Where have I been? Nowhere – just the usual round of dog walks, spotting kestrels and kites and deer and Bill and Beatrice Crow, of which more anon.
What have I been doing? My youngest daughter is getting married in July and I decided to make a wedding ring cushion. My preferred format was cross stitch but I couldn’t find a design I really liked. Then I saw a Hardanger project which really appealed. The only problem was that I had never attempted Hardanger before though I had made some drawn thread napkins many years ago. Could it be so very different?
I bought a ‘Teach Yourself Hardanger Embroidery’ book and plunged in. Therein lies the problem – I am too hasty. Anxious to start and worried that I might not finish the task in time I began. I have always had a problem with tension - oh, the headaches, the worry!! – no, not that sort of tension. My knitting is too tight to move on the needles, my crochet stitches are impossibly taut, my cross-stitch buckles the fabric, hand-sewn seams are wrinkled. I was determined not to make that mistake and went rather to the other extreme. Kloster blocks are meant to retain the fabric when the material they surround is cut away and I was concerned that they might not.
I was working on Zweigart 28 Count Quaker cloth – that’s 28 hpi (holes per inch) – and the design was to be worked over two holes. I was pleasantly surprised at the speed with which the work progressed, then found I was one thread out and had to unstitch. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had not been a symmetrical pattern, but it was and it did – matter, that is. Eventually I finished the four hearts. By now the pearl thread had lost some of its lustre and was looking rather woolly in places where it had been worked and unworked and worked again. Undeterred I carried on.
From time to time I referred to my ‘Teach Yourself’ book to reassure myself that I was doing the right thing. ‘Remember the number four’ was burnt into my brain – that is, work over four fabric threads and leave four fabric threads between blocks. It wasn’t until I was anticipating the next stage of the work that I read that Kloster blocks usually comprise five satin stitches worked over four threads. Heart sinking, I looked more closely at the chart – yes, there were five lines indicating five stitches in each block. I considered rejigging the whole thing, adjusting everything to accommodate my mistake - too difficult! I then thought about unstitching the whole piece – the pearl cotton would look decidedly more like angora wool. Finally, I concluded that I must treat the piece I had been working on as my practice piece and started again. This time I read carefully to ensure that nothing else would go amiss and that I was doing the right thing in the right place.
Before the cutting . . . I was tempted to leave it like this.
A practice heart, cut out and miraculously not falling to pieces.
Eventually, I finished the cushion. I hope I’m the only one who will recognise the many faults in it, though I expect I shall point them out, just as my mother always drew attention to her (very minor) mistakes, but I enjoyed doing it. It doesn’t matter if Bethan and Robert decide they don’t want to use it and even if they do the little boy who holds it, (Robert’s nephew) will no doubt drop it or stand on it or wipe his nose on it – once I’ve given it to them it’s theirs to do with as they please.
The finished article