Tuesday, 12 November 2013


This little thistle was part of a recent commission. It is in a slightly heraldic style with long and short leaves and flower head with extra straight stitches for all the spikes. All worked in stranded cotton. It looks shiny as the lengths are kept very short for working. Frustrating as you only do a few stitches of each colour but vital to keep a good sheen on the thread.
Thistle stitched in long and short with stranded cotton on silk dupion.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

20 years of silk shading at the Royal School.

Last month I celebrated 20 years of working at The Royal School. I still love embroidery now as much as I did when I started as an apprentice . Of all the techniques that I have learnt my favourite one is long and short silk shading. It is also the one that I was most apprehensive about and as a teacher it is also the one that I find students are most keen to master. All I can say is practise, practise, practise!!

This was my first attempt at silk shading, a wild dog rose. I can see many mistakes in it, the edges of the rose are very uneven and the turnovers on the petals are unshaded and very heavy. I also padded them which I think is unnecessary . A three dimensional effect should be achieved just by the shading. I used just anchor stranded cottons for this worked on a flat silk background.
I was pleased with the leaves though, I tried to include blemishes in the leaves and picked some actual leaves to copy as I worked. 

This silk shading I really enjoyed a green woodpecker, although again I would do it very differently now. I stitched this in the second year of my apprenticeship so felt more confident at long and short. I used anchor and DMC stranded cottons and worked on a very fine linen background. 

Rosie the cat. A companion piece to Lonnie which I talked about in another post.I enjoyed Rosie more , I think as I learnt so much from the first piece she seemed much easier to work. Her eyes were harder though, they were huge and she really liked to stare. I think I managed to capture her character and her stripes!! 

A close up of the long and short showing the many colours used. 
Another close up of her fur. 

My latest long and short stitch piece a crewel work embroidery. The long and short was worked in medici wools on a calico backing . I then edged the whole embroidery with silver pearl purl number 1.This is a real metal thread which is coiled like a spring , you pull it slightly apart to stitch it down. This one contains a small amount of silver which will tarnish over time. I then cut out the embroidery to wear as a brooch. Embroidery is not just for pictures. 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Sweet bag.

Sweet bags were small embroidered bags used in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. They are thought to have originally contained sweet smelling herbs and flowers, hence the name. At first they were kept in trunks, chests and wardrobes to keep away insects and various smells but as time went on the bags became very beautiful and elaborate and were worn over and under clothing. They are generally very small, you struggle to get a hand inside, a thought is that they were also used to give small gifts. These were high status items that royalty and the aristocracy carried around.The bag below was one that I was able to study in detail recently. Further information on the history and how to make these bags is available in Jacqui Carey's book ' Sweet Bags'.
The sweet bag is approx 10cms wide. A carnation, tulip and iris are stitched in silk tent stitch. Other design details include two small hillocks one of which has a bird sitting on it and a small bee.

The metallic thread is called gimp and loops round to meet a turks head knot. 

The drawstring ends are worked over a wooden former. A weft thread is wrapped around the former and then silk and metal threads are wrapped over the wefts to create a pattern. The bags has two different drawstring ends so possibly one is a later replacement. 

A close up of the grounding which is worked in a counted stitch with a metal passing. The background fabric is a very fine cream linen. Passing is a metal thread so called as it was strong enough to pass through the fabric rather than just sit on the surface of the fabric. Also see the detailing of the stitch covering the side seam.   

A close up of the carnation an often used flower in 17th century imagery. 

The knots at the outside corners were used to pull the drawstring open. You can just see the bright pink silk lining.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Red crewel work embroidery.

This amazing crewel (wool) work hanging was on display at The Royal School of Needlework for a class a few weeks ago, so I was lucky enough to take some photographs. It is currently in a private collection, but is for sale ( if only I could buy it!!!). The hanging dates from about 1620 and is English. It was probably part of a set and does have a runner with it. This however is of a slightly different style.
The outlines of the motifs are all worked in stem stitch. The shading is composed of seeding which varies in density. There are also detached chain and other surface patterning stitches to give variation. The ground fabric is linen twill . This technique was also worked in black wool and silk, very often on clothing. Many of those examples are damaged though as iron was often used in the black dyes and therefore the thread very often perishes over time.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Seaside embroidery

This little starfish I embroidered ages ago. I wanted it to really 'grab' surfaces so there is a really fine florists wire under the edges. The base is a machine embroidered sateen with velvet discs french knots and various surface stitches. The background is a beautiful Japanese paper that a student gave me as a gift.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Kaffe Fassett at the Fashion and Textile museum.

Wonderful exhibition displaying paintings and quilts . The colours just shone out . Makes me want to get all my fabrics out and start quilting .

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Silk shaded cat embroidery

Painting with the needle. This cat is embroidered in long and short stitch using a combination of Anchor and DMC stranded cottons on a dupion silk fabric. Traditionally this technique would be worked with silk but with the amount of colours I used the cost would have been huge.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

I am lucky enough to work at The Royal School of Needlework. I was one of the embroiderers who worked this beautiful crest. It looks like it has been worked in silk but actually it is stranded cotton, in long and short stitch.

Bargello circles

Got carried away with the bargello circles. They are so quick to long as you don't miscount!!

A bargello needlepoint canvas button. This was stitched on 24tpi. canvas with Appleton crewel wool.