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Catching Up

I think it’s time for a bit of catching up.

Between June 2014 and July 2015 I did five international and three domestic teaching trips. Living where we do, at the bottom of Africa, any international trip worth making involves a long haul flight that lasts at least 9 to 10 hours, and usually longer. Africa being well, Africa, there is less air traffic than you can expect in busier parts of the world. People fly less on both business and pleasure and this means there just isn’t a big choice when you’re booking flights.

Don’t think you can get a direct flight to Canada, for example. You can’t. You have to fly to Heathrow first. When you get there, they won’t let you out of the building because you have a South African passport and, unless you have got yourself an entry visa at great expense, you wait in the terminal. For as long as you have to. Because you come from a country that may hand out passports to people who aren’t genuine citizens. They do, of course. Our Home Affairs department is a hot-bed of corruption where you can get any document you want for the right amount of money, and those of us that just want to do a bit of honest travel have to suffer as a result.

Sometimes, though, a bit of wandering around a terminal can be interesting, if you keep your eyes open. It was at Heathrow, when I became a little peckish and went looking for something to eat, that I discovered the concept of ‘artisan’ food. Every eatery had something ‘artisan’ on the menu and, whilst I had heard of it, I had never really taken much notice of what it was, so I didn’t know what it meant.

But being no stranger to the digital world and Heathrow being efficiently wi-fied, I googled it. On my iPad. Isn’t technology cool? And how I giggled.

Put simply, it is food that is made ‘from scratch’ using ingredients that have come from within 150 km and have not been processed in any way. Like the food I make for supper every night. Like the food you make in your own kitchen. Did you know that you were so trendy, so chi-chi, so up to date? So silly, but such fun if you want to tease the image conscious.

Or even those that are not too fussed about image. A week or two after I got home my husband and son decided to go off to a church fete, because they wanted to stock up on homemade marmalade, pickles and jam (the mother in this house does not do that kind of cooking). They came home laden with boxes filled with all sorts of bottles, each a delicacy lovingly made by some church member in her kitchen at home. Artisan food. They just rolled their eyes when I pointed that out.

Like all things though, it is a little pernicious. It was my turn to roll my eyes a few weeks later when I received a newsletter telling me all about ‘artisan’ embroidery.

If you look up the word artisan it is, first and foremost, a noun. Not an adjective. It means a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand. Hand embroidery is done by artisans. Finished, end of story, no need to call it anything else. Unless, by using that term, it raises its profile and creates interest in the art, in which case I may agree to eat my words.

But enough about the trendy and the silly. I’m home in the real world now, I’m stitching up a storm and I’ve tidied up my studio. We’ve almost finished revamping the website, getting all the correct stock numbers entered, the prices right and nothing left out. Some prices have even gone down a bit because our DMC threads are costing us less than they were.

And there are some new products.

The first one is a needle lace techniques book.

For a while I’ve known that I needed to sift out all of the needle lace techniques that can be used in embroidery, put them together in one place and, finally, I got around to doing just that. The book includes 25 ‘stitches’ and an additional 20 combinations or extras, like picots and the like. So 45 different techniques and ideas, all well illustrated with diagrams and point by point instructions, put together in a wire-bound book so that the pages can be folded back and not damaged while you are using it. The techniques are prefaced with a chapter on how to use the book and, also, basic things that you need to know about using needle lace techniques as embroidery stitches. You can find that book here.

I have all but finished a similar book that puts all the needle weaving techniques together in one publication and as soon as it is printed and available, I will post that fact on this blog.

If you thought I was just writing things, you would be wrong. I’ve been doing a lot of stitching too.

There is a new Jacobean design available with the inspiring name of JAC 24. Yup, just a code number, all this travel has made me tired and dulled my brain. It uses needle lace and needle weaving techniques as well as embroidery and bead embroidery stitches. Loosely based on the Mandala idea, I intend to mount it in a pole screen and place it near my fire place. For now, it still has to do its world tour. I will be teaching it at Beating Around The Bush in Adelaide, Australia during late September/early October next year. I’m a bit slim on dates here, but I do know that the brochures are not out yet and I’m not sure that it’s on the internet either. I think the details will all be published early next year.

Also having to do a world tour before it is mounted is JAC 25. I’ve been a bit more inspired here and called it Tumbleweeds 1 and it will be part of a set that will include 2 and 3. I will also be teaching that one at Beating Around The Bush. I’m having a bit of fun with this set of three, playing with combinations of needle lace stitches, inserting silk ribbon and cords, generally trying to take the idea of using lace in Jacobean embroidery a step further than I have previously done.

I’ve completed the second one of the set, but have not yet got it kitted. It takes a bit of time to get to that point what with screen printing, photography, notes and so on. When it’s done, it will appear quietly on the website in the Jacobean section, as will the third one of the set, which I am still busy stitching. Hours and hours of playing with dirty dogs at my feet.

Yes dirty. I had always thought Boxers were self-cleaning until I got Neville. He is the dirtiest dog on the planet because he loves to play and middle-age hasn’t slowed him down at all. It doesn’t help that we are into the rainy season now, so there is lots and lots of mud – because we’re revamping the back garden and the new grass is taking its time to grow back. His sidekick, Brenda, is the naughtiest Boxer in South Africa and that exacerbates the problem. We do, however, have plans to calm her down. She’s now old enough to become a mother and as soon as her hormones oblige, it is our intention that the two of them will make lovely, lovely babies. Pass on Neville’s unique temperament. We’re having to be very patient, though, because she was on contraceptive injections so that she didn’t come into season and they are taking far too long to wear off. If there’s no sign of it happening in the next few months we will have to consult the veterinary reproductive specialist up the hill.

In the meantime, they are doing good deeds. They have become blood donors. It gives me such a warm feeling to know that each of their donations can potentially save four dogs’ lives every three months. I was inspired to write all about it and you can read that article at Just click here. If you are similarly inspired, consider doing the same, wherever you are in the world.

And next time I post on this blog, I’ll tell you about the new book that I have written. The one that’s due out in early 2016.