Finnish Embroidery

Finnish Embroidery Design
Finnish Embroidery Design

A few weeks ago, my husband the Australian was speaking at a conference in Turku, Finland, and the organisers were kind enough to allow me to go too. We had a marvellous time – the Finns are terrifyingly good linguists, so we had no language problems, and because the conference was about Science and Art, and how they feed off one another and contribute to one another, the conversations were very wide-ranging, full of sparkle and fun.

I didn’t have much time for side trips, but I did find an embroidery shop, and asked about local rural Finnish embroidery. I picked a design I liked the look of, and they agreed to prepare a tracing for me and send it on. It seems to be in a combination of stem stitch and Bokhara couching, but when I’ve had a closer look at the stitch diagrams, I will be able to tell you more.

This is what the lady in the shop told me about the design:

You also asked for some information about the pattern, we have a book that tells a brief history of where the pattern was found. Of course, the original designer of the pattern is impossible to trace.

The pattern was originally embroidered on a bag or pouch, that was hanged on the wall, where people put smaller newspapers and magazines into. That’s why the pattern is called ”Sanomia”, it means messages or news in finnish. The word was also embroidered in the bag. We copied the model ourselves to other products, such as runners.

The ”Sanomia”-newspaper bag was found in the Kankaristo house, in country village of Mynämäki.

The bag, that was found there, was sewn by the lady of the house, Helli Kankaristo, born in 1902. The story tells that she was taught to make embroideries by her very skillful teacher at school, and Helli passed her skills also to daughter Inkeri, born in 1928.

 

The Finnish Table Runner is Finished!

Table Runner Hemmed
Table Runner Hemmed

At long last… I have finished the Finnish Table Runner!

The embroidery itself is very simple – Bokhara Couching and Stem Stitch, with the darkest leaves worked in nested Fly Stitches. I used two shades each of two colours – a greyish green, and a golden yellow.

The couching stitches of the Bokhara Couching are carefully arranged to create a basketweave effect, and I worked harder than usual to make the stem stitch regular with an even twist to it. Real simplicity is hard work, because the simpler the tools and effects you are using, the better-executed they have to be!

Antique Hemstitch - Corner Front
Antique Hemstitch - Corner Front

So I have taken particular care to stitch evenly. This was not entirely straightforward, in fact, as the fabric is a plain weave (one thread over and one thread under in each direction) but is not a square weave (warp and weft threads equally spaced). Since it is also a linen, and the threads are a little slubby, sometimes the effect is exaggerated. This became especially clear when I worked the hems.

Incidentally, I’ve no objections at all to the fabric not being a square weave or to the threads being slubby – these are just factors that sometimes influence how something is worked or the effects that are achievable.

Antique Hemstitch - Corner Back
Antique Hemstitch - Corner Back

When I hemmed the piece, I chose to use Antique Hemstitch (at least, that is what it is called in Yvette Stanton’s Right Handed Embroiderer’s Companion). This leaves only a small stitch on the front of the piece. I withdrew a single thread for each hem (the instructions usually suggest at least two, but I wanted a narrow line down the edge and not the dogtooth effect of hemstith on only one side of the withdrawn threads), and then grouped four threads in each stitch. If you look hard at the photos, you will see that in one direction the stitches look longer than the other, although they group four threads in each case.

Since the table runner is about a metre and a half long, and nearly half a metre wide, that’s about four metres of hemming, which for some strange reason I enjoyed enormously, even though I’m really not good with repetition.  I used ordinary sewing thread, but decided to use a golden yellow to add a bit of colour along the edges.

When my mother saw it first (half-done), she told be I was being a  little show-off, but I think she meant it as a compliment!

Progress on the Finnish Embroidery

Finnish Embroidery - Progress
Finnish Embroidery - Progress

I managed to get started on my Finnish embroidery project at last. It’s going to be a table runner for our dining room, which is golden-yellow and decorated in a slightly Arts and Crafts fashion, so the design has been traced twice, back to back, to create a long design, and without the lettering shown in the photograph that accompanied the linen (see my first post about this project).

Following the model I saw in the shop, I’m using Bokhara Couching for all the solid shapes, laying the couching stitches in a sort of brickwork pattern to create texture. The deep golden circles will echo the sunburst in the eucalyptus frieze in the dining room, and the two greyish greens are close to the other colours in the frieze.

All the lines are going to be in stem stitch. I’m working this quite slowly and carefully to keep the stem stitch twisting neatly in the same direction and the stitch length more or less the same.

It’s some time off yet, but I’m planning to hand-hemstitch the edge of the runner. I take a slightly unexpected pleasure from hand-hemstitching, and even the six metres of hemstitching on the Piano Shawl haven’t put me off. There’ll be about three metres of hemstitching on this, and I’m rather looking forward to it!

More Progress on the Elephant of Infinite Charm

I don’t work on the Christus Natus Est panel in the evenings, so I have been making progress on the Elephant of No Distinction But Infinite Charm. Slowly, because he has been proving obstreperous!

Progress on the Elephant of Infinite Charm
Progress on the Elephant of Infinite Charm

I’ve added a second row of cable chain stitch around his ear, and worked a single large roundel of spiral trellis stitch to embellish it. The spiral trellis is a very thread-hungry stitch – I think it used four or maybe five lengths, but it was well worth it. I was careful to bring the new end of the thread in using the end that the previous thread had just finished on, so that the blocks of colour in the variegated thread flowed smoothly rather than jumping about.

The Headcloth of the Elephant of Infinite Charm
The Headcloth of the Elephant of Infinite Charm

You can see in the close up that I’ve used a pulled-work stitch for the Elephant’s Headcloth. I’m not sure which scale I prefer so I may just leave it as it stands. I wanted those sections to be covered, rather than open, but not completely solid. I think it’s pretty successful, but I intend to stare at him for a little while now, while I try to work out how I am going to work the anklets on his legs.

Published!

Article In Handmade Living
Article In Handmade Living

Some time ago I worked on a project I couldn’t tell you about, and this is it. There’s a new magazine in the UK – I think this one is issue 4 – which is called “Handmade Living”. It covers a huge variety of subjects, from knitting and embroidery to handmade soap and natural skincare. In order to bring all these subjects together, the editorial team have themes in mind for each issue, and when I suggested a few ideas to the editor, she thought that The Three Hares would fit nicely in the “Folk” theme. The Three Hares is a very old design, so she was absolutely right. It’s appeared all along the Silk Route…

I chose to use several of my favorite stitches, and worked the design as simply as possible. I’ve had a few ideas about using the design to experiment with some of the embroidery and needlework styles I’ve not played with yet – there are plenty of them, after all! – and it seemed sensible to start with a simple technique.

And by the way, if you’ve come to visit my blog after reading the magazine – Welcome! I hope you enjoy what you read…

 

More on the Elephant of Infinite Charm

Trial of Interlacing
Trial of Interlacing

You may recall that last week I said I was thinking of working one of the new interlacing patterns on the Elephant’s saddlecloth. I ferreted around in my box of metallic threads and found several golds and coppers to choose from. Finally I chose a warm copper, and looked up the instructions for the interlacing.

I really didn’t like the look of it at all.  Somehow it looked tangled and rather moth-eaten, instead of exotic. Not A Good Look, so out it came.

Final Decision
Final Decision

So in the end I decided to use ordinary trellis couching. The couching stitches are upright cross stitches in the copper thread, over a silk foundation. It looks a little dull in the photo, but in real life the little sparkle of copper “lifts” it nicely, and I think it will work well.

You might also notice that I’ve finished outlining him, using the thread that shades from brown to cream. It means that his edges aren’t always emphasised to the same degree, which I think is a good thing.

Artists talk of “light and shade”, and we usually interpret that as meaning simply that the patterns of tone are what build up a recognisable image. To an extent that is correct, in that if the tones are wrong, a picture won’t work well. When we are talking of a design of lines rather than shapes, however, it’s less obvious what we mean.  I am trying to create a pattern of varying densities of stitching as well as colour, and in the end what I hope to have achieved is a pleasing rhythm for the eye to follow, not “sticking” anywhere, but not frantically jolting from one part of the design to the next.

Tricky!

 

One Collared Elephant

You can tell that the Elephant’s inspiration was the right one – suddenly he’s taken off!

The Elephant Collared
The Elephant Collared

I’m using one set of variegated silk thread (shading from orange to brown) for the harness and headcloth and saddlecloth, and another (shading from cream to brown) for any small bits of the Elephant that show through all his finery.  I shall have to redraw his head and headcloth – the transfer has rubbed off – but I’m pretty pleased with progress.

The collar is worked in six rows of braid stitch, which is a stitch that always looks better in a round yarn like this silk perlé. The roundels hanging from the collar are two rows of buttonhole stitch, and the roundels on the ear-covering are spiral trellis stitch – at the moment. I’m not quite sure that they are right. I first used Spiral Trellis on the Jacobean Work Panel, and really enjoyed stitching it, but I think these look too fussy. One big one might be better, and it would allow the colour change in the thread to show a little more.

I’m glad that I have worked out something to do next, as his anklets are giving me trouble.They are smooth and domed in the original model, but I think satin stitch might look a little ordinary.

I’ve used small satin stitches to outline the border of the saddlecloth, but only because I wanted something quiet to contain the excitement I intend to put inside it – I’m planning to use one of the complicated interlacings from the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass for the saddlecloth, but extended to form an all-over pattern.

Watch this space…!

More Details on the Peacock Skirt

Do you remember my Peacock Skirt? Megan of Elmsley Rose asked for some more close ups of the embroidery, and while I have been remodelling it (for a slightly less sylph-like waistline – I was a skinny teenager!) I took the opportunity to take some.

Close Up Of Branch
Close Up Of Branch

This, therefore, is a close up of the branch the peacock is standing on. I simply followed the instructions here, using coral stitch for the dark grey elements of the branch and scroll stitch for the pale yellow. I think that now if I were do something like this again, I would spend a bit of time tweaking the colours a little more, because I’m not sure I like having the peacock’s legs the same colour as the highlight on the branch!

You can see, too, that I struggled somewhat with tension and the fabric is a little puckered. This seems not to matter when I’m wearing the skirt – people still admire it!

Pekinese Stitch On The Peacock's Back
Pekinese Stitch On The Peacock's Back

The instructions for the Peacock’s back said to work the Pekinese Stitch fairly loosely to create a slight variation on colour and texture. Since the embroidery was worked in two strands of stranded cotton, that too contributes to a slightly “fluffy” appearance. The satin stitch sections around where the wing should be are in slightly different shades of grey, and worked at slightly different angles, again to produce varying tones and textures.

Looking at this close up now, I think the rows of stem stitch used for some sections of the body represent the feathers of the bird more successfully (although, again, the design doesn’t attempt a photo-realistic representation) than the sections of satin stitch or pekinese stitch. I do admit, however, that it was the chance to work pekinese stitch that attracted me to the design!

Spiders Web Flower Centre
Spiders Web Flower Centre

The centres of the flowers were worked using a Spiders Web Wheel. The instructions specified working as much thread into the stitch as possible to obtain a raised and highly textured effect. This contrasts very well with the long and short stitch flowers and the stem stitches on the peacock’s tail.

Again, coming back to these pieces years after stitching them, it’s fascinating to look at surprising details. The gold and russet leaves look as though they’ve been padded, but I’m quite sure they weren’t. I remember doing padded satin stitch for the first time quite recently and wishing I’d  known about  it earlier!

Dreams of Amarna – The Patches on The Map

After finishing the text and the villages on the Map, I need to decide what to use for the cultivation…  You may recall from my earlier post that I have decided on the stitch I’m going to use – tête de boeuf stitch – but that I’ve not quite worked out what thread to use.

 

Trial Patches On The Map
Trial Patches On The Map

I’ve stitched a variety of trial patches, using stranded cotton, flower thread, pearl cotton, and several different silks, and now all (all!) I have to do is make a decision. I’ve propped up the fabric in the living room and stand staring at it every chance I get!

So far, I feel sure I won’t be using the pearl cotton (too chunky) or the flower thread (also too chunky), but that leaves me two variegated silks (one pale green shading to pinkish purple and one brighter green shading to terracotta) and two plain silks (one slightly darker than the colour of the fabric, and one the same colour as the stranded cottons I used for the contour lines. I’ve tried very hard to get a photo that does reasonable justice to the various threads and colours, but I don’t think that the one I’ve got here helps very much…

Sorbello Stitch Village
Sorbello Stitch Village

I chose Sorbello stitches to represent the modern villages. These are worked at a very small scale, as you can see from the thread count. Again, had I followed the cartographer’s symbols, I would have used something like Jacobean Couching, but I felt that this stitch in fact reflects the idea of buildings rather better. I’ve used the same gold-shading-to-purple thread for all the modern villages, both the names and the associated areas. It doesn’t draw the eye, in real life, quite as much as you might expect.

 

 

 

An Experimental Seahorse

Small Seahorse in overdyed filament silk
Small Seahorse in overdyed filament silk

Sometimes I play with threads for no other reason than to play with them. In this case Stef Francis gave me a skein of overdyed filament silk to play with. She tends to create a much more “freeform” style of embroidery than I do and she wanted to know what I thought of the thread.

I found a simple transfer that offered scope for several different stitches, and started playing. I had been concerned that it might twist up when I didn’t want it to, but it stayed fairly flat most of the time, and it is noticeable that the stitches look and feel different in a flat thread, as compared with a round one.

For example, in a round thread, the stem stitch line tends to be more textured, and the direction of slant is more obvious. Here, the slight flatness creates a smoother line. That same flatness makes the satin stitch smoother and cleaner looking. It also helps to mask any slight imperfections in the stitching!

On the other hand, that same slight “spread” of the filaments clouds the distinctiveness of the Wheatear Stitch in the fin on his back, so not an unalloyed success, but interesting and worth trying all the same.

Silk Filament Experiments
Silk Filament Experiments

Then I started just to play with stitches in a spare corner of fabric. The Braid Stitch (top row) works quite nicely, I think, and the Turkey work (bottom right hand corner) is better than I hoped, especially considering that I’ve not done it before. I can’t imagine what I would use that texture for in these colours, but Stef has a fabulous range of overdyed shades and I am sure that something would spring to mind for one of them. The little triangle of Closed Herringbone Stitch is hardly a success, but that may be a problem of scale. I don’t think the Braid Stitch would have worked if it had been any wider than it is here.

I don’t think this thread adds anything to the Reverse Chain Stitch, or to the Spider’s Web Wheel, but I do like the Chained Feather Stitch couching. In fact, that might have been better had I had the courage of my convictions and made the base that’s being couched about twice the width.

All in all, I had a lot of fun playing with this thread. I’ve now got a much better idea of What To  Do and more importantly What Not To Do with it. One important thing to remember  –  make sure hands are smooth! Silk catches on everything and filament silk does so even more!