Blue on Blue

I have just finished stitching another Blackwork project. It features blue threads on a blue fabric, hence the title for the piece.

The fabric is a 14 count Aida in light blue. For the threads I decided to try out some Sulky threads. Lots of people on the Peppermint Purple SAL have been raving about these cotton threads, so I reckoned it was worth giving them a go. They are easy to stitch with and there is a good range of colours to choose from. The Sulky threads come in just a single strand, which is pretty close to a single thread of stranded cotton.

I choose quite an open pattern for this project and as is usual with me, I used the equivalent of one, two and three strands to add to the texture of the work. This pattern I found in a book by Rosemary Drysdade – The Art of Blackwork Embroidery.

The finished piece measure 5.5cmX23.5cm and too me just over 12 hours to stitch. It will end up as a hanging once I tidy it up and add a cord for hanging.

SAL – Weeks 3-5

I am now well into this year long SAL. Weeks 3-5 have all been stitched and outlined. With these patterns the SAL has move from the pinks to the blues.

The rectangular one on the right was stitched with one strand of light antique blue. It is quite an open design, but a bit fiddly to get right. The other two, square patterns were both stitched with two strands of light blue. All cotton threads from the DMC range.

These two were a bit more complicated to stitch, no doubt due to using two strands of the thread. The one on the left was particularly complex and I was never sure whether to stitch everything over just one mesh. I eventually decided to do most of it over one mesh with a few stitches over two meshes.

The square on the left looks quite a bit darker than the one on the right. Though of course both were stitched with the same colour. I guess the greater density of the pattern on the left gives this illusion of a darker shade.

I am currently cogitating on what border to stitch for this, if indeed to bother with a border at all. Most participants seem to include one. Alas, most of them look very complex, though very beautiful. If I do go for one, it is likely to be pretty simple.

Rose buds

My first completed project for 2021 is this composition using the traditional Palestinian motif of the Rose Bud.

On this occasion though I used only one motif, I compensated by using various colours. Four colours in fact and each one with two shades. The main colours are seagreen, turquoise and electric blue. These were all from the DMC stranded cotton range. The yellows are so old that they no longer have any identifIcation re. origin. The yellows were only used for some of the buds. They do stand out though. Perhaps there are too many in yellow?

The embroidery is all done with two strands of the thread. The fabric is a very bright Christmas red in 18ct Aida. I find Palestinian embroidery quite slow work and this project took me just over 30 hours of stitching time. Worth it though. The finished piece measures 15cm x 15cm. I now need to smooth it out and add a backing.

A SAL for 2021

I have never participated in an embroidery SAL before. But there is a first time for everything, and you’re never too old and all that jazz. Anyway I am now two weeks into this particular SAL. It is a creation of Peppermint Purple, an online shop for blackwork and cross stitch kits run by Clare Ardali.

I am working on the square option for the SAL. As this is a year long SAL, there will be 52 sections to complete and the project will last until the end of December. I have now, today, completed the first two sections, which you can see below.

The fabric is an 18 count Aida in white, and the threads are all DMC cotton. With the SAL package as well as the overall design and the weekly filler patterns, you get a suggested colour scheme and some advice on stitching. I have decided to go with most of the suggested colours, but have discarded the greens and lavender. So I will end up with a mix of pinks/roses and blues. The first two sections give an idea of this mix, with one section in very light plum and the other in light antique blue.

A couple of early comments on this project. I stitched the first section with two strands of the cotton, and only afterwards came across a note that the fillings should be stitched with just one strand. Why bother to read the instructions! Anyway the second section, the one in blue, was stitched with a single strand. At the moment I think I will continue to alternate between one and two strands. Usually when I do blackwork embroidery I use a mixture of one, two and three strands. Anyway I will see how it goes.

The other comment is about the outlines. I started by stitching a few of these, using two strands of black in backstitch. However when it came to embroidering the insides, I find this a bit constricting, especially as each pattern has some threads which reach all the way to the edges. I will stick with the sections already outlined, but thereafter I plan to stitch the fillings first and then go on to the outlines.

2020 – a year of stitching

I haven’t posted a review of a year for some time, but 2020 was a bit unusual, so perhaps worth recording for posterity!

Looking back over the last 12 years, since I started embroidering regularly, I discover that there is a remarkable consistency in the amount of projects I complete in a year. I tend to manage around 23 projects each year, with the occasional outlier. Last year was one of these, as I completed a grand total of 28 projects. This number is a bit deceiving, as no less than seven of these were very simple projects. Work that took 10 hours or less.

I also noticed that there were only four projects that took up more than 30 hours of stitching. Most of them were around the 35 hour mark, with just one biggy – 59 hours. This is quite consistent with recent years. Further back I would regularly do more projects that took up more stitching hours. Must be getting lazy, or just older!

As regards the projects themselves, all were in one or other of my four regular styles of embroidery – Bargello, Blackwork, Surface embroidery and traditional Palestinian embroidery. The largest number was in surface embroidery, though most of these were very simple pieces – Christmas ornaments or something to go on a Christmas card. Orkney standing stones was a more substantial piece, as was this flower, part of a decoration for a jewel box.

Bargello has always been a staple of my embroidery and last year I managed seven projects. Nothing particularly stand out, though I did make a start on series three of My Five Easy Pieces collection.

I also completed seven Blackwork projects, though one was to finish off a colour wheel which I started in 2019. The projects included a number of small squares which were designed to fit into little square mounts.

Traditional Palestinian embroidery is another staple of my embroidery. Last year I managed five pieces. They included a particular favourite, which features old keys, a recurrent symbol in Palestine, to highlight the Right of Return campaigns.

Coronavirus was a most unwelcome irruption in 2020, one which alas, is still with us. However lots of artists rose to the challenge of helping people survive with some hope for the future. Many offered their work for free. I took advantage of two of these free offerings. The first was a lovely drawing from Suzanne Scott who trades as WhimSicAL LusH. Though primarily for artists I used the drawing as inspiration for blackwork embroidery.

The second freebie, was this wonderful Palestinian design by Jordan Nassar. This was made available by the Mosaic Rooms in London as part of a project aimed at encouraging people to experiment with traditional Palestinian embroidery. 

Finally, and possibly for the one and only time, I went and bought an embroidery design! The Lotus Flower is a lovely design by French embroiderer Pauline Texidor. For the princely sum of €10.00 you can download the design with very helpful instructions. As your typical mean Fifer, this was an outrageous expense!

I have made a start on my first project for 2020 – another piece using traditional Palestinian motifs. This one is based on Rose buds.

Happy New Year wishes to one and all.

A 4 Way Stretched Bargello

Today I finally finished this little Bargello project. A comment on one of my previous posts asked if I had ever worked on a Four Way Bargello project. I have, but not for a long time. So this timely reminder got me to revisit this lovely version of Bargello.

The design I fixed on is not a basic Four Way pattern, but an interesting variation. I like to think of it as a Stretched Four Way. The two end parts are in the traditional Four Way pattern, while the central section is just basic Bargello. Here it is.

This composition comes from one of my favourite embroidery books – Four Way Bargello by Dorothy Kaestner. Thoroughly recommended if you are interested in trying some Four Way Bargello. The author calls this variation a bench, but I prefer to call it a stretched Four Way.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in a very pale yellowy green. The main pattern is stitched with two strands of DMC Tapestry wool. Four shades of green and two shades of blue. The blues do stand out against the greens. To finish the piece off I decided to fill in the background to make a rectangle. For this I used a single strand of Appleton 2ply crewel wool in Early English green. I chose just the one strand as I didn’t want the background to dominate.

I really like this design, thought if I were to do it again I would seriously consider extending the central section by at least one other diamond. As it stands it measures 175mm x 137mm. A bit longer and it might fit as the base of a tray with a glass top.

The stitching of the main pattern took me just under seven hours, while the background involved just under 10 hours. Anyway time well spent. I have already started on my next project, which is a simple, ordinary Bargello. Happy stitching!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.