Category : Miscellaneous
Or Nué Portrait Project
9 years, 7 months ago 0

It’s done! This work-in-progress has been preying on me for months and months and months, but last night I sat down and finished off the final couching and framed it. Just to remind you: this is what it looked like back in February, when I’d finally solved the problem of running out of string. Admittedly, it probably wasn’t that many hours of stitching that still needed to be done (I’m going to guess I put another 20 hours or so into it to finish it), but it was a just for fun project and not running on any deadlines.


The finished piece has a fantastic texture to it, that you can’t fully see from the frontal photo. The two types of strings I used are dramatically different in texture and size, with the lighter, yellower one being significantly thicker and higher.


The greyish string was much softer and more thread-like, which meant it acted quite differently when I couched it down. It was easier to squeeze into the sharp corners than the other string, but also was harder to keep in smooth lines when couching it down, and had a tendency to get squashed or come a little unravelled. As you can see below, some corners were a little tricky and it was difficult to get perfect coverage. From a distance you can’t see these imperfections, but it still annoys me a little that they’re there. I used two different coloured threads to couch down the respective string, and a dark brown to create the portrait. I only used stranded cotton on this project, figuring silk was far to fine and shiny for the effect I was after.


Now for the final conclusion: did I achieve the effect I was after? This whole project began as a vague idea in the back of my mind as to whether I could use the inherent characteristics of Or Nué (the flowing couched lines) to become an integral part of the design itself. The idea formed further when I saw a beautiful photo in a book several years ago of an elderly woman with a face full of laugh lines and wrinkles. The two ideas merged at some point and coalesced into a serious project when I took a photo of my husband’s eighty year old uncle at a family wedding last year.

In the end, I didn’t find a way to fully create what I had in mind: because you need to couch over the string at mostly right angles and I didn’t want to create monstrously thick lines by fully covering the string, I couldn’t quite get the string to create the flow of wrinkles I was after, and still allow me to couch the outline of his face. However, I’m still really happy with how it worked out, slightly different though it is from my original plan, and think it became quite a unique portrait.

9 years, 8 months ago Comments Off
Posted in: Blog, Miscellaneous

There’s really no need for me to ever say anything about knitting. Firstly because there are uncountable excellent knitting resources out there, and secondly because I can’t knit. I had a brief, nightmarish foray into scarf creation at the age of six with some monstrous yellow knitting needles and baby-poo coloured wool and I’ve never gone back.

Until recently, when I bit the bullet and did a knitting workshop. There I was convinced to try my hand at Stulpen (aka arm warmers, aka gaiters, apparently) and told immediately to try some fancy knot work. Because, I was told, it’s just knitting stitches. And she was right, that wasn’t that much more difficult than regular knit stitch.

Except that I have fifteen thumbs and apparently six toes involved in knitting. I don’t think I’m ever going to love it the way I do embroidery.

But I got there in the end, so here it is. My first knitting attempt since the age of six. Please ignore the dropped stitches, the wonky lines, the terrible tension and all that. I’ve got an arm warmer now and I think it’ll stay singular.

9 years, 8 months ago 0

indie craft

It’s out! Jo Waterhouse‘s book Indie Craft features artists and crafters who do something slightly different with handwork. There are some amazing artists in there and I must admit I’m squeeing in delight to be included in this august company. Check out the publishers site to see more of what’s in the book, or just look at this list of the crafters to see that you really. want. this. book.

Featuring work from:

Diem Chau
Angela Chick
Craft Guerrilla
Phil Davison
Erin Dollar
Marloes Duyker
Jenny Hart
Kate Jenkins
Knit the City
Knitta Please
Kup Kup Land
Jacinta Lodge
Joetta Maue
Eva Monleón
Sarah Neuburger
Tania Patritti
Emily Peacock
Shauna Richardson
Amy Rue
Naomi Ryder
William Schaff
Matte Stephens
Vivienne Strauss
Tada’s Revolution
Patricia Waller
Kate Westerholt
Howie Woo

10 years, 5 months ago 0

I’ve been hammering away slowly at the string Or Nué project I started last year. I’d run into a bit of a problem in that I started the whole thing with a ball of string we happened to have in our kitchen drawer… and after about ten hours of stitching was done it seemed pretty clear that thi s wasn’t going to last for the full portrait. So then I spent months hunting around Berlin for string that wasn’t horrible, plastic-coated stuff so that I could continue.

I found a few likely candidates a few weeks ago and started of again. At that time I posted an update to Flickr but it was already pretty clear when I took the photo that one of the string substitutes wasn’t going to cut the mustard. It was too stiff and thick, didn’t like to bend into tight corners and was about twice the height of the other strings. So I unpicked those bits again.

Then I started off, with a few more circles and swirls and realised that I’d given him matching round cheeks… hmm, didn’t look good at all so out it came. A few more hours and I realised I’d put a bullseye in the middle of his forehead -arrggghhhh- out that came too. So with probably another fifteenhours of stitching on it I have about four hours to show for it.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying out new stuff, hey?

So here is the current status. What do you think?

stringornueor nue detail

10 years, 8 months ago Comments Off
Posted in: Blog, Miscellaneous

Swapping is one of those internet craft phenomena that I previously never really had time for.  Plus I know exactly how bad a pen-pal I am (Hello 6th grade Japanese penpal who received exactly one letter from me). So, until recently, I had never signed up for one.

But with the Phat Quarter group on Flickr I decided to give it a shot. And I had so much fun with that one that when it came ’round again I signed up once more. This time with the theme NSFW… ie. don’t be shocked by anything that you receive.


Now I’m waay behind on my piece (which should have been sent off, oh, a couple of weeks ago) but I got mine today. Sailor Mouth, a bloke in Texas stitched me a well-hung sailor centaur and if that doesn’t just cover every genre then I don’t know what will. He commissioned the design from an artist friend and stitched it up on linen. Mostly backstitch with 2 strands and some satin stitch around the hat, the tattoo and the, ahem, manly bits.


I decided not to frame it but put it on a cushion. And as it was an idea I’d had for a while – a display cushion where I could swap out the embroidery on it – I spent tonight whipping it up from some old left over fabric and a second-hand zipper. I hemmed the embroidery with bias tape  and used press studs to attach it. Taadaa! Display cushion with well hung mythological seaman. What more could a girl ask for?

in situ

10 years, 10 months ago 0

Ahh goldwork. So pretty, so shiny. I mentioned Tracy Franklin’s book yesterday, or just go and check out her website. Tanja Berlin does more flower-type designs and has a lot of kits which are definately pretty, shiny and a great way to get into the technique without having to try and source all the specialty threads (and instructions!) yourself.

I’ve been collecting goldwork threads and books in a very magpie-like fashion for a couple of years and have been slowly incorporating them into my pieces (the threads and techniques I mean, not the books). But there’s one technique I hadn’t yet tried and really, really wanted to – Or Nué. In this, thick gold-covered thread such as Jap gold is couched down in tight rows, and coloured silk is stitched over row by row to create the image. The gold shimmers through, the silks are colourful and lustrous… it’s an all-over rich affair. It was used a lot in ecclesiastical stuff – well, goldwork in general was mainly done for the church or royalty anyway because it uses, y’know, actual gold. Not something for the plebs.

But I’d always wanted to give it a shot, and also had a very general idea of what the subject matter should be, so now I’ve finally started. Only I’m leaving the gold out.

I’d fully planned to use Jap gold, but when I started pulling everything out and looking at my plans, I decided that I wanted something a bit rougher, a little less pretty. So I grabbed a ball of string from the kitchen drawer and started.


This is how it stands at the moment. Excuse my slightly secretive corner view, but with the design transferred onto the backing fabric, it’d give too much away if I showed the whole piece. I want to see if I can faithfully reproduce the design in this method and I’d like your unbiased-by-the-original-picture opinion of the finished piece.. I’m pretty much freehanding the flow of the string around the piece –Or Nué generally uses straight lines but I saw this done somewhere else and found it beautiful (can’t find the link at the moment, will update when I do)- and I guess we’ll see how it turns out.


10 years, 10 months ago 0

MrXStitch is going to be one year old next Thursday (well, the site is I mean. Jamie, judging by his zucchini, is older) and he’s celebrating with giveaways and new patterns and all kinds of stuff. If you don’t know the site yet, go and check it out – he and his trusty sidekick Beefranck manage to find amazingly cool embroidery from all around the ‘net.

Here’s the full deal on the birthday bash (there isn’t a world-wide video conference call thing organised as far as I can tell, but maybe we can pressure them into it?)…

On 27th August, Mr X Stitch will be one year old, and there’s lots happening!

First of all we will be launching a new range of cross stitch and embroidery patterns from some of the newest embroidery talents out there. When you find out who they are, you’re going to want them!

We’re also announcing a new roster of guest posters, who will be bringing you more views from the wonderful world of stitching.

And finally, the information you’ve all been waiting for…we’re having a giveaway!

Yes indeed, you will have the chance to win one of the following:

  • And a piece of work from some wiseacre called Mr X Stitch.

We’ve also got a special prize of a batch of light effects threads that will end up with whoever makes us laugh the most over the course of the week. Can’t be bad!

So spread the word, tell your friends, and we’ll see you there!

10 years, 11 months ago 0
Posted in: Blog, Miscellaneous


You may have already noticed the banner on the right-hand side of this website for Kiva. This is not at all a paid-for ad, it’s something I’ve put on my site because I think it’s a great cause and want to support it in anyway I can.

Kiva is a not-for-profit which enables people to make microloans – starting from as little as $25 – to others around the world who need a little bit of funding to start making their own lives better. This isn’t donating (although you can donate to support the running of Kiva itself), this is lending. The entrepreneurs you support with your capital pay back the loans, which you can then cash out or relend.It’s money that keeps cycling around, helping out not one person but many, again and again. There’s more on the Kiva website about micro-financing if you’re interested.

I’d been hearing about micro-financing for a long time, but it wasn’t until Peter Bihr at The Waving Cat mentioned his loans last year that I realised how easy it was to take part. If you’d like to see the loans I’m currently funding, here’s my lender page and I’ve set up a team which everyone is free to join. I plan to (very!) soon have embroidery patterns for sale on this site and 10% of each sale will be funneled straight into micro-loans.

As I said, it’s something I feel strongly about supporting.

Please go and check out the site, read through it and think it over. It’s a great way to help people out in a sustainable fashion.

10 years, 12 months ago 0

Y’know sometimes, when you just get so damn excited about something working out, that you go ahead and try and expand on it and totally screw it up?

Yep, well that happened to me with temari.

I tried my first temari and it worked out better than I expected (after the first few failed attempts). So then I decided to branch out a little. To get a bit experimental. To just wing it.

my first temari - from detailed instructions

my first temari - from detailed instructions

That, I ‘ve discovered, is not a good idea. Especially not with three-dimensional geometries which make even me pause to think about it- and I’m a trained crystallographer. Added in was that I hadn’t quite worked out the way the stitches work with and around each other, and that I thought “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to try and make it just a little asymmetrical?” . So I wound up with this. Ahhh, expert instructions – they never go astray. At least I made the thread-wrapped core myself – out of old socks.