I have only spent a week on this design, I thought it would take a lot longer to get the bugs out.  But, I now have a working version and have completed the finishing.

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I wasn't sure how I would get this to be functional as both a needle keeper and a container for pins.

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I have added a little ribbon tab between the embroidery and the lining.

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You can pull on this and the little cushion just pops out.

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I found a scrap of Liberty cotton fabric to act as the lining at the back of the cushion.  Liberty is a fine lawn and easily manipulated fabric and adds a nice touch to the piece.  I think that I can improve on the construction of this pillow.  I only had fibre-fill, cardboard and tacky glue but I think I will make one with a balsa wood frame.

Now onto the next design.

Thinking back

There was so much going on when I visited Guatamala in South America.  Sights, sounds, smells, taste of food, potential danger of attack, unstable political system, that I didn't fully appreciate some of the processes that were involved in the stitching and weaving that I observed.  I tried to read as much research that I could find before I left on the trip but it hasn't been until some time after I returned home and processed a lot of this information that I am appreciating my whole experience.

My problems with stitching with the 'silk' thread are an example of this.  An embroiderer sits in the market stitching and customers bring their fabric to her to be stitched.   The frame she uses is similar to ours but twists into place and is not joined.  The needle she uses is really long, a bit like a long darner.  (Maybe these things make the silk easier to handle.)

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The fabric is woven on a back-strap loom and the decorative stitching patterns, that denote each clan group, join this fabric together.  When I look at this photo I took of an embroiderer I realise that she is using the 'silk' thread I have been using but this time it is on a spool and she is having non of the problems that I experienced.  Why? when I zoom in I can see that it is a flat silk without a twist, so it must come down to experience or something has been done to that thread or maybe the needle or frame?  (This was taken at the Solola markets.)

The patterns that join the fabrics are evolving into more elaborate designs created by each embroiderer and this is a skill that is sort after by other Mayans.  It has nothing to do with the tourist market.  I was taken by the grace and charm of this woman.  She had taken so much care with her personal appearance, the dressing of her hair was a work of art.  As a fellow embroiderer I could appreciate the skill she had in her use of her needle.  Change her hair and clothing and she could have been another stitcher at the Guild.


I can see these experiments continuing on for some time.  The stitching is based around the threads I bought in South America.  The plain cotton, great, the resist dyed, I'm not sure. It looks like a piece of marled, tweed, kind of weave.  Interesting but I don't think it is worth all the effort that goes into preparing the thread.

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I think that these go back into the bag for another day.

There was another lot of thread that I bought, again one hank of every colour, that they(Mayan Indian) called 'silk'.  I found the same kind of thread in Brazil and after I did a burning test on it found that it isn't protein based, as in silk worm product, but carbohydrate, and is probably rayon, but to those in South America this is silk.  This doesn't detract from the beautiful colours or the lustre of the thread.  (I have some similar type of thread from India that I bought from Prudence Mapstone for Knitting.  I will have to test that for composition as well.)

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I prepared this the same way as the Sashiko thread also and this worked well.

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Then I tried to stitch.  Just like flat silk it caught on everything.  Finger nails, any rough piece of fabric, just anything.  I thought about bees wax, but this was a CHO based fibre and I knew it wouldn't work so I improvised and moistened my fingers in water running the thread between them.

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This worked but I still have to refine just how I stitch.  The edges of the linen fabric catches the thread, the moisture in the thread drys after about 4 passes of the needle through the fabric and to lay the thread flat you have to stab the fabric and pull the thread through for each part of the stitch.  This is very labour intensive so they would only be for very special gifts. I also think there is a slight dulling of the lustre caused by the application of water to the thread.  But, I like the finished product.

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The next job is to refine the shape of the dome and the way you would remove this to reveal the pins.  As I live on an island and access to shops requires a lot of organisation and time this could be quite a process.

A town with a name like a song.

The experiments with the needle keepers continues and I got to wondering just what the cotton threads I had bought in South America would look like stitched into these Japanese patterns. 

I bought these in the town of Chichicastanago.  (I see there are several songs of the same name.)  I was blown away by the colour and the whole atmostphere of the town.  These same markets have been held for 100's of years before the Spanish arrived.

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There were threads up to the ceiling and beyond and the colours were just so vibrant.  The shop was on the balcony level of the market with the downstairs being for fruit and vegetables.  The markets are held two days a week and the women come in to buy their threads for weaving.


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It wasn't until I got to Solola that I realised that the threads in this shop were for weaving, not embroidery.  Everyone was dressed in their best even the shop vendors.  The colours and bling made the heart sing.

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So, thinking I could use these threads for embroidery I bought up big, knowing that I may never pass this way again.  I bought a hank of every colour that was available.


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It wasn't until I got home that I realised that the thread was too fine and unmercerized.    But now that I am using a linen base for my stitching my thoughts returned to these threads.  I decided to use 4 strands and got stitching.

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The thread is beautiful.  I am in fact stitching 'needle weaving' and weaving is what it is made for.  I prepared the thread they same way I would prepare a sashiko thread, cutting the hank and plating it.  Worked like a charm.

I have ordered more little bowls as I now have a huge stock of threads.  The bowls themselves are not expensive, but, the freight is.  I will use them for classes and for gifts, they are quick and easy to stitch.  And I was asked by a friend if the lid lifts off for storage of pins below?  It is now, that is a great idea.  This has led to some changes in how I am preparing the bowls.  They come as raw wood and I have been spraying them with a clear varnish.

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I will now spray the inside of the bowls as well so that the pins slide out easily and I will have to look at the finish of the embroidery under the lid.  Maybe a lining?

The next thread I want to experiment with is this one which is resist dyed.

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You would see the men (not the women) wrapping the thread ready for dying.  This was done on a frame and there seemed to be a method in just where the ties were applied.  I think this was done for a form of Ikat weaving.  The ties were not random but they were terrible to get off.

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And what a tangle from the dye vat!! I managed to stab my finger with the scissors tying to do this.  I'm sure they had a method behind all these processes but, as my Spanish is so rudimentary and most of the Mayans speak their own indigenous language and Spanish as a second language, it is all a  mystery to me.

Watch this space.


The first prototype

Well I have made my needle keeper and I think I have worked out the best way to construct it.

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I need to increase the size of the area I stitched to allow for an overhang around the cardboard shape I made the dome from.  It will make gathering up the fabric a bit easier and allow me to make that dome a bit higher.

I couldn't find anything on the net much about these little cushions other than they are called 'Hinoki' and the wood is usually carved from a sweet smelling wood.  I did however find a retailer of this kind of pin cushion on Instagram called 'Hanakogin'.  (Here an I thinking I am inventing the wheel when it had already been invented!)   Here is an image of some of her work.  (I think, because I found some of the same images on Ali Express' website.)

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This piece has been stitched on Hemp fabric, I am stitching my version on 18 count linen.  I got this linen from some CWA  (Country Women's Association) ladies some time ago and have been keeping it for something special. 

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The gloss finish on the wood makes it really nice to handle and matches the sheen on the cotton.  The pattern that I choose for this prototype is called 'Hanako Flower"

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And I am using an artisan, hand dyed Sashico cotton for the stitching.

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This is all for a short 4 hours class I have planned for 2022.  The problem is that these cushions are addictive to stitch and make.  I will have to be very stern with myself and just keep them for the class, but, they would make great little gifts for my friends.