Category: General Embroidery


I can’t call this a UFO…

Inadvertantly Rediscovered
Inadvertantly Rediscovered

… because I never got around to starting it!

I found this, languishing in a box. It’s a kit for a Japanese embroidery design, complete with spools of flat silk and a handmade needle (which didn’t register with me as it should have done, I admit!)

What I didn’t have was the instructions, but I remembered that we bought two kits, one for my mother and one for me, so I asked…

Very Old Needlecraft Magazine
Very Old Needlecraft Magazine

And look what she came up with! As it turned out, her kit was safely packed up, together with the magazine that the instructions were in. So I’ve photocopied them, so as not to deprive her, and I intend to get along and finish it.

Then I’ll only have to decide what to do with it. Perhaps I’ll actually source a little box and put it in the lid, as suggested by the magazine! (Yes, I know, me, doing as suggested – the world has turned topsy-turvy!)

Still, onward, ever onward!

Cotton Padding Stitches
Cotton Padding Stitches

The first stage is to put in some padding stitches under the flower petals.

I’m always a bit reluctant to use my Japanese needles – I’ve found them tricky to thread, and I’m very conscious of their rarity, and don’t want to break them – but every time I’m reminded that they are really lovely to use. Although I’ll admit to finding them slightly disconcerting, because, being shorter than I’m used to, they balance differently!

Meanwhile, Amarna Family Group continues to make progress: Episode Twenty is now up on Vimeo, and chiefly concerns Nefertiti.

The Lady In The Garden – Progress

Up And Down Blanket Stitch
Up And Down Blanket Stitch

In a slight variation of what Grandmama did, I used Up and Down Blanket Stitch, which is one of my favourites, to work the purple section of the edging. It’s not as comfortable to work as an edging stitch as it is as a surface stitch, but I enjoyed it (as usual), and I’m pleased with how it looks.

Green Herringbone
Green Herringbone

The second layer of the edging was in herringbone stitch, just as Grandmama worked it, but using a pale apple green instead of the pink. It will work much better in Mam’s room that way.

I’ve used two strands of cotton, which is what Grandmama did. I suspect that’s why the edging has collapsed in spite of not being used for decades!

Darn In Place
Darn In Place

I’m not as satisfied with the darn, but I think it should stop the hole getting worse, and I’ve had a variety of suggestions for tracking down a suitable material to patch it with. At the best of times, that would be a tricky task, and in the current situation, it may well be years before I find something!

Progress continues in other areas, too – Episode Nineteen of SlowTV Stitchery is now up. It concerns, among other things, flyaway thread and the importance of writing things down…

Evelyn Rose – Finished

I’ve only just realised you’ve not seen the finishing of Evelyn Rose – I wrote the post then didn’t schedule it!

Rose Shadows
Rose Shadows

The glint of the gauze shows up particularly well in this photograph of the rose, and you can see, too, the various different silk threads I’ve used to get the effect and shade I wanted. Tricky, because I didn’t want a naturalistic, Redouté-style rose, but – because, as I said, they don’t work with stems – I didn’t want a canal-art style rose, either. I think I got it right, and I’m rather pleased!

Leaf Shadows
Leaf Shadows

This slightly “stencilled” type of leaf helps to keep the balance between “naturalistic” and “stylised”. It also provides an opportunity for some rather striking shadows when the light is right, and I was delighted, throughout the stitching, to have moments like this, when it became clear that the idea was going to work just as I had hoped!

Evelyn Rose Finished
Evelyn Rose Finished
Signature Caterpillar
Signature Caterpillar

I knew that Evelyn’s father, in particular, would be very disappointed if he discovered later about my usual Morse Code signature, and I hadn’t done it for Evelyn, but making it small enough, and neat enough, and showing the stitches at the back as little as possible, was a little tricky. I twisted together several colours to get a fine, caterpillary thread, and worked my stitches as close to the stem as I could get them. In real life, it’s very hard to see my signature, but I promise you, it’s there!

Evelyn Rose, double mounted and casting a shadow
Evelyn Rose, double mounted and casting a shadow

The next challenge was to mount it. All this was happening only just pre-lockdown, so I went to see my wonderful framer, who goes by the (entirely deserved) name of Framing Genius. Between us, we came up with a way to create a sort of “sealed unit” of the embroidery and the mounts, so that I could post it overseas to our friends, who would then have something displayable until they can find a framer when such things are possible again.

Now, please go over to Vimeo for the next post in SlowTV Stitchery – Episode Eighteen – on the desirability of imperfection and the likeness of mathematicians to cats!

Still more progress on the tablecloth

Mountmellick Thorn Stitch
Mountmellick Thorn Stitch

It’s arguable that I’ve created a sampler rather than a tablecloth, but as I’ve got closer to finishing it and laid it on the floor to look for any missing bits, it’s looking cheerful, and that is really all I ask of it.

Mountmellick Thorn Stitch is an old friend, strongly textured but contained. It’s not entirely straightforward to shape it to the leaf shape of the design, but I think it works rather well!

Nested Fly Stitch
Nested Fly Stitch

Nested Fly Stitch is another old friend, although one I’m not on such good terms with as some others. In the dim and distant past I worked two 2-foot high trees in Nested Fly Stitch (on the Persian Fantasy Screen) and they drove me nearly demented! However, it does create a solid coverage that isn’t fishbone stitch or satin stitch, and I wanted to make sure that the various leaves varied in coverage and tone. This is the “Heavy” end of the scale!

Stem And Chain
Stem And Chain

And this is the “Light” end of the scale – just outlines, in stem or chain stitch. These flow beautifully around curves, of course, and are really good for organic shapes, but I do need to remind myself that I don’t have to use obscure stitches all the time, and I’m allowed to choose the obvious ones occasionally!

The next episode – Episode Seventeen – of SlowTVStitchery is now up, and concerns mainly the little girls and some planning of Nefertiti..

Mending the Lady in the Garden

The Lady Pyjama Case
The Lady Pyjama Case

Grandmama worked this pyjama case for my mother when she was a little girl. It’s beautifully worked, but slightly faded now, and the decorative stitching over the edges has all but disintegrated. Mam has asked me to reinstate that stitching.

It’s a good thing that my collection of stranded cotton includes some of Grandmama’s threads and that of various great aunts. That gives me a chance of finding something not a million miles removed!

Damage To Repair
Damage To Repair

There’s some damage to repair as well. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do so – there’s nowhere with spare threads to repair to attempt an invisible darn. So for now, I have outlined the area in split stitch, and I am going to concentrate – or try to concentrate – on putting in place a suitable border. The original was purple blanket stitch overlaid with pink herringbone, but we’ve decided that purple overlaid with green will work better in the room it will live in.

Multithread Edging
Multithread Edging

But we’ve already made a discovery. This slightly Art Deco looking border is the internal edging. It’s still undamaged, and I’m leaving well alone, but my Mam says she never remembers registering the detail here when she was a little girl!

We are pretty sure that the legendary Miss Hunter was involved in the stitching of this, so I’ve got a lot to live up to!

Meanwhile, in other news, Episode Fifteen of SlowTVStitchery is now up on Vimeo!

More progress on the tablecloth

Raised Fishbone Stitch
Raised Fishbone Stitch

Each time I decide how to do a particular element, I do all four appearances. I decided on this very early on, because I knew that working a whole side and then copying it three times would drive me absolutely mad!

Raised fishbone stitch creates a nicely embossed effect, providing a good contrast with all the open stitches I’ve used. It requires a bit of concentration – this is a little raggier than I’d like – but at this point, I want the wretched tablecloth done, so I’m likely to just move on..

Grouped Blanket Stitch
Grouped Blanket Stitch

I’ve been looking at other embroidery styles of late – one can’t be wallowing in gold all the time, and one of these days I will be able to think of doing something else – and I’ve been reminded of just how effective groupings of blanket stitch or buttonhole stitch can be. This is the simplest variant I could think of, but I must remember that simple stitches like blanket stitch offer endless possibilities for variation..

Feathered Zig Zag Chain Stitch
Feathered Zig Zag Chain Stitch

One of the attractions of surface embroidery is the possibility for stitches to evolve themselves into being. I’m calling this one “Feathered Zig Zag Chain Stitch”. I can’t believe I’ve invented it, but neither can I remember having seen it before, and I think it works rather well. It certainly flowed familiarly off the needle, like an old friend.

The photograph has reminded me, however, that I need to finish whipping my chain stitch stems!

And new in SlowTVStitchery, Episode Thirteen is now up. In which, at long last, a Decision is made….

Progress on Evelyn Rose

Rose and Stem
Rose and Stem

I decided to understitch all the elements, and then concentrate on the rose, stem and leaves.

However, in this photo, you can see not only the finished rose on its stem, but also the understitched lettering, and the beginning of the effect I want, with the sunlight casting a shadow through the gauze to the surface beneath.

Then I had to decide how to stitch the top layer of the lettering.

Horizontal Trial
Horizontal Trial
Slanting Trial
Slanting Trial

I took a photocopy of my painted design in black and white, printed it out twice, fished out a white gel pen, and began to experiment with stitch direction. I decided that the constantly changing angles of the slanting version would end up terribly “busy”.

So, horizontal it is, then. And I’m using Japanese Flat Silk, which at least makes the satin stitch easier to make work!

And while you think about how that is going to go – Episode Nine of SlowTVStitchery is now up on Vimeo! Happy watching, happy stitching, and stay safe.

Getting Started on “Evelyn Rose”

Outlining on gauze
Outlining on gauze

I found a gauze with a slight glint to it, stretched it on my frame and drew the design on to it. And at this point, the primary challenge I was going to face made itself felt – finding the angle from which to see the lines on the fabric, so that I could do the stitching. Add in the glint on the fabric, and sometimes I could see the lines, sometimes I could see the fabric, and sometimes I wasn’t sure I could see either… I knew it would be this difficult, by the way, but I thought the end result would be worth it!

Glint On Fabric
Glint On Fabric

The stitching is going to be very simple, mainly satin stitch (yes, I know!) because the main characteristic I want here is the magical effect of the embroidery floating above the backing surface.

Obviously, the first thing to do was to outline every element. I’m using a mixture of silk thread, some vintage, and some from Thistle Threads courses.

Evelyn Outlined
Evelyn Outlined

So here you are – all outlined, and the thorns already in place on the stem. You can see the fabric I have over my worktable through the gauze in this picture, and you can see that glint in the sunshine as well.

The next episode of SlowTV Stitchery – Episode Seven – is now up. I hope you enjoy it.

A Commission for an Embroidered Panel – “Evelyn Rose”

Earlier this year a dear friend and his wife produced a baby girl, who they’ve named Evelyn Rose. We were, of course, thrilled for them, and sent many congratulations, and even managed to speak to them (they’re in a different time zone). During that conversation, they said, “We love what you do, and we’d love you to do something for Evelyn!”.

Design Sketch
Design Sketch

Well, I didn’t have another commission looming, and the Faience Necklace wasn’t framed up ready to go yet, so that fell very pat. I asked what they had in mind, and this is the sketch that came back.

Painted Roses
Painted Roses

That gave us a lot to think and talk about. I played with a variety of typefaces, and finally settled on a cursive style. Then I thought about roses. My first thought was stylised canal art roses, but they never have stems, so I thought some more. Unusually for me, at this point I got out my paints, found some photos of roses, and started experimenting with simplifying them and really understanding the forms of them and the way the petals fold.

Design for Evelyn Rose
Design for Evelyn Rose

I ended up with this basic design – the name in an elegant cursive font, and the “l” replaced by a single stemmed half-open rose. Then I thought of the embroidery on gauze I experimented with a few years ago. It seemed to me that this was a perfect opportunity to play with this technique, and it has the advantage of producing something sufficiently grown up that in 20 years time, Evelyn probably won’t be embarrassed to have it on show…

Episode Six of “Slow TV Stitchery” is now up. Please take a look, and ask me any questions that occur to you…

Traycloth finished at last

Pulled Work Background
Pulled Work Background

I started this traycloth years ago, largely to experiment with the pulled work stitch I used as the background of the decorative panel.

The idea was to have a sandy background against which the shells, seaweed, and seahorse would be set, and although I enjoyed doing it, it isn’t the most successful of my embroidered experiments. It feels a bit lacklustre, but at the same time, I can’t say I’ve been filled with enthusiasm by the idea of doing anything substantial with it.

While I thought about the details, to see whether I could find something that would work, I hemstitched around the edge, so I will have a useable, if not enchanting, traycloth.

Whipped Back Stitch Outline
Whipped Back Stitch Outline

Then I thought hard. Maybe something could be done to differentiate the various elements without actually unpicking them all. The upshot is that the backstitched outlines have been whipped with a different colour of thread in each case, to pull out the differences a little more.

It still isn’t wholly successful, but it is now a usable traycloth and out of my welter of Unfinished Objects which occasionally leap, unanticipated, out of boxes I thought contained something else, to hit me in the face.

And that is most definitely a Good Thing!

Next page →