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.