Tag: Silk thread

William Marshall – beginning to stitch

I have a small lightbox now, so I used that to transfer the design. It was a bit of a battle, because the lines showed through so clearly I couldn’t be sure I’d got them all.

And I hadn’t – spot the non-deliberate mistake!

However, one horse’s belly can be added freehand. I haven’t put in the lines for the reins, either, because I’m anticipating putting them over the top of the stitching below, and that layer of stitching would cover the design lines anyway.

When I began the outline, I used the darkest thread I have, “Ebony”, and it looked a bit monolithic. After a couple of comments from Tanya Bentham, I unpicked it all, took the opportunity to restretch the fabric, which had sagged, and reinstated the outlines with some variation – navy blue for the building, brown for the horse, and dark grey for the armour. They are all very dark colours, so there’s only a slight difference, but there is a difference, and already the design looks livelier.

So, once I had the outlining in, I started with the conical slate roofs on the gatehouse turrets.

At this point, I should admit that those conical roofs are not remotely historical. The seventeenth century engraving that gave me the view of the gatehouse I liked the most didn’t have conical roofs, and I think I can be pretty certain that in William’s time those turrets probably had a man-at-arms on patrol, and no roof.

All that said, I’m not doing an entirely historical piece. I’m telling different stories here, and I want a slightly fairytale/mythological quality to the image. I think the conical roofs help with that.

Ready to Start on William Marshall…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Add-Watermark_2022_02_07_03_02_33-2-578x1024.jpg

Block Pinning on this post/page.

Insert an image to make a visual statement.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MtBlanc1.jpg
Mont Blanc appears—still, snowy, and serene.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MtBlanc1.jpg
Mont Blanc appears—still, snowy, and serene.
Default Style
Alt text (alternative text)

Describe the purpose of the image(opens in a new tab)Leave empty if the image is purely decorative.
Image size

Image dimensions

Having spent some time in my stash, deciding that mixing even filament silks might be a bit unpredictable, I finally pulled myself together and placed an order with Devere Yarns. While I waited for them to arrive (it didn’t take long), I went back to Tanya’s book and read the early technique sections again. Homework is always more fun when you’re interested.

I do have some darks left over from the Amarna Family Group, so the outlining is sorted. I’ve got three stone colours, three shades for William’s armour, three greens for grass, three shades for the horse, the three heraldic colours for the shield, and a blue for the slate roofs on the turrets.

The blue is probably also going to be the colour I use for the border.

The Victorians remodelled Temple Church, where William is buried, found a strapping six-footer that they believed – based on what we’ve been told of him – to be William, and in due course, reburied him, and everyone else they’d moved, in the garden. So I’m planning a silk border, of blue laid-&-couched work, embellished with roses (for the garden) and common broom (for the Plantagenet kings he served so faithfully).

The grave slab is shown in a leaflet I got when we visited, which is no longer in existence, but is shown in an engraving from the 17th Century, and was thought to be associated with William. The lion looks right, anyway! I’m wondering whether to include that in my design for the border in some way, and if so, in what orientation..

Finishing Silkie

The next stage with Silkie were the main details on the head. The eyes, the beak, and the beard were all long and short stitch, which is not a favourite of mine, as long term readers are very well aware.

However, I have now grown reconciled to long and short stitch to the extent that, if I believe it to be the right choice, I will settle to it without too much grousing. Just a token mutter or two!

In truth, satin stitch isn’t a huge favourite, either, but the jewel-like golden shapes were what attracted me to Silkie when I saw the kit in the shop, and besides, silk thread is such a joy to use, and so rewarding in both satin stitch and long and short stitch.

So Silkie’s decorations, eyelashes, and bushy eyebrows all came together in something of a rush, and brought the goofy expression properly to life.

The final detail was to seed stitch the neck and the forehead. As it happened, I couldn’t find anywhere in the instructions the detail of which colours to choose, so the final detail may not be as intended.

But I like it – lighter on the forehead where the eyes, eyebrows and beak all concentrate the darker colours, and darker on the neck to bring out the flower with its un-outlined petals.

Now I need to work out where to put Silkie so I can continue to enjoy him!

Episode 49 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live. In which we tackle the Angel’s hair, remember the Great Ladys Magazine StitchOff, and consider music while we work.

More on Silkie The Ostrich

Green Flexihoop showing Silkie the Ostrich with outlines in place and some of the white padded satin stitch around his beak complete.

I got started on the design by doing the split stitch, partly to cover the design lines, and partly because I find it easier to maintain interest if the design advances all over, rather than in spots. That’s why I did all the stems first when I did the Coat of Many Flowers!

The next element, with the white silk from outlining still in the needle, was to tackle the padded satin stitch around the beak and beneath the eyes.

Oblique angle of the flower on Silkie's neck, showing the padding stitches in place.

After that I moved on to the decorations on the neck. The patterns are picked out in padded satin stitch. Of course, I decided to complicate matters for myself, and I have decided to vary the levels of padding, and the placement of the padding. For example, I hope you can see here that the padding on the white petals of the flower is shifted to the outside of the petals, and has been done in a couple of layers.

When it came to the two golden leaf shapes, I combined two layers of chain stitch padding with a layer of satin stitch at right angles to the final layer.

The light grey elements are all unpadded.

I’m not sure that it shows at all well, but it does make more of a difference in person than in reproduction!

Meanwhile, Episode 45 is now live – in which I continue planning Placidus, while considering the challenges of image searches, and the occasional opacity of musical jokes.

A rather belated start..

Picture of Trish Burr design "silkie the ostrich", with traced linen peeking out behind the instruction booklet

Some of you may recall that a year ago I worked Tanya Bentham‘s kit of the Hounds in the period between Christmas and New Year, as a change of scale, material, and subject while my bigger projects were tucked away to make space for decorations. You may also recall that I bought a Trish Burr design, “Silkie The Ostrich”, from Au Ver A Soie, to fill the same space in the turn of last year to this. And you may have been wondering why you hadn’t seen it yet…

Cover of the instructions for silkie the ostrich showing behind a green flexihoop with part of the design outlines stitched

Well, it took two goes to get the design transferred, for a start! When I tried at home, using the low-tech sunlight-through-the-window technique, there wasn’t enough sunlight! So I had to wash off the failed version and use my mother’s rather fabulous LED lightbox (we’re in a bubble, so no, it didn’t involve breaking lockdown rules).

The more I invent and develop my own designs, the stranger it feels to follow instructions. This is still stranger, because the instructions are in French. I do speak French, but I didn’t do any embroidery when I lived there, so I don’t have any embroidery vocabulary. Not the least of the oddities of advancing years is finding which weird thing you couldn’t possibly have second-guessed you wish past-you had done…

In this case, partly because I’m concerned about losing my design lines, I’m not following the order of working in the booklet of instructions. I’ve started by working all of the split stitch outlining. It’s all in a single strand of silk, so it’s questionable as to how much of a rest from my other projects this will give me, but I lost my heart to Silkie’s smile the moment I saw it, so I think it will be a rest in a different sense.

We have reached Episode 43 of SlowTVStitchery, a rather short episode, owing to some difficulties with camera focus. I was beginning to tackle the full width of the piece, while pondering the challenges posed by Brahms and Messien, and the lectures given for Gresham College by the late Christopher Hogwood.

Japanese Embroidery, 2

Flower Petals and Buds
Flower Petals and Buds

Once the padding was done, the next stage was the flower petals. These were fairly quickly done, in satin stitch. I tried to keep the stitches in the right orientation by starting in the middle of each petal and working the halves separately.

Have I mentioned before how much I love the effect you get with flat silk? The stitches almost glow, even in poor light!

Flower Centres In Place
Flower Centres In Place

The instructions for the other elements weren’t quite as clear as I expected them to be, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. That said, I could fill in the gaps with a bit of guesswork, so it’s all good.

French knots for the flower centres, using hand twisted thread. I found the needle harder to thread here, because the twisted thread was quite heavy, and it untwisted easily, too. This is a problem I’ve noticed with my hand twisted thread before, and I’d love to know whether there is anything to do to avoid it!

Forget Me Nots
Forget Me Nots

The leaves were satin stitch, again in twisted silk, while the stems were in stem stitch. The pattern didn’t specify, but I took absense of specification to indicate using the silk untwisted. It keeps the stems light and delicate, anyway.

So, finally, after nearly thirty years, I’ve finished the forget-me-nots!

Now I just need a pot to put them in….

The next episode of Slow TV Stitchery is up – Episode 25 – on reaching the fourth border, and the pleasures of lute music. Do go and have a look!

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 live, and chiefly concerns Nefertiti.

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, the next post in SlowTV Stitchery is now live – Episode Eighteen – on the desirability of imperfection and the likeness of mathematicians to cats!

Finishing the Faience Necklace


In the end, I unpicked both of the previous attempts, and used a mass of French knots, worked again in hand twisted silk, this time combining some of the very fine silk from a Frostings box with my Japanese Flat silk.

I think these work well, especially at the small scale of the piece.

Lotus Flower
Lotus Flower

I’d been rather dreading the large lotus flower, representing the shaped endpieces of a broad collar necklace, because I was remembering the struggle I’d had with the “Fragment of Tile That Started It All“.

Then I had an epiphany of my own, and used the difference in appearance and reflectance of twisted silk compared with flat silk to help distinguish the shapes of the petals and bring the foremost ones forwards. I’m very pleased with how that turned out!

Finished Faience Necklace
Finished Faience Necklace

And now, finally, it’s done!

This one is almost certainly going to be one of the “spots” around one of the big panels, because although I like it, and it represents what I want it to, I don’t think it has the visual strength to stand alone.

But then, if all the pieces could stand on their own, I wouldn’t be able to assemble the panels I want to, would I!

Finally, Episode 14 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, discussing design thoughts, music and musicians. Do drop in and see how I’m getting on!

Steps forward, steps back

Faience Dates in satin stitch
Faience Dates in satin stitch

The necklace description that Mary Chubb was asked to transcribe, after her epiphany in the cellar, includes a row of dates in a repeating colour pattern of two red, one green, two blue.

So here they are, in satin stitch in flat silk for the main fruit, and more satin stitch, but this time using hand-twisted threads, for the stem. I found a rich and vibrant green for the main green fruit and used a greyish-green for the stem. Again, I’m trying to balance echoing the faience with echoing the real fruits, leaves and flowers, which is making for some interesting puzzles!

First Lotus Petal Trial
First Lotus Petal Trial

I wanted to try blending the silk filaments for one of the elements, to help recall the slightly iridescent effect of some glazes, and spent a wonderfully painstaking (exasperating!) afternoon splitting my silk. And then recombining it, and using it to stitch the first of the lotus petals in long-and-short stitch.

Only to sit back and glare at it. It’s looking congested, chunky, and not at all what I was looking for. What’s more, it’s buckling the fabric in spite of the calico support.

Snip, snip, out it comes, and now I need to think again.

Faience Grapes Compared
Faience Grapes Compared

Meanwhile I have another element to think about as well. You can see the underlayer of satin stitch on the shapes which are supposed to be recollections of bunches of grapes, and then two attempts to give them a more defined appearance. I think I prefer the middle version, which was the second I did.

That, however, means I have to unpick my first attempt. Sigh.

There was a problem with uploading my video last week, so here it is, somewhat delayed: Episode 10 of SlowTVStitchery. And, just so we don’t get too far behind ourselves: Episode 11 as well!

Next page →
← Previous page