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


Friday, 16 November 2018

We've got some really nice specials for you.....

It's that time of year when, after a really busy time, we sit down, take stock, think about what we're doing next and - while we're about it - try to give our loyal customers an end of year 'gift' in the form of specials. And no, this is not Black Friday. We don't do Black Friday, we prefer to just be nice to you when we can find the time to do that.

So here we go.

This book, a collaboration between Di van Niekerk, Monique Day-Wilde and myself, came out about two months ago and, I'm afraid, with not a lot of fanfare from me. I was in Australia and not in a position to write to all of you. So, to make up for that, I'm doing it now and to make up for my tardiness, we are running a special.

We don't stock all of the kits on our website, only the ones where I was involved in the stitch design. You will find all of those on our website on the Mandala Special page. For the next two weeks, if you purchase 3 full kits of any of the designs on that page we will send you the Mandala book for nothing. To sweeten the pill some more, we have put a 10% discount on all of those kits for the same period. You will also find the same thing happens on our normal Mandala Page.

My Crewel Creatures book has been so well received and I have received so many compliments, so thank you all for that and to celebrate the fact that you like the book, we are offering full kits of all the creatures on our End of Year Specials page at a 30% discount.

In amongst the Crewel Creatures are the Tumbleweeds Series, currently our other popular line and also at a 30% discount for the full kits.

And also..............the bead flower brooch. Specifically designed with instructions that take you through 3-dimensional bead flowers, I did this for those that need to have more extensive instructions that there is ever space for in any book or similar publication. I am in the process of putting a whole bead embroidery book together, similar to the Needle Lace and Needle Weaving books but these things take time. So until I've actually come up with that book, the bead flower brooch gives you some fairly good instructions and we are offering our stock at a 30% discount.

And now, onto the subject of threads. It has become difficult to get Anchor threads - which is a pity because they were really nice with some sublime colours, but that's life. Because of this, I made a decision to, therefore, up our range of DMC threads and in the next month or so the last of the stock should arrive. When it does, we will have the entire ranges of: Stranded Cotton, Colour Variations, Coloris, Light Effects, Satin, Perle #12, Special Dentelles and Diamant metallic threads. I will send out a newsletter with a complete list of our DMC stocks when everything is here. In the meantime, it is only the Special Dentelles and the Diamant threads that are waiting for the last few colours.

One of the problems that I encounter when I am playing around with needle weaving and needle lace techniques is the limited range of colours in the DMC Perle #12 and Dentelles ranges. The solution to that is Presencia threads. They really do have a fabulous range of colours in the Finca Perle threads and I have started bringing in some of those in Perle #12 (simiilar to DMC Perle #12) and Perle #16 (simiilar to DMC Dentelles). I'm slowly building up this range and if you click on the links to each page you will be able to see what we have in stock at present, remembering to check in from time to time to see what we've added. On both of those pages are links to colour charts, so have a look at those. Such a fabulous range of colours and, having worked with it over the last year or two, I can tell you that it is good quality thread.

So, that's it for now. Must get on with the next thing that has to be done and we do hope you will be tempted by our specials.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Going Round In Circles

Going Round In Circles

Around the end of November last year, a week or so after I had my shoulder fixed - so my arm was still in a sling - we had a bit of a dog fight here.  With blood. Never nice when that happens and I was to be found doing an emergency dash to the vet with a distressed Maltese and my own dicky right arm.  I left her there to be fixed up and came home somewhat unhappy myself and set about sorting out the root of the problem - another Maltese who was living with us and was upsetting the balance.

Halfway through organising her a fabulous new home (where she is now settled, spoilt and very happy) I received a message from my publisher asking me if I would collaborate with Di van Niekerk and Monique Day-Wilde to stitch and write a book on hand embroidered mandalas.  Being a most agreeable person I said yes, no problem, absolutely fine and got on with my day which ended with me picking up poor little Phoebe the Maltese from the vet, still a bit confused from the anaesthetic and with all sorts of drains coming out of her worst wounds.  I'm pleased to report that she got back to normal very quickly and all is now happy in the Blomkamp Dog pack or, as I call them, our armed response team.  Because we have crime, they are our first line of defence.

But back to the mandalas.  I woke up the next morning realising that stitching 25 mandalas (between Di and me) in four months was going to be a bit of a stretch.  Actually, impossible.  So, got on the blower to Di and said we are going to have to find a team to help us.  By the end of our conversation we had identified 11 people who we could ask to help and we set about asking them.

And this is what I want to tell you.  

Every time I phoned one of them I did so with trepidation.  It was a big thing to ask.  I fully expected some, if not all of them, to refuse and to tell me a thing or two whilst doing that.  Well, that didn't happen and currently there are 13 of us, all over South Africa, madly stitching till late every night.  Di and I do a wedge of each circular design, put the threads and beads together, write up basic instructions and a stitch guide and send it off to whoever is going to do the repeats and turn it into a completed project.  We have people popping into our homes to fetch (and as of a week ago, deliver) and Aramex Couriers are being kept very busy delivering, fetching and delivering back to us those that are being worked in other centres.

Every single person we asked - and admittedly we only asked people who we knew were competent along with being nice people - has come to the party with enthusiasm and some even said they felt honoured or excited, said thanks for trusting me.  

I probably don't even need to mention that, on the whole, I trust dogs more than I trust most people but this is the second time in less than a year that I have been pulled up on this, the first being the wonderful response to Inspirations Magazine's request for donations of needlework supplies to the ladies in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Wow, was that amazing and did it go a long way to restoring my faith in humanity, particularly in these turbulent times.

And now again.  What a wonderful bunch of ladies we have helping us.  Our work party.  

It's too soon to tell you anything about this forthcoming book other than to say that it is going to be varied, colourful, but also with some more muted mandalas.  Monique's designs are out of this world and it is such fun working out stitches and colours to do them justice.  The wide range of designs will be divided up into skill levels so that there will be something for everyone - from very simple to the more complicated techniques - and we envisage that it could also be a great teaching tool for all you tutors out there.  We haven't yet got as far as a publication date, but I will keep you posted on this.

In the meantime, I am sitting some 8 to 10 hours a day doing circles and loving the process.  Some of them remind me of previous circular designs I have done and because I'm so enthused I decided maybe we should do a special on some circular designs. 

So here they are.   Full kits for all of them have been marked down by 25% and they are available at this price until the 22nd February or until stocks run out, whichever happens first.

Midnight Meander featured on the cover of Crewel Twists and remains popular.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

Jacobean Tangle turned out to be the most popular design in the Crewel Twists book and features small areas of needle lace, along with more conventional crewel stitches - and beads.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

And then two designs that are similar to mandalas in that the projects involve repeats.  One would think that it would be tedious to repeat what you have already done but my experience is that this is not the case.  You are watching the whole thing come together as you stitch and that is not at all boring.

Monochromatic designs don't show up particularly well in photographs - well not if you have my lack of photographic skills - but I loved doing 8 Shades Of Beige.  It is delicate and filled with really interesting needle lace stitches, bead embroidery stitches and, of course, crewel stitches.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

And the last one is a mandala design that I did a few years ago.

Called Mandala Magic, it is full of my 'tricks' - weaving, needle lace, beads, you name it.  My original intention was to mount it in a pole screen and I am still going to do that one day.  Just have to find the time to have one made.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

So, there you go girls.  Get in quickly because these specials usually go fast.

My new book, Crewel Creatures, is about six weeks away.  If you want to get a small preview of what the book looks like, either go to my home page or click here.  You'll be able to have a squizz at the back and front covers along with a selection of the content pages.

When I know that the arrival of boxes of books into my studio is imminent, we will be uploading all of the packs - along with the books - on the website and I will let you know they are there.  We intend to do specials on a selection of the full kits, so watch out for that.

And now I'm going to go back to stitching mandalas.  I think I'm on number 13 but, actually, I've lost count.

Till the next time,