Huzzah, I haz returned!

My blog vacation, in photos

1. Pretties from the States!, 2. Sigh. Liberty., 3. Liberty purchases, 4. At The Globe., 5. Ranger cardigan, blocking, 6. Magrathea, finished, waiting to be blocked, 7. Noro Sekku scarf, WIP, 8. First piece of lace, framed., 9. Stitchy iPhone case!, 10. Mirror of Erised, respun and plied, 11. Oscar sunbathing on the kitchen counter, 12. Making lots of scrappy wreaths!, 13. 1940s day, 14. Vintage buttons, 15. Vintage buttons, 16. Oh my.

Well, my little blog staycation was a little bit longer than I meant it to be – it’s been a chaotic couple of weeks. Mostly nice, but busy! I got most of my blog nitpicking done (except for one layout problem that is Making. Me. Crazy. and I can’t figure out how to fix it. If you happen to be a WordPress whiz kid and want to help me out, please shout in the comments. I’ll be forever in your debt!) and had a really nice time doing some cool non-internet-y stuff. The mosaic above is basically my last few weeks in photos. I’ll narrate for you:

First, my family had some really special visitors from the States, who brought me a lovely stack of beautiful fabric as well as embroidery floss. I’ve already started playing with them a bit! While they were here, we all went to Liberty, patted all the beautiful things, and may have brought some home. We also went to see As You Like It as The Globe theater (one of my very favorite places in all the world, it’s magical!) and just had a lovely visit all-around. I got the Worst Cold In The Universe, which knocked me down for ages and is still kind of lingering in annoying ways, but managed to finish the Ranger cardigan for my brother as well as the Magrathea shawl. The cardigan is blocked and waiting for buttons, the shawl will be blocked soon. Over the last few days, I’ve been working on the Noro lace scarf, which I’d avoided for at least a year for being too boring and not really my style, though pretty enough not to frog. Turns out it must be exactly the project I’m craving at the moment, because I’ve doubled its length in about 3 days and am now feeling a bit sad that it’s almost finished. In fact, if you’re at my real blog (as opposed to a feed reader) and you peek over at my WIP list of shame, you’ll notice that I’ve pretty much kicked its ass lately! Well, the knitting section anyway – ahem, pay no attention to those other categories.

Anyway, so I’ve been wrapping up projects and it’s made me feel so much more organized and less like my thoughts are swimming all over the place. I’ve even framed my first piece of finished bobbin lace and I’m so so proud of how it came out! I cross-stitched an iPhone case, because why the hell wouldn’t you?, and respun some yarn that I’d originally spun too loosely. Oscar took a nap in the sunny spot smack in the middle of the kitchen counter (because, again, why the hell wouldn’t you?) and I got a wee start on some Christmas projects. I realized last year that, although I love making gifts for people, that last-few-weeks panic and stress just ruins Christmas for me. I pretty much hate it by the time it finally comes around. I’m working hard to avoid that this year, getting smaller things done early so I don’t have to think about them anymore. Last weekend, I visited the 1940s in a little wartime village event nearby with a dear friend, found some ridiculously cute vintage buttons to add to my collection, and gave Oscar some much-deserved head scratches.

(We’ve also been working on *two* new sets of embroidery patterns in the Little Dorrit & Co. office – I’m super-crazy about them all, I seriously Can’t Wait to get them out in the world!)

And now you’re all caught up! I’ve missed you guys!

Lazy Daisies and their petals

Fun with Lazy Daisies

While photographing my Big Books of Needlecraft the other day, I noticed that one of them included instructions for lazy daisies with eight petals. For some reason, this struck me as both totally adorable and highly unusual. Maybe it’s just me, but I always, always do lazy daisies with five petals. I have no idea why, it’s just what I’ve always done. I checked some other vintage needlework books and, sure enough, several of those show lazy daisies with either six or eight petals as well.

Lazy Daisy instructions
Lazy Daisy instructions
Lazy Daisy instructions

From the top, these pages are from: my later 1940s / early-1950s copy of Odhams Big Book of Needlecraft, Odhams Encyclopedia of Needlecraft which I think is from 1954, and Mildred Graves Ryan’s Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchcraft from 1981. The last page is obviously not showing a complete lazy daisy, but from the placement and angle of those first two petals, I think we can conclude it is intended to have eight petals in the end. Or that’s my very CSI-like deduction, anyway.

Fun with Lazy Daisies

So I thought I’d do a little lazy daisy experiment and stitch a few with eight and a few with five, side by side on some small scrap of fabric. A quick little thing on whatever I had lying about, just to play with the difference. Not even a whole project, just an example. But it was fun and, um, I got a little carried away. They’re so adorable!

Fun with Lazy Daisies

So, how many petals do you put on your daisies?

The Big Book(s) of Needlecraft


One of my Christmas gifts this past year was Odhams Big Book of Needlecraft. I saw it in an Oxfam book shop and gently nudged my brother in its direction. It’s a beautiful book (on the left) even before you open its wonderfully musty pages.

The Big Book(s) Of Needlecraft

A few weeks ago, my knitting group took a little outing to a local vintage and handmade market. I saw a copy of The Big Book of Needlecraft there and knew immediately that it really wanted to come home with me. But I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that I already owned this book. I flipped through it for so long that my knitters wandered off to other things, but didn’t see much inside that felt as familiar as the title. For only a handful of British Pounds, I decided it was worth the risk.

Of course I did have it, but there’s a reason I couldn’t be sure. With such a generic name and many different editions, it’s hard to gather real information about this book, but my research seems to indicate that my first copy (to the left in the top photo) is from about 1935. This makes sense – the cover design and illustrations are so very 30s / Deco, it’s hard to imagine it could be from any other decade. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the other copy, with the adorable thimble illustration on the cover (don’t you just want to embroider that on something?!), is from the late-40s / early-50s. And it’s only circumstantial evidence, but the newspaper clipping found inside (for a sewing pattern, I’m sure I’ll blog about that separately sometime), dated 1951, seems to agree.

What’s really interesting is how incredibly different the books’ contents are. The earlier copy covers a much wider range of topics: there’s chapters for ‘New Collars For Old Dresses’, ‘Needlework in the Kitchen’, ‘Glove Making’, ‘Hand-made Flowers’, and ‘Leathercraft’, as well as the expected discussions of embroidery, knitting, sewing, etc. The later edition is, with just a few exceptions, limited to the expected, but gives much more detail on those topics. As far as embroidery is concerned, the 1930s copy offers some stitch diagrams, but sticks mostly to project ideas and designs. Amazing, beautiful Deco projects and designs that I could happily spend years recreating.

The Big Book(s) Of Needlecraft
The Big Book(s) Of Needlecraft

And the 40s-50s gives you more technique to work with.

The Big Book(s) Of Needlecraft

Neither were, as far as I understand, times of prosperity in the United Kingdom, what with worldwide Depression and Post-WWII economy and destruction to deal with. Interesting that the 1930s edition was interested in making a range of things yourself and giving them a touch of glamour with beautiful designs and stitchery, while the other is much more practical.

One other tiny note of interest is the presence of (and lack of) authorship credit. The earlier edition lists an editor and two assistants, as well as a separate author for every chapter — ‘Useful Washing Hints’ was written by Helen M. Paton — but the later is practically anonymous. There’s no author or editor listed anywhere that I can see. Curious.

Anyway, they are beautiful books and I love them equally, but for different reasons. The stitch diagrams and discussions in the later edition are, unsurprisingly, of practical use to me on potentially every stitching project I will ever do. The earlier book’s designs and illustrations are a huge inspiration, projects I’d love to sink my teeth into. I couldn’t possibly not have both on my shelf!

Interlude: charity shop finds

I wanted to show you my finished Cladonia shawl today – I unpinned it over the weekend and it came out beautifully – but the weather was dismal when I wanted to take photos this morning. Of course it’s lovely out now, but it’ll have to wait for another day. In the meantime, here’s a few pretties I’ve found at charity shops recently, just for funsies.

Tiny Little Glasses
The Big Book of Needlecraft
Colclough china, Stardust pattern
Colclough china, Stardust pattern
Thrifted lace and buttons

Meanwhile, back in France …

So I’m having my first to-be-for-sale knitting pattern tested, by three lovely and generous knitters, and, to be totally honest, it’s all a little weird! I mean, I spent months poking away at the design, when I had a spare evening here and there, working out the details to create a pattern people could and would want to repeat, and now … nothing. My testers are knitting away, quietly, and there’s not really much for me for to do. It’s like they say about candidates and their staff on election day – all that work and then you just have to sit back and let it take care of itself for a bit. It’s a simple little design, nothing too crazy, but I’m quite fond of it and I hope you will be too. But until it’s ready, there’s nothing to do but wait.

While I do that, I’ve started poking at a new knitting design (which is going freakishly well so far, it’s kind of unnerving) — and I finally figured out how I wanted to play with those antique Sajou monogram letters from the Pattern Maker Charts (etc) blog. I mentioned a little while ago that I’d wanted to stitch one on something, just for funsies, but I couldn’t decide what. Then I had an idea, but it was way too big, too ambitious, and there’s no way I’d have time to do it. But … it was such a good idea! And once you think up a good idea, it’s too late – it’s not like you can unthink it.

So for a few days, I pretended like I might save the idea for another time, but even I knew I was going to do it. Here it is, the beginnings of my antique Sajou sampler …

Sajou Sampler - new project

… I’m introducing it with a flourish because I suspect you’ll get to know it quite well over what will probably be years. This is not a project I can do in a few weeks, more like a big project done one mini-project at a time. I couldn’t decide on just one alphabet, they’re all so lovely, and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have time to do letters from all of them, like a sampler?’. Duh. So I’ve gone through all of the Sajou alphabets and picked a list of my favorites, and will semi-randomly pick letters out and stitch them when I have some time here and there.

40cm x 50cm seemed like a goodly size, so I worked backwards to work out the size of each letter and marked it out with one of those aqua trick markers (with just a few calculating / measuring mistakes, whoops – luckily those pens really do wash out with just a dab of water). It’ll be quite a bit larger than a normal sampler, but I wanted it to be pretty big for two reasons: 1.) Needlework is so often small because to cover a big space is, simply, a crap-ton of work. But that tendency makes large needlework pieces unusual and even a little bit incongruous, as if needlework must be tiny and dainty. I love really large needlework and I’ve always wanted to do something bigger – this won’t be as big as I daydream about (one day though, one day I’ll do something massive) but a nice medium-large size will do for now. 2.) A lot of those Sajou letters have tons of wonderful, tiny detail and I didn’t want my letters to get so small that I couldn’t reasonably stitch them. Bigger letters will make it a little easier to get that lovely detail stitched.

My color palette was the last thing to decide on, but I had this kind of dusty purple color in stuck in my head and couldn’t see around it. That sounds like a lovely color, but I’m not really a soft, dainty girl, and I wanted these letters to be antique designs, but pop in a more modern way. Then I saw this amazing dress on Pinterest (pinned by GreenRobynBird before me, others before her) …

… and it was so perfect in every way that I actually gasped out loud. I knew those were the perfect colors for my sampler: vintage, antique-y, very French in a Marie Antoinette kind of way, pretty but not soft. They pop. Just like the colors on this tiny (about 1.5″ tall) perfume bottle thing of my mother’s:

Color Inspiration

(which, as an aside just because it’s adorable and lovely, looks like this inside …

Color Inspiration

… so precious!)

And by a happy embroidery coincidence, I happened to have the exact colors already ready, set aside for a different project that didn’t work out as planned. These are also the colors in my bedroom, so there’s a place it’ll look nice hanging in.

Embroidery Floss, upcoming project

I’m not sure how much I’ll really get to work on this for a while, I’m just about to get stuck into Christmas gift crafting in a big way, but I like that there’s 26+ bite-size projects waiting for me to stitch them up!

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