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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

30 May 2008

The practical implications of S and Z twist

Plimouth Embroider's Story had an intriguing paragraph today at

"Ah, another instance of S and Z.
In embroidery, we see the S and Z as the differentiation between the Stem Stitch and the Outline Stitch.
Depending on the direction you make your stitch it creates a twisted border that makes an “S” or a “Z”.
I can never remember which is which, but I believe the “S”tem stitch makes the S and the Outline stitch makes the Z.
In practice, most people interchange them without differentiation- but technically there is a difference. "

I was after something that explained this to me in simpler terms. I talked to Mary Corbet of NeedlenThread and I also went on a Google Hunt. I thought I'd find out more about S and Z twist while I was there. Who knew it mattered in *practical* terms ?!!?

  • From :
Brazilian Style Embroidery - From Adaption to Obsession

"One fact we should take into consideration is the twist of the fibers we plan to use.

This is important in the success of the wraps required in some of the stitches. Brazilian rayons and some silks have a counter-clockwise or "Z" twist, while most other yarns, threads and flosses have an "S", twist.

It is very important to be able to recognize this twist because if the wrap goes against the built-in twist, the fiber components will separate as it is wrapped.

One way to identify the twist direction, after ascertaining the grain, is to take the fiber in the left hand between the thumb and index finger.

Twist the fiber.

If the twist tightens when rolled to the right, it is an "S"- twist.

If the twist tightens when rolled to the left, it is a "Z"' twist."

(also from this article)........Almost every one has tried a bullion, a very old stitch dating from Biblical times.

Don't forget the twist. A right-handed stitcher, using a "Z" twist will wrap toward the body and away from the body if using an "S" twist. The left-handed stitcher will do the opposite

The article also mentions consideration of the thread twist in doing French Knots (and other Brazilian stitches)

has a picture to show what goes wrong if a Bullion Knot is twisted against the thread's twist.

  • An article that talks about the point Plimouth raised about Stem/Outline stitch is
Stem and Outline Stitches - third paragraph

(and I really like the entire article on stem/outline stitch and it's different approaches and use depending on the approach used).

Note from this :-

"Embroidery floss is normally S-Twist. One exception is rayon threads, which are Z-twist."

I've also read that Brazilian threads are normally Z-twist.


"Sewing thread, some silk threads and rayon threads are all Z twist.

Cotton floss, cordonnet, pearls and other cotton needlework threads are S twist."

  • I also have a feeling that, (in the case of S twist, which is all I've ever used) left handed embroiderers have their thread tending to untwist, whilst right handers have their thread twist tighter, as the needle twists slightly each time it goes through the canvas. (And this is why they need to let their needles dangle and spin, to untwist the thread.)
Actually, I have both problems, but mostly the thread untwisting from it's plies.

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27 May 2008

Design Thoughts : The Slip

The more I think about having a slip at the bottom centre of the piece, the less comfortable I am.

I am 'doing what *I* want to do" in the design to a certain extent (eg mixing Elizabethan with full stumpwork) but I think the slip might be going a bit too far.

Slips were used dotted around on the larger soft furnishings.

Pillows (although this will be a hanging) were pure scrolling vine, right out to the edges, or (I think was a bit later) had a figurative scene in the middle and a foliate border.

I think having the slip will muck up the beauty of the geometry of the scrolling vine design.

So I'll do the design cut off so that the vines emerge from the bottom just where the straight line is (above where that rose in the bottom middle currently is)

I also thought, for laughs, I'd draw up the complete design sized for a single scroll frame.

I really do want lots of places for flowers tho. This whole point of this exercise is to try out lots of different techniques for different flowers and leaves. I can add some more minor vines, but don't want to loose the strength of that basic design shown above.

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Design Thoughts

Working Up The Scrolling Vine Design

This is the scrolling vine design that I want to use for my sampler. (from Davenport's Embroidered Books book)

I wanted to remove all the roses and rosebuds before showing this image here, but Photoshop wants to do a 'background eraser' instead of a normal 'eraser' so just pretend they are empty spots for a number of *different* flowers. (Although I'd like to do this original design as well one day)

I plan to take the top half of the cover

and size it to the size of my scroll frame on paper.

I will then draw in more minor vines, expanding the design to fit the scroll frame and be in proportion to the elements I'm going to add, while at the same time adding more opportunities for more flowers.

At the centre of the base, I want to put in a fairly large slip. I'm thinking of this one :

but there are so many lovely ones!


I plan to use slips as sources quite a lot in this sampler. Mostly because you can get the high resolution images from the Victoria and Albert museum and the colours, and colour design can be clearly seen. I'll just do a leaf, or a flower, from various ones I like.

I'm having a good look at the colours used at the same time.

Some I'll do as appliques, and some I will translate into embroidery.
I will experiment with raising (stuffing) some as I will also be doing stumpwork.

The Border

I want to do a goldwork border around the outside. I think. I have no idea of which design to use. Something not too wide, or I'll be there forever. Also, it might be in silver, since I plan to use both silver and gold on the actual piece.

Deciding Flower Placement

I've been thinking a lot about whether to decide (and draw into my paper version) where each different flower will go (leaves are generally interchangeable enough not to worry about them), or just to add them in in different spots as I go along.

I think a balance of both approaches. Perhaps placing particuarily distinctive flowers (and any insects I want to use) in the paper design, and adding other flowers ad hoc as I go along.

I know that I've read that with Stumpwork, part of the charm was the ad-hocness of the placing of the elements, but I don't want to bugger up and end up with a bunch of beaded flowers all in one corner, and goldwork ones in some strange pattern or whatever....

Where the Flowers and other elements are coming from

I mentioned the following in my post about My Notes the other day. I've been collecting images of flowers, leaves and insects (and birds - I think I want a bird in there somewhere). V&A is definitely the best source.

I'm using Photoshop to pull out individual elements from the images and group them all together in a file. (All the flowers together, all the 'all purl' elements together, all the birds together etc).

Then I'll decide which of them I want to use.

The Actual Embroidering

Then the paper designing and then the embroidering!

I plan to document the embroidering of each element as I go along here in the blog.

Appliques are relatively easy

I've decided that I want to do some applique work (ie bits of slips, in tent stitch, to be applied to the background) because I will go completely nutty if *everything* I do is in detached buttonhole, trellis stitch etc. I can do some beautiful elements in silk and wool in tent stitch and add them in.

They will be a lot easier to sew. Having a bad brain day? Sew an applique. Having a good day - do a needlelace rose.

And then doing it all again??

When I've completed the top half, I will then decide if I am going to do the bottom half of the design. This will involve doing a second scroll frame's worth of work. I don't want to commit myself to doing it until I know how much work one scroll frame is going to be.

I'm thinking that underneath the slip in the bottom centre, I might use one of these slips, upside down

They kind of look like root balls, don't they? I'd do some design adjustment so the design doesn't look upsidedown, but would still fit with being underneath the pansy and looking like it's root ball at first glance. I'm not really into those 'hillocks' that are generally used at the base.

Or I may drop that whole idea all together. We'll see.

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26 May 2008

Three Scottish Embroideries

For Historical Embroiderers :

Three Scottish Embroideries, by Helen Bennett
"Since 1973 the Museum has purchased three major examples of 16th- and 17th-century
It's interesting what they say about Queen Mary and her making any valances.

There's two nice detail pictures of the work in question.

I wish the other plates were clearer - the third one, with the range of stitches, sounds really interesting.

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More Leaves

I think I'll start padding a rose, just for a break from doing the leaves ....... cutting out bits of felt and doing stitch padding

Oh rats - it's out of focus again. I don't know how I manage that. It's supposed to be automatic. Maybe I don't wait long enough.

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22 May 2008

Cora Ginsburg Catalogues

Historical embroiderers may well be interested in having a look at


if they are not already familiar with them.

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Tudor Rose Carry Bag

Firstly, I've had stuff going on, so haven't been able to embroider. But it's calling to me!

I was Image Googling "Tudor Rose" last night and found this.

- a large shoulder bag in the shape of a tudor rose,

I'd like to make one - in jewel colours, in a brocade for the top petals and velvets for the lower petals.
Thinks about appropriate embroidery/embellishment for that strapwork in the middle ....

One day.

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8 May 2008


-------------------- Shapes
Looking at the original design, at the bunch of leaves in the middle (the bunch I'm currently working on) :

the larger leaves were added by the designer on the right to balance the flowers on the left/top. See them hanging out there to 'take the weight'? Otherwise the flowers would look like they are going to tip over, or there was a big bare spot where something should be.

In the original design those 'balancing' leaves are really funny shapes (that hook thing with a mouth, and those two claws behind it). Personally, I don't get the zen of them being leaves.
(Maybe I need to go look at a leafy bunch of poppies)

Meanwhile, I just can't embroider shapes I don't understand. They won't come out looking right either, because I don't understand them.

So I changed those leaves to more of the multi-pointed ones. But I hadn't done them big enough, and needed to make them a big bigger, which I've just done.

And the leaves on the left weren't big enough either, so I did a bit of re-outlining there as well. I've done a bit of leaf re-design. The drawings in the book were pretty casual. The main thing was to get them coming together in the middle in that sort of 'arched' shape.

----------------------- Colours
With the two designs together, the difference can be seen between the original olive green scheme for the leaves, and my emerald green scheme. We're going for opulent, dark and romantic, rather than the lighter blue and pink flowers in the original.

Kit and I got out our thread cards over the phone the other day and picked :-

814-816 in darkest maroon to a mid maroon, (2 flowers)
550-552 for darkest purple up to a dark lilac (1 flower - the one behind the big red one)
719-793 in dark royal blue up to a mid blue

The blue ones I'll be doing will be much darker than the ones in the original design - the original ones have a lot of creamy blue in them.

The behind of the flower at the top left will be a rust orange 919. It will be a second red flower rather than have a pink and yellow bottom. We don't like pink and yellow very much. Luckily having a second red flower there balances colour-wise as well. If the big red one was right next to it, it wouldn't look right - but the colours will still be spread out nicely across the bunch.

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6 May 2008

All Framed Up

Firstly, a rather better (in focus) picture of the leaves I've done so far, (and a little more) :

I did the extra leaves while the embroidery was in the scroll frame.

After washing and ironing the embroidery, (simply because it had already picked up some dirt) I found that the linen was rather bigger than the frame it was supposed to fit into. I folded over the extra material and hemmed it, making sure that the hem didn't intrude into the space where I'd be embroidering on the front.

I then sewed some bias binding tape right around the edges, making sure that the top and bottom + bias binding just fitted into the frame, and the left/right edges were a wee bit (inch or so) short in width (to allow for the lacing). It's the lacing that really gets the linen tense, I saw a bit later on.

The idea with the bias binding is that the sewing holes used in the tension-making process of attaching it to the frame are in the bias binding, not in my good linen.

I made a mark in the centre top and bottom on the webbing of the scroll bars, and a mark at the centre top and bottom and matched them up, pinning outwards from the centre. Then I whip stitched the top and bottom to the frame webbing.

Lacing the frame was much easier than I thought. I came up through bias binding at the top, without securing the end, then went around the frame, came back through the bias binding, and down the frame/embroidery.

I was keeping an eye out that the embroidery was staying straight, and so were the loops I was making around the frame.

(You can see the olive green bias binding tape I used in the photo).

Then the years of experience in lacing corsets came in handy. Using a finger, I tightened each loop as much as it would, secured one end of the thread, then did a bit more tightening for luck, then secured the other end.

The way I secured the thread was by wrapping it around the bolt and nuts of the frame. I think you are actually supposed to wrap it around the frame itself using clove hitches - it might be a bit hard getting it back from around the bolt. Ooops.

(You use a really really long crochet thread for to do all this - not even cutting it off the ball, and having heaps of thread to play with).

I am concered that the linen seems warped at the corners. (I didn't take the photo to show that, but to show detail of the two types of attachment, but here you go). It's totally totally fine for 7/8 of the area of the linen, but the corners are a bit 'off'. I don't know if this normally happens or I did something wrong (tension being too loose in one direction would be one possible problem).

It won't affect this embroidery, as it's in the middle, but would be an issue if I was embroidering right up to the corners.

I could tighten the tension by
  • re-lacing
  • rotating one of both scroll bars around a little. (this involves undoing screws, urgh)
The tension at the moment is that if I hold a finger down above the part I'm sewing, it makes that area drum tight. The whole piece isn't drum tight-bound a coin. I could sew without using a finger to hold it down, but it seems easier to sew that way. I just hope temporarily changing the tension at the spot I'm embroidering doesn't muck up the tension of the whole piece. Maybe my tension IS too loose?

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