Where Have I Been?

Hello Everyone,

I am here and have been all along. My great silence has been a result of various factors, most notably my poor sister, Paula, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. At our insistence, she immediately moved in with us and so , for three years, I was companion, nurse and carer for her. We got on very well but I got little or nothing done for a long time. What I did do was stitch a quilt – by hand. I shall show you this soon.
Paula went into a care home last autumn, initially for respite while I went on our trip to the west country. When I came back, I was not well for several weeks and Paula stayed where she was. She is now there permanently and is very happy. I have only just got to the stage of feeling really well again. I am bursting with energy once more! Watch this space!

Portugal and Spain
We still have six places on our trip to these countries in September. A wonderful guy, Richard, has been putting together an itinerary for us – the one shown now is an outline only and has been much enhanced. He has set up many a treat. What is particularly great is that there are people in both countries getting excited about us coming to visit. It seems they cannot wait to show us what they can do and, believe me, it is worth seeing. Please come along. It is likely to be the last trip we take abroad as a group and really is too good to miss. For details go to http://www.buzzlinestravel.co.uk/tour/Needlework-of-Portugal-Spain . Buzzlines, who have improved their booking format, are waiting to hear from you. Give them a call – the phone number is on the website page – if you have any queries.

More from me soon.

All the best, Mary

We’re Off Again

Hello there – after a long break. I have been hoping to get back to you all for ages but kept waiting for the imminent details of our 2018 trip, which were longer coming than I expected. They are now ready to be seen at:-


You can tell from this address where it is we are going and it looks very promising. The dates are September 11th (leaving England) to September 25th (returning to England). We shall travel by coach as usual and get to and from northern Spain by Brittany Ferries ‘cruise’ sailing. This should be a super way to start out holiday.

In Portugal we shall be looking at embroidery and some knitting I hope. We shall then take a route up through Spain to Lagartera to see their wonderful ancient embroidery style, that is as vibrant as ever.

Nobody is going to have to go in a top bunk, by the way. We have booked four birth cabins for two people to share and two birth cabins for singles. I remember a time when climbing into a top bunk was s thrilling part of a trip – but that was long ago!

Do, please, join us if you can. We have a lot of fun and new people are with us on every trip, so, if you have not been before, you will not feel left out – we promise.

We hope to hear from you very soon.

All the best,







Yes, I think I was half asleep. I misspelt the contact email address for Buzzlines in my last post! Here is the correct version I hope Kim@buzzlines.co.uk

I have long thought that I do half hibernate in the winter. I certainly do not function too well. Now that spring has arrived I am bouncing around finding that I have too much to do, as usual. I plan to fill you in on what I have been up to in a little while. Even in my semi-hibernation I get quite a bit done – just not as much as other times.

Do get in touch with Buzzlines and please send in your booking forms soon. The deposit is only £50 and the South West is calling.

All the best,





Getting Away – Booking form at last!

The Grand Sampler with other embroidery and lace

Sun 17th September – Sat 30th September Trip 2017

Getting Away

Following the success of last year’s trip I have devised a similar, but mostly different, trip for this year. We shall again find amazing samplers hidden away in back rooms of museums or in private collections, as well as view embroideries from times past that are as vibrant today as they were when new. Arrangements are still being made but you will see that I have much in mind.

Off to Devon

Starting from Folkestone, Roy, our favorite driver, and I will drive to the Copthorne Hotel, Slough, near Heathrow, to pick up the majority of our travellers. From there we shall head on down to the south west to our hotel for the next five nights in Dawlish, Devon. The Langstone Cliff Hotel is family run, is set in 19 acres and boasts magnificent views. It will be our base and from here we shall travel to a number of small towns and villages that are home to small collections of samplers.

The county of Devon is known for its red earth and farming and, most famously, for Dartmoor, an area of moorland with granite outcrops known as tors. It features in Conan Doyle’s book ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Dramatic in nature, Dartmoor will welcome us with a cream tea I hope. Devon is famous for these. We shall be welcomed too, I hope, by the wild ponies of the area, one of the handful of breeds found in Britain.

Dartmoor Pony beside a tor (not our hotel).

Towns to visit that I have in mind for samplers (I am struggling to find enough time, so some may not appear in the final list) are Launceston, Totnes, Budleigh Salterton, Torquay, Kingsbridge, Sidmouth and Honiton. Honiton is famous for its bobbin lace but the museum there also has some samplers. Rather further away, but worth the effort, I hope to take us to Dorchester for a day. We visited here some years ago to see the Dorset Feather Stitchery and hope to see some of this again. The museum does however, have some fifty samplers too and I hope we shall be able to see most of them. Unfortunately I hear tell that they are currently refurbishing and that the textiles are in storage. I am putting on pressure to get these out and available for us but do have a Plan B if we have to keep this for another time.

A little way north to Tewksbury

We shall travel on to our second destination by way of Bath, where the Fashion Museum, which is housed at the Assembly Rooms (visited by Jane Austen and her characters) has a special exhibition of lace dresses and other items on this year. They do have a few samplers but  they mainly have amazing embroidered items and we will be able to go behind the scenes to see some of these. We will be brave about the traffic in Bath. Last year we got very stuck in it and our poor driver needed a lot of comfort and support. Please practice your soothing sounds and encouraging phrases before you come.

The Assembly Rooms, Bath

Our second destination is Tewksbury Park, another family owned hotel set, this time, in 163 acres. As before, we shall be able to go out from here to many small towns to see their samplers.

Tewksbury Park Hotel

Highlight of the trip will be a visit to the Fellers at Upper Slaughter Manor. This wonderful couple have collected embroideries, including samplers, for a number of years and now open their house for people like us to go and visit. Those who visited before declared a wish to stay there forever!

Towns I have in mind to visit are Cardiff, Brecon, Leamington Spa, Brecknok, Abergavveny and the Worcestershire County Museum. We may not have time for them all but I shall try. We shall, of course, be in wonderful English countryside yet again.

Back to London

From Tewksbury we shall move on to being near London at the Copthorne Hotel, Slough for two nights. On the way we can call in on Witney Antiques, a wonderful shop that sells samplers and antique needlework. Last year some people were able to realise a lifetime’s ambition and actually buy samplers to take with them or have sent home. For all of us, the exhibition of the samplers there is magical. Last year we did find a splendid pub almost next door, which added to our enjoyment.

From Slough I plan to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Archives at Blythe House again. Last year we saw some spectacular samplers from Spain and Morocco and others. This year I shall select another set for us to view. They have, in their store, some 400 + samplers, but we can only see a few at a time I am afraid. Also a curator tour has been booked at the Museum of London to see the samplers and other embroideries they have there. I am rather hoping for some silk knitting too, which was famously worked (mostly by men) in the area some 300 years ago.

Based in Sough we are in place for those from abroad to fly home and others to go on their way to distant parts of the country. Roy and I will head off to the south coast again and talk about next year’s trip on the way.

Price for the trip will be £2250 for sharing in double rooms and £2670 for singles.

I work with the tour company Buzzlines as they are protected by bond. This bond is required by UK law and protects you, the customer, from businesses going broke, ferries not running and such like. We have no ferries this time but many other aspects are covered.

Buzzlines are able to book rooms at the Copthorne Hotel, Slough, for any of you who would like to arrive a day or two ahead of the trip or stay for a while afterwards. The price for these is £110 per person per night sharing, with a single supplement of £30.

Your contact at Buzzlines is Kim Finch. Find her at  Kim@buzzlines.co.uk. She can answer your questions and is ready to send you a booking form.  You can, if you prefer, download a booking form here. Booking Form

I shall produce a more detailed itinerary nearer the time of travel. Do come along and join us. We do have very good times together!



Planning Ahead

Hello Everyone,

All is well in Folkestone and I am in one piece. Some of you will know that, while on the Sampler Holiday in September, I fell flat on my face in St. Albans. I was chasing a bit of runaway luggage at the time. Chris Andrews was brilliant and took me to the walk-in centre, where a nurse did her best for me and found a bit of chipped tooth that had gone missing. I missed a wonderful time at the Fellers’ Collection the next day and was alright then until the last day, when my injured knee cried out for antibiotic attention. I had to run off home… Anyway, all is well now and I have since been to Africa again and to Dubai to see my son, Stefan. I am hoping all this becomes a reasonable excuse for not writing on my blog, but do not really think this is so. Sorry to have been so negligent.

This year’s trip and next year’s too

The Sampler Trip was super. I enjoyed it very much and think our travellers did too – so much so that I plan a sequel. I have set the dates as Sunday 17th September to Saturday 30th September. We shall first stay in Dawlish, go on to Tewksbury and then to near London. My plan is to see more wonderful samplers and countryside in Devon, then in Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties, ending up at the Victoria and Albert’s Blythe House to view more of their amazing collection. I also plan to include one or two of the places we visited before that were outstanding, so that those who are new to the trip will not miss out on some highlights. The price is not set yet but is likely to be similar to this year’s. Book the dates on your calendar now and make sure that I and/or Buzzlines know you are interested. That way we can be sure you get the details as soon as they are ready. there is  a contact form at the end of this post.

The year after …

I am still trying to put together a trip to Portugal to see embroideries there. I know where I want to go but am looking for a ground agent to help with making arrangements for various places. Do you know somebody who lives there and could do this? Let me know if you do.

Our man in Nairobi

I know many of you liked the photos of the young man stitching in Nairobi. He is still there and busy. The first time we visited him he was working on a piece using copper coloured threads on blue.

for-blog-1 for-blog-2

He told me he was trained in Pakistan, a country I would love to visit to see textile work of all sorts.

A week later we were there again and he had moved on to working on very fine net, this time in dark red with silver sequins.


Would that I could work this quickly… Skill is a large part of his speed I think and the hours he can spend each day on the stitching. What I could not do is sit on the floor like he does. If I got down there I would not get up again.

There will be more from me soon. Meanwhile, have a great Christmas holiday and a wonderful New Year.

All the best,






All Running to Plan


It is over a year now since I ‘retired’ from publishing. I do not miss having to work to deadlines nor having to produce new designs all the time but my interest in embroidery in all its forms has not diminished at all – in fact it is probably greater than ever. I am still drawn to fabric, threads and yarns (for knitting) and I think I always will be. Isn’t it strange how something can strike you when you are young and stay with you forever! A few of you will remember the Needlewoman shop in Regents Street in London. This was a regular treat for me years ago and set me on the path of learning so many techniques. I wish it was still there…

Running Stitch

In this vein, I found myself buying two Kanthas over the Internet. They looked lovely, were to come straight from India and were not expensive. I do not know much at all about Indian embroidery but was very ready to learn more. Both arrived promptly and both are just wonderful!

The first is pure silk printed with a delicate boteh (Paisley) pattern. The fabric on its own is beautiful and I would never have thought of stitching over it, let alone with two strands of not-very-fine matt cotton thread and running stitches. Had I had the thought, I would have dismissed it instantly! Fortunately, there was someone who did not.

The printed silk fabric

The printed silk fabric

The same silk fabric with Running stitches added around areas of the pattern

The same silk fabric with Running stitches added around areas of the pattern

Notice that there is a tiny area of stitching at the bottom left.





The stitching is so free! Although it vaguely follows the pattern, it swerves its way around, adding a completely new dimension.

Notice the occasional sequin.



Further stitching

Further stitching

The stitching covers a large area but some of the fabric is left un-worked.

The whole piece is enormous!

The whole piece is enormous!

The second kantha is of cotton and also huge! This time the stitching is in a variety of shades, picked out from the print itself. The reverse is a plain turquoise and, of course, the coloured stitching shows up on this.

A closer look at the cotton kantha

A closer look at the cotton kantha

The cotton kantha

The cotton kantha








The reverse side of the kantha









Now I wanted to have a go at it myself – just a try to begin with.

Chosen fabric and threads

Chosen fabric and threads

I had bought a remnant piece (a mis-printed tablecloth) when I was in Nairobi and chose a piece of the border, together with threads to match.




I ruled straight lines across it using a chalk pencil and just stitched in rows.

My stitched experiment piece

My stitched experiment piece

I plan to make this up into an Ipad cover (me trying to be practical). It will be one of several I think. I also hope to do some more of this stitching; I enjoyed it.

On the running stitch theme, I also had a first go at Sashiko.  SASHIKO DARK 1

I have long known of this Japanese technique but had never got round to working it. Traditionally it is worked in white on indigo fabric and probably looks its best that way. I wanted to try a light on dark and dark on light format and chose browns. Again I was thinking of an Ipad cover – I plan to have one that will go with any outfit I wear – and was able to print the design to be worked onto the fabric by way of my ink-jet printer. I backed the piece with felt and, when I washed it to remove the print ink, it shrank a little. I was not unhappy about this.

SASHIKO LIGHT 1I shall sew these two pieces back to back I think, although I am wondering about seaming them straight down the centre, so that each appears to right and left of the front and the back. We shall see.

So much for my adventures in Running stitch for now. Do you have any of your own to share?

The Grand Tour

I am delighted to be able to tell you that Grand Sampler Tour of Southern England is now full! If this is a disappointment to you, do please still get in touch. We shall be holding a waiting list and, if there is enough interest, I shall consider running it again next year.


My friend, Gail, found that John James has a couple of great pages illustrating various types of needles. Their site is full of information too. The illustrations can be printed off for reference but, unfortunately, are not actually to scale. I have lots of needles and I know I will find this most helpful for identifying the more obscure ones. Click this link to take a look. John James’ Needles guide

That’s all for now but I have, as always, much lined up to show you. I also have loads of stitching to do and ideas to get into place. I do even have some new embroideries to publish but took them to Kenya to show the people there and forgot to bring them back!!! They will get here quite soon though.

Meanwhile, don’t forget our shop site Stitchdirect . We have hundreds of designs waiting for you.

All the best,




Letter from Nairobi

Hello Everyone,

I am having to write this on my iPhone as it will not send my pictures to my iPad! I am hoping it will come out well.

The workshops here are going along splendidly. We have covered Canvas work, Stumpwork part 1 and the Paisley applique and stitchery project. Cutwork, Stumpwork part 2 and Bead embroidery are yet to come. There are some very capable stitchers here and, to my delight they come from a number of ethnic backgrounds. Their leader is Gail Langton, who is also my host. She is excellent at both roles.

I hope you enjoy the photos that follow. I am back in the UK on March 1st. and have a head full of ideas to share. image

Biashara Street is one of the oldest in Nairobi. It has many fabric and haberdashery shops. Behind the guy here are bundles of zips, each several metres long. The length you  require is cut off for you.image

A small view of a shop called Memsaab. The choice of fabrics is amazing !


This guy sits cross legged in a down town shop stitching all day with a tambour hook. The embroidery is for a wedding dress.


Closer view of his work.image

One of Gail’s cats helping me with my stitching on the verandah – it is lovely and warm here!

Gail playing bowls at the Muthaiga Club. She is seriously good. I sit under an umbrella and watch.


Classes in progress.


We have lots of space and really good light.
I have much more to show you – I’ll be back to you soon.

All the best. Mary