Thursday, 9 March 2023

 Catching Up

I think it’s time to catch up with all of you.


I’m not great at putting out newsletters and that’s mostly because we’re so busy getting on with all of the things that need to be done to create what we create and get those products out to you.  I have, however, gone a bit quiet – particularly on social media – over the last few months and there’s a reason for that.  It’s the learning curve, the journey that we’ve all been on since the whole world went online, started Zooming. 


In September last year I acquired a wonderful new video camera, on the advice of someone who knows a lot about these things.  It is one with high resolution – sometimes too high – and I sit most days, 7 days a week, making new stitch and technique videos.  As I do each one, I work up new illustrations and instructions.  Then I upload them on our tuition site.


I am fully aware of the fact that I don’t make things easy.  I modify ‘other’ needlework techniques for use in embroidery, I invent things and I also tweak existing stitches to make them somewhat out of the ordinary.  Then I must teach people what to do because as much as I explain them in my stitch instructions, sometimes it is just better to demonstrate, show how it’s done. 


As much as I have had plenty to say about the political reaction to Covid (and don’t get me started on the vaccinations, I was one who had a reaction to it), the one thing that it did do is to force all of us kicking and screaming into doing things online.  It forced me to learn how to do videography, a thing I was always a bit scared of (if I’m honest).


I started with a GoPro on my head.  It worked and worked quite well but all the time, I knew it wasn’t quite good enough.  With a bit of homework, a bit of experience, a bit of advice, I am now satisfied – with the new camera – that the resolution is darn good.  Other than my fingers sometimes getting in the way, you really can see exactly what I’m doing and that is why I am redoing every single clip. 


Other than updating the clips on the existing online workshops, most importantly, I am updating the online needle lace dictionary.  My needle lace techniques book is no longer available and I’m not sure that it’s going to be reprinted.  I might put out a publication in the future but for now, I am making all of those stitches available online, in that dictionary.  Each stitch comes with a video and a downloadable pdf instruction sheet.  One that includes a diagram and, as always, the words. 


If you’ve already bought that product, you will find that every time you access it, it has changed slightly.  Been added to, video clips changed, and pdf instructions added.  If you haven’t and would like to buy it, click here and you’ll be taken to the page on our website where you can order it.   Once you’ve completed the order, our website automatically emails the access document to you, you click on the link, the access document opens up and you just follow the instructions to get into the private domain.  It’s a good idea to save it somewhere on your hard drive so that when you want to access it again, you know where that document is.

You might not want to have the entire needle lace dictionary or, you might want other stitches.  Maybe the needle weaving or some of those tweaks and inventions of mine.  Whilst still being added to, those are available by clicking here.  If you surf through that category on our website, you’ll find all sorts of embroidery, needle weaving and embroidery techniques which are available to purchase at a very reasonable price.  Each one consists of a video clip and pdf instructions with diagram/s and like with the needle lace dictionary, when you place the order, access is automatically emailed to you. 


Or not.  Because sometimes things decide not to work like they’re supposed to.  But then, you just drop me an email and I make sure you get what you need to have.


If you want to see the quality of the videos and instructions, have a look at this page.  It will give you a reasonable idea.

In between all this high-powered technological stuff, I have completed my bead embroidery techniques book and it is currently at the printers being printed.  It is available as an e-book here but for those of you that would prefer a hard copy, it’s on the way and as with most things, when we have it in stock, I’ll announce it on our Facebook Page.   


If you don’t already follow us on Facebook, may I suggest that you do.  We find that it is the best way to get things out to everyone and we use it whenever we have something to announce.  I post on Instagram as well, but I find that I’m not very good at that, so Facebook is the better option.

In between all of this, I still stitch.  Believe it or not.  The image above is a small design, colourful, interesting stitches and well, just pretty.  One of my proof stitchers is currently busy stitching through it and as soon as she’s done with it, we’ll print the books of instructions and make the kit available on our website.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I get the urge to work in monochromes.  So, that’s the image above and like with the previous design, one of my proof stitchers is currently busy stitching through it and as soon as she’s done with it, we’ll print the books of instructions and make the kits available on our website.


When I sent my crazy patchwork book off to my publisher, she phoned me to tell that it was a veritable encyclopaedia.  This prompted us to count up all of the techniques featured in that book, and it came to something like 160.  The main reason for that is because my original idea for the book was to explore the concept of embellishing crazy patch ‘from scratch’.  In other words, why stitch on a piece of machine-made lace when you can work needle lace in situ.  Why turf on a button when you can put a 3-dimensional beadwork flower in that place.  I took it even further by doing one or two of the designs that were truly from scratch.  Even the ‘patches’ which would normally be pieces of fabric, were worked with weaving, needle lace or embroidery techniques to resemble crazy patchwork.


I had such fun working up that book and there is a special place in my heart for the embellishment of crazy patchwork because each little area is like a small project on its own.

So, coming soon – as soon as I’ve finished the other videos – is an online workshop which I am going to call the Embellishment of Crazy Patchwork.  It’s an extensive workshop that will involve some live sessions and also, lots and lots of access to videos of the techniques on the tuition website.


Also on their way are some of the workshops that I did online for the EGA last year.  Specifically, Tumbleweeds 1 and 3. 


When these become available, you can choose to do them on your own or – having now got some experience of online workshops, my advice is to do them in groups.  Because online teaching is somewhat remote, we have found that when people are gathered in groups, they help each other here and there.  Because one person understands the concept quicker and better than others and can assist those that haven’t quite got it.


I find it so frustrating when I hear someone battling in the background and can’t just say, ‘give me your hoop, I’ll show you’.  But those gathered in groups tend to help one another and at the end of the day, everyone gets it – even those sitting on their own at home.  It just takes longer.


So, keep an eye on our announcements.  As soon as all these things are ready, we will announce them.


And if you thought I had given up writing books, I haven’t.  Phillipa Turnbull and I are collaborating on a book that will best be described as A Timeline of Crewel Embroidery.  Phillipa, with her historical knowledge and expertise, will be doing the historical stuff and I will be doing the more modern interpretation of this wonderful genre.  We are both providing three designs.  One each a floral design, one each an animal design and then, one design that starts off with an identical drawing which will be interpreted by each of us.  Great fun to do and as I am always getting requests for designs that incorporate pets, as opposed to wild animals, my animal design includes a tabby cat. 


Here's a little hint of the kitty.  

We don’t have cats because Boxer dogs and cats are not a good mix.  Not kind to the cats.  My son has a tabby cat called Tiny (because he was found in the wheel arch of a truck, very tiny, very young and was hand reared to adulthood).  I send him phone photos of my progress and he assures me that what I’m doing looks just like Tiny. 


So, somehow between all of this we manage to still play with the dogs in between working.  Duke the Bulldog and Donald the Boxer love their tugs-of-war with the rope toys every morning, throughout the morning and we keep going between our power cuts – I’m currently working in the dark with my computer on an inverter.


It is worth mentioning, while I have your attention, that the electricity problems in South Africa are so bad that it is not out of the realms of possibility that there will be a complete grid collapse.  The whole country will go down and apparently it will take two to three weeks to get it going again.  We have alternatives in the form of generators, solar and inverters in our own home but I suspect that if the grid collapses, internet and communications generally will disappear. 


So, if you have emailed me and don’t get a reply in a reasonable time, google something along the lines of ‘South African power grid collapse’.  You might find that it’s happened and you’ll then just have to be patient, knowing that I will get back to you as soon as I can.


You can also think about the fact that we will be surviving on the tinned and dry goods that we have stocked up on.  Because we won’t be able to buy anything.  We won’t be able to draw cash and the card machines won’t work.  Oh well.  Maybe it won’t happen but if it does, we have prepared for it.


So, that’s my catch up.  As I’ve said, keep any eye open for our announcements.  As soon as I get all these things finished, ready to roll, we’ll announce it on the Facebook Page.  Click on the link to begin to follow us, if you don’t already.


Sunday, 3 May 2020

My First Online Workshop

My First Online Workshop

It's taken me the five weeks of our lockdown and I have done it. I have taught myself videography (with the help of my wonderful son).

My first online workshop is ready to go and you can go to the online workshops page on my website by clicking here to watch the trailer. 
The first workshop - because of a promise I made to some lovely ladies in Australia last year - is how to make the beaded flowers that feature in some of the designs in the Crewel Creatures book and also, in Clive the Chameleon that was published in Inspirations Magazine.

If you have been scared to attempt these flowers, or if you have tried and failed, this workshop is what you have been waiting for.

So watch the little clip and see if it takes your fancy. If it does, you can register to do this workshop here

At this stage we are unable to send you kits because of our lockdown, but all the materials you require, and suggestions as to where you can get those things, are in the product description on that page.  You may even have a lot of what you need.

I am also well on my way to a second workshop which will include, amongst other things, my needle lace (for embroidery) techniques and my needle weaving using traditional loom weaving patterns.  Like with this workshop, there will be very detailed verbal instruction and footage along with downloadable written instructions.
Phew!  It's been hard, frustrating work - learning something completely new.  But I've done it and I do hope you will join me in my first online workshop.


Thursday, 16 April 2020

In the Era of Covid-19

We're all going through a miserable time because of a little thing that we can't even see, a little bug that has most of us in lock down, confined to our homes, only allowed out for groceries.  

In our country, the rules are draconian.  I can't even send out orders because the couriers are not allowed to operate, other than for essential goods.  So, I have a pile of orders waiting here until that regulation is lifted.  I hate that because we pride ourselves on getting our orders out very quickly - usually on the same day - and I feel awful having to email customers to tell them that I can't send their orders for the next few weeks.  

And then the lock down was extended, so I have had to extend that date.  But all is not lost.  

For a few years now I have been intending to work up online classes. I bought the GoPro video camera and I acquired the editing software.  I thought about it for a long time then put it all away for another day.  

In my own defence, I have written about 8 books in as many years.  I've also lost count of the overseas trips that I have done, teaching at conferences, conventions, seminars and I have to sit quietly to count up the number of countries that I've been to - some of them multiple times - many of those since I bought the video equipment.  Just so little time (or energy) left over after all that and not helped by the fact that I have bred a few litters of puppies in the same period.

If I am to be honest though, I've been a little scared of the whole thing.  That's rather silly because I'm not stupid or even that technologically handicapped.  

Over the years I have taught myself to transpose music on Encore, even done some orchestrations on the same software.  I have taught myself how to use Paintshop Pro and later, Photoshop.  I can manipulate photos like a pro - the most common task being to clone out dog hairs (they get everywhere).  I have taught myself how to do all the beading and stitch illustrations on Illustrator and, with the same software, digitise all my line drawings.  

In between all of that, I have written all my old LP's to CD (I think that was a midlife crisis) and since then, I've converted them all to MP3's so that I can listen to music on a 'boom box', the brightest thing you've ever seen.  Doesn't fit in with my decor, but plays nice music.  Using the same software, I have even worked up all the clips and medleys needed for those quiz evenings at Beating Around the Bush Embroidery Convention.

So, as I said, not technologically handicapped in any major way.  I will admit that I have never been much interested in photography or videography - have learnt as much as I need to and no more than that.  My son, on the other hand, has been passionately interested in all of that, even studied it, qualified as a everything from a camera man to an editor, everything media.  His partner, who he met at university doing the same course, is similarly adept at all this stuff.

And still, I procrastinated.  But with this lock down, I had no excuses left.  What better way to spend the lock down than by learning a new skill.

And I have.

The photograph above is a little 3-dimensional bead flower/bead embroidery project that I completed last night and I recorded the whole thing on video.

That was interesting.  You have it connected to your iPad by wifi (which took some working out, I have to say), and that is sitting where you can see what it calls the 'preview'.  Then you have to work out exactly where to put the camera so that it records what you want it to record.  I started with it on my head in a head strap, but that was too far away and to cut a long story short, I ended up doing the whole thing with the camera in the dashboard stand shoved down my cleavage and held stable by my bra.  Needs must and all that.

I am also well on my way to getting the editing thing under my belt.  The first two lessons of what is probably going to be a four lesson workshop are done, except for the voice over.  It has involved cries for help, phone calls to my son, him connecting to my computer via Team Viewer (he lives in Cape Town, the opposite end of the country) and there will be more cries for help once I start the voice over - there has to be voice over as if I recorded my voice while stitching there would be dogs barking and all sorts of other household noises.

So, watch this space.  It not that far off.  If you are not already following me on Facebook - my page is Hazel Blomkamp's Fine Needlecraft - then go there and follow me, because I will announce it on Facebook when it's set to go.  

I have started with a bead flower project because of a promise I made to a bunch of ladies in Australia last year - that bead flowers would be first.  This afternoon, however, I will be starting a design that includes, amongst other things, my needle lace and my needle weaving techniques.

I suspect that for the foreseeable future we are all going to be resorting to doing a lot more of this kind of thing online.  I imagine that, until a vaccine for this nasty virus has been developed, we are going to be travelling a whole lot less.  I suspect that, even if we are prepared to travel we might not be allowed into countries unless we can prove that either we have had it and are therefore immune, or we will be required to produce proof of vaccination.  And until there is a vaccination, we won't be able to do that. 

We have another two weeks of lock down and even then, I think we will be facing a different world.  My current concern is that there won't be any flights from Johannesburg down to my local airport because on or around the 13th of May, I want to fly a puppy down.

On the last day of last year we lost our very precious old man, Neville to prostate cancer.  One of my saddest days.  We knew it was coming and he had reached a very good age for a Boxer, but still.  He was a unique and very special personality, I always felt privileged to call him mine.  Then, about a month ago, Brenda didn't look right.  Nothing I could put my finger on, just not herself.  I took her into the vet.  She spent the whole afternoon there having x rays, bloods, all the tests and without going into too much detail, two weeks later she was dead from a fast growing cancer, one that grew too fast to be able to do anything about.  And she was only 7 years old.  

We still have Lily and Monica so, not completely devoid of dogs but about two weeks ago, I was contacted by a breeder who knew that I had lost two of my precious Boxers.  She told me that there was a very well bred puppy (imported parents, all the bells and whistles and most important, from nice natured mum and dad) that had been born with a hare lip.  Just the split lip, no cleft palate.  Strong, suckling well, had been properly examined by a vet and nothing else found.  She wondered if I would be prepared to take him on - because he needs to go to people who wouldn't want to show him.  He also needs to go to a place that loves Boxers.

It didn't take me very long at all to decide that, even though I wasn't really ready for a puppy - still mourning the two I lost so close together, so recently - I would happily have him.  That I could give him a long and happy life.  She sent me some quite graphic photos of his lip, his palate, his slightly split nose which (because we were already in lock down) I forwarded to my vets.  Their opinion was that his problem is purely cosmetic and will only need surgery if we find he battles to eat, picks up infections - all unlikely - so I confirmed that I would take him.  

So, here he is.  The little fella sitting up on the right, the lighter one with lots of white.

A few years ago, a certain name started being bandied about on all the news channels (still is, daily) and at the time I thought to myself, that's an excellent name for a boy dog.  Why have I not thought about that before?  It's got a good, strong first syllable, one that he will definitely hear when I call him and I'm going to call my next male dog by that name.

So, his name is Donald.

It has been suggested to me that with that split lip, he may bark with a lisp.  In which case, we will call him Donald the Thnoop Dog.

We will welcome him, love him, enjoy his antics and give him a long, happy life.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Crewel Birds

Open for pre-ordering

I heard yesterday afternoon that the ship carrying my Crewel Birds book has docked in Cape Town.  This means that within a very short space of time, boxes and boxes of books will be arriving at our gate.  So exciting when this happens, almost as good as receiving the advance copies.

I have spent this morning publishing everything on the website and opening it all up for pre-order, if you want to get in there quickly.  Not that we intend to run out of anything.

If you want to order the book you will find it here.

But.  Before you do that, we are doing a launch special.  We have put together 5 specials, all of which include one of my previous books along with the Birds book, both together at a good price.  So, if you want one of those older books along with the Birds book, now is the time to get that book.  You will find those specials here.

What about the packs you might ask?  Well, those are up there, ready to be ordered too.  If you order them now, along with the books, we will put your order together and hold onto it until we can add the new book.  Be assured, your order will go out on the day that the books arrive.  So, here are the links for the packs for the six projects in the book.

The packs for Claude the Phoenix are available here

The next project in the book is Colin the Rooster and you can find the packs for him here.

Then there's Dave the Pheasant and you'll find all the paraphernalia for him here.

Dave is followed by Kevin, also a pheasant but more fanciful, designed to be more 'Jacobean'.  His packs are here.

Named after a beautiful boy dog that I had some years ago, Dick the Duck's packs can be found here.

Last but by no means least, there is Nigel the Flamingo and his packs are to be found here.

All of these projects are approximately the same size and were designed with the intention of putting them together in one 'rag book', instructions for the making of which are in the Crewel Birds book.  So that they would be sufficiently stable to form the page of a book, they have all been sandwiched and quilted.  We fully expect that many of you will not want to do that as without the quilting rigmarole they will still make a beautiful framed picture or even a cushion.  If you order the full kit, you will get the batting.  If you don't want the batting, order each pack separately.  

So, there you go.  Do you worst. 

And while you're on our website you may notice that it's had a bit of a spring clean.  It now looks cleaner and crisper, ordering information that, I hope, covers all the questions I am asked is up there, as are photographs and information on all our staff - so you know who you are communicating with. 

I didn't upload the information for the last two books, someone else did.  Someone who didn't spell very well (my favourite being the indelible ink that was inedible). It seemed like a good idea to make the time to correct all of that while we were waiting for the new book.  If you find any more spelling mistakes (I dare you) you'd better let me know.  I'll hang my head in shame and correct them. 

With kind regards,

Monday, 29 July 2019

World Embroidery Day 30th July Promotion

World Embroidery Day 30th July

At around lunchtime on Saturday, this past weekend, I finished writing my forthcoming bird book.

My husband had arrived home with a couple of boxes of cupcakes which he had bought at a local child welfare charity event and in order to celebrate I indulged my sweet tooth by making a jolly good effort to eat the lot - no I didn't eat them all, but I gave it a good try. But stuffing my face with baked goods is not really enough and as the end of that huge task almost coincides with world embroidery day, I can't think of a better reason to have a little promotion on our website.

So, if you go to World Embroidery Day Promotion in the Online Shop on our website you will find that all of the books I have written have been marked down by 25% for the next week. In addition to the books, we have a selection of full kits that have been marked down by 30% if you buy the full kits and 25% if you buy the packs individually.

So, have fun and in the meantime here's a little taste of the birds. The book will be called Crewel Birds and in it you will find:

Claude the Fanciful Phoenix

Colin the Rooster

Dave the Pheasant

Kevin the Fanciful Pheasant

Dick the Duck

and a not great photo of Nigel the Flamingo

It's a way off yet as we still need to do the photo shoot - which will only happen in early October as I have to travel to Australia and back before I get myself down to Cape Town for that.  Then, of course, Metz Press do the book design, it goes off to print and then they are all loaded on a ship to get to us here in South Africa and the various other countries.  At the moment I don't have any projected publication date but I am going to say March/April 2020.

So, there you have it.  In the meantime, have a look at our promotion and - because I can't help myself, I am going to finish with a photo of Tony.  

A few weeks ago, Lily and I met up in a park with a few of the puppies from her litter.  Monica, who I kept, came too as did, amongst others, Tony who went to a friend.  They walked and ran, roughed and tumbled, climbed up grassy hillocks, had so much fun and on the way home in the car Tony was so tired that he just fell asleep without taking the time to lie down.  We're meeting regularly and it is quite the best way to spend a few hours on a weekend afternoon.

Till next time, 

Saturday, 6 April 2019

We've come up for air.......

We've had a really slow start to the year with building alterations to our studio.

We added two extra rooms and, best of all, tiled the floors throughout. This building was originally a double garage and servants' quarters, so not great floors and dust was a huge problem.

So, with the floors being done, we had to move out completely and put everything in my house. Kit stock bins, crates of thread boxes, stationery, sewing and winding machines - you name it, the spare bedrooms, the lounge and dining room, the passages, even one of the bathrooms and the kitchen didn't escape and this was for the whole of January and most of February. We continued to work, get the orders out, from our study which suddenly became inhabited by extra computers, printers, etc.

Building, by its very nature, always takes longer, costs more than you anticipate and makes a mess. If the truth be told, we should have done these alterations years ago but one has to face all this, along with one of our dogs that barks incessantly when we have workmen on the property. So, we didn't do it. But eventually needs must and all that.

Eventually it was all finished and we moved back into what is now a wonderful space, in the first half of March. We have enough space for everything - in fact, more than we need but you can be certain we'll fill it up, that happens. We even have electrical sockets where we need them, lights as we want them, with floor space for dog beds, gotta have the dog beds.

So now, having got ourselves supremely sorted out, stock recorded, website up to date, we are ready to celebrate with a 25% off everything sale.

If you go to our website, everything is marked down for the next two weeks. We have good stocks of everything, but as is normally the case, don't wait too long as stock tends to go fast when we have a promotion. Our website works in such a way that things disappear when stocks have run out so, if something doesn't appear it is because that particular item has sold out already.

As far as the rest of the year is concerned, I will be in Australia in September teaching at the Perth Embroidery Guild's 50th anniversary Threads of Gold convention. I will be travelling over a couple of weeks before the convention and doing a bit of a round trip, teaching in Brisbane, Caloundra, Geelong, Bendigo and in the Perth Hills. These workshops have been organised by the guilds and various groups in those centres and may or may not be open to non-group/guild members but if you would like the details, email me on and I will put you in touch with the relevant person.

Before I leave for Australia I intend to finish (have to finish) my Crewel Birds book. The intended publication date for that book is around March/April 2020 and it will comprise 6 birds - 2 of them in a very Jacobean style (firebird, phoenix, that kind of thing) and the other 4 will be quite non-traditional. A rooster, a pheasant, a mallard duck and a flamingo. Here's a little taste of two of them and I hope that they will garner approval from you.

I so enjoyed designing and stitching the birds in my Crewel Creatures book that I felt the need to do more, so a whole book of them. Currently being stitched and written under distracting circumstances, however, because we have seven weapons of mass distraction.

Bred with my heart and not my head with Lily, who has her father's beautiful temperament and her mother's mischief, the perfect dog. Perfection that had to be passed on. Father is Freddie who belongs to a friend and also have a lovely nature, as well as being a very handsome chap. They were born by C-Section on the 6th of March and are now just over four weeks old. At around 3 weeks, they turned from little blobby, ratty things into dogs. Puppies that play, bark, fight, eat hungrily and give us endless hours of pleasure. We just sit and stare at them, even if they're not doing much at all. Puppies do that to you.

Unlike her mother's litter which had to be hand-reared when Brenda got terrible mastitis, this has gone so smoothly. Lily is the most exceptional mother, all the puppies are healthy and we are in puppy heaven. And there are three white puppies, like Grandad, so I'll be keeping one of those, for sure. One of the little girls and her name is Monica.

We did try to let her have the puppies naturally but had expected that not to happen because Brenda and Brenda's mother didn't go into second stage labour and Lily obviously has the same genetic thing, so after a few hours at home in the early hours, I took her into the animal hospital as soon as they opened, and the decision was made. It was an interesting morning at the vet, even landed up with an article in our local newspaper and if you want to read about it, you can access it here. Talk about being exposed, my potty mouth. The vet who wrote that does a regular column for our local rag and is an old friend of mine. We often swear at each other.

Freddie, the father, in the meantime has gone in for the chop, poor boy. A day or two before the puppies were born he got into an altercation with a monkey in his garden and came off second best. He was stitched up, got rabies' boosters, lots of antibiotics, all sorts of things and learnt nothing from the experience. The moment he was feeling up to it he was out chasing monkeys again, so he sealed his fate. But at least we got a really nice bunch of babies before all that. Silly boy.

So, having given you an update on Boxer dogs in Africa, all that remains is to say take advantage of our 25% off sale. We hope to switch on our computers to a full inbox on Monday and, as always, will get everything out to you as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Till next time, Hazel