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Saturday, 20 June 2015

An experiment with variegated thread

I posted the above picture on Instagram. It's my Summer Solstice pattern with a skein of DMC stranded cotton, shade 90. As you can see, it perfectly matches the shades I have chosen for the pattern and I think it will make a great alternative if you want to give your version a completely different look.

I received a comment from Elizabeth Braun of the Sew In Love blog who correctly pointed out that variegated threads can give "a random, unpredictable" result and may not always work out the way you want. This is a very good point and I thought I'd better do some experimenting to see what happens.

Here is a length of the thread. Usually when I work with stranded cotton, I use a length that reaches from my finger tips to about an inch below my elbow but with variegated threads, I like to use a length that has all of the different tones in it. This is because you always lose a little of it when you cast off and snip the thread. This means the tones may not change as smoothly as you want them to.

The tones in this thread change from a deep, golden yellow to almost white.

Next, you have to think about how you're going to work your stitches. I usually work in rows making the first diagonal in one direction and then coming back making the second diagonal. You may prefer to complete each cross as you go. I wanted to see what difference each of these techniques would make to the appearance of the variegated thread.
I began with my usual method.

My first length got me this far...

When I threaded my second length, I threaded the opposite way to the first so I could carry on with the tone I had finished the first length with. Here is the finished circle...

It looks better in 'real life' but you can see it gives a very pleasing result.
The second circle (on the right) has been worked one cross at a time. There isn't a huge amount of difference in how the individual tones look but this technique uses more thread and so there is a bit more variation in the overall result.

I also stitched a circle working one cross at a time in a clockwise spiral, starting at the bottom.

I think they have all given interesting results but I prefer the first one because I like the subtle blending of the different shades.

The circles I used for practising are smaller than those in my design and so you may get different results when working on a bigger scale. However, I definitely think it's worth thinking about and having a play with. As with most of my patterns, Summer Solstice (and it's sister pattern Winter Solstice) has the potential to be adapted to different colours and there's no 'wrong' way of stitching it.

Have you ever used variegated threads? What projects have you used them for? What did you think of the results? Let me know in the comments below or by getting in touch on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

To buy the Summer Solstice pattern and browse my other designs see my website

You can read Elizabeth's blog Sew In Love by clicking here.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Wise Little Owl - A Free Pattern

I have just reached a little milestone on Instagram by gaining my 100th follower. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me and my work so far and I now have a little treat for you all.
Last year, I bought some cute little owl buttons from Pocket and Pin, an online haberdashery full of exciting things. As soon as saw the little owls I knew I wanted to use them - but how?
Looking through a magazine, I found an article on antique samplers and one of them, made by Sarah Doggett in 1815, featured many motifs of plants and birds. One of them was of a bird perched in the branches of a tree. I knew then how to use the owl buttons!
I have adapted the motif so that it fits neatly into a 4-inch (10cm) hoop and there is a little space for the owl to perch.
As a thank you for all the support I've had so far, you can download this pattern for free from my Payhip Shop.
If you'd like to follow me on Instagram, you can find me as @HawthornTree_xs
Thank you and happy stitching!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Something Old, Something New

If you've already had a look of the patterns I have available, then you'll know I have one based on a carpet page from the Book of Durrow. This is an ancient manuscript dating form the 7th century and is believed to be the oldest of its kind. It is currently housed in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.
A carpet page is a page that is covered in artwork rather than script. You cannot help but think of the monks who meticulously marked out the design before carefully drawing it and adding the right colours. The palette for such designs was fairly limited at the time as the colours were all derived from natural materials, and some of them were very expensive.

The modern stitcher has no such problem, we can choose from hundreds of colours and several different threads. I have stitched both of my Durrow-inspired designs in modern shades.
It occurred to me that not everyone is as obsessed with Celtic design as I am and not everyone would want to take on a project that is as large as my original pattern. So, I have adapted it to fit into a 7-inch hoop and I've stitched it in a fresh set of colours to give it a different look to the original. Of course, if you would like to choose your own choice of colours then please feel free to do so. Simply use my pattern as a guide. 
You can find the pattern in my Etsy shop by clicking on the listing at the top of the page or you can click here to go to my Payhip shop.
I'm currently working on a fun little pattern that I'll be releasing as a freebie very soon. If you'd like to keep in touch you can find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Photos (c) Karen Eley 2015

Monday, 1 June 2015

Children of the Revolution

I am very happy and excited to announce that I have been asked to be part of a very special local project. The Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group are planning a series of commemorative events to mark the bicentenary of the Pentrich Revoution in 2017.

The Pentrich Revolution was the last armed uprising to occur in England and it happened right here in the area where I was born and raised. In the early nineteenth century, the main industries in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were lacemaking, coal mining and stocking knitting. Industry had boomed during the Napoleonic Wars but when they came to and end, the economy fell into recession and unemployment soared. To compound matters, natural disaster brought further hardship. Just months before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted. It was one of the most powerful eruptions ever recorded and in the months that followed, clouds of volcanic ash drifted across the Northern Hemisphere. Asia, Europe and North America endured long spells of cold, wet weather. Crops failed, animals died and famine ensued. Prices rose sharply and people who were already struggling began to fear for their very survival.

It was at this time the song Hard Times of Old England was written. It perfectly describes the plight of the working poor during this period. One such person was Jeremiah Brandreth, an unemployed stocking knitter from Sutton-in-Ashfield. Unemployed, disenfranchised and facing destitution, he joined with other men in the same predicament and they marched through the district calling in at various public houses, hoping to raise an army big enough to overthrow the government.
The men were arrested by a band of Hussars from Nottingham. Some were imprisoned, some were transported to Australia and the three leaders - Jeremiah Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam and William Turner were hanged and beheaded after being found guilty of treason. There was a certain amount of sympathy towards the men, as shown in historical accounts. People recognised that not only had the men acted out of desperation but they had been set up by a government agent provocateur known as Oliver the Spy.

This story is an important part of my local area's history, and indeed national history, so I was very pleased when I heard that a group were organising commemorations. I was even more pleased when I was asked to help design a large embroidery piece that will tell the story of the revolt. I will be working from pictures painted by local artists to produce mini scenes for local WI members to embroider.
This is the biggest project I have ever worked on and I am really relishing the chance to be part of these exciting endeavours. If you would like to find out more about the group, their plans and the wonderful artwork, you can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. There is also this excellent website put together by Sylvia Mason, featuring family trees and other information about those involved in the revolt.

Here is Steeleye Span's version of Hard Times of Old England.

Images (c) Karen Eley, taken from Bulmer's Directory of Derbyshire, 1895.