Yet another biscornu

Over the Christmas holiday period I will be concentrating on smaller, easy to finish pieces. The first is this biscornu.BCDC9B94-9BE2-4CDC-8D25-C335AB40032BThe design for the biscornu as ever comes from Louison and her wonderful blog au pays des biscornus. The fabric is an 18count Aida in pale green and I used two strands of cotton for the cross stitches. The reddish coloured thread is from the Anchor range. For the other side I went for a variegated thread from Les Fils du Rhin, called Quetsch d’Alsace. These variegated cotton threads are hand dyed and you can see the full range here.

My next mini project is another 4Way Bargello design. Below are photos to show the complete design of each side of the biscornu. Happy stitching.


Colbert Embroidery 2

I have now finished stitching the Colbert embroidery composition I started in November. Slow work indeed! The design is an adaptation of one of the patterns in the DMC Library publication on Colbert Embroideries. I was given this lovely book as a gift and a treasure trove of ideas lie within. There is no date of publication, but the original must go back to the early years of the 20th century or possibly earlier. Here is my composition.


The fabric is a 32 count Murano in Sky Blue. This is a mixture of cotton and modal, which I use instead of linen, as it has a smoother and more regular finish. The raised outline in a darker blue is stitched with No 5 pearl cotton 169 from Anchor. For the background filling I used two DMC cotton threads – medium yellow green and topaz.

The blue outline is a simple whipped back stitch. The yellow filling is an eight point star, while the green filing is a double cross. The finished piece measures 274mmX218mm.

This is my first attempt at a Colbert Embroidery design. According to the book this particular kind of embroidery is usually of large dimensions and the original, square, pattern in the book is recommended for rugs, cushions, easy chairs, sofas, chairs, footstools, etc. Not sure what I will do with my reduced size piece.

In the book all the designs have the outlined pattern left clear and unstitched. The outline is traced onto the fabric, while the background is made up of counted thread patterns. The book recommends a canvas or linen fabric made with coarse threads slightly stiffened. Not at all what I used!

For the completely uninitiated, which included myself until very recently, here is a bit of background to Colbert Embroidery, thanks to the Embroiderer’s Guild of Western Australia.

This embroidery is named after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister of Louis XIV in the 17thC who wanted to revitalize home industry, in particular the production of luxury goods such as lace which was in great demand but had to be imported from Italy and Flanders. These expensive imports were a drain on French finances. He set up lace making centres in France and brought over Dutch and Italian lace makers to teach.

The term “Colbert” became associated with a special type of pattern, inspired by the Baroque style of art, popular in the 17thC. In the 18thC, this embroidery aimed to emulate the needle laces (such as Dresden lace). It is not as fine as Dresden lace, and in fact, Colbert embroidery tends to look rather bold and coarse next to the delicate whitework of Dresden lace. Whereas Dresden is white on white, Colbert embroidery is usually worked in colour.

The design elements are bold, heavy flowing lines and curves outlined with couched braid or whipped stem or chain stitches. The structured, counted filling patterns contrast vividly with the flowing lines and curves of the designs. The background of the work is fully embroidered in counted thread geometric patterns.

This embroidery was adapted over the centuries. It was very much favoured in the Victorian era in England but soon went into decline.

New Palestinian Embroidery

Last week I finally finished a piece I had been working on for some time. It doesn’t have a title as yet, but is designed to illustrate a reality for many Palestinians – that of living under occupation.IMG_7195

The fence in the composition divides a village from its agricultural land. In some cases the illegal Israeli wall or fence does precisely this. In other cases it is attacks from illegal Israeli settlers who threaten villagers’ access to their traditional land.

The work is hand embroidered using some motifs from traditional Palestinian embroidery. This is the case with the fence itself and the cypress trees. The other motifs are based on more modern Palestinian designs.

The fabric is an 18ct aida and cross stitch was used throughout, apart from the odd vertical stitch. Cross stitch is the stitch most frequently used in traditional Palestinian embroidery.

This piece was designed to accompany an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the 37th anniversary of the Dundee-Nablus twinning. The exhibition is in the Central library in Dundee and is the work of the Dundee-Nablus Teinning Association.

Design from Albania

My latest project featured another pattern from the DMC book on Turkish Embroideries. This time I have adapted a design from Albania, originally part of the trimming for a towel. As with the previous piece from Bosnia, I restricted myself to two colours. Here is the finished work.


The fabric is a 18ct Aida in pale green. The main colour is yellow, though this time I chose a variegated thread, Saffron, from the Caron Watercolours range.  This is a 3 ply pima cotton and I used one strand throughout. The contrasting colour this time is a dark azuline silk from the Soie d’Alger range. I ended up using four of the seven strands to get the degree of thickness I wanted.

Most of the stitching is very simple with straight vertical or horizontal stitches predominating, along with some diagonal stitches. The one new stitch for me was an openwork cross stitch. This fills the very dense and slightly raised sections of the piece. The stitch is worked first vertically and then horizontally. In the photos of this stitch the threads are pulled tight, leaving gaps in the fabric to produce the openwork effect. This did not work with the Aida fabric, but I continued with the stitch as the slightly raised finish added to the overall design. In the book the fabric recommended is a tammy cloth, whatever that is!  Way before my time.

I enjoyed stitching this and look forward to choosing another design from the book.

Hearts (2)

After a short break holidaying with Emma and Alessio I have got well and truly back into embroidery. My first project was to stitch another Heart shape. Here is the finished article.IMG_6324

It is the same design as the first one, which you can see here. This time with different colours, threads and different Blackwork patterns.  The fabric is a 32ct Murano in sky blue.  I used two different threads for this, both in silk. The outer heart is stitched in Cotton Candy pink, one of the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range of Japanese silk threads. The inner heart is stitched with Soie d’Alger threads from France in blue.

I used three Blackwork patterns for the outer heart – octagons, open honeycomb and tulips.  The Colorwash silk is a 12 stranded very fine variegated silk. For the stitching I switched between two, four and six strands to vary the surface look.

The Soie d’Alger silk comes in seven strands and I used just two thicknesses for the inner heart – one and two strands. Small diamonds was the pattern I chose for this section.  The outlines of the two hearts is a simple stem stitch using two strands of the Colorwash and one strand of the Soie d’Alger.

The fine Murano fabric calls for pretty detailed stitching, and this piece took me nearly 30 hours of work to complete. Slow, but very enjoyable work!



Brigid’s Octomino in Four Way Bargello

Today I finally finished stitching my latest project. I wanted to do another Free-from bargello piece, but with a different design in the centre. For this part I returned to one of my favourites – Brigid’s octomino. The centre is thus is a composition with eight octominos, which of course together make up a larger octomino.  For the rest of the composition I gave up on a free form pattern and instead I used a four way bargello design. Here is the finished piece.IMG_5709

The octominos are stitched in cotton, with one strand of Caron watercolours 203 – molten lava. A simple diagonal stitch was used to make the little squares. Later on I decided to add in a single octomino on each diagonal line to break up the bargello background a bit.

The Caron watercolour is a variegated thread and my original idea was to use three colours, including a red in the bargello background, but the red dominated too much, so I ended up with just two colours for the background – purple and a pale yellow.

I used two strands of a silk thread for the bargello pattern. They are from the Debbie Bliss luxury silk range. Meant for knitting, the silk is lovely and soft and no doubt better used for knitting.  Nevertheless I like it fine for embroidery. The pattern is from the book Four Way Bargello by Dorothy Kaestner. In the book a variety of shades are used, as is normal with bargello. Here I adapted the pattern for just two colours. I needed a restricted colour range so as not to take away from the octominos.

The finished piece is almost a square – 244mmX254mm, and took me 44 hours of stitching to complete. Slow work indeed. Not sure what to do with it! Possibly a cushion cover? For my next project I am going for something a bit smaller in blackwork. Still working on the composition.