Book review: Stumpwork and goldwork embroidery by Jane Nicholas

This book by Jane Nicholas, “Stumpwork and Goldwork Embroidery” is not new (it was published in 2010 in Australia), but it’s a fantastic book, and one of my favourites, so I thought I’d review it.

My copy is a high quality hardback, with 272 page, A4 size. If you’re familiar with the embroidery of Jane Nicholas, you’ll already know that any book of hers is produced to a really high standard, and the embroidery featured will be gorgeous! This book is no exception.

Jane has taken her inspiration from Turkish, Syrian and Persian tiles, and created some wonderful embroidery projects using both goldwork and stumpwork embroidery together – it’s a combination that I particularly like.

S & G 1

The book has 16 different projects in it, from simple little roundels and box lids, to more complex designs for experienced stitchers. As usual with Jane’s books, the instructions are very detailed, and the photos are to die for – really close-up images that show you exactly what you can make for yourself, when you follow Jane’s instructions.

Each project lists the materials needed, fabric needed, a pattern to trace off, shapes for any stumpwork elements, and then the instructions.

Finishing instructions are given in a separate section at the back of the book.

S & G 2

The final chapter of the book covers techniques used, the equipment you’ll need, and a stitch glossary. Although you’d probably need a bit of stitching experience already to get the most out of this book, the instructions are so good that if you are a confident beginner and are prepared to read through everything first, I think you’d be OK doing most of the projects in here. You’ll certainly be tempted!!

Although there are lists of materials needed for each project described, there are details at the back of the book of how to purchase kits for the projects as well, as Jane sells these from her own website. You’ll still need the book to work from, for the detailed instructions.

S & G 3

This project below is one that I’ve had my eye on ever since I bought this book when it first came out (OK, I know that was several years ago now, but a girl has to have a list of projects waiting to be done!). I’d probably make it as a box lid rather than a box insert, as it seems a waste to me to have all that embroidery INSIDE a box! But isn’t it lovely?

S & G 4

Jane has a very distinctive embroidery design style – it’s incredibly neat, and I’ve read that she is constantly unpicking stitches to make them perfect (wish I had that attitude!). These projects will appeal to you if you enjoy neatness. These are not the kind of ‘creative embroidery’ where you do your own thing very much. But if you want to make something that looks just like Jane’s version, you can’t go wrong with this book, as the instructions are so clear and detailed.

Usually, when I review books, there are one or two things that I mention as being ‘less good’ than the rest, but to be honest, with this book, there isn’t anything! Possibly the price is a little high, but then it’s a good quality book, and second hand copies are usually available on Amazon for around half the price of new copies if cost is an issue for you.

Jane has published about ten embroidery books so far, and they are all brilliant. Search online for her other books if this style of embroidery appeals to you 🙂

Title: Stumpwork and goldwork embroidery inspired by Turkish, Syrian and Persian tiles

Author: Jane Nicholas

Publisher: Sally Milner Publishing

978 1  86351 409 5

Price: 22.00 GBP


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The Lord’s Prayer – an Aramaic transliteration in surface embroidery: 9 – the finished panel

This, then, is the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer panel, now that it is completed. For those of you who like to know these things, I estimate that it took about a week (on and off) to design it, 45 hours to stitch all the blue lettering, and about 120 hours altogether to make this panel. The frame measures 16 inches by 20. I decided not to use the glass that came with the frame, so that the beads, gold braid and padded areas wouldn’t get crushed. A layer of two ounce wadding beneath the stitching gave the embroidery a nice ‘slightly padded’ look, when it was mounted.

This is the completed picture, displayed with the book ‘Prayers of the Cosmos’, which was written by my Sufi teacher, Neil Douglas-Klotz (the panel was made as a gift for him). This is the book which explains the translation from the Aramaic language of the Lord’s Prayer:


Here are some detailed photos that my husband took, when the piece was finished – his camera can take much more detailed images than mine can!














Finally, I gave the piece, as I explained at the beginning of this series of posts, as a gift to my Sufi teacher, Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz. My husband very kindly offered to ‘take a few photos’ – he actually sneakily took *video* – here’s a few stills from the video so you can see how it turned out:

Abwoon58 - Saadi14

Abwoon60 - Saadi1831

Abwoon61 - Saadi53

I really enjoyed making this!

If you’d like to find out more about Neil Douglas-Klotz’s work on the translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the original Aramaic, he has a website at , where information about all his books, audio courses, music and other information about his work as an independent Biblical scholar can be found. There is also a page where you can learn to speak the Prayer of Jesus in Aramaic, line by line  here.

Here is a video of him speaking/praying the Aramaic Prayer of Jesus:

And this is another one of him teaching the first line of the Aramaic Prayer as a Dance of Universal Peace, which he created 30 years ago. The video was recorded in the USA in 2012:

There are many more videos like this on Neil’s website.


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The Lord’s Prayer – an Aramaic transliteration in surface embroidery: 8 – ‘Ameyn’ embroidered area, bottom edge border, and mounting the panel

This is the original design I chose from the ‘World of Ornament’ book to run along the bottom edge of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer panel. It is Moorish-inspired. I wanted a repeating pattern that wouldn’t be too difficult to render in embroidery, but which would give the look of a wide solid line to the base of the panel when viewed from a distance, to ‘ground’ the whole piece.


I knew I would have to eliminate quite a lot of the detail, in order to stitch the design. Those little white dots would have to go, for a start! I worked out a repeating pattern for the colours I wanted to use, and stitched the basic lotus-shaped areas first. Then I edged the circles with Coats Ophir thread, in one continuous line from left to right going over and under the shapes, then back the other way from right to left, completing them.


The original design had quite a ‘coloured in’ background,and I wanted to give the effect of this without doing some really dense stitching such as long and short stitch, for instance. So, I stitched a line of buttonhole stitches along the top edge in Thread Gatherer Silk ‘n’ Colors 1027 Leprechaun, altering the length of each stitch to fill the gaps between the circles. Along the bottom edge, I attached clusters of three red beads. A size 11 gold sead bead finished off each of the lotus flowers.


The final word to decorate on the panel was the word ‘Ameyn’ – in English that’s what we know as ‘Amen’. The word ‘Amen’ is often understood as just a kind of ‘the end’ word, when people say prayers in English, but in Aramaic, the word has whole layers of meaning! One of these meanings, which I really like, is, “May this be the ground from which our new growth will spring.” It has a very organic feel to it. I chose this border pattern as my starting point for this part of the panel:


As you can see, it doesn’t have many colours to it, but I wanted the colour selection for the embroidery to blend in with the other borders in the panel – so, it would have red and blue flowers, along with gold highlights, like the other borders.


I found some sweet little spacer beads in my beading stash ( I do beading, too – maybe one day I’ll show you…), and I felt that these would make very nice ‘flower centres’. I attached the spacer beads with Guterman thread, then stitched individual fly stitches around each of the five sides of each bead, with one strand of light blue Anchor thread. The rest of the leaves and flowers were made from lazy daisy stitches and fly stitches. The stem was one strand of 352 Dark brown Anchor stranded thread, highlighted with couched Coats Ophir thread alongside, as in the other borders. Couched Kreinik braid #16 around the edge completed the area.


For the final outline around the whole panel, I had various options. I had considered quite complicated bands of couched gold, red and blue, for example. or heavy stretched pearl purl intertwined with red thread (to echo the band across the centre of the panel). Or even appliqued red kid pieces at the corners, with complicated linking bands of various stitches in between. But when I looked at the almost-finished panel, I felt that it was quite busy enough, and only required a simple finish. Also, the idea of chain stitch appealed to me, as it was a simple ‘link’ around all of the words, expressing the idea that the whole Prayer can provide a link between our everyday lives and the sacred.


So, eventually the outer border was stitched with four strands of Anchor stranded thread 152 Navy, in chain stitch.

Then came the bit I don’t like doing….I had to finish it all off. I usually rush the finishing part of any project, as I don’t have the patience to slow down and do it all properly, but it was important to me to get this right, as it’s a present for my Sufi teacher. I cut the fabric from the frame, and debated with myself whether or not to risk ironing it from the reverse side. I decided against it, as the gold thread and the beads might not have liked that!

I trimmed the muslin backing fabric and the yellow silk down until they were both about three inches wider on each side than the backing board itself. I cut the backing board slightly smaller than it was when I bought it as an insert in a frame, as I wanted the double layer of fabric, once mounted on the board, to not pucker up when I put it into the frame, but to sit quite loosely. I discarded the glass that had come with the frame, as I don’t like embroidery to be squashed behind glass. It makes the embroidery lose its tactile quality.

Before lacing the stitching to the board, I cut a piece of two ounce wadding, half an inch smaller all round than the mount board, and fixed it in place with strips of double-sided tape, so that the finished stitching would be slightly padded in the frame.

To lace the fabric to the board I used Coats perle no 12 thread, as it is very strong. I laced the fabric (both layers at once) top to bottom first, making stitches every half inch or so, and only gently pulling the thread as I went. Then I went back over the lacing, pulling really tight after making all the stitches, and holding the lacing down with my thumb after each tug, to keep the perle thread tight until the very last stitch, when I could fasten off really securely.


Then I repeated the procedure going from side to side across the panel.


Almost done!!


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The Lord’s Prayer – an Aramaic transliteration in surface embroidery: 7 – ‘Lead us not into temptation’ and ‘Thy will be done’ lines

This is how I dealt with the central area of the Lord’s Prayer panel. Three of the lines from the middle of the  panel needed visually separating, so that it was easier to read. The space was only narrow, and I considered various embroidered treatments, such as lines of couched beads, bead-and-sequin combinations, and so on. But in the end I decided to keep it simple.

I’ve had some lovely goldwork threads in my stash for years, always hanging on to them ready for that ‘special project’. Well, this was such a project. For the first separation line, I used a piece of pearl purl gold wire from Golden Hinde (a really good UK goldwork online supplier). I cut a piece of wire half the length of the line I wanted to cover, and then gently pulled the wire from both ends, stretching the coils so that they ended up being a wavy line of wire rather than a stiff coil that looked more like a line of gold beads. I trimmed the length to exactly the size I needed. Then I took a six-strand length of Anchor 1006 Red and wound it carefully into the ‘dips’ in the gold wire, making the wire now have a striped appearance. I left about six inches of thread at each end, to allow for attaching securely to the back of the fabric. I attached both ends quite tightly, and then used one strand of the 1006 Red to couch every third coil down, stitching at an angle so that the couching stitches didn’t show.


For the next separation line I used a piece of milliary wire, which is a twisted wire with an added edge of little triangular trim, which is really pretty. I couched this down with Guterman thread, with the triangles facing downwards.


I wanted the ‘Wela tahlan’ area to have a very  ‘light’ touch, as far as the decoration was concerned. This is the line that is usually translated ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’, but a translation from the Aramaic would be something along the lines of ‘Don’t let us enter forgetfulness; the temptation of false appearances’, or ‘Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back’. I wanted to give the impression, through the embroidery, that simple presence is what is needed to not ‘forget’ the sacred in everyday life. So, I decided to just put tiny decorative elements in the top corners of the box – lazy daisy stitches in Coats Ophir thread, with a single fly stitch underneath, with one bright red bead as a highlight, in each corner. That’s how simple it gets!


“Nehwey sebyanach aykanna d’bwashmaya aph b’arha” is usually written in the English version as ‘Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven”. Interpretations from the Aramaic are:

Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms.

Create in me a divine co-operation – from many selves, one voice, one action.

As we find your love in ours, let heaven and nature form a new creation.


I used this Moorish border design for the inspiration for this part of the panel. I liked the regularity of it, and the way it seemed to suggest two distinct parts – the circles, and the leaves (the ‘heaven’ and the ‘earth’).


I interpreted the border by stitching wound thread roses for the circles, and lazy daisy stitch flowers in shades of blue (they were meant to be leaves, but I like using blue more than green!). The stems are one strand of Anchor stranded 352 Chestnut brown worked in stem stitch, highlighted with a single line of Coats Ophir gold, couched down with Guterman thread. I was contemplating adding a busy French knot background to make the whole section look more blue, but decided when I got this far that it looked ‘finished’, so I just edged it with Kreinik #16 braid.


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