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October 2021

Feral Flowers

I am still collecting my flowers, usually on my Sunday walk.  Then I put them in a vase to look at during the week.  This week I made an error.  What I thought was a feral flower was actually a native.  The bushes were growing along the edge of a tidal stream that runs at the back of the main beach.  I have never seen these in flower before and I think this is how I made the mistake plus the flowers looked to beautiful to be growing on a native bush growing in among the mangroves.

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The flowers are a creamy white with very long stamens and the bushes are called 'River Mangroves".

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The creek only really runs when there has been heavy rain and then fills up at the high tide with sea water.

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They make a lovely display and I got quite carried away looking at them.  Then I looked up and decided to move away, quickly.

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There were fallen coconuts everywhere on the ground and lots of those up there look ready to come down, soon.


So, the experiments with stitching the Kogin patterns with different threads and fabrics continues.

I tried using 4 threads on this one and although I don't mind it I think that 3 threads works better.

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I used linen fabrics back some time ago and dismissed them because I found that they shredded the cotton thread I was using.  So I tried again with this thread and had no problems.  It is a 28count fabric and I used 2 strands of cotton to stitch.  Only problem here was with my eyes that found the higher count of thread hard to see.

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Then, looking at all those pieces I got from my friend I found that one piece really was not repairable so I have unpicked the stitching and cut out the pieces I can use.  I haven't finished the layout of this just yet but it is starting to come together.  It is for a book cover.

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I found all these little mirrors tucked in amongst the threads.  When I get the layout how I want it i will use a Kantha stitch to hold the pieces in place.  I am having fun with this piece.

A parcel in the mail.

A wonderful parcel arrived from my friend Pam.

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Little silk bags full of goodies and a couple of beautiful books.

The books were, The Flower Hunter, Ellis Rowan, who I have to admit I had never heard of.  But her paintings are beautiful.  In fact I think she has made the flowers just a bit more beautiful than they are in real life.

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The other is a book about dairies.

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I have always written a diary, I haven't kept them all, but I think the visual type are my favourite, this book confirms that.

Then each of those little bags held so many treasures, and are treasures themselves.

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Some hand embroidered ribbon from India. Maybe for using on the hem of a skirt or jacket?

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Some lovely old silk thread and a collection of buttons.

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And then there was a collection of old embroideries from Laos.  Pam and I travelled to Thailand together and she knows I looked in every market for old pieces, especially those stitched by people of the Miao tribes.  I have one that I made a wall hanging from in my sewing room.

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Now I have another collection of pieces to play with.

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Parcels in the mail are always exciting to receive.  Parcels from a good friend who know the things you like and have taken the trouble to put them together for you is super exciting.


I wonder if it is the weather?

The weather here has been rather...umh... different.   Huge storms, tornadoes.

Luckily the worst of it all seems to go around us.

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But little Bear will not leave my side, he is like a limpet and I feel completely out of sorts.  My grand daughter returns to us today so it is batten down the hatches time.  I have an extra busy week ahead and am teaching next Saturday so I have been getting all the kits together and packed.

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I have to hide them away because she (Monique) just couldn't leave them alone if she saw them.  The temptation would just be too great.  (I find my Ipad full of apps I have not knowledge of and strange photos on my phone.)

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I have tried doing a bit of painting but to no avail so the board I top my table with had been put away. 

Screen Shot 2021-10-24 at 3.10.08 pm'The heads' that house my succulent plants have told me I am doing a wise thing.  There are another 2 storms about to arrive, Monique and the weather!  And my head aches.


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.


From a simple beginning

When I left school I obtained a cadet-ship with a major department store.  I was only seventeen, a kid from the suburbs with no experience of life.  My mother had died the year before so I had no adult to give me advice, I just dived into this life.  I got 1/2 a day off each week to go to University, all other lectures where in my own time at night after work, and they paid my fees, if I passed my exams. (Oh to have all that energy now.)  I was going to be a business tycoon.  Life had other ideas.  But I had a talent for merchandising and I was lucky enough to end up in Fashion.  I could have ended up buying light bulbs!

One of the things I loved was working on the major fashion shows each season.  Back then, 1970's, these were major live events.  The models walked up and down the catwalk and the sales assistants got the cream of the shows pieces for their 'special' clients.  But it was a time of change.  Music was becoming electronic.  Huge computers that made music, think Dr Who theme.  'Hair' the musical was the rage in New York and our team decided we would employ a choreographer to teach the models how to put movement onto the catwalk, this was unheard of back then.

Move on to the present and the catwalk is now a stage.  Music, lights, action.

  A great video, very today, I wonder if it sells the product?

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 4.08.04 pmHere is a link to a documentary about Dries Van Noten.  It is about 20 mins and if you love textiles this is about a master who knows how to manipulate fabric.