fabric bird 2

Another wren. The most difficult thing I’ve found with these birds is stitching the underbody gusset to the main body pieces without leaving a gap or creating a fold at the ends. I’m hoping that the more birds I made, the easier the process will be.


fabric bird

I recently bought a secondhand copy of The Artful Bird by Abigail Patner Glassenberg who blogs at whileshenaps.com. The book has 20+ pages on techniques and several on materials and tools and I read through all those pages twice before starting on the wren, which according to the book is the one to master, after which the other birds will come “relatively easily”. I found some parts of the construction slightly challenging, particularly free-motion machine embroidering the wing parts once they’d been made up so I’d do that differently in future.

The book does not state if a particular level of expertise is necessary for making the birds but having made the wren I would say that it’s not a book for a complete novice. Abby recommends that even those with sewing experience read the instructions carefully and I concur! The wren was fun to make and I like the idea of a small flock of fabric fun birds perched around my work room so I’m looking forward to making some of the others.


a little glimpse

…into what I’m currently embroidering in the evenings – Humpty Dumpty shouting in the messenger’s ear, original illustration by Sir John Tenniel for Alice Through the Looking Glass. I’m working my way down from top to bottom and I although I have done more than you can see here, there’s still a fair amount to stitch.

humpty and the messenger

tasseled box

This box is based on one from Janet Edmonds book on Embroidered Boxes. I’d had this book reserved at my local library since March but a recent enquiry as to its whereabouts revealed that it has been ‘borrowed’ permanently by someone. Grrrr. Fortunately I was able to source a copy from Oxfam in Dunstable via Amazon which arrived beautifully wrapped and in less time than I’ve been waiting for the library copy. I didn’t add as much bling as the boxes in Janet’s book appear to have simply because I didn’t have supplies of suitable bling to hand and I was impatient to make a box. The construction method was slightly different to what I’ve used before and the box was not as firm as I thought it might be but the lack of additional layers of braids and bling might be to blame for that. The feet aren’t visible in this picture but they’re button knots tied in lengths of rat tail cord. The box is approximately 5.5″ tall at the peak of the lid.  The sun has hardly shone this week so this is the best photograph so far.

tasseled box

Stitched Safari

The Stitched Safari book by Tomomi Maeda was delivered on Saturday and I have no doubt I’ll be attempting one or two of the animals before long. The rhinoceros looks really appealing with his armoured hide made from varying shades of grey, brown, beige and off-white felt, and the flamingo is really sweet. Unfortunately there are only two dog patterns, a Pug and a Shiba, neither of which is my favourite type of dog but I’m sure the patterns could be easily adapted to a different breed.

The instructions are well written, accompanied by lots of diagrams and there are plenty of photographs taken from different angles, something which is often lacking in other similar books. 21 gauge plastic wire is used to give limbs stability and flexibility but I’d probably just use wire from my supplies as I’ve never had a need for plastic wire and therefore don’t possess any. The patterns are printed on fold-out sheets attached to the inside back cover with a recommendation that the patterns be photocopied rather than cutting the original patterns. The pattern pieces for each animal are grouped together with the name of the animal printed nearby but it might be easy to select a pattern piece that didn’t belong to the animal you were making since the pieces are not individually identified with the name of the animal, only the body part (see image below). If I planned to make several of these animals at the same time, I’d mark my copied pattern pieces with some kind of code to identify the animal, and store the cut pattern pieces for each animal in separate envelopes. DSCF8034

I’m looking forward to making my first animal but not just yet as I’m still enjoying the stumpwork and yesterday I began another one!


Embroidered Portraits arrived today


This post is mainly a book review so I won’t be offended if you skip town now.


Jan Messent’s Embroidered Portraits arrived this morning, delivered in a grey plastic heat-sealed bag, Royal Mail approved for sending books, and there was no unnecessary extra packing inside unlike yesterday’s delivery. Once I’d taken the book out of the bag I sat down for a long read and there are indeed plenty of ideas, inspiration and techniques just as it says on the cover. The cover photograph shows a portrait that is pure embroidery with no appliqué or raised work of any kind and I thought that was slightly misleading.  You wouldn’t know from the cover that there are no such projects in the book although there are additional photographs and approximately half a page of text explaining how it was embroidered.

Facial features for the rest of the portraits are either painted with watercolours, drawn with coloured pencils, or embroidered and the excellent close-up photographs throughout the book make it easy to see just what was done and how. Supplies required to make a portrait are cheap to buy and easy to source if you don’t have them already. The costumes can be made from scraps of fabric and lace or even worked partly or all in needlelace if you were so inclined although this book doesn’t show you how to do needlelace. The texts for the construction methods for three types of head (full frontal, profile and three-quarters) are easy to follow and there are plenty of accompanying photographs to refer to. There are lots of suggestions for making hair, wigs and costumes and Jan even has an alternative to the wrapped-wire hands generally found in stumpwork, using cord-padded fabric cut into a hand shape and outline stitched around the cord to indicate fingers. I can’t post a photograph from the book to explain this so you’ll have to wait until I make some myself. Or buy a copy of the book for yourself, I certainly recommend it if you think you’d like this kind of craft.

This afternoon I began to read the book in greater depth but I just couldn’t wait ’til I got to the end before ‘having a go’. This is where I got to after about an hour and a half. Still a long way to go and at the moment it reminds me of Boy George – no insult intended! I haven’t yet decided if it will be male or female or what the hairstyle or the costume might be but I’m sure I’ll have fun choosing. I got so involved in this that I forgot to go to my exercise class but as far as I’m concerned there’s no contest!


tut tut Amazon!

Within an hour of publishing the last post, I received a delivery from Amazon but the box was too large for just one or two books and extremely lightweight to boot. In the past, books have been delivered in cardboard envelope-type packages only slightly larger than the book within so I was puzzled as to what might be in today’s box and decided to take photographs as I opened it.





It will be recycled but even so, what an excess of paper and cardboard to send one book measuring just 26 x 26 cm! It also seems pointless to have the protective paper only on top of the book as the book was able to slide around the bottom of the box. Was it impossible to find a smaller package? Tut Tut Amazon!


The book in the box was the copy of New Designs in Raised Embroidery I’d ordered and after a quick read, I have to say that I wish I’d bought it a lot sooner! It’s an excellent complement to Barbara and Roy Hirsts’ first book Raised Embroidery and is definitely not just a re-hash of that with updated photographs. Where most stumpwork books focus on flowers and insects, both the Hirsts’ books are mainly about figures and that’s what made me buy the first one all those years ago. This follow-up book includes mermaids, royal miniature portraits, a boat, sheep, and even an orchestra and the ubiquitous stumpwork bumble bees, butterflies and crickets are nowhere to be found within the covers of either book! Hurrah!