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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

28 March 2008

Next NeedlePainting Project

Before I start on my Sampler - which will takes a few months to accumulate supplies for (Gylte Silk Twist, here I come!) - I have the other needlepainting project to do for my other friend, once I've finished the iris.

I was going to do the Poppy from Trish Burr's Long and Short Stitch, but there are 20 crewel wools required. (It's the only project in the book that I've seen that uses crewel wool)

After a discussion of cost with Kit (the recipient) we decided either to choose a different one, or to go halvies in the wool cost.

I showed her the Trish Burr Redoute book via Webcam, since she'd seen all the Long and Short projects by getting the book out of her library.

Mary C did a review of the Redoute book at
I get a mention there coz I was kind of having a bit of a wibble about the book to Mary at the time -

Kit chose, from Redoute

It's a big project, but it's also a simple one. It's multiple variations on the basic exercise in doing a rounded petal shape, over and over again.

We're going to change the top left flower's colours to reds and blues, coz Kit doesn't like yellow.

It's interesting - the Redoute book only uses about 20 different coloured threads per project, whereas Long and Short uses upwards of 26.

Redoute also doesn't have a diagram of stitch directions in it, but L&S does. (Redoute was the first book, I think).

In terms of difficulty of projects between the two books, I originally assumed that the Redoute's would be harder - because the book is based on the paintings of the artist, I guess. I wouldn't say now that they are. There are the most simple projects in L&S (eg a pansy) but in general, both books contain simple and harder projects.

Certainly the Poppies will be easier technically to do than the Rust Red Iris - there is nowhere near the requirement for creating optical illusion. - remembering all those bugs at the base, and now the convolutions in the petals of the iris.

It's a pity I don't have silks to do the poppies in because the large petal surface areas, with a simple blending of 3 colours on each petal, would lend themselves to the shininess of silk to really bring them up (whereas the Iris is fine in DMC because there is so much detail). Oh well. No worries. :-)

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Rust Red Iris - Left Petal Finished

This was the easiest petal I've done

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24 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Half of the Left Petal

  • Like the right petal, the left petal naturally divides itself in two. Here's the top of it :-)
  • There is a shadow under that little flap. The book said to use the darkest colour but it stood out too much. I used a dark red instead, and it seems to work ok.
  • I've got some tension problems - below the right petal and to the right of the right bud. I hope they don't stay once I've blocked the embroidery
  • The bottom half of the right petal (the last one I did) looked funny to me with the mixture of light green, dark green, pink and cream. I realized that it was because they were long stitches, whereas the rest of the petal had quite short stitches as an effect of blending the colours so much.
So I took some pink and some cream and put in some small stitches, splitting the long stitches to break them up

  • I'd needed to put a line up the edges of the top petal, because it was merging with the right petal and I've added one on the left to match.
  • For the bottom half of the left petal, which I'm about to do, I actually took the design and marked out the different sections in pencil on the page. Those markings were already on the embroidery itself, but I found a couple of extra, including a shading that I hadn't noticed and a bit of a change in shapes.
I think marking the shapes on the design page is a good idea and I'm going to keep doing it from now on. It's really hard seeing what's happening. The lines are blurred because it's long and short stitch (that's the whole point) but where do you place that basic "cross over" line, especially dealing with odd shapes?

I think adding in this left petal is really making the iris look like more harmonized and is a big step, because it brings the centre into the design, instead of one red petal and a brown centre.

Any comments on why I have the tension problem most welcome.

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22 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Right Petal Finished

I did take out quite a lot of the green, and put in some pink - to try to work it in more naturally.
The difference between the top and bottom parts is quite clear with the change in stitch direction.

Looking at the scan makes me wonder if I need to do some work on the at that part of the petal - where the pink/cream/green/dark green mix starts. There's a curved light line that seems to be standing out a lot.

I'm also tempted to add some more dark edge on the top part - but that's not the pattern and I know that I'm a sucker for the darker colours. I'll see how it looks with the flower more completed. I think the dark edging on the bottom part has worked beautifully, but it looks so patchwork-y on the top part.

I also put in a split stitch line of two different pinks between the top petal and this right one, to make the delineation a bit clearer. It is a bit clearer in the original than the scan because you can see the texture of the stitches, as well as the colours.

So these are all small design decisions to be made later when I see what the flower looks like as a whole.

I think this sort of process/thinking is shown by how the fold over at the top of the top petal looks a lot more natural even with just the marking up on the left petal next to it. Giving it some company makes it look like it belongs.

Onto the back petal - it's all marked up. It's in more brownish sort of colours, which will tie into the centre. Yummy - more new colours to work with.

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19 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Half of the Right Petal

The right petal can be divided distinctly into two halves - the colours and the stitch direction change (the stitch direction on the bottom half is more curved)

So here's the bottom half

and the flappy bit on the top petal, which I'd forgotten to do last time I posted. It looks lumpy on the scan - but that's the lighter colours 'coming forward'.

I felt like it was an exercise in geometry - look at the way the un-embroidered part of the petal is marked up.

It's hard work trying to get the blend of colours right in the petal. I've had to do a lot of over-sewing simply to get them mixed up enough. I hope, with experience, that I will be able to put down just one layer and end up with a completely random mix, but I can't do it yet. I need to add more stitches on top of the existing ones.

I keep thinking of Michael Cook's peony, where he seemed to achieve colour mix without too much oversewing (or any!)

I might extend the darkest green a bit. I'll see how it is when the whole petal is done, because the bit above is a small bit of cream then a lot of light pink, so the dark green might end up in proportion with that.

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15 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Back Petal

Ok - this time I worked it from the top down, and it turned out perfectly, except ......
I nearly went MAD filling in the cream.

I wanted to avoid a herringbone look for the centre, but there seemed no way to get around it.
I did it 4 times, and tried using very long stitches (as the design does)

but then ended up with a lot of very small stitches, and texturally it looked terrible.

So I ended up doing it 'herringbone' last night.

Ooops - haven't done the turnover at the left top yet

It looks very red- but other petals have the brown of the hood, and will 'bring them together'.
I do love the graduating reds - it looks great!

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10 March 2008

Embroidery Sampler Project - First Mention

Actually, I have mentioned this project before, in a list of projects that I wanted to do that I made a couple of weeks ago.

I want to learn a lot of different techniques, and learn how to put these techniques to use in a variety of ways.

For example, flowers made with detached buttonhole stitch.

  • You can buttonhole in 3 different ways (depending on your direction as you progress).
  • You can make them attached, semi-attached, or free (getting into stumpwork there).
  • There's hollie point and trellis stitch too, to name the other two Elizabethan detached stitches.
  • And there are all the different *designs* of flowers.
And that's just one example (a big one)

I plan to experiment with

  • the variety of Elizabethan stitches, as polychrome embroidery
  • stumpwork,
  • other raised and padded work, including with string, felt and cardboard
  • goldwork (just simple stuff - a bit of pearl purl in the centre of a flower, a padded leaf
  • slips
  • some rice pearls, if they will fit the design and/or beading
  • a flower I saw in "18th Century Embroidery Techniques" which was done in tambour but I can do with variegated thread and a crochet hook
I'm not doing any blackwork, because I haven't seen any blackwork mixed with anything except goldwork and it's a big area of it's own.

I'm mixing the techniques of the 16th to 18th centuries, but hope to do it in a tasteful and design-wise manner, whilst engaging in a (rather large) practice piece.

The piece won't have any practical purpose. It can't be worn or sat on because of the stumpwork. Think "long cushion" in terms of looks, and it'll end up being displayed as a wall hanging.

I want to do flowers and leaves. I've been collecting descriptions and images of various different ones from Elizabethan times. Maybe a few insects. (a snail or two?)
I've also been gathering all of the information I can on various techniques (like attaching pearls) from the internet and bought a pile of 'how-to' books from Amazon.

I've been discussing with the Historical Needleworkers' List whether it is best to work with linen or silk as a ground material, and if so, which specific type. They have been of great help and we have it down to evenweave tabbyweave linen, or Duchess silk. It will need to be able to support what will be a fairly intense and heavy (literally) piece.

Apart from knowing that I want a botanical theme, a major design decision to make is the design of the framework from which those flowers and leaves will 'hang'. The typical curling vine of Elizabethan times is the most obvious to choose.

My friend Kit of KJGraphics and I found a piece yesterday which provides a framework which I just love.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of English Embroidered Bookbindings, by
Cyril James Humphries Davenport

Looking just at the vinework (not the roses and leaves) - it's very elegant but
still has the characteristics of the Elizabethan scrolling
vine. (the roses are
lovely too, but I'm going to use a variety of flowers)

Kit is going to do some work to repeat the middle section to give me more
'nodes' to work with. In the design above those 'nodes'
are occupied by
roses and rose buds.

I want to place a slip in the middle of the piece. Kit is going to work on those
central tendrils so that they come to a point just
above (or below) what is
currently the central rose - rather than having a slip with 'tendrils' escaping
from it in all directions.

So there's two new decisions - the framework design, and the use of one slip
(I didn't know how many I was going to do)

I may put a border (an ornate one?) around the edges. That's a decision to
be made. I don't want to make so much work for
myself that the project
becomes un-doable. As it is, I'm looking at a year's work, I think.

Another decision to make is how the framework is to be actually constructed.
I do want to try plaited braid stitch, but I don't
want to do THAT much plaited
braid stitch. I've heard too many horror stories, but perhaps the Plymouth
Embroiderers will
change all of that (they certainly have enough of it to do
of their own).

Maybe goldwork materials and techniques, or interlace
techniques .....

And then slotting in my various flowers into the different nodes, and a variety
of leaves along the vines.

This project is months away from being actually started. I have a lot of
supplies to buy, lots more research to do (not least of
which being
*which* slip to use - there are so many gorgeous ones). I also have
the two long and short stitch projects, and
some calligraphy to do.

So this will be an on-going design process.
I'm thoroughly enjoying it :-)

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Rust Red Iris- Top Petal

This is the top petal about as I'm doing it - since some of it has been cut off at the bottom by my design of the hood, I'll be doing from above the line :-

Here's the petal, outlined in thread and all marked up with stitch direction, and approximate divisions for the colours :-

Trish Burr said to start from the top outer edge and go down, but I thought I'd do 'light before dark'. I was worried that I'd run out of space for all 5 colours required, in spite of my planning.

And it hasn't worked. The 'tower' of lightest colour going up through the middle of the petal isn't high enough and is the wrong shape - too squat. The stitch direction along the bottom isn't right. The stitches curve as they go up the petal, and I just don't know what I'm doing at the bottom there.

So I'm going to take the scissors to this, and start again, this time from the top edge (listening to the designer!). It might work from bottom up and I just stuffed it up, or it may be that this particular shape only works when stitched one way. I don't know. I'm looking forward to seeing a petal in all it's shading tho :-)

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9 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Right Bud and Hood

Firstly, DragonSally (for whom this iris is for) helped me by finding some more images of bearded irises.

This one is the closest in design, and photographic angle to the one I'm doing :

This picture below shows all of those inner parts of the iris and how complicated they are. No way was I going to try and reproduce that, any more that Trish Burr tried. I've stuck with my simple hood.

Right Bud :
I'm not 100% happy with the way this turned out. There are little problems with the shapes of various parts of the bud.

I put a line of split stitch in cream up the side, to delineate the vertical 'fold' but it doesn't quite look like the design.

I think the cream fringe ended up being a bit too small.

I do like the inner part.

Also, as I stitched the bud, the stitches in the long leaf next to it got all loose. I did some more stitches over the top and secured them down again, but I've obviously got tension problems.

There is some puckering down the right side of the bud, and a bit between the other bud and the stem as well.

I think this is partly because one of my cats sits on the frame at every opportunity, trying to grab my attention since the frame gets so much of my attention, so I'm constantly re-tightening the material.

Also, the frame is cracked at the top where the screw tightens it.

And, of course, any problems I've caused myself.

The Stem :

I did some more work on the stem, making the area of lightest green even. I also put in a bit more darkest green at the top. The stem looks at bit funny because it narrows just after it intersects with the long leaf. I might have to re-visit that (not now - I'll scream)

That's what takes so much time with this. Not laying down the stitches, but fiddling around laying down more stitches here and there and everywhere trying to get everything to look right.

The Hood :

I'm really pleased with this - especially since I took a risk and changed the design.

I used one strand of cream Madeira silk together with the 3 different colours of DMC each used to make the French knots for the beard, and I think it looks good. It makes it stand out a little.
I've noticed that over time as the piece gets worked on, the threads kind of .... retreat and get 'worn in'. French Knots don't end up standing up as much as they started off doing. Although stitches amalgamate together better. I think it's a hand pressure thing as I work on other parts.

I'm wondering whether to extend the beard down a little over that front petal, but that will have to be done after the front petal is done, which is the last one (working from the back petals to the front, - right then left then finally the front one, so it'd be the very last thing I'd do in the piece. I'll see.

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8 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Petal Design

Now I've almost finished the right bud I've turned my attention to the actual iris, and had to deal with a problem that's been bothering me for ages.

Looking at centre of the original design, there's a hooded thing, with the iris beard emerging at the bottom. The centre and most of the right of the hood is hidden by a petal emerging from the middle of the centre.

Believe me, I've spent hours staring at this, and just can't make sense of it. Not of that petal emerging from the hood.

I don't know if I'm not seeing the design correctly. Especially since the stitch direction lines on the black and white version of the design didn't seem to match up.

I looked at lots of pictures of bearded iris's yesterday and I've just made some design changes.
They make sense to me, and I need to understand what I'm stitching if it's going to work.

I've done the hood in entirety, and have that petal rising up behind it.
I've also extended the petal on the right a bit, to go behind the hood.
I just did the hood with waffly edges, and uneven sides, with the beard coming out of the middle.

There's a bit of smudged pink around because I started with tailor's chalk but I couldn't draw clearly enough with it, so I switched to pen (!). There are a couple of corrections there, but I know how it's supposed to go.

I'll have to alter the shading a bit as well.

If anyone can understand the original, do tell. Then I'll scream - but it'll be a bit late.

Now to finish the right bud - I've just got a line of highlighting to do.

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7 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - the Petal Colours

The remainder of the threads arrived the other day - the ones for the petals. I put them over the embroidery so they could be seen against the existing colours - but it didn't work, did it! But you can see the colours. The dark shades are yummy.

Almost finished the right bud. Looking good. I've been out of commission for the last 4 days, so progress has been a bit slow.

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1 March 2008

Rust Red Iris - Flower Base Definitely Finished

I've done a lot of blending of light gold and light green, and broken it up a lot more.

I'm happy now.

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Rust Red Iris - Flower Base

When I finished embroidering yesterday, I thought I'd finished the flower base.
It looked like this :

(Here's the original pattern again)

I noticed that the dark green bit on the right wasn't the right shape. It was too skinny.
So I added some fatness.

There just wasn't enough green in the middle part of it. (of any shade). Given the khaki looks so like the light gold, I was left with a single blue-green stripe down the middle.

With the "frilly bit with a gold base and light khaki top" I realised that the base of it wasn't dark enough. It and the khaki just blended together (lightest khaki and light gold are actually quite similar).

The book said "use shadeS of gold. " even though only one colour of gold was specified for this part of the flower. So I took the next darker shade of gold that is used in the entire embroidery and used one strand of it and the light gold as a double thread to sew over the base, upon which became dark enough to stand out a bit.

I did the same thing with the line that runs across the base of the flower base (between it and the stem) that is in stem stitch because I had the same problem.

I also noticed that my stitch direction was wrong - more horizontal than vertical. I figure that while I'm learning this, it's a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy - trying to place the stitches correctly in order to blend well. and also place them in the specified direction. Or I'm just not paying enough attention. *grin*

The direction I'd used looked fine, it just wasn't the one specified in the book. By going horizontal I had made it look rounder.

I sat and stared at it for awhile, and realized that I wasn't quite happy with it yet.

I spent a couple of hours on it this morning

You can really see what I was talking about with the light gold vs the cream being the lightest colours in my version. The cream is on the left. It's just as clear in the original in the book that it's a different colour to the light gold.

It looks a bit TOO bright on the scan - there's the tiny almost fluorescent speck there, the whole patch looks 'lit up' and it doesn't look like it blends into the light khaki very well as the bottom. It does in reality.

I realized that the overall shape of the bud was incorrect. The dark green bit and the cream ruffle now didn't match up with the rest of the right hand side of the ruffle. I don't know what is going on there. I had a stitched outline!

Anyway, easy enough to fix by adding a bit more to the right hand side further down.

And the left hand side had taken on a curve. I rounded it off again with some khaki and light gold.

This morning I just 'worked' with the colours. I added in a second green to the "green stripe" I added in more of all the colours just here and there. Mucking around to make it look right.

The strange thing was that as I went I was only looking at the pattern occasionally (mostly for the placement of the green) whereas when I originally stitched the base I was eyeballed-stuck-to-the-page to the pattern). My stitch direction changed and went vertical. It ended up looking more like the pattern in terms of stitch direction than it had before!

The effect of doing this is that the base has ended up with two or three layers of stitching and is looking quite padded. That's fine - it kind of suits it given that it's the base of the flower - slightly higher than the stem.

The one thing I don't like is that I lost the "back parts are done first, front parts done last" thing, which, in addition to the padding I've ended up with, means that the ruffle doesn't 'sit forward' like I think it should. You can see in last night's version of the base that the ruffle seems to stand out more. I'm not going to add another layer of stitching, exactly the same as the existing layer, to bring it up to the height of the rest of the base!

I did add some cream into the pale part of the ruffle to mix with the existing light gold because pale colours 'jump out' and it'd help it look 'forward'.

Somewhere along the way, I added a few random stitches of different greens into the stem so it looked a little less stripey. It looks stripey in the pattern, but not regimental stripey.

Something I still have to fix is that the pale part (that I did in stem stitch) is too wide across at the base.

Well, I've certainly made this flower base my own. Looking at it sitting next to me now, I can see where a single stitch of one of the blue greens would fit in well.

Also, I think it could do with some more blending on the left hand side. The division between the cream and the green looks very bold. I find that seeing pictures of the embroidery on the screen gives a different viewpoint and I can see problems that I didn't spot in the original, or have gotten used to seeing and just 'accept' them. I find the same thing with my calligraphy.

Here it is as a full picture :

I'm going to start on that right bud now after just a tad more work on the base.

It'll be interesting to see if I've learnt from the base, and find this bud more straight forward. It does have tricky bits but I'm looking forward to it especially doing that inner bit.

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