Finished embroidery: my birthday gift of a gorgeous Indian bag

I had a birthday recently, and one of my presents was this beautiful embroidered bag from India. The embroidery is hand stitched using various shades of metal embroidery threads and ‘purls’.  Lots of sequins and tiny glass beads have then been stitched on to fill the gaps between the main design motifs.

The front of the bag is embroidered all over with metal threads, sequins and beads

The thick stems of the plants are stitched using short lengths of purl (tubular pieces of very thin, tightly wound wire), which are stitched down using a variation of stem stitch.

A close-up of the embroidery

The bag measures six inches by eight, and is embroidered only on the front – the back and the interior is plain red silk, padded quite thickly, to balance the heavy embroidery on the front panel.

Isn’t it lovely?!

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Finished embroidery: a ‘knot garden’ pincushion

The pincushion is stitched in various embroidery stitches, and measures nearly five inches square

I made this pincushion recently, and it was one of the most enjoyable projects I have ever done. The design is by Robyn Rich of Victoria, Australia, and the design was featured in Issue 17 of the fantastic Australian embroidery magazine ‘Inspirations’. Issue 17 is from quite a way back, now – from 1998. The style of the magazine has changed a bit over the years, and this design is from their most ‘romantic’ period, which I really like. The website of the magazine’s publishers, Country Bumpkin, often has back issues still available, which are well worth buying. (When I first came across the magazine, I thought it was so wonderful that I paid over £40 in postage costs alone to have ALL of the available back issues posted to the UK from Australia – and it was worth every penny! I had a wonderful few weeks, reading through the magazines, and planning the projects that I’d like to make – enough for several lifetimes, probably 🙂  )

I didn’t adapt the design of the pincushion much, as it was so perfect as it was. I did use Anchor stranded cotton instead of DMC, as that is the brand of thread I use in the miniature needlepoint kits that I sell, so I always keep the whole Anchor range in stock, and it seemed daft to buy even more thread!

The fabric I used was a cream glazed cotton fabric, which I’d bought years ago in a  junk shop. It’s so closely woven, that when a needle is poked into the cushion, it always makes a satisfying ‘popping’ sound!

The instructions suggest first indicating the areas of dense stitching in the four corners by painting the fabric with green fabric paint, which I did. But this seemed to come out quite a harsh green, so I turned the fabric over and stitched on the other side, where the green paint showed much more faintly.

The pincushion seen from above

The text given in the magazine ‘suggested’ ideas for where each kind of stitch for each kind of plant could go, rather than giving precise placement instructions, so it was a very creative project to do – lots of choices to make. The stitches used gave a good impression of each type of plant. For instance, the delphiniums I stitched in columns of French knots, the central roses in close-lying bullion knot rounds, and the lavender bushes  in lazy daisy stitches, done in short rows.

The border was great fun to do. Just short lengths of French knots, in lots of colours, worked randomly. The ‘cushion’ part, when embroidered and made up, is stitched to the base at the very corners only – the base being a piece of thick mount board covered in fabric. Tiny flowers are stitched at the corners of the cushion to cover the joining stitches. The seam of the baseboard fabric is covered with two rows of open detached blanket stitch, in two colours. The way that the cushion and the base are joined means that there is a kind of  ‘slight gap’ in between the two, which the article suggested using to tuck packets of needles, etc., into, but I think I’d worry that they would get lost, so I don’t do that.

I keep meaning to use motifs from this pincushion to make matching scissor holder, needlebook and scissor keep, but then there’s this issue of time…..

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Finished embroidery – an unusual thimble holder

A thimble holder called a pipkin, about two inches long

This unusual item is called a pipkin. It’s made from three leaf-shaped pieces of fabric, gathered over cardboard formers and laced across the back, then backed with felt (cut a tiny bit smaller than the outer pieces). The three shapes are then stitched together using Palestrina knot stitch (a bit like an overcast stitch, but after each overcast stitch you then go back and loop the needle twice through the stitch you’ve just made, without piercing the fabric, and so making a line of  evenly spaced knots along the line of stitching – a very useful stitch to master!).

This shows how the pipkin opens

It opens by you squeezing the two ends, and so forcing the open side to gape, so that the thimble can be taken out. I don’t actually use a thimble when I’m stitching, but I just couldn’t resist making this, as it’s such a different kind of sewing accessory to own!

The cute hedgehog’s spines are worked in various shades of brown, randomly, until it just ‘looks right’! In front of the hedgehog is the most tiny bee, made from very small satin stitches worked in stripes of yellow and black, with wings in silver blending filament added last. The other two sides feature a silver spider’s web with a minute spider, and my initials.

Jane Nicholas’ Stumpwork Embroidery

The design is from Jane Nicholas’ wonderful book  ‘Stumpwork Embroidery – Designs and Projects’, published in 1998 by Sally Milner Publishing.

In the book, there are co-ordinating sewing accessories to make – a needlebook with a squirrel on it, a scissors scabbard, and a pinwheel, along with a drawstring bag to keep them all in.

Although this style of embroidery is very different from the doll’s house needlepoint  that I sell as kits, I really enjoy the change of technique that’s needed to make this kind of item.

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Finished embroidery – a stumpwork embroidery ‘petal bag’

A stumpwork embroidery 'petal bag'
A stumpwork embroidery ‘petal bag’

This is the first of a ‘Gallery’ of images I’m going to put up on my blog, to show some of the embroidery and beadwork I’ve finished over the years.

This petal bag is a lovely project that I completed a few years ago, and it’s been my favourite ever since. I love making embroidered bags.

All the embroidery that I make to sell as kits is miniature embroidery for doll’s houses (see my website Janet Granger Designs for details) – so, when I’m doing embroidery ‘for fun’, I like to do ‘full size’ items, for a change.

This lovely bag isn’t designed by me, but comes from a gorgeous book published in New Zealand by Georgeson Publishing Limited (unfortunately, no longer in print). The book is called ‘Elizabethan Needlework Accessories’ by Sheila Marshall. If you ever see a second-hand copy available, GET IT!! {Edit 2014: it’s now back in print!}

My version of the bag took me two months of  ‘spare time’ in the evenings, but it was a very interesting project to work on, and the embroidery so varied that it didn’t become a chore to stitch. Each of the five panels feature a different flower, with a goldwork couched border. When the bag is opened, by releasing the drawstring, the ‘petals’ fall flat, revealing pockets on the inner side of each petal, embroidered with five smaller flower motifs. The drawstring bag is lined with gold satin, to resemble a flower centre, and opens with two more drawstring cords. The bag measures about seven inches diameter. I made the tassel from a large ceramic bead, covered with toning embroidery silks left over from the embroidery itself. Then I worked Single Brussels Stitch ( similar to a buttonhole stitch worked in rows) to cover the bead completely.

The petal bag when open, showing the embroidered inner pockets
The petal bag when open, showing the embroidered inner pockets

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