Friday, 3 March 2017

A long held dream

January and February are miserable months in England; all the excitement is over, all the rushing around should be done and I hate the cold, damp, grey days.

So for a long time I have always hoped to spend at least a month somewhere warm, with sun, swimming and of course stitching and this year, for the first time we managed it and had a great month in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands (the BVIs)
However I have always stressed the importance of planning well in advance for any trip but for a whole month it is even more important.
Unfortunately planning seemed to go array this time, both my and my daughter’s birthdays to celebrate in December, Christmas and New Year and to finish off a rather nasty chesty cold that laid me low and lingered well into the holiday
So, while it is still fresh in my mind I have made this list of needlepoint tools that I took and found really helpful that I managed to throw into my suitcase.
First of all my design(s) to work on;  originally I planned to take the project destined for our trip to Tuscany later in May however the painted canvas got lost in transit from the States and didn’t arrive in time.   As it was to be a companion piece to that which we did last year selection of threads was already done so I was doubly disappointed that project was out of the question.

However with only a few days to decide on a piece that I could take I finished up with LOVE.   I managed to start a small area to select threads and took more quantities that I thought were needed – wrong again as I ran out of the white stranded cotton and had to finish the last letter back at home!   Here is the finished design that will be available early April.   
While stitching it I realised that it would be a lovely design with other names using letters from another of our charts, let us know if you would like a set.     4 letter names as ANNA, ANNE, JANE &, GINA and many others would work well and of course it could be worked in different colours.

Even if you have selected a complete kit from a designer known to you, it is well worth while opening the pack up, checking on the threads against the contents page, perhaps even changing a shade to suit you better, noting what size frame you will need (don’t forget the drawing pins to fix the canvas) and making sure there are enough needles!
I often take a small piece for waiting around; extra spec cases, the Kaleidoscope design in particular using up small quantities of threads is always a good choice for either presents or different schemes for sun-glasses, reading glasses and stronger ones for stitching.
Here I have the sun glass case, worked in brightly coloured cottons …………………….
Heavy things first:
Lowery Silver grey work stand with side clamp; 
I know this is quite heavy but couldn’t think of being without it even for my short weeks in Italy each year.  My daughter lives in France and as I travel with carry-on only have a second frame there – cheaper to buy one frame than pay for luggage to be checked in each time
PureLite, Three in one Lamp and magnification– a new addition to my battery of tools that I find really helpful.  It has magnification and can operate on either electricity or with batteries.    Accessories include allow for it to be a floor, table or clip on lamp.
The floor base is heavy for travel so I opt for either the table base or the clip on lamp.   The 4 C size batteries (should you plan to use it without electricity) are not included so be sure to pack some
The magnification is also helpful
Our apartment in Tortola had a charming balcony so when the dusk came – quite early in that part of the world – I was able to continue to enjoy my stitching.
iPad useful for keeping a record of stitches, ply and quantities besides keeping in touch with the outside world and using as an e-reader.   In addition there are some useful stitch apt to give extra ideas.  Well worth checking with your destination that Wi-Fi is widely available and if there are any charges.
One decision I regretted was my selection of books on the iPad; they were all interesting but very much of the same type.  For my next trip I hope to make more of a varied selection and hope to start doing that in good time.  
 (I managed with the iPad and emails rather than expensive calls on my mobile and not easy with the 5 hour time change.
 Electric tooth brush
And most important the various chargers for each piece of equipment.
AS I was also designing I took a selection of graph paper so I was able to chart stitches and design as they were worked – and didn’t have to do them on my return!
As we plan to return next year I plan to research something that will play tapes and talking books which I love.    It would appear that American tapes don’t work on English machines but I must do some more research.
Needles of all sizes, small embroidery scissors; the small curved scissors are officially sufficiently small to be allowed on airplanes however do pack a second pair in your check in luggage as in some overseas airports they have been known to confiscate them – little point to argue!
Correct size frame, I tend to take narrow artist stretcher bars for easy of transport and, for larger pieces I swop them over to wider, stronger bars when I get home.   Again don’t forget the drawing pins (I believe they are called thumb tacks in the US
So a spot of background to Tortola which we loved so much that we already plan to return early next year.
Tortola is the capital island of the British Virgin Island, part of a stunning variety of more than 60 island; beautiful islands to visit by frequent ferries or private charter.   The history of these islands goes way back beyond Christopher Columbus who encountered this very special corner of the Caribbean however before that Amerindian tribes had made their way up the island chain by canoe from Venezuela several centuries earlier but Columbus found no trace of them, perhaps they had moved on.

The British Annexed in 1672 when they established cotton and sugar plantations and soon were exporting rum and molasses to England.  In 1834 when slavery was abolished in the British West Indies (these plantations relied to a great extent on the slaves); this way of life declined.
From the mid-19th century the former slaves were the only inhabitants until the 1960/70s when the islands started to become a popular yacht centre.    Today tourism is the mainstay of the economy along with a growing international finance industry.
So why did we chose Tortola for our month’s adventure?  First friends some years ago had loved it and talking with many others, some of whom had only spent hours on the island from their cruise ship all were so enthusiastic as being the highlight of their holiday.
Another, very personal reason for choosing the island was that Robert had an old university friend who had gone out there with his wife and three young children in 1965 to become the island’s first surgeon.   I believe there were approximately only 50 expats living on the island then.  His salary was also interesting, besides a cash amount there was a horse to get around to his patients (the roads were almost non-existent – and are still ‘challenging’.    With many islands to visit patients and not a confident horse rider he quickly changed the horse for a boat – in fact the same boat that he had sailed his family the last part of the journey from England to Tortola!

We had very firm ideas of not wishing to stay in a hotel, the thought of 3 large meals a day would have been too much of a temptation so it was to the self-catering section we devoted our search a d came up with a delightful Airbnb.   A self-contained apartment, part of a charming house set in beautiful gardens in the hills.   This apartment, up in the hills, was considerably cooler than down on the beaches but posed the problem of driving the simply terrifying roads – steep bends, unmade surfaces, pot holes and more hazards – we decided to drive only in daylight and alcohol free!  Actually lunch out and dinner on our own balcony suited us well.
The West end of the island, where we were, was particularly attractive; a series of beautiful beaches with calm seas divided by steep headlands dividing them.    One could find some beaches with no other person but on ‘cruise ship days’ certain beaches had to be avoided as they were crowded with the day visitors.
We met other friendly people, a retired nurse who had trained way back with one of my English stitching friends.  She has lived there since 72 and was able to take us to the Sunday Church Service at a charming Episcopalian Church in one of the bays;  it is many years since we have seen such a well-dressed congregation;  only about 1/3 European living there but without exception everyone was in their best outfits – hats for the ladies and NO trousers, suits and jackets for the men and each child had their best ‘party outfit’    The Service was longer than we would expect in our church in London but with hearty singing, an interesting Sermon, the introduction of new visitors (including us who got a small memento) and the acknowledgement of the children of the Confirmation class it passed most agreeably.
The other event that, for us, was a first was a Sports Bar where we watched the Rugby, Ireland versus in the morning and after lunch and a certain amount of beer, England versus     in the afternoon.   With 3 large television screens the turnout was tremendous and the encouraging cheering most encouraging (England won their match!)
As usual, I always have my eyes open for inspiration for new designs, no way disappointed I met with a charming lady, Jill Tattersall (the former wife of the surgeon who is still there) who paints the most charming scenes of life on the island – she brings a blend of architecture and activities she sketched on her arrival giving a accurate glimpse o who things were when they first arrived.

I do hope, with her approval to paint some of the scenes as needlepoint projects;  at present I am trying to capture the flavour of her paintings together with the restrictions of a needlepoint piece.  Please watch this space as we progress
Next year, as I have mentioned, we plan to return however on the edge of one of the bays, enabling us to walk out to local restaurants and perhaps take the odd taxi to some of the Full Moon parties particularly the one in Trellis Bay where the artist Aragon Dick-Read is renowned for his famous fireball sculptures.   I also hope to encourage my son and his wife, who are professional sailors to join us for a while so we can explore some of the other islands.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A week in the country

I have had the most wonderful, exciting and action packed year with the 45 anniversary of my needlepoint design and teaching and just at the beginning of the month my 80 birthday!

The anniversary was so special in many ways, first with an extensive exhibition of work, needlepoint done by some very talented students, an opportunity to be inspired by ingenious adaptions of standard designs into upholstered pieces as well as a preview of all the new designs with their gorgeous threads and exciting stitchery 

 The other result was many, many people whom I had not seen for a very long time contacted me and some managed to attend the exhibition and assure us that they were still enjoying their stitching.  This reconnection meant an enormous amount to me and I must thank every one of you who responded.

Another pleasure was our 9th visit to Calabria, way down in southern Italy and a first, a visit to a beautiful estate in Tuscany which was an equal success and both are planned again for 2017;  Tuscany in May and Calabria in September.

My birthday, well it hasn’t really sunk in yet; so many people appeared to know (whether it was Facebook or just good memories) but the amount of cards, well wishes and calls was really appreciated enormously and celebrating with my extended family was great.

Which brings me to the ‘week in the country’.  My daughter Candida drove over from France to be with us (her husband Paul unfortunately had to stay behind with the animals, 2 horses, 3 dogs and 2 goats at the present count!)   After the celebrations Candida and I drove back together - much more fun driving with a companion especially around Paris!

They have an old stone mill which they have owned now for some years but is still on ‘ongoing project’ however with log fires and Christmas decorations the whole place looked very festive.  As a family we all love Christmas trees and it has always been a tradition to acquire a few new ornaments each year and so it is particularly nostalgic to see some of the most loved pieces again.

Those of you who came to the Mill in Norfolk might remember the very high ceiling in the living area and I well remember the late Alex Larkin helping me firstly to choose a 12’ tree in the plantation, have it cut down, bringing it home – up the stairs was no easy matter – and then decorating it.

Another strong memory I have was an exhibition at Woodlawn Plantation, the Christmas of 1999 when, besides a marvellous display of needlepoint from various shop owners, Christopher Radko decorated the main rooms with his amazing collection of blown glass ornaments.

Even though my original collection is divided among my children, each piece has a story and helping Candida dress her tree brought so many happy events back.

It might sound odd but Robert and I tend to spend the holiday period with members of our own families; we are together most of the year, have wonderful overseas trips together but, at Christmas we do like to follow the customers of our particular families.

Then, besides the traditional garlands, holly decked with berries and red candles in tall candlesticks there was the food to prepare.   Although I am back here in England for the actual days, Candida’s birthday is on the 18th December I was allowed (indeed encouraged) to help with some of the traditional food, so we had happy times, shopping. preparation and cooking some of the items we as a family associate with Christmas.   The rich fruit cake was made for us but honestly part of the fun is both marzipan, icing and decorating the cake; we stuffed fresh dates with left-over marzipan, dipped some in melted chocolate and decorated other with stem ginger – both delicious and not too sweet.

Another first was a suggestion of simmering a large ham in cider for many hours till the cider has reduced to a thick sauce, again delicious cold and just so useful for a quick sandwich or with a baked potato (my absolutely favourite) when there are so many other things to do.

Christmas pudding is another must in England, when there are very small children around, a small silver coin can be buried in the pudding and the lucky person who finds it has a wish.    Again there is a number of traditional sauces to be served; my family have always gone for the brandy butter, but Paul remembers a delicious brandy sauce (so Candida will be making that too) Some families prefer thick cream and others a warm home-made custard – I know I shall be sticking to the brandy butter myself.

So, what has this got to do with needlepoint you may ask; lots, I can assure you.  First when absolutely exhausted with the cooking, climbing up ladders to fix decorations and wrapping presents a comfortable armchair and some stitching is the best relaxing turn off possible.   Second you might have made – or just be finishing off a spec case, i-pad cover or pincushion destined as a present or you might have some stockings to hang up for Santa to fill or – if you are American you may even have a tree skirt to mask the base of the tree ready to  pile the presents around   I say ‘American’ as, however much I adore and admire the beautiful skirts I have seen there is no way I would needlepoint one to be admired for so short a time and probably covered with gift wrapped parcels most of it.

Then of course should you wish to get ahead with next year’s present, here we have a two day Christmas ball class (May 10 & 11th) with Ruth Dilts when one ball will be worked but the techniques for both the work and the finishing will be explained for future designs.  Let me know if you would like full details.  I myself hope to make one for each of my children for their next year’s tree.

So my week in France went far too quickly but with so many happy memories I have returned refreshed and encouraged to do our own home especially for a party we traditionally hold on New Year’s Eve and await some newly painted canvases with ideas for our Tuscan stitching trip – I can’t wait to both select the threads and stitches.

Wishing you all the happiest Christmas and a healthy and joyous New Year


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

29 November

Tomorrow December – how the year has gone so incredibly fast.  The 45 anniversary of my needlepoint with all the events and special trips to celebrate –especially the two stitching retreats in Italy; the ninth in Calabria and the first in Tuscany – both of these are to be repeated in 2017 and there are just two places left for Tuscany – Calabria is full.

The truly lovely aspect of the anniversary was that I was able to reconnect with so many people that I had met and to hear that in almost every case they were still enjoying their needlepoint!
On it's way to the Framer..
However, my excuse for not blogging recently is that I have been finishing a pair of Rhino and Elephant canvases.  I have illustrated the Rhino in a previous blog but here shown as a pair is fun.  You may remember that the animals are painted and then all the borders are diagrammed for the stitcher to select their own threads and colour schemes.  

Deciding on my next project is always difficult so I am apt to fill in with something simple, a spec case or, as now with a bit of sharp needle repairs to a quilted jacket that needed some essential tlc. 
I also have a  pair of canvases  painted with elderflowers – I have always had memories of those bushes when  I lived in Norfolk and made elderflower sorbet but due shortly is the prototype of another della Robbia panel that will be the suggested design for the May trip to Tuscany – more details of this shortly.

Classes have gone well;  besides help with designing special projects people enjoy company and there is always a lively discussion as to books to read, films to see and television worth watching.  This week I have just been to the Opus Anglicanum exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum – an absolute must for anyone remotely interested in fine embroidery.
At my Open Day in June I offered a complimentary class and someone new won it; here is Ruth enjoying her day with a fellow student.

Class lists up till end of June are now available together with a special two day class for Christmas and Birthday Balls – would be happy to send you full details
Finally I believe that enjoying needlepoint makes one look at detail in a much more curious way, be it  items in churches or museums or colour schemes so I finish with a bowl of salad I threw together the other day – just loved the vibrant colours of the ingredients.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Summer 2016

On my return from stitching with the group in Italy I was excited about writing to you all with details of what has proved to be a busy but lovely summer.  However another adventure happened just last week which I thought you might like to hear about!

Robert and I took a short break to Bermuda (we have both be travelling in different directions most of the summer so a holiday together was a great idea.  However, unbeknown to us (and it would appear too many others) there was a tropic storm following in the path of Hurricane Matthew which we knew was not going to approach Bermuda. The tropical storm didn’t seem to know which course to take and in the meantime grew in strength. By the time it was directly over Bermuda it had reached Hurricane Force 4.  (There have only been seven Hurricanes of this force since records began in the mid 18 hundreds!)

We arrived just two days before it hit; so the beginning of or stay was involved with giving us all clear instructions as to what to do.  Our hotel could not have been more caring and safety conscience; we had to be in the main building for the duration having left our bedrooms secure with towels under all windows and doors, everything off the floor.  In the main hotel building there was even a secure, underground room for people, if they wished, to spend the nights and, during the day films and plenty of board games to play.
The best luck was that we had power, light, water and cooking facilities throughout.  95% of the island had no power for up to three days!  Trust me to have my stitching and was very happy with my progress.

The clearing up process was mega; much of the sand on all the beaches was blown inland, the spray of salt water on vegetation turned it all brown (we were assured the wonderful green leaves and flowers would return but sadly not before we left).
So, all in all we were very lucky and even though the storm, heavy winds and rain ruined one day it really was an adventure for us.

I apologise for this side story but for the like of us with our first hurricane I wasn’t to share the experience but back to the anniversary summer of needlepoint.
What an exciting summer – our 45th years of teaching, designing and writing about needlepoint was celebrated in early June with a beautiful exhibition here in London with all our new designs, details of both classes held around the country, in London  and Italy (two different trips for the first time)
Besides so enjoying putting the needlepoint exhibition together I also met up with students whom I had not seen for ages and had replies from many more.   Lovely to have news and know that they were still enjoying stitching!
The year has not yet finished so if you have been a student of ours either here or in the USA or enjoyed my books do let me know, I should love to hear from you.
The other highlights of the summer have been our two trips to Italy.  I call it the two faces of Italy two very different areas, Calabria almost most down to the very southern tip and the city of Regio del Calabria and Borghetto Calcinaia close to Arezzo in Tuscany but BOTH great places to stitch, enjoy the unique scenery and delicious local food.
It was or 9th visit t Pirapora, close to the charming medieval city of Tropea in June;  the family run Agriturismo place was as perfect as before;  home grown food, simply, spotless accommodation and many quiet corners to stitch.  While we have already booked our 10th visit next September (2017) we presented the family with a charming souvenir of the place. Here you can see our stitching group with a rather fearsome me (never fearsome in reality I promise!); the group dining, Michael the son collecting ice creams, Stromboli which on a clear evening we can see while watching the sunset.
The group visit to Borghetto Calcinaia was a first; while I have never taken a group to somewhere I have not personally visited beforehand; it was the first to hold needlepoint classes there.   Being in Tuscany there was a number of very interesting outings besides the needlepoint to enjoy.  Here is some of the group, straight off the plane and on the way to a delicious lunch at Vasco’s in the forest. 

Again, the accommodation was excellent, all the food locally sourced and home cooked and the vine sheltered area set aside for stitching could not have been more perfect.

Beside the trips we went on and the swimming pool one of the most exciting things that happens when a group stitch together is the opportunity of seeing gadgets that other members find helpful.
This was the Del Robbia Piece that the group worked during the last stay
As always I show some of the latest tools that have proved themselves; one special magnifying glass and light that runs on either electricity or batteries, clamps to a table or stands alone with a good steady base was invaluable (For this trip I took only the battery not to bother with extension leads etc and the clamp to save on luggage weight).
Other small items that people found useful were small curved decoupage scissors (great for getting under knots and unpicking) and pop-up needle holders (similar to a lipstick that on twisting brings the needles up.  
Another student had found some truly great tapestry needles made in France, we all tried them and agreed on the quality.   Fortunately I have found a source and now have stock of them so I encourage you to try them – stock at the moment of 22 and 24 size needles but may well have size 20 (for 14 mesh canvas)
If tempted by either of the Italian trips for 2017 or any of the gismos mentioned we should be very happy to send full details.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Italy another great trip..

Every time I promise myself to write a blog at least every 2 to 3 weeks and this time is no exception. 

I truly longed to share both the photographs and lovely stories about our Italian retreat with you but on my return things caught up with me.

Italian Sampler
First I had my second eye operated on for a cataract (great success thank goodness, I can see much better) then there was the Autumn class programme to plan (now available with a generous discount for multiple bookings and payment before the end of August) – let me know if you would like a copy.

But the project that I have been spending a deal of time on is the planning and stitching of the gorgeous piece for the project on our first trip to Tuscany at the end of September.  I have shown it before in my last blog.
However, as promised, news of this year’s trip to Calabria.  We were 10, two from Belgium, 2 girls joining us for the first time and 5 others who have been often before.   While even the journey out is an adventure, early start from London and a connection in Rome for those from Brussels we all realise that an early start gives us an additional day to catch up with news and have bonus stitching.  One welcome aspect is we are always met by the same driver, a welcoming face at the airport and less than an hour’s drive to Pirapora.
The group assembled for an aperitif before dinner.

From Left: Marie 'Louise, Valerie, Ann, Rita, Connie, Liz, Anne, Alice & Christine
In the past I have offered a ‘theme’ as a suggestion for the design but with so many coming regularly and their stitching becoming more exciting and individual all the time, the overall theme has ceased to be.   Actually in many ways it makes it even more exciting to see the progress made and the intense discussions regarding colours, stitches and threads!

This year the designs were particularly interesting; Sudoku was popular – two panels for the front and back of a tote bag – the front with exciting dramatic stitches and the back with more traditional stitches – all in shades of blue. 

Another blue colour scheme was an Italian sampler (see above), an outline of Italy in filled with ITALY with surrounding bands of stitchery.

The person who normally stitches in yellow worked on a gift for a dear friend, a Cross composed of flower heads and yet another worked on a painted canvas of Passion Flowers enjoying the lacy look of Shadow stitching.

Both our friends from Belgium brought the finished pieces from the previous year and I have had them made up and just sent back. 

All the food we are given is both grown and prepared on the farm, plant to plate in a very short time makes everything taste better and, it is proved, is better for you.   This year – possibly for the first time – we were invited to try our hands at pasta making; unbelievably time consuming but both fun to do (when one got the hang!) and very special to eat – did we really do all that?  

Many years ago the BBC broadcast an April 1st spook, how the spaghetti trees had a bumper harvest that year – well here is our answer to a pasta tree!

This painting of the life at Pirapora, was the memento of our 9th visit which we presented to Franco and Rosie the charming owners of this delightful place.   It was commissioned especially and shows many of our favourite activities while there, stitching in the garden, sitting at dinner with delicious wine, the weekly BBQ and not least their son arriving with ice cream for all – a daily treat.

Needless to say we departed after our 9 days of uninterrupted stitching, friendship and laughs with a tentative date for next year’s trip already talked about.

So, let me know if you would like to attend any of the Autumn classes held here in London (Class list below) or keep in touch about future Italian trips, both to Calabria in the south or Tuscany close to Florence and Venice.


Wednesday 7TH September

Wednesday 14th September

Wednesday 26th October

Wednesday 16th November

Wednesday 30th November

Wednesday 7th December


Full day Classes, £55 for a single day; £140 for any three booked and paid for together; please ask for other combinations!  New projects at listed prices.


Class fees are paid in advance and not charged if cancelled more than 48 hours before the date.


SPECIAL OFFER If a group (minimum 4) would like to come on another day Anna should be happy to try and arrange to suit.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Open Day Review!

Well we did have the special celebration needlepoint exhibition here last week and many thanks to those of you who came but a extra special thanks to those who lent me their beautiful pieces.

My aim for holding the event – besides of course catching up with students past and present – was to display some of the most exciting uses that my needlepoint designs have been put to.  Many people chose a cushion for their first ‘proper’ project but after a while they become over-cushioned and are keen to stitch something else but for it to still have a practical purpose.

To make the show as self-explanatory as possible there were areas linking to various aspects. 

One was some of the pieces worked during our annual trips to Italy;  we have often had a ‘theme’,    Themes give people a starting point but not a fixed project that has be followed slavishly.   Thus there were two lovey Elephant pieces, Lilly on midnight blue canvas and another worked in ‘carnival colours’ both exciting but so, so different.   
Another theme popular with many has been bags and clothing – so again there was a good display of  pieces adorned with charms, buttons along with exciting stitchery and a jacket to inspire.

Presents for children have always been popular, the initial of a new born, favourite animal such as ‘Victoria’s Elephant; and new kits both a Boy and Girl Bear.  None take too long to complete and for a young girl with a modicum of help a perfect project to start a new hobby.

While we are off again very soon for our 9th visit to the same Italian village we are also, for the first time going  to Tuscany to a beautiful borghetto close to Florence – so the project that is offered there excited interest – an interpretation of a del Robbia panel, the trade symbol of the wool merchants of Florence.

Another area showed what importance we put on good professional finishing for all our pieces – in fact I never design something without knowing a good person to finish it – you the stitcher has spent many hours working the piece so why not do it justice and have it made up  perfectly.   One cushion showed a very personal message embroidered on the back – in the giver’s own hand-writing.  
Trays, (with the needlepoint sealed safely against spillage); picture frames, fire screens and one table that tips up into a fire screen when an occasional table is not needed- all were on display to inspire.

Carolyn and Shelagh from All Stitched Up came along with many of the designs I have done in the past together with some new ones;  they also brought a really useful selection of accessories – scissors  magnets and much else.

However I plan to make the whole year one of celebration;  needlepoint has changed my life, the people I have met, the places I have been and not to be overlooked, the way I have been taught to look at everyday objects as well as historical and architectural detail.

Already this year with the help of social media and LUCK! I have reconnected with dear friends in California, New Orleans and Washington;  it is wonderful to hear their news and that they are still stitching and enjoying it!  
Here  in London  I caught up with past students whom I hadn’t seen for many years;  I should love to hear from anyone that I have met, if you or friends who have enjoyed classes or done my designs please, please do drop me a line. 

My Autumn class programme is available by here, together with a special 3 morning class in July – a perfect introduction to needlepoint and many of the lovely stitches one can do!


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Help us Celebrate 45 years of Needlepoint (June 1)

On 1st June there will be an exhibition of needlepoint, new designs, old favourites, custom designs and interesting making up.  Do join us; full details

In this year of celebrating 45 years needlepoint it got me to thinking just how much had changed little since the time in the 70s when I started the first classes in a rented location in Victoria!
Right from the start there were certain aims to try and adhere to;
First people enjoy the class situation, having friendly help with their stitching, meeting like-minded people and seeing and trying out accessories.   Here in Spain (one of our earliest trips) we enjoyed delicious meals too!
Students attending class or ordering by post (now from our web sites) appreciate being able to have a design in different colourways or even order it without threads so they can create their very own scheme.

WE have never designed an item without knowing a reliable professional to finish the piece.  The student has put their precious time into stitching it so it is only right that the finishing completes the investment for them
The source of many of the designs has similar origins, my travel and my interest in techniques from by gone eras.  Many of the designs on the Web sites are named after the country or area where I first gained inspiration.  Moroccan Tiles is still our most popular design and I first went to that country more than 30 years ago. Aleppo (soon to be available), Cathedral Tiles are the latest both from recent travels.

 Basket weave tent can be beautiful and the best choice for hard-wear however researching techniques that were enjoyed by embroiderers as early as the 16th century right up to the 19th century has always intrigued me.  ‘Tudor’ another recent design is based on the Strap work patterns popular on Elizabethan costume and textiles and Victorian Pattern Darning stitches make wonderful background (and faster to work too)
So, all these principles have remained constant but of course there have been some changes, hopefully improvements as time has gone by.

Early on Needlepoint Network was established.  A number of professionally trained women began to teach my designs in their area enabling those who wished to see designs, get help with the stitching, meet new people and not travel too far.  Each location with its programme of classes and open days is on the web and we have just welcomed our first American.
Next to prove popular was residential visits – originally I called them ‘retreats’ until someone told me they hadn’t come as they were convinced that the rule of silence was applied!   Our first trips were to York, I was lucky enough to meet an excellent cook who had escaped from London and found a comfortable house on the edge of this beautiful city .  Then for many happy years we went to Miller Howe in the Lake District – the owner John Tovey became a good friend and enthusiastic stitcher when possible.  Over the years encouraged by response we have been to Spain, to a converted olive mill owed by a sculptor; Italy close to Pisa and now to Calabria in the very south of Italy.   This June shall be our 9th visit there, surely the proof that stitching in company, in the sun and home grown food prepared for us, is perfect.  The next excitement is a holiday in Tuscany this September – this will be our first there but already Robert and I have spent several days with the owners with visits to the interesting villages and museums around them.  If you are tempted let me know, there is one place left and I should be happy to send full details.

And of course the residential courses I ran from my Mill in Norfolk. Here is where the girls had there pre diner drink after a hard days stitching.

The other big change – I call it an exciting improvement are the threads, materials and accessories that are available now.  Our early designs still popular were almost entirely with crewel wools and on 14 mesh canvas (even weave of course, NEVER interlock!)  Now the range of threads is endless, mouth-watering and one itches to use them; finer canvas (my favourite is 18 mesh) comes in wonderful colours that, with many of the lacey stitches used adds greatly to the overall design.  Accessories such as good light and practical floor frames make the activity far more pleasant however expensive gadgets for people starting out are not necessary – a design they love with good instructions and a simple stretcher bar frame are all that is necessary

So these are the gradual changes I have seen over the 45 years but the truly big change is what needlepoint has done to me, it has given me the opportunity to meet really lovely people from many parts of the world; look at buildings, artwork and crafts in a fresh way and realise just how interesting detail is if one chooses to see it!

A final word, unfortunately I have lost touch with some people though my moves or lack of record keeping.  If we have met or you know of others who have taken class, worked some of my designs please do drop me a line – I should love to hear your news. And