Thursday, 24 April 2014

Little Flowers........

It is so easy, as an embroiderer, to get caught up in only what one has around oneself. It may be the work being done by the ladies that are attending either your own class, or the same class as you. Maybe it is what you see at the Guild meetings that you attend or what is published in the books and magazines that you (and everyone else in your circle) are buying. What is going on in your life, embroidery-wise, is the same as everyone else in your town. Which is why I consider myself fortunate. I do embroidery-travel to many parts of the world, usually with my friend and fellow embroidery artist, Di van Niekerk

Don’t for one minute think that it is glamorous. It isn’t. There is nothing less seductive than two grubby middle-aged women pulling heavy suitcases around Dubai airport at six in the morning. Crumpled individuals, with yesterday’s teeth, who have walked off a cramped overnight flight, have to find their onward connection, have no idea where to go and mostly stand around looking confused. This is the picture I get in my mind when acquaintances and friends, who know that I travel a lot, suggest that I am a member of the jet-set. Oh please! But, after the long-haul we land at a destination where we meet talented artists. Innovative master embroiderers who are inspired by what is going on in their own environment – always so different to our own.

On a trip to Russia in 2012 we met Marina Zherdeva, a talented silk ribbon artist. Her innovative works needed to be looked at again and again, because each time you looked, you saw another clever little thing that she had done. And now, as a result of their meeting up, Marina and Di van Niekerk have co-written a scrumptious book called “Little Flowers”.

It is so appealing. Each of the eight projects is small – maximum 15 x 15 cm – but the innovation, the new techniques, the interesting stitches in each of the projects is immense.

Di’s books have always included step-by-step photographs and Little Flowers is no different.

Along with a comprehensive stitch gallery at the back of the book,

each step of each project is, not only described in detail, but is accompanied by a clear colour photo.

I was privileged to have been asked to proof read this book. Part of the proof reading process involves making sure that the instructions make sense. Having gone through every word and chapter more than once, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it is easy to understand.

The first four designs in the book were designed and stitched by Marina, whilst those in the second half are Di’s work. It is truly an international colaboration with its roots at opposite ends of the world.

The book uses Di’s hand painted ribbons throughout. The charm of these ribbons is that they are, in a sense, self-shading. This adds depth and interest to each flower, fruit or leaf.

For South African stitchers, the Metz Press edition will be available from Di van Niekerk’s website within days. It will also, in the near future, be available on Kalahari and Loot. For stitchers in other parts of the world, the Search Press edition will be available on Amazon, the Book Depository and the websites in your country that carry craft books. It will also be available at selected needlework stores.

Whilst each design is accompanied by a line drawing that you can trace onto fabric, if you are unsure of how to do this or would prefer a pre-printed panel, these are available on Di’s website. Each panel is screen-printed on Dupion silk, backed by cotton voile and overlocked around the edges. Ready for you to put into your hoop and start without any of the preparation fuss.

The hand-painted ribbons used throughout the book are also available on Di’s website, along with the threads, additional fibres and beads.

From the moment I received the first proof of this book, I knew that its charm lay in the fact that the projects are small and do-able with techniques that are very, very clever. Along with normal ribbon stitches, it shows you how to manipulate your silk ribbon to create three-dimensional flowers that look realistic and natural. It is a book for everyone from the beginner to the more accomplished stitcher.

If you are lucky enough to be attending Beating Around The Bush in Adelaide, Australia later this year, Di will be teaching the “Wild Roses and Pink Blossoms” on the 29th and 30th of September.

On the 2nd and 3rd of October, she will be teaching the “Chamomile” design pictured above

Treat yourself. It’s a beautiful book.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Jolly Funny Read.........

Many of us, along with our passion for stitching, adore our pets. If the truth be told, they’re not really pets. They are our children. Anyone who knows me, or has done a workshop with me, will know that I talk a lot about my dogs and that, instead of carrying pictures of my husband and children in my wallet, I have pictures of my dogs on my iPad and will show them off to anyone who is prepared to look.

I have a good friend who, along with his wife, have been mates of ours for years and years. He is one of the veterinary surgeons that treats my animals whenever they need attention. I’ve always appreciated his sense of humour and the fact that, like me, he’s always up to a jolly good party. You know, the kind where you talk far too much rubbish, drink far too many glasses of whatever takes your fancy, and wake up with a very nasty headache the next morning. What I didn’t used to know, though, is how amusingly he writes

For a while he has been writing a weekly column in our local newspaper. Stories about the things that go on in the normal, everyday life of a vet in Africa. So different to the life of a practitioner in a first world suburban practise, they are sometimes close to the bone (that’s Africa for you), but always funny. His style of writing is such that you can picture exactly what he is talking about and you find yourself giggling while you read. And again when you read it a second time because it was so funny.

A few weeks ago he set up a blog and he will be posting, probably, a weekly article. And this week’s article is about our African dog.

I’ve always had Boxer dogs and will travel as far as I have to and pay as much as I need to for a fine puppy, but a few years ago my son and some friends rescued a pregnant African dog on the Wild Coast. We gave a home to one of the puppies she produced and the article is largely about her.

Her life with us so far has been an interesting and perplexing journey. I am however pleased to report that in the last six months or so she has obviously overcome all her genetic demons. She is confident, healthy, playful, a happy member of our dog family and much loved. Which means that if she were a project (which she isn’t) I would have to say that her growth might just be the most satisfying project that I have ever been involved in. And I have never known a dog to be as intelligent as Gladness appears to be. She’s amazing.

So, if you love your animals and like to read amusing animal stories, go to and read about our dog, Gladness. Then read the other articles that have been posted. Have a jolly good giggle and then subscribe so that you can have a heartwarming giggle every week or so.