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First of all, what isneedlepoint?  It is counted thread embroidery mostly covering the ground material – even weave canvas.  However my web site shows many different lacy designs and incorporating different coloured canvases into the design. Sometimes it is called tapestry erroneously but that is a different story!

Girls Stitching in Tuscany
There are three main types of needlepoint, Tent stitch from charts or on printed or hand-painted canvases; Florentine/Bargello traditional upright stitches worked in curves and spires and Stitchery on geometric designs and for adding interest to painted canvases.

This blog covers equipment for all types of needlepoint that I have found useful though the years.

One of the most attractive aspects of learning needlepoint right from the start is the fact that initially very little equipment is needed to get one going in the right direction.

Later on as you become more hooked, possibly see fellow stitches either at class or in ‘stitch and bitch’ groups with equipment they love you can add on or build as you wish.

Anna's Mill in Norfolk
I design and stitch all the projects we offer on class or the web.  So, while I stitch a great deal I can only tell you of the items I can’t do without and find essential to my stitching pleasure.  There are many, many others I haven’t mentioned as I’ve not tried them or find non-essential.

I expect the first thing to talk about is the kit or design you pick first time around;  we hold regular open days when people are able to see our range, discuss whether it would be right for their standard of stitching; which colour scheme would best suit their home.  Failing that our web site does show full details of the colour schemes and one can hover over a design to see detail.

If a design from another designer do not go for anything too large; I would reject screen printed designs on interlock canvas, any design on Double or Penelope canvas. 12 or 14 mesh evenweave are good to start on.  Crewel wool is the best option (see later)   Finally check the design doesn’t only allows for half-cross stitch as that doesn’t wear well.  If you should work a background in Basket weave/Diagonal Tent instead of the suggested Half Cross you will not have enough of wool supplied and finding a match could be difficult so better, right from the start, to have fresh background wool of the right quantity. Check quantity in any event by stitching a square inch in the stitch you plan to use on the identical canvas and recording the number of threads used.

Canvas Besides the canvas mesh, (the higher the number the finer the canvas, eg 14 threads to the inch is larger than 18 threads to the inch) there are three main types of canvas, Penelope or Double, Interlock and Evenweave.

Our kits come complete with the evenweave, when the canvas threads weave over and under each other allowing for some give and take when the piece is finished and in use.

The 14 and 18 mesh are available in white and antique (brown) so choose the colour to best suit your colour scheme. The 18 mesh also comes in an exciting range of colours, both pastel and dramatic.

Cakes stand
A frame is essential– in my book anyway – the type that is best to use are artist stretcher bars.   They come in pairs in different lengths and widths and simply slot together - very easy to store and use.   The lengths you need are the same as the canvas dimensions, a 10 x 10 inch canvas needs a 10 x 10 “ frame.  The narrow ones we can supply are light and best fitted with flat headed drawing pins. They can be reused time and time again and will fit with other lengths of the same width to make rectangles etc for future projects. It is always possible to order a frame at the same time as a new project.

 Threads, probably the best choice for your first attempts is crewel wool.   Appleton’s make a wonderful range of closely shaded families, particularly good for shading realistically and Florentine/Bargello designs.  It is available in small skeins and larger hanks; I recommend the hanks as one frequently wishes to do further designs in the same colour scheme.   Work with lengths no longer than18/19 inches to prevent fraying. If working with a finer canvas 18/20/22 mesh consider an even shorter length.

Joint teaching project with Dede Ogden
Later on when more confident, stranded and pearl cottons add interest to designs and when hooked overdyed floss, silks and metallic, are beautiful to work with and look marvellous. New, exciting threads are introduced all the time – I try and incorporate them in my designs. In my kit instructions these threads are explained when applicable.




So, now you are set up to make a start - a kit or instructions in a book you love, the colour scheme that suits, a frame and of course needles!  If and when you wish to change a colour scheme from that given, it is most satisfactory to replace wool with wool, stranded cottons with stranded cottons etc. 
Needles are usually given in kits however you need ‘tapestry needles’ that have no point that would split the canvas threads.They are available two ways, in a mixed pack or an individual pack of one size – these I find better.

As a rule,

Size 18 is for 12 mesh canvas

20 for 14 mesh canvas

22 for 18 mesh canvas

Exceptions to these rules that are worth considering - for Pulled Thread stitches I use a larger size than recommended to enlarge the holes effortlessly and I enjoy using  a fine 24 needle for lacy stitches on 18 mesh.

Recently I have discovered a French needle manufacturer that are markedly nicer to use; these are now included in our kits and available from us in packs of 6.

For those of us who have problems threading needles (I find the French needles much easier) there is an excellent 3 in 1 Needle Threader;  it can thread sewing cotton on a fine wire loop, medium threads on a hook and thick threads on  a large hook.

Binding the edge of the canvas; most often our canvases are taped before sale; otherwise the edges of the canvas should be bound with 1” masking tape.

Stitching with others is always a bonus, there may be classes in your area where you will get useful tips that will help all future work, there may be a ‘stitch & bitch’ group that meets in a private home, there you would see other people’s work.  All group stitching be it in a formal class or informal group gives you the opportunity of discussing your work, making new friends and generally swopping ideas.  Highly recommended.

Crewel wools & threads, range of coloured canvases
 and stretcher bar frames

Then, when you are ready, you might think of adding to your equipment; there are small items to pick up and others, more expensive that are really helpful to your work and pleasure.

Among others the small items are scissors, laying tools, needle cases, thread storage and project bags and magnetic pick up tools for finding and rescuing your needle.

Until recently I loved some small curved decoupage scissors but they appear to be no longer available so I am researching alternatives. The curved tips get under waste knots with easy. The airline authorities generally accept blades under 4.5mm but perhaps it is wise not to rely on this, pack a spare pair in your check-in and have a thread cutter for the flight. The ones I like are a Japanese ‘disc’ that I wear as a necklace or a cheapo airline cutter.  Group photo of small accessories.

If you plan on cutting canvas then a larger pair of shears would be useful (not to be taken on board!)

Unpicking work is often unavoidable and the two tips I offer are - There is often more thread on the reverse making it easier to snip; the curved scissors are good.  Finally use eyebrow tweezers (or any tweezers that you have) for pulling the cut stitches out.

Laying tools come in various materials, polished wood, metal and plastic; They help your threads, particularly cottons, floss, and  perle to lay smoothly;  in particular any thread that you use with a number of ply.

My favourite are the wood versions but many of my students like the ‘trolley needle’ a laying tool that fits on a finger always at the ready.   Try for yourself.

Needle cases again come in many forms;  one can make a small ‘book’ with flannel ‘leaves’ and a canvas work cover or recently I have found a pop-up that holds all sizes of needles or if needed a pop-up for each size.  There are amusing copies of pewter Victorian animals with padding  for the needles – a great present for friends who stitch.

Then comes a method of keeping your threads under control!   The one I like and use often is a heavy card with various size holes to accommodate the selection of threads (wool is more bulky than say stranded cotton)   I use these as I can record reference numbers, quantities used and ideally the code that the kit has used for that colour.   Now these cards are included in our larger kits. 
Then transporting your precious project, or even just keeping it all together. The simplest way is an old pillow case, a more sophisticated method of transport is making yourself a large tote bag; make it generous enough to take the size of canvas (left on the frame) you usually work on and it can be fabric or needlepoint – either just the front or both sides and a shoulder strap all in needlepoint – I suggest a longish strap to go over the shoulder and leave both hands free

Needle threaded, Magnetic Pickup, Project card, Tweezers,
Needle holder & a Needle case
So, now take a breath, you love your stitching and to make it even more pleasurable; these items will help immensely.   

 A floor frame to hold your piece at both the right height and angle; good for your back if you need further justification!  My absolute top favourite is the Lowery floor frame, the silver grey version with a side clamp.  The big advantage over many on the market is that it has a good floor plate that, with your foot or chair leg is rock solid and that it stands to the side of you and leaves both your hands free for 2-hand stitching.  It also has a useful range of add-ons illustrated on their site.  Many others come centrally into your body and should you need to get up for the telephone or a well earned coffee, go flying!   I always have some of these Lowery floor frames that students can try on class. I even have some students who have taken a second one – for down and upstairs or in their weekend cottage. Having said that they are not impossible to pack as they all come apart!

Then there is light and magnification - daylight can’t be beaten but most of us stich in the evening and frequently in the winter with curtains drawn with lights on quite early.   So I am spoilt in having two types, each of which I love.   First there is a wall mounted magnification and light; it has a large magnification area so I can see the whole design area without too much adjustment.  It does come with a floor base but mine is fixed with a bracket to a wall but could be clipped to a table or window cill.  It lives right by my stitching chair.  It needs a power point for the light.

The other version is even more adaptable; it can be connected to power but will also work on batteries; it comes with a solid floor base but can also be used alone with a strong clip for a table top or similar. This is the one I take for travelling (without the base if I know there will be a suitable table to clamp it to)

Again both these items are here in the studio, I encourage people to try them and see which would suit them best.
Lowery floor frame (canvas on artist stretcher bar frame)
& Magnification / Light (works on electricity or battery)
So, step by step you have items that truly make stitching even more pleasurable and not expensive or difficult to get.
Think how much a set of golf clubs would cost!

www.anna-needlepoint-pearson.com
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Anna Pearson's Needlepoint Blog by Anna Pearson's Blog - 1M ago
With my confined status due to my ankle fracture I am fortunate in having my needlepoint stitching, my finished pieces and an extensive out of print book collection around me. Time to reflect on all this and my many years of stitching has introduced a new series of one day classes Master Classes, each in a particular needlepoint technique.

Various Tartans
The idea for each day is to study the technique, Florentine, Basketweave Tent and Backgrounds, Patterned Darning etc with some historical background, making a personal stitched sampler and learning many tips and special techniques associated with that form of needlepoint.

 
The days so far offered are available at the end  of the blog.

Basketweave & Backgrounds.

I know everyone thinks they ‘know’ Basket weave Tent but there are many tips to help you get the best possible smooth and hard-wearing results.  Also, how to avoid kits that only allow for Half Cross that won’t wear satisfactorily.

Autumn mill where water and sky
where important stitch decisions
Backgrounds can be solid, covering the canvas with interesting textures to give hard ware or more lacy stitches for decorative pieces.  Samples of a selection of both are given and can be worked.   Personally I have needed stitches suitable for water, skies and vegetation and ideas for these are also included.
 
Fabulous Florentine

Florentine, Bargello and Hungarian Point are all names associated with these beautiful patterns and photographs of wonderful antique bed hangings and upholstery are examined. 

14 Mesh, pulled thread
It is such a vast subject it is offered in two levels. I recommend Part I for those with little prior knowledge and gives basic curves and spires as well as 8 or more patterns for experiment that can be used for cushions, chair seats, bell pulls and much else.  Part II for those of you who have either extensive knowledge, done Part I or wish to create your own Florentine designs, mix different motifs in stool tops or rugs and explore Florentine with Pulled thread.

 
 
 
Pulled Thread

18 Mesh, pulled thread
The canvas threads are ‘pulled’ not removed (that is called drawn thread as threads are withdrawn) and the sampler you work to record the stitches makes a charming small panel or cushion.

In this case some pre-class stitching of cross stitch frames is needed;  the canvas, thread and charts is sent out on receipt of the class fee so these frames which are needed to anchor the  pulled thread stitches are done, ready for the class.


 
Patterned Darning

Spot sampler of Pattern Darning
to be worked by students
This can be offered in two forms; a ‘spot sample’ can be worked (as this photo shows) or as another ‘panel’ to be made into a cushion or small picture.   Only in the case of a panel is some pre-class stitching needed – similar to the details given for Pulled Thread.  Patterned Darning is particularly suitable for backgrounds, gives ideas for Shadow Stitching – when a painted or sprayed canvas is allowed to show through the stitches.   Many traditional stitches can be worked as Patterned Darning and this will be explained.


 
 
 
Spectacular Stitches


Example of  a Dramatic Stitch
One always needs a wow facture on a piece, especially a picture or cushion for an elegant position.With the instructions, charts given and your sampler you will have a working, useful record to refer to for countless future projects.

 
 
 
 
Tartan & Gingham

This Huntly Tartan makes a good
choice for upholstery
It would appear that a vast number of surnames entitle one to a tartan and besides working a panel with 8 different tartans, full details of working out your own tartan or gingham is given. Both, in different ways are fun to work but also give excellent wear so besides cushions they make good upholstery items, rugs and backgrounds; ginghams are particularly good for children’s designs.


On payment of the Class fee each student will get pre-class notes, listing the options for the materials  (canvas mesh/colour and colour scheme) and a set of helpful ‘Techniques ad Tips’ for downloading and future reference.  This is in order that we can have things ready on arrival and to enable everyone to get the most out of the class.
I just love the colour, I should really finish it!

I have already held three of these days during the last few months, the students have found them instructive and useful so there are more in the Autumn class programme.  If you should be planning a trip to England with some fellow stitches we can always arrange a special day for you.

I should love to hear from you with thoughts, ideas and hopefully see you.
 
 
Master Class Dates:
Wednesday 25th September (Florentine)
Wednesday 9th October (Pattern Darning)
Wednesday 13th November (Spectacular Stitches)
Wednesday 11th December (Florentine Part 2)
Please email me for any more info anna.pearson365@gmail.com
 
 
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With Christmas and all the family festivities and then my being away – fortunately in the sun – I am afraid a blog hasn’t been written recently; however being away from the computer (at least some of the time and the Wi-Fi wasn’t too dependable) I was able to revisit some of the things that happened last year and to plan detail for the next few months.

Last year my excitement with coloured canvas, lacy stitches to make full use of both elements and shadow stitching showing a painted design grew.  On the trip I managed to finish ‘Basket Weavers of Road Town’   I have mentioned this piece before, inspired by a painting by Jill Tattersall who went out to Tortola in the BVIs in the 60s with her family;  some years later she painted a series recalling the early days.

In Tuscany the group project was the house logo, a pair of pheasants under an olive tree worked with silks and metallic and in Calabria where everyone is able to choose their design I worked a flight of Butterflies.  This painted canvas –shown here – is most versatile allowing freedom of shading and total coverage or shadow stitching to allow the painted detail to show through; it can be supplied painted canvas only so everyone can decide for themselves.   This painted canvas can now be supplied, shadow stitching and border diagram will be available soon.

The classes here in London were well attended and students chose to work on my new designs (see web site particularly Tudor and Cathedral Tiles) or an exciting array of custom designs, chairs - a lovely small child’s chair, wall panels, fire screens and stools. As always I always have a good finisher in mind before agreeing to even start a project.

The sad news is a number of good friends have died; some of my favourite needlepoint friends have lost their partners and John Tovey who many of you will remember from our annual trips to his boutique hotel on Lake Windermere has died in South Africa. We managed to clock up more than 20 visits to the Miller Howe, John frequently stitched with us and regaled us with many amusing stories. More recently he moved to Cape Town and I visited him twice; visiting restaurants with a pro was an eye opener! John was generous with culinary information and loved by all my ‘girls’ – a one-off who will be missed greatly.

But on our recent trip I also had time – in between swimming and stitching – to plan designs, classes and trips for this year.  Two promises I made to myself – firstly to blog more regularly, aiming for one post a month (fingers crossed I keep to it!)) And second to design projects that can be worked in a number of techniques suited to both the stitcher and the end use they wish for; in many cases their own stash of threads can be used up.

A new idea I am working on at the moment but while I shall be able to fill you in on detail soon the idea is to have a regular ‘offer of the month’, it may be a kit or equipment at a special price
The offer of the month will be available through all of my social media outlets, it may be a kit (Digital or Hard copy) Useful accessories (scissors, frames, laying tools) always accompanied by various tips & tricks of needlepoint.

Now all I have to do is fine plan both this new idea, I should so much like to hear from you with comments or ideas as to how you would like to see it working – do let me know of any suggestions.

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Anna Pearson's Needlepoint Blog by Anna Pearson's Blog - 8M ago
The period before Christmas is frenetic, however the excitement of the children, homes all decorated, makes up for the cold weather, terrible traffic and dark evenings.
As a result, I am only writing a short blog which hopefully you might have time to read!
AS always I manage to stitch a little each day– I think it keeps me sane and anyway, I love every minute.

Two of my more zanier designs
Two new pieces to show you – first an additional panel for my leather clutch bag – over the years these purses in black leather have been popular as one can stitch panels to match different outfits. The new one cheers up many of my evening outfits and, better still, only took me an evening to complete;  seen here it was worked on 18 mesh black canvas with two shades of metallic.

So, if you have one of these bags, may be from way back when I taught panels on American Needlepoint Guild annual events in Scotsdale and somewhere else – so long ago I can’t remember exactly where get them out and start enjoying them again. Let me know if you would like to see the range of designs now available.

The other project, larger and bit more challenging are these Butterflies, hand-painted and worked in Shadow stitching on 14 mesh canvas. For the last few months I have been hooked on this technique of light, lacy stitches that show the canvas detail with a soft veil of stitchery worked on top. Of course, it would be equally good but very different in solid stitches such as basket weave.
I plan to include it on my web shortly in a new section – Hand-painted canvases.

I Also just delivered this lovely Queen Anne rug 7 mesh canvas and crewel wools, finished for a customer just in time for Christmas, If you have pieces that need finishing do let us know.
Remember this is your last chance to get the Early Bird Offer for our April - May trip to Tuscany, do email me before this Friday to secure your discount, there are only a few places left.
My best wishes for the holiday season and for a healthy, peaceful New Year.

A x
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Anna Pearson's Needlepoint Blog by Anna Pearson's Blog - 10M ago

Just back from our 11th trip to Pirapora close to Tropea in Calabria southern  Italy  Robert and I had a great week in Puglia before driving across from the east coast to pick up my stitching friends on the west coast to arrive at Pirapora.
 
Crossing from Puglia, interesting villages, churches and trulli houses but very flat we appreciated just how dramatic and beautiful the Calabria countryside is.  After a very wet summer it was amazingly green – fortunately the weather changed as we arrived and we enjoyed warm sun and blue skies for our whole visit.

On or trips to Tuscany , usually in April/May, we always have a design that everyone works, on this trip people are able to choose what they wish to stitch. Both work well, this year in Tuscany we all stitched the venue’s logo, a pair of pheasants under an olive tree;  in Calabria there was a wide range from a large wall hanging worked in silks on 18 mesh canvas to a hussif and all things in between.   Personally I worked on a group of Butterfly with a mixture of traditional solid stiches and shadow stitchery.

The Pheasants design called for rich metallic threads in basket weave tent ,the Olive Tree leaves in embroidery, and the backgrounds in both Skip Tent and a Patterned Darning with a fine stranded cotton and single ply of a metallic.

A hussif is traditionally a holdall/pouch containing all a soldier in the British Army might require for repairs to his clothing when necessary.  As you can see the needlepoint cover is a good rectangular shape to design for –Vivian, in this case chose  a geometric – it is the interior that can be as ambitious or not as one wishes.

The Scented Garden floral design has been worked previously as a rug on 14  mesh canvas but in this case Connie wanted a wall hanging so silks and floss were suitable for the finer canvas.  A photo of the 14 mesh version is on my 2017 blog ‘The Universal Problem’.

Two women from Belguim have joined us for a number of years and often bring the finished design from the last year.   Last year we enjoyed some Christmas scenes Marie-Louise had done and this year Christine brought her Elderflower panel finished as a fabric covered box top.
 

Fact sheets for both the Tuscany and the Calabria trips are available, the dates in 2019 are Tuscany 28 April – 5 May;   Calabria mid September to be www.anna-needlepoint-pearson.com/

 

 

 

 
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Anna Pearson's Needlepoint Blog by Anna Pearson's Blog - 11M ago
August, they say is the ‘silly month’ when editors and journalists scrape around for news, ‘Man bit Dog’ can become front page news!  Schools are out, Mothers seek to entertain their children, (we used to set off on our bikes with a packed lunch, sadly not possible in many areas now)’ Grandparents plan day outings or even spend time with the family on a ‘bucket and spade’ holiday; Robert has taken two of my grandchildren to Whipsnade Zoo to day and they, fortunately, couldn’t hope for better weather.
So, with, I imagine most people being bored with Brexit and Trump I should like to share some of my thoughts with you and share the Autumn class programme.
Firstly, and after all I am a devoted and  enthusiastic stitcher – what have I been doing?
This new technique of Shadow stitching – allowing the detail of a hand-painted canvas to show through a ‘veil’ of lacy stitches – has completely intrigued me.  I have just completed 2 designs, an Elderflower and a Lilac each with two different borders; having got the bug I am now working on a deep rich colour way of the Lilac (lilac does come in such wonderful colours) and for this one I am working just corners of 4 borders, same borders different colour schemes - so people can see the finished effect.
 
Recently I have had two interesting mornings exploring the possibilities of making the canvas, white, brown, colours or sprayed part of the finished design.  In other words stepping back from the hand-painted designs prepared for shadow stitching (see last blog) into less complicated – and expensive – ways of getting a new and different feel to one’s needlepoint.    These talks have been popular so I plan to do another one, the 16thOctober;  they are free but booking is essential as space is limited, let me know if you are interested.   They will be held here in Central London.
Clothing art is always something I have been frightened off, probably as making up stiff canvas worked panels into a full garment can be tricky (I am not good with a sharp needle!) however staying with my step daughter she suggested applique canvas work panels to attach to an existing denim jacket; the garment she had in mind is a wonderful lime green and coupled with her favourite flower – the Marguerite I am very excited.   We have also been able to find a company that will make mules as well as slippers.  Will keep you up to date with progress.
I have even written a detective story – how ‘silly’ can that be?  Of course it is to do with one of my designs and a new student who came to class.   Will post it shortly.
 
We still have our trip to Calabria in Southern Italy to look forward to;  on this trip so many of them have been on many occasions that ‘free stitching’ is preferred.   I check with everyone that they have everything they need stitch-wise – having just run out of a thread in the US I know how maddening that can be.    We always have one trip during our stay, this time they have requested Reggio de Calabria to see the Riace Bronzes sculptures; some years ago we visited these mega pieces while they were under conservation in the laboratory.    Now we shall enjoy them in the museum and see some of this coastal town.     Mimmo who has always been my trusted guide on these trips always gives us a most interesting day and an excellent lunch!
 
Sound incredible early to think about our trip to Tuscany next May, however some of you have already asked about it and I believe that there will be ‘returners’, out of the group; this year we only had two new girls!
Anyway I do have details if you are interested, the dates are 28 April - 5th May 2019; let me know if interested; with only accommodation for seven – places go fast.
I have already mentioned our trip to New Hampshire to visit my step daughter and her family; we had a lovely time, relaxed, swimming and with the AC even though it was as hot as London it was most comfortable.    We had a great visit to the Glass Flower Museum, part of the Harvard Natural History complex just outside Boston;  a mind blowing collection of accurate flowers, foliage and flower parts all made between 1860 and 1920s;  each flower bud, each minute leaf or tendril made from glass looking completely life-like.
As, in the past, I do like to share with you the exhibitions and museums I have both been to and enjoyed.    This museum – including their collection of prehistoric animals (absolutely enormous no wonder they didn’t survive) is definitely on my list of recommendations should you be able to get there.
In London we recently went to the Frida Kahlo exhibitor at the V&A, largely her eccentric clothes, head pieces and jewellery; interesting, tempted me to wear long skirts or trousers if only to disguise my compression stockings! But not necessarily a mecca for embroidery.
You probably remember my account of our visit to the Herb Museum in Sansepolcro in my last blog, I think it is still top of my list of favourites.
Do you, as I try to do, keep a Travel Suggestions file, just a record of places I hear or read about that sound of interest should we be in the area? ‘Sofa seat travelling’ with a trawl on Google will give you a taste of the place and its collection with you.
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Recently back from our third visit to Borghetto Calcinaia following much the same programme as in our previous visits and with three new people to join those who had been before.
Special interest holidays work well, needlepoint and stitching are no exception, all the participants have a passion in common and I find needle pointers love flowers, gardens and visiting interesting art museums and quaint villages. They also enjoy their food and sampling recipes and fresh ingredients’ from the area. A win win situation.

Possibly the most important feature of the trip is the stitching project on offer; ideally everyone working on the same design – even if some details are adapted – works so much better with cross fertilisation of ideas and swapping of threads.   On our previous two visits we have worked on panels by the Del Robbia family – a famous family of potters from the area who produced their panels in the 16 century.This year we chose the attractive logo from the Borghetto and worked it in a mix of silks and metallic.
This year's project.
So, following previous programmes we flew to Perugia (Ryanair) though collections can be organise from other places if people wish to add side trips before or after.From the airport we were whisked off to lunch at Trattoria da Vasco a charming rural restaurant where we sat under parasols and had a delicious lunch; our first taste of the Italian cuisine and sunshine.
On to the Borghetto and our first glimpse of our good friend, the owner, Gilly Love.  The rooms, the garden and the welcome were just as perfect as in previous years though very sadly her partner, Dennis whom we all loved, passed away just before Christmas.

Great to unpack and prepare for the stitching on the Monday morning.  I had invited everyone to the studio a few weeks ahead of our departure to fully discuss the project, whether anyone wanted some alterations to the original or different threads. My piece used a number of jewel like metallics and I was delighted that everyone loved the ‘medieval look’ and were going to go along with my ideas.
Sitting as we do at a large table under a pergola enjoying natural light – we can always slip off for some sunbathing or indeed a swim in the pool.

Pleasant days were spent stitching with intervals for delicious meals, local produce and Gilly’s great cooking. Each evening commenced with an Aperativo before an Antipasti, Main course and Dessert with generous wine.
The ancient apothecary's shop
On Wednesday allowing for plenty of stitching, we had our regular visit to the walled city of Sansepolcro with its many stone built towers and the birthplace of Piero Della Francesca with dinner afterwards at Il Dongione Ristorante in San Giustino. This has become a firm favourite with the group, marvellous museums, my favourite the Aboca Museum – Herbs and Health over the centuries housed in a beautiful seventeenth Palace; the Museo Civico with its collection of masterpieces of della Francesca, its Cathedral (1012) with two beautifully preserved frescos and – need I say a little window shopping if not the actual purchase of some small mementos!

I find it quite hard to prise my group away from their stitching however again we always love a visit to Anghiari – steep streets, breath-taking views and some interesting shops!   It is most famous for the Battle of Anghiari 1440 when the Florentines defeated the Milanese for control of this hilltop bastion and a painting (after the event) by Leonardo da Vinci since lost or possibly ‘overpainted’.   A few years ago I was fortunate to see the annual commemoration in June of this battle with processions of the town’s people dressed appropriately – should love to be able to include this event but June would be too hot, May for our visit is more comfortable.
That evening we went on the edge of town to the Zi’ Theresa restaurant specialising in Pizza; didn’t count the endless combinations of toppings but remember mine with artichoke hearts as being delicious!
Well, as always our week went all too fast but good progress had been made with the stitching project, all areas had been tackled; we had again sampled Gilly’s menus, had some sun and culture and returned this time on a mid-day flight with in some cases souvenirs of special cooking ingredients’ and an interesting pair of earrings. 
Already, before we left outline plans for May 219 was discussed and now I have to dream up an exciting project for the design – an initial idea I am working on is the traditional Florentine designs that were painted by the monks for illustrated manuscripts, beautiful garlands of flowers, foliage and often birds.
Meanwhile there is our trip to Southern Italy in September to look forward to, this year, our 11th visit. Please do keep in touch if you are interested in my needle point holidays, I should love to hear from you. Here is me, photographed in my favourite spot when the weather is kind, to share with you my love of flowers.


 

 
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I know no-one who doesn’t love flowers, the colours the smell so little wonder, flowers have been a favourite subject with artists and embroiderers throughout the ages.
My own Boots. Purchased in Turkey.
In Elizabethan times, the English, well known for their love of gardening, have used flowers often in a naturalistic style than most other countries – vegetables and fruit  were almost as popular.  The larger pieces were often planned and sometimes worked by professional men but these too frequently hade flowers and foliage as part of the design.
My favourite reference books
The Needleworker’s Dictionary’  - Pamela Clabburn
‘The Embroiderer’s Flowers – Thomasina Beck.

In Victorian times, with the increased leisure time among the middle classes, embroidery and watercolour painting  were practiced and flowers particularly popular.  Berlin wool work designs printed, hand coloured in the early days were worked with a special wool and sometimes beads –illustration.

The example here is from my own collection, the design worked entirely with glass beads on a perforated paper with an embossed border.    The unusual frame was how I found it and is probably the original.
This design is featured in my book ‘Traditional Needle Arts Needlepoint, has a full chart of th design and is called ‘Country Bouquet’
William Morris around the turn of the 19/20 century designed wallpapers, fabrics and embroideries many designs featuring flowers, foliage and birds.
While I am possibly best known for geometric designs using interesting textured stitches there has always been hand-painted flowers for cushions, upholstery and rugs.
One of my favourite designs is Flower Shop
Do take a look at my web particularly the Patchwork with Iris (this can be ordered with other flowers) and the Elderflower and Lilac designs, both worked with Shadow stitching – offered with a special Manual, the option of two borders and stitches fully diagrammed.  Each if these designs introduce a whole range of stitches that allow the painted canvas to be part of the design.
I do hope this walk through our English tradition of enjoying flowers has encouraged you to consider your next project to be flowers, I should love to help you.
 
 
Don’t cause a fire and burn the house down! (Part 2 of Blog)
One has always been told to be extremely careful with any form of magnification, to always cover the lens over even if left for only a short time.
I both love and need the magnification and the inbuilt light that goes with it – in fact I have two types, the first that benefits from an extra large lens (I can see my whole design without moving It around) and the second that can either stand, clip on a table and uses either electricity or batteries.  The first I keep in the studio fixed permanently and travel with the other.
Most fittings of this kind are sold with some form of lens cover, a dish or small bag but I confess if they did arrive with a suitable cover I have mislaid them!   Instead I cover them with a pillow case – if I was clever with a sharp needle or sewing machine I would make a cotton draw string bag.
Horror, horror today I found a burn hole on my current Lilac design – I truly didn’t think the sun had been that strong but I had been proved wrong.   Thankfully as you can see the hole was on the edge of the canvas, nowhere near the stitching but what might have happened?
Please do learn from my almost disaster – one hears of whole houses being burnt down – and never never leave any magnification uncovered.
If you would like details of the two fittings I find so good, do let me know.
 
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