Tulips in Iznik style

While on holiday in Lisbon last year I visited the Calouste Gulbenkian museum. It is a wonderful museum and houses an outstanding collection of carpets, hangings and ceramics from the Ottoman Empire. In particular some beautiful ceramic tiles from Iznik. I loved them all, but especially the elongated tulips which seemed to be a feature of tiles from Iznik.

Anyway I decided that I just had to try and emulate this work in embroidery. The resulting piece is now finished and in a frame. Here it is.IMG_4684The fabric is a very fine linen, which I worked on without a backing, probably a mistake, but there you go. The tulip flowers are all stitched with Glissen Gloss Colorwash silk threads. These are very fine variegated threads which come in 12 strands. I used four for the embroidery. Three of the tulips are stitched in Strawberry Sherbet and three in Coral Blush. Long and short stitch was used throughout. The stems consist of rows of heavy chain stitch. The calyx is made up of padded closed leaf stitch. All stitched with two strands of cotton.

I included the flowers in the centre to add a bit of variety to the composition. The outer layer of the larger flowers are also stitched with Glissen Gloss Colorwash silk. This time in Blueberry, again using four strands. The other layers and the smaller flower are all stitched with two strands of au ver à soie threads in dark blue, light blue and red. The outer layers use satin stitch, while the centres are filled with padded satin stitch.

The composition was designed to fit into an old frame that I bought second hand. It had a brownish oval shaped paper mount. Unfortunately I made a mess of this mount while applying some glue. So I quickly tried to remedy this by cutting out another oval mount in purple. It fits the frame all right, but not sure of the colour.

I enjoyed working on this piece and really like the Colorwash silk threads. Now have a mini collection of these threads. All awaiting a bit of inspiration.

Scottish Crossbill

My latest Blackwork project is now finished. Or at least the stitching part is! Not altogether surprisingly, for me, it is not in black. Here it is.img_4636

The body of the crossbill is stitched with hand made Japanese silk threads from the Colourwash series from GlissenGloss. This a variegated range with 12 very fine strands. This particular colour is cherry. Quite suitable for a Scottish Crossbill I think.  For variety of texture I used two, four and six strands of the thread. The fabric is a 28 count Britney, a mix of cotton and rayon, in pine green.

While the body of the crossbill is composed of Blackwork patterns I went for something different for the bill itself and the eye. The upper part of the bill was stitched with the redder parts of the range while most of the bottom bill was stitched with the browner parts of the range. A small section of the lower bill was stitched in a mix of yellow and cream threads to make the crossing over of the bill more apparent. The cream thread is a DMC cotton, while the golden yellow is a silk/rayon mix from Rajmahal threads. Both the upper and lower bill are padded for extra texture. The upper bill was stitched with long and short stitch, while the lower part was a simple sating stitch. The eye is also padded satin stitch, this time in a black brown cotton from DMC.

For the branch and cone I used mainly Appleton wool as a contrast to the smooth texture of the crossbill. Two shades of brown in long and short stitch for the branch. The cone started with padded satin stitch in a beige brown, overstitched with a trellis like stitch in brown cotton. Finally the feet, or to be precise, a bit of one foot can just about be made out on the left hand side of the crossbill. This was stitched with a dark pewter grey cotton thread.

I will probably get this framed eventually to go with the Merlin I did last year. Getting to be quite fond of birds as a subject for embroidery. However I think my next project will be back to flowers, tulips to be precise.  Happy stitching!


Flower Pots and Rosebuds

My first project for 2017 is now complete. At least the stitching part is. It is another composition using traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs. I am calling it Flower Pots and Rosebuds as these two motifs feature in the piece.img_4596

There are two other motifs as well. The central section in gold and yellow is the Olive Branch. The Flower Pots are in greens with a bright red for the flower itself. On either side of the Flower Pots are Rosebuds in pink and purple. To complete the composition I used the Crowns motif in two shades of blue.

All the threads are Anchor pearl cotton No 5. The fabric is a 14ct Aida in grey. The composition is my own design and while the motifs are traditional Palestinian, the colours used are not traditional at all. A Scottish-Palestinian original!

I will iron on a backing and then propose to turn the piece into a simple wall hanging. I am going to try this approach to finishing my work off with some other pieces.

My next project will be another foray into Blackwork. Though not in black! The subject is the Scottish crossbill. I already have the outline shape on the fabric and stitching will commence soon.

Happy stitching everyone!

Another Bargello medley

I have just finished the bargello medley project. I thought it might take me to Christmas to finish, but it has taken a few days longer. The stitching is finished but the whole thing has been, as often with me, pulled out of shape.  A bit of stretching coming up!img_4557

The fabric is 18ct aida in pale green and three strands of DMC cotton was used throughout. The central section is partly outlined with a whipped stem stich in cream. This part is stitched in copper colours with blue and green for the inserts. Florentine Signets is the name that Pauline Fischer and Anabel Lasker give to this pattern in their book Bargello Magic. The version here is a slight adaptation. I originally wanted to just use blues and greens for the rest of the piece, but added a bit of grey to avoid too much blue and green together. Other than the Florentine Signets, the other patterns are all used twice. The finished piece is 290mmx205mm.

I have now acquired my own personal stamp and you can just about make out my name on the lower part of the right hand side. The stamp works quite well on embroidery work where there is some unstitched fabric, as in crewel work or most blackwork. Not so good for bargello though, where all of the fabric is covered in stitches.  Here I had to try and stitch around the name, which is a bit awkward. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained!

A few days off stitching then back to work in the New Year. Happy New Year and happy stitching to one and all!




On the Tay – Tayport Lighthouse

My latest embroidery piece is Tayport Lighthouse. I have not tried to stitch a detailed picture of the lighthouse and its surrounding buildings. Rather I have focussed on the lighthouse itself and the hillside and the river. The piece is for display at the Scottish Embroiderers’ Guild’s Regional Day next year. This will be in Dundee and submissions are requested for embroidery in a hoop on the topic – On the Tay.img_4505The fabric is linen and most of the threads are from my diminishing stash of Paternayan Persian wool. One strand of this was used throughout. The grey and black on the lighthouse and the brown seeded bits are Appleton wool.

I am now working on another Bargello medley piece, which will probably keep me busy till Christmas! Happy stitching.


Merlin in flight

Another Blackwork piece now finished. At least the stitching part is finished I think. Not in black of course, but in blue. Not quite sure why I chose blue. Perhaps as it was a bird in the sky, blue just seemed right? Anyway here it is, hot of the frame.img_4500

The fabric is also in blue, a 32 count murano in light blue. This is a cotton/modal mix, which I use a lot for blackwork. A bit cheaper than linen! Good colour to represent the sky I think. The thread is a dark royal blue silk from the au ver à soie range. I used one, two and three strands in the work. Altogether there are six different blackwork patterns in the piece. These patterns do not of course represent the actual pattern of feathers on a merlin. I just chose those I liked and aimed for a bit of contrast between open and closed patterns. Artistic licence?

I don’t think it shows in the photo, but the beak and the eye are in different threads. The beak is a dark navy blue cotton thread – two strands over the silk. While the eye is a brighter royal blue from the Rajmahal silk/rayon collection.

At the moment I intend to leave the work without an outline. The feathers on a bird never make a single line. So a broken line seems to go with the subject matter.

The inspiration for this piece came from a work we saw during our recent trip to Mull in October. There I came across this simple, but lovely painting on wood.

Version 2On seeing this piece I immediately thought I could try something similar using blackwork patterns.  The outline for the merlin comes from an old, 1972, copy of Book of British Birds. From the same source I have an outline of a crossbill, which may well be my next foray into blackwork!

Is it embroidery?

This post was in part inspired by a leaflet for next year’s knitting and stitching show in Edinburgh. There I found out that the workshops on offer included ones on cross stitch and ones on embroidery. I was more than a little surprised by this as I had always assumed that cross stitch was just another embroidery stitch and not an art or craft form on its own. Anyway this chance discovery got me thinking about what I call or should call what I do.

Naming things is an intriguing and at times controversial activity. One which has led to many a querulous dispute! When I first got started I was very reluctant to use the term embroidery and simply referred to my work as stitching. I was a simple stitcher! This of course did not convey anything to anyone. Stitching covers a multitude of activities and no doubt a few sins.  Think of medicine, fishing, taxidermy and so on.

So out went stitching, but what could take its place? There is a wide range to choose from, but none feels really satisfactory. As I work with a needle and thread, needle work seems an obvious choice. But, as with stitching, all kinds of people work with a needle. So needlework was not much use either.

But what I hear someone say, is wrong with the term embroidery? My reluctance to use this stems from my particular conception of what embroidery is. For me embroidery conjures up a twofold image. It is art of embellishing or ornamenting a fabric. At the same time this fabric has a practical use. This can be an item of clothing, a chair cover, a cushion et. Now when I started working with a needle and thread I never made anything practical at all. Even now I only rarely make something useful. Since for me to embroider is to embellish and I don’t or very rarely embellish anything, the term embroidery has never seemed right for me.

Embroidery does of course cover many types of work. Needlepoint for example, according to Wikipedia, “refers to a particular set of stitching techniques worked upon stiff openwork canvas. However, because it is stitched on a fabric that is an open grid, needlepoint is not embellishing a fabric, as is the case with most other types of embroidery, but literally the making of a new fabric.”  Much of my work falls into this category, Bargello work for example. Which is why this blog is called The Bargellist. Though I do not limit this work to stiff canvas. On the contrary most of my Bargello pieces are stitched on soft Aida cloth.

However I would never call myself a Needlepointer, as not all my work falls into this category. Blackwork, crewel work and traditional Palestinian embroidery have over the years been added to my repertoire of work. These do embellish the fabric, but as mentioned above, very rarely to any practical purpose.

Apart from crewel work, all my other work falls into the counted-thread category of embroidery. Not that I would want to be described as a counted-thread worker!

What’s left? I have toyed occasionally with the term Textile Artist, but have never felt this was me. Firstly while I obviously start with a piece of textile, I don’t work with other fabrics at the same time. Secondly most textile work seems to involve some degree of machine work, and I don’t have a machine. Thirdly I don’t really think of myself as an artist.

When I have to write something about a piece I usually write that it has been hand embroidered. As all my work is done by hand. A Hand Embroiderer then? A bit of a mouthful and still leaves me a bit suspicious of the term embroiderer. This is just my problem though. However the work itself is quite clearly based on the use of stitches used in embroidery. So I use embroidery stitches to fill or part fill fabrics for no other purpose than to amuse myself. However hard I try I cannot get away from the term embroidery. Guess I will just have to get used to it.