I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










No machine needed


As you might guess, I juggle a few roles and responsibilities in my life and however hard I try, occasionally I drop one of the balls.  It happened earlier in the year when I was supposed to be at one meeting when actually I was at another.  Not only that, I was supposed to have collected Marion too, so one way and another, I had a considerable bit of grovelling to do.




That’s how I came to be standing at the ironing board on a sticky-hot summer morning, not doing my own ironing but making my way through a pile of vintage tablecloths from the Gloucestershire WI archive.  As I stood there, I had a distinct feeling of deja vu.




What treasures Marion has assembled for our Tea and Textiles event, though!  Pieces such as this beautiful linen cushion, worked in a variety of pulled work techniques by one of Carolyn’s close relatives.  Exquisite work, incredibly time consuming to do and stitched to such a consistently high standard.  That the embroiderer offered it as an example for a collection of samples seems surprising to me.  I find myself peering at the label and wondering if it says “lent by” rather than “sent by” – I do hope she wasn’t expecting it back but if she was, perhaps the ongoing admiration for her skills all these years later will be some recompense.




More representative perhaps of the things we “donate” today is this little quilt which lay dormant in the bottom of an archive box.  Yes, it was one of mine, worked in haste with absolutely no heirloom techniques at all as my contribution and creative response to our Big Read.  Funny to come across it again having forgotten all about it.




We weren’t the only ones unearthing bits and pieces from the past.  Whilst we unpacked boxes and gathered treasures, WI secretary Peter was preparing the house for the decorators’ arrival next week.  Removing the coat rack from the wall revealed the changing taste in decor over the last twenty years, too.  I wonder what colour has been chosen for the 2014 layer?  (I hope they leave a little of that flowery wallpaper, just for fun)




With the ironing done, photographs taken and everything sorted for the sold-out event in a couple of week’s time, I stood back and reflected on the skills we are in danger of losing.  I consider myself to have a higher level than many when it comes to needle skills, but my ability to create something of a similar standard to this 100% hand stitched nightie from the 1920s or 30s is doubtful.  Even if my needlework would pass muster, I am certainly lacking in the patience and tenacity needed, that’s for sure.

Could I even create something similar with all the technology and modern materials available to me today? 

Dare I suggest you watch this space? (but don’t hold your breath Winking smile )


No sewing involved




I had an early start yesterday.  Not quite as early as the deserted station might suggest, for most of the regulars had already gone, leaving their cars in a very full car park.




Fortunately, I had my hero to drive me to the station so I didn’t have to spend time looking for a space.




It was one of the days in the year when the other bits of my life come together; when I get to spend time with old friends and to chat about things that few would associate with me.  But I really enjoy this opportunity to use my skills and my knowledge in an altogether different forum from the norm and yesterday was no exception.




The picture on the wall is the clue.  I spent the day as a member of Panel F, judging the annual UK Bus Awards at the Society of Operations Engineers in London.  It’s a great opportunity to hear some of the most inspiring young managers and I always leave feeling optimistic about the future of an industry which has always been dear to my heart. 




Afterwards, I walked with a couple of colleagues through the hot and sticky streets for a quick chat and catch up in a cafe before going our separate ways.  Whilst they were off to catch their train, I was heading for Oxford Street and a much needed visit to Blink in Selfridges!




One of our topics of the day was never far from view.




Meeting Edward for drinks and dinner in Fischers was fun, even if the food was disappointing.  Never mind, the company was good, of course.




Time to return to Paddington on the bus (of course) and to smile at Isembard Kingdom Brunel, sitting there behind his protective fence as the Crossrail construction carries on apace behind him.  What would he have made of it all, I wonder?




Nearby, the other lone figure stood on Platform 1, centre of attention recently as a result of this.  I took another look at it before catching the train home with some of those letters on my mind.


I ran out of time


This could be the last sewing-related post for a few days because real life is kicking in again and believe it or not, I can’t spend any more time sewing because I have other responsibilities!


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Today, I’d set myself the task of bringing some artwork from Photoshop into the Bernina software with the intention of stitching out a couple of the designs on some fabric before making it into a bag.  Avening WI have been working on a table runner as our entry to the Tomorrows Heirlooms competition to celebrate the centenary of the WI and, having completed our cloth, we needed a protective bag to put it in.  Our design includes several figures which I cut out on my Silhouette machine before applying them on traditional slips and stitching by hand.  We loved the idea of working with the technology whilst also utilising the age-old techniques at the same time.  Tomorrows Heirlooms, see?




In between a supermarket run and a few loads of washing, I managed to wrangle the software and actually got as far as stitching out five different figures with my machine.  But I’d left it too late to tweak them to my satisfaction and late this afternoon, with the deadline looming, I decided to forget about embroidering the figures on the bag and did a quick stencil instead.  Mind you, the bag is beautifully made with french seams and all that Winking smile

So, not much to show for the day today, then, but these few days have got me off to a good start, I think.  No more worries about threading or sorting out the occasional snafu – I feel quite at home with my machine now, even if I do have to sit and think about every process.  It will be interesting to see how much of it all I can retain until my next opportunity to play on Friday.

Of course, I might have forgotten everything by them.


Marginally less incompetent


I began the day with a determination to move forward and get to grips with a simple project I’d seen in one of the Bernina publications, issue #19 of Through the Needle.  It was a straightforward looking project using the software and though it was based on an earlier version, I thought it’d be fairly easy to follow on version 7, too.  But before I did anything else on my computer, I had to do as we all do – check my email!

I found a lovely surprise there in the form of a Bernina Embroidery file from my guru Ros.  I kept everything crossed as I opened the software and loaded the stitch she sent me.


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Ros had created a test design using one of the Bernina tassel stitches for me to play with and so, with a clear purpose in mind, I set about stitching it out.  First though, I had to transfer it to my machine on a USB stick.  Simple!

Sadly not!  For some reason, my machine didn’t see the design.  Though I’d loaded two stitches on the stick – a freebie from Bernina for registering the software and the stitch Ros sent me, only the Bernina pattern showed up.  I tried saving in a different file format, to an earlier version, moving to and fro from computer to sewing machine and getting more and more frustrated.  What was going on? 

Eventually, I spotted a format/file extension I’d not noticed before – .exp “Bernina USB stick” (I know…) and thankfully, this was the one.  In no time at all, I’d stitched out the pattern Ros sent me in a couple of different threads.




Cute isn’t it?




Quite good in a variegated thread as well, though I’d need to tweak those stitching marks in the fabric if I were to use it on a project, I think.  Still, I was away, on a roll!


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Now to tackle the software.  I had no problem opening a new file and following the steps given in the magazine article to create this design and now I’d sussed the USB bit as well, it was soon on my machine.




After another false start involving several broken threads (well, self inflicted…I should know better than to use Natesh threads without using every trick in the book to make it behave, shouldn’t I?)  I returned to the Robison Anton I had been using and sat back and watched my first masterpiece develop.




I was pretty pleased with that, I’ll admit and felt that I ended the day feeling a little less incompetent than I started.

When I went to open a new file, however:


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Another day, another challenge!


One small step




Before I loaded the software and began fiddling about with that, I thought that I would explore the potential of the on-board toolbox.  After all, there’s no point in making something more complicated than it need be, is there?  I watched the YouTube video first and worked out the process so that I might manage without stop-starting the tutorial.  Sure enough, in no time at all, I’d created a pleasing motif.

Or is it?


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As it stitched out, I wondered what I’d done to make the machine begin to stitch each motif at A, finish at B and then travel to C to begin the next one.  Why didn’t it take the simpler, shorter route and work anticlockwise around the circle? * (I’ve had further thoughts on that – see below)



To get the process established in my head I repeated the exercise once or twice more, discovering that the same process occurred with the first two circles I stitched.  Strangely, without my fiddling about with any of the other options, after each of the leaf shapes on that outer circle, the machine secured and cut the thread before moving on to the next one.  Hmmm.  I wonder why?

So, one step forward from the “unconscious incompetence” (aka ignorance is bliss!) into the “conscious incompetence” zone.  Things are not quite as simple as they first appeared and the more I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.  But I’m not giving up, I’m going to load the software because the answer may well lie therein.


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But after two hours of loading the software, downloading and installing an update, uninstalling and then repeating the whole process once again it to try to coax the Corel part of the program to play nicely, I called on my hero for some technical support.  He had the answer and was able to sort it for now, but this morning, when I tried to follow a simple project tutorial, it crashed and won’t now reopen.

I’m glad it didn’t cost me almost a thousand pounds to remind me how consciously incompetent I am.  However, this blog post can still be filed under “fun”…


I wonder if that pattern is better stitched out like that, with the long space thread to cut? If it were worked from A to B in an anticlockwise direction, there’d still be a thread to cut, but it would be a shorter one and therefore more tricky to snip.  Hmmm?