Red on Black Bargello

This latest piece is a rather unusual Bargello project. The basic design comes from a placard I saw on a TV programme about fashion designer Issey Miyake. I have used this design twice before, which you can see here and here. This time I wanted to made a bold statement so I used red threads on a black fabric.IMG_0394The photo doesn’t do justice to the piece as somehow it looks narrower on the right, which is not the case. Anyway it gives a good idea of the work. The fabric is a 16ct Aida in black. The threads are from the Paternayan Persian yarn range – a light and a very light Christmas red. I used two shades as I wanted the pattern of the Bargello to stand out, and I felt this was more likely with two shades.  To get the fabric fully covered, or at least as fully as possible, I used two strands of the wool.

Stitching on black is quite the challenge! All too easy to miss the right mesh. I needed to hold the piece up to the light to get any chance of getting this right. Worth it though as it does make a statement. The stitched area is 29.5cm x 9.5cm and it took me 23.5 hours of stitching over 15 days to complete the work.

Not sure if the final version will be as shown above or the more usual vertical version. I plan to attach a light backing to the fabric and then fold over the black edges so that only the black spaces between each row will show. Will try this first, but perhaps leaving a little black fabric all round may be better at framing the red. Time will tell.



I have recently completed another little robin. The first was very small, designed to illustrate a Christmas card. The recipient, a cousin of mine in New York liked the robin, and mentioned that she had a friend who was very fond of robins. So I offered to embroider one for her friend.  Here it is.IMG_0387The fabric is an Essex linen in ivory. Though called a linen it is 55% linen and 45% cotton. Still a lovely fabric to embroider with.  Most of the stitching was done with two strands of cotton thread. Silk shading or long and short stitch was used for almost all of the body of the robin. The eyes, beak and legs are the exception. The branch at the bottom is stitched in heavy chain stitch with one strand of Appleton wool in dark brown.

As this piece was for someone, I decided, (better late than never!) to check up on the colouring of robins. So I looked up the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds site for guidance. Not a great deal of surprises, though I did discover that grey featured quite prominently on the upper body. Neither did I expect to see bits of yellow on the lower feathers.  Nor that the legs were a pinky brown colour!

The red breast is predominantly a dark coral red with a bit of bright orange. The lower body has three colours – ultra very light mocha brown, cream and a few highlights in winter white. For the legs I put together a light rose and a light brown thread and used this in a simple whipped back stitch. Kinda works.

I spent about 12 and a half hours stitching this robin, and very enjoyable it was too. It looks quite snug in the 13cm Nurge hoop. The robin, minus the hoop, is now on its way across the Atlantic to New York and a new home.

2019 – embroidery highlights

Looking back over 2019 I can detect some similarities and some differences with previous years. I worked on 23 projects which is very much in line with my yearly average.  The big standout difference is that for the first time since I started embroidery, I did fewer Bargello pieces than other types of embroidery. A big surprise, not for nothing is this blog called The Bargellist. Anyway quite pleased as it is good to extend my repertoire.

The 23 projects last year were shared fairly evenly amongst my regular embroidery endeavours. I was definitely surprised to discover that I had done more crewel work than any other – seven projects in all. Another five were in Blackwork, of various colours! Four projects were of traditional Palestinian designs, the same number as Bargello projects. The list is completed with three projects  in other styles. This included my not altogether successful attempt at Goldwork.

I try to keep a (reasonably accurate) account of how many hours I spend on actual stitching. A perusal of this record shows that, other things being equal – size of project – Blackwork and Palestinian embroidery are the most time consuming. A Palestinian piece – fours stars in a field of lilies – took up just over 46 hours stitching. While another Palestinian piece – Rosebuds in Blue – involved 39 hours stitching. Two Blackwork projects – Red & Black and a single motif in plum shades – each took up over 30 hours of stitching.

So far I do not keep any record of how much time I spend preparing for a project, working out the design, choosing fabric, threads etc. Nor do I keep a record of time spent on finishing off a piece. Maybe something for the future.

Generally speaking, bearing in mind the size of a project, Crewel work or surface embroidery is the least time consuming. Almost certainly because it does not involve completely filling the fabric with stitches. Bargello patterns do fill the fabric, but they are usually quite easy to follow as they only involve vertical stitches.

As regards highlights from the year, a bit of a difficult choice as I liked all of the projects, even those that were not totally successful. I very much enjoyed a new approach to using traditional Palestinian motifs. New to me that is, as the idea came from an article in Embroidery magazine on the work of Palestinian American embroiderer, Jordan Nassar. I managed three pieces using this approach. You can see the first one here.

I even tried this approach, using a single motif,  with a Blackwork pattern, which you can see here. It was a bit of a surprise to discover that three of my Bargello projects were variations in what I call Free Form Bargello. Some people might not even regard them as Bargello, but hey ho. Here is an example in Black and magenta.

The most unusual project from last year was stitching a three dimensional piece. This was from a workshop run by Anita Hutchison for our branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild. Quite challenging, but I did finally finish it, which you can see here.

The crewel projects were all quite varied. I particularly liked my first attempt at stitching a Boteh Jeghe, or Paisley pattern design. My two thistles are also rather charming, if I say so myself. During the year I treated myself to some lovely yarn from Elvincraft on the Isle of Skye. A variegated thread of alpaca and silk. Lovely to feel and to look at. I used this for a simple Autumn petals design, which you can see here.

My favourite piece from the year however was my attempt at Dennis the Menace. This was part of a sample for the new Dundee Tapestry project. I haven’t shown this before but include it now with this post.IMG_0299

I have already started on this year’s projects and guess what, my first piece is in Bargello!

A Colour Wheel in threads

My latest embroidery project was finally finished yesterday. I started it in the middle of December, so it has taken a long time to finish. A lot longer than anticipated. All of 53 hours work over 24 days. Then again, it is quite a dense piece of stitching.IMG_0377I got the idea from something I saw on the net. Stitching a colour wheel with threads seemed a simple task at the time. Getting the design onto the fabric was the first really challenging task. Lots of attempts with compass and then stitching the outlines in black. The original design had six empty sections which once I got started didn’t look right. So I had to extend each of the six central sections so they all met.

The fabric is a 32 count Murano in a cotton/modal mix. So lots of tiny stitches. For the embroidery I choose a quite dense Blackwork pattern, but one with a bit of variety. The threads are all cotton and I worked with two strands throughout. I didn’t think this particular project would have benefitted from the use of different thicknesses that I usually include in my Blackwork projects. As the emphasis is on the colours, an even density was more appropriate I felt.

The threads themselves come from a variety of manufacturers. I normally use DMC threads, but this time in addition I used threads from Anchor, Clark and two names I have never heard of before – Red Heart and Pari Lustra. I had to go looking for some of these threads as my existing stash didn’t cover all the colour shades I needed.

This was a major challenge for this project, getting the right balance of colours. With a traditional painted colour wheel you can mix colours to get the right shade you want. Not an option with yarn. The primary and secondary colours were not too difficult to find, but the tertiary colours were a real challenge. Two in particular were very difficult to find. The first was the blue and green mix. I ended up using a dark turquoise from DMC. Nice colour but perhaps a bit too blue? The other challenge was to find a red orange mix. For this I used a bright orange red, again from DMC. It is very bright and could have stood for the red. Which meant that the red itself is perhaps a bit on the dark side. It is a medium red, also from DMC.

I am pretty sure that I have never used so many different colours in one piece before. I tend to work with a quite limited palette. Seeing all these colours together also confirmed my predilection for the red-blue-violet shades. Of course I use all colours at times, but this range is definitely my favourite. The piece is now safely ensconced in a  Nurge wooden hoop.

This was essentially a project from last year. Now that it is finished I can begin to think about what I want to do this year. Nothing much in mind at the moment. Wish me luck.


Brigid’s octomino in green

I am a great fan of octominos and have used this pattern many times in my embroidery. I have now finished yet another one. Quite a small scale one and for the embroidery I used two blackwork patterns.IMG_0359The fabric is a 28ct Brittney in orchid. I used two contrasting shades of green for the embroidery – chartreuse and a very dark emerald green, both from the DMC cotton range. With the chartreuse I varied the stitching between two and three stands of the cotton. The pattern for the dark green is much denser, so I only used one strand and two strands for this pattern.

I would normally outline the outer edges of the finished design, but on this occasion I felt it unnecessary. The use of small scale blackwork patterns on the 28ct fabric meant that the overall shape stands out on its own.  The piece fits nicely into the 13cm hoop. I now have to tidy everything up at the back and it will be ready to hang somewhere. Or end up in a drawer!

Happy stitching!



Autumn Petals

My latest project is one I have been keenly anticipating since early September. This was when I took possession of some gorgeous yarn from elvincraft on the isle of skye. It has taken me this long to figure out what to do with the yarn and then to complete the embroidery. Finally done though and here it is.IMG_0311The design is from a pattern in a DMC book on Colbert Embroideries. I have just used the central design of eight petals. I wanted something that would show off the full colour range of the beautiful yarn, and I think this design does that. The petals are all stitched in silk shading. The centre circle is made up of three concentric rows of heavy chain stitch. For this I used only the dark purple parts of the yarn.

The finished piece is approximately 15cm in diameter. I hope to show it off in a suitable sized hoop. It took me just under 21 hours of stitching to complete the work. Looking forward to more embroidering with this yarn, which I would recommend to anyone looking for something different to stitch with.

The fabric is a Robert Kaufman Essex linen in natural colour. Though called linen the fabric is a mix of 55% linen and 45% cotton. Quite fine and lovely to work on. The yarn is a 2ply hand painted blend of 70% alpaca and 30% silk. It is primarily for lace work or knitting. According to elvincraft the variegated colours are inspired by Highland hill blackthorn in autumn sloes and autumn leaves!

I liked the look of the colours and decided to give the yarn a try for embroidery. So far so good. The yarn comes in a 800 metres long bundle. Which no doubt is fine for knitting, but not so easy for embroidery. Here is what the original bundle looked like.IMG_0231The first task before embroidering anything is to cut the yarn into manageable lengths. A bit of a hassle to unpick the yarn, but you get to choose which colours to highlight. I chose to cut a full length of yarn going from the start of one colour back to its beginning. This length was then halved to make a longish but useable length for working with. Below is an example, where I wanted to get a good section of greens in one of the lengths.IMG_0306

Bargello in Reds and Turquoise

I have been quite busy, embroidery wise, recently. I had two projects on the go and then had to devote myself to a commission of sorts. Unpaid commission of course. I have managed to get myself involved in a group working on a Dundee Tapestry. As part of their work of securing funding from trusts etc they wanted a couple of samples of what the tapestry might look like. So, as the only embroiderer at their last meeting I got landed with this task. Not particularly difficult, but a bit time consuming. I can’t show any photos of this work as the group has still to get copywrite permissions.  The two samples were Denis the Menace and the Strathmartine Stone, which features some Pictish drawings. They look pretty good, so I hope to be able to show them some time in the future.

Back to my ongoing projects. One is now completed – a free form bargello design in reds and turquoise.  Here it is.IMG_0301The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in pale green. For the thread I used one strand of Paternayan Persian wool, a lovely, soft yarn. The three reds are from their Christmas red collection, whilst the two turquoises are part of their Caribbean blue series.

As with most of these free form bargello pieces the pattern emerges as I go along. There is no design to follow. It is a fun way to work, though it does require a bit of thinking ahead. Just to make sure that there is a reasonable balance among the reds.

While I was working on this project I remembered I had done something similar with the two turquoise threads. Checking back I discovered that in March I had in fact completed another free form bargello. Then the base colour was purple. As with the current piece, the threads are all from the Paternayan Persian wool range. For some reason I didn’t post about that piece, so here it is now.IMG_8735All goes to show just how easy it is for me to forget what I have done only a few months ago! Old age is beginning to show, alas. Anyway happy stitching everyone.