Today, we’re going to take a close-up look at one of Hazel Blomkamp’s embroidery kits from her latest book, Crewel Intentions, which I reviewed last year.
The book, if you remember from reading the review, is full of magnificent embroidery projects that incorporate all kinds of stitching techniques, thread types, beads, and other embellishments into modern interpretations of somewhat Jacobean-esque embroidery designs. It’s a fantastic book, full of fun, challenging embroidery projects!
Hazel sells kits for the projects in her books through her website, Hazel Blomkamp Fine Needlework. I’ve always wanted to buy one of her kits, to review it for you and experience working through one of her projects, but I’ve put it off and off again, due to time constraints.
Well, right around this past Christmas, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a package whose contents to me were unclear? I sprang to the mailbox, my heart gave a flutter, and I opened the package and started to stutter!
It’s…it’s….it’s a kit! I cried.
(And that’s where my ability to rhyme ceases.)
And not just any kit, but Hazel kindly sent me her Late Harvest embroidery kit, replete with fabric, threads, beads, needles, and necessary notions.
What a terrific Christmas surprise! Thank you, Hazel!
I’m dying to work this kit. And I’ve been dying to work it ever since I first saw the project in Crewel Intentions.
But there’s that hovering cloud of guilt, you know. The Hummingbirds… the Redwork Runner. You know what I mean?
Like I mentioned the other day when I showed you the finished embroidery on the runner, with that milestone reached, I felt I could at least take the first steps, unpack the kit, and get it ready to stitch. While exploring the kit, I took some photos and looked everything over thoroughly. Now you’ll know what to expect when you order a kit from Hazel.
Hazel’s kits can be bought in several different configurations, which I think is Super-Duper Convenient. You can buy the full kit (with everything you need to complete the project except an embroidery frame and scissors), or you can buy just the print pack (the pre-printed fabric), or just the bead pack (all the beads and crystals used on the piece), or just the thread pack or just the needle pack – or a combination.
For folks who have easy access to DMC, it might be more economical to purchase the thread at home. But the beads are more difficult to assemble, and there’s the Big Advantage of convenience when it comes to buying the pre-printed fabric from Hazel.
If you take a look at the kit contents for Late Harvest, keep in mind that the prices are listed in South African currency. The full kit runs just short of $95US.
The instructions are not included in the kits. You’ll find them in her books.
Some points that I definitely appreciate in the kit:
1. Everything is packaged separately and neatly.
2. Full skeins of floss are included, instead of small estimated cuttings.
3. The beads are packed individually in small zip-lock bags, labeled, and affixed to a convenient strip to keep them all together.
4. The fabric is prepared and ready to go.
The grape bunches are my favorite element in this design. The individual grapes consist of these little topaz crystals, which are much smaller in person than I realized when looking at the images of the project in the book. They’re so pretty!
The fabric that this project is worked on is a cotton / linen blend, so it’s a little spongier than a 100% linen fabric. Still, it has a nice hand and it’s easy to stitch on.
The design is screen printed on the fabric in an easy-to-see blue. The lines are indelible, so it’s important to cover them completely with the embroidery.
This is dreamy! There’s nothing like sitting down to start a project, and having everything so meticulously prepared for you. You don’t have to do any prep work on the fabric before setting up your embroidery frame!
The ground fabric is backed with a white cotton, to support the embroidery. The two fabrics are sewn together at the edges, so there’s no worry of separation or of fraying.
Isn’t that great? You don’t have to prepare the fabric at all! The only way it could be readier would be to have it come already mounted on an embroidery frame!
Speaking of embroidery frames, it’s better to use a frame for this piece because of all the beads and crystals. The piece requires a relatively large frame. If you’re using stretcher bars (I’m using Evertite stretcher bars for it), the project requires a 22″ pair and a 12″ pair.
The fabric is 24″ wide by 14″ deep, so whatever frame you use, it should be able to accommodate that size fabric.
The needle book in the kit contains all the needles required to do the embroidery, with two of those that will get the brunt of the work (just in case). The needles are clearly labeled.
After I sorted, examined, and separated the kit contents, I put them in a mesh zippered project bag along with the book. When I get a chance, I’ll photocopy the project pages in the book and put the book back on my shelf.
You do know you can do that, right? When you are working a project from a large book, often it’s easier to photocopy just the pages you need from the book, rather than lugging the whole book with you. As long as the copies are for your personal use only, this is perfectly fine to do, and it makes following the instructions and carrying the project around so much easier.
Pros & Cons
The Late Harvest kit is one of the most thorough and organized embroidery kits I’ve ever seen. It’s got everything you need for the project, and it’s immediately ready for stitching as soon as you receive it. The threads are reliable DMC threads, the fabric is a decent fabric (all prepared for you), and the beads and crystals are high quality Japanese beads.
The pros, then, are pretty obvious!
The cons? Well, I know some people will say the kit is expensive. Considering what comes with the full kit and the preparation of the materials, I contend it’s not that expensive. Remember, every step of preparation, whether it’s weighing beads and bagging them, cutting fabric and sewing it, silk screening, fixing all the needles in the needle book, all the packaging of each item – this is all done by hand and it takes a lot of time to do it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the most expensive thing you put into your embroidery projects is not really the cost of the materials (no matter how much they cost!). It’s your time and effort. To create a large piece like this with the embellishments required to finish it, considering the amount of time and effort that will go into it, $95 is not that much.
There’s also international shipping to be considered. Shipping from South Africa runs anywhere from about US$20 – $45, depending on the courier you choose. Hazel offers two postage options.
And then, there’s waiting for the package to arrive – but I would just call this Sweet Anticipation. It’s not really a “con,” unless South Africa has another postal strike. But that’s why Hazel offers two shipping options.
Stitch with Me?
If you’ve been longing to work one of Hazel’s projects and this one appeals to you, you’re most welcome to stitch along with me.
For me, this project is purely for fun, and I intend to take my time with it and work on it as an indulgence. It’s not a typical stitch-along project like the kind I usually work here on the website, because obviously, I can’t give you the pattern and the stitching instructions. That’s all available in Crewel Intentions.
But I’ll update you on progress, and I’ll probably troubleshoot a few areas (I always run into snags when I stitch), so if you’d like to work the same project this year, you’re more than welcome to join me.
If you don’t want to spring for the kit, you can source your own materials locally using the supply list in the book, make any substitutions you’d need to if you can’t find them all, or even alter the project in any way you’d like to alter it, to suite your own personal taste.
For me, I’m looking forward to working on the project as is. I like the idea that I’ll be following someone else’s directions. Two other reasons I’m looking forward to this particular project: 1. I’ll be working outside my color comfort zone (they aren’t normally colors that I work with); and 2. the project contains some stumpwork elements, and I haven’t done any stumpwork in a long, long time.
Have you ever stitched any of Hazel’s projects? Any insights you’d like to share? Or questions you might have? Feel free to leave a comment below!