Blackwork Pattern of the Month – ‘Falling Fans’

This pattern was created by repeating a little fan (or leaf?) that I extracted from a larger motif in Blackwork Made Easy by Lesley Wilkins. In the diagram, 1 grid square equals 1 square on Aida or 2 threads on evenweave / linen. The sample is stitched with 1 strand of DMC 3051 (Dark Green Grey) on 30 count Legacy linen.

This month I also decided to bite the bullet and stitch the pattern inside a shape, which is what it’s meant for after all. Using a very fine Pigma Micron pen, I drew the outline of a leaf from “Cray” by William Morris onto 30 Count Legacy linen. I then stitched the filling pattern inside the shape using 1 strand of black Soie d’Alger, and outlined it with stem stitch.

Bethany Wilson

Book Review – Embroidered Kitchen Garden

Aoki, Kazuko
Embroidered Kitchen Garden; Vegetable, herb & flower motifs to stitch & savor.
Salem, Zakka Workshop, 2019
ISBN: 978 1 940552 40 8
96 pages

A few years ago, I reviewed another book by this author, which I found so charming that I bought a copy for myself. I worked a design from it, which one of my lovely daughters-in- law snaffled almost as soon as I finished it. So how does this book measure up?

There is a brief introduction explaining that the sight and smell of vegetables in a carton was what inspired Kazuko to produce a book of embroidered vegetables. Immediately, one is launched into pages of them, all beautifully photographed. At the head of each page are two or three lines about the vegetable illustrated, along with the page number where you will find the relevant templates. I like this. It means you don’t have to flounder around trying to find them by hunting in the index or page flipping. Each vegetable is accompanied with its particular flower, leaf or leaves – sometimes wrought with long and short stitch, sometimes worked with a backstitched outline. Some also have a cross section of the fruit or vegetable. Some have a little garden critter to embroider as well. There is a double page spread of edible flowers and another illustrating her favourite garden tools. There is a charming selection of kitchen garden visitors – no, not grandchildren, but a couple of birds, a mole, butterflies, a spider and other creatures. I found the herb section really appealing. The sage leaves look so realistic.

After the illustrated embroideries come a few pages of stitch dictionary, which is adequate. Most of the stitches used are ones most of us will already be familiar with. Then comes the business end of the book, following the same format as the earlier one: the templates. At the head of each of these pages, is the page number where you can find the pictures of the worked embroidery and a list of the DMC threads you will need. The templates themselves don’t have to be enlarged and are simply and clearly drawn. Each project has a line towards each element, with the colour it’s embroidered with and the stitch used.

There is a brief conclusion, preceded by two pages which gives the common name of all the plants, its scientific name and country of origin. The common name of each also accompanies the embroidered version.

While there is much to delight in this book, it hasn’t charmed me as much as the earlier one. I feel the long and short stitch has not been executed all that well either. However, it is a sweet book and there are motifs which would be lovely if you make cards – mainly the motifs which are not vegetables but each to their own!

The copy I reviewed comes from Auckland Libraries. Locally, the best price I could find at the time I wrote this was $36.25 and Book Depository has it for $29.00NZ.
Erica Marsden

Stitch of the month – French Knots

This small and simple stitch is a very versatile one which is worth mastering.  It can be used as an isolated stitch, in chains, as a filling stitch when bunched en masse or to finish a chain. It is frequently found adding texture to designs, or adding emphasis as an adjunct to other stitches.

A good knot depends on keeping a good tension on the thread, allowing enough space between entry and exit stitches so that the knot sits neatly on the fabric, and mastering the art of how tight to pull it.  Size can be varied by the thickness or number of strands of thread, or the number of wraps. 2-3 is usual.

For good instructions on working this stitch go to
For more information, also check out A very clear video Isolated knots Knot techniques

Mountmellick Stitch

This stitch is a newcomer composite stitch, which, although it fits well with the Irish embroidery technique, is not actually found on older traditional Mountmellick work.

It provides an attractive edging which works well on curved lines, and in spite of incorporating a number of stitches in each unit is relatively easy to learn and quick to do.

It can be used in all kinds of surface embroidery. It looks really nice in crewel work, with wool threads. It can be used to decorate crazy quilt seams. It can be used as a border stitch, and it can even be used for monogramming and the like. It even lends itself to being double sided or reversed, and looks good with extended tails.

Ref: Yvette Stanton 2016; Mountmellick embroidery; Vetty Creations P.33

Cable Chain Stitch

Cable Chain Stitch is a variation of chain stitch and also known as cable stitch. It is an easy member of the chain stitch family and worked in a similar manner to basic chain stitch but with an added step of twisting the thread round the needle after each chain loop. The extra loop between chain stitches creates a link between the chains.

Cable chain is used as a linear stitch on both plain and even-weave fabrics. As with basic chain stitch this version follows curves well. It is pleasant stitch to work because you can develop a good easy paced rhythm.

The sample shown is an experimental piece of Cable Chain stitch worked in a variety of unusual threads. Unusual in the sense that they are threads embroiderers would not necessarily normally select.
The top is a hand dyed crochet cotton that is the same thickness as cotton perle#5.
Second down is a fine knitting yarn.
The dark blue line in the middle of the sample is also a knitting yarn.
The line of stitching second from the bottom is a hand dyed crochet cotton.
The bottom line uses a knitting cotton.


Book Review – Sashiko

Clay, Jill
Sashiko: 20 projects using traditional Japanese stitching.

Lewes, East Sussex,
Guild of Master Craftsmen Publications, 2019
ISBN: 978 1 78494 487 2
136 pages

This is a beautifully designed book. As soon as I opened it, I found it appealing. The font is attractive, the layout is very good and the illustrations are seductive, especially if you like the indigo blue fabric and white thread in which sashiko is traditionally worked. Right from the contents page, this book drew me in.

I discovered in the introduction, that the ‘i’ in sashiko is almost silent and that sashiko means ‘little stabs’. Jill Clay gives an oversight of the origins of this Japanese style of embroidery, as far as it is known. One of the older designs originated in Persia (Iran). Who knew? Jill ends her introduction by expressing her view that she prefers to think of sashiko rules as guidelines and urges us not to take them too seriously. Her advice is to relax and enjoy the process. That’s so encouraging.

The first section covers tools and materials with the proviso that all we really need is a needle, some fabric and thread. There is guidance on various items which may be useful for transferring patterns onto fabric and advice on needles and threads, with options suggested to replace the Japanese materials, which may be difficult to source for those of us who live outside the country. Other items which may be useful are also listed, but there’s not a vast array needed. There follow a few pages on techniques which Jill assures us are quite simple. There is a stitch dictionary – very small – and basic instructions for making up some of the projects. More detailed instructions are given with each project.

The Projects! I just love them all. There are greetings cards, brooches, cushions, a pincushion, the most wonderful project bag, table linen, a scarf, a wrap-around apron and more. They are all worked on that beautiful, deep indigo blue with white, red and variegated threads – well maybe not all of them. If you want to find the exceptions, I recommend that you borrow the book from the Auckland Libraries. Each project has a list of materials needed and what look like very clear instructions, all well illustrated. There are useful tips throughout.

The book finishes with a pattern library and oh, what fascinating, appealing patterns they are. Many are geometric, some have curved lines and yet others are traditional and not so traditional motifs. Most are illustrated using the traditional colours of white on indigo but there are also some given in colour. There must be something there to tempt the most reluctant needle worker. Jill has even included blank graphs with varying grids which can be photocopied in case you get carried away and want to design your own sashiko patterns.

I hope a copy of this book is bought for our library. I think it would be well used!
Erica Marsden

Stitch of the month: The TAST Challenge

Another blog that focusses on stitches can be located at Pintangle, Sharon Boggon’s website.
Sharon is a crazy quilter who loves to combine all kinds of surface stitchery in her work. Her website has a wonderful stitch dictionary with very clear instructions on how to work a whole host of stitches.

Additionally, through her blog, The TAST challenge, she takes her readers through the steps of learning selected stitches on a weekly basis over a year. She has two levels, beginners and a more advanced version. The blog is just starting a new round and there will be 48 stitches to learn, with the first 20 being what she believes the basic stitches.

It might be something you could do with a group of friends. Check it out: Reference:

The TAST challenge week 1: Chain stitch
Beyond TAST week one: Linked chain stitch

Lynette’s best-loved stitcheries

Anderson, Lynette
Lynette’s best-loved stitcheries: 13 cottage-style projects you’ll adore.
Bothell, W.A., Martingale, 2019
ISBN: 978 1 68356012 8
96 pages

In the introduction, the author shares that her favourite things to design and make are small, useful day-to-day items, often something she can use or give to someone, which I think we, as embroiderers, can identify with. She explains how she goes about designing and the delight she has in choosing fabrics and threads to realise her vision. You need to be aware that the author is a quilter, but all the projects has embroidery as its focus.

Have you ever heard of a tool called an appliquik rod? Me neither and I doubt if the RSN would approve. In the general techniques chapter, the author explains how to use them and why they are her preferred way for appliqueing fabric. My rule of thumb is, use the way which suits you. Other supplies you may need are also listed, including fabric glue which is used with the appliquik method…hmmm. At the end of the techniques chapter is a small, not awfully good stitch dictionary but most of us know how to access Mary Corbett’s if we get stuck. Given that the stitches used in the projects are pretty simple, many of us will already know how to execute them.

Each project has a coloured photo of the completed item, along with the measurements it will be when finished. There is a list of all materials needed – including specialised quilting buttons (from the author’s web site). Such buttons can be a challenge to get here but as skilled needlewomen, we could always just embroider the object instead, couldn’t we? There is a list of embroidery threads needed – Cosmo threads, which are made in Japan. However, I looked on line and there are conversion charts from Cosmo threads to DMC, so not really a problem, or you could be brave and create your own colour scheme. There are full size templates for the project and it is nice not to have to flip backwards and forwards for these. Each project is ‘complete’ with all instructions accompanying it in the same chapter and each project having its own chapter. There are projects for pillows (cushions?), totes and other bags, wall hangings, a sewing caddy, a needle case and scissor keep and so on – 13 in all. Instructions, both for the embroidery and for sewing the objects, seem to be well written and illustrated clearly. There are useful ‘tips’ in separate boxes on some pages.

If you like whimsical, folksy, quite cute, country style projects, I think you will find this a fun, useful book. It may appeal to younger stitchers too, especially as the embroidery itself is pretty basic and some of the designs will appeal to the younger at heart. Each design has an end product, many of which are useful – always a plus for a younger person. However, and I know I am being a GOW (grumpy old woman), it irritates me that the sub-title tells me I will ‘adore’ the projects. How can they possibly make that assumption? I do like them, but adore? That’s a bit of an assumption!

The copy I reviewed comes from Auckland Libraries. It is available at the time I wrote this, for $34 (NZ) from Book Depository or $50.00 if ordered locally.

Erica Marsden