Monday, 26 June 2017

Which needle do I use?

When demonstrating silk ribbon embroidery I often get asked about the needles I use.  So, I thought I would create a little tutorial on needles and how to thread them.

First of all a little bit about the needles.  A Chenille needle is the best type of needle to use for silk ribbon embroidery: it has a large eye and a very sharp point - it's sort of a cross between a tapestry needle and a sharp embroidery needle.

Why use such a big, thick needle?  The answer is simple: you need the sharp point to pierce the fabric easily and the thickness of the shaft and width of the eye of the needle to create a large opening in the fabric which will allow the ribbon to pass through easily.  If you use a thinner needle with a smaller eye, the hole you make in the fabric will be smaller too; this will require more effort to pull the ribbon through the fabric, which in turn will damage the silk ribbon.  Silk ribbon is a delicate material and every time you pull it through the fabric, you add to its wear and tear.  A big chenille needle will reduce the wear on the ribbon.

I know that the eye of the needle is fairly self explanatory - without it you couldn't thread it! However, in silk ribbon embroidery the size of the eye of the needle is also important.  For a 4mm silk ribbon I use a #20 Chenille needle and for a 7mm ribbon I use a #18 Chenille needle.  If you compare the eyes of both needles you will see that the #18 is larger - this is so that the ribbon, when threaded through the eye, does not fold over on itself; it lies nice and flat within the eye.

7mm ribbon on the left
4mm ribbon on the right

It is also worth bearing in mind that, even whilst using the correct needle, your silk ribbon is getting worn out as it travels backwards and forwards through the fabric.  I therefore recommend using short lengths of ribbon, roughly the length of a ruler - 12" or 30cm.

However, silk ribbon, unlike thread, can be a slippery thing when threaded through a needle - it will keep slipping out of the eye!  To prevent this, there is a little knack of securing the ribbon to the needle.

Step 1:  Thread one end of the ribbon through the eye

Step 2: Take the end  that's been threaded through the eye
and poke it onto the end of the needle.

Step 3: Now pull the long end, or tail, of the ribbon to tighten.

Next tutorial:  Starting and finishing silk ribbon

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Brockenhurst Fiesta

I know, I have been extremely lax in posting. So here goes, I shall try and make up for it with this post.

Last weekend I attended the Brockenhurst Fiesta ( as a demonstrator/trader.  The Fiesta was held in the Village Hall.  Before I go any further I would just like to give a shout out to the ladies who organised the weekend and who kept the traders plied with tea, coffee and biscuits - it was all very gratefully received.

Over the course of the two days I met so many wonderful ladies who were all so enthusiastic about what they did; whether it was patchwork, felting, stumpwork or embroidery and I learnt a great deal (through osmosis) about Japanese Embroidery.  My stand was next to the extremely talented Ellen Schmidt and Robert Fielder.  Here is a bit of what I learnt: after an extensive training programme, the last bit of which had to be completed either in the US or Japan, both Ellen and Robert are now qualifed to teach Japanese Embroidery; there are at least 43 (or did Ellen say 46?) embroidery techniques to master; it takes fifteen silkworm cocoons to make just a single strand of silk thread which is no thicker than a strand of hair and that the process of steaming and lifting the silk once the stitching has been completed can take up to 2 hours?  And then there is the process of twisting the thread this way and that way; and the lacing of the fabric onto the frame ... and all this before you get to stitch a single stitch!  Oh, and the thread used in the beautiful goldwork pictures has real gold in it. It was fascinating listening to Ellen explain the history and techniques behind the embroidery, but you will need a great deal of patience to master it.  One of the pictures on display took Robert a year to stitch and that was working on it full time!  Ellen and Robert hold classes in Christchurch, Dorset.

I also met up again with Jen Goodwin (, the extremely talented Royal School of Needlework tutor.  And I got to see how much more progress she has made on the beautiful cat she is busy embroidering - and yes, it looks even better in real life.  Here is a picture of Jen's stand minus Jen - she was standing behind me!  Jen also runs workshops, so why not try and take a class with her - her work is just beautiful and her designs are very creative.

And this is a picture of my stand

Brockenhurst is a lovely village, so picturesque with the New Forest ponies wandering around and the cattle ambling up the high street.  We stayed in The Cloud Hotel; our room overlooked the forest and we could watch the ponies grazing.

I have been invited to attend next year's Fiesta which is being held on the 22nd and 23rd April - can't wait!!  

Monday, 1 June 2015

School of Needlework

Many, many years ago I used  to teach at the Woburn School of Needlework.  The School was housed in an old worker's cottage which was on the High Street of the lovely Georgian village of Woburn in Bedfordshire.  It was over the road from a wonderful cross stitch shop which was an Aladin's Cave of threads, beads, charts and fabrics.  Unfortunately, the shop and the school closed when the owner retired, but the idea of creating my own school of needlework has always remained, tucked away in the back of my mind.  My children are growing up so I decided that there was no better time like the present to set up my school of needlework.

Welcome to The Common Thread's 
School of Needlework

Keeping the Art of Hand Embroidery Alive

Classes are held at The Stable in the tiny village of Church End in Haynes, south of Bedford.  The Stables is an old converted stable block which used to be part of the Old Vicarage.  It is set within its own walled garden and is the perfect place to escape to; a place where you can learn something new in the company of friends. Here are some of the classes being held at The Stable:

Silk Ribbon Spring Border Box Top and Needle Book - Saturday 11th July 2015 10.00am - 4.00pm


Silk Ribbon Embroidered Monogram - Saturday 19th September 2015 10.00am - 4.00pm

Persian Slipper - Saturday 31st October 10.00am - 4.00pm

Casalguidi - Saturday 10th January 2016 10.00am - 4.00pm
For further details, or a registration form, please email me at  I look forward to meeting you at the School.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Makit Needlework Fair - Peterborough

I had a great day at the Makit Needlework Fair yesterday. I caught up with customers whom I haven't seen for a year and met some lovely new ones too. I did take my camera with me, but it would have helped if the memory card had been in my camera and not in my laptop! I did take a picture of my stand with my phone, but let's not go there as I can sometimes be a bit of a technophobe and downloading pictures from my camera is one thing, but downloading them from my phone is a whole new story!!!
So, instead, I will share with you a couple of pictures of some new silk ribbon embroidery projects which I will be teaching during the course of the year. I will also be kitting them up and selling them as kits, so watch this space.
Wherever you are this week, I hope you enjoy the sunshine and find time to do a little bit of what you like doing the best.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Day is nearly upon us!  How ready are you?  Me?  Almost there, I just have to buy the vegetables for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Oh yes, and I have to finish wrapping the presents and writing those last few Christmas cards ....  Will you be spending Christmas with family and friends, or will it just be a quiet celebration?  Perhaps the holidays are inspiring you to be creative, or perhaps you simply need some special time to yourself.  So, just in case you do find that little bit of time, I have included this little Christmas chart for your to stitch.  It won't take long and you can hang it on the tree in time for Christmas Day.  

Christmas Sparkle 2014

You can use any variegated thread, or threads of your choice.
Use 2 strands of thread throughout.
Stitch the Christmas Tree using a Smyrna Cross
Border 1 is stitched in a crossed upright cross stitch
Border 2 is a combination of cross stitches and beads.
Backstitch the outer border in 2 strands of thread over 2 threads.
Then fold corners A and B to the back and slip stitch together.  Do the same for D.  Bring E into the centre and slip stitch together, leaving a small opening in the top.  Fill with wadding, insert a twisted cord or piece of ribbon and slipstitch closed.
Hang on your tree!!!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Southern Counties Lacemakers Fair 2014 and Jenny Adin-Christie

This is the first time that I have had a stand at this fair and I am so glad I did!  The running of the fair has been taken over by Julie Snowden and hats off to her as I think it was a great success.  About 700 shoppers passed through the doors!  Here are some pictures of what my stand looked like.

However, the highlight of the fair for me was meeting Jenny Adin-Christie having the opportunity to see her work "in real life".  I love Whitework embroidery, so to see Jenny's stitched pieces was a delight.  But, I also love Stumpwork and found the detail in her embroidered pieces quite amazing.  She very kindly allowed me to take photographs so that I could share them on my blog.  I think my favourite piece of embroidery was the book cover that depicted The Owl and the Pussycat, but then the other pieces were just as exquisite. Here are some of the pictures I took, they are not brilliant as the lights in the hall were very large and bright and kept reflecting off the glass in the picture frames.  However, they should give you a taste of what Jenny has created over the years.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Needlework Fairs

I have had a few busy months recently.  I have attended a number of Needlework Fairs and, whilst they have been exhausting, they have also been great fun and have given me the opportunity to meet some extremely talented people.

In October I attended Kirstie Allsop's The Handmade Fair which was held in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.  What fun that Fair was and in such beautiful surroundings too.  The weather was glorious; warm and sunny, which just seemed to put everyone in a good mood.  It was held over three days and each morning I caught the train from Waterloo Station to Hampton Court Station. I would buy myself a steaming coffee and a warm pastry; walk over the bridge with the River Thames swirling away below; pass through the main gates of the Palace - and imagine I was royalty as I strolled down the long driveway; walk left through the walled rose garden - which is beautiful - and then into the gardens at the back of the Palace. From there I walked across the carefully mown lawns to the large tents of the Fair where people would be eagerly queueing to get in, patiently waiting for the large wrought iron gates to swing open.

During the day there were lots of "have you seen ..." and "did you make ..."  The bunting was flying; the music was playing and there was a hive of activity as people shopped, crafted and chatted over cups of tea and cake.
The path along the back of the Palace

Kirstie's attempt, along with willing members of the public, to make the longest pom pom trail

Hotch Potch vintage tea rooms
My journey home was back along the same route through the grounds and I was often joined by weary stall holders and exhausted shoppers.  At the station I would pick a seat opposite Lucy's Shed and feast my eyes on the beutiful flowers she had standing in tin buckets ... roses, peonies, lavender and in my mind pick out seeds to plant.  Day dreaming ... of summer, the warm sun and the sweet perfume of an English country garden.  This would then be shattered by the arrival of the train, the dash to grab a seat, but then a chance to drift back again into thoughts of the day as the train rythmically jolted its way back to London. 

"Lucy's Shed"