Category: Tools and Techniques

I Don’t Even Like Swans

I’ve always tried to be the sort of person who allows herself to be moved by the winds of Fate, but even this gust took me rather by surprise.

Swan Embroidery Charity Shop Find - Misericordia

This crewel embroidery caught my eye a couple of weeks ago in the charity shop closest to our house. At first, I must admit, it made me laugh. The pomposity of the swans, the unapologetic shade of goldenrod, the frankly sinister gazes, it was certainly memorable.

Unpicking a Frame - Misericordia

But it started to intrude upon my walks to and from school and work. I started to wonder if anyone had bought it, or if it might go somewhere in the flat. The swans started to seem dignified rather than ridiculous.

Faded Characters - Misericordia

Eventually, I realised that it was useless to resist any longer. Last Friday, I went in and had a good look at it. I took a photo and showed it to a few friends (shamelessly encouraging) and the Lovely Young Man (non-committal and a touch resigned). I was working on the Saturday, so I left money for Dragon to oversee the purchase and went to work with a slight feeling of trepidation.

Repainting a Frame - Misericordia

All was well, however and they were waiting for me when I got home. It seems that the man at the charity shop had been hoping I would come back for it and had questioned my emissaries closely before concluding the sale.

How to Clean an Embroidery - Misericordia

Cleaning Embroidery with a Vacuum - Misericordia

It took a little sandpaper, paint and a chance to use the conservation technique of hoovering through a fine cloth (I’ve always wanted to do that) but it’s just about ready to take pride of place, as soon as I finally decide where to put it!

Cleaning Vintage Embroidery - Misericordia

To A Bodkin

The furniture rearranging continues apace.

Sewing Drawer - Misericordia

I’ve reordered my supplies by genre rather than work/not-work and realised that I had only been using the front half of my plan chest drawers. (I suppose that’s part of the challenge of a large drawer in a small space!)

Drawing Drawer - Misericordia

With the liberal application of hoarded fruit punnets and clicky-sticky tape, I’m slowly bringing a bit of order to things (no clear flat surfaces though, let’s not be too hasty).

Corded rouleau - Misericordia

I’m still itching to draw rather than sew, which hopefully explains the slow progress on anything involving a needle and thread (no matter how beautifully organised). I did get a bodkin out, which is always pleasing. I’ve been playing with corded rouleau to use as stems for the Ark Project tablecloth, and it’s been unnecessarily difficult.

Bodkin - Misericordia

In the end I’ve settled on turning the loops empty and then threading it with a homemade cord made of scrap fabric. I’ve managed to streamline the production so much that I’ve stopped cutting holes into the ends of the fabric in favour of slits so I don’t have to put the wee flappy pieces in the bin.

Corded rouleau with recycled padding - Misericordia

I’ve become very callous and started to cut up abandoned or unsold embroidery. I just don’t seem to have the energy spare to deal with shuffling it around or looking after it.

Recycled cording for padded rouleaux - Misericordia

I wish I could say it was helping me get more work done, but it’s been mainly infinitesimal updates to various baby books, half rows of knitting, and a pleasant return to regular Pilates sessions.

Recycle scrap fabric into yarn - Misericordia

This is my favourite bit of the cord-making process, when you pull the two ends and they lock together. I’m not sure what the emotional equivalent is, but I’ll let you know when I find it.

Use fabric scraps to make corded padding - Misericordia

Seeping Through the Cracks

It’s half term, and we’ve reached maximum entropy.

Loom Band Entropy - Misericordia

I have very little to show for myself since last week apart from a small but significant gusset for LYM’s jumper, some rather decadent cake and a half-written blog post about flapjacks.

Knitted underarm gusset - Misericordia

We are a broad-shouldered family, so I suspect that the adding of gussets will become a useful skill for me. I have a small pile of bought clothes which could do with the addition of a little more room in the oxter department, so this will be the first of many. I used this TECHknitting tutorial, which was quite helpful and also provided a chance to learn a few more decreasing and i cord-making skills.

Knitted underarm gusset - Misericordia

Have you noticed that all of my cake photography is half-eaten?

Chocolate and salted caramel tart - Misericordia

This was one of those dinner party desserts that look desperately complicated but really aren’t. Blind bake a shortcrust case (I added a little sugar to Delia’s recipe), when cool pour over some salted caramel sauce. (I had a jar of caramel sauce left over from Shrove Tuesday, but it had the same ingredients as most of the recipes I’ve seen online). Allow to cool and make ganache. Allow to cool and pour over while still just runny. I had some leakage where my pastry case wasn’t quite chocolate-tight, but no one seemed to mind!

Sprinkle with a little more sea salt if desired and serve in very small slivers with blood oranges.

If you’re crawling to the end of half-term, I wish you the best of luck.



Derwent Inktense Blocks on Fabric

Ever since I cleared out my art supply collection before we moved, I’ve been thinking about what sorts of supplies really fit my needs.

My default colouring mechanism is watercolour, usually straight from the tube, which is great on paper, if a little slow-drying for the amount of time I usually have to work on things.

Evie 's Treasure Map - hand painted and stitched - Misericordia 2014

I tried watercolours on fabric, but all my successes were tempered by some pretty frustrating failures when the colours bled.

Today has not been the best day ever… #fail #paintrunning #perilsofstarch #badday #workinprogress #wip

A photo posted by Katy Bromberg (@mymisericordia) on

I was searching for a more portable watercolour solution that would let me work on paper in shorter bursts and came across Derwent Inktense Pencils and Blocks. The idea is that you can put them on paper dry and then use a water wash to blend for a permanent colour. They’re great for layering with watercolours, because you can put in a background or base colour and if you work over it with other water-soluble colours, it won’t wash out.

Derwent Inktense Blocks by Misericordia

I thought I’d try out some of the blocks for big backgrounds and colour washes in Little Lion’s baby book and really enjoyed using them. Recently, I invested in the pencils, for more detailed work, but I must admit that I haven’t even taken them out of their box yet!

Derwent Inktense Pencils by Misericordia

I have an embroidery which is languishing while I work out if I can use Inktense bars or pencils on fabric, so I’ve been fiddling about with different ways of making them colourfast.

Heat Setting Inktense Blocks by Misericordia

Washing Inktense samples by Misericordia

I’m not entirely happy with the bleeding I get after washing, but I wonder if:

No heat Inktense samples by Misericordia

a. The bars lay down more pigment than the fabric can hold, which is causing the excess colour to wash away, or

Heat set Inktense bars by Misericordia


b. I diluted the medium too much so it can’t do its job. (It was a very unscientific process, I’m ashamed to admit.)

Liquitex Fabric Medium by Misericordia

My next steps are probably to try the medium with the pencils, which is how I’m most likely to use them on fabric.

Inktense heat set samples with medium by Misericordia

I’ll keep you updated!

(If you’d like to profit from more of my colourfast disasters experiments, why not check out my tutorial on how to tell if your thread is colourfast?)

Half-term Hijinks

We’re off on our half-term adventures, but I didn’t want to leave you with nothing to do.

Here are two rather charming games for you:

Cheese or Font game

The premise is rather simple; can you tell the difference between the names of fonts and cheeses? (Make sure you have a supply of crackers to hand, I tend to get a little nibbly after the first few rounds.)

The second game is called Kern Type, and lets you adjust words so that the letters are just right.

xkcd: Kerning

Enjoy! (All suggestions of font-based games are much appreciated!)

Leaving Go

This week has mainly been about leaving.

For the first time I left the house with two children and returned with none.

It was a very exposed, almost naked feeling (a little less so when I remembered to retrieve my house keys from the pocket of the baby carrier).

Even more emotional than leaving my children, I’m about to drop my sewing shears off to be sharpened, with the prospect of being separated from them for upwards of three weeks.

I have no idea why it feel so wrenching, perhaps because almost everything else I use is one of many (needles, threads, hoops), whereas the scissors are unique.

I’ve also had them much longer than even the Lovely Young Man (and we met 17 years ago on Wednesday) – my fabric scissors since I was a teenager, and my pinking shears were my granny’s.

But in the spirit of the week, I’ll stick emphatic name labels on them, take a deep breath and go.

A Little Sketchy

I’m feeling a little becalmed this week.

I’m at the sketching phase with the next part of the Ark Project and I’ve been trying to use more 3D ways of working through ideas and potential problems before jumping in and cutting things.

I’m playing with some new things to start post-maternity leave, but they’re still very preliminary, so I don’t have anything to sink my teeth into.

But a little quality time with a sketchbook is good for the soul, right?

Marking Time

Sometimes you’re the chalk, and sometimes you’re the sandpaper. At the moment, I’m definitely the chalk.

I’m trying to get the curtain of the ark project finished and I’m mired in the doldrums of the middle third of a project where it’s obviously not finished but the novelty has worn off.

I’m slowly picking away at it, but it’s a struggle…

The Embroiderer’s Children Have No…

It occurred to me a few months ago that if I was going to get any quilts finished for our increasing menagerie, I was going to have to get cracking.

Unusually for me, I had the urge to finish a project I’d already started, so I’ve decided to give Little Lion the Shirt Quilt.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this long-term (ca. 2008) WIP, it’s made from my dad’s (forcibly) retired shirts. I’m paper piecing 1″ hexagons for both sides (I have quite a lot of shirts) in a fairly random pattern.

The palette is (as you will have noticed) fairly limited, so there may be some surface decoration, but I’m not quite sure what it will be yet.

If you’re interested in the process of going from shirt to hexagon I can write an explanatory post, but this is a good start for an overview.

Also, if anyone wants some shirt-skeletons – collars, cuffs, button plackets and French seams all still in shirt shape, please let me know.

Beyond the Fringe – Adventures in Mending

A recent dip into a familiar but long-neglected charity shop (I used to work around the corner, so it was a convenient place to pop in during lunch breaks) yielded a lovely wool Pavlovo Posad Russian shawl with the tags still on.

I’m on another Victorian literature bender, so a voluminous shawl seemed just the thing, and I’ve always loved Russian textiles, so I wasn’t even very disappointed to find a series of tears in one corner when I got it home. (Not even disappointed enough to take a before photo, I’m afraid.)

Scrapiana, mender extraordinaire, has inspired me to be a little more creative about my mending, so I grabbed a scrap of batiste and my trusty box of embroidery thread and set to work.

First I satin stitched over the cut portions and into the whole parts to ensure that there was good adhesion to the batiste (it’s very hard to break yourself of the habit of satin stitching in the most thread-conserving method) and then I buttonhole stitched around the edge of the mended areas with black sewing thread. About eight stitches into that buttonhole stitch I realised that I was a card-carrying obsessive hand embroiderer, I’m pretty sure that no one else would have thought it was a good idea!

In the end, I’m really pleased with how it came out, I’ve trimmed off the excess batiste (please ignore the bit where I folded the batiste accidentally) and it looks quite tidy.

I’m finding this mending thing quite therapeutic, I’d love to hear about your favourite mended pieces – they don’t even have to be yours!

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