Blue and Black Tatting & Antique Patterns

001bAfter my total wipeout with the red oval doily, I am quite happy to show you two successes! They aren’t perfect, but they sit flat and are even the whole way around.


Both of these patterns come from the same book, Tatting Book No13 by Anne Orr. This book is available for free as part of the Antique Pattern Library, an amazing website full of pdf files of old craft and art books. There are lots of tatting books on there and although the designs are no where near as clear as modern books, with enough experience and patience, you can decipher the instructions. As an example, here are the instructions for the blue medallion:

medallion38I ended up writing them out and double-checking the photographs. Written needle-tatting instructions look more like this (this is the centre motif in the medallion as described above):

  • Ring: 2-2-2-2-2-2 RW
  • Chain: 3-2-2-3 RW
  • Ring: 2-2 join to second to last picot of previous R 2-2-2-2 RW
  • Chain: 3-2-2-3 RW
  • Repeat for 5 rings total, joining last ring to both the second to last picot of previous R and second picot of first R.
  • Chain: 3-2-2-3
  • Tie and Cut.

It’s a bit different; needle tatting does a lot of reversing the work (RW) to get the chains and rings to sit in the right directions. Learning how to properly reverse took me most of a weekend and about 30 ugly little flowers.

Here are a few closeups of these two medallions, just for fun:

003b 009b

As always, check out Totusmel’s Instructables to learn the basics of needle tatting. She taught me nearly all I know!




WIP Wednesday – Thread Parking in Needlepoint

WIP Needlepoint OwlI’ve been working on a new needlepoint project recently, using all sorts of different colours at the same time. I’m stitching the feathers randomly, which means having tons of threads on the go at the same time and trying not tot to get them tangled up (too much).

As I stitched, I figured out two tricks to making the quick change of colours work for me:

1. I used a needle with a larger eye. This meant that it was much, much easier to thread the colours. I didn’t even need a silly little piece of paper!

2. At first I was pulling the threads through to the front and leaving them there, but they kept getting in my way. I wanted to be able to pull them as far away as I could from the working area, but since the working area kept moving, I had to keep moving my parked threads.

WIP Needlepoint Owl parked threads

I ended up finding a solution: Clover clips! These little red clips are fabulous. I was able to pull all my threads up and away, but move them as I needed so they wouldn’t get in the way of my stitching.

The feathers were finally done, and I’m super pleased with them! The stitch is called Fern Stitch, but I have done it upside down so they look like feathers. It was much easier to stitch the lower feathers after the higher ones, so I worked from the top down, mostly. It was quite tricky to fill in the top and get the top of the feather tucked under the long stitches of the base.

This is a quick guide to the stitch, upside down (this screenshot is taken from a program called The Plastic Canvas Design Studio, which I will write about later because it rocks!):


Tantes Zolder Patterns

Tantes Zolder Cross Stitch Here is the finished cross stitched piece I stitched up using patterns from Tantes Zolder, or my Auntie’s Attic.  From what I can find online, it was a website set up by a woman who found over 300 hand-drawn cross stitch patterns in her aunt’s attic. With the help of volunteers, she digitized them all over the course of a year. The original website seems to have gone offline some time in 2012.

Luckily, I found Isabel Gancedo who had all of them backed up and posted on They also include patterns found in books in the Antique Pattern Library, which is always a great website to browse. To find the Tantes Zolder patterns, just scroll down a bit on the main page or click one of the side links.  My favourites are the octagonal patterns.

Tantes Zolder Cross Stitch Can you see where I screwed up the stitching on this piece a bit? If you look closely at the center, the crosses on the red flower in the middle are not going in the same direction as the rest of the piece. It happened for two reasons: first, the center is perfectly symmetrical, so I didn’t notice any change in the pattern, and second, I was on vacation in England when I stitched most of this piece. I also blame England for having to undo nearly a quarter of the orange border around the middle at some point.

(I fixed it eventually by drawing an arrow on my pattern, and an arrow on the masking tape I had put around my fabric to prevent fraying.)

Tantes Zolder Cross Stitch

Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the unpicking. The middle was filled in dark grey for a while , and I hated it as soon as it was done. I forged ahead, thinking it would grow on me as I did the leaves around the center but it didn’t. It even highlighted the direction of the crosses on the red center. So after much consideration, I put on a Jim Gaffigan comedy special and unpicked it all using a thread ripper, a needle, and lots and lots of small bits of tape to catch all the fuzz created by unpicking.

Sometimes, you just gotta undo what you gotta undo. 😉

Needle Sketched Mucha

025 I have always loved Mucha’s art style.  I think it’s elegant and curvy.  So did I base this embroidery off his illustration? Not exactly.

I own a lot of art colouring books. These are works of art translated into simple line drawings so that they can be coloured by adults or enthusiastic children.  I have a few of vintage posters, a Mucha one, and a bunch of modern ones as well, where I liked the art style and could imagine them as embroideries.  Dover is a great source for adult colouring books.  I’ve picked up a few of their floral and art nouveau illustrations too.

Imagine my surprise in the last few weeks when Mary Corbet showed her latest inspiration, a book called Secret Garden; I totally own that book too! Stitchy minds think alike!

029The great thing about using various art books as inspiration is that the drawings are generally already simplified, which leaves you with clean lines that you can trace, but still allows for creative stitching and filing.  I like using this needle sketching method because it emulates a pencil drawing, but there is no reason to not use the fanciest stitches known to man!


Sorbet Pinwheels – Needlepoint Tutorial!

Sorbet Pinwheels Needlepoint Tutorial on


I just love how seventies these needlepoint pinwheels look!  They are super easy to stitch up and will look beautiful in all sorts of colours.  I stitched two versions recently.  The Sorbet version above, and this Dark Raspberry version too.


I used 15ct canvas for both colourways, and 7 different colours each.  The list of colours used is in the PDF guide at the bottom of the page.

If you want to learn how to stitch up your own pinwheels, here is a quick how to (click on any image to see it bigger!  Important when switching triangle directions!):

If you’d like to have this guide as a downloadable pdf, just click below!  I would love to see how you do!  Whether you do it on tapestry canvas or on cross stitching Aida, give it a try!

PDF version: Sorbet Pinwheels Needlepoint Tutorial

R2D2 Bargello – Designing The Pattern


Beep! Boop! Boop!

I stitched up R2D2 over the holidays. Isn’t he adorable? I was looking at the curves of bargello, and I saw his little head poking up!

I designed him in Paint as pixel art, which was a bit tricky, since in needlepoint goes over lines, not in squares. Does that make sense?


Although your pattern reads like a cross stitch pattern (on the left hand side), your stitches actually cover the number of threads instead of the number of holes.  It gets extra confusing when two colours share the same hole, which isn’t super obvious in the version on the left.

What this meant, practically, is that although I drew up a pattern… I free handed a lot of it. Calculating over lines can be quite tricky and once you screw up, improvising is pretty much the only way to make it look good. I also learned the hard way that I should really leave two threads between elements. See how much better the left seam looks than the right? It doesn’t really show unless you are looking in a million times zoom, but it still bugs me. Yep. Lesson learned.


Anyway, needlepoint is tons of fun. I did some on Aida with DMC floss, and R2D2 is done on 15ct canvas with Anchor Tapestry thread. I’ll write more about needlepoint and bargello soon!

By the by, this R2D2 needlepoint is available in my shop, ready to be made into a pillow or to be framed!

Pattern Evolution – What A Difference A Year or Two Makes

I recently added a pattern to my shop: Butterfly Dreams.  This pattern, this ant, has been in my mind for a long time, at least a year or two.  She’s just a worker ant, she doesn’t have wings, but she can imagine that she has, resplendent wings that take her up and up, not necessarily away.

I started playing with this idea a while back, when my embroidery and pattern making skills were a bit less awesome than they are now.  I grabbed an ant from a random colouring book page online, printed out a wing of the wrong size, traced it out onto the ant at a weird angle and got stitching.  The resulting “pattern” was uneven and kind of awkward.  I didn’t go in with a plan, just a loose idea that I wanted to fill the whole wing and that I wanted to try using shisha stitch, which I had just learned and practiced with silver coinage (didn’t have any mirrors at the time).

The result is… messy and icky.  The dense stitching isn’t consistent and the overall look wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  So the ant went into my box of (mostly) completed stitching that I am not 100% happy with.  I call it my box of shame, cause everyone who sees it says “you should do something with all of that!”.  Sigh.

The new version is better.  It’s more consistently planned and simpler, but the finished product is smoother and prettier.  I used five or six shades of each colour, in either 2 strand or 4 strand split stitch.  I then filled in everything with black seed beads.   Because I planned the pattern in Inkscape beforehand, the wing is more proportional to the ant and relatively logically placed.  The ant comes from a vintage plate and the wing is an estimation of a few different butterfly wings I found online.

The colours are almost shimmery and bright and summery, and I love it. The pattern, which also includes a smaller moth wing, is available on my pdf pattern shop.  Let me know if you stitch it up!