Embroidery Tiles

This will be my last completed piece for 2018. At least the stitching is finished. My inspiration for this project was the beautiful world of ceramic tiles. I first became aware of their beauty and the skilled craftsmanship that goes with them while we lived in Catalunya. A treasure trove of ancient and modern tiles were to be found. A few, of the modern variety, now decorate our home.

One of the most charming aspects of ceramic tiles is the way that individual tiles can be placed together to make a larger composition. Sometimes this can be geometrical but often the tiles are designed to illustrate a scene or tell a story.

I would love to be able to create a ceramic tile, but the next best thing, for me at least, was to try and create one with embroidered fabric. The inspiration for my first go, was not Catalunya, but our very own Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I used a Mackintosh style tulip as the focus for the design. The rest of the design is my own.

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As you  can see I made four tiles in such a way that they would meet together to make a larger composition. The fabric is a very fine red linen. I ironed on a backing to give a bit of stability to the fabric and reduce the amount of stretching as I stitched. Unfortunately the backing fabric did not attach itself completely evenly. The result is that some air bubbles can be seen. One to iron out for future attempts.

To go with the red fabric I chose colours in the turquoise/acquamarine range for the embroidery. Silk, cotton and wool threads were used to provide a bit of texture. For the centre of each tulip I used a silk thread from Japan. Blueberry is the apt name for this lovely variegated thread from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range. I used four strands for the long and short stitch.

The outer petals of the tulips are stitched in slanting satin stitch. I used two shades of DMC cotton for this – very light turquoise and light blue green. Two strands of the thread was used for the stitching. The base of each tulip is filled with seeding stitch.  I used two shades of another silk thread for this – Soie d’Alger from France.  Two strands in either pale blue or dark green. The tulips are finished off with a stem stitch outline with a single strand of black cotton.

One corner of each tile is embroidered, so that the four can meet and make a single pattern. In this case triangles – one full and two half triangles for each corner. The very edge of the tile is a quadrant which is meant to turn into a circle when all are put together. Another variegated silk thread from Glissen Gloss – crystal bay – was used for the triangles. I used a simple satin stitch with four strands. The seeding in the quadrants is stitched with the same silk thread. As with the tulips the corners are finished off with a stem stitch outline in a single strand of black cotton.

Though each tile is a separate piece of embroidery, I wanted the four pieces to come together as a single composition. I have tried to achieve this unity by using the stalk of each tulip to wind its way round the outside of each tile. For the stalks I used two strands of Fine d’Aubusson wool from France. The broad chain stitch is finished off on one side only, with a stem stitch outline in a single strand of green cotton.

The stitching for this was all done on one piece of fabric. When finished I had to cut out each square and then attach each one to a solid board so that each piece would look like a tile. Easier said than done! I almost made a complete mess of this part. First off when I started to cut the fabric I forgot to leave a margin on one side of two of the squares. I recovered in time to not repeat this mistake with the other sides, thank goodness. However I realised that I had not left enough of a margin on each side.

This meant that when I came to glueing the fabric to the boards there was very little leeway to ensure that the board was completely covered by the fabric. With two sides there was of course no leeway at all. To try and cover for my mistake I have painted that side of the board with red paint.  Just about works!

The final piece of the jigsaw is to glue each tile onto another solid board. I have still to decide which background colour – black or white – to use. I posted some photos on Instagram and Facebook and most of the replies were in favour of a black background. Black does look good, but in the photos the black is a bit hazy, which is why the photo above has a white background.

Some lessons for the future. Each square is meant to be 10cmx10cm. Once again I found it impossible to mark this out completely accurately on the fabric. Need to improve my competence in drawing on fabric.  The board I have used to turn the embroidery into a tile is on the thin side. I will need to use a thicker board next time.

This was a fun project to work on. I will definitely be stitching more tiles next year. I am particularly interested in some of exquisite Islamic tiles from Iran, Syria and Turkey. I saw some wonderful examples in the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon last year. They will be my inspiration for more tile embroidery in 2019.

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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.

Indian Tulips

I am now well into my latest embroidery project. This one is very closely based on a scene from one of the fabulous embroidery hangings in the V&A. It is a floral scene, probably part of a canopy for a wedding celebration. I took a photo of part of the hanging, but forgot to get details of when and where it was stitched.Version 2

My project focuses on the three brightly coloured tulips. It is also much simpler than the original. This was stitched with silk threads and I am keeping to this for most of the work. I started with the tulips and below is a shot of the first two completed.2015-11-19 12.05.56

The yellows, red, lavender and blue are all stitched with two strands of French made silk from Au ver a soie, their soie d’Alger collection. (Did it originally come from Algeria?) The very narrow bands in each tulip were stitched with three strands of Rajmahal silk and rayon mix. These Rajmahal threads are finicky to work with, but they do have an extra bright sheen to them. Good in small measures. The edging and the cream sections are in two strands of cotton thread.

For this project I will be using a fairly limited range of stitches. Satin and long and short shading for most of the tulips. Chain stitch for the cream parts and the stems, while the edging is done in a split stitch. The fabric is a very fine and soft linen.

This is very slow work, which I have managed to make even slower by messing up the edging from time to time. I keep starting a section with chain stitch and then wonder why that section is so much thicker than the rest. Lots of unpicking and restarting!

So far so good and I am quite pleased with my progress and the outcome. A long way to go!

 

 

 

The Owl in all its glory

I have at long last completed the owl with its surrounding flowers. One of the longest stitching projects I have undertaken. This one involved some 80 hours of stitching. Then I am not the world’s fastest stitcher. Regular, but a bit on the slow side. Anyway here is the finished piece.
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I wanted the surround to be representative of spring and to have some kind of Scottish connection. Thus the two flowers on the bottom are the Scottish bluebell and the Scottish primrose. Bluebells are fairly common, not just in Scotland of course, but I love their little bell shape and their colours. The Scottish primrose on the other hand is nowadays a very rare specimen. It is only found in Caithness and the Orkney islands. It has a lovely tall stem and the flowers are all in the one colour. The other two flowers – magnolia and cherry blossom – are not Scottish in any way, though they are both very popular here. I just love both.

For the branches of the magnolia and the cherry blossom I used appleton wool and everything else was stitched with two strands of DMC cotton. The leaves of the primrose and the magnolia are stitched in closed fly stitch. This was another first for me and is a handy stitch for leaves as you generate the middle ridge as you stitch. The petals were done with either satin stitch or long and short stitches.

The finished fabric is alas, somewhat wrinkled. All that pulling of threads, especially the wool threads has resulted in a bunching up of the fabric around the body of the owl. Can’t be helped now. I suppose it gives the piece a real craft feel to it – unprofessional and unpolished. It is now with Lesley, my framer, to finish it all off.

I am now planning to work on two projects over the coming months. I want to continue with this type of embroidery work. I have just bought a piece of light linen/cotton fabric in a neutral colour. Not quite sure what design to use at the moment. I would like to do something in Art Nouveau style or something based on the works of Gustav Klimt. But a bit more research is needed first. At the same time I will be working on another project using traditional Palestinian motifs. I have worked out the overall composition and with luck it will end up as a cover for my ipad. Starting to get a bit practical with my stitching now. Happy Easter to all and happy stitching!