Friday, 4 August 2017


I believe that the vast majority of needle pointers have an ever growing stash of threads; at least that is what I am told by all my students. Sometimes it is small quantities left over from a project, sometimes it is a thread that inspired them to buy it but they have never found a place to use it.

For this reason I have designed a number of projects where these threads can be used to great advantage.  Just the other day one of my students told me that she was working the painted rug, The Scented Garden (34 x 46 inches) without buying a single thread.

One point I should make is the background, on a large project such as this it is important to have sufficient thread of the same dye lot to complete the work – this stitcher has calculated that she does have sufficient.

So, what are the other projects that lend themselves to this halo burnishing exercise? 

There are really small projects such as spec cases, one kit we do is Kaleidoscope. Lots have been made as good traveling/holiday projects and I myself have made three, one narrow one in muted colours for my fine stitching glasses.  Another, again on 18 mesh, for my everyday use and yet a third, larger on 14 mesh in bright colours for sun glasses.   Shown here is a group with the central one in purples, pinks and yellow – cotton threads I was tempted by in Guatemala but when home couldn’t think of a single thing to do with them!

Pincushions, needle cases, Kindle covers and iPads are also good projects to use up threads – do measure Kindles and iPads as they can vary from model to model.

Other designs have good selections of textured stitches, fun to work and besides all else form a good record of new stitches. Stitch Fantasy is a small panel that has more than 25 different stitches diagrammed and can be ordered on either 14 or 18 mesh canvas. I recommend taking the 14 mesh if you plan working it in wools and 18 mesh for floss and silks. 

All these designs are suitable for those of you who haven’t done much needlepoint or simply wish for a straight forward stitching experience. 

The ‘vide poche’ empty your pockets has around 20 or more patterns diagrammed for the Border and, being small areas, truly small quantities of thread can be used. The origin of this item was for gentlemen to empty their pockets of any coins before they retired for the night – however it is also a useful item by the entrance door for safe keeping of keys – never to be mislaid again!   One lady I know is planning a pretty scheme to keep her jewellery over night!

The two hand-painted canvases the Rhino (inspired by a Durer woodcut 1515) and the Elephant, (Indian of about the same period) both have threads for the animal but leave the individual to use their own threads to follow the Border instructions where all the patterns are explained and diagrammed fully.

Three words of warning – all threads are perfect, crewel wools, floss, perle and over dyes but NOT tapestry wools especially if following my stitch plans

Second, should you take one of the kits that come complete with threads but you wish to work it in your own scheme try and substitute wool for wool, floss for floss etc to get the same effect..
Third, already mentioned, for a large area of one colour, do check you have sufficient to complete it from one dye lot.   In this instance it may be worth buying a fresh lot of the right quantity!
I hope this has given you some idea to cope with this universal problem, do let me know of any ideas you have for reducing your own stash!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Our Italian Adventure 2017

Our trip to Tuscany was fabulous, just as much fun stitching as our previous visit and interest in wonderful places that they had organised for us to go.
However, before I tell you, and hopefully tempt you to join us next year (we are working on dates around the end of April 2018) I must refer back to my last blog with tips for travel and mention some important items I forgot –
When taking a floor frame (the Lowery is my favourite) do take the Allen key to help re-assemble it on arrival.   Before leaving home it is also a good moment to put a little Vaseline on all the screws; (this is recommended and makes swivelling to get to the back for finishing off much easier)
When taking any magnification be sure to have some cover for the lens.  Some models have a ‘bag’ or metal disc but these strong magnifiers can easily cause a fire – even for short periods like a quick lunch!
So, I do hope you found all these tips useful and I am sure that you have some of your own – please do share them with us, I should love to hear from you and pass them on, with your permission, in a future blog.

So back to our trip, we went by Ryanair to Perugia (pickup is included both from the airport there or the railway station at Arezzo (excellent trains to destinations like Rome and Florence).    It was an early start but means having a wonderful lunch in a very special restaurant in the forest – one of those places one would never find by oneself and a true Italian experience!  

Then on to Borghetto Calcinaia to unpack, unwind and catch up with Gilly & Dennis’s news, even a swim for relaxation in the heated pool and generally enjoy the amenities and spectacular views.
All food is locally sourced and delicious, breakfast, lunch and dinner with wine is included.  So next morning, after a lovely breakfast (Gilly’s granola is fab.) we started the stitching.
The project we worked on was the del Robbia Fruit Wreath; last year we did another Wreath panel with the Paschal Lamb in the centre and another wreath to coordinate and possibly make a pair was voted for.   This Fruit wreath had clusters of lemons and the Arms of Arezzo in the centre.    Similar to the first one Shadow stitching was used.
If you are not familiar with shadow stitching it allows the painted design to show through and gives both a soft gentle look and takes less stitching time that the traditional basket weave.

While this type of stitching it is comparatively new to me, some years ago I designed a series called ‘Patchwork’.  Here the canvas was painted in a patchwork fashion of colours and then stitched over with lacy stitches allowing the paint work to show through.   One had a beautiful Iris painted, another allowed the stitcher to have their initial.

Within the Fruit Wreath design, each student choose to do the complete design as the original or use elements to suit their desires.  One left the whole of the centre free to take a mirror, another replaced the Arezzo coat of arms with her own shield! and yet another stitched only the Arezzo Castle with a dramatic border.    Everyone working on a similar theme makes for a useful exchange of ideas which I find so rewarding.  I shall hope to share some of these variations when finished.
Besides stitching – no hardship sitting under a vine covered patio – we were also there to visit some of the Tuscan treasures, medieval hill top villages, interesting museums and art collections, churches with important art work and of course a little shopping!  Sadly we did find our rate of exchange (both dollars and sterling) not contusive to many purchases.   

This time we revisited Anghiari. The village famous for the Battle in 1440 and the painting by Leonardo da Vinci slightly later (1505) to commemorate it.   This painting has been lost although some believe that it is ‘under’ a fresco in Florence.   Arranged for us was a private visit to the famous Busatti Linen factory (web site if you would like a peep at their range) and a leisurely walk up and down the narrow streets with countless photo opportunities. 
On another day we went to Sansepolcro the birth place of Pietro Della Francesco and home to one of my favourite museums, the Aboca Herb museum ( but should you visit be sure to pick up the guide book.    That evening we had  a great dinner in one of Dennis’s favourite restaurants Il Dongione in the nearby village of San Giustino. 

Both Gilly and Dennis are already working on some alternative visits for us next time, there are so many great places to visit we only have to return to firm favourites from the previous visit.

I do hope I have given you some idea of a stitching retreat such as this;  I keep it small, friendly, almost entirely price inclusive and a great solution for people who wish to travel, stress free, with a likeminded group.

A full fact sheet (being prepared as we speak) with some great early bird offers) will be shortly available and I should be happy to send it to you

Finally if you can’t wait till next April, we do have a trip to Calabria in Southern Italy this September for which again I should be happy to send details.






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.