Three Little Blackwork Squares

During the first half of June I was busy with this little Blackwork project. Three squares each with its own Blackwork pattern. IMG_0521As you can see, each embroidery piece fits into a square card mount. These are 14cmx14cm. The Blackwork pieces are six cm square.

The fabric is a 32 ct Murano in white. This fabric is a rayon/cotton mix and is quite easy to work with. I did each square in the same thread. Unusually for Blackwork, at least for me, this time I chose a variegated thread. This was from the Anchor stranded cotton range and is a fine mix of blues, pinks and purples. As usual with my Blackwork I stitched the pieces with a mixture of one, two and three stands of the cotton.

Each of the patterns has a centre stitch or stitches. Quite often I would leave some of these empty. However on this occasion I decided to completely fill every gap. Just to ensure that the full effect of the pattern emerges.

I am quite pleased with the finished product, though as usual not sure what to do with them. Each piece took between nine and ten hours of stitching. Slow work indeed!

I am still on a Blackwork roll and my current project also features a variegated thread. This time just in blues.  Happy stitching.

Right of Return

My latest work is this piece which honours the struggle of the millions of Palestinian families who were forced to leave their homes during the Nakba in 1948/49. They and their descendants continue to demand their right to return to their homeland.

The work features three keys, all based on images of old Palestinian keys. The key has become a wonderful symbol of the Right of Return and the wider campaign for Justice for Palestine. Above and to the side of the keys are three sections with traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs.

The two rectangles are filled with the Mountains of Jerusalem motif. While the other square section features two motifs. The top and bottom of this section has a variation on the Cypress Tree motif, while in the middle is the Heart motif.

The heart motif is from the Art of Palestinian Embroidery by Leila El Khalidi. The other two motifs are from Palestinian Embroidery Motifs – A Treasury of Stitches 1850 – 1950 by Margarita Skinner in association with Widad Kamel Kawar.

The fabric for this piece is a 14 count Aida in white. All the threads bar two are pearl cotton, from the Anchor range, apart from one from DMC. A small amount of other threads were used in stitching the keys – a watercolour from Caron in Flame and a brown Paterna wool thread.

As with most traditional Palestinian embroidery the whole piece is stitched with cross stitches.

For this work I used a formal design of two squares and two rectangles. I first saw this particular composition as part of the exhibition: Images of the Heart – Japanese Ink Traces and Calligraphy, in Zurich way back in 2012. Unfortunately photos were forbidden, so I had to make do with a very rough sketch of the composition. In the original the two rectangles and one of the squares were simply filled in shades of grey. The lower square had some drawing in it, but I cannot remember what this was.

Suishû T. Klopfenstein-Arii was the main artist for the exhibition and you can visit her homepage here. This has a link to images of some of her work.


Endless Knot

I have for some time had in mind stitching some Buddhist symbols. The Endless Knot is a fairly simple design so seemed a good choice to start with. IMG_0487The fabric is a kana cotton in ivory. It is a rather fine fabric so I decided to strengthen it by adding on an iron-on backing. This turned out to be a big mistake. Solely because of the yarn I had chosen for this piece.

This was a 80%/20% wool/silk mix from the Amitola range by Louisa Harding. This is a lovely soft yarn made for knitting. I had bought this at a sale in a shop in Pittenween some years ago. Unfortunately, though lovely for knitting it is not so good for embroidery. At least not on a re-inforced fabric as I was using. The yarn kept stretching  and fraying as it tried to make its way through the two layers of fabric. To such an extent that I lost about half of the yarn. Lesson learned – no need for two layers when using this yarn!

The yarn is a variegated one by the name of Tango. It has long stretches of orange, brown, purple and pink. For this piece I started with purple and ended up with a pinky/rose colour.

I used a heavy chain stitch for this piece. I have become quite fond of this stitch and use it a lot now. As the yarn stretched and frayed quite a bit the finished line is not as smooth or even as I would have liked. Still I am rather pleased with the piece. I need to somehow stretch the fabric as best I can. The plan is to finish it off in a hoop. Happy stitching.

Five Easy Pieces – Series 3 No 1

I keep returning to this compositional form again and again. As you can see from the title, this will be my third go. Previously the compositions were more or less symmetrical in some way. This time I have let myself go a bit wild. Still just five sections though.IMG_0470

I have with this one at least kept to the colour scheme of two related colours and a contrasting one, which would be used just once. Though in this case I didn’t have enough of one of the colours to use twice, so I ended up having to use the contrasting colour – green – twice. Gives a different look to the finished piece. But OK.

The fabric is a 18ct Aida in pale green. The threads are all from the Fine d’Aubusson range of merino wool. This is very fine wool and is made by La Route de la Laine for Au Ver à Soie. I used two strands of the yarn for the stitching.

The two central sections are stitched with three shades of pinkish colours. Though Fine d’Aubusson give them more exciting names – raspberries & cream, hot pink and magenta. For the bottom section I used three shades of Azalea/Rose. The contrasting sections are of course in greens.

The different Bargello patterns all have names, which is not always the case. They are – Ripples, Rondel, Pink Parfait, Diamond Panes and Mini Check.

I need to somehow stretch the fabric to make it as regular as possible and then think of what to do with it.

Three Bookmarks

This was a challenge set by the chair of our local branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild. A little something to keep us busy during the latter half of April, while the branch is no longer able to meet. I did three bookmarks as I had three suitably sized pieces of fabric available. For bookmarks I tend to use Aida band as the sides will not fray, so you only have to worry about the top and the bottom. Here they are.IMG_0461The first one features the heart motif, one of the many traditional motifs used in Palestinian embroidery.  I used a red and a light blue cotton thread from the old Clarks range. Two strands in cross stitch.

The middle bookmark is from a border pattern from Bargello Magic by Pauline Fischer and Anabel Lasker. For this I used a light and dark green thread from Anchor’s Tapestry wool range. Unusually for Bargello this pattern is stitched only with horizontal stitches, as opposed to the normal vertical stitches.

The final bookmark was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to do one with a Blackwork pattern. Usually I work Blackwork on a 30 or 32 count fabric. This time I was using a 16c count fabric. So the pattern comes across as much larger than normal.  The other experimental bit was to use a variegated thread, again not usual with Blackwork. Anyway I used one strand of the Tequila sunrise thread from Watercolours by Caron.

This was a simple, but fun challenge, with a end product that can actually be used. Most unusual for me. Happy stitching wherever you are.

Francavilla No 3

My next project during lockdown was to revisit one of my earliest pieces. This was one based on the tile pattern on the dome of the Chiesa Madre church in Francavilla Fontana in Puglia. Here is a view of the dome.P1010134zzWe were there in September 2008 in order to celebrate the second birthday of Alessio, our Swiss born grandson. His paternal grandparents came from Puglia in southern Italy, and his grandmother is from Francavilla itself, which is a busy little town with some beautiful buildings dating back to Roman times.

I was very impressed with the tiles on the dome, with their, to me, Islamic origin. So much so, that on my return to Scotland I decided to try and adapt this pattern for embroidery. Below is my first attempt at this.P1000112z 2

As you can see I used a very simple vertical stitch for most of the work with a very small horizontal stitch for the rest. It is almost a Bargello type pattern. As the pattern was based on the church in Francavilla, I decided to stick as closely as possible to the original colours – white, green and a reddish brown. For the embroidery I used Anchor tapestry wool. This was a trial attempt, which I liked. Since then I have used this same pattern and colours to stitch a larger scale piece. In fact I have made two pieces using this particular pattern and colour scheme. One of which I gave to Pompeia, Alessio’s Italian grandmother as a memento of her hometown.

Back to now. I have always been very fond of this pattern and reckoned it was time to revisit it. This time I wanted to use a completely different colour scheme.


As this was also a bit of a trial I limited myself to the smaller version, shown above. This time the yarn is a luxury silk from Debbie Bliss, made in Romania. I picked up some of this yarn at a sale in Pittenweem many years ago. This is a lovely, soft yarn, mainly used for knitting. I only have three colours in this yarn, so no choice. But the colours are really nice and bright – gold, red and purple.

I really like this version and may do it again on a larger scale. As regards this current piece, not sure what I will do with it. Happy stitching!

WhimSicAL LusH Collaboration

This is the title of local artist, Suzanne Scott’s offer to help us get through the Coronavirus lockdown. Suzanne Scott is an artist and illustrator based in Dundee working under the name WhimSicAL LusH.  She has kindly made available one of her lovely drawings as a download. You can do what you like with the outline, though most people will probably draw or paint something. I of course, not able to draw or paint, decided to turn this into an embroidery project. Here it is.IMG_0441

As you can see I went for Blackwork motifs for the embroidery. I used five different traditional motifs. For the house front I made up something to give an impression of bricks.

The fabric is a 28 count Brittney in orchid. The threads are a mixture of DMC and Anchor cotton. To add a bit of texture the stitching varied from one, two or three strands of the cotton. The outline of the door was stitched with heavy chain stitch. For the triangular windows I used a stem stitch for the outline. Stem stitch was also used for the black outlines.

I very much enjoyed this challenge and am pretty pleased with the result. I may add a bit more green to the bottom, or perhaps outline a path to the door. But basically not much will change. As usual Blackwork is pretty slow work and this piece took me 22 hours just for the stitching. But a very pleasant way to pass the time.

If you would like to try your own version the download is still available on the WhimSicAL LusH site, where you can see some of the other contributions. Happy stitching.

A cover for a box

I just realised that I have not posted for some time. Despite being pretty busy embroidery wise. During the first half of March I was working on a cover for a smallish papier  maché box. The idea is to cover the sides and the top of the box with something embroidered. Not quite sure what the fabric is, but it is a very fine material in a neutral colour. For the sides I chose a couple of 19th century Macedonian designs from a DMC  book on Turkish Embroidery. Here they are.

In both cases I have used fairly simple surface embroidery stitches. I also decided to stick to a limited colour range, with greens for the stem and leaves and two shades of  violet for the flowers. The stem is stitched in a chain stitch using Appleton wool. This was to give a bit of body to the stems.

The leaves and flowers are all stitched with two strands of cotton, mainly DMC with some from Anchor. Mostly I used long and short stitch or silk shading for this. Though some of the leaves are stitched in fishbone stitch.

For the top of the box I adapted a design from Paola Matteuci’s book Ricamo su tulle.  Here it is.IMG_0433 (1)As you can see I have stuck with the same colour scheme and the same threads and stitches. The leaves are quite different. I still used fishbone stitch, but this time with two different shades of green for each leaf. A bit of an experiment for me, which I think has worked quite well. The flowers have three shades of violet with a light outline in stem stitch.

All in all I am quite pleased with the embroidery part of this project. The difficult part is yet to come – somehow attaching the fabric to the box. Something which I will leave for another day. Happy stitching everyone!

Chick peas and raisins with apples

This is another of my forays into traditional Palestinian embroidery.  As with some recent pieces I have limited myself to just two traditional motifs.IMG_0418My original idea was to cover the whole fabric, or at least the circle, with just the yellow threads. However, once I got started I felt that the chosen motif was so small that the resulting overall pattern would be just too yellow. So I decided to add in a little blue for a little contrast.

The main motif is a variation of the chick peas and raisins motif. At a distance it usually looks like there is only one colour. But on closer inspection you can clearly see that two shades of yellow have been used. A bright canary and topaz, both from the DMC cotton range.

The other motif is known as apples, though not sure if you get many blue apples, even in Palestine. This time I used an old Anchor cotton thread. For both motifs I used two strands of the cotton. Both motifs are usually used as a border. So not very traditional to use them in this was. As is traditional in Palestinian embroidery, cross stitch was used throughout.

When I started this project I had stitched a very light outline of a circle using just one strand of the blue thread. I had intended to take this out and just leave the yellow threads with not border. However as the work progressed it became clear that the pattern meant there would be no clear edge. So I decided to keep the blue and added a whipped stitch, using two strands to make the outline. I think it needs this.

The fabric is a 16ct Aida in bright red. The piece will end up in the hoop, which is a lovely wooden hoop – Nurge No 3, 16cm across. Once I have sorted out the back I will add a cord for hanging. Quite pleased with this one. Altogether this took me just under 26 hours of stitching to complete the embroidery. Slow work indeed!

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.