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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

30 June 2008

“Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving, and About Slips”

I published this post awhile ago, but there were a lot of formatting problems because I copied the headings and links from my Word documents.

Having discovered Windows Live Writer, I can re-write this post, properly formatted (it was annoying me *grin*)…..


I'm picking the eyes out of "Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving" by Grace Christie (aka Mrs Archibald Christie

"The drawings illustrating design and the practical application of stitches have been taken almost without exception from actual Embroidery or Tapestry; the exceptions, where it has been impossible to consult originals, from photographic representations obtained from various sources, among which the collection of M. Louis de Farcy should be mentioned."
and the embroideries and tapestries she was looking at are almost 14-17th Century.

It's at

Mary of reviews the book at

There are a couple of links to the Gutenburg project - I've found the one given above the best for on-line perusal.

Mrs Christie goes through a great variety of stitches and for many, she provides construction details and (black and white drawn) pictures of various flowers and leaves using that particular stitch, that she's taken from those old embroideries.

I intend to use some of these in my sampler project, so I'm gathering them together.

I just found a really good paragraph of information on Slips, in her Applique Work section.

" To return to the discussion of applied embroidery—let us suppose the embroidered piece to be just completed on its linen ground, still stretched in the frame in which it was worked.

In another frame, stretch the background material and trace upon it the exact outline of the piece to be applied.

Cut out the embroidered piece carefully round the edge, allowing about one-sixteenth of an inch margin outside the worked part, leaving, if necessary, little connecting ties of material here and there for temporary support.

With fine steel pins or needles fix the cut-out work exactly over the tracing already made on the ground material, then make it secure round the edge with rather close stitches of silk placed at right-angles to the outline; with fine materials the raw edge of the applied part can be neatly tucked under and fixed in place by this overcast stitch.

A cord is next sewn on to hide the fixing and give a finish to the edge.

The colour of this cord is important, since its colour may increase the expanse of either the applied part or the ground.

Sometimes a double cord is put round, and in this case the inner one is attached to the embroidery before it is cut out of the frame, and the second attached afterwards.

The inner one is often of a colour predominating in the embroidery, and the outer one of the colour of the ground.

Gold cord is very usual; if a coloured silk one is used it must be a perfect match.

The ordinary twisted cord looks best attached invisibly; to do this, slightly untwist it whilst stitching, and insert the needle in the opening thus formed.

Some kinds of flat braids look well with the  fixing stitches taken deliberately over them and forming part of the ornamentation (see fig. 91).

Bunches of silk are sometimes couched round with a buttonhole or other stitch, but whatever the outline may consist of, it should be a firm bold line.

Even more than simpler work applied embroidery needs the finish of some light work upon the ground. Gold threads and spangles, arranged in fashion similar to the sprays in fig. 112, are very often used. Sometimes, instead of this, some small pattern in outline is run all over the ground in order to enrich it."

There is more to be read in the section, including the fact that the slips were sometimes slightly stuffed, to give them a rise.

I want to do a slip in my sampler, hence my interest. I haven't read this particular information about slips before.

My collection of slips links are :

Project : A Small Panel of Slips

by Lady Kateryn Rous

see for notes on more information on Elizabethan canvaswork.


Late 16th / Early 17th Century Embroidery “Slips”
Elizabethan and Stuart Embroidery

by Meg Andrews

Part II - Late 16th / Early 17th Century Embroidery “Slips”
Elizabethan and Stuart Embroidery II

by Meg Andrews

Elizabethan Slips

by Jane Stockton

Some Additional Useful Notes

Flickr of Slips Progression

of Jane Stockton’s Work with Slips

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Embroidered Book Covers

I noticed that my blog statistics package that an awful lot of people were searching for information on Embroidered Book Covers - and finding my project.
I thought I'd provide some links on them, to further help :-)

Examples and history :-

Prose, poems, points & purls: Embroidered book covers

by Christian de Holacombe

An excellent paper on the various types of embroidered covers, particularly in the 15th and 16th C.

English Embroidered Bookbindings

by Cyril Davenport, 1848 - 1941

All about the history, types, design and making of Embroidered BookBindings in canvas, velvet and satin. Many beautiful pictures.

Princess Elizabeth’s Embroidered Books

A short news article that describes the books that Princess (later Queen Elizabeth 1) embroidered, including pictures

Textile bookbinding - Koninklijke Bibliotheek - National Library of the Netherlands

A description of a book cover, 1615-1620. Includes a history of embroidered bookbinding

The Guide to English Embroidered BookBindings in the British Library

History :

Viewing examples :

    • Go to
    • Choose "Perform a Keyword Search"
    • Select either "List or Gallery" (I prefer List myself - you see more of them on the page)
    • Type 'embroidered' into the search box
    • Hit the "Search" button
    • (of course, you can always choose the Advanced Search if you are looking for Embroidered Book Covers of a particular origin/era)


Making an Embroidered BookCover :-

Project - Show and Tell : A period bookbinding

by Iulitta Rowan of Arran

"This project is a book cover inspired by the embroidered binding of a Bible presented to King Henry VIII of England in 1543.

The thread used is metal twist, made with a flat ribbon of metal wrapped in a spiral around a central silk core. The design is a deceptively simple-looking single-line drawing. The outer border is a reversible flame pattern, separated from the inner pattern by a double straight-line box. The inner design is a flowing pattern of flowers and leaves surrounding a central double circle. The pattern incorporates points, curves, circles, straight lines, right angles, sharp corners, and the solid initials (“HR”) of the intended recipient, Henry Rex. I reduced it to fit my book, adapted it slightly for simplicity, and changed the initials to “IP,” the initials of the friend for whom I made this."

She then goes on to describe the process of making this cover.

Elizabethan Embroidered Book Bindings

Mistress Martelle von Charlottenburg
Baroness of the Bright Hills, Atlantia

Cover #1 After a bookcover embroidered by Elizabeth I for Katherine Parr
Cover #2, After a bible cover owned by Henry VIII
Both of these book covers are made in velvet.

Lady Martel tells how she created her own versions.

Making a Removable Elizabethan Embroidered Book Cover

Mistress Martelle von Charlottenburg
Baroness of the Bright Hills, Atlantia

Instructions on how to make a removable book cover. These are the instructions I used to make my own cover - they are very clear, and it works.

Mary’s Communion Bookcover

by Mary Corbet (

Mary makes an embroidered book cover for her niece’s first communion. These entries are mainly about the preparation of the linen to be used, the design, and the stitching she does, including couching padded with string

Elmsley Rose's Book Cover

under the label "Embroidered Book Cover" in this blog - where I discuss the design, embroidering and making of my own Elizabethan Embroidered Book Cover

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26 June 2008

Bunch of Poppies - Correcting Mistakes in Needlepainting

After a couple of comments on my last post, I thought I'd comment back in an actual post.

Take the stitches OUT? (if I'm not happy with them)


Actually, I have been known to do that. It risks putting holes in the linen or loosening the weave of the actual linen, which will cause tension problems in the embroidery.

I almost always embroider over the top of the problem area. I am talking about an area that is perhaps 5mm by 2mm large - not an entire leaf or flower. If an entire motif was incorrect, I think I'd very carefully remove the thread.

The Rust Red Iris project has so much over-embroidering you wouldn't believe it.

I was a bit concerned about how much over-embroidering I was doing at one stage and talked to Michael of about it, and he didn't think it was a problem.

You don't want to do it so much that you end up with an effectively 'padded' area because of the build up of thread. And it gets harder to embroider because you are putting the needle through existing threads.

But it's a far preferable option to removing threads in most if not all cases, IMHO.

One exception, where you might want to take the threads out, might be where you need to replace very light threads with very dark ones, or vice versa


Now, I asked Mary Corbet of about this issue. She is a FAR more experienced embroiderer than I am. She answered in a comment to this post, but I thought it a good idea to put it here, in the main post.

She doesn't do over-sewing. I assume she gets sections correct in the first place, because she's a whole lot better, so doesn't need to correct part of a leaf or petal like I do.

Here's what she said :

Hi, Megan!

I don't generally have a problem taking threads out if I discover a mistake as I go. In fact, I prefer to! If I finish a petal in long and short stitch and it doesn't look quite right because a stitch is out of place, I don't mind going back and stitching over with one sneaky little stitch, but if it's a section that needs correction, I'd just as soon take it out.

Nice thing about long and short stitch is that it's a very forgiving stitch - it's easy to go back and fill in a spot that needs touching up...

But, when it comes to a whole petal looking not-quite-right, I'd rather take it out and start over (unless it could be corrected with one unnoticeable stitch or two).

I'm not one for building up stitches on long and short filling, either!

Oh, and nice thing about linen - it's a tough fabric, generally. You'd be surprised how much you can take out and put back in, without damaging the foundation. In fact, I just took out a whole petal on my silk sampler last week, and it's stitching up just fine over the fabric.

There's a tool called a "boo boo stick" that some stitchers like to use - it's got a spiral and wire brush thing on each end - it works well for brushing off the fuzz from thread, or for helping to remove threads fairly quickly. I've got one, and I use it sometimes, but I'd just as soon use tweezers and snippers to remove threads. I also keep a toothbrush in my box, to brush off fuzzies from the fabric.

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25 June 2008

Bunch of Poppies - Leaf Work

I've finished all but one of the leaves - but I need to do some correction work.

Looking at the top bunch of leaves :

The one facing down has way too much 'darkest' colour in it. To look right, it needs dark colour just on the tips - where it would be in shadow as 'it is lost in the bunch'.

That leaf to the left - what is going on there? Not good things. I think I may make it all dark.

I'm going to do a bit of padding, just for a change, and then I'll fix these up. The numbers on the petals are to help me keep track of which tiny piece of felt is for which petal.

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Historical Embroidery Sampler - Sampler for the Sampler

I am going to need to practise the stitches (such as the ones listed in Jane D Zimmerman's book - see my review of her book - detached buttonhole done a million different ways), ceylon stitch, semi-detached needlelace, and many other stitches. (actually, all of that is in Zimmerman)

I will also need to practise some motifs - such as the Elizabethan Needlework Accessories Needlelace roses. And putting down gold purl and any other goldwork materials I decide to use.

This means that I will be creating a sampler (or perhaps to avoid confusion, I'll call it a practise, or scrap piece) for my Historical Sampler, where I can do this practise work.

It will look something like this (a spot sampler, as opposed to a band sampler) :-

(Fitzwilliam Museum, Accession Number T.3-1928 (Applied Arts)

with lines/blocks of practise stitches as well as the motifs shown in the Fitzwilliam piece. It is intended for use in the Elizabethan use of samplers - as a reference piece to be kept in the sewing basket, rather than the more formal 'planned' samplers intended for display that emerged in the Victorian period.

I'm really not too worried what it ends up looking like - I just need a place - linen ready hooped up - where I can practise something before embroidering it on my 'real' piece - the Historical Sampler.

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23 June 2008

Historical Embroidery Sampler - Computer Colour Tool

Susan, in her blog entry
mentions a tool that SharonB originally mentions -
The Color Palette Generator.

Since I am thinking about sitting down with a DMC chart and lots of coloured pictures of embroidery, my ears and eyes rotated in interest.

Here's what I got when I fed in a slip that I had on hand -

And with this flower, (imagine I wanted to do it in satin stitch using these colours)

(5x5 box) it doesn't give me enough colours (there are obviously reds missing)

It's getting the reds in the 7x7 squares,
but far too many other colours.

I'm finding the 5x5 configuration to be giving me the number of colours that I want in the examples I've tried.

So this tool may be useful. It at least shows a good sized block of each colour, instead following a line of cross stitch squares of the colour and I can be selective about the ones I pick.

I may use this in combination with 'hand' picking of colours - I'll see what works best.
converts the Hex numbers to DMC thread numbers.

Thankyou Susan and SharonB!

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22 June 2008

Historical Sampler - More Design Alternatives

The first thing I want to do is to show my Embroidered Book Cover, as I am going to use this to provide perspective on the the size of the flowers and leaves in the Historical Sampler design candidates.

It's 130 x 160 mm - but the size of the motifs is the thing to be looking at.

I decided that I'd made a mistake in 'whiting out' the flowers and leaves - it left me without a real idea of how large they could be.

I tried another couple of alternatives with the flowers and leaves left in

I've already tried (documented in the last entry)

  • half the design
  • two designs, side by side
I am now going to show

  • the full design, and
  • two designs, one on top of the other
This final alternative is the one I want to use :-) I discovered that the pattern was repeating, so the design continues nicely onto the next repeat.

Here's th full design, sized to fit within the scroll frame

(I made the picture up of 'uncorrected' quarters and the slant of the photo of the original design causing problems in the joins of those quarters can be seen)

and here it is with the embroidered book cover next to it, for perspective.

I felt that the flowers were mainly going to be a bit too big. The leaves were the right size though.

Here's the design, with one repeat following the other, sized to fit my scroll frame :

And with the embroidered cover :

You can see here that the motifs are generally of similiar sizes. The leaves on the design are comparatively very small - but I can put a single leaf where the original design has three if I want to.

Each repeat has

  • 19 flowers
  • 19 buds
  • and, erm, lots of leaves
so double that for what I'll actually have to work with.

I won't put buds where buds now exist (since the original design was based entirely on roses). I shall do other motifs.

There are also two sizes of braid.

I'll need to re-do what I did before in constructing a straight scrolling vine skeleton since the original design wasn't photographed face on. I can take the one I've already done - which is at full size - decrease it's size by 50%, make two copies and put them together, giving me a scrolling vine design ready to trace onto linen.

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Bunch of Poppies - Progress on leaves

I've almost finished the leaves, and I have finished the stems.

This photo shows the threads I'm going to use on the flowers themselves, and some of the felt I'll be using to pad some of the petals

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12 June 2008

Historical Sampler - Design Alternatives

Here is the original design :-

remembering that I'm just using the scrolling vine design, and changing the flowers and leaves.

Here it is after I've been mucking around with it to remove as much detail as I could, leaving the vines :

It looks terrible, (it actually physically hurts to look at this way) because I couldn't get the maroon and white out (or at least both the same colour) but it does have a good skeleton of the scrolling vines to trace, which is what I want.

Because it is the cover of a book (from Cyril Davenport's book on Embroidered Books), and the photograph was taken to show the spine of the book as well as the front, the photograph is crooked.

So I took the top quarter of the design, and flipped and rotated it to create 3 other quarters, so they were all 'on the same page' so's to speak.

I haven't been able to do as much work in Photoshop as I wanted to do. I don't have very many skills in the tool so I've used various methods to show the various options I came up with.

Here it is at a first design option, stretched so that only the top half of the vine was used (I was talking about that as an option in an earlier post, with a slip down the bottom)

If I put a slip down the bottom, where that large roundish white space is (it was the large rose in the centre of the original design) I could have it coming up into those two white spaces on either side of the descending vine, and also out to the sides a bit, so it would work if I wanted to do this .....

I've realised that it's not just the *look* of the vine that is affected by my choice of how the vine is sized and rotated.

The sizing and positioning affects the work space I've got to put in the flowers and leaves as well.

It's a pretty tight space left in between the vines given the typical Elizabethan attitude of having the ground space well covered.

Having just the top half of the vine gives me big spaces. Maybe more than I want. Clicking on the picture should show it sized to 24 x 44 cm (the size of my scroll frame, with allowance for a 4 cm border around the edge)

Here's another layout - with the scroll frame orientated the other way, and using the full cover, but two copies, laid side by side

Imagine they are attached by a braid or something similar. Backed interlacing?

This seems like quite an attractive option - but boy - would the flowers be small!!
Especially since I've been thinking about using slips for some of the leaves and even some of the flowers because I can get clear designs for them. Imagine dealing with teeny weeny slips. Argh.

I would like to do it this way, but I think there just isn't enough space.

This following is the final option, which I thought I'd be using, and I think that I will use, although I do like both of the others.

Since I'd printed out my 4 quarters and taped them together, and sticky taped them onto transparent grid paper, I thought I'd show this version, rather than a Photoshop version, since it includes the scroll frame :

(Noticing I need to add more tracing paper on the right there - I was too busy getting the quarters to line up to notice I was out a bit vertically)

I will trace through onto this paper using a pen of the same width as the vine (I have one, at 3 mm) to get a copy of the vine design all ready to be transferred to linen.

I didn't get rid of all the thorns on the vines (visible on a close up of the picture) when I was in photoshop - I'll just ignore them.

For some reason, the flower in the centre has turned out a bit ovoid after the taping together, even tho the vines all match up nicely.

It's quite a big space. This would be a great place to put a finely detailed slip (perhaps done on high count fabric) or an more complicated motif of flowers, berries, fruits etc done as surface embroidery. I think if it was done as a single flower it might be a bit too big.

It was originally done as a single flower, but things have changed with it's new "ovoid-ness".

The flowers and leaves

The leaves in the original design are all the same size and shape (rose leaves, funnily enough).
I will be using different sizes and shapes, within the constraints of the room I have.

The flowers are of several different sizes, according to the space allowed by the neighbouring vines.

My next job is to identify these sizes and the number of each. I think I'll cut cardboard circles to represent the sizes (although not all flowers are strictly circular) .

As I am embroidering the flowers I will have to choose appropriate flowers (construction methods) for each particular sized space.

News on Slips

I have spent the last few days mucking around with cross stitch pattern making software (PC Stitch in particular, and a couple of free ones).

I discovered a problem.

Modern cross stitch is made using many many more shades of colour than 16th cross stitch was.
Where 12 colours would have been used then, 50 might be used now.

If I specified 12 or so colours in the software applications I tried I'd get a huge loss of detail to the point where the design was useless.

I suspect that it calculates the colour by looking at the colour of it's neighbours and calculating an intermediate colour, matching it to a DMC thread. Whatever it did, it was a complete mess.

The only way around it is to post-process the design, either in the cross stitch software itself, or in something like Photoshop, and replace all similiar colours with a single colour.

I would rather have a root canal than sit for hours at the computer clicking. Also I'd have two new concepts to cope with - designing in little squares, and designing on the computer screen.

So I'll do my cross stitch patterns by hand. I don't mind hours at my desk. At least then I'd only have to cope with designing with squares - thinking about colour blending and light fall on the object. I have 200 oil pencils - I'll just pick out ones that suit my colour scheme, and match DMC thread as closely as possible.

Cascade Lame Thread and other fun things

Paula Hewitt of mentioned Cascade House Silk Lame Thread (an Australian company), (well, actually it was via Mary Corbet in and I promptly fell in love.
(marked with a star)

and described at

They are non-divisible, with a gold thread running through. Sort of a poor man's Gilt Sylk Twist.
I'm envisioning a green or two, for use in leaves, and a cream for flowers (with the gold - it should look just lovely, with just small flowers)

I have put a few things in my Wishlist. I want to get a few different threads to try (including Gilt Sylk Twist). I have canvas to get for slips, and thinking of getting a few different fabric counts (since this whole thing is an experiement). Some silver purl (I already have some in gold).
A million things.

I'll be buying them slowly over the next few months.

Before that, I need to study lots of colour photographs, and determine the colour scheme. I'll mark up a DMC floss chart, since there are lots of Conversion charts to other threads using it, and it has a good range of colours.

So much to do.... :-)

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2 June 2008

Bunch of Poppies - Anemone Simple

Anemone Simple, plate 37 from Choix des plus belles fleurs et des plus beaux fruits by Joseph Redoute is the painting that Trish Burr based her embroidery on.

shows the original painting.

Yes, I know the painting is called "Anemone Simple" and I'm calling them poppies. That's because the recipient wants them to be poppies, and they look similiar enough :-)

Here's Trish Burr's version as a reminder :

  • Mr Rodoute's pale flowers are even paler than Ms Burr's

  • His red poppies tend more towards the blue-red, which, interestingly, I am also going to use (tho mine will be even more blue-red and darker)

  • In simplifying the leaves (which really had to be done, or we embroiderers would have gone nuts), Ms Burr orphaned that leaf that I was talking about in the last post - the one on the outer edge of the red poppy.
In Mr Redoute's painting, you can see that that it isn't orphaned.
In my fix to cover that now extraneous pen line, I'll accidentally be going back towards the original version, in a very simplifed sort of way

Here is a version that I found, still in progress, being done by a lady called Anna Maria Selehar
with the actual picture being near the bottom of the page and at

and here's mine, a bit closer up than in the last few pictures :

(remembering I purposely swopped to emerald green leaves rather than olive ones to suit my blue-er colour scheme)

Ms Selehar's stalk is 'punching' through those leaves as well *smile* - although she has done two seperate leaves it does give that illusion unless you look closely at the stitch directions, which are slightly angled away from each other in the two leaves.

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1 June 2008

Bunch of Poppies - Outlines and Leaves

I took a break from doing leaves and stem stitched the outlines of the poppies ....

Next to do is the remaining two stalks and the remainder of the leaves (near the top and also the fix-it job I mention below). Then I get to start padding some of the petals.

I'm naughty - I should have done all of the stalks before doing the leaves - the rule is that objects that lie underneath other objects are to be done first - so they 'retreat' into the background - a matter of stitch layering at the edges where they meet. So I'm cheating on the stitch layering.

With that middle bunch of leaves I recently finished - I made a change. I combined several leaves on the right into one big leaf. I feel that it really 'pops' out of the picture to come towards you

I do have a couple of problems.

1) the arrow on the left. That was supposed to be two leaves. I've done it as one leaf, so it looks like the stalk is erupting from the middle of the leaf.

I was too close to the picture when I was sewing it, loosing the 'big picture' and doing two seperate leaves wasn't working, so I combined them, forgetting about the effect that would have on the stem - and then later looked at the picture and thought "ooops".

I'm not that worried that I'm going to re-do it though. It can be a 'quirk'.

2) the arrow on the right.

In the original there is a bit of leaf on the *other* side of the poppy. It's not connected to any of the leaves in the centre, but it does look good to have a bit of greenery out there as well as all of the greenery in the middle.

I had to do that line of the bottom petal of the red poppy petal 3 times before it looked right, and have gotten stuck with a pen line that won't be covered by stalk or petal.

You can see the bit that won't be covered at the base of the right arrow - in between some leaf, and a stalk.

My solution is to say 'well, there *should* be some leaf that is reaching up in that direction anyway, so that outermost bit of leaf isn't an orphan. I've drawn in the arrow to show the direction the leaf should go, ending at the 'orphan' leaf.

If I create leaf over the line, orientated in the direction of the arrow, I will cover that pen line and also give that outer leaf something to hang onto.

It means fixing the existing leaf a bit - it's got darkest edges where it finishes at the base of the poppy atm, but for it to make sense for it to go behind the poppy and all the way to the edge, it should only be light/mid green before it disappears behind the poppy, and then dark when it emerges out the other side.

As for the construction of the purple poppy, I don't get it, but will do it as is.

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