Testing, Testing… (phase one)

Remember this, the Knot Garden parterre?

It’s going to require a little more precision and therefore a little more planning than I usually indulge in. So there’s also going to be a bit more experimentation than usual. I might not go to the length of actually charting the finished piece, but I’m certainly intending to have a very clear idea of what is going where, and what thread or threads I’m going to use.

I’ve been intrigued to note that, from pulling out a huge variety of threads to use, an assortment of fibres and an assortment of colours, I’m beginning to restrict my ideas to a much smaller palette of threads and stitches.

As I looked at the picture more closely, it became clear that the squares within the beds were topiary pyramids. Maybe some are suffering from box blight, hence the colour variations, but this gave me a good place to start experimenting. I’ve gone to the trouble of framing up a piece of the canvas I’m going to use, so as to experiment properly, and my first observation is that I am going to need to be on top form when I work this, because it’s dreadfully easy to go adrift!

However, I think it’s fair to say that Diagonal Rhodes Stitch makes a fine pyramid in topiary! The straight stitches are in the same colour, which they won’t be, but I think the stitch length, compared with the Rhodes Stitch, looks about right for the width of the little hedges that create the strapwork effect.

I’ve also been testing out other threads and stitches – tapestry wool, soft embroidery cotton, stranded cotton. I want to have varying textures and patterns within the strapwork, creating a nice harmonious whole – but a stitched harmonious whole. I could easily chart – or even freehand – a tent stitch reproduction of the picture, but it wouldn’t have the personality needed for the place it’s going to live. Textured stitches will help to create that personality.


  1. Sue Jones says:

    Interesting patterns when you come to look closely at the shapes… I see darker borders around all the topiary squares. I think you do want that small separation from the straps, with those darker tones to brighten the rest – maybe no more than a single row of tent or 2/1stem? I think your Rhodes squares are a great choice for the squares themselves. You are going to have fun planning this one!

  2. Holly says:

    I love this as a subject for canvaswork! It seems so complicated to me to count it all out to some extent. I love the colors you’ve chosen so far and the shapes are really evocative.

  3. Lin says:

    I clicked on the reference photograph to see the topiary and decided that they looked like delicious chocolates in a box! Nice colour palette. xx

  4. Good experiments so far. I do like the Diagonal Rhodes stitch for the topiary.

  5. You have used a mixture of threads in other projects, and been very successful with that. Depicting a garden with various plants will look more realistic if you use a variety of yarns and threads,
    The Rhodes Stitch is the perfect stitch for a tall and trimmed bush.

  6. All sorts of interesting things happening here with your various trials of stitch and colour. They will definitely add texture which evokes the living nature of the source image. Part of the pleasure of that is those little strips of dark earth that border each diamond shape, as Sue says, they do add depth don’t they? I also wonder how you are going to approach the brick path? The change in scale when you zoom in is so pronounced in contrast to the parterre, and the overall colour varies depending on how much the path has been walked on – a challenge!! It is a very subtle palette to be working with and I’m sure you will enjoy trying to match them. The darker squares as just different shrubs, not yet in leaf, rather than box blight (which I thought at first). It’s the walled garden at RHS Wisley (which you may know already); there’s a really nice article about it here …

  7. Carolyn Foley says:

    I love the testing phase of a project and this one looks really interesting. Great colour and stitch selection.