Christmas Embroidery Kits at The Stitchery

I have been watching Christmas films (well basically Little Women on repeat), singing Christmas hymns loudly (with lots of muffled mumbles when I don’t know the words) and I have had my first Christmas Costa cup (a hazelnut praline latte which was yummers). For my first Christmas at The Stitchery I have created two embroidery kits for you to stitch at home.

The Vintage Christmas Wreath is elegant and understated featuring a wreath of dark red roses and poinsettia flowers. Full instructions are given in the kit and a youtube tutorial will be published at the beginning of December. The wreath is finished with a white antique linen bow. It is my favourite handmade Christmas decoration this year.

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The Carol Singers Embroidery Kit is a fun and easy piece to stitch using mostly split stitch. The colour palette is fresh and modern. I like this a lot, it was so enjoyable to stitch.

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Festive embroideries are so lovely to work on when you need a little downtime over the busy holiday period. Whether you stitch the designs to decorate your home or as a gift for a loved one, taking the time to slow down and stitch helps you to savour the season and enjoy the little moments that make Christmas so special; things that are often overlooked when we rush through our to-do lists.

These embroideries are beautiful framed but could also be made into little cushions, lavender bags or used to adorn the front of a project or gift bag. I have used my embroideries to decorate journal covers and adorn apron pockets. There are so many possibilities! You can buy here via my online shop and I ship worldwide.

Nicki X














Festive Photographs, Peanut Butter with Jam and a Very Cross Lady

It is late Friday afternoon and dusk is falling. I have just got home from the studio and my first job was to set about the business of switching on the lamps, fairy lights and lighting candles. I am about to put a match to the fire too; it has turned really chilly today. Having made myself a coffee I found a couple of stashed (and forgotten) squares of milk chocolate in the fridge. So that’s a high note for the end of the week!

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I have had the cosiest week. I have been feeling a little under the weather with what feels like the onset of a cold and it has really forced me to slow down. I’ve worked from home for most of the time, often next to the woodburner in the kitchen. There has been some online training, lots of stitching and lots of planning! I am pleased to have finalised my embroidery workshops for the Stitchery Retreat which is in just three weeks! We have five days in Cornwall; one day at the Cowslip Christmas fair, another out for Sunday lunch and three lovely hyggelig days of embroidery workshops. I have planned three exclusive kits for everyone and I am really looking forward to it.

I have also taken a few festive photographs this week. Loosely translated this means that I have tripped over fairy light wires more times than I care to mention, made countless cups of coffee in Father Christmas mugs and rummaged about in the garden in my nightdress and birkenstocks looking for Rosemary, Ivy and Holly and anything remotely β€˜Christmassy’. (It did not yield much.)

So I thought I would share my photos with you here on the blog. My Christmas kits are in production and I have an anniversary kit coming out in mid-December to round up a year of The Stitchery Journal. I love the Gift Vouchers that I have produced with Three Six Five Design and Oyster Bridge & Co. So beautiful. You can buy them here.

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In the spirit of a weekly round-up, this week I have also:

  • Started my Christmas shopping. For myself. Haha. So far, Father Christmas will be delivering a beautiful pair of Victoriana lace-up ankle boots, a pale rose cashmere sweater and a festive set of gorgeous fine silk embroidery threads (don’t worry I got some thread for you too).

  • Finished two books; The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes and The Woolly Hat Knitting Club. Both very cosy reads.

  • Eaten three peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches. One of which was rustled up at the ungodly hour of 2am when I couldn’t sleep for my rumbling tum.

  • Smothered my face nightly with an eye-wateringly expensive cream (Cult 51) which so far appears to be making no difference whatsoever.

  • Tried to rescue a very cross lady who was knocked off her push bike by a DPD driver right outside the studio. (I think she was cross because she was knocked over. Who wouldn’t be. She was fine but her bike which β€œcost thousands of pounds and isn’t even my best bike” had a few scratches. I offered her a cup of tea and the use of my loo (which she crossly declined) and went inside for a cherry bakewell and a cup of tea to get over the shock. It is really scary to hear a van screech to a halt right by your window!

The weekend beckons and I have too many plans and not enough time. Lizzie is skipping about by my feet reminding me that it is her dinner time and Andrew will be home soon for a glass of wine and Killing Eve. What a lush day!

Have a great weekend, thanks for reading.

Love

Nicki xxx







Hips, Haws, Sloes and Blackberries

 The Stitchery Studio Autumn Wreath

The Stitchery Studio Autumn Wreath

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Such a beautiful time of year; September to New Year's Eve is my very favourite. 

So many cosy, lovely things to do and see.  Walking through the countryside at the moment is blissful.  The days are comfortably warm, the hedgerows and trees laden with fruit.  So much colour; beautiful muted pinks and greens of slowly ripening fruit contrasts with the vivid orangey red of rosehips and the jewel-like deep purples of blackberries and elderberries.

So much inspiration; for drawing, painting, stitching and applique.  I have been working on a few Autumnal pieces - a beautiful bramble wreath for a forthcoming workshop at the Rosehip Farmhouse and a more muted wreath of seedheads which will be released as a standalone kit very soon.  

I am enjoying the cooler weather at last, particularly at night time, but so appreciate the still-warm sunshine during the day.  Still perfect temperatures for taking a coffee outside, wearing sandals and sunglasses.

I always feel so inspired at this time of the year that I feel almost panicky that there aren't enough hours or days for me to get everything done.  I have dug out my Cali Cozy quilt kit from Alicia Paulson and plan to start piecing the top this weekend (after a little brocanting and brunching, of course).  I am trying to balance my desire to savour the present seasons with the necessity of planning for forthcoming seasons.  I have been working on Christmas plans for a few weeks now and whilst I am excited to launch Christmas workshops I am loath to move on too quickly and miss the onset of Autumn in all her glory.

The concept of new beginnings has been overused in social media but I am totally on board with the fresh start that September brings; squeaky new school shoes and all.

Have a wonderful week and thanks for reading. 

Nicki xx

PS if you can make it to Suffolk and would like to join us for a blissful day of wreath embroidery then you can book here.  There are still spaces available. These are my last workshops at the very special Rosehip Farmhouse as the family is moving next month.  Very exciting for them but I am sure tinged with a little sadness to be moving on. 

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Watering Can Embroidery

This weekend I was due to teach a little embroidery class at the Dorset Brocante.  I had romantic plans to sit in a beautifully sunny garden underneath a pop-up gazebo (for shade) sipping tea and stitching with a group of lovely women.  Unfortunately the weather had other plans and it simply wasn't the weather for gazebo stitch parties.  

I had prepared a little embroidery kit for my stitchers in advance of the brocante; it was my last nod to summer... A tiny painted watering can planted with a waterfall of palest pink flowers sitting on a patch of late forget-me-nots...

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I may make the design into an 'official' kit in the spring next year but I think it is nice for my workshop attendees to have something special all for themselves to stitch.

I spent my unexpected day off wisely. I haven't taken any time just to be at home for a long while and so I pottered around the house, drinking good coffee, reading (Close to Home by Cara Hunter; so far so good) and preparing to go back to art school next Friday.  I bought a new paint palette and spent an enjoyable hour choosing colours, putting them in order and squeezing them into their little wells. I labelled the wells and made a little chart to keep inside the palette too.  

I felt like painting a little something small and quick. When I was in Norfolk recently I bought myself a little book of blank watercolour postcards.  The perfect size to ward off 'the fear of the blank page' and so I had a little practise at painting my embroidery.  I often do little watercoloured sketches when I am coming up with design ideas but I haven't worked this way round before.  I feel inspired to try to paint watercolours of my other pieces; just for my journal.  Of course I will share them with you here too, since you're such a kind and supportive bunch! 

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It was the loveliest day and I felt refreshed to start a busy week at work.  I have a Social Stitch group on Saturday here at the studio and I want to get the place ship shape before everyone arrives. 

Enjoy this last week of August and the last days of the school holidays. 

Love

Nicki x

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Pixie Workshop at The Stitchery Studio

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I am so excited; I have just listed the first 'guest tutor' workshop at The Stitchery, with Christina Hamilton (who you will know as Nina @ninalovesorange on instagram). 

Nina is the sweetest, most gentle lady, and so it is no surprise that the pixie peg dolls she creates are so delicate and ethereal.  It promises to be a super-relaxing day with like-minded individuals.  I will be on hand during the day to serve tea and help Nina; I will also be able to share some embroidery ideas for the dresses if you would like to include a rosebud here and there.  Our little pixies will be wearing linen dresses - perfect to embellish with vintage fabric, stamps, papers and tiny little stitches.  There is no experience necessary, beginners are welcome.  If you'd like to join us please book here

Lots of love

Nicki xx

Sunshine, Stitching and Swimming

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Is this the longest summer ever? It certainly feels like it.  Having been born in the winter of 1976 following the last lengthy UK heatwave, I often joke that I was 'cooked' on a high temperature hence my penchant for hot weather.  However, now I'm not so sure.  It is taking me a million time longer (approx) to do anything, I cannot go anywhere without an electric fan switched on full and I am more short-tempered than I care to admit. 

There have been many more highs than lows to this summer: 

  • Escaping to Center Parcs, the second that school broke up, with my gorgeous nieces.  We swam, ate ice cream and took long walks every single day.  It was bliss.  One of my favourite sounds is the laughter of my nieces and there was a lot of it that week (particularly when my husband emerged from the bathroom in my sister's skirted swimming costume).
  • A happy Social Stitch day with some lovely Stitchery ladies.  We chatted, ate pavlova and scones and even managed a stitch or two! 
  • Bike rides to the park.
  • Tiny spools of antique embroidery silk in their original box. 
  • Detours to collect Friday flowers on the way to work every week from a keen local gardener (made even more wonderful with a lovely little drive to pick them up).
  • Raspberry gin with lots of ice.
  • Peter Rabbit on DVD.  (I love Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids but as Beatrix Potter she is perfect.  Coveting her house and wardrobe.)
  • Cold showers with rose-scented foam before bed.
  • Homemade scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam.
  • Mamma Mia HWGA at the cinema with sister and eldest niece.  
  • Rediscovering the gentle Miss Read Fairacre novels. 
  • Actually fancying salad.
  • A unicorn paddling pool, two squealing girls and a bucket holding 250 water bombs.
  • My calm, white, studio with air conditioning unit and delicious Deli millionaire shortbread on days when I need to catch up on writing jobs.
  • Sleeping under a thin antique quilt to the relaxing whirr of an electric fan.
  • Eating out almost daily because it is TOO HOT to cook.
  • Golden Retriever play dates, crochet and watermelon feta salad with my bestie.
  • My favourite Maxibon ice cream sandwiches in stock at our local supermarket.
  • Spotify Summer playlists on repeat.
  • Dinner, antiquing and happy chats with lovely new friends.
  • Cool linen Son de Flor frocks, Saltwater sandals in candy colours and floppy Gil Fox sunhats.

A lot to be cheerful about, all in all! So good to reflect on the happy times this summer.

There a full pipeline for The Stitchery this August and heading into the Autumn.  I have just launched my Floral Heart Garland embroidery kit (pre-order here) and I am looking forward to attending the Dorset Brocante on bank holiday Monday.  I will be holding workshops in a pretty white gazebo in the gardens of West Dean, selling my kits and sewing supplies.  There are a few spaces left in the afternoon session if you fancy joining us (book here).  We will be stitching little floral wreaths to be made into lavender bags (or for you to frame if you don't like lavender). I can't wait; the Brocante is always so lovely. 

On Saturday 1st September I will have my first Social Stitch session (book here) .  The Social Stitch will happen generally on the first Saturday of every month and you can book your space now until the end of the year if you wish.  From 1st September I will also be opening my little studio for visitors on Tuesday to Friday each week.  If you live nearby and want to collect your order, stock up on sewing supplies then please come and say hello.  I'll be open from 10am - 4pm Tuesday to Thursday and 9am - 12pm on a Friday.  

I am going to be blogging much more frequently now (I promise) so please keep popping by for news, event updates and youtube tutorials.

See you soon, with lots of love.

Nicki xx

Embroidery Kits, Sunshine and Workshops

There is so much going on at The Stitchery at the moment that it is taking real effort to heed my own advice and slow down... 

The thing is, I have met SO many wonderful, like-minded, people through my work that it is hard not to be super enthusiastic and excited.  I have to set my alarm to remind myself to go home!  The studio is most definitely my happy place and Andrew (my husband) loves coming here too. 

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(How lovely is this Castle Ashby map that Kate drew for me!  If you could see the scraps and sketches she was given to work from you'd be even more impressed.  Kate is an absolute creative genius and I want to be her when I grow up.)

We are working hard on collating the June subscription kits at the moment and they will despatch on Monday.  I am in love with the summer designs for the subscription kits; fresh, delicate florals with pretty colour palettes.  I am excited for people to receive them! 

I realise that not everyone likes the mystery and commitment of a subscription service so I've been working with brand designer Lucy Hopcraft and artist Kate Nicole to come up with some beautiful standalone kits that you can basically buy off the shelf.  Kate provides all of the lovely handmade folders for my embroidery workshops and I wanted the new kit design to incorporate that.  I'm really happy with the kits that we've put together and the first ones will be landing on doormats early next week.  You can order yours here.  Perfect little stitcheries for yourself to work on but I think they will also make the most lovely gifts.  I have a small range of my favourite haberdashery items for sale in the studio which will be available online soon, so maybe a one-stop shop for a present for that creative friend of yours? 

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I have finalised my plans to attend the Dorset Brocante in Dean's Court on August Bank Holiday Monday and the Christmas Fair at the Larmer Tree Gardens on 30th November and 1st December.  I'll be selling my kits and haberdashery but also holding a few workshops too.  I so enjoyed my time at the Dorset Brocante last month so I am really looking forward to the next fairs.  Really hope you can come to see me.   If Dorset is a bit too far, I have published a couple of summer workshops here at the studio too - we will be stitching pretty floral heart garlands to make into lavender cushions (or frame if you're not keen on lavender).  Lots to look forward to.   If you fancy coming along to a workshop either at the studio or the Dorset Brocante then please book here

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful week and enjoying the warm weather.  It feels like such a treat to have G&T in the sunshine after a long day, surrounded by the roses in the garden (which are so good this year!). 

Lots of love

Nicki xx

 Calligraphy by Kate Nicole, Oyster Bridge & Co 

Calligraphy by Kate Nicole, Oyster Bridge & Co 

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Workshops at The Stitchery Studio

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I love having people to come and stitch with me at my studio.   

I love making up the kits and preparing the linen. 

Love seeing confidence build and friendships being made. 

I love sharing inspiration and feeling inspired too by the women who join me. 

I love planning lunch, baking cakes and arranging my shelves so that my supplies look artistic and inspiring. 

Love sharing new finds and favourite makers.  

I held my very first workshop on Saturday with another yesterday.  Despite me being overly optimistic about the number of people I could comfortably seat and cater for I think it all went really well and I so enjoyed making it a happy day.  I can't wait for the next one.  Come and join me - workshop dates are always published here and I'll be releasing new dates and new patterns soon. 

If you can't join me for a workshop then on a few days a month I'll be holding social stitch groups.  These will mostly be Saturdays but I'll open on other days for those who aren't free on a weekend.  Just bring your latest project and something for your lunch and come to work with a group of like-minded people for the day.   And if you're passing and the sign says I'm open then knock on the door and have a cuppa with me. I'd love to see you.  

 My gorgeous stitched letter from my friend Penny at   The Embroidery Bird.    These are available to commission as wedding/new home gifts or any other special occasion.  Plump with fragrant lavender and stitched onto antique linen.  Heart eyes!

My gorgeous stitched letter from my friend Penny at  The Embroidery Bird.   These are available to commission as wedding/new home gifts or any other special occasion.  Plump with fragrant lavender and stitched onto antique linen.  Heart eyes!

 Gifts and cards from my lovely stitching friends.  I am so lucky to meet these people. Kindness beyond words.

Gifts and cards from my lovely stitching friends.  I am so lucky to meet these people. Kindness beyond words.

Have a great week, 

love

Nicki xx

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The Stitchery Studio

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It has been a super exciting weekend for me - I got the keys to my new studio on the beautiful Castle Ashby estate just five minutes from my home. 

I have been self-employed for nearly three years now and during that time I have been working from home.  It has been a bit of a challenge for me, to be honest.  I like 'going out' to work; I like the change of scenery, driving with the radio on and the routine that working offsite provides.  I am too easily distracted to work from home full-time!  Our house has been pretty messy, with boxes piled high in the spare room and the dining table is rarely clear.  All of the components for The Stitchery* are made and compiled in-house and it soon became apparent that I needed more space in which to work.  Finding the studio felt like fate, it hadn't been advertised and the current tenant was going to be out at the end of the month.  

I have been popping along to the unit every so often to measure spaces and drop off furniture but to finally have the keys this weekend and be able to start painting is so exciting!  We are going to be working really hard over the next two weeks to get the place ready to welcome visitors.  The downstairs space will be a working studio and shop; upstairs is room for me to work.  There is a little kitchen downstairs so that I can offer my visitors tea and cake, and a tiny WC.  I will share pictures as I decorate but think gorgeous old chippy furniture, tiny drawers filled with old lace and buttons, and handmade soft furnishings.   It is a lovely light and bright space so I am going to dress the windows with simple pelmets hiding roller blinds.  The furniture and accessories have been bought from independent businesses where possible and other makers whose work I love.  

My plan is to work there every day Monday to Friday and I will be holding a Stitch Club on Saturday mornings for people who want to bring their current WIPs and have a bit of a natter.  Any stitching goes - crochet, patchwork, embroidery, knitting... just a nice drop-in social session.  I will post more details here when we're up and running.   I will hold my workshops at the studio (don't worry if you have booked to come to the house, it is a stone's throw from my home) and I plan to have a few shopping events and embroidery taster sessions too.  

The studio is opposite a lovely country pub called The Falcon which is currently undergoing work to become a boutique hotel.   It should be open this summer and the plans for it sound wonderful.  There is a rural shopping area at Castle Ashby with deli, cafe, gift shop and home interiors store, amongst others, plus a pottery studio (which I am personally very happy about, desperate to try a bit of hand built pottery). 

If you haven't visited the gardens at Castle Ashby before you are in for a treat.  I plan to spend a lot of time there; so much inspiration for art and embroidery.  The Orangery is very special indeed, built in 1872 with a heavenly central pond.  The house is occupied, I think, by the owner Lord Northampton and not generally open to visitors but there is a  walled garden tearoom and plant shop with a play area for children.  

I can't wait to share more and hope you'll join me for the next stage of my journey.  Working for the bank seems so long ago.  In the meantime I am working hard preparing the gorgeous March boxes, putting together catch-up kits and making journals.   We've had very bad (beautiful) snow this week which has rather thwarted our attempts to make good progress with the decorating so we are bringing in the big guns (mum and dad) during the week to help get it sorted!  My family has given me so much support and physical help with The Stitchery, I am very lucky to have them.  Thankful too that dad took early retirement! 

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the last of the snow, friends.  Spring will be here before we know it and these magical, sparkling days will be a distant memory.

Love

Nicki x

* If you haven't heard of The Stitchery, check it out here.  It isn't too late to join; catch-up kits are available and we are still able to make journals to order.  

Embroidery for Beginners

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I've had the most lovely start to my week; I held the last of my Winter workshops here at my cottage, The Little Green Door.

For the classes, I designed this little winter sampler to incorporate some of the basic stitches that I regularly use in my work.  I love the colour palette with its tiny lazy daisy leaves, pale pink ranunculus and white snowberries. 

Sometimes I can't quite believe that my work has moved in such a different direction.  Having worked in publishing and banking for more than 20 years it is so refreshing to now spend my days drawing, stitching and making up packages of pretty antique fabrics.  I have been sitting around my kitchen table this week teaching the most lovely group of women, serving cake and listening to stories from so many interesting, cosy, lives.  Sharing my love for the gentle pass-time of stitching.  I couldn't help but think of the contrast between corporate meetings, wearing a suit and heels, carrying laptop bags, minuting discussions about LIBOR and drawdown dates. 

So here I am today, tidying up the leftover cake (*dabs mouth with napkin*) and threads, planning patterns and colours for the spring workshops starting on Monday 19th March.   I will be teaching a series of little flowers, shrubs and foliage which can be stitched simply, on their own, or incorporated in larger pieces of work such as wreaths, containers, garden borders and meadows.  If you fancy coming along to a workshop you can book here or sign up to my newsletter here for advance notification of classes.

I've been catching up on admin today and this afternoon I am going to work on a piece for my grandmother before I finish off one final commission.   I have a few busy days ahead of me  - I'm going to be trawling the country collecting furniture and packing up my workroom.... I'm on the move!  Cannot wait.

I will leave you with a pretty little pixie who came to my class this Monday with her gorgeous creator, Christina.  Both arrived in a soft scented cloud of delicate perfume and blush pink knitwear; I was rather taken with both of them upon sight.  (I bought Juliet via the @cr_auction account on instagram where Maria of Sugar and Spice Furnishings raises money for cancer research selling donated items from very talented makers and small businesses).

 Gorgeous peg doll pixie in acorn cap by @ninalovesorange (instagram)

Gorgeous peg doll pixie in acorn cap by @ninalovesorange (instagram)

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The Stitchery Journal: a monthly subscription

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The idea for The Stitchery came about after a chat at a friend's house over a few cups of tea and a packet of Extremely Chocolatey Biscuits. 

Mimi and I are both keen crafters with a particular love of contemporary embroidery in pretty, muted, colours.  We share a passion for slubby, heavy, antique linen, faded floral cottons and timeworn trimmings that tell a story.  Usually the more frayed and tatty the better.

We both had lots of little linen scraps in our workboxes embroidered with dainty little floral designs and we weren't sure what to do with them.  We bought gorgeous handmade paper journals (more on those another time) which inspired us to create a rough linen scrapbook in which to display our work.  

We knew it was something that our creative friends would love and that it would lend itself well to a monthly subscription.  And so, The Stitchery Journal was born! 

Each month you will receive an exclusive embroidery pattern with full instructions, the base linen on which to stitch and the all of the threads required to complete the work.  There will be suggestions for beginner stitches and instructions for more advanced stitches, depending on your ability and personal taste.  There will also be a small package of embellishments which you might like to use to decorate your work.  We like to call them Fripperies.  A wisp of beautiful old lace, a scrap of faded floral fabric, a handmade button.... The items each month in each box will be slightly different because the truly special thing about The Stitchery is that we will only be using handmade, antique or vintage materials.  (Apart from the threads which will be new and, importantly, colour-safe.)

Mimi has worked in the antiques trade for more than 25 years and I have been stitching, on and off, since the age of 7 when my great-grandmother would come to see us with a bag of Mint Imperials and a paper-thin embroidery transfer for me to stitch.  In readiness for our launch, Mimi has been up in the wee hours, scouring markets and fairs looking for beautiful fabrics and fripperies.  I have been scribbling in my workroom drawing up pretty little designs and doing sample stitches. 

The branding just had to be done by Kate Nicole of Oyster Bridge & Co.  If you haven't seen Kate's work before, she is a truly talented artist with a delicate aesthetic that is especially popular on the antiques scene.  Her fine penmanship harks back to a time of neatly calligraphed love letters and secret diaries.  We were delighted when Kate agreed to contribute to The Stitchery and some months you will find that your little package of fripperies includes a small handcrafted token by Kate. 

We all need a bit of downtime, to relax and be comfortable.  There are few things more comforting than crafting by the fire with your favourite drink and something soothing on the radio.  We hope that participating in The Stitchery Journal will encourage you to carve out time for yourself each week.  Each embroidery design fits neatly onto a piece of A5 sized linen and the journal (sold separately here) is slightly larger than A5 so that you can easily hand-sew your embroidery to the pages.  The finished journal, next Christmas, will contain all of your embroideries in one beautiful book; a lovely family heirloom.

We will share progress and ideas via our hashtag on social media #thestitcheryjournal and there will be instructional films on youtube to help you work the stitches you are struggling with.  If you are feeling sociable, we will be organising quarterly gatherings in central locations so that we can all meet up for a few hours, bring our work and share inspiration and skills over a cup of tea. 

Availability is limited for The Stitchery due to the nature of the materials that we source - antiques can't be bought in bulk!  Pop over to join in here

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Summertime

  

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I haven't written for ages, have I?  I have found it really difficult getting into a routine working for myself.  I don't always make time for the things that I love; one of those things is writing.  

I am going to try really hard to discipline myself to blog more regularly.  I know we all agree that with instagram it is easy to neglect our blogs, given that IG has been described as a form of micro-blogging.  I love instagram but I can lose hours there but there is something missing that only real blog posts can offer.  I still prefer to read well-written blog posts, I find them comforting and cosy to read when I'm queuing at the shops, having a coffee or off to bed.  I don't always want the quick and easy version that instagram offers.  Posie Gets Cozy is my absolute favourite blog.  I love to read Alicia's words, I think she has an inspiring life as a fellow maker.  I share a lot of things in common with Alicia and love how she appears to make the most of every day by making the little things special... It is something that I try to do myself too.  

I had considered vlogging but I don't think that's me.  I like to make little videos of what I'm up to and where I've been every now and then but there is no way that I can just sit in front of a camera and chat.  I have tried and I just don't feel comfortable.  I feel awkward and exposed.  I talk to myself at home all the time and I've spent years pretending to run a cookery show in the comfort of my own kitchen!  (I think I used to drive my mum mad emptying all the weighed ingredients into separate little bowls for my 'shows').  For some reason when there is an actual real-life camera in front of me I just feel like a wally.  And that is that.

Summer is passing for us in a blur of salted caramel ice creams, fruit cider, long dog walks in the late evening and lots of cool showers.  Electric fans whirring, duvets relegated to storage and small posies of roses at our bedside.  Brocantes, antique fairs and car boot sales.  Fresh sourdough loaves and my favourite Portugese custard tarts.  Watering the roses, sweet peas, hanging baskets, geraniums and tomatoes with a morning coffee.  Trips to the zoo, parks and paddling pools with my nieces who cartwheel and dance on every spare inch of ground.  It is all so perfect.  We have had such wonderful weather and we are relishing every minute of it.  Since my workshop at the Cozy Club at the end of May I have been obsessed with seaside paraphernalia - I have been making tiny bunting for tiny vintage boats and digging out all of my old ticking in red, white and blue stripes to make cushions, lavender bags and hanging hearts.  It is so nice to have a bright white bathroom at last, that I can decorate with pretty handmade things.   I have a few more boats to make, a few more hearts and a little drawstring bag to keep my make up in. Mostly though I am spending my time working on a few new embroidery designs that I will be bringing with me to the brocantes at the end of August.  Sign up for our newsletter, below, to get advance notification of sales and Little Green Door news! 

Speak soon, thanks so much for popping by.

Nicki x

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Floral Ice Cubes for Summer Drinks

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Ever since buying Fiona Cairns Seasonal Baking Book earlier in the year I have been obsessed with edible flowers.  Some of the prettier and more unusual types are not growing in my garden (yet!) but I do have an abundance of violas which, I think, are super cute.  

I started off with crystalising a few.  I felt squeamish about using egg white for this purpose so I found an egg white substitute in powder form to use.  It was Ok but I expect a bit thicker and stiffer than actual egg white.  I went a bit crazy with the sugar too but was really pleased with the results and the lemon drizzle cake looked very pretty.  (I thought I'd already blogged my cake so here is a quick pic.  I'll share the full post another day.)

Obviously, freezing flowers in ice cubes is even quicker and less fiddly than crystalising them but I did treat myself to a couple of new ice cube trays so that I'd get good, big, square cubes.  Find them here.  (They will be nice with little berries and things in too don't you think?)

My only tip here is to use cooled boiled water so that the ice is clear.  My flowers sat on the top of the ice cube as I filled the tray to the top and dropped the viola in.  If you want to make sure the flower is in the centre of the cube then just fill the tray half full first when putting the flowers in.  Once that part has frozen you can top up with more water and freeze the rest of it.  Easy peasy. 

I have been enjoying my decorative ice cubes with that lovely pre-mixed gin and rose lemonade but they also make my orange and mango cordial look pretty too.  Can't wait to get more flowers and perhaps try some berries too.  Ooh and mint leaves.  Excited!  (I know, I am sad.)

Here's to a sunny summer, right?!

Love

Nicki 

Fair Season has Begun - Come and say hello!

 Our stand at Fair in the Square

Our stand at Fair in the Square

 Fresh flowers were provided by the lovely Lou at The Little Red Robin 

Fresh flowers were provided by the lovely Lou at The Little Red Robin 

 One day I will make a tabletop cover but in the meantime I am using old linen sheets.

One day I will make a tabletop cover but in the meantime I am using old linen sheets.

 A stack of notebooks with beautiful handmade paper and my 'Day at the Allotment' embroidery framed with reclaimed wood.

A stack of notebooks with beautiful handmade paper and my 'Day at the Allotment' embroidery framed with reclaimed wood.

 Pink hydrangea embroidery in handmade chippy frame.

Pink hydrangea embroidery in handmade chippy frame.

 Tiny drawers, velvet flowers, linen string and handmade paper notebooks...  A few of my favourite things.

Tiny drawers, velvet flowers, linen string and handmade paper notebooks...  A few of my favourite things.

 Blue hydrangea in handmade chippy frame.

Blue hydrangea in handmade chippy frame.

 My 'The Secret Garden' embroidery based on the logo for the Little Green Door.

My 'The Secret Garden' embroidery based on the logo for the Little Green Door.

 Labels for my handmade items, artwork by Kate at  Oyster Bridge & Co .

Labels for my handmade items, artwork by Kate at Oyster Bridge & Co.

 Our conservatory and where I can be found most days, stitching and watching the birds.

Our conservatory and where I can be found most days, stitching and watching the birds.

 The conservatory.  The old wooden box houses my painting supplies.  The patchwork cushion was a gift from my mum (it is a Tilda pattern using Tilda fabric).  She made two cushions and a matching quilt for my 40th birthday and I love them!

The conservatory.  The old wooden box houses my painting supplies.  The patchwork cushion was a gift from my mum (it is a Tilda pattern using Tilda fabric).  She made two cushions and a matching quilt for my 40th birthday and I love them!

 I keep pretty sweet company when I work.  Here she is, watching watercolour YouTube videos with me on the laptop.  

I keep pretty sweet company when I work.  Here she is, watching watercolour YouTube videos with me on the laptop.  

Brocante season has begun! It was our first fair of the year at the weekend.  We had a stand at The Country Brocante Fair in the Square in Midhurst. I had planned to launch my embroidery pieces online at the end of March but being invited to stand at the Fair in the Square changed my plans a little and I decided it would be nice to use the opportunity to display a few pieces of embroidery and see what sort of feedback I received.

In the weeks leading up to the brocante I had the most nervous tummy.  It is one thing attending an event where you have bought in items to sell but when you've made things yourself it is a whole other thing... It has become personal and I was struggling with my confidence. 

The day of the fair was bright and sunny.  The marketplace was full of gorgeous stands, all decorated with flowers and bunting.  It was beautiful.  We were in the town's Old Library which is a stunning old building and provided the perfect backdrop to our stand.  I couldn't have hoped for a better reception to my embroidery.  I had so much wonderful feedback and I feel inspired to continue.  Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and especially those who gave me a few words of encouragement about my work, it meant such a lot to me.  I sold a few pieces and took a couple more orders but for now I am back in my workroom finishing a few stitcheries to sell at the Larmer Tree Brocante in Dorset this bank holiday Monday. 

It is my first time attending the Larmer Tree Brocante but having followed the team on instagram, I am super excited by the list of exhibitors and the prospect of a ukulele performance in the 'Singing Theatre' during the day.  It sounds wonderful! 

I am lucky to have two rooms in the house that I can use as workrooms.  I am in the conservatory today which is the room I use for painting and stitching because the natural light in here is, obviously, fantastic.  I have a sewing room at the top of the house, in the eaves, where I have a cutting table and a sewing machine.  My sewing room is a terrible mess at the moment as I have bought a few new (old) pieces of furniture and need to have a bit of a sort out in there to declutter.  I am looking forward to getting home next week and having a long overdue tidy up and organisation session but in the meantime I will enjoy watching the birds in the garden, listening to Spotify and embroidering a floral bouquet.  Hopefully see you in Dorset on Monday!

Love

Nicki xx

Flowers in the House....

I have always loved having flowers around the house and it was my new year resolution to treat myself to a bunch each week.  My favourite flowers are roses (particularly the bombastic spray roses in the photos here) but I also love peonies, ranunculus and hydrangea.  

Money is tight since I became self-employed and I have become obsessive about finding the right flowers at the right price.  Good cut flowers are pretty hard to come by here in Northamptonshire.  You simply cannot pop into a florist to buy a few hydrangea heads; they just don't keep them in stock.  Paperwhites in early Spring are an impossibility too.  When buying flowers for gifts, Andrew and I will go to either Frosts Garden Centre near Milton Keynes or - my new favourite - The Flower Boutique in Woburn Sands.  (The large zinc bucket full of flowers was from there for Mother's Day).   For everyday flowers, Aldi is the best supermarket.  Their flowers are fresh and well-priced but most importantly they have a bigger selection than the standard chrysanthemums that you find in the likes of Tesco et al.  I've bought alliums, peonies and small bunches of berries there previously.  Lidl is a close second and their roses last for weeks.

As well as buying flowers I like to pick a few from the garden and have been snipping blossom from the beautiful big tree in my friend's new garden.  My sister has a cherry blossom tree about to bloom and next time I visit her I will take my snips!  A single branch of blossom in a little glass bottle or vase looks stunning and brings a bit of spring into the house.  I use old lemonade and apothecary bottles.

When I can, though, I buy flowers from The Country Brocante Store; Wild Willow Flowers are divine. 

I love to see a big jug full of flowers on a table or counter but when they start to fade I like to split up the bouquets and pop them into smaller vessels that I dot around the house.  Tiny glass bud vases are perfect for little posies next to the bed or in a guest room.  I also like to have a little pot of something pretty by the side of the sink in the bathroom.  I think little touches like that make the place feel more homely and cared for.  

When I buy things for my shop I always buy for myself first which is why you'll find lots of small vessels for flowers and plants around the home.  I have created a special 'for flowers' section where you will find small zinc jugs, hanging glass jam jars (like the one above), glass bud vases and tiny terracotta flower pots.

I am so looking forward to this weekend.  I have been helping my sister move into a new house and as a result ours looks like it has been burgled.  (In fact my MIL popped over to help with the dog when we were out one day and was alarmed at the state of the place - she never usually comments on the house but asked when the bomb had gone off, haha!).  

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Love

Nicki xxx 

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The Sunday Digest

  • Sorted through old, chippy paint frames for the embroideries and samplers I have made (coming to the shop soon!)
  • Spent a small fortune at Sainsbury's on their lovely stationery range. You can take the girl out of a PA role but you can't take the PA out of the girl! 
  • Wrote and sent my first newsletter (sign up here).
  • Laundered piles of antique linen and sorted them into colours - one of my favourite jobs! 
  • Took Lizzie to the vet for dental surgery.  She had a deep clean, two tiny front teeth extracted and they found a 'mass' on her gum.  I have been told to just keep an eye on it but I admit to feeling slightly panicky.
  • Took the Church Walk path at Salcey Forest on a still and sunny morning with mum and dad, followed by tea and sausage sandwiches in the cafe.
  • Started a new painting at art class using a photograph from Packwood House; inspiration for my next piece of embroidery.
  • Posted several mini lanterns, glass bud vases and powder pink candles from the shop. I think that folk are getting organised for Mothering Sunday (in three weeks' time).  I love to see which are the most popular bits and pieces, and I still do a little jig every time an order comes through.  So appreciate every single one.
  • Nursed husband through a few days off work after he got a telling off from the nurse that he hasn't elevated his leg often enough.  As a result am making several cups of tea a day and climbing the stairs approximately 44 times per hour to retrieve forgotten reading glasses [his], books [his] and gadgets [his].   He might have a withered leg come May but I will be positively buff!
  • Started my organisation and planning for the various brocantes I am attending throughout the year (kicking off with the Larmer Tree Brocante in Dorset on 1st May). I have updated our events page here - would love to meet you! 
  • Ate my bodyweight in dolly mixtures.  My snack of choice when stitching.
  • Hosted an after-school tea for my two lovely nieces.  There was paint, glitter and dancing. Tomato soup and soft white bread.  Sent them home with chocolatey faces, gluey hands and an old lipstick each.  Sister was pleased, haha.  
  • Spent a pleasant afternoon creating a collection of gift tags and greetings cards with watercolours and fabric scraps.  There's a teaser pic in the images above... All coming to the shop *very* soon.
  • The postie delivered a gorgeous swap package from the lovely Anna at Gregoria Fibers and I finished making a pretty present for her parcel.  Love swaps and love Anna's feed - check it out for knitting and lifestyle inspiration.