Polka & Bloom on Etsy

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

stitch tutorial header

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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Friday, July 14, 2017

Finished Object :: Neon Pink Needle Book

It seems like Thursday is turning into "ignoring my to do list" day. Last week it was that quick tidying that turned into an all day project. This week I just *had to* make a new needle book. So I did. ;-)

That's the outside of it up there. I love that fabric. It's neon pink, what more can you want? (It's Ellen Luckett Baker Rough Cut - Botanica in neon pink, in case you're wondering.)

The button is a vintage one I had in my stash. Actually, the whole thing is made from my stash, so that's good!

There are two felt 'pages' for the needles. Luckily, I had some felt in exactly the same colour as the internal fabric.

The internal fabric (Scruffy Daisy in Ice Frappe from Blueberry Park by Karen Lewis if that takes your fancy), I love the subtle colour of this fabric. I usually pick colours that are much more in your face, but I like it toned down sometimes.

And look, the inside is quilted AND there are two pockets in the needle book. I need that. Somewhere to keep thread and scissors. Maybe even a few bits of fabric and EPP templates. You never know when you might find yourself with a bit of time that need to be filled with some needle work.

I have to point out this scallop edging, which I made with my scallop pinking scissors*. Isn't it cute? :-)

*I bought it from Cloud Craft (not an affiliate link or nuthin') - they actually have three different sizes of scallop scissors!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Studio

Blake on my desk!
Come visit my little studio/craft room? I thought I'd posted pictures of it already, but it doesn't look like it. Atleast not since I moved back into it last summer.

I did move into the studio when we first moved in (this is what it looked like on the very first day), but in December that year, 2013, there was one heck of a storm and it became apparent that something was really wrong because water was coming up through the floor. Not good.

I kept using the studio for a while, but then white mould started to form on the floors and then I refused to use it anymore. Also the floors were squishy every time it rained. But the mould..gross. And not healthy.

So we moved my desk into the conservatory. When we removed the floor, it turned out that there was carpet underneath! What a delicious place for mould to grow, huh? And not only was there carpet, there were also two layers of lino!

After eliminating a bunch of possible reasons, we figured out that the water would come in through a hole which had been made to pull cables through the wall. But the holes hadn't been done properly (which is the story of this house!) so water would come in. We closed up the hole and had a guy come put a coating on the external wall, and we've not had any water since. Huzzah!

Last August we were finally able to fix the internal wall where we'd had to remove a 'fake' wall and a book case. And then I could finally move in!

Messy studio, tidying in progress!
Last week, I was tidying up after a quilt project, "I'm just going to clear the desk". But that turned into an all-day project. And the studio was an absolute mess! Just look at it!

Furniture was moved around, drawer contents were streamlined and stuff was put in the bin. And for a few days it was all nice and tidy. So I took some pictures to mark the occasion! ;-)

Tidy studio!
See? Nice and tidy. I did not last long, I can tell you. ;-)

But let's just carry on with the fantasy of the tidy studio.

Watercolour. Studio corner.
A watercolour I made when I was in 10th grade. A teacher actually offered to buy it back then, but I'm glad I kept it. It reminds me of very happy times. :-)

Porcelain doll
A porcelain doll my grandmother gave me. I may have been ten years old or so. She told me that she had always wanted a porcelain doll when she was a little girl, but she never had one. But she bought one for herself when she like 70. I think that is pretty great.

Fabrics. Some of my favourites, Liberty Lifestyle (why did they stop making those?!) and Leah Duncan.

Denyse Schmidt fabrics...
My all time favourite: Denyse Schmidt. Love!

Unused sketchbooks
Sketchbooks waiting to be filled. I love a brand new sketchbook! I do not have any kind of 'fear of the blank page'. :-)

Hoops on the wall
The studio is very small. This wall is maybe half a metre (at most) from the end of the white desk. I guess you can call it compact or 'bijoux'. Not much floor space, but storage and table space is more important for me. It's not like I'm going to start break dancing in the studio!

Hoops hooks
I love these hooks with the flowers. I bought them before we even moved into the house because I saw them and I knew they would be perfect for my hoops. Hoop hooks!

Blake's studio bed
Blake has his own bed in the studio, because he's spoiled like that. Sometimes I shut him in the studio with me so he can't go bark at the post lady or whoever else happens to walk past our house. He's a barky little guy.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

A Year of Cruel Uncertainty

Lavender plants
The EU referendum was a year ago today. How different life was then.

I still can not fathom the stupidity of it. I get that a lot of people feel/felt like the government don't care about them, but still to vote to leave the EU is just insanity. Why would you believe that politicians would give the 'EU billions' to the NHS? Of course they wouldn't. Especially not the Tories, they only care about rich people. And the whole Leave campaign was based on lies and xenophobia.

The lies are just one of many things I find it hard to forgive.

Children and young people won't have the same opportunities and freedoms as my generation. Freedom to live, study and work in another EU country. Maybe fall in love. Start a family. These things, which so greatly benefit a whole country, a whole continent!, will be a lot harder.

I find it hard to forgive that grievances with 'London politics' is a reason to vote to leave the EU. But I guess the Leave campaign did their job properly, making people believe that the EU was the root of all the problems in the country.

The economic fall out has already begun. Big financial companies are leaving, or preparing to leave. EU applications to UK universities are down. Nurses and doctors are leaving or not coming here. I guess that's one way to reduce immigration!

But that has real life economic repercussions. And those who will be most affected are the most vulnerable. Young people, old people, poor people.

Lavender plants
I find it hard to forgive the xenophobia of the Leave campaign. People who seem to think that being in the EU causes a massive influx of terrorists from so-called Islamic State. The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester have shown very clearly that the terrorists we need to fear are masquerading as neighbours in this country. So another lie.

I find it hard to forgive how hate crimes against EU citizens have risen, emboldened by the result of the referendum. People ask Europeans "when are you going home?" like it is a given that all Europeans must leave.

I find it hard to forgive that little children are afraid that they, or one/both of their parents will be sent 'home'.

I find it very hard to forgive that we are being used as bargaining chips. I find it hard to forgive that to obtain proof of our legal right to permanent residence in the UK, we must fill in a 85 page long document, along with numerous types of documentation. A document which even solicitors have trouble understanding.

It is hard to forgive that a third of those applications are turned down on technicalities and people are then sent what must be terrifying letters telling them to 'prepare to leave the country' (although apparently that wording has been changed, but still).

I haven't submitted the application yet. I was waiting to see what would happen once the Brexit negotiations started. Yesterday Theresa may told the other EU leaders of her 'generous offer' for EU citizens. You can read about it here, and read why it is not good enough, and frankly a bit worrying.

Lavender plants
On a personal level, I will probably never forgive the sleepless nights and the panic attacks, worrying about my future. I can't forgive how I feel like I have no control over my own future. We are not able to move to Denmark because their immigration policies penalize people who aren't flush with cash or have a job on arrival. And of course, that's only made more difficult because I have lived abroad for so long.

And even if we were able to move there, if Tony weren't an EU citizen that would make it even more complicated.

It is so cruel to keep 3.2 million people in limbo like this. Even Amnesty International are speaking up on our behalf!

The thing I find hardest to forgive is that, for the first time in my life, in some very dark moments I have thought "this is too much. It would be easier if I didn't existed." Because in those dark lonely moments, I can't see how I can stay in the UK without being a second rate citizen, or be allowed to stay at all. But I can't imagine having to live apart from Tony.

I have no plans on acting on those suicidal thoughts (it's crossing a big mental line, even using that word!) but I know I'm not alone in feeling like that. I will never forgive the Leave voters for bringing me to such a dark place.

It may seem like life is carrying on as usual, and in some ways it is. I take Blake for walks, plant lavender in the garden, we do the shopping and go to the gym. All normal things. But underneath the day to day, there is a lot of worrying about the future.

The worrying doesn't stop. The tears are never far away. Nor is the fear that someone is going to attack me, verbally or physically, just because they hear me speaking with an accent or speaking Danish with Tony.

The government could easily have done away with all this, but instead cruelly chose to use us a bargaining chips in their political games.

I am so exhausted by this subtle mental torment that I can't escape. I wonder if I ever will...

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Friday, June 16, 2017

New Pattern :: Wild Rose Warbler

Wild Rose Warbler
I have a new pattern, Wild Rose Warbler, in the shop and usually that is very exciting. But this week there is a bit of a dampener on that excitement. You have probably heard of the awful fire in a high rise apartment block in London. So sad and awful and terrifying.

When I was a little girl, around six years old, I was playing at a friend's house. Her little brother had wet the bed in the night and they had put the mattress in front of an electric heater to dry it. The mattress caught fire and then the rest of the house was on fire too.

I was so scared and I remember standing on a bed not knowing what to do. Luckily, a fireman came and got me. It was such a long time ago, but the memory of that experience is still so vivid in my mind. I can still see the flames all over the linoleum floor in their kitchen.

No one was hurt on that day, but when something like the fire in London happens, the memory bubbles up again. If that day has made such a strong impression on me, I can only imagine how the survivors of the Grenfell fire will be affected, now and long term.

It makes me feel quite helpless, but it warms my heart that so many people in the community and the country are giving resources and time and hugs to the people affected.

Usually, I'd give you a discount for a new pattern, but instead I am going to donate 50% of every sale of the new pattern until Tuesday to the victims of the fire. I am also going to donate 50% of any order that includes the new pattern.

So please go buy some of my stuff so we can hopefully make a small contribution to rebuilding their lives. And please, please hug your loved ones.

Wild Rose Warbler

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Rekindling A Special Friendship

Things to sort
Three weeks ago I went to Denmark for a very short visit. But what it lacked in actual time, it more than made up for in good times. It was a bit of a whirlwind to say the least.

There was lunch with a friend at a vegan place, a wander through my home town, Århus, and popping into a few favourite shops. Lunch with another friend and there was a bit of fabric shopping. As well as going through some of my belongings that were still in my parents' loft.

I crammed in a lot of good times, which was sorely needed, the past year hasn't been the most jolly. To say the least.

But the best time, the main reason I went to Denmark, was to see an old friend whom I hadn't seen in 18 years. Eighteen. That's a long time. My friend got married when she was quite young and then she moved to Lebanon. And it was back in the day when communicating via the internet wasn't as straightforward as it is now. So we lost touch for many years. But I never forgot my friend, I thought of her often.

Although her parents lived in Denmark, and still do, once I moved to England 12 years ago, there was even less chance of us seeing each other.

But a few years ago we got back into contact and when I found out earlier this year that she was in Denmark, but would be going back to Lebanon soon, I had to try and see her. And we made it happen and I am SO happy that we did.

For reasons I won't bore you with, we met in a local shopping centre on a Sunday morning and when we saw each other we both started sobbing and had the longest hug in history. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. It is a moment I will never forget.

Although it had been so long since we last saw each other, it was like no time had passed. We talked and laughed like we'd seen each other the week before. I don't know when we'll see each other again, but the knowledge that our friendship has survived all this time being dormant, that makes me so happy.

It was a wonderful, busy, jam packed, glorious weekend in Denmark. A concentrated dose of fun times and happy new memories. This past year I have gained a new appreciation for grabbing, and holding on tightly, all the good times you can lay your hands on. Big or small.

Writing about it makes me relive it and it fills me with joy.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends. xo

Old art
Old work from art classes.


Vegan burger at Mikuna
Best burger I've ever had.

Taking pictures of a quilt I made recently.

Rapeseed field and cumulus clouds
The colour of early summer in Denmark.


Atomkraft? Nej tak!


Århus Domkirke
Århus cathedral.

Old art
Old paintings. Including a very intense self portrait! :-)

Hares - early morning
Big hares I spotted in my parents' neighbours' garden early Sunday morning. I've never seen hares that close before!

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