Saturday 10 June 2023


Our Mid-Year Sale

For the last eight or nine months I have been working on stitch videos and also, video dictionaries for all of the designs in our current range.  

These dictionaries comprise videos of varying lengths that cover all of the stitches or techniques in any particular design.  Along with each video clip is a comprehensive downloadable step-by-step guide for that particular stitch or technique.  

So, this is what it all looks like, using the Barry the Tiger dictionary for these examples.

When you order any particular dictionary, our website will send you an access document to the private domain where that dictionary is located on our tuition website.  You block and then copy the password by pressing cntrl C on your keyboard.  This copies the password.  Then you click on the link that is provided on the access document.  When the page opens up in your browser, it will look like the image above.  You click in the password box and press cntrl V on your keyboard.  This copies the password into that box - it will show up as a line of dots - and then you click enter.  

The page should then open and will look like the the image below.  If it doesn't open you've done something wrong.  You can email us and we'll guide you through it.  But with time zones and what have you, you might not get an immediate reply so, quicker and easier will be to find a teenage boy to help you.  They can do this kind of thing in their sleep.

Once you're into the private domain, scroll down and you will find general information that describes what is on the page.  All of the stitch videos are worked on small samples and a little way down you will find the link to a templates document.  

When you click on that, a page will open in another window.

The red arrow in the image above shows you where you need to click to either download, or more likely to print the document so that you will be able to trace the templates onto your doodle cloth.

Scrolling further, you will find the video clips.  Below each clip there is a link.  If you click on that link, another page will open.  Once again, this page is downloadable and printable, as indicated by the red arrow in the image below.  

This is the PDF document that gives you step-by-step instructions, along with tips, variations and clear illustrations.

Each video clip has an additional downloadable PDF with instructions, in much the same format with some running to quite a few pages.

Each video clip is embedded on the page and to watch it, you click the red play button as shown by the green arrow in the image above.  

Each video has been filmed in high resolution, edited with additional zooming in and given a voice over which, along with the PDF instructions, should give you everything you need to know about each stitch.

If you are familiar with watching videos online, you will know that you can click on the icon in the bottom right corner if you want the clip to show in full screen.

You may choose to work the stitches directly onto your project or, if you are uncertain (especially where some of the more complicated stitches are concerned), you can experiment, work them onto a doodle cloth using the templates provided.  That's up to you.

As I said to you at the start of this newsletter, it is a huge project and is taking a long, long time but for now, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I have got about 12 dictionaries up and available on THIS PAGE on our website.  

They are divided up into categories that seemed logical to me, i.e. which book each design belongs to and then the non-book, or studio designs.

You can order these dictionaries directly from that page or, if you need the kit as well, a link is provided on the dictionary page.  That will take you to the page from which you can order the kit and if you choose, you can order both kit and dictionary on that second page. 

When you purchase one of our stitch dictionaries, your name and email address will be added to our Q and A list.  Starting in August, you will be sent an invitation to join a monthly Q and A session.  These will typically last an hour or two and will give you the opportunity to clear up any confusion you might have with regard to any of the projects.  Or, to just join us anyway to show us how you are doing.


This dictionary project is by no means over.  I will be adding to it all the time.  

I'm not going to say every day because, depending on how many videos I have available or whether I have to make additional video clips, a single dictionary can take me anything up to a fortnight.  

Coming next is Norman the Tortoise, probably followed by Maureen the Owl, both from the Crewel Creatures book.  

As each one becomes available, I will announce it on our Facebook page.  I will also be adding dictionaries for designs that have featured in Inspirations Magazine and also, the Inspirations' Passion for Needlework books.  

Frank the Zebra won't be available yet because I am doing that as an exclusive online workshop for the EGA.  

Bookings for that one open on the 5th of July on THIS PAGE, so if you'd like to do that full workshop (it's not just the dictionary but a full workshop) and you are a member of the EGA, diarise that date and book for it.

Like Frank, Colin the Rooster and Creative Crewel are also not yet available because I will be doing those as exclusive online workshops attached to the Boston Stitch Party.  

Information about those virtual workshops are on THIS PAGE.  Like Frank the Zebra above, these will be full workshops, with live sessions, not just the dictionaries.

I have also been asked to do Gladness the Giraffe as a virtual workshop for the Canadian Guilds.  We're still working on the details of that one and I will post those when I have them.  Like the EGA workshops, that will only be available to members of the Canadian guilds.

And now.....

You might not need a whole dictionary to work up a particular project.  For example, you are no stranger to backstitch, fly stitch, chain stitch, etc. but you're flummoxed when it comes to a needle lace stitch, or a needle weaving pattern.   

To accommodate you, you can get hold of those stitches individually and you'll find those on THIS PAGE.  You will find the stitches are divided up into logical categories and you can surf through those categories to see what is there. 

And those simple stitches?  You'll find them HERE and HERE.  

Have a look at those two pages because, if you click on any of those stitches you will be taken to the page with the instructions and the video clip.  These give you a good idea of what you'll find in the dictionaries.  They are much same as the pages in the dictionaries and the mini-stitch workshops.

So, if you've got this far, if you're still reading this 'novel' that I'm writing, and if you've had a look at all the pages, I think you'll understand with all the work so far, with the fact that we're beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not a train coming towards us), we needed to have a minor celebration by having a mid-year sale with a 25% discount on everything on our website.  It includes the only other new item that we've got out this year - the Bead Embroidery techniques book which is on THIS PAGE.

Obviously, our virtual products don't have to be shipped, our website sends you everything you need to get into the domains on our tuition website.  When it comes to physical items, the things we have to send to you, like with all of our international sales, shipping is expensive.  I wish we could do something about it but we can't.  We don't add anything onto the courier costs.  Sadly it costs what it costs and because of this, my advice is to get together with members of your groups and guilds, place a combined order and share the shipping cost.  It works on a sliding scale and a heavier parcel is very much cheaper per item than the contents of a small parcel.  I did a calculation for a group order at the beginning of the year and whilst I knew there was a difference, even I was surprised at how much cheaper it worked out for each individual, if they did a combined parcel.

There is however, one little shining light.  It seems that our politicians may have loaded arms on a ship and sent them to a place where they should not have gone.  When it became public knowledge, the value of our currency plummeted and if you are buying in another currency, that's very much to your advantage.  Not just in terms of the products, but also the shipping costs.  

So with that, I think I've said everything I need to say.  I hope you'll like the idea of the online stitch dictionaries and, in closing, if there is a dictionary that you'd particularly like to have, please let me know because I will probably be able to move it up on my list and get it up there sooner than I might otherwise have intended.

So now, go off to our website HERE and have some fun.

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.