A backing for the Robin (in progress!)

The Robin Completed
The Robin Completed

You may vaguely recall the little robin with stumpwork holly that I worked a couple of years ago. I mounted him on a circle of card and then didn’t make any more progress..

Starting Backing Panel
Starting Backing Panel

But I have now!

I’m using leftover fragments of silk from various Thistle Threads courses to do a rather tame crazy patchwork circle to cover the padding for the back, and then he can hang or be propped in a corner somewhere, looking cheery. I’ve settled on a simple quadrant arrangement, so I have four seams to deal with.

Seam Treatment 1
Seam Treatment 1

I said, when I found “Floral Feather Stitch” that I’d be using it again, and here it is, tweaked and embellished with a Fly stitch and a French Knot to emphasize the “floral” element. I really like this stitch – a simple, but extremely effective variation. Or maybe a stitcher’s “mash-up”!

Seam Treatment 2
Seam Treatment 2

The second uses Interlaced Herringbone Stitch, with the second pass interwoven with the first and then tied down with short straight stitches. This one is maybe a little monolithic, but the first one is so simple, I didn’t want to unbalance the appearance with anything broader.

Seam Treatment 3
Seam Treatment 3

The third is Chevron Stitch, embellished with alternating Fly Stitches and Detached Chain Stitches on the “top” edge. This one went a little ragged, but I still think it works.

Seam Treatment 4
Seam Treatment 4

The final one has alternating Half Buttonhole Wheels with Straight Stitches filling the gaps. Again, this could have been expanded and extended, but I thought there was quite enough for the purpose!

Nefertiti Shawl – partial panels

Partial Red Panel
Partial Red Panel

There are partial red panels at the edges of the Shawl, and as I want the colours to run the whole way across, clearly I have to stitch them. While I was mulling over the blue panels and the green ones, I carried on with those partial panels.

Stitch placement diagram 1
Stitch placement diagram 1

The central circles in all cases are in chain stitch and stem stitch, but I wanted a variety of effects in the main circles. That wasn’t as easy to achieve as you might think, for all my extensive repertoire of stitches! I found “German Knotted Blanket Stitch” in Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, and Palestrina and Loop Stitch are old friends, but by this point I’d managed to rack my brain into remembering most of those..

Edge Panel in red
Edge Panel in red

I was beginning to be at my wits end for stitches, and spent some time rummaging in Edith John’s “Creative Stitches” and “New Stitches for Embroidery”. Many of them would be easier in a slightly stiffer thread at a slightly larger scale, so I find myself wondering what Miss John devised her stitches for.

Graphic of stitch choice
Graphic of stitch choice

The full circles here are in stitches which are old friends, but the partial circles are some of hers. Floral Feather is a feather stitch with an upside down blanket stitch beside it, and I quite fell in love with it. I’ll be looking for another opportunity to use that one!.

Centre Chain stitch alternates single chain with fly stitch, starting each chain stitch within the previous one. That might be a way to vary textures with Wheatear Stitch, while still keeping the overall pattern. And Double Chain Stitch places a chain stitch and an open chain stitch side by side, alternating the ordering to create a checked effect.

Same design, different stitches

Ribbons And Bows
Ribbons And Bows

I’ve been rummaging in a variety of boxes, because with “Leaving the Tyne, 1915” finished and on display, and two “Dreams of Amarna” pieces in a good state, I feel as though I have a bit of mental space and time to consider, not just the progress on the Dreams of Amarna, but also any other half-thought-through bits and pieces I may find.

I’m not sure whether that is going to be true, but I live in hope! These “bits and pieces” are particularly obscure and particularly hard to find something to do with.

Amy
Amy

These two Lovely Ladies were part of an exploration of stitch ideas and silhouettes, originally with the idea that they might become teaching pieces. They originate with a sampler of cross stitch and ribbonwork silhouettes I devised in “DevaStitch Designs” days.

When I thought of teaching, I extended the idea by enlarging the heads, and playing with stitchery to replace the ribbonwork. However, I’m not much of a teacher at the best of times, and when I asked a few people, I was told that the second version, with silk georgette layered to create the impression of the silhouette, would be daunting for beginners, and uninteresting for improvers.

Ouch.

Annis
Annis

So I’m still trying to work out what to do with them. I rather enjoyed doing the silk georgette (it’s held down with back stitch, then chain stitch, and then satin stitched over the top!), and it certainly makes the bead necklace stand out nicely. The two parts of the hat provide clear, distinct shapes to outline and fill with stitched patterns.

I still have some ideas for a lady in the cloche hat that I’m dying to put into action, but at the moment I have no good excuse to do so!

From Watercolour to Embroidery

Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville
Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville

This vase of flowers was on the table in a motel room we stayed in, many years ago. For some reason they caught my eye, and for our whole stay – which was full of activity and outings – I wanted to paint them. But we were never in the room for long enough during the daytime.

Finally, on the morning we were going to leave, I got out my paints, sat down, stared very hard, and painted this. I’ve noticed that if I really want to paint something, it often works much better than paintings I’ve done because I want to practise painting.

I don’t think I even bothered to take a photograph. Everything I wanted to remember about the vase is in the painting.

When we got home, however, it seemed to me that the painting offered possibilities as the basis for a simple embroidery.

Embroidery based on the watercolour
Embroidery based on the watercolour

A very simple embroidery, but, as you see, making use of a variety of stitches.

The vase was textured glass, not clear, and I represented that using lines of coral stitch among the stem stitch. I didn’t work it more densely, because I wanted it to have a certain lightness of touch.

The twigs were very rough and twiggy, so I used scroll stitch.

Finally, the simple shapes of the flowers were best represented using my neatest and most careful satin stitch. All I really wanted from them was the colour.

I haven’t the vaguest idea what to do with the embroidery, so I’ve laced it over a board to keep it tidy. But I thought you might be interested to see one of my very rarest stories – I know other designers often do detailed watercolours of their designs, but it’s not how I work. More often, I have a rough idea in my head, and work on each element while I’m planning the details of the next, waiting for the piece to tell me what it wants.

This has turned out well, but I’m still slightly bewildered that it happened at all!

A Lovely Teacloth

One Corner Of Teacloth
One Corner Of Teacloth

This teacloth was worked by my mother as a schoolgirl.

The design came from a transfer, and there was another girl in her class that was working the same one. With rather a difference. Her flowers were all lazy daisy stitch, and anything else was stem stitch, apart from the edges, and she got the whole thing finished in a term.

Needless to state, as her mother’s daughter, and with the spectre of Miss Hunter in the background, my mother wasn’t going to use a stitch with “lazy” in the name.

Central Ring
Central Ring

She did all the edges in blanket stitch – which with my recent experience with the Azorean Cutwork has me extremely impressed. It takes so long to make any noticeable progress with it!

The leaves are all in feather stitch, and they’re beautifully shaped, and the flowers are satin stitch – very neat satin stitch, which again is one of my least favourite stitches, and one I only do neatly in short bursts and with something else to do in between!

Detail Of Corner
Detail Of Corner

Of course, my mother didn’t get her teacloth done in a single term – but her teacher was so impressed with what was finished that she took it home and handwashed and pressed the completed corner to put in in the end of term exhibition.

In spite of the fact that I very much doubt whether the teacher had contributed anything at all to my mother’s skill in the matter!

Favourite Summer Suit

Epaulette of the Strawberry Suit
Epaulette of the Strawberry Suit

When the summer comes, some women turn to shorts and vest tops, some go for swishy skirts and gypsy-boho tops. I have a third option – to turn to my grandfather’s old tropical uniforms, which are in lovely sturdy cotton drill softened by all those years of washing, and very nearly indestructible. I’ve dyed two sets, and painted paisley patterns on one of those, but I’m completely outclassed by my mother, who embroidered one set when I was a child.

Collar Details
Collar Details

The designs are based upon very stylised strawberries, strawberry leaves, and flowers. The jacket has short sleeves, epaulettes, and a standing collar, decorated with rows of chain stitch using all the colours used elsewhere in the design. The usual uniform buttons were replaced with vibrant pink mother-of-pearl effect buttons, which make the whole thing markedly more frivolous-looking..

Trouser Embroidery
Trouser Embroidery

Most of the embroidery is near the hem of the trousers. The strawberries are worked in trellis couching, and the rest of the embroidery is in stem or satin stitch.

I have memories of thinking my Mam looked fabulous in it when I was a child – so much so that I wrestled it from her a few years ago, and feel fabulous myself, every time I wear it.

What I don’t recall is what my Grandfather thought of the transformation…

Something Simple(-ish)

Briggs Transfer
Briggs Transfer

The Azorean Cutwork was not a very successful travelling project, as it needed to be precise, and the poor light of the average hotel-room made precision difficult.

I think this tea-cloth came from the same lady responsible for my fragment of the Quaker Tapestry, and the extra embroidery frames I knew I hadn’t bought. The instructions suggest a welter of unlikely colours and an excess of satin stitch, and I was nearly weak enough for follow them.

Blanket Stitch Fans
Blanket Stitch Fans

Then my mother pointed out that I’ve just done a single-stitch project, and should maybe cut loose a bit.

No sooner suggested than taken up! The wild colours are staying, but the stitchery will be a little more diverse…

After doing yellow satin stitch daisies with orange centres, I used blanket stitch fans for the next flower. I’m sure I’ve seen this before, or used it before, but I can’t remember where!

Nested Fly Stitch Petals
Nested Fly Stitch Petals

The design is composed of four corner designs and four straight sections which are all the same. I’m working each bit as I decide on it, rather than working one whole side and then copying it three times. That means that the puzzling and decision making is alternating with the stitching, rather than an orgy of decisions followed by the tedium of doing the same thing over and over and over again.

The purple flower is part of the corner motif, and alternates fishbone stitch (the dark petals) with nested fly stitches. The centre is a circle of blanket stitches with some random interlacing to fill them in.

Worked on a whim

Pincushion
Pincushion

Just before Christmas I was struggling with the “Dreams of Amarna” designs, but I still had itchy fingers from longing to stitch, and sore eyes from staring at “Eve In The Garden of Eden“, so I wanted something a bit less precise..

My Dad’s shaving cream comes in a rather nice wooden pot. There are refills, but sometimes the shop doesn’t have them, and consequently – since they’re much too nice to throw away – my parents have ended up with something of a stockpile. I’ve taken one of them off their hands, and turned it into a pincushion.

Coral Stitch
Coral Stitch

At the moment the lid is being used as a coaster, but I am open to suggestions for it!

The threads are silks, bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, worked on felt acquired at the same time. I created the shape of the pincushion itself with shaping stitches, stitching around and around the padding and the felt top layer, rather as doll and puppet makers do, and once I’d settled it into the bowl, I drew a chalk line around the waist, took the pincushion out, and started stitching.

Lucet
Lucet

Coral Stitch, Cable Chain (do I ever do anything that Cable Chain doesn’t sneak into somehow?), Semi-Closed Feather Stitch, and Scroll Stitch, all stitched into the felt, catching as little of the stuffing as I could.

Then I decided to do make a scissors-keeper for my lovely Ernest Wright and Son Ltd scissors, so I started by using one of the threads, and my lucet, to make a cord for it. I’d forgotten some of the knack of lucetting, but it came back gradually, and it’s ever so satisfying!

Finished Pair
Finished Pair

The stitches on the scissors keeper are Sorbello Stitches (another favourite of mine) and Tied Cross Stitches, and the the pieces of felt are stitched together with ordinary blanket stitch. In silk!

Don’t they look good…!

Still More on the View of the Excavation

Supervising A Trench
Supervising A Trench

As I got nearer the foreground figures, I tried to pick broader stitches, or at least stitches that were a bit more emphatic. This group was great fun to do, starting with the Gufti with his staff of office (Portuguese Knotted Stem!). The Gufti’s robe is Feather stitch, as are some of the twists of his headgear. I concentrated very hard on keeping the stitches even and close so that the “density” of the stitch would be maintained. The one in dark gold is in double interlaced back stitch, except for the top of the headgear, and the waistline – those are whipped backstitch. The other one is in one of the Elizabethan stitches from Jacquie Carey’s book.

I had fun with the supervising excavator – the brim of his solar topee is the Hungarian Braid chain, and I reversed the direction of the chain stitch for the peak of the crown. He’s also the only one with fair hair and pinkish skin, and I dressed him in a pale, tailored jacket.

The two at the front are another mixture of stranded silk, stranded cotton, and round silk thread. The golden veil is coral stitch, and the tunic below it is stranded silk chain stitch, and the dark golden tunic is stranded cotton and twisted chain stitch. I’m trying to make choices of stranded or round yarn that will suit the stitch.

Two Diggers
Two Diggers

I worked these two diggers on World Embroidery Day – which I hadn’t even known existed until the day before, so I was very glad I was able to sit and stitch!

I went back to my Edith John books for these two. The front one is in Shell Chain stitch, which I first used on the Circle Skirt. I won’t say it’s a favourite, but I have rather taken to it, and it creates an interesting effect.

The one behind is a very peculiar stitch, a combination of twisted chain stitch and open chain stitch. It creates a very square appearance, with the twisted chain alternating from side to side of the open chain, and it is called, rather predictably, Open Twisted Chain Stitch.

Sampler Tool Case – the stitches in the sampler

The whole idea of the sampler on the case is to have a few reminders of stitches I haven’t done before, or use only rarely…

First stitches
First stitches

The first row was Fishbone Stitch in navy blue pearl cotton. I wanted something definite to create the edge of the panel. It was a little tricky to stitch on the soft pre-felt, but as I soon remembered – that would be true of all of them!

Next, Mountmellick Thorn Stitch in reddish-pink cotton. I’ve only used this once before, on the Jacobean Work Panel, largely because I have not found a suitable application. I enjoyed it, though, and now the stitch will be before my eyes more regularly, maybe I will find one…

Open Chain Stitch is an awkward stitch. In Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, she says it is best used as the basis for further ornamentation, such as single chain stitches across the bars. and I think you can see why. I used a pale yellow pearl cotton. I like the thread, but the stitch is one that needs more work!

Second Stitches
Second Stitches

Next, Sorbello Stitch, worked in overdyed blue mercerised cotton. I’ve used this stitch before, to work the modern villages on the Map of Amarna, but at this larger scale the form and texture of the stitch is easier to see.

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch has become one of my favourite stitches since I used it for the Silken Crane and the Antelope Frieze. This version uses an overdyed pink/red pearl cotton. It does show colour variations nicely!

Bonnet Stitch is a new one for me. I am absolutely sure that yellow rayon is not what the stitch was developed for, but it worked rather well, and I enjoyed it.

Third Stitches
Third Stitches

I chose Feathered Chain Stitch next because I wanted something fairly wide, and fairly open. The navy stranded cotton makes a strong central axis for the panel.

Petty Chain Stitch is a new one for me. I found it in one of the books by Edith John that I have. She named it after the student who created it by accident when she confused the instructions for two stitches – immortality of a sort, I suppose! I’ve used a pinkish wool slub, doubled to even out the thickness. I’ll try to remember to use this again, in a less textural thread. I think it could prove useful.

The Herringbone Stitch, I chose because I wanted something narrow. You will have noticed I’ve tried to create a rhythm of stitch widths, although it isn’t a repeating pattern as such. The golden pearl cotton has a lovely shine.

Fourth Stitches
Fourth Stitches

Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch is another old friend. The challenge with this blue overdyed rayon floss was not in the stitching, but in wrangling the fifty or so metres that joyously tangled themselves as soon as I untied the skein!

I’ve never used Butterfly Stitch before, either. I’m not sure that the textured pinkish cotton does it the best service, but it creates an interesting effect.

Feather Stitch is harder to stitch well than you might think. The de-twisted gold rayon cord certainly didn’t make life easy, but it helps create an emphatic stop at the end of the panel.