Westminster

Hello everyone

Last month I went over to the UK to visit my daughter and whilst there took the opportunity to run two days of workshops which were held at St. Matthews conference center in Westminster, London.   St Matthews is a little church very near to Westminster Abbey – the area of Westminster is breathtaking with its’ plethora of beautiful historic architecture as seen below.  St Matthews hire out rooms for conference venues, it is a central location in London and it was here where the classes were hosted.  Just off the classroom was a lovely little courtyard with English roses and tubs of flowers where we had teas and lunches. I did not have my lovely daughter with me to take photos so was only able to take a few with my iphone and I am not known for my talents as a photographer – I normally cut off peoples’ heads but managed to keep those on just this once!

Westminster London

Westminster London

Westminster bridge London

Westminster bridge London

St Matthews Church

St Matthews Church

My youngest daughter and I in front of Big Ben Westminster

My youngest daughter and I in front of Big Ben Westminster

Although the events co-ordinator, Enver was so kind and helpful with the pre-arrangements I was not sure what to expect as the whole event was organized via email from Cape Town.  I had to rely on Enver to cater for lunch and teas and because they had a prior conference on was not able to visit the premises until the day of the class.  The day before the classes began it was announced on the media that they were experiencing an unexpected heatwave of 38 degrees.  Anyone that is familiar with these old church buildings will know that they have double glazed windows (to keep the street noise out) that do not open, so I was naturally concerned that it would be less than ideal conditions for stitching!  When I arrived early that morning,  Enver had placed fans around the room and plenty of cold water was available for the students throughout the day, so it was fine, we soldiered on and there was lots of chatter and laughter, despite the circumstances.

Classroom

Classroom

classroom

classroom

west 9Over the two days,  students arrived from various parts of  UK.  We had Annie Penin from France, and Natalie Marais from South Africa.   Eleanor Roome came from the Isle of Man for both days and was a great help to me in setting up the classes, thanks Eleanore.  I was so interested to meet Kay Dennis, teacher and author of several stumpwork books  – it is always good to compare notes and learn things from other designers.  It was wonderful to meet so many talented ladies and have them in my classes – they were such a joy to teach and so appreciative of everything.  I was thrilled to receive, on my return,  pictures of some of your finished nuthatch birds and the lovely feedback. Thanks to all of you for attending – I know that many of you had to arrange accommodation in London over the busiest time of the year when Wimbledon was on and catch trains home at midnight, your efforts are appreciated.   I do hope we can repeat the experience at some time in the future?  Next time I will make sure it is in cooler months!

Eleanor & natalie

Eleanor & natalie

tea in courtyard

tea in courtyard

west 4 Next time I would like to share with you the next part of our strip to Edinburgh Scotland where I got to view the Mary Queen Of Scotts embroideries at Holyrood Palace.  Meantime, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

Landscape Kit

Hello everyone

Hope you are all having a good week?  Next week I plan to share with you my teaching experience in Westminster, London but today I wanted to let you know about the new landscape kit that is now available for sale in my Etsy store.

I have received numerous requests for landscape designs over the last few years, but to be honest could not find the right artwork to translate into embroidery.  A few months ago I came across the art of Louise Marion.   Louise is a French Canadian artist who paints vibrant, colourist expressionism art –  just what I was looking for.  You can see some of her artwork on my Pinterest board.   It took a little persuasion but finally Louise gave me permission to use some of her paintings and I got down to designing and stitching.

This was something quite different to what I normally do and it was an absolute joy to stitch – each aspect of the design came alive in front of my eyes, motivating me to keep stitching till complete.   The energy of her work and little details she includes had the effect of lifting one’s spirits whilst stitching – it really was very gratifying!  Thank you Louise for allowing us to use your beautiful art.

Provencal

Enlarged picture of Provencal

Here is the first of the designs – Provencal. The design is a miniature approx 11 x 11cm and is stitched on our gorgeous new premium linen from Germany which has a very close weave.   It uses numerous thread colours but they are all DMC stranded cotton so you will have no problem sourcing the thread.  I plan to add a second design soon, so that they could be framed as a pair, or individually if wanted.

Premium linen from Germany

Premium linen from Germany

LINEN FABRIC

The new German linen is now available for sale in the Etsy store here – after many years of trying to source the right linen I have found it and it is lovely to stitch on.  It is manufactured on the old style looms so has that very close weave that we always look for in a good surface embroidery linen, and therefore  can be used for Needlepainting, Whitework, miniatures or any other type of embroidery.   It is sold by the half metre and is 160cm wide so one piece will cater for at least 4 large embroideries or several smaller ones.

The Southern Belle muslin is also back in stock, although I am having problems sourcing the original quality of the fabric and so it may be discontinued/replaced in the near future.

WHITEWORK THREAD PACKS

If the thread pack for the kit you require is out of stock I recommend that you purchase a skein of white/grey floche together with your kit.  This will suffice for at least two kits.  All other threads used in the Shades of Whitework kits are DMC stranded cotton, in fact the full design can be stitching using DMC substitutes if required – there are instructions in the booklet.   It is not always possible to keep stock of the thread packs for sale but I have listed the threads needed for each design so that you can see what is needed when you place your order.

Gentle Heart  Shades Of Whitework Kit

Gentle Heart Shades Of Whitework Kit

Meantime, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

 

Royal School Of Needlework

Hello everyone

How are you?  I am back in Cape Town after 2 weeks in London and another week in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was wonderful to see my daughter again and spend time with her –  she made sure that we saw many of the sights, having lived in Edinburgh and now in London.  Not being used to all the walking (despite my numerous trips up the flight of stairs up to my office)  I did suffer with sore feet!  During this time I taught a class at the Royal School of Needlework and later two days of classes in Westminster.  This week I would like to share with you the Royal School Of Needlework experience and will follow with a post on Westminster later.

As you probably know the RSN is housed in the old “Grace & Favour” apartments at Hampton Court Palace, in Surrey England.  It is a fascinating story you can read more about the Grace & Favour apartments here.  The RSN run hand embroidery classes from beginner to BA degree and have an embroidery studio where works of restoration and conservation of historical textiles are commissioned.  You can read more about the origins and history of the RSN here.  and get info on current events on the facebook Page.

RSN

Hampton Court Palace

Royal School Of Needlework

Royal School Of Needlework

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Gardens at Hampton Court

Gardens at Hampton Court

Tues 23rd June.  The day before I was due to teach at the RSN my daughter, Stacey and I boarded a train from Waterloo station to Hampton Court, a journey of about 45 mins.  When we came out of the station and crossed the bridge I was taken aback by the immensity of Hampton Court Palace and it’s beautifully manicured gardens.  The sun was shining on the river Thames which runs along its banks and ducks and boats bobbed along on the water, making it picture perfect.   I felt a little thrill at the prospect of entering such a grand establishment and not a little nervous!

Entrance To Hampton Court Palace

Entrance To Hampton Court Palace

Stacey and I were warmly welcomed by two members of the RSN,  Noleen Wyatt-Jones the Classes Coordinator & Administrator and Anne Butcher the Programme Director.  We were led through tight security along some back passages of the Palace into the RSN apartments.  Finally we arrived in the courtyard of the RSN,  and made our way up the lifts to the top floor where I was shown my classroom.  I was hosted in the degree room with its stunning views of the formal gardens below and had to pinch myself occasionally to remind myself I was really there!

rsn5

View From My Classroom Window

View From My Classroom Window

 

rsn6

The day was spent being shown around the various classrooms, meeting some of the degree students, tutors and a tour of the studio, where we saw some restoration work being carried out.  I was fortunate enough to see some of the collection including a beautiful display of whitework and some lovely examples of 18th – 19th century silk shading and crewel work.  One would normally have to pre-book a tour to view this so I was in my element!  The RSN library is filled with a plethora of books on embroidery, design, textiles and history, some of these rare, out of print books which if time had allowed I would love to have delved into.

Later I was taken to the RSN gift store on the ground level which opens onto some of the gardens to allow access to visitors and students alike.  I signed copies of my book for the store and had a good browse through some of their lovely sales items such as bookmarks, greeting cards, books and kits all of which are available from the RSN online shop here.

 

Section of a crewel embroidery screen

Section of a crewel embroidery screen

Silk Shading 18th Century RSN

Silk Shading 18th Century RSN

Later in the afternoon Stacey and I had some lunch in one of the Palace cafes and then did a tour of the Palace.  This is a whole other story but suffice it to say that I have always had a great interest in King Henry viii and his many wives and to see where and how he lived was fascinating.  At the end of the day we made our way back (full of inspiration and a feeling of awe) across the bridge to catch the train back to Waterloo in preparation for the next day’s class.

My daughter & I

My daughter & I taking a rest in Palace Garden

Wed 24th June.  Once again bright and early on Wednesday morning, we made our way on the train – I was so grateful to have my daughter’s calming presence and the fact that she remembered the way through security up to the RSN apartments.  She was a huge support helping me set up and spent the day taking photographs of the class and surrounds.  Stacey combines  graphic design with photography and has a gift for capturing the beautiful essence of her subjects –  you can see some of her work here.

Here are some photos of flowers in the Palace Gardens.

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

When we arrived Noleen and my lovely assistant for the day Becky,  had set up the classroom for me – the kits were laid out and the fabric, hoops and magnifiers in place so all I had to do was set up my projector equipment.  Becky was in total control of the teas, queries from students and all other aspects which left me free to devote my time to the students and teaching, wonderful, thank you so much Noleen and Becky for all your help!

Class activity

Class activity

The students arrived, most of them from the UK and Europe – one Lady, Paula Wilson came all the way from Hawaii,  and another was from Sydney, Australia!  The ladies were lovely, so appreciative and interested in every aspect of the technique, it was a joy and privilege to teach them.  There was lots of discussion, laughter and of course stitching – all went home having completed a good portion of their bird and I hope having learned something?  I know I learned a lot from them and do hope to be able to take you up on the invitation to teach classes again at some time in the future.

rsn11rsn8rsn9rsn10

Nuthatch In Spring Class Project

Nuthatch In Spring Class Project

I like to think that traditional met with the new and we embraced each others ideas, so that together we can unite, grow and continue to encourage present and future generations in the art of hand embroidery?

Teaching at the RSN was so much more than a class, it was having the opportunity to participate in an establishment with traditions that go back hundreds of years and I was humbled and grateful for the whole experience, in particular the warmth and welcoming interest of the tutors and staff.  A big thank you to all at the RSN for the opportunity!

I have some exciting ideas to share with you in the upcoming weeks.  Meantime, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

Silk Lovers

Hello everyone

Hope your week is going well and that you are enjoying the warmer weather overseas – we are currently experiencing cold, rainy weather perfect for cosying up in a chair with stitching!

This week I am excited to introduce to you a new Shades Of Whitework design – Gentle Heart.  The design is stitched using soft shades of pink and mint with white, ecru and taupe accents.  The design size is approx 11,5 x 11,5cm (4,5 X 4,5 inches).  It is stitched using DMC stranded cotton with a DMC floche in white.

The design is now available as a kit in the Etsy store.  The kit includes beautiful 1300 wt Irish cambric linen with pre-printed outline, a full step by step colour booklet and needles.  Threads not included but they are very easy to source in your country of origin.  If you need white floche it is available in the Etsy store.

 

Gentle Heart

Gentle Heart

The good news for all you lovers of silk floss, is that I have teamed up with Silk Mill in France to incorporate their silk threads into the Shades Of Whitework designs.  I have done intensive research into the various types of silk thread available and this one ticks all the boxes – in that it is colourfast, high quality, gorgeous, easy to use and has a fantastic array of 700 shades soon to be increased to 800 shades. Oh my goodness colour heaven!   I hope in the future to be able to offer thread packs of silk with the kits but for the present you will find a substitute list from DMC to Silk Mill so that you have the option of using either cotton or silk in the design.

The silks creates a lovely contrast in texture with the matt finish of the Floche.  Silk Mill threads can be purchased direct from their online shop in France.  They ship worldwide and offer a wonderful personable customer service.  Read all about it here.

I leave for the UK in 2 1/2 weeks time and whilst I am away the Etsy store will be closed for business till my return on 10th July.  My apologies for the inconvenience but when I return there are some new ideas in the pipeline which I will share with you and also I will be able to report back on my class at the Royal School Of Needlework which is exciting!

Meantime, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

Lilac Breasted Roller

Hello Everyone

Hope your week is going well?  I am busy as a bee preparing for the UK workshops lots to do and also working on a few new Shades Of Whitework designs which I am excited about as am trying out different shades of colour and also some very special silk thread!  Hope to be able to share these ideas with you soon.

Subsequent to my post on obtaining good quality linen for needlepainting and whitework, many of you kindly emailed me with suggestions and I was finally led by Jessica Grimm in Germany to a fantastic manufacturer of the old style embroidery linen.  The Company is a family run business who still endeavor to weave their linen on the old style looms thus are able to achieve the beautiful fine weave that I was looking for.  It is 100% fine linen that is sturdy enough to be used alone, without a backing fabric,  for either whitework or needlepainting and lovely to stitch on, am thrilled to have found this wonderful source, thank you Jessica!  I have just received my first shipment and it will be used in the whitework kits in future and also available for sale in the shop shortly.

Lilac Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

The Lilac Breasted Roller Kit from the Colour Confidence book is back in stock by popular demand.  You can find it in the Etsy shop here.  The miniature autumn pansy kit and others that were out of stock are now also back in stock.

Autumn pansy miniature

Autumn pansy miniature

Enjoy the rest of your week and till next time wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

The Story Of A Miniature Embroidery Artist

Hello Everyone

Hope you had a good Easter and that you are enjoying the warmer weather overseas?  We are approaching winter so it is getting a little chilly which I love because it means more stitching time!  Funny how we always discuss the weather –  as my husband once pointed out it is only the difference between a warm jacket and a drink in the pub or a pair of summer shorts and a live game of rugby!  Men can be so simple??

This week it is my great pleasure to introduce to you Mical Aloni.  I have mentioned her in a previous post here –  but as I said at the time I was unable to make contact with her – she seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth, but lo and behold she emailed a few weeks ago, to say that she had had twins and been busy for a while but is now back in circulation.  Mical is without a doubt an embroidery artist of the highest degree – she does the most exquisite miniature needlepainting embroideries, approx 2.5 – 6 inches in size, really quite unique.

Last week I interviewed Mical – and found her story absolutely fascinating.  It is one of empowerment and inspiration for all of us embroiderers, proving that humble beginnings can lead to great things.  Her innate style of embroidery has blossomed from simple dabblings as a young girl in a Kibbutz in Israel,  and grown into what is now recognized by the world as “Fine Art”.

I found the fact that she uses a “long skinny needle” and “cheap white bed sheets” so interesting – proving that we don’t need the finest materials to produce a beautiful piece of art, the desire to stitch and create overcomes all limitations?

I am sure you will love Mical’s relaxed and informal chatter – I did have a giggle at the way she sometimes described things!  While you sit in your comfortable living room stitching away you can pause to consider the odds she overcame to fulfill a great need to create things of beauty with needle and thread.  You can read the interview below and see more examples of her work here:  Mical Aloni.

Till next time wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

 Mical I know that you started to embroider whilst at an agricultural Kibbutz in northern central Israel, please tell us more about this, what inspired you to create such a unique style of embroidery contrary to what others at the Kibbutz were doing – I believe the norm was cross stitch?

 Ever since I can remember myself, my hands where occupied in creating something. As a girl growing up in a Kibbutz I was introduced to embroidery early on, and though I proved to be a complete failure in decorating table clothes and napkins with cross stitching, I found that I can use thread as paint and in an environment where art supplies where scares, that was a discovery indeed!

Cyclamen For My Father - Mical Aloni embroidery

Cyclamen For My Father – Mical Aloni embroidery

How did your embroidery help escape the intensity of military life whilst serving your mandatory two-year military service? Can you tell us of any experiences during this time?

During my 2 years’ service in the Israeli army I had an ongoing piece of embroidery; in the end I think it measured 1×1 foot. It was filled with colourful magical creatures and help me withdrew from the toil of military life to a wonderful world all of my own. Unfortunately this piece is lost.

I believe that at the age of 25 you moved to the US where you earned culinary distinction at the Academe de Cuisine in Maryland, and then went on to own a successful restaurant, Franzi and Nells, located in Stony Brook on Long Island, New York? You must have been fully occupied running your restaurant, did you still have time for embroidery?

As during my army service, embroidery provided me with a necessary respite from my busy days of a chef and restaurant owner. At that point I gifted them to my friends.

Close up of embroidery

Close up of embroidery

In 1994 you moved to Taos, New Mexico – presumably this was when you began to embroider full time. What was it that inspired you to start creating these miniature pieces? Approx what size are your pieces of embroidery?

When I got to Taos there was not many job for a chef, all I could find was a part time job as a baker at a cookie company. I could barely pay rent and feed myself, I wasn’t very happy until a friend asked me if there was something else I could do and my answer was: “ I can embroider like nobody business”. Instead of paying my quarters at the laundromat that week I spend my meagre earning on thread…

I entered the “Taos Open” show in the spring of 1997 and got myself a ribbon and the attention of the late and wonderful Steve Parks owner of the Parks Gallery, and the rest is history.

Your embroidery pieces have attained phenomenal success, being exhibited and sold by art galleries in New York and Taos and now housed as a permanent collection of the Harwood Museum in Taos and the American Craft Museum in New York. What a wonderful progression and certainly a great achievement – from humble beginnings come great things!  It is unusual for thread painted pieces to be acknowledged as “fine art” how was your work first recognized at this level?

I always thought about my work as fine art and was rather surprised to find myself in the art versus craft debate. When I crate a piece my primary concern is line, shape, balance, colour, form, space, texture, etc. The fact that I’m most comfortable using embroidery to create those pieces is almost incidental.

I have noticed that most thread artist emphasise their use of thread, I infact try to make it disappear: when one listen to a great violinist play, one does not think about the difficulties of playing the violin (which is very hard indeed), but instead hear the beautiful music. I want my audience to forget the technical challenges of embroidery and just enjoy, be inspired and be moved by the art work.   I do find the distinction between the art and craft redundant.

The day the anemone raised her head - embroidery Mical Aloni

The day the anemone raised her head – embroidery Mical Aloni

Where does the inspiration for your unique ideas come from? Are they mainly photographs and if so are these photographs that you take yourself and then decide to stitch or do you have a source of photography?

My latest body of work is called Fragile: Sparks of a Dream. Here is something I wrote about it (even if it’s written in a third person manner).
Mical Aloni’s most recent collection is inspired by memories and dreams from her childhood on a kibbutz in Israel and features her twin daughters Maya and Rumi in contexts that highlight the fragile beauty of childhood in a changing and sometimes dangerous world. These embroideries lend themselves to a magical realism style. This is a collection that has allowed Aloni the opportunity to present the most authentic and honest work she’d ever created, as she has chosen to step outside of the preconceived notions and restrictions she had once placed on her work and taken the steps to express her true self through her work. She is excited to unveil it to the public after having taken almost a decade off to raise her girls and to gain the inspiration that can only come from motherhood.

I do work from photographs; I take them all the time and keep them for later use. When I have an idea for a piece I usually rent a real photography studio and take my subjects (at this point mostly my girl) there and torcher them…. Haha. I compose my images in Photoshop and create something that resembles my final project.

Close up of Mical's stitching.

Close up of Mical’s stitching.

For the benefit of our readers I would like to ask you a few questions on the actual embroidery process I know that you find it difficult to explain your technique as it is not in essence the traditional style of long & short stitch, more like a series of staggered satin stitches? You mentioned lately that you gave a talk at a Woman’s Institute and found it challenging to answer their questions,( I can empathise with this as am self- taught and don’t necessarily follow the formal method of long & short stitch ) so I will go easy on you!

I appreciate that!

Can you explain a bit about how you stitch? Do you work one shade of colour at a time and blend this in with the next or do you place stitches randomly as if you were colouring with pencil crayons? About how long are your stitches?

I work on one little area at the time: be it an eye or a nose or a shoe. The artistic challenge is that I work “against’’ white, so I have to compensate for that, and plan my colours carefully in advance. I usually don’t attempt to do more then 1/4-1/2 inch square at a time. I might be working with 5-20 colours at a time. Depending on what I work on, I might do 1 stitch or 10 at a time and then go to another colour, it really depend on what I try to achieve. I usually start with the very dark hue and very light hue and then fill with the medium hues. The stitch size varies from a dot to a straight stitch no larger than 3/8 of an inch length. Long stitches tend to be able to move and therefore not accurate enough.
I really do not limit myself to any specific way. I stay open to whatever is the best approach to a specific colour or texture. After almost 40 years of embroidery I still find new challenges in each piece and have to figure the right way to approach it.

close up of Mical's stitching

close up of Mical’s stitching

What fabric do you use and do you trace an outline onto your fabric before stitching or do you have some other method?

I use a cheap white bed sheet, not the ones that have a million thread count but the ones that do not. One sheet goes a long way….  I use a pencil for the outline, I press it with very hot iron to set it.

Do you use a hoop to stretch the fabric or do you stitch with the fabric loose in the hand.

Yes I do. I use the plastic light blue ones. I can’t do anything that’s bigger then what fits in a 10 inch hoop. Does anybody know if they make 9 inch hoop? I could never find one. 

The tree that fell in the night embroidery by Mical Aloni

The tree that fell in the night embroidery by Mical Aloni

Do you have a specific type of needle and thread that you use?

I use a very long and skinny needle… the longest and skinniest I’m happiest. 

I use mainly Anchor cotton thread, the stuff that come in a strand of 6. I use a single strand at a time. I also use Spendor 12-ply silk, again 1 strand at a time. Its a very beautiful thread and has great coverage but the color range is not that great..
I use the gray scale of DMC because its offers a good color range, however the DMC thread tends to fray quickly and become dull with use.

Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview with us Mical, I have had the opportunity to get to know you a bit recently and know that you are a very humble, down to earth person that any of us can easily relate to! I am a great admirer of your work and wish you continued success and many happy hours growing and creating your beautiful pieces of embroidery.

Thank you very much!

Easter Gift

Hello Everyone

Can’t believe Easter is here already haven’t we just celebrated Christmas?  I am always looking for a way to give back to you – my readers, students and customers.  To say thank you for your continued support, the encouraging emails and kind thoughts you send my way – YOU ARE MY INSPIRATION!

Here is a little gift for you, Bluetit & Pansies project.  You can stitch it for a friend or yourself,  share it, copy it or do whatever you want with it – the project is yours.   The complete pattern can be downloaded here: BLUETIT & PANSIES.  Be patient it is quite a big file so will take time to download.

Bluetit & Pansies

Bluetit & Pansies

Linen & Muslin fabric are back in stock.  Please note that any orders placed in the Etsy Shop will not be shipped till after Easter on 7th April.  Sorry for the inconvenience but the Post Office will be closed for Easter Friday & Monday.

Happy Easter to you all and till next time wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish

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