Sufi ‘Heart and Wings’ motif embroidered on a box lid

This is another of the Sufi-inspired designs I have been stitching during the past winter. I made this one as a gift for a friend, as he was going to take his Sufi Initiation, and I wanted to make him a present.

The design is the emblem of the Sufi Ruhaniat International spiritual movement that I belong to. The emblem signifies the idea that when the heart is responsive to the Divine Spark, it becomes enlightened.

The box is black satin, and I bought it from Viking Loom of York. It measures about 3 1/2 inches by 2 by 2 high. The fabric I stitched on is black silk Dupion (from my stash – can’t remember where I got that from!). The red kid leather heart ‘fabric’ I bought from Golden Hinde, a really good online goldwork supplier, who sell lots of colours of fine kid leather, in small pieces. I padded the heart shape first with a smaller heart cut from felt, then stab stitched the kid leather in place over the top.

To start with, I traced the design onto tissue paper and transferred it to the fabric using sewing thread in a gold colour, then ripped off the tissue, leaving the design in running stitches clearly showing. I unpicked the sewing thread as I did the goldwork – any tufts of thread that I omitted to get out didn’t show, as the yellow almost matched the gold thread colour  🙂

The wings are stitched in chain stitches, with the outer row having the addition of a straight stitch added to the centre space after the whole row has been completed. It took a while to get both left and right sides to have equal numbers of ‘feathers’, but I’ve made lots of these boxes now, and it does get easier with practice!

The finished stitching was laced onto the padded card former that comes with the box, and then the stitching was glued into the lid with PVA glue.

I’ll post more examples of this design later, as using different colourways makes a lot of difference to the impact of this design – but this is one of the boldest!

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Embroidery in progress: An Elizabethan Stumpwork Bride’s Bag – 1

Recently, I had rather an ‘aha!’ moment.  I realised that I had become so busy in the past few months, that I haven’t been making time for my embroidery. That sounds daft, as I design and sell embroidery kits for a living (see my website here) – but embroidering things for myself is completely different from embroidering things for my business. For one thing, the business sells embroidery kits in one twelfth scale (one inch to one foot) for adult collectors’ doll’s houses – so, everything is teeny, and everything is in needlepoint. Despite the fact that I love designing and making these small things, I do like other styles of embroidery too, and bigger scales, as well.  When I get the time to make things for me, I really like to do stumpwork. Occasionally I’ll do cross stitch, but it’s stumpwork that draws me, ever since I came across the work of Jane Nicholas.

So, I’ve decided that this year I will definitely make the time to do more embroidery, and not keep putting it off  ‘because I’m too busy’.  I want to be busy doing stitching, this year!

I’ve decided that my first project will be an Elizabethan stumpwork ‘bride’s bag’, which I’ve been intending to make ever since I saw it featured in the book ‘Festive Elizabethan Creations’ by Shirley Holdaway. It’s published by Georgeson Publishing Ltd, from New Zealand. I’ve had the book more than ten years, with a Post-It note sticking out of the page where the instructions start for this bag!

This shows all the threads collected together, around the book that I got the design from – it’s the bag on the left that I’m making. On the right is a Juliet cap.

Last weekend, I finally got going on making it. I spent a long morning collecting together all the threads that I’d need, which was very enjoyable. This project uses a surprising amount of different colours.  I chose to work the bag using the Anchor stranded cotton thread colours suggested in the book, although the book’s stitched model was done using DMC. I realised, once I started stitching, that the Anchor colours are sometimes very different from the DMC ones, but it’s still coming out pretty.

The list of all the Anchor stranded cottons I’ll need for this project

I made a ‘master list’ first, and was amazed how many colours I’d need – fortunately, because I use Anchor stranded cotton for the kits that I sell, I have a full set anyway, otherwise it would have been quite pricey to buy everything in – and for some shades, only a tiny length is needed, too. I thought that, with so many colours, I should collect up the skeins for each area of the bag’s design and store them together, so I’ve labelled them up depending on the flower name, such as ‘rose’, bluebell’, etc., which really helped once I got going on the stitching.

The design, partly traced onto the damask fabric

I chose a cream damask fabric, and traced the design with a sharp pencil, using a light box. Normally, I prefer to make a tracing and transfer the design by stitching through the tracing with sewing cotton and then ripping off the tracing paper, unpicking the cotton as I embroider, but I felt this design was too ‘busy’ for that method. The pencil marks don’t seem to be smudging much (yet!). I bought a purse handle  a few weeks back from Handbag Hardware (very efficient, cheap, with a large range and sensible shipping charges!). I still needed to adapt the embroidery design slightly to fit the slope of the sides of my bag handles, but nothing serious.

The bag design, traced and ready to start, in a seven inch Susan Bates hoop

The instructions in the book are very clear and detailed, but my only gripe is that each flower is described at the beginning of the book, with the projects listed at the end, so it means constantly flipping through the book to find the page you need.

In the bag’s description, Shirley Holdaway explains that once she got the idea for the bag, she sat and stitched all of it in three days flat. She’s either an insomniac, or a robot, or something! I stitched for Saturday evening and most of Sunday, and I got this much done:

This took most of the weekend to stitch!

Still, speed isn’t the most important thing, so it doesn’t matter if it takes ages 🙂

I really enjoyed making the rose in the top left hand corner of the bag. It’s stitched using Detached Buttonhole Stitch and Punto in Aria, and the instructions are given clearly at the beginning of the book. I wondered if the two petals that are made separately (the ‘punto in aria’ bit) and then attached last would actually be possible to make, but they came out really well. It’s like the wired technique for petals, leaves and insect wings that Jane Nicholas uses, only with thread for the outline rather than thin wire, so the finished shape is soft rather than with stiff edges. Tiny yellow beads are attached last around the centre area, to add interest.

Stumpwork rose, stitched with Detached Buttonhole Stitch and Punto in Aria

I have found that, already, I’m changing the design a little as I go – for instance, I don’t enjoy doing ladder stitch for the stems, so I’ve altered that part to be chain stitch.

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Artisans in Miniature magazine (the free online miniatures ezine) reaches its 40th issue!

The 40th issue of the Artisans in Miniature magazine has just been launched, and it’s wonderful! 80-ish pages of articles about the history of the magazine, various miniature scales, miniatures on a ‘ruby’ theme, doll’s house food and lots more, feature in this month’s issue.

And it’s FREE!!

Visit the AIM site to have a look at the ezine.

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