Embroidery in progress: An Elizabethan Stumpwork Bride’s Bag – 4

I’d been ‘putting off’ stitching the foxgloves on this second side of the Bride’s Bag – partly because there are four flowers, and I thought that it would be boring to stitch very time-consuming but similar things over and over again, and partly because the shades of Anchor thread that are suggested in the ‘Festive Elizabethan Creations’ book for stitching these flowers are quite a dull pink. The photo of the original bag shows a kind of raspberry pink, but the Anchor shades given are *equivalents* for the DMC that the bag was stitched with – and sometimes they’re not very accurate equivalents! It was only once I’d started making the bag that this became apparent. I really don’t like ‘dusty’ pinks, so this was what was slowing me down, I think.

Anyway, the bag wouldn’t get finished unless I got over my ‘foxglove phobia’.

I started the first flower by outlining the shape with two strands, in chain stitch, worked quite small and tight, to give a good base for the detached buttonhole stitch.

Foxglove base with detached buttonhole stitch

Then I filled in the shape with a lighter shade, using two strands again.

The next part came out more successfully than I’d expected. I used a ‘half cone stick’ to do lifted up detached buttonhole stitch over the base stitching, making a 3-D flower tube. I bought two of these half cone sticks when I bought the book that the design comes from, over ten years ago, now. Both the book and the half cone sticks are available in the UK from Viking Loom. If you don’t want to splash out on these, the auther, Shirley Holdaway, suggests you can use a toggle button instead, but I think the shaping at the end of the half cone stick, and the flat underside, is crucial to getting a gentle slope to the calyx end of the flower.

Half cone stick tacked on
Half cone stick from side, showing the profile
Lifted up detached buttonhole stitch flower tube half done

The half cone stick is tacked into place temporarily, and the lifted up detached buttonhole stitch is worked in rows as before with Anchor 1017, changing to a deeper shade of pink (Anchor 1018) for the last three rows or so. I edged the ‘bell’ of the flower with one strand of buttonhole stitch in a very light pink (Anchor 1016). Before removing the half cone stick, I stitched the calyx in pale grey green (Anchor 875), shaping the bottom edge a little.

Foxglove stitching completed

The rest of the flowers were worked in the same way – working down the fabric, as I realised that I’d squash the work I’d just done if I didn’t! When all the flowers are completed, a small ball of thread ends is glued up inside the bell of each flower, to hold it open, and then tiny dark pink beads are sewn at the opening. I’ll do those when all the other embroidery on this side of the bag is completed, I think.

Also, it’s worth noting here that detached buttonhole stitch is *much* easier to do if the area around where you are stitching is clear of other embroidery, as the needle needs to slide under the chain stitches at the sides (outwards from the shape you’re filling), to catch the travelling thread in position at the start of each row. Chain stitched stems, in particular, are a pain in the bum if they are close to the flower you are trying to stitch (I found this to my cost on the first side of the bag, when I kept catching the needle in the loops of the chain stitches). So, this time, I’m going to work the stems last.

This is how far I’ve got now, with this second side of the bag:

Second side of bag, so far


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30% off discontinued embroidery kits

Today, I’ve decided which designs will be discontinued from my current range of miniature needlepoint embroidery kits, to make space for the new designs being brought out this spring. So, if you’d like to grab yourself a bargain, then have a look at the ‘sale’ page of my website’s shop. There are several types of kit for doll’s house soft furnishings on offer (such as this miniature carpet called ‘Marie’, shown above) – all with 30% off the usual price.


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Embroidery in progress: An Elizabethan Stumpwork Bride’s Bag – 3

After last weekend, I’d almost completed the first side of the bag, so it only took a few minutes, once I was properly awake and had time to do it neatly, to finish the first side by couching down the last of the gold cord onto the inverted heart.

The second side of the bag features a fritillaria, an aquilegia, some foxglove flowers, some bluebells and some pansies (plus the ‘filler insects’).

Stitching the fritillaria petals

The instructions (in ‘Festive Elizabethan Creations’, by Shirley Holdaway) said to do the fritillaria first. Each petal was outlined with chain stitch with one strand of Anchor stranded cotton shade 858, then filled with rows of more chain stitch using two strands. Then, long lengths of the same shade (three strands) were laid from the tip to the base of each petal, and counched down regularly, in a brick pattern, with medium pink 1018. Each length had to be couched before the next one was started.

Petals looking a little too undefined!

The instructions suggested that this would be enough to define each petal shape, to make it visibly separate from its neighbur, but once I’d done all four petals, I wasn’t happy with it. It just looked like one big block of bricks to me! So I defined each join between the petals with a line of stem stitch, in a darker shade of green than the petals had been stitched in.

Petals defined using dark green stem stitch

The aquilegia flower was more successful, even though it took twice as long to do. The underside petals were stitched in detached buttonhole stitch (cream 386 in the centre, which would eventually look like the ‘middle’ of the flower), and light purple 871 for the outer petals. The cream area was padded first with rows of chain stitch. Then I worked three ‘punto in aria’ shapes in dark purple 873, and attached them only at the tops, for the front petals of the flower. The top, back-curving petals were worked in satin stitch in a very pale purple 870, on a base of chain stitch padding. Lastly, I added fine gold filament thread for the stamens of the flower. The leaves were stitched in rows of chain stitch, blending the colours sometimes, to shade each leaf from light to dark.


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Embroidery in progress: An Elizabethan Stumpwork Bride’s Bag – 2

I’m really enjoying making this. It’s actually coming on quicker than I expected, now. After my first weekend working on it, I’d done this much:

During the following week, I tried to spend at least an hour per evening on it, and I was surprised how much I got done. Six hours’ stitching later, it looked like this:

Stumpwork bride’s bag – first side nearly finished

My serious attempt at finishing the first side of the bag over the next weekend nearly worked , and I ALMOST got it finished – but I realised I was starting to go too fast to be doing it neatly, so I gave in just as I was attaching the gold cord around the heart shape, and have left it for a couple of days.

Stumpwork cornflower

The cornflower was my favourite flower to stitch on this side of the bag. The instructions said to do detached buttonhole filling stitch for each of the petals, and then do lifted up detached buttonhole stitch on top, for the outer half of each petal, to give a more 3-D effect. But I’ve decided that there’s far too much lifted up detached buttonhole stitch in this project, so I’m altering the pattern as I go. On this flower, I just omitted the second layer. I think it looks fine with just the one layer of stitching. I used three close shades of Anchor stranded cotton (going from light at the centre, to dark at the edges – Anchor 175, 176 and 177) to give more depth to the flower. The beads are what livens it up, anyway, and I think they look better attached to the base layer of buttonhole stitches than a ‘floating’ layer. They were first attached using invisible thread in a grey colour, and then the silver filament thread was stitched along the petals and through each bead (Mill Hill silver lined delicas), holding them in place more securely. I used a similar shade of blue bead, but in a frosted finish, for the centre of the flower. The calyx was worked in trellis couching.

Stumpwork strawberry

The strawberry, according to the instructions, should have been in plaited stitch over chain stitch couching, but again I changed it to be satin stitch couching, with size 15 gold beads stitched randomly over the area. The sepals are in Vandyke stitch, but I wasn’t too happy with how these came out. I had reduced the total size of the bag design by 10%, so that the finished embroidery would fit the bag handle that I’d bought, and I think this meant that working Vandyke stitch on such a small scale wasn’t likely to be as successful as the version in the book. Well, mine certainly wasn’t! I unpicked my first go and tried again, but I’m still not very happy with it.

Stumpwork cowslips

The cowslips came out better. I loved the yellow of these (Anchor stranded cotton 305). I never wear yellow, but I love stitching with it! The satin stitch flowers worked well, due to a split stitch outline worked first, to give a good edge to the satin stitches. And the single bronze-coloured bead centres set off the flowers well, too. The leaves were supposed to be in Vandyke stitch again, but I did them in close fly stitches, in a pale grey-green (Anchor stranded cotton 858).

The gold cord is something I’ve had in my stash for years, so I’ve no idea what brand it is, but it’s very flexible, and a lovely shade of gold, without being too ‘brassy’. The instructions said to do braid stitch, with three strands of fine gold thread, but that sounded nightmare-ish to do! The gold cord worked well once I’d got it through the fabric to start couching it down with gold sewing cotton – even with an awl, it was hard to get it through.

One more stitching session, and I should have the first side of the bag completed – then I can start on the ‘foxglove side’.


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