Cabinet of Curiosities…

How many other writers have interests completely divergent from their profession? Most I should say – if one asked.

In my own case, I have a number of interests (apart from dog-walking and reading). Anyone who’s followed the blog through the years will know that…


I kayak (weather and energy pending), and that I garden (no matter what the weather). And no doubt anyone who knows me will know that my other interest of choice is embroidery.



I meet with a group of like-minded women every Friday and we sit, Cranford-style, (I always think of Elisabeth Gaskell) stitching, chatting, righting the world, deciding what colours, threads, styles, designs we should do next and sipping tea or coffee and eating lots of choccie biscuits. We put money in a jar and it is sent to Medicin sans Frontiers annually. And we laugh – a lot. It’s a haven every week and I love it. When we move away for the summer, I miss the embroidery girls and I’m always glad to get back to the social ‘needles and threads’ at the beginning of autumn.

But I never stop stitching.

I always have some project or other on the go.



I’ve just finished a mouse blanket which I gave a friend for her niece.


I’ve returned to the second mouse book (the above is the first book in the series), to try and complete it once and for all.


I’ve just finished a blue and taupe crewel which I worked on all summer and am thrilled with (but it’s packed away and so I have no pics of the finished piece, only the partly finished piece).

And thus, I think I’m about to begin a new rug.

As I’ve said on Facebook, I’m not sure if I want the design to be an adult thing, or whether I might stitch an animal design for a child. I’m partial to embroidering sheep, mice and rabbits in garden settings.

But today at embroidery, we had the most delicious surprise. One of our number is enrolled in the exquisite online course, The Cabinet of Curiosities from Patricia Nguyen at Thistle-Threads in the USA and today, she brought in her cabinet to show us. It’s papered in a cream linen paper not unlike Canson, and lined in Florentine marbled paper and toning pure silk. Little drawers are filled with delectables – a wired and three dimensional moth, a glove in tiny petit point, a perfect floral needlecushion,


a goldwork Japanese family crest, like so, but in blues to tone with the marbled paper and silk. I’m not a fan of goldwork at all, but the work took my breath away.

In fact, the whole casket left us all breathless and as I drove to House this afternoon, I thought of how much I would like my own little cabinet.


Cabinets and sewing caskets from the Stuart era and earlier were a microcosm of a woman’s life at that time.


Her stitching, her dreams, journals, letters, sewing tools, secret little objêts that only she knew were concealed in the many drawers.

Such stories to tell – imagine!

I can feel a whole new book emerging from the drawers of such a cabinet. The story is already whispering…

But what sort of cabinet would I like for my secrets?

Maybe one with a bird theme. Birds on pincushions, needle cases, miniature books, maybe even a three dimensional bird made of silks, wools and felts (don’t ask because I’m still thinking).

And then there’s Shakespeare.


Stumpworks of his flowers (Jane Nicholas has published the definitive book) on the lid. Needlecases in crewel, spectacle cases, handmade books of his greatest sonnets with stitched covers. Maybe blackwork to add to the Elizabethan feel.

Or maybe a cabinet for children filled with childish goodies.



Embroidered lids and sides with Beatrix Potter mice, rabbits and hedgehogs. Even Prue Batten wombats!



Maps from Peter Pan or Peter Rabbit, the NeverEnding Story or Narnia, Pooh Bear or Nugget the Wombat – many secret maps. And stories in miniature from presses like

Truly, the sky’s the limit.

So you can see why I love Friday mornings so much – my creative senses are assuaged by a treasure chest of coloured silks and wools and my imagination goes into overdrive.


And it all greases the wheels of a writer’s craft in it’s own way. It was how The Stumpwork Robe began. And it may be that The Cabinet of Curiosities is another book in the same vein…