Thursday, 20 September 2012

New treats

There is great excitement in our house this week, as we have ordered all the fabric for our living and dining room curtains!  I'm not sure how many times we did the maths before placing the order.  I think I went over the sums about four times in the end - just as well, as at one point I'd calculated the drop as the width!

The fabric was delivered on Tuesday and the linings should come any day.  Then, all I will need is the header tape and plenty of time and space to make them!  I have a feeling the spare room will be commandeered for the job!  And with a bit of luck, we'll be all cosy in time for Christmas

Monday, 17 September 2012

The world is your ... embroidery kit?!

Don't you just love holidays?  Travel is one of the many things DH and I have in common.  He's done a lot more of it than I have, but we both love it.  We've both lived abroad too and would love to give that another shot sometime before we're too old.

Over the years we've both collected lovely souvenirs from our travels and our home is decorated with many of them.  I must admit that DH has a very good principal when it comes to buying presents and souvenirs - get something that someone can use or need/want, rather than just buying for the sake of buying and the item collecting dust in a cupboard somewhere.

Since being together we've bought a beautiful rug (India), a St Bridget cross and butter dishes (Ireland), garden lantern (Wales) and a Benjamin Franklin quote print (Philadelphia). We also have Chinese script, south American textiles, African masks, Aboriginal artwork, Czech prints and a few Christmas tree and Easter decorations from our various solo trips.  We do tend to buy a tea towel or two while we're at it too and in our collection there are some from South Africa, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Brittany, the London 2012 Olympic Games and Australia.

I love to try to buy embroidery magazines while I'm abroad too, as they are often slightly different to what you'll find here.  But my ideal souvenir is to find an embroidery kit that shows something typical of the country I'm visiting.  It isn't always easy though, but I have managed to get a lovely May Pole from Bavaria, a banner of typical/well known Norwegian buildings, a Swedish Christmas banner, a map of Brittany and some Quimper faience pattern 'samplers' and I also have a provencal table cloth from a visit to my cousin when she lived in Toulon.
Bavarian may-pole - when I replace my camera I'll add a better photo!

Map of Brittany by Philomène

Greetings from Norway - typical buildings

Provencal table cloth and napkins
We were fortunate enough to be in New York for a week when the Icelandic volcano struck and caused havoc with international travel.  What hardship to 'have' to stay there for an extra week!  During the second week I discovered a lovely little embroidery shop around the corner from where we were staying and I went to see what I could find.  I discovered an embroidery 'designer' called Prairie Schooler which has a lot of folk-art style designs.  In the bargain bucket I found "A Prairie Year II" booklet - 12 designs, one for each month of the year - which I thought would be quite practical for a pretty, quick stitch as a card or small gift.

Before leaving NYC, I showed the booklet to our hostess and asked whether she'd like one of the designs and promised to send it to her once I'd finished (with the caveat that I'd no idea how quickly I would manage it!).

It is just as well really, as I saw her again a fornight ago - for the second time over here since our visit there in 2010 - and realised that I still hadn't finished her design.  Well, to be honest, I finished embroidering it ages ago, but haven't made it up into anything yet.  I'd also embroidered another two designs, one for Christmas (but that hasn't turned out as successfully as the other two as the background fabric is a bit pale) and one with a beehive design for another couple we know who keep bees.  I've filled them both with dried lavender so they not only look pretty, but they also smell heavenly. 
Prairie Schooler lavender bags

Yet another UFO to tick off my long list.  How do you think they turned out?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Let's start at the very beginning...

The other day, when I was writing about UFOs, I was looking through a zip-lock bag I have of bits and bobs I've made - you know the type of thing, a free kit from a magazine, a cute kit you've fancied but once made up you've no idea what to do with or where to put it ...  Well, in amongst all of this I found some of my earliest embroideries and thought that I'd share them with you.  Hopefully you can see how far I've come since I started!!

My very first project was this tray cloth.  I found an old biscuit tin filled with embroidery silks that belonged to my maternal grandmother and it was that that triggered my obsession with embroidery.  She died a little over a year before I was born and had left this tray cloth unfinished.  So with her help, it started my 'career' with embroidery.  No prizes for guessing which part my Nain did and which is mine!

After finishing it, we showed it to my grandmother's sister, also an excellent embroideress, and the following Christmas I got the kit for this tray cloth from her.
The following pictures are pieces I made at school at various times - I'm sure you all recognise the style!  Unfortunately, I'm really showing my age with some of these!!  I'm not sure whether it was while we were sewing the top or the middle one, but my class had taken our chairs outdoors as it was so sunny and were sewing outside our classroom when one of the boys realised he'd sewn his 'sampler' to his shorts!  I wonder whether that was the end of Ben's sewing career?!

I also remember my DM being mortified when she saw the middle one and asked me to unpick some of it, but I never did.  I was so fed up with everyone discussing who they thought had shot JR in Dallas while we were all sewing that I lost my rag and 'confessed'!!  I suppose it dates it and is quite apt now, as the new series has just started over here.

PS: apologies for some of the slightly blurry photos - my camera isn't well and focussing is a bit of an effort.  I suspect it isn't much longer for this world.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Part of the reason for this blog was to get me back into regular crafting/embroidering.  And it has certainly helped with this.  I've also found that I think a lot more creatively/artistically since I started blogging and pinning.

Another 'side effect' of blogging has been the desire to complete my numerous UFOs or WIPs (the more I blog, the more I 'get' the lingo!).  Don't worry, I haven't suddenly changed the subject of my blogging to the extra-terrestrial.  Far from it! For the uninitiated amongst us I'm talking about UnFinished Objects or Works In Progress.

I was googling UFO to make sure I'd got the correct abbreviation for blogland and came across this blog, which made me feel so much better about some of my UFOs/WIPs (I really hope she manages to finish the quilt she started when she was expecting her daughter, 30 years ago!  But it gives me hope).  I also thought I'd follow the example and list my UFOs/WIPs so that we can all keep track of my progress!!  I just hope I don't regret this!

UFOs completed since starting Sew and Siw

Provencal napkins to match table cloth - started c.1998

Prairie Schooler 'cushions' - started c. autumn 2010
Breton napkins to match DM's tablecloth - started c.1999, completed May 2013
OK, I haven't exactly made great progress - but it's a start!  And I have started AND finished a few new projects in the meantime.
And this is what I've got left...

Spring flower tapestry cushion - started in 2008, although bought a couple of years earlier!
Table runner from East Friesland - started as an au-pair in 1991 
Granny's pair of tray cloths - goodness knows when Granny started it (and goodness knows when I'll finish them both!)

Thursday, 6 September 2012


It's that time of year again.  Summer holidays over and everyone thinking of the 'new year'.  A depressing thought?

Well, not for DH apparently.  He finds it quite exciting (he likes plans!).  As a result, we spent some of the bank holiday weekend planning our autumn ... and that comprised of creating a number of lists!

A list of people we want to see
A list of things we want to do
A list of jobs to organise
A list of jobs in the garden
A list of jobs in the house ...

The list of lists goes on ...

Naturally, in the middle of all these lists, there is a list of projects for me to sew (with one or two extras by me that aren't part of the above listed lists!).   So, here it is (in no particular order) for you to help keep me on track (and check up on me!):
  • Tidy kitchen blinds (I know, I made these months ago and still haven't tidied the odds and ends up!)  Hooray, I finally finished them! And I've now also altered them to fit the new windows - happy me!
  • Replace spare bedroom curtain linings (thoughtfully shredded by sunlight and cats) - one down, one to go!  Almost there now, just need to finish the pleating and rehang :-)
  • Buy living/dining room curtain fabric (a warning - there will be miles of this when I get it as the windows are ridiculously tall) and allow some extra fabric for matching/coordinating cushions
  • Make up living/dining room curtains (is there such a thing as a 'life saver' to prevent you drowning in fabric?!) - see above re cushion covers too.  Hooray - finished sewing them, just need to finish hemming them now!
  • make new white blouse/tunic for self using Amy Butler Liverpool pattern (as a test piece for making a patterned one for DM and me)
  • make apron for MIL from Liberty book I had for Christmas last year (in time for Christmas this year)
  • Make bread basket and tea cosy for kitchen out of left over blind fabric
  • Start designing anniversary sampler for DS (significant anniversary not for 23 months, so I have a little time!)
  • Start designing bicentenary sampler for church (not sure I'll make it for the bicentenary, but certainly to mark it)
  • Make/embroider some Christmas decorations as gifts for this Christmas (or maybe just sew some Christmas gifts)
  • Order fabric for bedroom curtains (once pole is in place) and make up, also cushion for chaise longue and throw and cushion for bed
  • Cover lampshade for bedroom (if we still can't find one we like and can afford!)  We found a lovely one in the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul
OK, let's be honest.  This list is likely to keep me out of mischief until well into 2013 and beyond, but we can but hope!

PS:  I'll try to remember to strike through those I manage to finish as I go along.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Peas in a pod

Oh goodness, I'm not very good at this posting lark, am I?  My apologies for my absence over the last few weeks.  To be honest, I was on holiday for two weeks (and busily embroidering for you instead).

Well, I have finally finished the sampler for my friend's little girl (mind you, at the rate I'm going, she'll be married before I've ironed and posted it to her!).  So she and her brother will now have 'matching' samplers.

I embroidered the 'brother sampler' shortly after he was born:
And have adapted the design to suit a girl, as you can see, by changing the colours and some of the toys depicted.  My remit included her favourite colour (purple) and that she's a horse fan, so I've done my best to include those requests.
There were a few dilemmas as I progressed, including the colour of the alphabet around the edge (it started out green!), were the 'little ladies' in the centre too pale, and most crucially, which letters of the alphabet should I put on the blocks!?!  Actually, it isn't as daft as it sounds really.  As you will see from the 'brother sampler', they have A, B and C on them, but as his name starts with G, that was easy (see the individual block on the right).  But with her name starting with B, I thought the 'sister sampler' would be a bit repetetive if there were two blocks with B on them.  Instead I opted for the end of the Welsh alphabet (which follows the original design by Brenda Keyes anyway).  I also thought of putting a B on the horse's saddle, but decided against it in the end.
Please post your comments on the two samplers - I'd love to hear what you all think!