ISSUE 187, MAY 24 2019
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Hi <<First Name>>,
Did you know that in the US alone, about one million books are published every year?! Books that are filled with words conveying history, emotion, personal stories and so much more.
Imagine for a moment that your needlework took the form of a book…
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine that we are in fact writing a book with each stitch we lay.

It can be easy to see each piece we complete with needle and thread as a single chapter, but what if we were to lay all our projects out together, have we in fact written an entire book?

Chances are we absolutely have! Our needlework ‘book’ may be conventional in that there is a clear beginning, middle and end, or it may be a collection of short stories seemingly unrelated to each other. If nothing else, it is fascinating to consider the story our time with needle and thread has written over the years.

Whatever book you’ve written with your needle and thread, no doubt it makes a fascinating read. But perhaps the most exciting thing is that today is a new page in your book, and you have the chance to either continue the story you’ve started, rewrite the ending or start authoring a new book all together! So, what will you stitch today?
World of Needlework
Into the Button Jar
Written by Nancy Williams

It almost goes without saying that every stitcher has a button jar somewhere. I remember being a small child and running my hands through my Grandmother’s button collection. She used to keep it in an old Quality Street chocolate tin and the sound of the buttons falling against each other still makes me nostalgic. Now, my five-year-old daughter loves plunging her hands into my button collection and letting the buttons cascade from her fingers. Why do we keep them? Is it practical, emotional, or is there any value in that jar?
Buttons by emerald jade (source)
Buttons have been used to decorate clothing for 5,000 years, while their practical use as a fastening has been confidently dated back to 13th Century Germany. Buttons were originally made out of almost anything – bone, shell, glass, ceramic, metal and stone. As synthetic materials were developed, manufacturers made buttons from Bakelite, celluloid or any other form of hard plastic. And all the while they’ve been painted, moulded, stitched over or dyed to complement every fabric imaginable.
It was only in the 1930s that button collecting became a recognised hobby in the US. According to the National Button Society, founded in 1938, the first person to suggest it was a lady named Gertrude Patterson who answered a call from radio show presenter Dave Elman to introduce their unusual or interesting hobby to the country. It was during the Great Depression, so Gertrude’s idea represented an affordable and enjoyable pastime.
In no time, “a national search of attics, basements and sewing rooms commenced.”
Nowadays, sought after buttons can fetch USD$75-$200. Military buttons, buttons with painted portraits, or buttons verifiably originating from celebrities or sports stars are the most highly prized. But like anything, if someone is collecting it and it is rare enough, it will immediately have value.
Military buttons – Auckland Museum (image credit)
However, even if you aren’t seeking monetary reward, sifting through an old button jar can offer a wealth of memories. This button might have fallen off your mother’s baby jacket. That one might have come from your grandfather’s first suit. And that one over there might have been picked up on the day your husband proposed. So much meaning can arise from such a small, utilitarian item.
Vitavia (image credit)
So, next time you start digging through your button jar to find the perfect button for the centre of a biscornu, take a moment to remember where they all came from and where they might be headed in the future. Most of us are button collectors just as we are memory collectors. I would suggest that they are one and the same thing.
Needlework News
New Digital Pattern | Kewpie
This week we’re breaking out our pleaters and engaging in a little smocking action (cue the cheering and applause from all those passionate smockers out there!).
To get us started, the smocking fairy is granting a wish from Sally Herdegen who requested the project Kewpie, by Julie Graue, be released as a digital pattern.

Sally, thanks to a little digital pixie dust from the Inspirations website team, your wish has been granted.
This adorable ensemble of swing top and matching knickers in pink dots from AS&E issue #93, is made in easy care cotton and comes complete with a pretty satin bow. The front and back smocking are worked in soft pink hues, embellished with a perfect bullion rose at each peak. The digital file includes everything you need to re-create this gorgeous outfit, suitable for sizes 3, 6 and 12 months.
More Smocking & Embroidery Magazines Now Available
Australian Smocking & Embroidery Magazine (AS&E) was a world renowned publication spanning 100 issues between 1987 and 2012. Famous for shining a spotlight on the technique of smocking, it has been said this magazine single-handedly taught the world to smock like professionals and embellish like haute couture designers.
While it’s been several years since the final issue was released, we have some great news for those still interested in these timeless treasures.
There are still 37 of the 100 issues available to purchase in print.
Dating as far back as issue 27, you can now browse through our range of AS&E Magazines available in print on our website. As with everything that is rare and highly sought after, make sure you get in quick to avoid disappointment!
Australian Smocking & Embroidery Back Issues
Smocking Heaven - AS&E Index 1-100
If you’re new to smocking, are not familiar with the magazine AS&E or just can’t remember how fabulous the designs in each issue are, there is a little gold book that holds the key to unlocking over 800 projects.
The AS&E Index Issues 1-100 lists all the projects from across every issue of the magazine series, making your search for that perfect, adorable design you just can’t wait to make so easy.

Perhaps the best part is it even comes with a promise – if you find a project that you want to make, we’ll do everything we can to ensure you can purchase the instructions and pattern sheets either in print or digital. Now, that’s just like dying and going to Smocking Heaven!

Purchase your copy of AS&E Index 1-100 today and let the search for smocking begin…
AS&E Index | Issues 1-100
Featured Project
Lepidoptera by Fiona Hibbett
It was in Victorian times that the mania for collecting butterflies began in earnest. A new interest in the natural world was permeating through society as leisure time became more available to the middle and lower classes. One of the greatest collectors of the time was Lord Walter Rothschild who, in 1894, decided to focus his interest in the natural world on Lepidoptera (LEP-i-DOP-tər-ə), a group of insects that includes butterflies and moths.
Photo by Mike Annese
At its height, Rothschild’s collections contained some two and a quarter million species of butterfly, most gathered for him by professional field collectors who travelled the world to search for new specimens. This amazing collection now resides in the British Museum of Natural History and although not available for the general public to view, it is perfectly preserved and contains hundreds of species which are now sadly extinct.
But butterfly collecting wasn’t just for professionals. During the period up to the 1960’s, butterfly collecting was undertaken by many, from children on their summer holidays through to Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. It was not uncommon to see groups of people combing through fields with butterfly nets and packs, hunting for that rare species or missing specimen for their collection.
Nowadays, we are far more aware of conservation and the impact that our actions have on the environment. And sadly, there are far, far fewer butterflies around, victims as they are of intensive farming, habitat destruction and urban development. As such, rather than killing and collecting, butterfly lovers are recording, counting, or even building their own mini-habitats in their back gardens to encourage the butterflies to return.
The project Lepidoptera by Fiona Hibbett from Inspirations issue #102 is a beautiful piece of stumpwork that harks back to the glory days of butterfly collecting while eschewing any of the destruction that such a hobby once caused. The nine stitched specimens represent just a fraction of the hundreds and thousands of butterfly species that exist today.
Fiona has recreated the magical shimmer seen on real butterfly wings by using rayon thread, metallics, beads and sequins. And she has laid the butterflies out just as they do in the museums, with the wings splayed symmetrically and the colours shown to perfection.
For those new to stumpwork, the important thing to remember is to keep your stitches small, especially the blanket stitch surround that encases the wire and acts as the foundation for each wing. Working with both rayon and metallic thread can be tricky because both types of thread often seem to have a mind of their own. Keeping your lengths short can help, but it is worth persevering just to achieve the finish.
While catching these delicate creatures, killing them and pinning them to a board is no longer an accepted practice, we must be grateful to those who came before us, as it is only through them that we can still see some of the extinct beauties which once fluttered in our skies. Today, our most effective way of recording and understanding Lepidoptera is through conservation.
To stitch a butterfly using Fiona’s detailed guidelines seems to us the perfect way of both preserving these creatures and acknowledging their majesty. Their lives are so transitory, we feel it is our duty to create some small semblance of permanence.
Make Your Own Lepidoptera
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Lepidoptera by Fiona Hibbett is a stunning panel of nine stumpwork butterflies.
Inspirations Issue 102
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Lepidoptera includes everything you need to re-create these superb butterflies: Fabrics (unprinted), fusible webbing, wire, beads, embroidery threads and needles.
Looking for more Stumpwork Butterflies?
The Butterfly Collection
The Butterfly Collection by Jan Kerton from Inspirations issue #54 is a gorgeous stumpwork paperweight, trinket box and tiny pots.
Inspirations Issue 54
Anise by Wendy Innes from Inspirations issue #53 is a stunning stumpwork butterfly picture.
Inspirations Issue 53
Monarch by Wendy Innes from Inspirations issue #42 is a striking stumpwork butterfly and thistle.
Papillon by Rosemary Frezza from Inspirations issue #26 is a collection of six lifelike stumpwork butterflies.
What Are You Stitching?
They say that everything old is new again and it would seem the timeless craft of smocking is in fact making a resurgence! Of late, we’re seeing more smocking enquiries come across our desks than we have in a long time and it turns out that our ‘What Are You Stitching?’ files are filled with garments meticulously smocked by hand. So, this week, we’re sharing what might just be the latest revival with needle and thread…
Jean Manning
Already an avid smocker, Jean contacted us as she was looking to complete her collection of Australian Smocking and Embroidery Magazines. We were able to add another five magazines to her set which ‘were at the front gate when my furry friend and I got home from coffee this morning and I haven't done anything else since except plan my next project!’
Jean, we love that you were so passionate about completing your AS&E collection and are determined to keep the art of smocking alive and well - we can’t see wait to see which project next awaits your needle and thread!
Judith Crabtree
‘I love to smock! These are a few of the reborn doll sets I’ve stitched. The red and white smocked gown was made from a recycled bed sheet. Most of my time now is spent as Manager of Gladstone Angel Babies where l make gowns from donated wedding and formal clothing for deceased babies. I have every issue of Australian Smocking & Embroidery and have most of the Inspirations Magazines too.’
Judith, when we shared your smocked bag in All Stitched Up issue #184 HERE we were taken with the time and talent you’d poured into it. We’re equally taken with these reborn doll sets and love that you’ve found a cause as worthy as Gladstone Angel Babies to devote so much of time to. You are absolutely stitching it forward!
Kamala Padmanathan
‘I am originally from Sri Lanka and when I was eight years old my mother taught me to smock. She did not have a pleater, so gathered by hand. I would choose my own colours and make up my own designs. I moved to the USA when my husband was working on his PhD.’
‘At that time, I purchased a pleater and started making dresses, jumpers and pinafores for my daughter. After teaching smocking for 15 years for adult education classes in the evenings, I took an early retirement for health reasons but kept up with my smocking, embroidery and canvas work.’
‘I have smocked for my daughters, granddaughters and am now making baby dresses for my friends’ grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is such a pleasure to see the little girls wearing my smocked dresses!’

Kamala, we love the rich history you’ve forged with smocking and can absolutely understand the pleasure you see in your smocked dresses being worn!
Sandra Tedesco
‘Members from the Smocking Arts Guild of New South Wales in Australia - Georgina, Merridene, Amy and Sandra O - all entered items, and all won prizes in last year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show.’
We are so proud of them and so happy they are keeping the beautiful art of smocking alive!’
Sandra, like you, we’re also happy that the art of smocking is being kept alive and well! Congratulations to the worthy winners. We love that the time they poured into their dresses was so well rewarded.

Have you stitched something you’d consider a revival with needle and thread? We’d love to see it! Email photos of your stitching revival along with a few details about your stitching journey to
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This Week on Social
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‘Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell. ’
~ Charles de Lint ~
What's On
Stay informed of upcoming needlework events taking place all around the world in our new What’s On page on the Inspirations Studios Website HERE.
If you’re holding an event or would like to suggest one to be added, we’d love to hear about it. Email us the details at
© 2019 Inspirations Studios

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