More Blackwork embroidery

My latest embroidery project was another endeavour into the world of blackwork. It is a fairly formal composition and for the first time in a long time includes stitches in black. Not just black though, as I have added a bit of red for contrast and excitement! Here is the finished piece.IMG_8717As you can see I still haven’t quite mastered the art of keeping the fabric taut and square. Even when using a four sided frame. Still it all adds to the authenticity of the work. At least that’s my story. The fabric is a fine 32 count Murano in white. This a mixture of cotton and modal. It is cheaper than linen and easier to work with.

For the black sections I varied the work using three different thicknesses of thread. One and two strands of DMC cotton plus the single strand of Pearsall’s Gossamer silk. The outlines in black were stitched in stem stitch with one strand of cotton.

The top left rectangle has a small diamond pattern and the lower right rectangle has a honeycomb pattern. The large square section is filled with an open lace pattern.

The red pattern is an octagon variation with additional squares inside some of the octagons. I also used three different thicknesses for this section. One and two strands of a very dark coral red cotton and a single strand of Gütermann silk. However this silk thread is much thicker than the Pearsall’s Gossamer. So much so that there is little if any difference in thickness with a single strand of the cotton. The silk was also used for the outline of the circle, again in stem stitch.

I rather like this particular composition which I have used before for something completely different. This composition of two rectangles and two squares was part of the exhibition: Images of the Heart – Japanese Ink Traces and Calligraphy, which I saw 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.


Three Orchid Petals

My latest hand embroidery piece is now finished. It hangs in an circular hoop. The outline for the piece is more or less the same as for an earlier piece – Out of Mexico.  I liked the basic shape and the idea of keeping the finished piece in the hoop frame. Here is the finished work. IMG_7997

As with the previous piece I have used various Blackwork patterns. The fabric is a 28 count Brittney in Orchid, quite appropriate for the subject matter. The outline of the petals I took from a design in the book Bargello Magic by Pauline Fischer and Anabel Lasker. Here it forms the basis for a Blackwork composition.

The blue outline is stitched in heavy chain stitch with Appleton two ply wool. The outline of the petals is a simple stem stitch in light pink from au ver à soie’s Soie d’Alger collection. The colour almost merges with the colour of the fabric.

The inside of the petals I split into two parts, for no particular reason, I have to say. Both parts are filled with two contrasting patterns with more threads from au ver à soie’s Soie d’Alger collection. A deep purple and the stitching varied from one, two to three strands of the silk.

For the background I used another of my Glissen Gloss Colorwash silk threads. A variegated blue, called Blueberry. The pattern is a medium dense pattern and four of the twelve strands was used throughout.

The cord for hanging was braided on a Kimihimo board, with two shades of perle cotton blues from the DMC range.

All in all I am quite pleased with the result. I like working with hoops and using them to show the work off. So much so that I have ordered a few more hoops. You can expect to see some more work in hoops. Not always Blackwork though, at least I hope not.

Mexican inspired piece finished

I have just in the last week finally finished my latest embroidery project. This was (very) loosely inspired by some Mexican lacquer ware. For information about the background to this piece, see my previous post here.  The finished work looks like this.IMG_7382

The fabric is a 28 count Brittney in dark pine green.  The four flower like shapes and the connecting lines are all stitched in purple from au ver à soie’s Soie d’Alger collection. Only two blackwork patterns were used for the flowers, both quite dense. Each pattern was stitched once in a vertical line and once in a horizontal line. A mixture of two and three strands were used for these sections. The outline of the flower shapes are stitched in stem stitch with just one strand. For the connecting lines I decided on a quaker stitch, using two strands of the silk thread.

The background is filled with just one pattern, a fairly open one. For this I used four strands of a 12 ply silk in jade from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range. To complete the piece I stitched wavy outline in heavy chain stitch, using one strand of Appleton’s two ply wool in dark green.

When I say the piece is finished, this is only partly true. I am still debating with myself whether I should add a dash of yellow to the centres of the flower like shapes. I will leave the embroidery in its hoop frame. Which reminds me that I still have to tidy up the back. So it is definitely not fully finished!

Anyway I now have two more projects almost ready for stitching. More later.

Designing my current embroidery piece

This will be a rather unusual post for me. I have only just started stitching, a couple of days ago in fact, so there is not much to show. So, instead I have decided to focus on how I ended up with this particular design.

I use the term design with some trepidation, as I don’t really design anything. At least not in the traditional sense. For a start I cannot draw. Neither do I have the kind of creative imagination that enables one to create something out of nothing.

A lot of my embroidery work does not involve any designing at all. Often I just follow a pattern from a book or from an online site. To the extent that a piece involves more than just copying my contribution is more akin to arranging or re-arranging patterns or designs of others.

My current project is an example of this. Though it has undergone a few ups and downs on the way. My starting point this time had nothing to do with a finished design or  even an arrangement. The whole thing began with a frame and the fabric.

The frame was found in a charity shop. I liked the size and the colour of the wooden frame. As you can see I haven’t yet taken out the print inside. IMG_7349

The fabric is a 28 count Brittney a dark pine green. I have only a small amount of this fabric left and it would fit nicely into the frame. As I usually only use this fabric for Blackwork embroidery, everything was coming along nicely. I had even decided on the thread to use, but before I could get started things began to fall apart.

Firstly I had no idea of what design, pattern to stitch. Secondly and probably more relevant, the more I thought about the frame and the fabric, they did not seem to match. The green of the fabric was just too dark and dense to go with the rust brown of the wooden frame.

So, back to the drawing board. I started by revisiting some photos I have of shapes, patterns that could possibly be used for embroidery. Some were most suited to a circular frame. This reminded me that I had an embroidery hoop, just waiting to be filled. So a circular design it would be, and the fabric was almost cut in size with the hoop in mind.

I still had to find/create something to stitch. After much cogitation and rummaging through books I finally decided to base my composition on an example of Mexican lacquerware. I have in my collection an illustrated book on this beautiful traditional art. One example has always attracted me – a tray in the Four Flowers style. The tray is circular and below you can see the intricate painting on the base.


I liked the overall circular shape of this part of the design. I particularly liked the mixture of lines and flower patterns. The final inspiration came from one little section of the design on the sides of the bowl.


I liked the dark curving lines in this section and decided to use this as the central feature for my own composition, which you can see in outline below.

IMG_7356As you can see I have used two curving lines with a flower shape at the ends of each line. This flower shape is also from an example of Mexican lacquerware. I have still to decide whether to enclose the piece in a circle.

My arrangement is of course a very simple affair. But I quite like simplicity. The four flowers will all be stitched in the same colour – a purple from au ver à soie’s Soie d’Alger collection. I intend to use only two blackwork patterns for the flowers. For the background I am using another silk thread. This time from Japan – a 12 ply silk in jade from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range. The whole background will be in just one pattern. The photo above gives a glimpse of the background pattern and one of the flower patterns.

I have still to figure out how I will stitch the curving lines, and in what colour. There will be plenty of time for that, as this is pretty slow, but satisfying work.

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!



A Blackwork Heart

I have just finished my latest endeavour with Blackwork embroidery. It consists of two heart shapes, one within the other. Here it is.IMG_4794

The fabric is a 28ct Brittney which is a 52% cotton and 48% rayon mix. The colour is listed as orchid. The threads are Rajmahal ArtSilk, which is a mix of silk and rayon. I first stitched the outlines of the two hearts with two strands of the threads. This is a simple whipped backstitch.

For the body of the hearts I chose three patterns for the outer heart and another pattern for the inner heart. The strands of Rajmahal thread are very fine, so I used a combination of two, four and all six strands for the work. None of the outer patterns seem to have a name, but the inner pattern is a simple zigzag.

The outer heart is stitched in Imperial Purple, while the inner heart is stitched in Spring Leaf. Rajmahal ArtSilk is quite difficult to work with as the strands do not lie smoothly on the fabric. However they are very vibrant and luscious.

The 28 count fabric makes for very slow work, at least for me. The overall size is only 12cmx11cm at its widest. Yet it took me over 26 hours to finish the stitching. Very enjoyable all the same. With luck this should fit into another of my IKEA frames.

I now have a week without embroidery as we are off to Dubrovnik for a bit of relaxation and hopefully, some warmth and sunshine.  Happy stitching!