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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

25 May 2012

The Thistle gets the Trellis Stitch Treatment

The information record for the 1661 sampler by Elizabeth Short that my Heart of the Thistle project is based upon states :

“The embroidery is worked with silk, linen and metal thread in back, cross, two-sided Italian cross, satin, plaited braid and detached buttonhole stitch, with cutwork.”

Link to the original Victoria and Albert museum item entry

However, Sue Jones of the Tortoise Loft Blog said to me in a comment :

Well, it looked like trellis to me, from the close up photo on your blog. The outlines done first in cross and/or holbein, and then the spaces filled with trellis afterwards. I have seen this (in photos) used on several similar samplers, with the same sort of shading in stripes. (Sometimes it may be one of the other ‘semi-detached’ fillings, but mostly trellis.)

Have a look at a hi-resolution picture, downloaded from the V&A site. Blimey, I do believe that Sue is right!


Don’t get distracted by the border (that would be done last over the other embroidery) in herringbone stitch in orange red thread that runs along the bottom of this ‘spear’ or ‘petal’ of the Thistle.

For each separate section of the spear (light yellow, orange, darker yellow, reddish, darkest red) there’s a faint orange-red line at it’s edge. Then each section is filled with trellis stitch in the appropriate colour.

I’d been going *mad* trying to reproduce even close to the colour shifts in the piece using tent and cross stitch but the changes in hue were too abrupt so the colour changes weren’t blending At. All.

Here’s a bigger one of the picture above, if it helps at all, although I think the smaller image is actually clearer.


Those outlines are jagged, not smooth as you’d expect from a normal outline that supports a semi-detached needle lace stitch (chain stitch, reverse chain stitch, backstitch). A cross stitch outline makes sense.

Using the same colour for the outline in the differently coloured sections helps to tie the disparate colours in each spear together, and then the entire piece together.

In this particular ‘spear’ of the thistle, a purple-brownish thread is used for each outline:


It’s most easily seen at the top of the spear. The colours I’m using are purple, rather than these brownish colours (I couldn’t get them in the Renaissance Crewel Wools I’m using), and I’ll probably use the orange-red thread in all cases.

Holbein stitch outlines on the piece

Here, in the centre of the thistle – see how there are vertical stitches (vertical Holbein stitches) that overlap into the next colour layer? It’s exaggerated by an extra stitch in the outermost red layer that forms the actual heart.


In this case each section seems to use a stitch outline of the colour from the section before. I’ll have to experiment a bit to make sure that I’m getting the same effect, and check that that exaggerated effect with the darkest red is in fact an extra vertical stitch.

I tried to reproduce the ‘colour shift’ look of the original piece using tent stitch, by extending each second line by an extra stitch. It just didn’t give it the right look.


Cross stitch was even worse….I tried doing the colour for the next section as the first (under) stitch of the cross stitch. As the section (top) stitch. It just didn’t work. The colour changes were just too abrupt.


When I started the project, I was pretty wobbly health wise. It suited me to do tent stitch and cross stitch. But now I’m feeling much better. It seems like an absolute waste not to take this opportunity to master Trellis stitch. Especially since I’ve tried, and it’s defeated me before.


I’ve already frogged the purple sections above and below the red Heart. They are definitely going to be in trellis stitch hung on vertical holbein stitch outlines.

Whether I do the spears in the same way depends on whether I can do trellis stitch in such small spaces – each section of each spear. I know that the Thistle Thread Gentleman’s Cap students have had trouble doing trellis stitch in a very small area, so again, I’ll have to experiment. I’ll leave the frogging of the existing spears until after that.

I’m going to take the opportunity to learn Jacqui Carey’s version of Trellis stitch, which is different to the version that we are more familiar with. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I should show Jacqui’s stitch diagram here – I will show you my finished stitching, once I’ve done it.

I need to talk about why Sue and I think it’s trellis stitch, not detached buttonhole stitch as mentioned in the museum information on the piece. It doesn’t matter, in a way. I can already do detached buttonhole stitch quite happily. It’s a great opportunity to learn trellis stitch!

Thankyou, Sue. :-). Thankyou also to Mary, Kimberley and Louise for telling me where the original sampler was held – the V&A museum, Acc No T.131-1961.

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19 May 2012

Alison Cole (Goldwork and Stumpwork) Website- new kits and new look

A site that I've loved for many years

has an elegant new look, and Alison has released some lovely new kits. She often designs historically inspired pieces from the Jacobean period to William Morris, and her Or Nue insect range is just lovely! (I really want to do at least one!)

This is one piece that I particularly admire - a modern design of a signature Australian flower - the waratah.

Alison Cole - Goldwork Waratah
  "This waratah is worked in dimensional goldwork embroidery on a background of Colourstreams hand-dyed silk velvet - simply yummy!  This one is only small - approximately 10cm x 15cm and is padded with soft cotton and felt and embroidered in English purls and Japanese couching threads along with kid leather."

The kit is at
Click on the image to see a close up of the waratah.

Some comments on the new kits -
The stumpwork deer floral - lovely! The supplies mention "feathers" I think they are used in the flying insect up the top of the piece. Do you think I'm right? Close up at

It's very impressive that a kit of this standard has been released.
"Featuring only techniques used in traditional Stumpwork from the 17th Century, this piece is a delicious challenge for the experienced Embroiderer.
Worked in a variety of silks and English metal threads on a silk satin background, it features petit point slips, silk wrapped vellum and five variations of needle-lace among its many techniques."

Check out the lovely bee on the header of the Contact Me page! I love her use of the kid. It must have been hard to work - very shaped, and tiny pieces.



  :the berries on the sides - detached buttonhole stitch in red thread over kid?!? Pretty sure that's what it is. Love the scrolly vermicilli too.

:  I love the way the bettlewings are attached using that "V" of thread - using straight stitches as are traditionally looks relatively ugly in my opinion. You can't hide the stitches used to attach the wings, so making a feature of the way they are attached is a great idea!

And that's just the new kits! There are many many wonderful older ones - goldwork, stumpwork, or the two techniques combined. As you can see, Alison has many wonderful ideas, very solid techniques, and beautiful supplies. You can also buy patterns for some projects.

She also sells some unusual supplies. A great range of coloured kid leather, ...and would anyone like to try use some cane toad skin? (Cane toads are a big pest here in Australia - they were imported to the North in order to cut down on....grasshoppers I think. Now they are taking over the lower end of the ecosystem up there and the population is slowly travelling south, the rotten things!). She also has some vintage French metal sequins in gold and silver....

Have fun if you haven't looked at her site before :-)

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