Sunday, November 30, 2014


A nice warm, quiet afternoon of sewing didn't turn out quite as I expected. I turned away to my cutting table and suddenly it seemed that the neighbor had started up their weed-eater right outside my window. I closed the window but the startlingly loud noise continued right behind me.

I turned and for a second I couldn't take in what I was seeing. My over-locker was sewing at top speed all by itself! Look at that long curly thread it made when I was nowhere near it.

As I reached for the switch to turn it off I smelt a slight touch of burning. Then I remembered. The same thing had happened to me many years before. A small fault developed in the foot and the machine suddenly started sewing. Very eerie! 

No more sewing for a week or two while the foot is repaired and the over-locker is serviced. I find the over-locker gives such a good finish to seams that I don't like to do any sewing without it, even though my trusty Bernina sewing machine does have an over-locking function. It's not the same without the neat trim that the over-locker does as it finishes off the edges.

Has the same spooky thing ever happened to you? Do leave a comment and tell us about your experience. 

To make commenting a little easier I have removed the CAPTCHA test i.e. you will not be asked to type in random characters and prove that you are not a robot. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Silk Flower Doll Couture

This doll's dress may not be embroidery but it is hand stitched and quite exquisite.  Click here for the link to take a look at the video of Nigel Chia's work which I first came across on Karen Ruane's blog.

I just want to start making tiny silk flowers and creating rich fabrics of flowers. The video makes it looks so easy and so quick.

The dress reminds me of the hours I spent with my Cindy doll and this Simplicity pattern.

How my mother's little Singer Featherweight sewing machine could sew too!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Florence Caulfield & Art Nouveau Embroidery

I was intrigued when I saw a design featuring these three proteas on Mary Corbet's blog and wondered if there was a South African connection. It's quite unusual to find distinctly South African embroidery designs.

Protea motif
from the Illustrated Needlework Book
 at the Victoria and Albert Museum
A little research revealed that the designer Florence Caulfield, an embroiderer and a specialist in South African flora, went to England shortly before World War I broke out. Her embroidery book, titled The Illustrated Needlework Book, features Art Nouveau designs based on indigenous South African flowers but it seems that due to the War it was never published. Sad to think she was so near to publishing but that it didn't happen.

If you have been in Cape Town at the right time of the year you may have been lucky enough to see swaths of red disas, just like the one illustrated below, growing freely on Table Mountain. It's something I still want to go and see. Where's that bucket list?

Disa motif
from The Illustrated Needlework Book
at the Victoria and Albert Museum
The proof copy of Florence's book is held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and delightfully for us embroiderers some of the designs have been made available in digital format for downloading and using. They can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum website here.

On the V&A website there is a brief description of the style of embroidery Florence used, a style that included a limited range of colours and mainly satin stitch. You can see too a wonderful photographic portrait of Florence wearing a dress that she herself embroidered.

If you do try one of Florence Caulfield's designs, I'd love to hear about it and will share it with other readers in an upcoming blog post.

Till then happy stitching!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stellenberg Open Gardens

Stellenberg in Kenilworth, Cape Town, has an open day each spring in aid of charity. Last weekend my Sunday morning was spent wandering around the beautiful gardens.

The elegant manor house dates back to the mid 18th century somewhere between 1742 and 1768 and it is classified as an historical monument.

You enter the gardens under cool, shady trees and see first this gracious view of the U-shaped house.

The gardens are what I go to see and a quote from the leaflet containing the garden plan explains why: "The philosophy behind [the] gardening is to plant each section with a different mood in mind, but always to give a sense of peace and serenity to the person walking through it".

You enter past the white garden.

Walk along the main facade of the house and over the sweeping lawns.

Through the wild garden with crisp yellow irises 

... and bronze leafed cannas that dwarf you.

Then along the stream garden with it's stonework bridge now half hidden by a tree.

Through the garden of reflection with that hedge that is fascinatingly, perfectly smooth and vertical and the rows of sculptured shrubs that are as round as bubbles.

A tantalizing glimpse of the vine walk before you get there.

A glimpse of Table Mountain across the corner of the walled garden with its profusion of plants contained by formal little hedges.

An unexpected picturesque arch of roses in the herb garden,

...sweet smelling roses.

A shady walk to the vegetable garden.

Passing another lovely old tree.

And a rest in the all-white rose garden.

...with a glorious view of the mountain.

And finally passing the tall sweet peas, just coming into flower, before relaxing in the busy yet tranquil tea garden tucked unexpectedly out of sight around the corner.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning!