Monday, 25 November 2013

Am I Unreasonable

If you look up the word 'altruistic' it describes a person who is 'unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others'. I am not that person. Like most members of the human race, I tend to be selfish and more concerned for me (and mine) than I am for you (and yours). That is not to say, however, that I am completely unconcerned and I spend quite a bit of time, money and energy helping where I can. The primary focus of my benevolence is animals in general and dogs in particular. Human beings do terrible things to animals and not enough people care about that.

Where humans are concerned, my approach tends to be one of tough love. I feel strongly that if every able-bodied human took proper responsibility for his or her choices and taught his or her children to do the same thing, poverty could be minimised, the birth rate would fall to manageable levels and everyone could have a job so that we could all live with dignity. Needless to say, I don't believe in handouts because that just creates bottomless pits that will never be filled. If, however, you are down on your luck (for whatever reason) and you ask me for a job, I will oblige if I have work for you to do. I will pay you a living wage, I will show you the respect you deserve and if you do that job well, I will encourage you to continue working for me. I will give you an increase, I will give you a bonus at Christmas time and I will become your friend.

My business is designing embroidery, writing about it and putting kits and packs together. I am not in the business of looking after anyone's life savings, neither do I save people's lives. I don't need to employ people with seventeen degrees and an MBA. I just need to employ people who are willing and interested. To this end, when I need help in my business I take my time finding that help and I tend to look for people who themselves need help. If you are a pensioner, not quite making it on your fixed income, I will give you a job. If you are widowed and lonely, I will employ you so that you have somewhere to go and people to see on a few mornings a week. We have one job in this business that requires almost no skills. The studio, and the area surrounding it, needs to be cleaned a few times a week. To do that job, I employ a middle-aged black man. I found him after making enquiries and he has worked for me for about two years now.

I live in the country that has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world and the province that I live in has the highest rate in the country. Along with these statistics, there is stigma, superstition and desperation. My middle-aged black man (who I will not name) is one of the statistics. A thoroughly decent, but unsophisticated human being. A person who, despite his illness, wants to work. He comes to work a few times a week and we allocate his working days to fit in with his visits to the AIDS and Tuberculosis clinics that he has to attend to keep himself alive. In the same way that I pay my other staff members, his wages come from the proceeds of my business. My contribution to the fight against poverty and AIDS in Africa is not huge, but it is larger, on a daily basis, than that made by the average citizen in the developed world.

My country has a per capita income of US$6.85 and an unemployment rate of 24.7%. This morning I received the following email from a person in a country with a per capita income of US$40.88 and an unemployment rate 6.2%.

"Some time ago I purchased the full embroidery kit from you for your Floral Pomander, which I have recently completed (and am exceptionally pleased with the end result).

I am a member of the (name deleted) Embroiderers Guild, in (town and country deleted).

Our traditional embroiderers (a sub group of 12 members of the Guild who predominantly specialise in Traditional Embroidery) have asked if they could do this project as a Group Challenge (doing one panel per month for the next 12 months).

I am writing to ask if you are prepared to give your permission for us to photocopy my original pattern rather than having to purchase 12 more."

This was my reply:

"The sale of my embroidery designs in kit form is the nature of my business.

Apart from the normal business expenses, a major share of the income derived from these sales is how I pay the salaries of the people who work for me. One of these is an older lady who depends on her children for financial support and by working for me, their financial burden is eased a little. Another is a middle aged black man who has AIDS and is unable to find other employment or access a social grant. He comes in twice a week to clean the studio and the money I pay him is his only income.

Our country is not a welfare state and it falls to people like myself, people who run businesses and have a product to sell, to take care of the more vulnerable members of our society. Personally, I earn very little from my embroidery designs as I pay salaries without drawing one myself.

I realise that your members would like to save a few pennies but I am going to have to ask you not to photocopy and distribute that design amongst your members. I am prepared to send you 12 pattern and print packs, without threads and beads, to make the cost lower but I must ask you to take the ethical route and order from me."

If you embroider, or indeed have any hobby, it means that you have the kind of income that affords you this indulgence. You don't need to worry about how you are going to feed yourself from the little you can earn in between your visits to the AIDS clinic. Reasonable or not, I have sat here working away for a whole morning feeling outraged. Have I over reacted?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Range Of Beautiful Beads for Needlework

For quite a few years now, I have had the feeling that I ought to put a range of 'needlework beads' together. By 'needlework beads' I mean the following:

  • First and foremost, the beads must be good quality beads. There is just no point in taking hours, weeks and even months to work on a fine piece of embroidery or quilting only to embellish it with cheap beads that, quite frankly, can only be classed as rubbish.
  • The beads must be available in small packs because, on the whole, needleworkers want to use beads to embellish their work and create highlights, rather than create entire projects from beads.
  • The range of beads must include an array of shapes and sizes. Gone are the days of just using average size round beads when there are tubes, cubes, drops and faceted round beads, all of which create effects that vary. Effects that add value to a needle work project.
  • The range of colours must be varied and the price should be good. What's out there is, to be honest, limited and over-priced.

So, bearing all of the above in mind, I would like to introduce to you our range of beads.

  • Most importantly you can find them on my website. Go to and navigate from there to see all the colours, shapes, finishes and prices.
  • If you are a shop or a teacher, we have trade prices for you and you should email us asking for the trade price list. But, please bear in mind that if we don't know you, we may ask you to prove to us that you are a bona fide business.
  • If you are a Guild or a Club, we will give you a 25% discount for all group orders over R1 000.00. And that's not just an introductory offer. We will always give you that discount.
  • All are 2 gram packs - what we consider to be the ideal size for needleworkers.
  • You will see that on the ordinary beads, our prices are really competitive.
  • You will also see that some cost quite a bit more. That is because they have special finishes or are special shapes. Some examples are the copper- or 24 carat gold-lined beads, the nickel-plated beads, the Delicas and the Tila beads. Whichever way you look at it, these are special beads and we believe that they should be available for needleworkers in small packs. But they are more expensive.

Over the next few posts I am going to tell you about them.

Let's start today with shapes and sizes.


The ones that needleworkers are likely to use most often in both quilting and fine embroidery. Sometimes called 'petites', the size 15° beads are the smallest with the size 11° beads a little larger and the size 8° beads larger than those.

They can be used for stems, outlines and veins as in the image above, or stitched on individually as in the image below.

If it's a perfect circle that you want, a round bead is what you would look for:

Using just one size, or a combination of sizes:

If it's seed pods you would like, use a combination of beads. In the photograph below size 8° beads are being held down with 15° beads, giving the impression of the seeds that bulge out of a Jacobean style fruit.

In addition to the Round bead sizes mentioned above, we have a size 5° bead that is particularly useful when you want to cover a bead with thread, as in the image below:


Bugle beads are long skinny tubes that are under-used and under-rated. I find them very useful little things.

This is what I call bead seeding:

Combined with round beads in the images below, they form the border around either a leaf or a petal:

If you want to bead the edge of something, in this case a needlebook made from one of the designs in my new book, Crewel Intentions, out in June 2014, small bugles are just great.

That's as far as I am going to go today. It's 38 degrees centigrade outside, a really droopy sort of day and one on which it is hard to think in an inspired kind of way. When it gets like this, I start thinking of the frozen plains of the North. Of course, I realise that you northern ladies are now into autumn hurtling fast towards snowy winter, and that you think I'm a little crazy. I'm not. Ask yourself why productivity, generally, is much higher in the northern hemisphere? Because it's cooler and you have more energy when it's like that.

I'm off to sit myself under a fan and stitch. More about beads another day, so watch this space.