Category Archives: Cross stitch

Cutting edge of history

I’ve always been fascinated by history, particularly influential people and interesting genealogical stories. I think that’s why I like TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and Heir Hunters.

I’ve been on my own history adventure recently, thanks to a rather plain-looking pair of scissors!

Vintage scissors

Vintage scissors

I noticed these little scissors recently at my parents’ house, next to my mum’s jewellery box. In an instant, I was totally captivated by their vintage charm – look how fine the metal is around finger holes, and how beautifully the metal curves from here to the pivot point.

I joked to my mum that they looked ancient and she said she’d had them for as long as she could remember. She knows that I have a soft spot for vintage knick-knacks, so she insisted that I have them. (I resisted a little, but gave in quickly with a possible too-loud yay!)

Anyway, when I got them home, I had a good look over them. The blades don’t feel very sharp any more, but the pivot is still very strong (unlike some of my more modern scissors). The metal has a beautiful dark, matt quality, with just a little rust under the pivot point. Then I turned them over…

Vintage scissors: other side

Vintage scissors: other side

On this side, I realised there was some writing under the pivot, so I looked a little closer…

Vintage scissors close-up

Vintage scissors close-up

In case you can’t see, it says ‘W.P All W Parkin & Sons Sheffield’. I felt a pang of excitement as a I realised this could be a craft artefact with its own history, so I set out to find out more about W Parkin & Sons. A quick internet search turned into a 2-hour investigation! I’ve not found out all that much, but here’s what I do know…

W Parkin & Sons, Sheffield, were just one of many steel companies in the area during the 19th century and right up until the 1970s. In case you’re unaware, Sheffield was a hub of steel production in the UK, from the industrial revolution until its decline in the 1970s and 1980s, due to more competitive prices abroad. Sheffield’s steelworks were huge and played a key role in producing essential items for the war effort.

I’m personally interested in the craft tools they produced, which seem to have included scissors, knives and saws. According to various sources, W Parkin & Sons occupied premises in many different parts of the city, including Sylvester Street, Granville Street, and land between Solly Street and White Croft. All of these addresses are now either office blocks, housing estates, or crumbling, boarded-up buildings with no hint of the important activity that once occurred there.

One of the internet results that came up was for the census records. There was a William Parkin in the 1911 Census, described as a ‘Steel Merchant’, aged 64. I found the same man in previous census records, described as ‘Steel Manufacturer’ in 1901, ‘Steel and File Manufacturer’ in 1891, ‘Cuttery Manufacturer Employing About 100 Hands’ in 1881, a Clerk Merchant in 1871, a Scholar in 1861, and no job in 1851 (but he was only 4 years old!). I’m not sure whether this is the founder or one of the forefathers of the company, but it’s still interesting to see one man’s career progression!

It’s sad that these once-thriving factories are now falling down, and that there doesn’t seem to be much record of a company that endured for so long, employing so many, and making charming historic items like my humble scissors. I’ll keep looking for more information…


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New Year’s resolutions

So the Christmas trimmings have been packed away for another year and as is the tradition at this time of year, I’ve been thinking about resolutions for 2013 – more specifically, crafty resolutions that I’d like to make…

1 I’d like to get my stash more organised. I always associate spring cleaning with the new year, and I dream of having a craft stash that’s perfectly tidy and ordered, so that everything is easy to find, uses space efficiently, keeps my tools well protected and my fabrics, yarns and threads safe from dirt, damage and dust. I’ve already got a few plastic boxes but I’m thinking of getting a few more – they don’t cost the earth, but aren’t very pretty. A nice workbox or workbasket would be lovely, but their shape is usually not a great use of space so it probably wouldn’t hold all that much. Perhaps an inventory would be helpful as well because I’m sure there are crafty goodies I’ve got that I’ve forgotten about.

2 I’d like to finish some of my unfinished projects. We’ve all got them – projects we’ve got planned to do or that are half-made, but we’ve never got round to finishing them. A couple of years ago, I put all mine together in one bag, in the hope that in between projects, I would delve into the bag and finish something. But it’s not happened yet…

3 I’d like to make some projects that use up all those little bits and bobs in my stash – odd balls of yarn and small amounts of fabric. So I’m thinking of making small accessories or little things for little ones, using striped or patchwork effects. Or something…

4 I’d like to try something different. The beauty of crafting is that there are always new designs, new techniques and new products to try! There are lots of things I’ve seen that I’ve thought “Oh, I’d love to try that some day”. Some of them are really basic, such as knitting or crocheting with beads and lacework – others will take more thought, such as making a quilt and using shrink-effect interfacing in a sewing project.

5 I’d like to teach someone to craft. There’s nothing more rewarding than sharing the craft you love with other people and watching their confidence, excitement and passion flourish – all because of you! So in 2013, I’d really like to spread the love of crafts a bit further by teaching other people how to knit or sew or crochet. I’ve also thought about joining a club, but struggled to find one close enough at the right time. Maybe I’ll start one at work… My nieces aren’t quite old enough to knit yet but they do like learning new things and there are plenty of other fun crafty things we could do.

6 I’d like to do some more designing. I think 2012 was a great year for my sewing designs and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done for Sewing World. It seems like there are loads of independent craft designers out there creating great designs, and they both inspire me (if they can do it, it must be possible for me to do it too) and terrify me (there are so many designs out there now, what if my stuff isn’t good or original). I recently joined Craftsy and it seems quite straightforward to list patterns for sale, so I think this will be my next move.

7 I’d like to set up a craft project for charity. Crafters are some of the most generous people I’ve met and there are always charity fund-raising projects on the go to get involved in. I regularly give money to charity and take part in other people’s charity craft projects, because it’s a great feeling to do something practical to help others. I’d like to take it one step further and set up my own craft for charity project. I like the idea of setting myself some kind of crafting challenge and getting sponsors.

Do you think seven resolutions is too many?! I think if I can achieve three or four, that will be pretty good going. Right, I better start getting on with it…


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Flowering crafts: autumn

If you recently read this post of mine, you’ll know that I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at, thinking about and crafting… flowers!

The next edition of my flowers in cross stitch series has just come out, in Cross Stitch Collection, and this time, the focus is on autumn flowers – see a preview below…

Autumn Flowers in Cross Stitch Collection 214

This feature appears in Cross Stitch Collection 214 (on sale 3rd September), and in the meantime, I’ve just finished putting together my Winter Flowers feature, which has a little touch of festive fun!

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Cross stitch


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Flowering crafts

Flowers have been on my mind a lot recently. Not only have they been flourishing in my garden (especially my pink phlox), but I’ve also been doing some flower-related crafting.

I’ve always thought that flowers look beautiful in cross stitch, and my first cross stitch project was actually a basket of flowers for my mum.

So I’ve really enjoyed putting together a series of flower features for Cross Stitch Collection. My first was Summer Flowers, which is in issue 213, out now. Here’s a taste of it:

Summer flowers feature for Cross Stitch Collection 213

Look out for the forthcoming Autumn, Winter and Spring flowers in cross stitch features, in future issues of Cross Stitch Collection.

I’ve also been sewing my own flowers, using velvet and other fabrics for Sewing World‘s winter issues. Like this flower:

Velvet rose

I love the jewel-toned purple shade and the way the velvet shimmers in different lights.

I made this one to decorate my latest hat design for Sewing World (see this post for more details), but you could use fabric flowers to decorate coats, bags and much more. They’re so quick and easy to make, you could have one for every outfit!

What flowers have you crafted?

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Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Cross stitch, Sewing


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Crafts that travel

One of the things I love about crafts is their portability. That makes them perfect for taking away on your travels, which I did recently when I went to Paris.

My travel craft of choice is usually knitting, although I’m becoming a big fan of crochet as well. For my Paris trip, I packed up a ball of DK yarn, some 4mm needles, and a few flowery ideas. Unfortunately, the train journey was so bumpy that knitting was very difficult and made me feel queasy! So that was that.

Most journeys aren’t that bumpy (thank goodness!) so on a long train journey or flight you can create something really great while everyone else is wasting their time!

Of course, many of us take projects away to enjoy as part of the holiday, and I love knitting little things on the beach or by the pool.

Some of the best craft projects to take on holiday are ones that capture the place you’re visiting, so that’s why I think cross stitch kits make some of the best travel projects.

So I was very happy recently when Cross Stitch Collection allowed me to put together a travel cross stitch feature for them.

Cross Stitch Collection 210 Travel feature

From the Statue of Liberty to the Taj Mahal, there are loads of designs around that can capture a memorable holiday. This feature is in issue 210 (out now).

After my holiday to Paris, the Eiffel Tower bookmark is top of my list to make!

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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Crochet, Cross stitch, Knitting


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Bad blogger, good crafter

What a crazy month May has been! There’s been birthdays, weekends away, features to write, things to make, a special crochet bookazine to do…

All this adds up to being a bad blogger! I’m just half an hour away from leaving for a 5-day holiday to Paris (!), so this blog will be a brief update on what I’ve been up to.

First of all, there was the inspiring feature I wrote for The Knitter about Community Knitting projects around the world, which was in issue 43:

Community Knitting Projects feature, from The Knitter issue 43

Then there was the feature I wrote for Cross Stitch Collection, issue 209, about the various designs available to commemorate the London 2012 Olympics:

Cross Stitch Collection 209 Olympics feature

For things to make, my sewn version of the baker boy hat (which I blogged about here) is out now in the latest issue of Sewing World.

There’s also been the crochet bookazine I’ve worked on (but that’s still a bit secret for now), which has inspired me to make a couple of crocheted items to tidy up my handbag – a mobile phone cosy and a tissue holder in pretty pastel pink! (Cara, you’d be proud!)

Plus, my gran has now read my blog posts (I had to print it all out for her though because she doesn’t use ‘blasted’ computers!) and loved it all – in fact, she started reading one evening last week and couldn’t put it down. She said she was up until midnight reading it all!

If you remember this blog post (where I mentioned the chunky gold chain of my gran’s that I used to play with as a child), you’ll be pleased to hear that my gran has found the old chain and given it to me as a gift!

Gold chain

I was so touched – it’s only costume jewellery but it was her mother’s, so it means a lot to her. But she said she wanted me to have it because it means a lot to me and she knows I’ll look after it, which I definitely will.

So I hope you’ll agree that I may have been a bad blogger in May, but that’s because I’ve been too busy being a good crafter. Au revoir mon ami!


Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Crochet, Cross stitch, Knitting, Sewing


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Crafty engineering

I’m fascinated by how things work.
I wonder whether I could’ve been an engineer because I love working out how things are constructed and how the different elements work together to achieve an end result.

I think that’s why I like crafts, especially 3D ones like knitting and sewing, which involve measurements, folding, piecing, extending and more! But I had great fun recently when I got to quench that engineering thirst in relation to cross stitch – not usually a very 3D craft.

I had pitched a feature idea to Cross Stitch Collection, looking behind the scenes at how stranded cottons are manufactured. I think all crafters are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and so more interested in finding out how the things we use every day are made.

So I set off to find out how DMC make their cottons. They were very helpful on providing me with information, pictures and even a video (I guess I wasn’t the only person interested in the process). Most of what I discovered wasn’t new but a few parts of the process were amazing.

To give the cotton a shiny finish, the thread is passed over an open flame, to singe any stray fibres. Brilliant! A caveman solution to a 21st century crafting problem!

The dyeing process is also hypnotic (I must have watched that part of the video at least 20 times!) as the beige-yellow raw cotton is magically turned bright red in the dye bath. Love it!

If you want to read more about the process, and see some great photos, pick up issue 207 (March) of Cross Stitch Collection. To order, visit

Here’s a low res version of the feature to tease you.

Cross Stitch Collection 207 feature

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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Cross stitch


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