlepoint kit pictured below didn’t make it into my cart, but at $19.99 , I hope some beginners give it a go. The falling blocks pattern is lovely.
The embroidery box set included a tapestry needle and black and white chart with lettering options. I decided to do my own pattern using some vintage bucilla crewel wool in grapefruit along with anchor tapesty wool in black and white. The gold accents are done with Kreinik Metallic 1/8 ribbon in gold. With an improvised tent stitch and a viewing of Skyfall, the box was quickly stitched.
I think that this will make a nice box for Mummy’s Mothers Day present. I made a chart for you here : embroidery box , so you can make one too.
Let me just get this out in the open. I am not a professional finisher and it is with this non professional status that I choose to write this tutorial. Years ago, I launched the Red Cassette Needlepoint Kit and had a gorgeous sample finished for it. A few months ago I retired the old kit fitted with luxury silk threads and a handpainted needlepoint canvas retailing for $95 and this week I am relaunching the updated more accessible version that will sell for $45. The new kit, available here, includes lovely anchor tapestry wool (no plying needed), a blank canvas (because this will save you money), tapestry needle and color chart to plot out your design along with basic stitching instructions. I will offer the option to upgrade to a handpainted canvas for those that want that for an additional $25. I have redone both the kit and the sample to create a more accessible product that the amateur seamstress (like me) can finish. So once you have stitched the Red Cassette Needlepoint Kit, here is a way that you can finish it if you like.
This wristlet / wallet holds all the basics ($, ID, transit and cc cards, phone, house key, lip balm). I used some salvage supplies like threads and snaps along with upholstery weight fabric and black cotton duck fabric. Upholstery fabric is Waverly, “Duncan” in Grey. Here I will treat the needlepoint like applique as opposed to using it as the actual fabric as I will do in my future pillow finishing tutorials. To prepare your needlepoint for applique you will need to have it blocked. Here is a link to the proper way to block your needlepoint. I didn’t do that, because I am a
renegade amateur. I used the beautiful steam iron that mummy gave me for Christmas and steamed the backside of the needlepoint and then pulled back into its intended rectangular shape. I then trimmed the canvas selvage down to about 6 rows of selvage and folded and pressed down. Then I whipstiched the edges with the leftover black wool included in the kit. Set aside.
To prepare the body of the wristlet that will fold up into thirds I measures for a 12.5″ long bit by 5.5″ wide plus 1/2″ selvadge all around. Then I sewed all around with right sides of fabric facing in, save for a little opening on the bottom for me to flip piece right side out. Flip right side out and then press. I used chalkboard chalk to outline where I would put needlepoint applique and then stitched a 1/4″ line around entire border. To create pockets I did a mini version of that same process and applied little patches of fabric on the interior to serve as pockets for nick knacks. I also sewed a lining on the back of my B Side of the cassette because have decided to use that as a pocket for my iphone. Wristlet fastener is just a bit of decorative ribbon looped and sewn on to right inside corner. Wristlet is a bit of handmade binding. Cut binding 2″ wide to create a 1/2″ wristlet strip. I bought the wristlet hardware from this Etsy seller and she writes a wonderful tutorial on how to make a proper wristlet.
Once my wallet/ wristlet was finished I applied the needlepoint cassette patches using black thread and a whipstitch. All in all it took me about 5 hours to complete.
Last week I received a message from Tara, writer of Book Babe Blog telling me that she had adapted my PC Union Jack Needlepoint Pillow Tutorial to make a Beautiful Union Jack Clutch using the prefabricated plastic canvas clutch forms that you can find at your local craft store. Her post is detailed and easy to follow. You can click here to give it a go yourself. Also, Tara made some good use of the Kreinik glow in the dark thread that I sent her. I love that thread!
Please share your projects with me! It makes my day to get messages like Tara’s. Thanks Tara. Well done.
In a world where we are inundated with media and taught that our value is based on wearing the appropriate fashionable footwear, awaking the creative spirit within us is if nothing else a survival tactic. Jamie Chalmers, manbroiderer and creator of Mr. X Stitch, the world’s best contemporary embroidery and needlecraft site, speaks to the relevance of needlework in our contemporary culture.
It was hard to narrow down to my favorite quote from Jamie’s TEDx Bedford talk, but I chose this one in his closing remarks. It is however well worth your 8 minutes to listen to the rest!
“X Stitch is a powerful thing, it means we can all be activists, it means we can all express ourselves in ways that we might not have felt otherwise, it means we can all be artists and if we live in a day and age where people are invited to be passive consumers and that where we are convinced that our lives our only valued if we have nice shiny yellow trainers, then the power of x stitch and the power of making becomes even more relevant.”
For the little ones these sweet Charlotte Bucilla Stitchables will surely keep there hands busy for at least some of their Christmas break. Choose from a series of wooden charms that are packaged into an inexpensive kit. You can buy yours at Plaid Online.
For the hard to buy for men in your life try this Fly Tying Kit from Krienik.
And last but not least for the women consider my latest DIY Needlepoint Jewelry Kit series. This series was created especially for the modern stitcher. The project requires a low time commitment of approximately four hours or rather 4 Downton Abbey episodes and is completely self finishing. You can find the full line in my Etsy shop here. Mention this blog post in a convo and I will give you a second kit of your choice at 1/2 off. Offer good until Friday 12/19/14.