I have been very busy with embroidery over the last couple of months. However mostly with long term projects, a couple of SALs for example. So there has been nothing in the way of completed work to show. Until now that is. A few days ago I finally finished a Bargello piece I was working on. It is a slight variation on a design from Dorothy Kaestner’s book – Bargello Needlepoint. There she gave the design the title of Spindrift. Here is my attempt.

The sphere at the centre is a bit smaller than the one in Dorothy Kaestner’s design. I did this to make the piece more manageable. A big mistake! With a smaller sphere the rest of the pattern did not fit. It took me far too much time, restitching and a fair amount of anglo-saxon expletives to finally work out a solution.

The other change was to the number of blues. In the original there were 11 shades. Alas, I did not have 11 shades of any colour. So I made do with seven shades, which meant some of the shades were repeated. Still it works fine I think.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in pale yellow/green. This does not show up in the photo, where it looks like a light grey. For the sphere I used three orange shades and two yellow shades, all from the DMC tapestry wool range. The surround in blue is made up of three shades of royal blue from Appletons 2 ply range, and four shades from the DMC range. For all the stitching I used two strands of the wool.

The finished piece is approximately 20cmx20cm. Now need to decide what to do with it! I spent 29 and a half hours on this, but spread over 21 days. I rather like this design and may well repeat it with an other colour scheme. But this time with the larger sphere!

Blue on Blue

I have just finished stitching another Blackwork project. It features blue threads on a blue fabric, hence the title for the piece.

The fabric is a 14 count Aida in light blue. For the threads I decided to try out some Sulky threads. Lots of people on the Peppermint Purple SAL have been raving about these cotton threads, so I reckoned it was worth giving them a go. They are easy to stitch with and there is a good range of colours to choose from. The Sulky threads come in just a single strand, which is pretty close to a single thread of stranded cotton.

I choose quite an open pattern for this project and as is usual with me, I used the equivalent of one, two and three strands to add to the texture of the work. This pattern I found in a book by Rosemary Drysdade – The Art of Blackwork Embroidery.

The finished piece measure 5.5cmX23.5cm and too me just over 12 hours to stitch. It will end up as a hanging once I tidy it up and add a cord for hanging.

SAL – Weeks 3-5

I am now well into this year long SAL. Weeks 3-5 have all been stitched and outlined. With these patterns the SAL has move from the pinks to the blues.

The rectangular one on the right was stitched with one strand of light antique blue. It is quite an open design, but a bit fiddly to get right. The other two, square patterns were both stitched with two strands of light blue. All cotton threads from the DMC range.

These two were a bit more complicated to stitch, no doubt due to using two strands of the thread. The one on the left was particularly complex and I was never sure whether to stitch everything over just one mesh. I eventually decided to do most of it over one mesh with a few stitches over two meshes.

The square on the left looks quite a bit darker than the one on the right. Though of course both were stitched with the same colour. I guess the greater density of the pattern on the left gives this illusion of a darker shade.

I am currently cogitating on what border to stitch for this, if indeed to bother with a border at all. Most participants seem to include one. Alas, most of them look very complex, though very beautiful. If I do go for one, it is likely to be pretty simple.

A SAL for 2021

I have never participated in an embroidery SAL before. But there is a first time for everything, and you’re never too old and all that jazz. Anyway I am now two weeks into this particular SAL. It is a creation of Peppermint Purple, an online shop for blackwork and cross stitch kits run by Clare Ardali.

I am working on the square option for the SAL. As this is a year long SAL, there will be 52 sections to complete and the project will last until the end of December. I have now, today, completed the first two sections, which you can see below.

The fabric is an 18 count Aida in white, and the threads are all DMC cotton. With the SAL package as well as the overall design and the weekly filler patterns, you get a suggested colour scheme and some advice on stitching. I have decided to go with most of the suggested colours, but have discarded the greens and lavender. So I will end up with a mix of pinks/roses and blues. The first two sections give an idea of this mix, with one section in very light plum and the other in light antique blue.

A couple of early comments on this project. I stitched the first section with two strands of the cotton, and only afterwards came across a note that the fillings should be stitched with just one strand. Why bother to read the instructions! Anyway the second section, the one in blue, was stitched with a single strand. At the moment I think I will continue to alternate between one and two strands. Usually when I do blackwork embroidery I use a mixture of one, two and three strands. Anyway I will see how it goes.

The other comment is about the outlines. I started by stitching a few of these, using two strands of black in backstitch. However when it came to embroidering the insides, I find this a bit constricting, especially as each pattern has some threads which reach all the way to the edges. I will stick with the sections already outlined, but thereafter I plan to stitch the fillings first and then go on to the outlines.

Blackwork in Purple and Chartreuse

Just finished stitching what will be my last project of the year. Another colourful Blackwork embroidery in purple and chartreuse green.

It is now in a Nurge No 3 hoop, approximately 16cm in diameter. The fabric is a 25 count lugana in white. The design is quite simple, a circle within a larger circle, with the larger one divided into two equal parts. For the embroidery I went for just two colours and three blackwork motifs. The purple is No 94 from the Anchor range of stranded cotton. The contrasting green is a bright chartreuse from the DMC range of stranded cotton. The stitching was done with a mixture of one, two and three strands of the cotton.

The two purple motifs feature octagons, though in very different forms. The centre motif features hexagons in a more open style. To try and get a neat edge I stitched the outline of the two circles. Firstly with two strands of black cotton, which I completed with a whip stitch using a two ply Appleton wool. This does make the circles stand out.

The stitching for this piece took me 15 hours over 10 days. Unfortunately I ran out of the purple thread and had to order some more online. Which caused a bit of delay in finishing the piece. Anyway I am quite pleased with it. Now to start thinking about what to do in 2021. Not long to go. Happy New Year everyone.

A 4 Way Stretched Bargello

Today I finally finished this little Bargello project. A comment on one of my previous posts asked if I had ever worked on a Four Way Bargello project. I have, but not for a long time. So this timely reminder got me to revisit this lovely version of Bargello.

The design I fixed on is not a basic Four Way pattern, but an interesting variation. I like to think of it as a Stretched Four Way. The two end parts are in the traditional Four Way pattern, while the central section is just basic Bargello. Here it is.

This composition comes from one of my favourite embroidery books – Four Way Bargello by Dorothy Kaestner. Thoroughly recommended if you are interested in trying some Four Way Bargello. The author calls this variation a bench, but I prefer to call it a stretched Four Way.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in a very pale yellowy green. The main pattern is stitched with two strands of DMC Tapestry wool. Four shades of green and two shades of blue. The blues do stand out against the greens. To finish the piece off I decided to fill in the background to make a rectangle. For this I used a single strand of Appleton 2ply crewel wool in Early English green. I chose just the one strand as I didn’t want the background to dominate.

I really like this design, thought if I were to do it again I would seriously consider extending the central section by at least one other diamond. As it stands it measures 175mm x 137mm. A bit longer and it might fit as the base of a tray with a glass top.

The stitching of the main pattern took me just under seven hours, while the background involved just under 10 hours. Anyway time well spent. I have already started on my next project, which is a simple, ordinary Bargello. Happy stitching!

Red on White

For my latest blackwork project I decided to work with just two patterns. I managed to divide a circle into four curved sections, which meant that each pattern appeared in two of these sections.

The fabric is a Lugana 25 count from Zeigart, a mixture of cotton and modal. This is the first time I have used this range. The 25 count size is easier to work with than the usual 28 or 32 counts that I have previously used for blackwork. Age, I’m afraid.

The threads are all in shades of red. For the outlines I used one strand of Fine d’aubusson wool from France. The lines are stitched in whipped backstitch.

The main body is stitched with different silk threads. The bright red is a French silk from the Soie d’Alger range. This comes in seven strands and I used a mix of one, two and three strands. The other thread is Japanese silk from the Colorwash range. It has the lovely name of strawberry sherbet. This thread comes in 12 strands. For the embroidery I used two, four and six strands.

This was a fairly simple composition. The biggest and unfortunately recurring problem was my failure to count accurately. Old age again!

The finished piece is now tightly ensconced in a 16cm hoop from the Nurge range. The actual stitching took up just over 22 hours.

Tulips – Blackwork

My latest project was a slightly different approach to Blackwork. Firstly I worked on a 14ct Aida fabric, quite a bit larger than the 28/30 count I usually use. Secondly I limited myself to just one motif – tulip as it is called in my RSN guidebook. Thirdly, instead of varying the thickness by using more or less strands of the same thread, this time I used four different threads. Here it is.

The two darkest and thickest threads were used at the two ends of the piece. I started with a thread I picked up at a market stall in Meiringen in Switzerland many years ago. It is I think a silk thread. Whatever, it is very soft and easy to stitch with.


The other darkish thread is 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. The yarn keeps stretching  and fraying.  

The first of the two lighter threads is an Alpaca/silk mix from Elvincrafts in Skye. This is also primarily for knitting, but does work very well for embroidery. It is a variegated yarn, but I just worked with purple sections. The lightest and thinnest thread is one strand from the Anchor cotton range.

I am quite pleased with how this has turned out. In particular going from dark to light to dark again. The finished piece measures 292mmX85mm, and took me approximately 16 hours to complete. It will end up as a wall hanging. Happy stitching!

Blue on Blue x Two

Following on from my previous project – Blackwork with a variegated thread, I decided to continue in this vein for my next piece. It seemed an easy and straightforward choice. Alas just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong. This project turned into a very good illustration of the benefits of thorough planning and preparation. All pretty much absent from my work practices.

The biggest problem and the source of much trouble was my consistent inability to estimate how much thread will be needed to complete a project. Every since a boy on a golf course I have never developed any sense of estimating anything. Sad. Anyway this project started as a circular design to fit into a 12cm hoop. No real problem, and away I go with the stitching. Only to realise after about a third of the work completed that the remaining thread would not cover the rest of the design.

No problem really, I just had to order some more of the thread. Which was a lovely hand painted Japanese silk thread from the Colorwash range by Glissen Gloss. Number 508, Blueberry. Unfortunately I immediately discovered that my usual online supplier no longer stocks this thread. Desperately searching elsewhere I discover that the Colorwash range has become very rare in the UK. Only one source offered this particular colour, but it would cost over £17.00 for just one. Mainly due to coming from the USA. So I reluctantly declined this offer.

So back to the drawing board! I would like to say back to Plan B, but there was no Pan B. However I still had a few of the little square 6cm mounts, so the new plan was to curtail the design to fit into one of these mounts.

Easier said than done, as first of all I had to unpick a fair amount of the stitching that would not be needed for a little square. There was also the fact that my chosen Blackwork pattern was a very dense one, possibly too dense for me. Whatever, I found that I was continually having to unpick bits again and again when I had miscounted a bit. Still the end result is quite pleasing.IMG_0530

The fabric is a 32ct Murano – a rayon/cotton mix in blue. The thread is a 12ply silk, which is very, very fine. To get variation in texture I use a mixture of two, four and six strands of the thread. it is a pretty dense pattern.

By only working for a 6cm square I had a fair bit of the fabric left. As a good Fifer, I was loath to waste this, so nothing else but to start on another little square. Luckily during my search for the Blueberry thread, I came across a supplier in Dumfries who could offer me another variegated thread in blue from the same Colorwash range. Twilight is the name of this variety.

So, armed with my new silk thread I started on the second of my little squares. This very quickly led to another surprise. Though part of the same range as the Blueberry thread and with the same information on the label – a 12 ply silk from Japan, this thread is very different. I have used this 12 ply thread many times and on every previous occasion I need two strands to get the equivalent of one cotton strand.

So to start this piece I began with four strands as the equivalent of two cotton strands. As I soon discovered the resulting work did not look or feel right. The threads on the fabric appeared so much thicker than I expected. So after a bit of experimenting it became clear that this particular thread was in fact not just 12 ply, but 12 strands. One strand of this silk was the same as one strand of cotton. As I had already started I decided to keep the section stitched with the four strands.  It is in the centre and it does stand out a bit.


The rest was stitched with one, two or three strands. It is quite an open pattern and much easier to stitch than the first one above, and took a lot less time. Altogether I spent about 24 hours on the two pieces. Glad I persevered with this.