Monthly Archives: April 2013

I got my wallhanging back…for a while!

In 2010, I wrote on this blog about a large wallhanging with a Zen Buddhist saying on it which I’d stitched for a Unitarian Chapel that I used to attend – the blog post is here . In that post, I explained in detail how it had taken almost a year to make.

The wallhanging measures about three feet by four, and is stitched on linen with Appleton's crewel wool for the floral areas, and Anchor stranded cotton for the lettering

The wallhanging measures about three feet by four, and is stitched on linen with Appleton’s crewel wool for the floral areas, and Anchor stranded cotton for the lettering

Even when I wrote the original blog post, I had already stopped being Unitarian, and my dilemma at that time was that the Chapel still had the wallhanging. Recently, though, I heard that the Chapel is probably due to close, as there is now no regular Minister and the congregation has dropped to just one person! And he’s 82 years old. So, I contacted ‘the congregation’ and asked him if it would be possible for me to have the wallhanging back. I really didn’t like the idea of the wallhanging languishing in a damp building for ages, not being seen at all. Surely, I’d be able to find somewhere better for it?

Each letter was outlined in back stitch, padded with stem stitch, then satin stitched across the stem stitch padding

Each letter was outlined in back stitch, padded with stem stitch, then satin stitched across the stem stitch padding

Hanging 2a

I got it back within days, fortunately. It did seem strange to have it back in my possession, when I’d never thought I would have it (or, possibly, not even see it again). So, then I had the issue of deciding what to do with it. I certainly didn’t want to just roll it up and store it in my loft, as that was as daft as leaving it in a building that no-one uses any more. I tried placing it against the wall of my living room, to see if it would work to hang it there, but it just looked completely out of place – it’s very big (about three feet by four), and was made for a public space – it just looked silly in a living room!

For the flowers, I used stitches such as French knots, coral stitch, buttonhole stitch, stem stitch, seeding, satin stitch and trellis couching

For the flowers, I used stitches such as French knots, coral stitch, buttonhole stitch, stem stitch, seeding, satin stitch and trellis couching

Then I remembered a couple of friends, who are Universal Sufi, the same as me and my husband. They have a large house in Germany, which they run as a khankah (a Sufi house where people come to study, and to dance). They have large ‘public rooms’ that I thought might be suitable. So, I emailed them and asked if they’d like it, but also made it clear that if they thought it wouldn’t be suitable, then I wouldn’t be offended – I didn’t want them to have to take it under sufferance! But they said,’Wow!’ when they saw the pictures I emailed them, and so, a few weeks ago, I delivered the wallhanging to them. It now has a new home in a place where it will be really appreciated, and the spiritual phrase on the wallhanging will hopefully inspire lots of people. It might even tempt someone to start embroidery – you never know!

Hanging - 5

Each letter took about an hour to stitch

Each letter took about an hour to stitch

Hanging - 7

Hanging - 8

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Illuminated Floral Stumpwork Panel – 3

After working the leaves in stem stitch filling, I’ve been padding the sepals and buds of the pinks on the gold diamond next on this Illuminated Floral panel by Alison Cole

Floral5

First, two layers of felt (a tiny one, then a larger one) are tacked on, then satin stitch is worked across the sepal or bud, then another layer lengthwise. The next part will be to work very fine gold thread in a trellis pattern diagonally across the padded parts.

From this sideways-on view, you can see how raided these buds and sepals are – the two layers of padding really work well to give interest. Unfortunately, I’ve found that taking photos of black silky fabric is not something that my camera likes to do, so you’ll have to take my word for it that the colours are much brighter than they look!

Floral6

Illuminated Floral Stumpwork Panel – 2

The first step in stitching this Illuminated Floral design by Alison Cole is to transfer the pattern to the delustered satin. Alison recommends using dressmaker’s carbon, but I prefer to make a tracing of the main design lines onto dressmakers pattern tissue, and then tack through the paper onto the fabric. It’s much more time-consuming, but then there’s no risk of smudges getting onto the fabric from the carbon, and the tacking stitches can be unpicked as I stitch the embroidery if necessary, leaving ‘clean’ fabric behind.  The only problem I had with this stage was that the gold diamond wasn’t quite as neatly drawn onto the fabric as the pattern outline given in the instructions, so it was difficult to line the two up. 

Tacking through the tracing paper to transfer the design

Tacking through the tracing paper to transfer the design

The gold diamond is *painted on*, with fabric paint – I had assumed, when I bought the kit, that it would be a separate piece of fabric, and would need to be appliqued on.

Floral3

This is the fabric after all the tacking had been done. I used a beige/gold polyester cotton for the tacking, which showed up well on the black, but was almost invisible on the gold part – I didn’t really notice this until I tore off the tisse at the end of the tacking. That may cause me problems later, if I can’t quite see where I’m meant to be stitching! I have noticed already that getting the needle to go through the gold paint is a pain – the paint fills all the fabric holes, and makes the fabric really stiff. And I’ve got to do closely-placed satin stitches on this part! Oh dear….

Floral4

The first stage of the actual embroidery is to couch gold thread around the border, and the edge of the gold diamond. This couching round the diamond helped to even out the wobbly edges of the paint somewhat, so it’s all looking a bit neater now, and I’m pleased with it. The stems of the flowers are chain stitched in Cascade House silk, whipped with gold thread. My whipped stitches aren’t nearly as neat as the ones on the kitfront photo, but I found the gold painted fabric a nuisance to stitch through at all, and to get the stitches neater I would have had to do much smaller chain stitches – and, therefore, many more ‘pushings’ though the fabric with the needle. I tried various other sizes of needle than the ones supplied with the kit, but nothing really helped. I’ve now got a hole in my finger 😦

Illuminated Floral Stumpwork Panel – 1

This is my new project – I’ve decided to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Having done the ‘quick but a bit too simple’ pincushion doll, I’ve chosen to make this five inch square stumpwork panel, which will be fitted into a black satin box that I’ve had for ages, but not known quite what to do with. This will be a perfect piece of stitching for it. 

These are the contents of the Illuminated Floral stumpwork panel kit, by Alison Cole

These are the contents of the Illuminated Floral stumpwork panel kit, by Alison Cole

The design is by Alison Cole, who is from Australia. As stumpwork goes, this is a small-scale design, with some very weeny sections in it – in fact, on her website, Alison describes this project as ‘The Miniature for Masochists with a Magnifier’!  To me, that simply sounds like a challenge I can’t ignore!

Alison’s website is lovely, and well worth a visit. I’ve not made any of her kits before, and I’m very impressed by this one so far.  The materials are all high quality. The fabric for this project is black delustered stain, which I will back with a piece of fine cotton, to prevent  puckering of the stitches, as this piece is quite densely stitched. The threads supplied are Cascade House overdyed threads. I was a bit bemused to find that whole skeins of each shade used are put in the kit, as this is only a small design, and some colours are only used in tiny amounts. Still, my stash can always take a little more! The goldwork threads included in the kit are really nice ones, such as 2 ply Elizabethan Twist, Bright Check Purl, etc. – in generous quantities, too. All the sizes of needle that I will need are included, from a fine beading needle up to a large 18 chenille needle, to be used more like an awl, to make holes so that the wired elements can be attached securely on the back. Felt to pad the raised pieces, and gold kid leather for some of the petals, along with wires for the detached elements, are included too. A selection of tiny beads and sequins, along with Gutermann thread for couching down the gold thread completes the materials.

All I need is a bit of time to get started…..