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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

30 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - Spirals

As I've been couching, I've been revising some of the spiral shapes.

I originally had to draw the design in pen, freehand - because of the nubbiness of the background material. I wish I'd known about the "drawing the design on tissue paper, stitching through, then tearing away the paper" method then. I tried everything else I knew.

Anyway, as I've looked at more Elizabethan work over time I decided that I needed to do a few adjustments and re-did much of the couching I'd done the day before.

It does mean that there are a few pen marks showing, but I was reading somewhere recently (and I wish I remember where) that this was quite acceptable historically. And there are a couple of avante-garde spirals in there that cross each other. It's a fix-it job.

I re-did the leaf in the middle in plain dark olive green satin stitch. It had been multi-coloured and it just wasn't working. There was too much colour going on, what with the carnations right next to it.

I am only going to use 2 threads of the DMC around the edges, not 3 like I did with the other thread on the frontspiece, because it's thicker. I've just laid them down - I haven't started couching yet.
I'm awfully awfully close to the edge - I only had a scrap of the brocade left to work with. Playing danger mouse! The couching will re-place the thread slightly, and squish them together, so it won't end up sitting on top of the elements on the side as it is currently. The thread isn't secured at the end yet - it's just pierced through the material at the corners.
I hope doing three sides at once doesn't end up being a bad idea. I should start at the bottom corner, so I don't end up with thread with loose tension 'backing up'.

I've been experimenting with using 1, 3 or all 6 strands of the thread as I've outlined various elements. The outline of the beaded strawberry is hard to see in the scan - but I think if I made it's outlining thread any thicker, it'll dominate the piece.

Traditionally a mellor (metal tool) was used to shape and manipulate the gold thread, because it tarnished from sweat. Since this is imitation gold, I can use my fingernails, and found I have found it necessary to do some shaping, helping the thread go around corners and edges.

I think the prettiest part is the lower right with the 'lily' (that's what I call it), the two small leaves and the beaded strawberry.

After finishing with the gold, I need to spangle, and then go back to finish the gold on the front piece. Then make the actual base book cover in black satin velvet. I am surely weary of struggling with the gold thread atm!

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28 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - Strawberries Finished, and Couching, couching, couching

Top left strawberry : Laid and couched. I really like this technique - it's textured, but subtle.
I had to do a bit of thinking to see how close to lay the top threads.

Top right : This has a trellis on it. So - the two strawberries do look very different. The tension on the couching isn't quite right - the lines of the trellis look a bit loose.
Long and Short stitch underneath, in two reds. You can see a bit of a highlight in the top right corner.

Bottom : Detached buttonhole - first attempt. I found this one heck of a lot easier than the trellis stitch. (I'm not going mad, am I? You lay a trellis, but you also do trellis stitch, and they are totally different).
Finding it easier, of course I like it a lot more.

I haven't done sepals for them. I want to do woven picots, but doing such small woven picots might be a bit of a stretch. I'll have to experiment. I didn't want to leave gaps for the sepals at the top of these strawberries when it was my first time dealing with laid & couched, a trellis and detached buttonhole, and I didn't want to deal with shapes even more non-rectangular than the strawberry shape itself in laying the couching and adding/dropped stitches.

I'll probably end up doing chain stitch sepals, like I did for the trellis stitch strawberry.

The uneven French knots are gone - I'm thinking about not putting French knots on these 3 at all, to show off the textures of the strawberries.

The Light Effects Stranded gold DMC finally arrived a couple of days ago. I found that it didn't match what I'd used on the front cover - which was a mysterious thread in a tangle that had lived there for years - but oh well. I can't go out to match threads.

I have one heck of a lot of couching to do around the outsides of the elements (one on the front cover too, as well as some edging).

The couching really brings out the carnations, and that one has light edges and the other dark.

I'm kind of at a point where design mistakes are really annoying me. The design isn't traditionally Elizabethan - but I'm just beginning, and also I'm dealing with small areas of a square (the front) and the long rectangle (the back flap). To get proper spirals in, I'd have to do awfully small elements hanging off them, or do partial spirals or something.

But it is my first piece, apart from that sampler I did where I was learning satin stitch.

I have an awful lot of couching to do *grin*. All around the edges 3 times as well as the elements!

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24 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - Laid and Couched Technique

Paula mentioned "laid stitch - (like satin stitch but the thread does not travel across the back of the work)- a crewel embroidery technique."

and I have confused this with "Laid and Couched Technique" which was used in the Bayeux Tapestry and described at

and in detail

(under the name Refilsaum) in a paper by Racaire of Drachenwald at

I'm using Laid and Couched to get the effect - next to the strawberry with the trellis on top of it, I want to see how different they look

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23 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - Trellis Stitch and the Latest Strawberries

I've updated my last entry (A Collection of Strawberries) to update with the stitch suggestions from Paula and Celeste, and a bit more thought about the strawberries.

This is my second attempt at a trellis stitch strawberry.

The tension is just all over the place, as you can see.

I read the instructions provided by The Embroiderer's Story, (ThistleThreads), and after this attempt, the instructions in the back of Jane Nichol's Stumpwork book and made a better attempt.

Jane Nichols suggested that silk was best, and I think she is right. The top looked a bit furry by the time I was finished.

I'd been a bit chicken of learning trellis stitch, but it didn't turn out to be too hard. I don't know if I've gotten the tension correct. The hardest thing was picking up the straight line bits in the row above to add new knots while I was working so small.

I've had a bit of fraying of the brocade on the right hand side where the material is made of gold thread. I've sewn the edge, and Fray-Stopped all of the edge (which I should have done in the beginning). The 3 strands of DMC might have to be a bit closer on that side that I intended.

Here's the panel as it appears at the moment :

The trellis stitch strawberry is the leftmost one at the top.

I've also done one in the middle (above the beaded one).
That was done in shaded satin stitch, with a lattice laid over the top. And yes, the French Knots sunk in again. I did them between the intersections, as the strawberries spots from the historical pieces were all done (shown in the last entry). Should have done them ON the intersections. I'll probably take them out and re-do them on the intersections so they don't sink.

I was thinking with laid stitch - you'd have to do the Knots on the intersections of the base threads, the same as doing them on a lattice, or you'd have the same problem.

Now to watch Mary's woven picot video, so I can put some on my latticed strawberry :-). I watched the one on making a lattice before.

It's my birthday in a month and I've asked for plants and Amazon vouchers as presents. I'm crossing my fingers and toes that I'll get enough in vouchers to get :-

18thC Embroidery Techniques - which I have out from the library at the moment, and I just love. The embroidery style isn't quite me, but the goldwork is! That padding with string thing.

Trish Burr's Long and Short Stitch - which has heaps heaps more on stitch direction that the Redoute book, and some lovely flowers. I'm going to do two of them for the dreaded "my two best friends who have their birthday's in the same month" (August), which I think is also a good idea before attempting a Redoute flower.

Country Bumpkin Embroidery Encyclopedia - Mary's recommendation


Mary Brown's Embroidery Encyclopedia which I've seen highly recommended around the Net.

If there are a squillon dollars I've got other books in mind. The Batsford Book of Canvas is coming to me from another library in a few weeks, and I'll be able to check it out. Funny that I'm getting special permission to have it at home, since it's kept by the State Library but it only costs $9 to buy from Amazon. I guess it's because it's the only copy held by a library in Australia.

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15 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - A Collection of Strawberries

--This entry has been edited from the original.

The comments given by Paula Hewitt and Celeste gave me a springboard into looking into some stitches I didn't know, and I've subsequently updated the stitch descriptions of each strawberry.

Thankyou! Paula and Celeste!


  • V&A T.259-1926, which looks like raised detached buttonhole or trellis stitch with french knots on top.
  • Single feather stitch outlining.
  • The sepals look like woven picots

Jane Nichol's Stumpwork Strawberry,

  • padded with felt and covered with trellis stitch
  • sepals are chain stitched

The remainder are from Embroidered Book Covers from the British Library

  • that looks like seed stitch on top of laid stitch. (on satin stitch they’d sink in)

  • You can’t see enough of the base stitch to tell whether it’s satin stitch or laid stitch. But surely they’d sink into the satin stitch unless their edges are overlaying the trellis, or laid stitch was used.
  • The French knots are not on the trellis intersections, but *between* them

Paulahewitt said …

I think the fishnet is couched trellis , worked over laid stitches (like satin stitch but the thread does not travel across the back of the work)- a crewel embroidery technique.

celeste said.... (edited)

A trellis over satin stitch.

Once you've laid your trellis, you can go back and fill the squares with another stitch, in this case French Knot.

A question - re Paula's comment - with the couching holding down laid stitch, then more couching stitches holding down a trellis, aren't you going to end up with an awful lot of couching stitches, especially in such a small object? Or perhaps that's why the french knots are in the middle of the intersection - to hide some of the couching of the laid stitch??

The French Knots won’t fall into the satin stitch with a trellis underneath like my strawberry with satin stitch/French Knots had happen.

  • Top left – looks like satin stitch (a bit of thread dividing can be seen) with a trellis laid over the top but with French knots in the spaces between the trellis, not at the intersections.
  • Bottom left– the Knots aren’t dividing up the satin stitch. They are sitting quite distinctly on top.

Laid stitch with the part of the second layer of stitches (and part of the couching) done in red instead of cream?

  • *The one on the right looks like French Knots on top of satin stich – you can see the way the knots are dividing the thread (and they are pretty big knots too – maybe to stop them falling through?)

Variations :

* Shading patterns of the strawberries vary. Stripes are used, or alternating stripes, rather than graduating colours.

* French knots cream, red or green/beige

* French knots appear between the intersection of a trellis, where a trellis is used, rather than on the trellis intersections

* All strawberries, except Jane Nichols’, have French knots or seed stitch

* varying French knot colour including within the same strawberry

* sepal shape varies – either round ended and in satin stitch or pointed end woven picot

* usually 4 sepals, sometimes 5

* colour shading in the sepals

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Embroidered Book Cover - The Colour of a Green

I've reworked the bodies of the carnations. The middle green I used was more of a blue green that a yellow green and it was bothering me!

When I talk about yellow-greens as opposed to blue-greens I'm talking about the version of colour theory that I work to, as explained briefly in

(although I was taught not to believe in a 'true' red - only orange-reds or blue-reds - every sort of red leans to either the orange or the blue sides of the colour wheel).

The book, "Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green" by Michael Wilcox was my teacher. It's a painter's book, but the introduction explains the theory.

The short version is that if you mix a yellow-green and a blue-green together, you're going to end up with mud (brown) colour (I'll skip the reflected light particle part of the explanation).

We're talking physically mixing paint here, but the embroiderer does the same thing *visually* on the embroidery canvas. Painters also visually mix colours on a canvas by placing them closely together. It's an eye-perception thing.

However, if you mix two different blue-greens, you end up with another blue-green. Or two yellow-greens, you end up with a different yellow-green. You can change that colour further using it's complement on the colour wheel, white, or an appropriate grey (not black - that just kills the colour).

This is why outlining of an embroidered might be suggested to be in Prussian blue, or in a darkest grey, rather than always black like you might expect. Black does have it's place as a strong outlining colour, but it is very harsh and needs to be used very sparingly.

explains this all in more details, although I think Michael Wilcox's explanation is a bit simpler!

Anyway the difference between the two mid-greens (the blue-green one and the yellow-green one) is barely perceptible when laid side by side, but came out when placed next to the strong yellow greens of the olive of the rest of the carnations' bodies.


So, I've oversewn the bodies.

I've also finished the French knot strawberry, the small lilly, and a few small leaves.

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6 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - Two and a Half Strawberries

Strawberry 1 (second strawberry from the top) - Satin stitch, with french knots in a single thread of black.

The french knots look a bit mishappen because they tend to lodge under the long satin stitches.

I had originally done the french knots in palest pink - but the strawberry look comical in some way. It looks a lot more mature with black spots.

I was able to couch the sepals because their smallness required a thin gold thread, not the stranded DMC I'm waiting for. They are done in feather stitch, btw. I learnt how to do it yesterday from watching Mary's video on it :-)

Strawberry 2 - (at the bottom) Beaded

It looks HEAPS darker than it actually is. They are the same beads that I used on the carnation on the front cover. A dark ruby, whereas in the scan they look almost black.

Something I learnt the hard way : if there is a part to be couched (the sepals again, in satin stitch)) when heavy beading is to be done, couch first. Otherwise it's just about impossible to 'get in there' and get a good shape.

I think that the strawberry looks uneven in shape but that's from the pattern of the beading, not from the original drawn shape of it. I did the left 'half' first in curved rows, but then there didn't end up to be room for as many rows on the right hand side. I should have worked the entire shape, (tho whether outwards or inwards, I couldn't say until I try it)

I like the pointier shape of the sepals in this one better than in the first one, where they are kind of round edged and blodgy - tho that's the way they appear in the historical examples.

I was concerned that a purely beaded strawberry would be out of place, being 'richer' than the other elements in the design, although I have used a few beads on the carnations.
However, it's all going to end up outlined in gold, and will have a thick stem of gold running right up the middle of it, so I think it'll fit in ok. I had to do this beaded one down the bottom, or else I would have ended up with a lot of beaded stuff up the top of the design, given the carnations are up there.

Strawberry 3 (at the top) French Knots

This strawberry is around half done. It's composed entirely of French knots packed together. (I really must post the various strawberry designs I've found).

I've put in one red, and the white dots. I was going to put in a lighter red as a second red, but I thinking I might go for a darker red. That is - IF I have a darker red/brown than the one I used as the first colour. We'll see.

I think that
* I was tired when I did this one
* I'm just not very good at French knots

I may re-do it. They haven't come out even in size - which would imply that I'm not using the same pulling on the thread tension each time.

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4 January 2008

Embroidered Book Cover - The Second Carnation

Here you go Michael :-)

It's a bit disproportionate but I fudged with both the colours and the placement of the beads a bit. I hope that has made it look ok.

Opinions anyone? I really want to know

The colour for that first strawberry looked ok last night. Looking at it again today - it's way too pink-red, rather than the brown-reds I need to use for the colour scheme to work.

I have some lovely GumNut variegated red, but unfortunately it's a bit too pink-red as well...

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