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I always think that sounds a bit naughty. Apologies.

This week I have been back to work so busy busy and I then worked on lesson preparation all weekend so did not get that much crafting done. Fortunately I have a project ready to share from the holidays (Ah, holidays. The nostalgia is setting in already). I have managed to do a bit of crochet in the one hour of weekend left to me, but that is not quite finished so I shall save it for another time…

A skill I am really keen to improve is my embroidery. Sometimes I wish that I could just sit around in my castle creating beautiful designs by candlelight rather than going out and having a career. Actually, wait, no. I don’t wish that. I just wish I got paid more so I could work less and could then sit around in my modest abode practising crewel embroidery under my daylight bulb. Whilst watching Netflix.

In my effort to improve, I often buy things that need to / could be embroidered, intending to force myself to learn in all the free time I have. HAHAHA. My most recent project was actually NOT a total disaster (although it was touch and go for a while) so here you go…

I am blessed with a very glamorous Grandma who donated to my childhood dressing up box a vast selection of beautiful dresses from all the exciting events she went to.

So when I saw this fabric:


I knew I needed to buy it and make it into something for her. Then it sat in my cupboard for a long time because I did not know what to make with it. I am afraid I don’t know who designed it; I only bought a fat quarter and it didn’t have the selvage on. I bought it from Sally’s Sewing Box in Princes Risborough which is an EXCELLENT shop full of lovely fabric and friendly helpful people.

After getting it out of and putting it back into my cupboard for at least two birthdays and Christmases, I decided I had to bite the bullet and Do Something. I couldn’t do a cushion because my sister made her a cushion (it is very super) and Grandma declared it the most perfect cushion so she has no need of another. So I thought I would try my hand at filling an embroidery hoop, which seemed to be very in  at the moment. I am not very in so I should have realised this was not for me straight away. The hoop idea was my first error. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

I bought a 12″ hoop so I could centre on the two ladies who most made me think of Grandma: the ballgown and the all-in-one. Then I cut out some fairly thin quilting fabric to fit the hoop, tacked them together, put them in the hoop and tightened that little knob thing at the top, feeling pleased I had made so many decisions. This was my second error.

Then I picked my threads and beads in an organised and calm way:

2016-08-06 14.41.38

Yes. Well.

After it took me a very long time to choose two colours only, I made a good decision, which was to trial my idea (perhaps ‘idea’ is too generous a term at this stage) on an off-cut. This was very wise as it took me some time to figure out how I was actually going to make the picture prettier rather than worse:

After much staring and two cups of tea I thought the bottom left rose attempt was the best (yes, it took me that long to notice this obvious fact) so decided to go for it on the real fabric and hope for the best. The top right picture of back stitch was necessary to decide one thread or two – turns out this does make a real difference – and the top left picture taught me that that idea wasn’t going to work.

So. In conclusion: always plan. Because if I had planned the whole project as carefully as the roses I wouldn’t have had a terrible panic at the end.

Anyway, back to the middle.

Joyfully, and feeling part of a long heritage of women who smile while attempting not to drip blood from their needle spiked fingers on to the nice white fabric, I embroidered away at my roses:

2016-08-06 19.17.07

I realise it looks messy at this stage and truth be told I was a little concerned that some more planning should have occurred. Or perhaps more practice on the scrap. Or perhaps reading more instructions in my crewel embroidery book about how to actually embroider neatly rather than being all gung-ho about it and diving in, needle first.

HOWEVER I persevered because that is how I was raised and also Grandma’s birthday was in two days and I didn’t have any other ideas about what to get her.

I added some more thread colours, actually read my book to get ideas about how to do the leaves and then stitched some beads in the centres of the flowers which made a HUGE difference and proved that old crafting saying: ‘If it looks messy, cover it up with something distracting’.

2016-08-08 11.25.28

I was very pleased with the final result. Then I had to go and have another cup of tea before starting on the second lady in case I messed it up.

I did a bit of messing up so I undid it and started again. Once more, careful beading was my friend:


At this stage it began to dawn on me that the 12″ hoop plan had been a mistake. The ladies looked lovely but there was a large expanse of fabric all around them drowning them out.

The error at this stage was ignoring that completely correct little voice and ploughing on regardless. But, as I may have mentioned, Grandma’s birthday was fast approaching and I just wanted to get this finished in time so as not to prove that other old crafting saying: ‘so I started this for you but it isn’t finished yet….’

I then embroidered the parts of the other ladies who were visible in the hoop with black thread and used sort of pewter-y coloured beads so that they would stand out but not too much as I didn’t want to detract from the main event:

What is that pink fabric around the edge? I hear you ask. Well. That was my solution to all the errors.

Once I had stitched around the ‘background ladies’ I realised that the hoop business definitely wasn’t going to work. It also occurred to me that whilst the internet might think hoops are in, to my Grandma it might look like a work in progress and I had tried so hard to get it finished that I couldn’t bear that. I had a panic, ran away from my craft table, made some coffee and had some cake. Slightly calmer, I returned to the scene of the disaster.

Perhaps, thought I, it could become a wall hanging instead? Fortunately some lovely people had given me a pile of fat quarters with nice patterns on as a gift. This was fortunate in this particular instance because when I buy fat quarters I buy ridiculous patterns like foxes riding tandem bikes or aardvarks on chairs, which would have been entirely inappropriate here. Other people have much more sensible tastes. I picked the one that, magically, went perfectly with this project, cut it to size and tried to pretend that I wasn’t bothered by the circular piece of quilting wadding sandwiched between two square pieces of fabric. (I was very bothered.)

Then, because I couldn’t cope with anything else going wrong and having to unpick it all, I hand stitched the backing to the fabric instead of machining it, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to line up the corners:

20160824_162509 Still not perfect. Sad face of woe.

However, the overall impression is quite pleasing:


And when Grandma saw it she said, ‘Oh! I had dresses just like that!’ which was precisely what I was going for, so that helped with the imperfect corner related anxiety.

Moral(s) of the story: read the book and don’t cut the final shape until you are sure.

Unless it is cake. In which case, if you are worried, eat the whole cake.


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