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.

Red on Black Bargello

This latest piece is a rather unusual Bargello project. The basic design comes from a placard I saw on a TV programme about fashion designer Issey Miyake. I have used this design twice before, which you can see here and here. This time I wanted to made a bold statement so I used red threads on a black fabric.IMG_0394The photo doesn’t do justice to the piece as somehow it looks narrower on the right, which is not the case. Anyway it gives a good idea of the work. The fabric is a 16ct Aida in black. The threads are from the Paternayan Persian yarn range – a light and a very light Christmas red. I used two shades as I wanted the pattern of the Bargello to stand out, and I felt this was more likely with two shades.  To get the fabric fully covered, or at least as fully as possible, I used two strands of the wool.

Stitching on black is quite the challenge! All too easy to miss the right mesh. I needed to hold the piece up to the light to get any chance of getting this right. Worth it though as it does make a statement. The stitched area is 29.5cm x 9.5cm and it took me 23.5 hours of stitching over 15 days to complete the work.

Not sure if the final version will be as shown above or the more usual vertical version. I plan to attach a light backing to the fabric and then fold over the black edges so that only the black spaces between each row will show. Will try this first, but perhaps leaving a little black fabric all round may be better at framing the red. Time will tell.



I have recently completed another little robin. The first was very small, designed to illustrate a Christmas card. The recipient, a cousin of mine in New York liked the robin, and mentioned that she had a friend who was very fond of robins. So I offered to embroider one for her friend.  Here it is.IMG_0387The fabric is an Essex linen in ivory. Though called a linen it is 55% linen and 45% cotton. Still a lovely fabric to embroider with.  Most of the stitching was done with two strands of cotton thread. Silk shading or long and short stitch was used for almost all of the body of the robin. The eyes, beak and legs are the exception. The branch at the bottom is stitched in heavy chain stitch with one strand of Appleton wool in dark brown.

As this piece was for someone, I decided, (better late than never!) to check up on the colouring of robins. So I looked up the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds site for guidance. Not a great deal of surprises, though I did discover that grey featured quite prominently on the upper body. Neither did I expect to see bits of yellow on the lower feathers.  Nor that the legs were a pinky brown colour!

The red breast is predominantly a dark coral red with a bit of bright orange. The lower body has three colours – ultra very light mocha brown, cream and a few highlights in winter white. For the legs I put together a light rose and a light brown thread and used this in a simple whipped back stitch. Kinda works.

I spent about 12 and a half hours stitching this robin, and very enjoyable it was too. It looks quite snug in the 13cm Nurge hoop. The robin, minus the hoop, is now on its way across the Atlantic to New York and a new home.

2019 – embroidery highlights

Looking back over 2019 I can detect some similarities and some differences with previous years. I worked on 23 projects which is very much in line with my yearly average.  The big standout difference is that for the first time since I started embroidery, I did fewer Bargello pieces than other types of embroidery. A big surprise, not for nothing is this blog called The Bargellist. Anyway quite pleased as it is good to extend my repertoire.

The 23 projects last year were shared fairly evenly amongst my regular embroidery endeavours. I was definitely surprised to discover that I had done more crewel work than any other – seven projects in all. Another five were in Blackwork, of various colours! Four projects were of traditional Palestinian designs, the same number as Bargello projects. The list is completed with three projects  in other styles. This included my not altogether successful attempt at Goldwork.

I try to keep a (reasonably accurate) account of how many hours I spend on actual stitching. A perusal of this record shows that, other things being equal – size of project – Blackwork and Palestinian embroidery are the most time consuming. A Palestinian piece – fours stars in a field of lilies – took up just over 46 hours stitching. While another Palestinian piece – Rosebuds in Blue – involved 39 hours stitching. Two Blackwork projects – Red & Black and a single motif in plum shades – each took up over 30 hours of stitching.

So far I do not keep any record of how much time I spend preparing for a project, working out the design, choosing fabric, threads etc. Nor do I keep a record of time spent on finishing off a piece. Maybe something for the future.

Generally speaking, bearing in mind the size of a project, Crewel work or surface embroidery is the least time consuming. Almost certainly because it does not involve completely filling the fabric with stitches. Bargello patterns do fill the fabric, but they are usually quite easy to follow as they only involve vertical stitches.

As regards highlights from the year, a bit of a difficult choice as I liked all of the projects, even those that were not totally successful. I very much enjoyed a new approach to using traditional Palestinian motifs. New to me that is, as the idea came from an article in Embroidery magazine on the work of Palestinian American embroiderer, Jordan Nassar. I managed three pieces using this approach. You can see the first one here.

I even tried this approach, using a single motif,  with a Blackwork pattern, which you can see here. It was a bit of a surprise to discover that three of my Bargello projects were variations in what I call Free Form Bargello. Some people might not even regard them as Bargello, but hey ho. Here is an example in Black and magenta.

The most unusual project from last year was stitching a three dimensional piece. This was from a workshop run by Anita Hutchison for our branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild. Quite challenging, but I did finally finish it, which you can see here.

The crewel projects were all quite varied. I particularly liked my first attempt at stitching a Boteh Jeghe, or Paisley pattern design. My two thistles are also rather charming, if I say so myself. During the year I treated myself to some lovely yarn from Elvincraft on the Isle of Skye. A variegated thread of alpaca and silk. Lovely to feel and to look at. I used this for a simple Autumn petals design, which you can see here.

My favourite piece from the year however was my attempt at Dennis the Menace. This was part of a sample for the new Dundee Tapestry project. I haven’t shown this before but include it now with this post.IMG_0299

I have already started on this year’s projects and guess what, my first piece is in Bargello!

Brigid’s octomino in green

I am a great fan of octominos and have used this pattern many times in my embroidery. I have now finished yet another one. Quite a small scale one and for the embroidery I used two blackwork patterns.IMG_0359The fabric is a 28ct Brittney in orchid. I used two contrasting shades of green for the embroidery – chartreuse and a very dark emerald green, both from the DMC cotton range. With the chartreuse I varied the stitching between two and three stands of the cotton. The pattern for the dark green is much denser, so I only used one strand and two strands for this pattern.

I would normally outline the outer edges of the finished design, but on this occasion I felt it unnecessary. The use of small scale blackwork patterns on the 28ct fabric meant that the overall shape stands out on its own.  The piece fits nicely into the 13cm hoop. I now have to tidy everything up at the back and it will be ready to hang somewhere. Or end up in a drawer!

Happy stitching!



Autumn Petals

My latest project is one I have been keenly anticipating since early September. This was when I took possession of some gorgeous yarn from elvincraft on the isle of skye. It has taken me this long to figure out what to do with the yarn and then to complete the embroidery. Finally done though and here it is.IMG_0311The design is from a pattern in a DMC book on Colbert Embroideries. I have just used the central design of eight petals. I wanted something that would show off the full colour range of the beautiful yarn, and I think this design does that. The petals are all stitched in silk shading. The centre circle is made up of three concentric rows of heavy chain stitch. For this I used only the dark purple parts of the yarn.

The finished piece is approximately 15cm in diameter. I hope to show it off in a suitable sized hoop. It took me just under 21 hours of stitching to complete the work. Looking forward to more embroidering with this yarn, which I would recommend to anyone looking for something different to stitch with.

The fabric is a Robert Kaufman Essex linen in natural colour. Though called linen the fabric is a mix of 55% linen and 45% cotton. Quite fine and lovely to work on. The yarn is a 2ply hand painted blend of 70% alpaca and 30% silk. It is primarily for lace work or knitting. According to elvincraft the variegated colours are inspired by Highland hill blackthorn in autumn sloes and autumn leaves!

I liked the look of the colours and decided to give the yarn a try for embroidery. So far so good. The yarn comes in a 800 metres long bundle. Which no doubt is fine for knitting, but not so easy for embroidery. Here is what the original bundle looked like.IMG_0231The first task before embroidering anything is to cut the yarn into manageable lengths. A bit of a hassle to unpick the yarn, but you get to choose which colours to highlight. I chose to cut a full length of yarn going from the start of one colour back to its beginning. This length was then halved to make a longish but useable length for working with. Below is an example, where I wanted to get a good section of greens in one of the lengths.IMG_0306

Bargello in Reds and Turquoise

I have been quite busy, embroidery wise, recently. I had two projects on the go and then had to devote myself to a commission of sorts. Unpaid commission of course. I have managed to get myself involved in a group working on a Dundee Tapestry. As part of their work of securing funding from trusts etc they wanted a couple of samples of what the tapestry might look like. So, as the only embroiderer at their last meeting I got landed with this task. Not particularly difficult, but a bit time consuming. I can’t show any photos of this work as the group has still to get copywrite permissions.  The two samples were Denis the Menace and the Strathmartine Stone, which features some Pictish drawings. They look pretty good, so I hope to be able to show them some time in the future.

Back to my ongoing projects. One is now completed – a free form bargello design in reds and turquoise.  Here it is.IMG_0301The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in pale green. For the thread I used one strand of Paternayan Persian wool, a lovely, soft yarn. The three reds are from their Christmas red collection, whilst the two turquoises are part of their Caribbean blue series.

As with most of these free form bargello pieces the pattern emerges as I go along. There is no design to follow. It is a fun way to work, though it does require a bit of thinking ahead. Just to make sure that there is a reasonable balance among the reds.

While I was working on this project I remembered I had done something similar with the two turquoise threads. Checking back I discovered that in March I had in fact completed another free form bargello. Then the base colour was purple. As with the current piece, the threads are all from the Paternayan Persian wool range. For some reason I didn’t post about that piece, so here it is now.IMG_8735All goes to show just how easy it is for me to forget what I have done only a few months ago! Old age is beginning to show, alas. Anyway happy stitching everyone.

Or nué completed

I have now finished the stitching part of my goldwork project. It didn’t get any easier, if anything a bit more difficult. For some reason I found it even harder to get the gold threads to lie down smoothly and evenly on the fabric. Anyway it is now done.IMG_0266As you can see the second semicircle is far rougher than the first one. Not sure why this is the case. To complete the design I wanted to add something different to the remaining unstitched fabric. I decided on something very simple – a very loose curve. For this I used an extremely fine gold thread. Lots of these fine threads in fact, held in place with some couching, using one strand of the dark rose cotton thread. This time the ends have been deliberately kept loose. This provides a clear contrast with the close stitching for the semicircles.

I was quite surprised to find that it only took just under 14 hours of work to complete the stitching. A more experienced embroiderer could have done this in less time. I now need to find a way of finishing the whole thing off. Tidying up the back, in other word.


Or nué revisited

I am currently working on a goldwork project. It includes some Or nué work. I tried this specialised form of embroidery a few years ago on a course. It was not a success, Or nué I found was a bit beyond my capabilities. Still I kept the fabric and the gold threads, hidden away in a box. For some reason way beyond my comprehension, I decided to give Or nué another go. In doing this I was breading a well established and proven maxim – if at first you don’t succeed, give up! There is usually a very good reason why you didn’t succeed first time round.

Anyway as I said I am giving it another go, with, predictably, as little success as before. The same basic problems, getting the two gold threads to lie nicely and gently down on the fabric and the difficulty in covering sections of the thread with a fine cotton thread. With Or nué you are supposed to couch over the gold threads either completely or at least a large amount with your chosen coloured thread. I just find this extremely difficult. Two challenges – 1. Getting the couching threads close together without any gaps and 2. getting the gold threads close enough to the previous line to avoid any of the fabric showing through. Hard, very concentrated work! Here is where I am.IMG_0265

My design includes two semicircles, each of which is to feature some Or nué work. So far I have finished one of these. The original idea was for the rose coloured section to reach all the way down to the edge of the semicircle and even extend beyond onto the ground fabric. However I ran out of steam and decided to cut short the Or nué bit and even to flatten out the goldwork so that it is no longer a full semicircle.

I may have made things a bit more complicated by laying the gold threads horizontally across the semicircle as opposed to laying them in a circular line. Either way I would have ended up with some short lines. Plunging the ends of the gold threads into the fabric is another little challenge I could do without.

To complete the design I intend to do something different and leave the gold threads just hanging on the fabric. Less couching for me, so with luck may be easier to do. Wish me luck!

Albanian Design 2

My latest embroidery piece is a variation on an Albanian design from the DMC book on Turkish Embroideries. I did a version using the pattern in the book way back in 2017, which you can see here. Despite its title the designs have little to do with Turkey, but feature 19th century patterns from the Balkans. The one I am using is from a towel trimming from Albania. This time I have varied the design to use only squares as this fits more easily into a hoop, which I wanted for this piece. Here it is.IMG_0256As you can see I have gone for red in a big way, with a little light blue for contrast. The fabric is a 16 count Aida in bright red. The vertical and horizontal surrounds for the squares I stitched with Caron Watercolour, one of my favourite cotton variegated threads. This one is Flame and I used just one strand for the simple straight stitches.

There are two patterns for the insides of the squares. One is a simple diagonal stitch, which covers nine meshes at the long diagonal. For the red squares I used one strand of a luxury silk thread from Debbie Bliss. Created for knitting I use them now and again for embroidery. Gorgeous soft feel and shine finish.

The blue is a Perfect Blue from the Rajmahal Artsilk thread, which is made of rayon and some silk. Very shiny and very difficult to stitch with. I used all six strands in an effort to fully cover the space. Needed some extra rows to achieve this.

The remaining squares are filled with what the book calls openwork cross stitch. Looks a bit complicated, but is really quite simple, once you get started. As the book describes it, you make two journeys going and coming. The first is worked upwards and downwards over three meshes. The second is worked horizontally from right to left and back again.

The book recommends using a tammy cloth, whatever that is and for the openwork cross stitch you are supposed to draw the thread tightly to secure an open, pulled effect. This drawing and pulling does not work with Aida fabric, so there is nothing in the way of an open look to these squares. Still they do give the finished piece a different look.

The hoop for this a Nurge No 4 which is just over 19cm diameter. These are lovely, solid wooden hoops, easy to use and good to look at. So far I have spent around 13 and a half hours just on the stitching. Still to tidy up the back and make a cord for hanging. Happy stitching.