Finished embroidery – my Shlama bag is finally completed!

The finished Shlama bag

This has taken me almost a year of so-called ‘spare time’ to complete, but I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s a drawstring bag to keep my MP3 player in, and measures 7 inches high by 4.5 inches wide, not including the fringe. I did a previous entry here about the progress of the stitching, when I was about half way through. ‘Shlama’ is Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) for ‘peace’ – it is the word that is embroidered across the lower part of the front panel, and is read from right to left.

Detail of the stitching

The stitches used include chain stitch, split stitch, long and short stitch, fly stitch and french knots. The gold Kreinik braid is couched down with silk thread. I added a few blue and gold seed beads and sequins, too.

I couldn’t quite decide how I wanted to finish off the assembly of the bag, which is why it sat in the hoop on my tapestry frame for far too long! Eventually, I just had to get on with it, as I was fed up with seeing it sitting there, very flat and not at all bag-like.

The front and back panels stitched along the bottom seam only

So, the first thing I did was cut out the front embroidered panel, and make a plain back panel the same size (lined with batiste, like the front, so that the weight would be the same). Then I stitched the bottom seam of the bag by machine, and pressed the seam open, grading the seam allowances.

Guidelines for the fringing, marked in pencil along the seam allowance

Next, I marked guidelines in pencil, to show exactly where the fringe needed to be stitched on.

Making the fringe, with saucers to hold each type of bead

I made each fringe length separately, attaching it to the seam allowance exactly through the bottom seam.

Detail of the fringe

I more or less made up the fringe pattern as I went – the pattern of gold/blue/gold/red etc. stayed the same but I just added a few gold beads each time to the beginning of the fringe length to make the  bottom edge shape graded.

The bag with the side seams stitched

Then I stitched the side seams – the first two inches of each side I stitched by hand, in case the fringing might get caught in the seam, but after that I finished it by machine.

The beaded loops for the drawstrings

I marked three points on the front and three on the back, an inch down from where the top edge was going to be, and stitched on two short lengths of seed beads at each of the three points, to make carrier loops for the drawstrings. Doing it at this point meant that no untidy stitching would show on the inside.

The scarlet silk lining, slip-stitched in place

Then, I put the lining in the bag, turned down the top edges, and slip-stitched them together. The lining was made from a small piece of scarlet shot silk which I’ve been hoarding for about 15 years for just such a purpose!

The plaited drawstring, and beaded tassel

The drawstrings were made from three lengths of Anchor thread, plaited together and then knotted to stop the ends from unravelling. The tassels were made by wrapping the same three shades around a piece of cardboard and then cutting the pieces all the same length, to make a bundle of two-inch pieces that I tied to the knotted plait ends, spreading them evenly around the plaits and folding them in half before tying them off again to finish the tassel, so that each completed tassel is about an inch long. The tying-off thread was then hidden by stitching a ring of gold beads around the head of the tassel.

With three layers of fabric on each side, the finished bag feels almost quilted, which is the effect I wanted – I need it to give a little protection to the MP3 player that I keep in it. I had originally intended the bag to have an inner pocket of some sort, to hold notes on the meditation tracks that I listen to on the player, but as I was putting it together, I realised that if I drew up the ties, then anything paper placed inside would get crumpled unless it was very small, so I abandoned that idea. I’m planning to make some kind of embroidered envelope folder, now, just for the meditation notes – any excuse to embroider something else!

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A book review of ‘A Perfect World in Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork’ by Di van Niekerk

I got the book ‘A Perfect World in Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork’  for Christmas, and it’s wonderful!

Di van Niekerk is from Cape Town, South Africa, and her designs are gorgeous. She has a real flair for realistically representing flowers and animals from her native country, using interesting materials. The book shows in great detail how to make this panel, one ‘diamond’ at a time.

Learn how to make this stunning panel with Di van Niekerk’s book

The panel uses many shades of hand-dyed silk ribbon,  which can be bought from Di by mail order (see the stockists page  on Di’s website for details of a stockist in your country), or you could of course use any brand of ribbon instead. The panel also requires Chameleon or Rajmahal silk thread, but any stranded cotton or silk thread could successfully be substituted. The design can be transferred onto fabric by enlarging a line drawing from the back of the book and tracing it on, or a printed colour version on cotton fabric can be bought (this is what I’d prefer to do). The design is then stitched over, using stumpwork and ribbon embroidery stitches, to make the most amazing ‘sampler’ style picture. It’s a very beautiful and original design.

The ‘Cosmos and pennywort’ panel

Instructions are given for each panel in separate chapters, so you could make just one ‘diamond’  if you want to (the fabric design ‘diamonds’ can be bought individually, for this option, if you prefer).

The photos in the book are very clear and detailed, and everything is explained really well. Good finishing instructions are also given (many books often fall down on this).

If you’re tempted to have a go at this lovely sampler, and want to create something really great, then the book can be bought through my newly-opened online bookstore, where I sell only the kind of embroidery, doll’s house and spiritual books that I would like to (or already do!) own.

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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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