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.

5 Easy Pieces – Series 3, No 2

Another of my Bargello pieces finished yesterday. All feature five sections, hence the titles. Usually I use five different patterns, but this time I limited it to three.


For the central section I tried out an oval shape. A bit of a palaver to stitch this, but I think it works OK. This section is stitched in four shades of green. The other two colours, rose and lavender, make up a split complementary scheme to the green in the RGB colour scheme. At least that’s my story.

The three patterns are all quite different, which I hope makes for a harmonious whole. The fabric is a 14 count Aida. A soft fabric, but easy to stitch on.

The coloured threads are all from the DMC Tapestry range. A lovely wool yarn and good to work with. It worked well on the 14 count Aida, leaving virtually none of the fabric showing through.

I wanted a design that used some wavy lines. These I stitched in whipped stem stitch, using a 2ply Appleton wool in a very dark purple. Not sure if this really works. But overall I am quite pleased with this piece. Now to start thinking about No3! Happy stitching.

Lotus Flower

For my latest embroidery project I ventured a bit into unknown territory. I have been contemplating stitching a lotus flower for some time now. Lots of ideas, but no progress at all. I then came across a lovely design for a lotus flower from Pauline Texidor, a French embroiderer. It is not a full kit, but you can download the design, with instructions. You still have to find your own fabric and threads etc. Here is my completed attempt.


The fabric is I think a medium linen, something that was hidden in my stash. Easy to work with and a nice neutral colour to show off the colours. The instructions are very helpful and fairly easy to follow. They are detailed for some of the sections, thereafter you have to work it out based on what went before.

I pretty much followed the suggestions with the design, using the recommended colour scheme. Though of course you could work with any colour combination you wanted.

DMC stranded cotton was used throughout. Only one strand at a time. This I found quite challenging for the silk shading sections – most of it in other words. Four colours make up the design. The stem and leaves are in shades of acquamarine and seagreen. The veins of the leaves are stitched with a grey green shade.

The bud is stitched in shades of blue and lavender, with a touch of violet. The same colours were used for the petals with the addition of shades of plum, with a touch of cranberry.

The stems were appropriately stitched with stem stitch – five adjacent rows. Stem stitch was also used for the veins of the leaves.

The rest of the work was stitched in silk shading or long and short stitch. Most of the time I managed this reasonably well. But on a few too many occasions I found this very difficult to maintain the curves that are demanded for the design.

The other challenge was to get the right balance of shades from dark to light. This has worked mostly quite well with the leaves and some of the petals. Not so sure about all of the petals though. In particular I feel the two lower and large blue petals show a bit too much of the light blues. May have to go over these two again. At the moment I am just going to leave it as it is for a while.

I find this type of surface embroidery very slow work. Very challenging and very enjoyable. This particular piece has so far taken up 39 hours of stitching.

If you are interested in more of Pauline Texidor’s designs you can visit her instagram account here. I came across her work via le temps de broder, a Swiss embroidery site, full of fascinating articles and links. Both are well worth visiting.

Syrian Inhabited Scroll

My latest embroidery project features a motif I have longed wanted to stitch. This is the Syrian Inhabited Scroll. The name itself is somewhat exotic and otherworldly to me. This particular motif comes from the wonderful book, The Art of Palestinian Embroidery by Leila El Khalidi. She lists no less than eight versions of this motif. The one I chose was number seven. To complement this motif I added some lilies. Here is the finished piece.


The fabric is a 16ct Aida in black. Not an easy colour to work with! For the colour scheme wanted a limited range and went for a yellow and a blue. With a little green for the lilies. The threads are all from the DMC pearl cotton No 8 range.

I originally thought of filling the hoop with just the Syrian Inhabited Scroll motif. But after completing two rows I decided against this idea, and went for the lilies. Stuck to the same colours though.

The finished piece is now in a 16cm Nurge hoop. Altogether the stitching took up 22 hours work. Overall I am quite pleased with the result.

I am though none the wiser as to what exactly this motif is meant to represent. According to El Khalidi, inhabited scrolls are of Hellenistic and christian origin. The scroll was filled/inhabited with some design, often of a floral nature. Bit of a mystery as to why it is a ‘Syrian’ scroll.

In the motif on this piece I guess the blue line is the scroll and the yellow sections are the “inhabited” part. But cannot figure out what it is meant to represent. A mystery.

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!

Free form Bargello in Blue and Yellow

Finished this piece last week. I have stitched quite a few works in this style. In this case it was partly to use up the remains of some Paternayan wool threads.IMG_0561I first came across this type of Bargello work in Brenda Day’s book, Bargello – a fresh approach to Florentine embroidery. This lovely book includes a design for a zebra cushion. I have never made the cushion, but have subsequently used the zebra pattern idea for many pieces.

The fabric is a 16ct Aida in white. The threads are all from the Paternayan wool range. I used a mixture of blues and yellows.  Sometimes I draw an outline of a design on the fabric, but this time I just stitched away with no firm plan in mind. Quite pleasing working in this way for a change. The piece was completed in 11 hours. Nice easy stitching!

On holiday now, so a little gap in embroidery for a couple of weeks. Happy stitching!

Standing Stones – Orkney

This is one of these embroidery projects that has been a very long time in the making. The inspiration goes back to last August when we were on holiday in Orkney. Beautiful island with so many wonderful sites to visit. One of course was the marvellous Ring of Brodgar standing stones. I took many photos and on return was determined to use this visit as the basis for an embroidery piece. Here is the result.IMG_0560It was easier said than done as it turned out. Lots of cogitating on just what to stitch, how to stitch it and what to include. Eventually early this year I finally decided on what to include – the above four stones. They are reasonably accurate small scale versions of the actual stones, as captured on my camera. However I still had no idea as to how to stitch the dam thing. Try for realism, turn it into a blackwork design?

Anyway it was not until this month that I finally decided enough was enough and just got started. Neither realistic nor blackwork, but a mixture of various surface embroidery stitches. As anyone who has been to Orkney will immediately recognise, this resulting piece looks nothing like the stones at Brodgar. Probably don’t look like standing stones anywhere. But hey, this is a work of art, well that is my excuse.

The fabric is an Essex linen mix in ivory. Quite thin, so I added an iron-on backing to firm it up. Worked well. The threads are all cotton, mainly from DMC with some Anchor. The outline of the stones is stitched in stem stitch using two strands of black. Most of the rest is stitched with just one strand, apart from some of lines in the third stone from the left, where I also used two strands.

Only two stitches were used for this work – long and short for the flat parts and stem stitch for the wavy lines. Most of the stitching inside the stones is done with various shades of grey. I added a little colour here and there, partly to brighten the piece up, but also because many of the stones do have bits of colour on them. These additional colours were, copper, desert sand, winter white, black brown and a dark green.

Not sure if the piece is actually finished. I am now swithering  whether to add a bit of green and purple around the base of the stones to represent the grass and heather of the site. Will no doubt spend another few months cogitating over this. Any suggestions welcome.

The final work will remain in its hoop, which is a 16cm Nurge frame. One of the ironies of this piece is that I have spent ages and ages thinking and planning the work, while the actual embroidery has only taken me nine and a half hours so far. Happy stitching!


Palestinian design by Jordan Nassar

I have just finished this beautiful design by Jordan Nassar, an American born Palestinian embroiderer. The design was commissioned by the London based The Mosaic Rooms for a project called Let’s Tatreez. The design is available as a free download and is aimed at encouraging people to experiment with traditional Palestinian embroidery. I needed no encouragement as I love this embroidery. Here is the finished work.

For this project I worked on a 14ct Aida in pewter, a fine neutral colour which allowed the embroidery to stand out. As recommended by Jordan Nassar I used a perlé cotton from the DMC range, size No 8. I chose to do this work in just two colours – a very dark violet and a bright green.

This is the first time I have worked with the No 8 size. Previously I have used No 5 perlé. This is a bit harder to work with due to its greater thickness. Though it does make the work really stand out. Anyway I think I will work with No 8 for my future Palestinian embroidery work.

I love the design and way the various motifs work together. The piece features a few of my favourite motifs – damask rose and chick peas and raisins in particular. I also recognised feathers, which form the outside panels of the upper section.

The other motifs were new to me, which was another bonus from stitching this piece. I reckon these included carnation branch, wide open eye and two versions of chain. Some of the design may not be traditional motifs, but just little patterns to complete the overall composition. It all worked and I am sure any Palestinian woman would be delighted to have this design as part of her dress.

Not sure what will happen to my version. Needs a bit stretching and then we’ll see. My thanks to The Mosaic Room for creating this project and to Jordan Nassar for creating this wonderful design.

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.

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.