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

New Linen Fabric

Hello everyone

How are you, hope your week is going well?  This week I want to chat to you about linen fabric for embroidery.  For more information on linen fabric you can download the PDF here.

You may have noticed that the Irish cambric linen in the Etsy shop has been out of stock for some time.  As you know the good quality finely woven linen that our great Grandmother’s used has become scarce if not impossible to find.  Not all Irish linen is manufactured in Ireland but mainly now produced in USA and China.  There are still some weavers in Europe –  Belgium, France and Switzerland but it is impossible to source them without getting on a flight and doing some serious research.  There are many fine “church” linens still produced for ecclesiastical embroidery, and some surface linens such as legacy which are lovely for crewel embroidery/goldwork but none of them have that fine, very close weave that we require for needlepainting and whitework.  Below is an example of what I mean.

fine linen cambric

fine linen cambric

A few years ago I was fortunate to source a cambric Irish linen from a company in the USA and this is what we have been using up till now but unfortunately they have discontinued it.  The company informed me that “the last piece has arrived from our mill – unfortunately fine linen yarns are hard to get for this and there is not a great demand”.  (no demand what about us embroiderers!!)   I then got in touch with my friend Wollman Bastian of Zweigart Linens to see if he could help and his reply was: I am really sorry I cannot help since there are less and less weavers here in Europe, I would not have any idea where to get it.”

So began a search for a similar linen fabric.  For the last few months I have been in touch with every manufacturer I could find worldwide, including the luxury linen bed sheet producers to see if they could supply a similar linen.  I received numerous samples by post but the fabric was just not the same quality – too heavy and the weave too loose.  But this week I received a sample from Belgium that made my heart sing – it is just beautiful.  It is a Belgium linen known as batiste linen – you can read a definition of it here.  I mounted a piece into a hoop and tried stitching several bits on it and it is gorgeous!

The bad news is that it is pricey, notably more expensive then the previous linen which I used, which means that when the current linen stocks are depleted there is going to be a 5 – 10% increase in the cost of the whitework kits, this will happen gradually in the next few months.  My apologies but this is totally out of my control and I feel strongly about using good quality materials for our embroidery.  There seems no point in putting all that work into something of inferior quality.  I am sure you agree?

The good news is that the new fabric is an absolute joy to stitch on – and the company has assured me that it will be available on an ongoing basis.   The weft and warp are evenly woven and the weave is nice and tight so there is plenty of placement options for your needle and no holes.  Being 100% linen it springs back into shape when removed from the hoop and can be washed and ironed with a very hot iron without any damage whatsoever.  It is perfect for fine whitework embroidery but also sturdy enough to use alone without a backing fabric for needlepainting.  Below is a picture of the previous linen and the new linen.  I have blown these up 150% so that you can see the difference in the weave.  If you click on each picture you will get an even larger zoom.

The new linen fabric will be available by the metre/pieces as before in about May 2015, in the meantime I have managed to procure a 1300wt Irish Cambric linen which is a little finer than the previous 14HC and limited stocks of this will be available in the Etsy shop shortly.

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

London Class RSN

Hello everyone

This week I am pleased to let you know that I have been invited as a guest tutor to teach at the Royal School Of Needlework, at Hampton Court Palace in London in June 2015.  This necessitated changing my flights to include an extra two days on the trip so am only able to offer a one day class – if you are interested in registering please see details here – Royal School Of Needlework.

To learn more about the RSN, history and present day you can read an article here, The Studio.

The photo below is courtesy of Sew Graceful Blogspot.

Royal School Of Needlework courtesy Sew Graceful Blogspot

Royal School Of Needlework courtesy Sew Graceful Blogspot

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach at such a renowned establishment, and of course to see the Palace first hand and indulge my love of all things King Henry V111 and his many wives!

That’s all for this week. Meanwhile, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!”  Keep smiling and happy stitching!  Trish


Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

Hello everyone

How is your week going – the weekend is here!  Last night we watched the 2014 Annie movie and afterwards by youngest daughter showed me a video clip that was made in New York You are never full dressed without a smile.  It was enchanting – and made me think of how if we gave everyone we met a smile how it would lift not only others spirits but also our own?  Watch the video clip here and you will see what I mean.  It really made me smile!


You may also like to watch the Cape Town version here.

Of course what really makes most of us smile is sitting down with our embroidery – how it takes us into another realm away from all the stresses and routine of every day life.  When I was at BATB convention in Australia last year I often used to look around me at the 150 + people who were attending the convention, the non stop chatter, laughter and interaction between like minded people and get a little thrill.  People who don’t stitch could never understand the joy that we get from creating something beautiful?

I am often asked how I find the time to do so many projects – it is no secret I make time.  I am a master at taking shortcuts for anything involving housework, cooking chores, homework etc – if there is a way to save time doing this I will find it.  For example getting a ready made lasagne for supper and putting it into my own dish so it looks home made.  The time saved by these little deceptions can add up to an extra hour or two for stitching!  The other thing I have learned to do is delegate wherever possible – if someone offers to help with packing kits or cutting fabric say YES, and of course say NO to any non essentials like volunteering to cover books at the school library!  Where possible I arrange my day mentally in advance – for instance if I have to pick my daughter up from school at 2pm and need to get groceries or get to the shops I will leave half an hour earlier, do the shopping en route and then pick her up, one trip does it all.

Of course if your husband offers to cook the supper never, never say no.  Even if you don’t particularly like the way he cooks the chicken schnitzel – pretend to like it.  If he thinks he is a good cook he will be encouraged to do it again!

Thinking of saving time, in the new book Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery, I made a promise to save you time by providing ready traced outlines on fabric for each section in the book.  These are now available in the Etsy shop.  There are 5 pieces of cotton muslin fabric in each pack, with the outline for each project in that section, i.e. Portraits, Flowers, Birds and 3 for the Victorian Pansies.  You can find them under Fabric & Supplies here.

You may notice that I have made changes to my website, it has a cleaner, simpler interface which I hope you will find easier to navigate.

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



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