2015 stitchalong, part one

•October 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

OK, so those of you who took part last year can probably skip to the end, unless you need a technical refresher, because we’re going to start with the basics of laid and couched work.

If you haven’t already marked out your pattern you need to do that first – pdfs are embedded in my previous post. You need to work under tension. I don’t recommend hoops, as even the good ones’s won’t keep the work tight enough (it needs to be drumtight), but a simple frame works well


You need a crewel type wool – tapisserie wool gives horrid, lumpy results (but you can sometimes get very good results with finer knitting wools, the important part is the wool should be very fine).

For this first stage we will be using a doubled strand of wool.

It’s best to start in the centre of the design and work out, so I’d normally begin with her belt, but if you’re new to the stitch it’s best to have a nice big area to get your teeth into, so here I’m going to do her dress.

Direction of the first, laidwork, stitches isn’t really important. If you look at original pieces the direction is all over the place. The most important thing it to make the least amount of work for yourself, so choose the longest line you can run across the area to be covered, and then bring your doubled thread up at the edge of the design


then span the thread right across the design and bring the needle down at the far edge of the area you want to cover. You don’t have to start at the edge, it’s often easier to begin in the middle of a complicated shape and then work out.


Then bring the needle straight back up again, right next to where you went down – the laidwork thread doesn’t travel across the back of the work.


Then continue back and forth across the face of the shape until you’ve covered it. Do not take your thread across the back, but also don’t worry if you make the occaisional mistake(one thread across the back isn’t the end of the world)


At this stage all that should be visible at the back is a tiny row of stab stitches.


Obviously this is quite unstable, so we proceed to the couching stitch next, which will stabilise the laidwork. Work one area at a time, stabilising each once you’ve finished it.

The couching stitch is worked in a single strand of crewel wool.

Bring your single strand up on the long edge of the laidwork.


and lay it down at right angles over the top of the laidwork before taking it back down.

Next bring the needle up through the laidwork, and stitch down the couching thread. Do each couched thread as you come to it, working up and down, don’t try to put down all the couching threads before couching them as it can lead to very messy and uneven results.




It’s important to space the bars and the stitches that couch them down nice and evenly. Don’t try and space the bars too far apart or the piece will lack stability once you remove the tension. three to four millimetres distance between each bar is about right, the same between each couching stitch.

You should now start to see some stitching at the back


Cover the laidwork with couched bars. This first stage is essentially one of colouring in. We are ignoring details at this point and just blocking out colour


block the large areas of her dress first before moving on to smaller details.

block the areas below in your chosen colours


Note that I have not blocked her face or hands – we will be doing those next time in split stitch.

the same basic instructions from last year are available here

and you can post your progress pics on the flickr page

pdfs and calendar

•October 7, 2015 • 7 Comments

OK, Sorry about the delay, I meant to do this Monday, but life got in the way. Here are the basic outline pdfs for the stitchalong – detail pdfs will come when appropriate.



These are a4/purse sized pdfs, so if you want to make a cushion you’ll have to enlarge them

On the priniciple of ladies first we will start with the spinster.


I will try to post this Friday evening, but I’ve got a bit of a busy week ahead, so if not it will be Saturday.

You can still order kits if you wish, just give me a shout and I’ll send you a paypal invoice/

In other news I’ve decided to have some calendars made this year. They will be a4 sized spiral bound ones with one colour image per month. Gareth is going to take some really good pictures of the Labours of the MOnths and those will be the calendars. I’m only getting as many as I need, so if you want one you’ll have to order and pay by Halloween, and they’ll be sent out mid November – if you’d like one leave a comment here or email me and I’ll send a paypal invoice. They’ll be 9.95 inclusive of postage in the uk, postage elsewhere will be another 1.50

labours border

Very bored with vermin wrangling.

•October 3, 2015 • 21 Comments

John needs a new cloak, so I’m trying to wrestle four plates of grey squirrel into something like this one


I have to get four two foot by four foot plates of fur into one large one.

when Gareth caught me hoovering the living roo rug, he asked, “are you cutting out? You must be cutting out because you wouldn’t be hoovering otherwise”

The fur I’m using is ethically sourced grey squirrels from culls, because the only good grey squirrel is a dead grey squirrel( at least in the uk, where they’re pretty much committing genocide against the native reds). Since they’re not useful members of society whilst alive I see no reason they shouldn’t be useful dead. We could actually do with a tree rat cull in these parts, I see at least one every time I look out of the window.

I’m glad I can get ethically sourced fur now. You can never get enough recycled stuff to make large useful things, and although I don’t mind cannibalising cheap bunny fur coats from the seventies I’d rather not cut up any decent old coats because they’re too nice as historical pieces in themselves. I’ve never considered fake fur an option, I’d rather use no fur than fake. Fake looks fake, the individual hairs are too thick, the blunt cut ends don’t shine, and fake fur doesn’t move ( watch ginger Rogers dance in fur, and see the way it dances with her) you can tell the difference between real and fake a hundred feet away just by the movement. Also, fake fur, well it’s not exactly earth friendly and biodegradable, what with being made from petrochemicals.

anyway, I pondered for weeks how to best manage the nap of the fur for this. Geoffrey’s fur seems to flow down from the shoulder so I decided that for a half circle cloak the pelts would need to flow out from a central seam. Trimming the pelts to a straight line seemed to me that it would make a rather ugly line, plus it would waste a good bit of expensive fur ( this thing is costing £500 in materials, so least waste the better), so I’ve been sewing the pelts interlocked.


As you can see I’ve laid them out flat and I’m hand stitching them, trimming as a go along for a good fit ( I’ll sew the straight edges on the machine). It’s very slow work and I’m getting very very bored with the pesky dead vermins.

however, I think it’s worth the effort


In other news I’m currently reading john bradshaws book, the name of the cat. He reckons that some recent feline behavioural studies have focused on cats understanding of physics and engineering. Unsurprisingly enough, these studies tend to conclude that your average kitty in the street has remarkably poor grasp of these subjects. However, it does explain why branston has repeatedly dismantled Gareth’s printer- he is obviously trying to expand feline knowledge of printer engineering. My cats a genius.


Opus course pics

•September 29, 2015 • 8 Comments

I have finished paris, but she’s all prepped to be slip mounted so she looks a bit funny. I started mounting her on purple velvet as a demo on Saturday, but the colours didn’t work so I’m going to put her on brown instead.

in the mean time here, in no more significant order than that from which they came off my phone is my students work from the weekend


Im looking forward to seeing this one finished, the unicorn is rather sweet


Isnt he gorgeous? I love the teal, and the curls, although I suspect he’s not as innocent as he looks


This was Wendy’s second piece as she wasn’t happy with the first, the drapery has gone much better.


The loVely lady joscelyn is destined for a velvet cushion


St Patricks pint of Guinness is destined to have a foamy head of applied pearls. It sounds hard on the teeth but he looks as though he’s looking forward to it.


This little chap needs his bag of money finishing before he’s done ( don’t we all). I love the teeny weeny pearls on his headband.


I love her hair.

Wilf’s wings

•September 22, 2015 • 15 Comments


Wilf argued long and hard for a nice sensible griege coloured mackintosh to cover his wings, but he ended up with pretty blue wings instead, which is why he’s hanging his head in disgust.

I did think purple outlining on the wings might have looked nice, but I feared would have been a step too far for poor Wilf.

Zodiac season text

•September 21, 2015 • 4 Comments


~sigh~ somehow I managed to get the lines of text dead straight but still slightly wonky.

I don’t actually know what the text means yet, but I know I made two scribal errors. I missed out an h on the first line and one of the u should be an a, but they’re not spelling mistakes, they’re scribal errors, because a scribal error sounds more authentic.

gareth thinks spring looks like Wallace from Wallace and gromit, and is convinced that when translated the text will say ” cracking cheese, gromit”

I’m thinking I definitely want to do a calendar this year. It will be an a4  spiral top job with the labour of the months ( whole thing on the front cover and then the months on each page) . I’m going to get some for my own use, but I’ll put up a post next week in case anyone else would like one. It will have to be pre order, then I’ll post out at the end of November, which should give time for worldwide posting by Christmas.


Fishy dishies

•September 20, 2015 • 12 Comments

Last year we went to the Christmas market at lincoln, and I bought a tiny dish with a mouse on it for branston. Branston was very impressed with his new dish, I don’t think he really cared about the design, but he was very impressed with it’s miraculous ability to fill up with dreamies, poo sticks, and prawns.

then I broke it, and he looked even grumpier than he normally does. Which is pretty damned grumpy indeed.

so when we went to lincoln for my birthday we tried to track down the potter, but she wasn’t in the shop. But we did manage to get her card and order dishes with Hobbes and branstons names on


They were both so pleased with thier new dishies, or more accurately the miraculous ability of said dishies to fill themselves up with dreamies, poo sticks, and prawns, that they used thier pocket money to order some as Christmas presents for feline friends and family.

and when I say ” used their pocket money” I do of course mean that they hacked my paypal account. Again.


Maus maus klaus is particularly amusing.

Any way, Hobbes, branston and Gagarin ( Leah the Potters cat) would like you to know that Leah has a new etsy shop, and they they would like you to spend all your money there so that Gagarin can order a huge crate of industrial strength nip and invite branston and Hobbes round for an orgy. Dancing hare pottery 


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