Polka & Bloom on Etsy

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Learning Machine Embroidery

Polar bear - machine embroidery
A few weeks ago I took a class in machine embroidery at The Village Haberdashery and it was great! I had had a got at doing it myself earlier in the year, but I wasn't quite sure I was doing it right. Turns out I was! Pretty much. But it was nice to learn how to do it properly and pick up some tips from Sophia, our lovely teacher.

Above is the piece I made during the class. I was really amazed at how much I got done!

I have to confess that for a looong time I thought that machine embroidery was kind of cheating, *real* embroidery is done by hand, right?! ;-)

But they are two different things and the machine kind isn't as easy as one might think. Lesson learned.

I look forward to doing more machine embroidery, and maybe combining it with hand embroidery. Experimenting is half the fun of learning something new.

Since I took the class, I've only had time to try out my new skillz on a couple of small projects:

Flowers - machine embroidery
I did this without a plan in mind, I just started cutting some scraps of fabric and it ended up being a flower. A tend to gravitate towards flowers when I don't know what else to do. ;-)

Blake - machine embroidery>
The last one is done from a sketch of Blake. I am really intrigued by the possibilities of machine embroidery looking like pen marks and sketching. I can't quite get that look with hand embroidery, but I think it turns out quite well with machine embroidery. I definitely have to experiment more with this. Several ideas are bobbing around in my head already.

Yay for learning new things! :-)

PS Don't forget to RSVP if you're coming to my book party on Nov 24th at The Village Haberdashery! (Please come to my book party so it's not just me and 20 bottles of wine! ;-) )

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

You Are Cordially Invited to A Book Party

Cover - Mandalas to Embroider
On Friday, the advance copy of Mandalas to Embroider arrived!! And it came just a couple of days after all the embroideries and other materials were returned to me. So lots of happy stitchy post!!

If you are near London, I'd like to invite you to a little party for the book and all the work that went into it. On November 24th 6-8 PM at The Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead. Please RSVP so I know how many people are coming, I don't want to run out of wine and cake! ;-)

Fun! I'll be at the party and I also want to pre-order a copy of the book to pick up on the day.

Count me in! I'll be at the party. There will be a limited availability of book copies to buy as well.

I'll have some of the book embroideries there to look at and there will be a raffle for a stitchy prize.

Of course, if you can't make it to the party, you can also pre-order a copy to be sent to you. All pre-orders will receive a little something extra as a thank you.

I really, really appreciate pre-orders — they do make a difference for authors. They create a buzz among booksellers, the media, and other readers. So if you're interested in my new book, and you have the time and inclination, it helps to give the book a boost when you pre-order. Plus you'll get it sooner.

And yes, I totally understand if you order it from Amazon or elsewhere that can offer you free shipping. Unfortunately I can't do that, but I will wrap your book in pretty tissue paper. ;-)

Poinsettia Flourish spread - Mandalas to Embroider
Here's one of the spreads from the book, this mandala is called Poinsettia Flourish. I love the photos of the embroideries, styling and photography by Stacy Grant.

I did a short video of me flicking through the book, if you fancy a look inside it. :-)

Book materials  - Mandalas to Embroider
A box of happy stitchy stuff. :-) It's always such a pleasure to have book things returned. Like seeing old friends.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Finished Object :: Embroidery Wall Hanging

Gloriana Wall Hanging
Gloriana is now even more glorious! Sort of. ;-)

I decided that for once, I'd do something with an embroidery, not just leave it rolled up in a drawer. So I made a textile frame for her so now she is a wall hanging.

Oh by the way! Don't forget to take advantage of the sale in my Etsy shop which ends tomorrow! Gloriana is in the sale too. 15% off everything and it's taken off automatically at checkout. And do go crazy and buy lots of patterns, we've got a dumb speeding fine to pay because Tony went way too fast on the motorway. Grr. ;-)

I'm really happy with how the wall hanging turned out, especially because it was a bit of a headache to make. Mainly because of my inability to correctly draw a 45 degree isosceles triangle. So in the end I caved and bought a kaleidoscope ruler.

I do have a plan to make a kaleidoscope quilt at some point, so I will use the ruler again. It'd be silly to buy it just for this. ;-)

After I made the kaleidoscope block (there's a tutorial here btw, or search the interwebs), I turned it into a so-called porthole, using Lucie Summers' tutorial. If you're new to portholes, I suggest making a test at first to get used to the method.

Gloriana embroidery hanging sleeve
I put a small hanging sleeve on the back of the wall hanging, so I could insert a thin dowel rod to hang it from. Hanging sleeves are added to quilts for display, here's a tutorial for adding a hanging sleeve. Obviously, for my wall hanging it is really small. :-)

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Pattern :: Summer in A Jar

Summer in A Jar embroidery pattern
Summer is almost over. Although, as I'm writing this, it feels very much like summer still. 22°C in the shade at 10 AM! I plan on sitting in the garden with my embroidery later. Better make the most of it, right? :-)

It is the pattern I have been using in classes at the Village Haberdashery in London this summer. It is a nice pattern for beginners to practice a few 'basic' stitches. Back stitch, stem stitch, French knot, lazy daisy and satin stitch are all the stitches you need to know to work this pattern.

And to be honest, those are the stitches I use the most anyway. Doing something for ten years doesn't mean you get all fancy and complicated. ;-)

So basically, this is a great pattern for doing a bit of stitching as summer leans towards autumn. Maybe grab a cold drink and sit in the sun for an hour and listen to the birds while you stitch. Bliss. :-)

Buy the pattern from my website:

UK/EU customers
Non-EU customers

You can also get your hands on it in my Etsy shop.

And speaking off my Etsy shop, you can get 15% off everything there until September 5th, no code necessary. Yay!

Summer in A Jar embroidery pattern

Embroidery classes

There are more dates available to take a beginner embroidery class with me at the Village Haberdashery in London. It would be lovely to meet you there. :-)

September: 12th and 16th.

October: 10th and 14th.

November: 11th and 14th.

December: 12th. For the December class there will be a special seasonal pattern instead of the Summer in A Jar pattern.

Summer in A Jar embroidery pattern

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Five Friday Favourites :: August 24

Five Friday Favourites
I read, or rather listened to, 'Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine'. I can very much recommend it if you're looking for a read where the protagonist is completely fine in the end. She seems kinda crazy to start with but it turns out she's just human with a tragic past. Interactions with kind people help her turn her life around.

I've never really been into audio books, but after listening to a few recently, I may be a bit of a convert. Especially when the narrator is Scottish. I find it very pleasing to listen to a story read by Scots! :-)

It was Tony's birthday last week and we went in to London to see Into the Unkown, an exhibition about science fiction at the Barbican. It was interesting, but at the same time it felt like whole swathes of sci-fi was left out. Tony is more into sci-fi than I am, so it was more obvious to him.

Anyway, the exhibition isn't the thing I wanted to mention. Afterwards, we walked down to St Paul's and grabbed lunch at Leon. Their sweet potato falafel wrap is delicious (and vegan) and I could happily eat that again. Along with their baked fries. Yum!

The NHS is one of my favourites this week. I had to visit our local Minor Injuries unit on Wednesday because an insect bite from last week was starting to swell up and it was red and itchy. Everyone there was very friendly and helpful. Turns out the bite had become infected, so I'm really glad I had it checked out! Hurray for the NHS.

There are flowers growing in out garden, on purpose! I planted these anemones in May, but then nothing happened for ages. I had kinda given up on them (the other two pots I planted, only have weeds in them!), but then a white flower appeared and then another. And now there are three red ones at once (a bit like London buses!)

My mum has been visiting this past week. Last Friday, we went to see the Palace of Westminster. Tony works for the Houses of Commons so we could access areas off limit to other tourists. We had refreshments on the terrace by the Thames! And we saw the chapel there, St Mary Undercroft.

Overseas tourists have to pay to visit Westminster. But did you know that UK residents can get tours there for free by arranging it through their MP? I don't think it's terribly well publicized, maybe to keep numbers down! Check it out here if you fancy a free tour of Westminster.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Gloriana :: New Embroidery Pattern

Gloriana embroidery pattern
In early 2015 I visited the National Portrait Gallery in London and I did a few sketches of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII etc. Shortly after, I started an embroidery of one of the Elizabeth I sketches. But then it ended up in a drawer while I was working on the Romantic Motifs book and the Mandala book.

A couple of weeks ago, I found the embroidery while tidying some drawers and decided I'd finally finish it. Which I did and now here she is as an embroidery pattern for you to stitch too. If you want to! :-)

Gloriana is in the shop on my own site:
UK/EU customers
Non-EU customers
You can also find her in my Etsy shop.

I am so happy how she turned out. When I was a teenager, I used to read loads of books about royal/noble ladies. Real ones, not imaginary Disney type princesses etc. Any kind of historical fiction. The ladies at the local library knew my reading preferences so well, they'd actually put new books aside for me before I even knew about them!

Gloriana embroidery pattern
Elizabeth I was always one of my favourites and I'm so happy to have made this tribute to her. I think she must have been pretty bad-ass to be a queen at that time. :-)

I have a sketch of Henry VIII that I also want to stitch, at some point. I'm also playing with an idea of doing portraits of all the reigning queens of England. We'll see.

Gloriana embroidery pattern

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stitch Tutorial :: Brick Stitch

stitch tutorial header

Brick stitch
I don't use brick stitch a lot, but it's a very nice stitch to have in your 'repertoire'. It is a great fill stitch and I really like how it feels raised. Very tactile.

It is not a difficult stitch and you can get some nice effects with it. Colourful borders or fills and shaded effects.

Brick stitch
Start by making a row of stitches, alternating between long and short. The short stitches should be half the length of the long stitches.

Brick stitch
In the following rows, only make long stitches.Because the starting row was long and short, it will make the other rows alternate automatically. See how the stitching starts to look kinda like a brick wall? That's where the name comes from.

To finish the filled area, the very last row will also be long and short stitches, to finish it all nice and neat.

You can use just one colour for this stitch or you can use different colours as I have done in this example.

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Stitch Tutorial :: Cloud Stitch

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Cloud stitch
The cloud stitch. It doesn't look much like a cloud, does it? I'm not sure where the name comes from. But it's a lovely stitch. It is a fill stitch, but you can easily use it to make a border by only doing a few rows.

You can of course use any colour combination you want, single colour, contrasting colours or how about a nice ombre effect by using a range of dark to light shades of a single colour.

Cloud stitch
To work the stitch, you need rows of short straight stitches. Make sure that the rows alternate.

In my example I have spaced the straight stitches 1/4" (6mm) apart, but you can do any distance as long as it is uniform. Although, I suppose an irregular pattern could look good to.

Cloud stitch
With the second colour*, pull the needle through the fabric by the end stitch in the top row. Let's just pretend that I hadn't already done a section, m'kay? ;-)

Slide the needle through the stitch, then move to the second and slide it through that stitch. The back to the first row and through the next stitch in that row.

Continue like that between the two rows. Note that all the action is on the surface of the fabric, you don't push the needle up or down in the fabric except for starting and finishing a row (or to tie off a thread).

When you get to the end of the row, push the needle through the fabric and come up by the end stitch in row three. Move back through row two and three in the same as before. The diamond shapes will now start to appear and it is a thing of beauty.

Do the same for every row until the shape is finished, then push the needle through the fabric at the last straight stitch and tie it off.

*It does't have to be a second colour, you can use the same colour of course.

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Stitch Tutorial :: Whipped Stitches

stitch tutorial header

Whipped stitches
Whipped stitches are one of my favourite 'special' embroidery stitches/techniques. I love the twisty-stripy effect you can achieve with it. And it's easy too!

Whipped stitches
You start with a foundation stitch, usually something like running, back or chain stitch. In my example I am using back stitch, chain stitch and a double row of chain stitch.

Whipped stitches
At one end of the foundation stitch, bring the needle up just to the side of the end point of the stitch. Then slide the needle and thread under the following stitch from the opposite side. I brought my needle up on the right side, so I'm sliding the needle under from the left.

Notice that the whipping is entirely above the fabric. The only times when you insert the needle in the fabric is at the start and finish of a line/row of stitching.

Whipped stitches
Continue along the line of stitches, always sliiiiding from the same side. When you get to the end of the line, simply push the needle through the fabric at the very end and tie of the thread.

It is exactly the same principle for the chain and double row of chain stitches. Pretty cool, huh? :-)

You can create lots of cool effects with this technique. The double, or triple, row of chain stitch would be great for making candy canes! Use contrasting colours to make a simple border that really pops, or use similar colours for a subtle shaded effect. You could even go crazy and whip the same stitch more than once, using different colours.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Five Friday Favourites :: August 4

Five Friday Favourites

For the first time in several months, I feel properly clean! We've not been able to take proper showers because it was broken. Sure, you can get clean by awkwardly holding up the shower hose that's attached to the bath tap, but it's not the same as a nice warm shower where you can wash out the shampoo properly. It took a while to get our act together to get someone to look at the shower. But now it's fixed (to the tune of £195! - is there any way I can charge that much for my embroidery services?!) and I had a shower yesterday and it was Glorious! :-D

The latest issue of Oh Comely magazine dropped through the letter box this morning. I've mentioned it before but it's worth mentioning again. It is a lovely magazine, best enjoyed very slowly, savoured, one article at a time. It will be on available in shops next week.

Tomorrow is what I refer to as Pizzaturday. I have pizza for dinner pretty much every Saturday. That may seem boring to some, but not to me. I wouldn't want the same for dinner on the same day every week, but my weekly pizza 'ritual', that I enjoy. I love pizza, it's a comfort food, for sure. I look forward to it. And with forward planning, it is very easy dinner too. I usually make enough for a few pizza dinners and put them in the freezer. Then it's just a question of re-heating in the oven and with minimum clean up afterwards so I can go do some stitching or watch a film with Tony.

This week I finally finished an embroidery I started about..two years ago! I found it while tidying the studio last week. I am so happy to have finished it. Now I'm working on turning it into a pattern, but that's a feat in itself, because it's a somewhat complicated embroidery.

Have you heard of Up Lit? Apparently, it's a "new book trend with kindness at its core". The Guardian has an article about it. I am wholly in favour of this trend. I don't like books where one unhappy thing after the other befalls the protagonist. Too much of that in real life! Last week I mentioned The Sewing Machine and that book is part of this trend. I really enjoyed that book and next I'm going to check out Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, as recommended to me by the author of The Sewing Machine.

But first, I have to finish cleaning the house. Not a favourite, but it's got to be done! Have a lovely weekend, friends! xo

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy World Embroidery Day! Free Pattern!

Today is World Embroidery Day! That must be celebrated with an embroidery pattern for you! I hope you like it.

It is inspired by vintage patterns and I called it Little Bird Friend, it's not super imaginative. ;-)

You can download the pattern here.

Happy stitching! :-)

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Five Friday Favourites :: July 28

Five Friday Favourites
I sometimes have trouble falling asleep, but I find that listening to the sound of rain or waves, help me drift off. And it's also great for focusing on sketching or writing. There are loads of rain/wave apps, and websites too. The one I have been using lately is called Rain Sounds (Google Play).

On a whim, I bought The Sewing Machine book by Natalie Fergie for my Kindle. I loved it! I wish it had been longer because I finished it in just a few days. It is the story of one sewing machine and two families who are connected to it over a span of 100 years. It is a bit difficult to say any more than that to not spoil anything, because there's a twist in the tale! It is set in Edinburgh and it made me long to go back there. Apart from the story itself, it is a story of kindness to strangers. Little kindnesses and great life changing kindnesses. Highly recommended. I hope Natalie Fergie writes more equally lovely books.

There are continually surprising things appearing in our front garden. Most recently, what appears to be a corn stalk! It is a weed, in the sense that we didn't plant it, but I've decided to leave it for now to see if it actually is a corn stalk. I love how random that would be! :-)

I saw the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum a few weeks ago and I'm glad I did. For one thing, it was a beautiful exhibition, but it's actually sold out! You can take a chance on getting tickets on the day, but this exhibition is really popular. If you're a member of the British Museum, you can walk straight in of course! (I feel a bit bad recommending something that's actually sold out, but hey-ho. ;-) )

Last week the BBC Proms had a film special of John Williams music. It was SO good! You can catch it on BBC iPlayer. Music from Indiana Jones, E.T., Harry Potter and lots more. And of course Star Wars! Did I mention it was good?

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mandalas to Embroider :: My New Book!

Mandalas to Embroider
This is the cover of my new book, Mandalas to Embroider! I love that cover, isn't it pretty? The inside of the book is really gorgeous too thanks to the beautiful photography by Stacy Grant.

When I first saw the almost-done book PDF, I had tears in my eyes, it is so pretty! I am so excited for people to get it in their hands. And to hold it in my own hands! But that won't be until November...

You can pre-order the book from my shop and I'll sign it for you of course. Aaaand, if you pre-order it from my shop, you will get some extra surprises which are quite cute if I do say so myself. ;-)

Mandalas to Embroider
The book has 24 (actually 25, one is kind of secret) mandala inspired embroidery transfers and of course stitch and colour suggestions for my versions of the patterns. There are 12 large patterns, they fit in a 6" hoop. And 12 small patterns which fit in a 2" Dandelyne mini hoop. It was a bit of a challenge to design small patterns like that, but I am really happy with how they turned out.

The small mandalas are quick to stitch of course, and they are perfect for adding a little embellishment to a tshirt or a pair of canvas shoes or a pocket. I had so much fun imagining how people will use those wee mandalas!

Pre-order Mandalas to Embroider from my shop to get a signed copy and some surprise goodies:

UK/EU customers.
Non-UK/EU customers.

Books will be shipped as soon as I have them, it should be by mid November.

Mandalas to Embroider

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