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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

26 April 2008

Some Leaves

A slightly out of focus picture of the first set of leaves. I think the colouring is lovely.

I also noticed that the flowers have padding - both of felt, and of satin stitching. It should look lovely at the end.

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22 April 2008

Mira Calligraphae in Embroidery and Calligraphy

The court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II produced nothing more amazing than the "Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta", a brilliant amalgamation of two arts - calligraphy and miniature painting.

The project began when Georg Bocskay, a pre-eminent scribe) assembled a vast selection of contemporary and historic scripts ranging from the latest Italic and humanist writing to antique Roman and German Gothic.

Years later, at Rudolf's behest, court artist Joris Hoefnagel filled the spaces on each manuscript page with images of fruit, flowers, insects and other natural minutiae. This marvel of the Central European Renaissance is now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

This last not being an original, but reproduced by the SCA scribe Kayleigh McWhyte

I'm lucky enough to own the entire copy of Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, in it's own hard slipcase.

As you can see, for many pages there's a painting, and there's some gorgeous calligraphy.

An idea for a project would be to needlepaint the picture, and do the adjacent calligraphy and put it together as one piece. (I could paint the picture but I like the idea of combining the two mediums.).

That would be cool, hey?

More pages can be seen by Image Googling "Mira Calligraphiae"

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19 April 2008

A Bit of Stem

I've gone over the outline in micro-pigment pen. Sometimes I went a bit wonky, because of the lumps in the linen and not gone quite where I wanted to go, but it's all fixable as I go alone and outline in thread.

I've done one stem, and 3/4 of another in 3 shades of brown/green neutrals, in chain stitch. 7 stitches wide. The 'cut' bases of the stems are done in satin stitch. The chain stitch takes forever but I do like it.

On my first attempt, on the shorter stem, I did the outline in the green used to outline the leaves above, as it said to in the book, but I didn't like the effect. (remembering that I've changed the colours to ones I wanted to use - it would have worked better with the olive green Trish suggested).

Chain stitch is a bugger to rip out, and I slipped with my ripper and took out a bit of the linen.
In the enlargement of the picture it might be visible. It's to the right of the stem near the bottom.

I 'Fray-Check'ed the area, let it dry and then 'Fray-Check'ed it again. That meant that the area I had to re-sew was stiff and sewable upon, and the area to the side wouldn't unravel anymore.

Edit :

Here's a photo I took of the embroidery, rather than using the scanner. It's a bit clearer and brighter.

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17 April 2008

Lovely People

I thought I'd mention 3 wonderful gifts I'd received lately.

Firstly, from Michael C, of
He sent me a selection of Pony needles in a lovely little wooden needlecase (I've never had a needlecase before!).

These are very very fine needles - as Michael says in his Live Journal. Some are gold, and he gave me one gold one in each size as well!

"The tiny fine needles make less traumatic holes in the silk ground of the embroidery, allowing me to get crisp, close stitch placement. They're also a bugger to thread."

Lacis carries one size, but "The (Indian company that makes them) explained that they don't do small orders, only wholesale - but then a manager emailed me and told me that he was impressed with my silk site and my devotion to needle work, and he sent me a shipment of needles with his compliments. I was SO excited!
(have I embarrassed you, Michael?)

These will be wonderful for the finer work I intend to do in my historical sampler.

Secondly wasn't actually a gift, but me winning a stash contest from Paula Hewitt at
Beauty of Life, described at

- the CQ pack : some crystal organza, panne velvet (stretchy), sari fabric, threads, beads, yarns, etc.

I felt I needed to share my bounty, and gave some of the velvet to Kit after she selected colours via the phone. She's very excited to receive them in the post, and just loves the colours.
She's going to make some small bags from the pieces.

And lastly but not least, my old friend from work, Steve, gave me two books, which arrived yesterday as a very pleasant surprise.

The Medieval Flower Book is described at

Here's an example page

The other book he gave me is the companion book to the exhibition we're going to in a couple of weeks at the State Library.

The exhibition is described here :

And the book is mentioned here
or available for $90 pre-order on Amazon. (It's nice to have a book being more expensive in America than in Australia for once!).

It is as richly illustrated as the Codices Illustres, divided into the same thematic sections as the exhibition, containing a short history for each theme, and then at least a double page spread for each item of the exhibition, with perhaps a full page image accompanied an analysis of the subject, design and technique used.
And it's edited by Nigel Morgan and Bronwyn Stocks. (need one say more?)

Thankyou all.

And also to the many people who have provided so much advice to me


16 April 2008

The Bunch of Poppies

This is my new needlepainting project, from Trish Burr's Redoute book :

They are actually Anenomes but because the recipient Kit wants them to be poppies, and it's easier to type, I'm going to call them Poppies.

I did the transfer of the pattern this morning and it nearly killed me.

I found out the hard way that using transfer paper doesn't work on a linen like Belfast linen - it just didn't transfer the colour because of the lumps in the material (unlike on the very fine linen I used for the Rust Red Iris). I wish I'd checked before drawing over the entire picture!

I did the transfer by tracing the pattern onto tracing paper and then dragging an automatic pencil *through* the paper to make marks on the linen beneath.
This is what the tracing paper looks like now : (side ways)

All the pieces are actually loose.

It did mark up the pattern ok. There is some detail loss but I'll add it back in as I go along.

Well, that's as clear as mud, isn't it. Photoshop inserted 'lines' into the scan of the linen because it was trying to be clever in some Photoshop sort of way, and this second attempt using Microsoft Paint shows that Paint has done a bit of the same thing.

It's Antique White linen (I forget which type - Kit bought it), with no cheques or stripes. That's graphics processing software being 'clever'.

I'll re-draw over it with a micro-pen, although I'm not re-doing the entire pattern today - I've already drawn it all 3 times.

Thread and Colours

I'm going to use my own choice of colours in this. It's pretty simple - a red flower, a blue flower and a mauve one, with the others cream and a bit of the other colours mixed in.

I'm going for more of a maroon sort of red, a purple sort of blue, and a rich dark purple flower. The flower with it's bottom facing the screen will have a deep orange, not a yellow, bottom.

I found, as always, that I didn't have the complete range of shades that I needed. You'd think that I would, with 5 boxes of DMC, but I don't. Particularly the maroons.

I was going to use some rayon on the outer edges of the flowers, out of sheer desperation to provide extra shades but Paula H. confirmed what I suspected - it'd be just a bit too shiny and stand out too much.

I'll wait until my new colour card arrives (the DMC '08 one :-) and find some more shades of maroon and purple in DMC cotton thread then.

Until then I can work on the leaves which I'm supposed to do first anyway. I'm doing them in forest greens, rather than the olive colours (so the whole project is based on blue/purple rather than yellow). That, and the outlining (in pen and in thread) of the design will take me ages.

I hope this makes sense - my fingers are aching from the transfer and I'm all sleepy.

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13 April 2008

Rust Red Iris - Naked

I thought I'd show the Iris out of the hoop and with the protective muslim removed, before it's washed and blocked.
You can't really see, but it's *filthy*

I've realized that I need to cut the backing to size and hem it to the back of the linen - I'll do that after washing, so the two pieces of material can move independantly. I'd hate them to pull against each other.

And here's the back :
I'm not a very tidy person, as you can see.

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Rust Red Iris - Finished

And here it is!

That last petal worked to bring all of the colours (the golds and the reds) together.

Next is to wash and block it. I'm going to use the instructions in NeedleNThread
I hope the couple of tension problems I have resolve themselves in that process.

I'm not going to frame it. The piece of linen it's on is quite large, with a cut lace edging.
Once it's washed and ironed, I'll take a photo with the camera!

I'm looking forward to getting it out of it's frame!

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6 April 2008

Rust Red Iris - Left Petal Finished

I enjoyed doing this petal. I think it worked pretty well. :-)

I've got some comments about the way I do things :

  • When there's a change between two hues of colours that are not 'next' to each other in the colour scheme but I need them to blend- such as from lightest gold suddenly to dark gold.
When this happens, the change stands out a lot if I do it 'normally' with long and short stitch. I've been 'helping' the transition by doing a split stitch on the first line of stitches of the new colour.

The scan after this one, in the bottom left corner, shows the dark orange on top of the light orange *before* the split stitching. Nothing gentle about that blending! Also the angle of a couple of them look wrong, even tho they aren't.

The split stitch has the effect of making the new stitches skinnier, so they don't stand out as much. The next line of the new colour is done just as normal.

The stitches aren't particularly clear in the scan - but see the change from dark orange to light orange? I have no idea whether I should be doing this or not, but it seems to work.

  • Long Curves.
I'm talking about the situation where a colour has a long long way to go on a curve.

I've looked in the instructional parts of Trish Burr but haven't found anything particularly helpful on this, except the mention of using short stitches. Nothing on hiding the joins, which is what I'm going to be describing here. It may be that I'm not approaching curves correctly, but this method seems to work ok.

A curve consists of lots of short lines.

The scan above shows some curving of the light orange and the partially done curving of the cream, finished.

More to the point, you can also see the short stitches that I used to make up the curves for the remainder of the light orange on the bottom right hand side there. These are 'real' stitches that I've placed as guidelines in preparation for adding in the rest of the stitches. They are the longest straight lines I can make, and still get that acute curve.

They can't be too long, or the 'curve' ends up being a series of lines at angles that are too acute and it looks like a 'shoulder' or abrupt change in angle, not a curve.

I've found that I then need to go back over the joins of these lines and insert some random stitches. Otherwise there is a distinct line where the short lines change angle.

I try to vary these short lines a bit, in order to avoid this line - but given you are working on an angle that is only changing slowly, there's a limit to how much you can move the placement of the lines.

On the scan, following the curve of the light orange/gold anti-clockwise, the joins of the straight lines can be seen. I hadn't placed the 'hiding' stitches yet. I had further up the curve, and you can't see the joins.

Random stitches over the top to hide that meeting line seems to be the best way to go - although, like I said, I am doing this only because I've found that it seems to work.

Here's a picture of the actual design.

The curves look like they are all straight stitches, that somehow just ... fit into the curves. The pixellation makes it impossible to see if in fact 2 or 3 shorter lines were used to make a curve, then the joining lines hidden.

  • Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I was a gymnast.
When preparing a routine for a competition, I'd choose a favourite music track.
By the time of the comp, I would hate that music track. I would have heard it so many many many times by then.

I wouldn't say doing an embroidery design is exactly the same. I don't hate the design by any means. But I wouldn't like to work on a design I didn't like in the first place, because there is SO much effort involved, and you spend so many hours just staring at the design, trying to work out how it's done. Loving the design to start with helps *grin*.

I think the "90%" done stage is a frustrating one. So close yet so far.

  • I've found that I work on an area in 3 or 4 stages
The first is the basic laying down of the stitches as I think they should go.

The second is looking back at the original design and making some changes to my work. Making small adjustments here and there - adding extra stitches to change the shape slightly or to emphasize an area of blending, perhaps.

The third is the 'fix up' such as filling in any gaps, hiding joins etc

The fourth is like the second stage again, but it's after I've had some time to go away, and then come back and look at the design again. Or it may be that I've completed an entire petal and want to make a change so it fits together as a whole.

It's a very organic process, I can say that much.

Michael and Mary, I'd love to hear your comments about these methods (and anyone else! :-)

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3 April 2008

Historical Sampler - Slips

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 NeedleNThread 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 connect[Pg 178]ing 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[Pg 179] 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[Pg 180] 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

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

Elizabethan Slips by Jane Stockton

Some Additional Useful Notes

This may come out formatted weirdly - copying and pasting from the Gutenburg book and from my own Word document

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2 April 2008

"The Art of Elizabethan Embroidery" by Jane D Zimmerman

I'm in love.
This is the book I've been looking for.

I've been told that the Elizabethan design series (Exploring Elizabethan Design, Festive Elizabethan Design and 2 more) also has a lot of this information, but I haven't seen them yet, and Zimmerman arrived in the post yesterday.

She does what I've been wanting to find so badly.

Most descriptions of an embroidered article mention the stitches used on an embroidery as a whole, but NOT which stitches were used for WHICH motif.

She does.

Firstly, in (admittedly, some a bit blurry) black and white photographs at the beginning of the book:

for a particular picture "All in metal, heavy coiling stems are worked in Plaited Braid Stitch with the narrow tendrils in Twisted Chain Stitch and Woven Web Stitch for some flower centres ......"

Now, I don't mean to exceed Fair Use here but in order to inspire people interested in Elizabethan Embroidery to get this book, because IMHO I think it's great.

The stitches she illustrates (in drawn diagrams, some in several steps, and finished stitches often shown in black and white scans) are (deep breath)

Narrow Line and Outline Stitches :
Coral Knot,
Twisted Chain,
Braid Stitch

Wide Line Stitches :
Plaited Braid,
Open Chain,
Heavy Chain,
Double Chain,
Loop and
Threaded Double Back Stitch

Detached Stitches :
Basic Detached Buttonhole Stitch (D.B.S.),
Basic D.B.S. with straight return,
B.D.S on Metal Foundation,
Knotted D.B.S,
Up and Down D.B.S,
Up and Down with Straight Return,
Up and Down on Metal Foundation,
Double D.B.S,
Double D.B.S with Straight Return,
Double D.B.S. on Metal Foundation,
Raised Effects with Detached Buttonhole,
Trellis Stitch, (a whole page, including variations and usages)
Ceylon Stitch (detached),
Double Ceylon Stitch,
Open Ceylon Stitch (basic, overcase, woven, threaded)

and then some miscellaneous stitches, the most interesting of which is the interlaced herringbone stitch.

I now understand how to make the peapod with the semi-detached top, so you can see the peas within the pod.

Now - I've seen the wide line stitches described before, and seen the detached stitches described and listed with their variations (although not necessarily with their variations separately described and illustrated) but the real value lies again, in her extra practical comments.

For example "Variations of the Ceylon Stitch in metal thread were used by the Elizabethan embroideress for not only wide stem lines but also the filling of motifs......"

"Also referred to as Broad or Square Chain, the Open Chain Stitch may be used for not only rather wide lines but also the filling of a motif of varying widths, such as a leaf - when it is desirable to have some of the ground show..."

"....executed this variation in metal thread or a combination of silk and metal threads, using it for such wide lines as a vein line up the centre of a leaf"

Given that there are some pretty complicated stitches described, I can see myself consulting other sources, such as the wonderful Lady Sabrina and the Bayrose site, for additional information in how to actually perform the stitches, since there are limited diagrams (and I'm a step by step diagram sort of person) but I think the information on how these stitches were actually used (and in silk and/or metal thread) is absolutely invaluable.

I could use MORE of the type of information she gives, but here is some, and it's great.

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Rust Red Iris - Fix 'Em

Kit, my friend who is also a graphics designer, had a look at the iris with an objective eye the other day. I've stared at the pattern and the embroidery for so many hours now I can no longer see it objectively and pick up these sorts of mistakes.

She discovered the following issues :

(following the circles up from the bottom)
  • The bottom needed a "horizon line" to average out the bottom end of the embroidery to be straight. This is to stop the poppy looking as though it was leaning over, especially since it has the big stem coming out at a 60 degree or so angle above it.
  • The stem emerging from the bud needed just a few more stitches, so it emerged from the bottom of the bud, not 2 mm or so above the bottom.
  • The width of the stem needed to be even (I knew that one, just hadn't gotten around to it)
  • I'd re-done the fold over at the top of that back leaf just before I spoke to Kit.
I wanted it to look like my other fold overs, which look much nicer (eg the one just to the left of it, in browny-gold).
My fix didn't look good. (What is shown is the old version, before the fix. I haven't got an image with the fix).

I've re-done it since, but I'm still not happy with it. However, the material is stretching, after being a bit abused, so I'm going to leave it be.

I originally mixed the colours on that foldover by going over and over, doing lots of layers in that small space. Trish talks about leaving gaps in the book, but I didn't understand what she meant at the time. I do now.

You literally leave gaps inbetween each stitch, and then come back and fill in with the other colour/s later on.
It does get a bit eye twisting when you are doing it in long and short stitch, because you are alternating both the stitch length, and the horizontal gaps between the stitches, but it's easy on a fold over when you are using satin stitch.

Here's a pic where the lower fold over has mid-orange mixed with dark orange :

The fold over isn't 'built up' to get that colour mix, because I left space for the second colour.

I have a number of other areas I'm not happy with

  • the small leaf down the bottom. Kit couldn't recognise it as a small leaf until I told her what it was.
  • the bottom half of the right petal - with that mix of green, pink and cream. It just ain't right.
  • the 'line of light' running down the stem just wasn't bright enough
  • I realised a big ooopsy. Looking at the back leaf - it's right side should proceed right down into the middle of the iris, down to the base of the iris centre, from which all petals should emerge - not stop at the TOP of the iris centre. (That's my mistake, remembering that I changed the design)
Re-doing it would be an absolute nightmare, as the colours would have to be re-done. I'm just going to leave it be.

To balance the bad, I love
  • that left bud, which kind of looks like a seashell
  • the petal I've just done, in brown/golds (although the change-over to the darker colours at it's bottom right isn't *quite* right
  • the petal I'm doing at the moment
I think the 'line of light' running down the stem is now TOO light (even lighter in the scan).
But all the other problems are fixed.

The final leaf mixes the brown/gold with the reds, to pull it all together.

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