Thursday, 8 February 2018

Going Round In Circles

Going Round In Circles

Around the end of November last year, a week or so after I had my shoulder fixed - so my arm was still in a sling - we had a bit of a dog fight here.  With blood. Never nice when that happens and I was to be found doing an emergency dash to the vet with a distressed Maltese and my own dicky right arm.  I left her there to be fixed up and came home somewhat unhappy myself and set about sorting out the root of the problem - another Maltese who was living with us and was upsetting the balance.

Halfway through organising her a fabulous new home (where she is now settled, spoilt and very happy) I received a message from my publisher asking me if I would collaborate with Di van Niekerk and Monique Day-Wilde to stitch and write a book on hand embroidered mandalas.  Being a most agreeable person I said yes, no problem, absolutely fine and got on with my day which ended with me picking up poor little Phoebe the Maltese from the vet, still a bit confused from the anaesthetic and with all sorts of drains coming out of her worst wounds.  I'm pleased to report that she got back to normal very quickly and all is now happy in the Blomkamp Dog pack or, as I call them, our armed response team.  Because we have crime, they are our first line of defence.

But back to the mandalas.  I woke up the next morning realising that stitching 25 mandalas (between Di and me) in four months was going to be a bit of a stretch.  Actually, impossible.  So, got on the blower to Di and said we are going to have to find a team to help us.  By the end of our conversation we had identified 11 people who we could ask to help and we set about asking them.

And this is what I want to tell you.  

Every time I phoned one of them I did so with trepidation.  It was a big thing to ask.  I fully expected some, if not all of them, to refuse and to tell me a thing or two whilst doing that.  Well, that didn't happen and currently there are 13 of us, all over South Africa, madly stitching till late every night.  Di and I do a wedge of each circular design, put the threads and beads together, write up basic instructions and a stitch guide and send it off to whoever is going to do the repeats and turn it into a completed project.  We have people popping into our homes to fetch (and as of a week ago, deliver) and Aramex Couriers are being kept very busy delivering, fetching and delivering back to us those that are being worked in other centres.

Every single person we asked - and admittedly we only asked people who we knew were competent along with being nice people - has come to the party with enthusiasm and some even said they felt honoured or excited, said thanks for trusting me.  

I probably don't even need to mention that, on the whole, I trust dogs more than I trust most people but this is the second time in less than a year that I have been pulled up on this, the first being the wonderful response to Inspirations Magazine's request for donations of needlework supplies to the ladies in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Wow, was that amazing and did it go a long way to restoring my faith in humanity, particularly in these turbulent times.

And now again.  What a wonderful bunch of ladies we have helping us.  Our work party.  

It's too soon to tell you anything about this forthcoming book other than to say that it is going to be varied, colourful, but also with some more muted mandalas.  Monique's designs are out of this world and it is such fun working out stitches and colours to do them justice.  The wide range of designs will be divided up into skill levels so that there will be something for everyone - from very simple to the more complicated techniques - and we envisage that it could also be a great teaching tool for all you tutors out there.  We haven't yet got as far as a publication date, but I will keep you posted on this.

In the meantime, I am sitting some 8 to 10 hours a day doing circles and loving the process.  Some of them remind me of previous circular designs I have done and because I'm so enthused I decided maybe we should do a special on some circular designs. 

So here they are.   Full kits for all of them have been marked down by 25% and they are available at this price until the 22nd February or until stocks run out, whichever happens first.

Midnight Meander featured on the cover of Crewel Twists and remains popular.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

Jacobean Tangle turned out to be the most popular design in the Crewel Twists book and features small areas of needle lace, along with more conventional crewel stitches - and beads.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

And then two designs that are similar to mandalas in that the projects involve repeats.  One would think that it would be tedious to repeat what you have already done but my experience is that this is not the case.  You are watching the whole thing come together as you stitch and that is not at all boring.

Monochromatic designs don't show up particularly well in photographs - well not if you have my lack of photographic skills - but I loved doing 8 Shades Of Beige.  It is delicate and filled with really interesting needle lace stitches, bead embroidery stitches and, of course, crewel stitches.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

And the last one is a mandala design that I did a few years ago.

Called Mandala Magic, it is full of my 'tricks' - weaving, needle lace, beads, you name it.  My original intention was to mount it in a pole screen and I am still going to do that one day.  Just have to find the time to have one made.  If you would like to order the full kit at a 25% discount, click on the image above or here and choose "full kit" in the drop down menu when the page opens.

So, there you go girls.  Get in quickly because these specials usually go fast.

My new book, Crewel Creatures, is about six weeks away.  If you want to get a small preview of what the book looks like, either go to my home page or click here.  You'll be able to have a squizz at the back and front covers along with a selection of the content pages.

When I know that the arrival of boxes of books into my studio is imminent, we will be uploading all of the packs - along with the books - on the website and I will let you know they are there.  We intend to do specials on a selection of the full kits, so watch out for that.

And now I'm going to go back to stitching mandalas.  I think I'm on number 13 but, actually, I've lost count.

Till the next time,

Monday, 13 November 2017

Two New(ish) Books

Some of you will remember, and will have purchased, my needle lace and needle weaving stitch guide books. 

I put those books together as a teaching tool, a place where all of the techniques relating to either needle lace or needle weaving, as one would use them in hand embroidery, were in one place with easy access.  I then sent a copy of each to Mary Corbet who reviewed them on her blog.  If you want to read that review (and its update) you'll find it here.

And things went crazy! As they always do when Mary Corbet says something about anything. With justification of course. Mary is always worth listening to, no matter how clever you are (or think you are).

As a result of Mary's post, Search Press asked me if they could publish them on my behalf. I have a great relationship with Search Press in the UK, because they publish my other books in conjunction with Metz Press in South Africa. They redesigned the books to suit their regular format and those books are now available.

Actually, they're been available for a while but as I have only just received stock of them, I have held back on writing about them until now.

So, what do you need to know if you already have them in the old format?

The content of each book is identical to what it was before. If you buy the new editions you won't find any additional stitches or information but what you will find is strong binding, books that are really well put together. I really am not trying to tempt you here, just raving a bit because they really are nice.

The way they have been put together allows you to be able to put a magnetic board and ruler under each page, having folded the covers back. This makes it easy to keep track of where you are. I will be putting together a short video clip of how this works, so watch out for that.

For those of you that would like to order them from me, you will find them here and here on my website.

If you are in South Africa, then it would probably be where you would want to order them from. You will also be able to find them at places like Exclusive Books, Bargain Books, CNA and, of course, on

If, however, you are elsewhere in the world you will find it cheaper from the shipping point of view to order them from places like Amazon (here and here), Book Depository (here and here) or, of course, you local needle work supplier. I know that a lot of the needle work suppliers that I deal with in Australia and New Zealand have got them in already, so it's a good idea to check with them first if you're in that part of the world.

Unlike my other books and also my forthcoming book, Crewel Creatures, these two books are stitch and technique guides. They do not include any projects, are a reference for you to use in your own embroidery, rather like those stitch guide books from days gone by (the TH de Dillmont book, Mary Thomas's book, the Weldon's book) and those from recent times, my favourites being the A-Z guides put together by Inspirations Magazine and now published by Search Press.

I have already received a couple of emails from those who have enjoyed my other books asking me how they're going to use these books and to this end I have spent the afternoon putting a lot of information onto the product pages for these books on my website. That information includes the designs that, in each instance, use the techniques described in these new books.

So, even if you are going to order from a supplier close to you, it might be worth looking at the product pages here and here. When you get to these pages scroll down to where there are lists of designs. Each one has a link ascribed to it and a simple click will take you to the page for each of those designs that use either needle lace or needle weaving techniques - or both in many cases.

It goes without saying that my forthcoming book, Crewel Creatures, features quite a few needle lace and needle weaving stitches. When that is ready for launch, I will add the relevant designs to the product pages for these two books.

The most useful way to use all of these stitches is in crazy patchwork either in conjunction my own book, Hand Stitched Crazy Patchwork, or any other crazy patchwork that you'd like to try.

So, having inundated you with information today, I promise to shut up for a while. Life is busy and somehow, becomes compartmentalised. I stitch every single day, but then I'm also doing diagrams, writing, dealing with order issues, couriers, post office, website.........and so it goes on. Then just when everything seems to be going smoothly, a dog gets sick (two of them last week because I have altogether far too many dogs), so they have to go to the vet.

'm sorry that both of these got done on the same day and I hope I haven't (in the words of my wonderful son) cooked your collective brains. If I have, I apologise.

Till next time (which will be a while, I promise)


Showcasing Crewel Creatures

About ten days ago I received the first proofs of Crewel Creatures from Metz Press. That's always an exciting time for me because I am always amazed at how Wilsia Metz and Liezl Maree take my ramblings along with the photos from the photo shoot and weave them into a work of art. They have, once again, produced a beautiful book.

Some years ago I spotted a painting of an owl in the window of an art gallery in a quaint village area of Montreal. Although it was probably in what is known as the 'steam punk' style, it was the clock face tummy that caught my eye. I obsessed for the rest of my Canadian trip over how I could interpret that idea, particularly the tummy, in Jacobean embroidery. Owlfred was the result and while I was stitching him it dawned on me that there was absolutely no reason to stop with an owl, why not other animals and birds?

It's been about two years in the making and Crewel Creatures is the result of those imaginings.

In the book you will find:

The shell of a tortoise is an area which cries out for Jacobean elements. Norman, as he is known, is colourful and decorative.

Living in Africa, as I do it was inevitable that I would choose to interpret the animals and birds that reside on this continent. Audrey is worked, not in the normal colours of an ostrich but rather, in the colours of the Klein Karoo, the area in South Africa where you would expect to find these large flightless birds.

Having enjoyed Owlfred, I wanted to do another owl for the book. One in full flight, about to pounce on the rat that, as is happens, ate my ethernet cables at about the time I was dreaming about it, the rhodent that left me with no internet for a while. Maureen is a big girl. She needed to be large if the Jacobean elements were going to look like anything at all so she is a long project but really will take pride of place on any wall when completed and framed.

To my mind, the hood of a cobra is an area just waiting for Jacobean embellishment. Despite this, a snake is a subject that may not appeal to many even though it often formed a part of the old Jacobean Tree of Life pieces, so it took a while to make the decision to include Janet and of course, she needed to be a happy and pretty snake. So, plenty of small glass pearls and a smile on her face. I have to say, I did enjoy stitching her.


hat could be more African than an elephant and also, the next and final design, a Rhino. Shirley is a stylised elephant with large, decorative ears. It is those larger ears that distinguish the African from the Asian elephant and, having seen images of so many decorative elephants that come from Asia, it was very difficult to not automatically fill her with red and gold elements. Instead, she is altogether more muted which, despite the common belief that Africa is mostly a continent of bright orange sunsets and brightly coloured Ndebele art, are very much the shades that you will find on this most colourful of continents.

Both of these animals are on the endangered list, the Rhino critically so with Rhino poaching being one of the great scourges of our time. At least every week there will be footage and mention of Rhino slaughter on our local television news and all of this because far away men from another continent believe that its horn, ground into powder, is an aphrodisiac. I had a lot of fun with Roger's hide and the trees behind him - using a freestyle variety of stitches to create texture.

I'm privileged to have seen both of these large animals many times, and in their natural habitat. I hope that they will still be around for future generations to be equally privileged.

So, when will you be able to get this book?

As mentioned, it is still in its production phase. I expect to have copies in late February to early March, that being for the South African market. With regard to the rest of the world, that will be a little later, around the beginning of June. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Book Depository, Fishpond and I would imagine other book websites No pressure then for the author. It's quite nerve wracking when you're still busy with it and it's already out there. If you click on the book site links above you will be able to pre-order right now. But best not to tell me you've done that. It's nail biting stuff until I receive the advance copies and know it's real.

As soon as I get boxes of the book available in my studio, the packs will go online. They will be the normal packs that we provide - i.e. print packs, bead packs, thread packs and speciality thread packs. Obviously you will need the book for the instructions and we provide the packs to make it easier for you. No tracing onto fabric, no trying to source threads and beads from all over the place. All in one place from us.

But what are you going to do in the meantime if you would like to start on a creature. Maybe this will solve your problem.

We have full kits of Owlfred available on our website at a discounted price. Well, only 8 of them because that's what we have in stock. We've got them at that price until the end of November so if you want one at a good price, probably get there quite quickly. Click here and you'll be taken to the place where you can order one.

So, that's Crewel Creatures.

I'm afraid that you're going to be hearing from me again very soon because I also have two other new books. I'm going to write a separate newsletter about that, just so that we don't mix things up too much.

Till then, Hazel

Thursday, 7 July 2016

I Want A Refund

It is now the first week of the seventh month of the year and, having given it a six-month trial, I think I would like to send 2016 back - and get a refund.

It has gone by in a haze of puppies, canine mastitis, more visits to the vet than I can count, rushing up to Zimbabwe for the Harare Needlework Guild’s bi-annual competition, going straight on to South East Asia for the Inspirations Mekong cruise, and then coming back to surgery for myself and – as a result of some complications - having to cancel my trip out to Australia to teach at Koala Conventions.

Apart from not getting any time to write on this blog, the people that I need to apologise to are those that had booked to do my workshops in Brisbane. I am going to admit, right here and now, that I have to take some of the blame. I should have gone to the doctor sooner than I did but I was hand-rearing puppies. Hungry mouths are hard to ignore. Much easier to just put up with some, albeit rather alarming, tummy grumbles. Once you’ve ignored it once or twice, it is easy to keep ignoring it and travel off to countries that have either doubtful medical care, or speak in a language that you can neither speak nor understand.

However. I am better, with a surprisingly clear head. I didn’t realise that it had been fuzzy for a long time. Obviously I had forgotten what normal feels like. That happens when things slowly creep up on you. We have two gorgeous Boxer Weapons Of Mass Distraction (gosh, what a delight they are), five hand-picked families are enjoying their Boxer puppies and, having found myself stuck at home when I didn’t expect to be, I am catching up.

I started this embroidery business on my dining room table. As time went on, I outgrew that space – and anyway, one needs a dining room table for family meals. Our study was not nearly big enough for all the things that were needing storage space and certainly did not have enough working room for extra staff, so I converted first one side of our double garage, then the other side, then the servants’ quarters and eventually the store room (all in the same building). If the truth be told, we could do with still more space and I will probably add a room onto that building in time but, in the meantime, I am making an attempt to go digital to the extent that I can and to that end there is now a section for Downloadable Patterns on our website.

Over the last twenty-five years I have brought out a lot of designs for both embroidery and beadwork. At the beginning I designed a lot of simple patterns, ones that are still useful to embroiderers who are at the beginning of their embroidery journey. I don’t put those out as kits anymore but, it has been pointed out to me, there are many stitchers out there who would like to have access to these. That there is still a demand for not only less complicated stitching but also, smaller projects.

Along with beadwork patterns, I am slowly converting all of my older designs into downloadable patterns. Having got far better at layout, I am updating that. Since I started doing this I have gone from hand-drawing stitch diagrams to doing them on computer, which produces a much-superior result. Even my photographs have improved. So, as my time allows I am slowly wading through the whole lot, editing, redoing the instructions, inserting better images, and as I complete each one, I upload it here.

From time to time, I get a request for a kit that I have discontinued. Those patterns are all going to eventually be available as Downloadables. Please do have a look at them. There might be something that takes your fancy, or even something that you wanted, had asked for, and was told it had been discontinued. Likewise, if there is something that you can no longer get from me, please let me know because I would probably be able to convert that pattern ahead of others.

I have been on the receiving end of dire warnings about unscrupulous customers who will buy one design and print out many copies for every member of the sewing circle, their mothers, aunties and even their daughter’s gay friend who is into needlework. I am sure that this is possible, but I have chosen to trust the better side of human nature.

Each embroidery pattern comprises the line drawing with instructions for how to transfer it to fabric, colour images of the completed embroidery, full stitching instructions with diagrams and a stitch guide, and a full list of the materials needed to complete the project.

The beadwork patterns give you comprehensive instructions on how to complete the project, with diagrams, colour images and, as with the embroidery patterns, a full list of all of the materials needed – along with a suggestion that you use the recommended beads, crystals, pearls, etc. in colours of your choice. Because there are beads and then there are beads. You don’t get the same result if you use rubbish beads. You just don’t.

And now I’m going to leave you with a photograph of Colin and Lily. Every single puppy from Brenda and Neville’s litter went to a hand-picked home, homes where I knew they would be loved, spoilt, fed properly and taken to the vet if they were sick. I’m in regular contact with all of the new owners and these delightful animals are giving their families as much pleasure as we are getting from our two. All of them are proving that the only reason to breed a litter of puppies is to pass on good temperament.

Colin is very much like his father, Neville. A huge and gentle giant with absolutely nothing between his ears. No IQ whatsoever, just galumphs around all clumsy and looking confused. And so affectionate. Lily is as affectionate, very much like her mother, Brenda. Sparky, naughty, bright eyed and convinced that she is a lap dog, even though she is now getting a bit big for that. I kept her for our son and as the weeks went by I realised that we were getting into an impossible situation. One where it would be impossible for me to let go of her, and impossible for her to leave the pack to which she is so bonded.

Then we discovered that our neighbours were moving to another city. So, we bought the house, my son moved in yesterday, I’ve checked that the perimeter walls and fences are secure, next week our builder is knocking a space into the dividing wall, which will give all the dogs access to both properties, and Lily will never leave home.

Is that not a perfect solution?

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

My New Book – at last

I am ashamed to say that my new book has been available for a few weeks and only now am I able to tell you that it is available on my website, as are the packs for the projects in the book. There are 8 reasons for this delay and I’ll talk about those later.

I told you all about the new book in November last year and you can read my blog post here.

Designed and written for both quilters and embroiderers, there are over 160 techniques in the book so, even if you don’t want to do the projects that I have done, you will nevertheless find a wealth of information on how to do a range of techniques. These include quilting, crazy patch piecing, embroidery stitches, ribbon embroidery stitches, simple tatting, needle lace, needle weaving, bead embroidery and even simple beading techniques – all of them used to embellish crazy patchwork. But not just crazy patchwork. Most of these techniques can be used in any kind of needle work.

My publisher described it to me as ‘encyclopaedic’, and yes, there is a lot of information in there.

You will be able to buy the book on my website. We are about to publish a brand new website which is why I’m not going to give you the actual links. Go to and follow the links to BOOKS in the ONLINE SHOP.

If it is the packs for the projects that you want, they are available in the KITS section of the ONLINE SHOP under the HAND STITCHED CRAZY PATCHWORK section. As always, you will be able to buy the full kits or, if you prefer, the separate packs, i.e. thread, special threads, bead packs, print packs, fabric packs and so on.

If you have a registered account on our website you will also be getting a newsletter in the near future, asking you to update your PIN number on the site. As mentioned above, we will shortly be going live with a brand new website and whilst we can transfer all of the information in your user account to the new website, we can’t access your PIN number. Hence the email that you will receive, asking you to click on a link to update your PIN. You won’t have to change that number, so don’t worry about that. It’s more a confirmation really. Just click on the link and do what it asks you to do just to prove that you are an actual person and not a virtual being, robot, hologram, etc.

The website should have been ready by now but, once again, because of the aforementioned 8 reasons, I have not found the time to ‘sit on’ the web man, to pester him to get it ready by the time the new book is available. You do have to do this thing because they are busy and tend to forget the dates that are so important to you.

And now for the 8 reasons.

I announced the birth of our Boxer puppies in my last blog post. They are now five weeks old and along the way it has been a little difficult. Brenda, the proud mother, developed life threatening mastitis when they were about five days old. The sort where she went from just fine at seven in the evening to a medical emergency which necessitated my calling out a veterinary surgeon at 11 at night.

A day later, having been put onto oral treatment, she had an allergic reaction to penicillin so thereafter she had to be taken in daily for injections. It got worse with two eruptions and just as she was beginning to look brighter she developed a different infection in another teat. So, a different antibiotic and back to daily veterinary hospital trips.

Needless to say, through all of this the puppies remained hungry and I was to be found doing four hourly feeds, night and day, sterilising bottles, mixing puppy formula. All that stuff. Just like having new born babies. Along the way we lost the tiniest puppy, not from lack of care but because he had a congenital problem which meant that he wasn’t going to survive, no matter how hard we tried.

I am, however, pleased to report that all of that is behind us. We have 8 naughty little devils, eating us out of house and home, and causing general mayhem.

Mother is much better and teaching them how to dig in the flower beds.

And I am not even going to mention what has to be cleaned up, great big piles of it. It’s hard to fathom where it all comes from.

And they are a complete and utter delight. I can sit for hours just watching them sleep, let alone watching what they get up to in their playful periods. I don’t breed puppies that often – the last time was twenty years ago – and I’m not sure that I will do it again so I am savouring every precious moment until they go to their new homes. And we have lovely homes for every single one of them. Hand picked for hand reared babies. Couldn’t hope for more.

We are keeping Colin, who is just like his Dad, Neville. The reason why we bred this litter in the first place. We had to pass on the best Boxer temperament on the planet.

Here is Colin.

He and his siblings are the reason why the new book ‘launch’ has all been a bit delayed. It is, however, now available and whilst I hope you will forgive my tardiness, I am sure you will all agree that I had 8 very good reasons.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Something so exciting....

One of the joys of what I do is that I get to travel to places various and exotic to pass on my knowledge and experience of embroidery.

I really am one of the luckiest people I know because not only do I meet wonderful, like-minded people who become friends, if only via the email machine, but I get to travel to places that I may not have chosen to go to if left to my own devices. Without exception, when I land up in these places I have gone there with no expectations whatsoever and it is those trips that end up being the best surprises.

It happens every time, but the one that does stand out in my mind is the cruise down the Mekong that I did with Inspirations Magazine in late-2014. Cambodia and Vietnam had not ever been in my mind as somewhere that I would like to visit one day. Yes, I was probably curious about what had happened there because at the time of both countries’ upheavals I was either in my late teens or a young mother with new babies, not really interested in the rest of the world. I was also not aware that there was much to see, from a ‘sights’ point of view, so it was not on my radar when Fiona and Susan invited me to teach on their first cruise down the Mekong. I said that, of course, I would go and in a sense, left it at that. I was, anyway, having a very busy year and it was just another place that I needed to get to in 2014.

I flew out of Johannesburg, having heaved a sigh of relief because I’d managed to get myself and my passport onto the plane in time, and promptly fell asleep. Not the demeanour of a terribly excited person.

And what a surprise was in store for me. From the moment we landed in Siem Reap in Cambodia, to the time we flew out of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, at the end of our cruise it made for an experience that I will always cherish.

From fabulous hotels, to ancient temples, colourful markets, floating villages, interesting and unusual smells, great service on a five-star boat and the fabulous South East Asian people, it never stopped. Our fellow cruisers were out for the same experience along with learning some embroidery from Susan and myself. My experience of teaching on that cruise was very special because we had so much time to, not only get to know our students but, also, to really teach each technique more properly than we might otherwise have been able to do at, say, a convention where time is usually a bit limited. You can add to that the fact that for Fiona and Susan, nothing was too much trouble. If someone needed to know something they found the answer. They provided care beyond the call of duty for every single person, not to mention their sparkling company and wit.

So, when Laura emailed me from Inspirations to ask me if I would consider teaching on another Mekong Cruise, I did not hesitate. I can certainly do all of that again. In fact, yes, I’m first in the queue.

It’s all happening from the 15th to the 22nd of May and all I really want to say is that if you are thinking that it may be something that you might possibly do, don’t hesitate. Do it.

It doesn’t matter if, like me, you are a frequent and jaded traveler that has been to a lot of different places. Or if you are someone that has not, in the past, ventured too far from home. It will be an experience that you have never had before and will treasure forever. I also think that, in today’s world, it is one of the parts of the world that is safe to travel to. We’ve all, inevitably, become a little nervous in the light of various recent and present threats to travelers, but I have to say that I have absolutely no qualms about this trip. Nice people, well organised and as safe an adventure as you can expect to have.

Have a look at this and this, then go to the cruise website. After which, get hold of Laura by email at You can, of course, book on the website too, but I am sure Laura will be quite happy to receive your person emails.

So, all that’s left to say on the subject, is I look forward to meeting you. We’re going to have a fabulous time.

Quickly before I close, I have a small announcement as under.

BLOMKAMP: Neville and Brenda are delighted to announce the birth of Colin, Roger, Frank, Norman, Shirley, Maureen, Audrey, Janet and Linda by Caesarean Section at 6 pm on Wednesday 24th February. Mother and babies well, father confused and grandmother running around with bottles of puppy formula.

And 24 hours later, recovering well from the Caesarean Section, utterly focused on her beautiful brood.

Happy times, clever Mummy and now I’m off to feed babies! It’s a huge litter, so I’m helping with supplementary feeding.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Hand Stitched Crazy Patchwork

If you are one of those people that creates things with your hands, you really are very lucky.

Apart from the calming effect that handwork has, using your hands to do meaningful tasks benefits both your physical and mental health. I know that it benefits me, curbs depression and boredom, gives me purpose. It definitely calms me and as I mellow with age it tends to make me so laid back that I am almost horizontal. Nothing wrong with that and I feel real sympathy for those that have not discovered the joy of handwork. We all know them – those that say that life is boring (how can you ever be bored I ask, with tears in my eyes), those that look for their kicks at the bottom of a bottle or those that spend their time mall-cruising munching on medication. Sad, really.

For those of us that have discovered handwork and, in particular, those of us that discovered it early in life, the chances are we’ve tried the lot. I have. From watercolours to miniatures, dressmaking to felting. And everything in between. The only thing I have never tried is pottery. The idea didn’t grab me, bit messy. But needlework, done with my hands, no machine involved? What can I say? In reality, I have devoted all of my spare time and much of my life to it.

I think it would not be unfair to say that most hand-stitchers have tried all of the different arts associated with their passion. Quilting, beadwork, lace making, embroidery, patchwork. They’ve probably also enjoyed crochet, knitting and tatting. But seldom do they combine these different arts.

Some years ago I started building a doll’s house. One twelfth scale, everything made with my own hands and a few simple tools. It gave me the opportunity to use every craft that I had ever learnt. From wood carving to gilding, stitching to moulding with polymer clay. I was in my element and, particularly because I was forced to be innovative. I was so pleased with myself when I worked out how to make a wooden floor that looked like the real thing, using a roll of oak strip that kitchen-builders use down the sides of cupboard doors and a carton of wood filler.

In my mind, crazy patchwork is the needlework equivalent of that doll’s house. It is an opportunity to use every kind of needle art that you have ever learnt.

When I stitch, I spend some of the time thinking up what I am going to do in the future. A few years ago I had this thought that I would like to embellish crazy patch in such a way that not one thing is bought and stitched on, nothing should come out of a stash and, definitely, nothing that decorates it should be a machine-made applique or strip of lace. Everything that forms the embellishment should be made with nothing more than a needle, a thread, some beads and my own imagination. I tucked the idea behind one of my ears for future consideration.

It was still sitting neatly behind my left ear when my fabulous publisher and I were sharing far too much French Red in Paris a few years ago. She asked me if I could write a book for quilters. I said no, I’m not an expert on quilting. Then suddenly, fuelled by Bordeaux and Beaujolais, this crazy patch thing came screaming out from behind said ear. And that was it. Or rather, this is it.

Two of the projects in the book include crazy patchwork panels that have been put together with a sewing machine but, other than that, everything has been made by hand with a needle. What you might call ‘crazy patch from scratch’.

That necessarily means that there are a lot of techniques’ galleries in the first half of the book. These include embroidery, bead embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, beadwork, tatting, needle weaving and needle lace techniques’ galleries. That’s for the embellishment. There is a techniques’ gallery for crazy patching and also simple quilting techniques for finishing off. We decided to count the number of techniques the other day and it came to something in the region of 160, depending on how you count it. For that reason alone, we are hoping that the book will be of interest to all sorts of needle artists from quilters to embroiderers. Even if the actual projects are not necessarily something they would want to do.

However. I had such fun working up the projects. I was barely restricted by lines, I could use every technique that I had ever played with and I could invent different ways to use them.

Gussy Up

This is the first project in the book and is truly ‘crazy patch from scratch’. I drew a circle with a large soup plate, ruled some lines to resemble crazy patchwork and then had fun. I filled the blocks with either needle weaving or otherwise, crewel embroidery stitches that created a background that loosely resembled fabric. And then I embellished. No applique, but daisies embroidered with thread. No buttons, but three-dimensional flowers made one bead at a time with beautiful Miyuki beads and beading thread. No machine made lace, but needle lace techniques stitched through the fabric to resemble insertion lace, then threaded with Di van Niekerk’s hand painted silk ribbon. Silk ribbon roses, bead embroidery, tatting and even some simple beading techniques that are generally used to make necklaces or bracelets, rethought to resemble braid. Of all the designs in the book, I had the most fun with this one.


The embroidery in the middle, although resembling crewel work is largely done with needle weaving, needle lace and bead embroidery, with a few crewel stitches pulling the whole thing together. The outside border is, as with the previous project, crazy patch from scratch. Every block is a needle weaving technique and where the two parts of the design meet, the intersection is worked with a beadwork jewellery technique.

My friend Pat van Wyk took my line drawing, enlarged it and (being a hand quilter at heart) recreated it with applique and traditional crazy patch techniques. A photograph of the exquisite cushion that she made it into appears in the book.

Waiting For Santa

The cuff of this Christmas stocking is, like the previous two projects, worked from scratch. Just lines on the fabric to resemble crazy patch, then lots of fun filling in with once again, a selection of all of the techniques – embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, beadwork, needle lace, needle weaving, tatting…….and the pattern to make up the stocking is in the book.

Rambling Vine

If you thought that I might have forgotten my readers who are embroiderers pure and simple, then the Rambling Vine design would put your mind at rest. It is a wall hanging (or whatever you would like to make it) that comprises an ornate Jacobean-style embroidered branch lying adjacent to a panel of traditionally-worked crazy patch, machine stitched with 15 different fabrics onto a natural-coloured linen/cotton blend base. And madly embellished, in line with the general style of this book.

There are of course, needle artists out there who don’t want to embroider and to show them that they don’t have to, my friend Margie Breetzke has worked the Jacobean panel using a combination of applique techniques, bead embroidery and simple embroidery stitches. A photograph of the stunning result is in the book.

Savannah Winter

The day before I started this project, I had driven back from Johannesburg through the dry Highveld, as we call it in South Africa. A long, straight, flat, rather boring drive, it was mid-winter and everything at first glance appeared to be dead, dry and frigid with frost. I was, however, in the right frame of mind, not ever having really noticed how splendid the colours were on previous drives at the same time of year. For the better part of six hours I watched the road through my windscreen, all the time marvelling at the colours that were there. The gold and khaki of the dry grass, the grey-blue of the winter sky, the purple of the mountains in the distance, the green of the few evergreen trees, the crystal of the frost on the ground and some pink. When I got to Harrismith, decided it was time for a break and took off my sunglasses, I realised there was no pink in the landscape. It was my rose-tinted spectacles. But, what the heck, it’s a nice addition to the palette and so it was included.

This project is machine-pieced crazy patchwork, the embellishment is of course, all hand worked using the same variety of techniques and I have made it into a lid for a covered basket.


Once again, Liezl Maree, Metz Press’s amazing book designer has taken my ramblings and turned them into a masterpiece. Between us all we think that we’ve caught all the errors and typos in the interminable proof reading process (if we haven't, please forgive us - with the best will in the world, it's an impossible task) and it goes off to print this week.

The publishers, the printers, the ship that brings it to us from Malaysia, the warehouses, the distributors and any other players that I may not have mentioned, are working to a schedule that will mean that it is available from the 15th of March 2016.

And where to get it?

If you want to pre-order you can do so at:

If you’re in South Africa, or indeed anywhere on the African continent, it’s not up there yet but you will be able to get if from:

  • this website;
  • Takealot, who have taken over and really do deliver. I know. I order from them all the time.

With this book I set out to show readers and needle artists that they can combine the needle arts. All it takes is imagination and many enjoyable, calming hours. I hope that my intention will be achieved.