Saturday, 12 October 2013

Miniature Needlepoint

Despite having been a miniaturist for more than 15 years, it is rare to meet a fellow enthusiast in the course of everyday life. Mostly, when I describe how I spend my spare time I am met with That Look. You know; the one which tells you that, despite your explanation, the recipient just Doesn't Get It and thinks you Might Be Slightly Mad. Meeting a fellow miniature stitcher is more rare still. Today, however, I was thrilled to meet a such a person and it inspired me to post a few pictures of the pieces I have stitched over the years.

This pattern was in Venus Dodge's Dollshouse Needlecrafts book which I discovered by chance when I was fresh out of University and which launched me on my miniature needlework journey. That sounds like I know where I'm going but couldn't be further from the truth! Until then I had never done any needlepoint in any scale, unless you count the tapestry kits which I did as a child and which were little more than painting by numbers but using a needle and thread in place of sticky oil paints. Being a complete novice, it came out somewhat on the chunky side but then, as they say, Art does have a tendency to imitate Life. Nonetheless, I am very proud of this carpet and to date it is still the only one I have had the patience to make. Anything larger than one square inch seems so daunting when you are short of time.

The two samplers below are from Janet Granger's lovely range of kits; ideal for those who are relatively new to stitching in miniature as they are inexpensive, straighforward and largely use 32-count linen which is easy on the eyes.

These were fun and simple to stitch. The kits include the frame so that you are ensured a result you can be proud of.  Inspired, I stitched some more of her kits:

Next, I discovered Nicola Mascall's wonderful needlepoint kits which introduced me to silk gauze; expensive but so much easier to stitch than I imagined. It is also wonderfully thin, so is a pleasure to make up into the finished item - as long as there are no curves involved (see below).

Having mastered 40-count silk gauze, I got smug and figured that stitching on 48-count couldn't be THAT much harder, so threw myself in at the deep-end with one of Annelle Ferguson's lovely sampler kits.

Lovely though the finished result is, this was a demon to stitch! It only got finished through sheer bloody-mindedness (the Rowlings have THAT in spades, at least) and I shall never stitch another one...not on 48-count, anyway. The fact it got done without the magnifier I now use is something that makes me think that perhaps my eyes are already on that slippery slope to middle age. Crikey, I never saw that coming. (No pun intended).

Honestly, this could have been the last thing I stitched. I shed blood, sweat and not a few tears over it. But then along came Bobbie Schoonmaker (God bless the internet, to quote a favourite film of mine) and her kits were just sufficiently different and exciting - not to mention stitched on 40-count gauze - to entice me to try again. Who says it can't be Christmas everyday?

These slippers are super-cute but very fiddly to make up. I'm not terribly good at executing curved seams, especially when you have to cut the gauze so so close to your precious stitching...but given that my feet resemble nothing so much as square trotters (saves me a fortune in a shoe habit and leaves me more to spend on handbags) the finished result is not inappropriate. Art imitating Life, once again. Bobbie also does a wonderful kit for a pair of children's slippers but they are even smaller. Maybe one day.

After that I got adventurous and started stitching cushion designs from some of the books in my collection. Whilst I was waiting for my daughter to arrive I did nothing but stitch to take my mind off what was to come, and, at one point, churned out a cushion a day - wonderful what fear can do to one's fingers!! Here are a selection of my favourites:

I discovered Blackwork through this lovely kit by Sandra Knight and can't wait to do more; it is strangely addictive and so much easier than trying to stitch a complex, coloured design. Simple, but extremely effective.

Finally, I recently found the time to stitch some little pictures and harbour ambitions to one day make a miniature Art Gallery in which all the pictures are stitched. Given that it took over a year (on and off, but mostly off) to stitch the swan design, that ambition might be some time in coming.

This is a simple picture that I designed myself. I have to say that designing needlepoint is not as easy as it might first appear. The teddies were supposed to be cute but ended up having a slightly satanic look about them. Enough to make your miniature babies cry!

This is a Nicola Mascall design which is sold as a firescreen kit, but which I chose to make into a picture. I made the frame myself, painted gold and distressed with an emery board.

This was a kit that I picked up at a dolls house fair for a mere £1. I made the frame myself..

I found this design in a cross stitch magazine; I picked up (with help) a whole pile of these magazines at a car boot sale for £3.00 and have piles of designs waiting to be stitched. One day.

Mostly I make my own frames out of scrap wood but the frame in the picture above was sold in a scrap-booking shop and was just the right size. Smaller ones are sold as ribbon charms and make lovely photograph frames.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of my work and hope that you might now be inspired to pick up your needle and do a little stitching of your own. We're a small bunch. But we are miniaturists, after all.

Until next time, happy stitching!
Kathryn x

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Miniatures shouldn't take up much space. So why do they?

I make miniatures. Miniatures, by definition, are small. That is why I like them. So why, and how, have they taken over my (real-life) house? Not to mention my life. Last month, we at Huddersfield Miniatures Club staged our annual exhibition for Kirklees Council as part of its Allotment Society Show. Quite how our dolls and houses came to be linked so closely with prize-winning vegetables is lost in the annals of time, but every year our members go round their houses blowing the dust off their miniatures and hauling them over to Huddersfield for our large - and by now legendary - display.

The Dolls House Room (may you Rest In Peace)

Every year we are amazed by how much Stuff we have between us. None more so than me. Now I am a tidy, organised person who likes a place for everything and everything in its place. Doesn't always happen, but then the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Once upon a time, before children, I had such a place. One room in the house that was All Mine and where I lived, worked and dreamed miniatures whenever I got the chance. Everything miniature, and everything I needed to make them, was in that room and, when I was through, I simply shut the door. Simple.

But then I discovered I was expecting my second baby and, small though he might be (at first, anyway, despite giving me a 50 inch waist for a short while) he would need somewhere to sleep. And so, with a bump in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I set about clearing my beloved Dolls House Room.

I reduced my stash of Things That Might One Day Be Useful from five boxes to one. I gave generous gifts of wood and fimo to like-minded friends who had done things the right way round and had finished Bringing Up Baby BEFORE embarking on the whole miniature debacle. I sold things and dismantled things and packed up the entire contents of my beloved dolls house before discovering that the house itself would not fit through the loft-hatch. So in came the builder to make the opening big enough to allow safe passage of my baby. (Distressing parallels with the delivery room there, in my experience). In doing so, half the landing ceiling fell down and was not put back up before I'd decided that if That Man and I were in the same house for a moment longer then I would be giving birth shackled to a prison guard. Luckily, before he left (shutting the door rather more firmly than necessary behind him), he had boarded out the loft so that once through the hole in the ceiling the whole thing didn't end up back on the first floor via a new hole in a different ceiling. The whole exercise ended up costing rather more than the dolls house did. And not a little of my sanity.

My baby. Before I had any real ones.

But, finally, everything was packed up and stored in the loft to await the day when the child I had not yet given birth to had left home.

So why, now, only 4 years later, do I find that somehow - despite having no time, no money and even less energy to pursue this most beloved hobby - my collection has grown? And, what is more, spread into almost every room in the house? It's like the most insidious of viruses. Far from going to one small room and selecting the pieces I wished to exhibit, I found myself trawling the house to FIND where they might have been cunningly concealed. Six roomboxes in the lounge. Eight in my bedroom. Another six in the dining room. Not that I am counting...And still, two huge crates in the loft, untouched since I put them there. Not to mention my tools, my stash (back up to 5 boxes and cunningly concealed in my wardrobe; who needs clothes anyway) and the three boxes of stock with which I will one day launch Little Threads Miniatures for real. How is this possible? Am I making things without my own knowledge? Am I in denial? Am I going (or, more likely, already gone) mad?

But I am not alone! Every year, without fail, I and my mini-friends are amazed at what we have discovered in our own homes.  There shall surely come a point when our homes simply cannot hold another thing. When we've moved down the scale from 1/12th to 1\24th, to 1\48th and 1/144th (cunning foxes, we miniaturists!) in an effort to satisfy the continuing need inside us to Carry On Crafting even after we know it is madness to continue. Happily for us, our homes continue to be somehow larger than the sum of all their parts and so there will always be room for Just One More Thing. And ours is not, as they say, to reason why.

Until next time
Kathryn x