This page has moved to a new address.

Elmsley Rose

blockquote { font-style:normal; padding:0 32px; line-height:1.6; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } p {margin:0;padding:0}; abbr, acronym { cursor:help; font-style:normal; } code {font:12px monospace;white-space:normal;color:#666;} hr {display:none;} img {border:0;} /* Link styles */ a:link {color:#473624;text-decoration:underline;} a:visited {color:#716E6C;text-decoration:underline;} a:hover {color:#956839;text-decoration:underline;} a:active {color:#956839;} /* Layout ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #wrap { background-color:#473624; border-left:1px solid #332A24; border-right:1px solid #332A24; width:700px; margin:0 auto; padding:8px; text-align:center; } #main-top { width:700px; height:49px; background:#FFF3DB url("") no-repeat top left; margin:0;padding:0; display:block; } #main-bot { width:700px; height:81px; background:#FFF3DB url("") no-repeat top left; margin:0; padding:0; display:block; } #main-content { width:700px; background:#FFF3DB url("") repeat-y; margin:0; text-align:left; display:block; } } @media handheld { #wrap { width:90%; } #main-top { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-bot { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-content { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } } #inner-wrap { padding:0 50px; } #blog-header { margin-bottom:12px; } #blog-header h1 { margin:0; padding:0 0 6px 0; font-family:italic; font-size:225%; font-weight:normal; color:#612E00; } #blog-header h1 a:link { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:visited { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:hover { border:0; text-decoration:none; } #blog-header p { margin:0; padding:0; font-family:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } div.clearer { clear:left; line-height:0; height:10px; margin-bottom:12px; _margin-top:-4px; /* IE Windows target */ background:url("") no-repeat bottom left; } @media all { #main { width:430px; float:right; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } #sidebar { width:150px; float:left; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } } @media handheld { #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } #footer { clear:both; background:url("") no-repeat top left; padding-top:10px; _padding-top:6px; /* IE Windows target */ } #footer p { margin:0; padding:0; font-family:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } /* Typography :: Main entry ----------------------------------------------- */ { font-weight:normal; text-transform:uppercase; margin:0; padding:0; font-family:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } .post { margin:8px 0 24px 0; line-height:1.5em; } { font-family:italic; font-weight:normal; font-size:200%; color:#8B0000; margin:0; padding:0; } .post-body p { margin:0 0 .6em 0; font-family: italic; font-size:150%; } .post-footer { color:#211104; font-size:74%; border-top:1px solid #BFB186; padding-top:6px; font-style:italic; } .post ul { margin:0; padding:0; font-family:italic; } .post li { font-family:italic; line-height:1.5em; list-style:none; background:url("") no-repeat 0px .3em; vertical-align:top; padding: 0 0 .6em 17px; margin:0; } /* Typography :: Sidebar ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.sidebar-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; margin:0; padding:0; color:#211104; font-family:italic; } h2.sidebar-title img { margin-bottom:-4px; } #sidebar ul { font-family:italic; font-size:86%; margin:6px 0 12px 0; padding:0; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: none; padding-bottom:6px; margin:0; } #sidebar p { font-family:italic; font-size:86%; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments {} #comments h4 { font-weight:normal; font-family:italic; font-size:120%; color:#29303B; margin:0; padding:0; } #comments-block { line-height:1.5em; font-family:italic; } .comment-poster { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .35em; margin:.5em 0 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-weight:bold; font-family:italic; } .comment-body { margin:0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-family:italic; } .comment-body p { font-size:100%; margin:0 0 .2em 0; font-family:italic; } .comment-timestamp { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#29303B; font-size:74%; margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#473624; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:visited { color:#716E6C; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:hover { color:#956839; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:active { color:#956839; text-decoration:none; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .comment-link { margin-left:.6em; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin-top:12px; padding-top:12px; height:auto; background:url("") no-repeat top left; } .profile-datablock { margin:0 0 4px 0; } .profile-data { display:inline; margin:0; padding:0 8px 0 0; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; color:#211104; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 8px 0 0; border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:2px; } .profile-textblock { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif;font-size:86%;margin:0;padding:0; } .profile-link { margin-top:5px; font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; } /* Post photos ----------------------------------------------- */ { border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:4px; }

Elmsley Rose

28 September 2008

Historical Sampler – Rose Stem and Outline :Pearl Purl

Before I discovered that tension was the major player in getting the Heavy Chain stitch even for the rose stem, I thought it was me using incorrect holes in the thread.

So when I re-did it, I put in some guidelines in gold polyester thread.

I did them in a matching thread, rather than a strongly contrasting thread (for removal later) because I figured that with the nature of Heavy Chain stitch, they’d be just about impossible to remove!


Here’s the picture of the finished Stem. Not perfect, but better than it was :


There’s something else that’s different :


I’ve replaced the single line of Jap thread outlining the rose and the bud with Super Pearl Purl.

Having a single line of Jap thread outlining the rose petals and bud was historically incorrect. Kathryn Wolters (a goldwork teacher) has told me that either two Jap (or passing thread) were used, or one line of Pearl Purl.

It brings out the colours much better than the Jap did! They look far richer.

I couched the Pearl Purl according to Jane Zimmerman’s “Techniques of Metal Thread Embroidery” page 30.

She says

“The most effective use of this metal thread is to use it to outline a shape because it is quite distinctive, even in a small size. The beginning and end of the thread are to meet perfectly flush to each other so you enjoy the advantage of having no "break" in the outline. (With other metal threads you do get a definite break where the ends meet sine the tails must be taken thru the fabrics at that point)"

She also says to cut the Purl to size after stretching it a bit, and before couching it down.

I found it impossible to estimate the length needed on such a small shape with curves (each petal was done seperately) and so stretched the end of the coil of Purl, and cut the length off (with my nose to the ground) when I was finished.

I also found that I needed to re-do a few of the satin stitches of the petals. Couching down the Purl exposed some ground as I went around the outline.

Labels: , ,

23 September 2008

Historical Sampler - Heavy Chain Stitch Stem

The photo of the entire sampler shows a realistic version of the stem in Heavy Chain Stitch.

And it IS too wobbly!

I'm re-doing it. I got 2/3 done yesterday before my hand went numb.

I've discovered that tension is the culprit - pull too tight and you go all skinny.

Labels: , ,

21 September 2008

Historical Sampler - Heavy Chain Stitch, Not Laid Work: The Rose Stem

I haven't actually seen a long straight line of laid work being done in a scrolling vine design, as I did for the long stem of my rose. (I'm going to do a separate post on the possible stitches to use in a scrolling vine design)

So I decided to change it.

Jane Zimmerman's "The Art of Elizabethan Embroidery" suggests a number of stitches as being suitable for a thin line.

This is the "before" photo of the stem as it existed :


I decided to go for Heavy Chain Stitch, since it is a relatively simple stitch for long lines and this was my first (well, second) attempt. Jane Zimmerman also describes a variation of Heavy Chain stitch which gives a heavier braid.

I learnt the actual stitch from Country Bumpkin's "Embroiderer's Handbook". (I need step by step embroidery instructions)

Now, the "after" photo makes the stitching look absolutely terrible. It's reflecting off the gold and makes it look very wobbly indeed.

Not that I didn't occasionally put the needle through the wrong hole when going up towards the rose, but it does look a whole lot better in real life than it does here :


I widened the stem as I got closer to the rose, finishing at 4 threads across. Each stitch was one thread up from the last stitch.

The pointy part at the beginning 'just sort of happened' as I started to build my chain of double (heavy) chain stitches.

I used my trusty Lurex thread.

It was hard to do in terms of getting the needle to catch those two small ends  of each metal thread chain stitch. I needed a bandaid to protect my finger. I'd really hate to try it with passing thread.

I used a tapestry needle to avoid picking up any ground threads.

Here's the sampler as it now looks :


I think this version of the stem is far more in the flavour of the piece than the laid work version was, and I'm glad that I made the change.

Labels: , ,

Historical Sampler – TriColoured Leaf, Detached Buttonhole Stitch with Return

I wanted to do a leaf in 3 colours, as shown in the sampler and on the cover of “Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery" by Dorothy Clarke :


These leaves were around a lot in the 16th and 17th centuries.

A famous example would be from the Laton Jacket (V&A T.228-1994)


and others can be seen

- "Panel, possibly from a coif"


This is mine :


There are no special blending techniques involved- just changing colours at the beginning of a new line of detached buttonhole stitches.

I think the light green and the yellow blend together much better than the dark green and the light green - and the attractiveness of the finished leaf depends on the selection of colours that blend well.

(Tho this leaf is now one of my favourite motifs, even if the dark green is a bit too dark)

I did the stem in stem stitch, and the veins in split stitch.

It has occurrred to me that all my detached buttonhole stitching so far has been "with return" because that's how the Plymouth/Thistle Thread instructions teach it.

However, it can be done without return, and I'll have to have a go at that. Meanwhile, a motif coming up soon will be with a metal thread return, which will be fun. :-)

Labels: ,

15 September 2008

Historical Sampler – Stylized Borage II

OK, so I’d had trouble using the silver passing thread in my first attempt.

I have to wonder if there were very many such small motifs done in laid work historically. There is so much couching required to simply get the passing thread where you need it to go on the design and you consequently loose some of the effect of the expensive passing thread. You certainly need to be skilled and experienced.

I meant to use Mary Brown’s GoldWork Embroidery’s Technique 1 for Laid Work since it said “This technique gives the best definition at the edges for laid work and is certainly the best technique to use if the shape is tapered or irregular” (page 84).

It involves doing just single lines of laid work. Using double threads of passing thread of course, but leaving tails to be plunged at the beginning and end of each line.

However, given this would have ended up such a mess with such small petals, I ended up doing the work as per Mary Brown’s “Couching a leaf shape from the outside in” (page 86).

The feature here is plunging one thread before the second, leaving the second to form a single thread right in the middle of the leaf, plugging any gap left.

The photo below shows this – with the passing threads finished at different positions :


I discovered why couching is done in ‘brick stitch’ – ie  forming an alternating pattern of couching stitches.

If the couching thread stitches are laid up against each other, they interfere with the closeness with which the lines of passing thread can fit together.

I must say that I’ve come to love Tanya Berlin’s NeedlePoint Tweezers, and don’t see how such work could be done without these, (or similiar) to make the curves in the passing thread.

I used Madeira 4010 for the silver.

Here are both silver petals done :



And here, all the laid work is finished. I used Lurex for the gold. I selected this as much for it’s malleability as it’s size – similar in diameter to the Madeira.

You can see how many couching stitches I needed to shape the petals. I didn’t worry about ‘every 5 mm’ – I concentrated on getting the shape right!



Then I added a small piece of milliary wire for the sepal.

This was couched with a double length of waxed polyester thread as it is a pure metal thread.

I must say – this is the first piece of pure metal that I’ve cut with my new Gingher scissors (bought specifically for goldwork) and they were noticeably blunter afterwards. (The biggest example of pure metal threads, as opposed to the silk cored threads, is the set of Purl threads)

I could use the Ginghers for cutting embroidery thread in the past, but now they cause the thread end to ‘blossom’. I’ll keep to using my beloved Storks for my embroidery thread.



I used the “Overlapping Sequins” method from Country Bumpkin’s “The Embroiderer’s Handbook”  (page 109).

I used a double waxed polyester thread again as Mary Brown says “A doubled sewing thread is to be used for all purls, spangles and beads” on page 76 of her book.

I only just got away with using this and a No 10 embroidery needle as the sequins are so very very tiny. I asked Hedgehog Handiworks for their smallest – but I didn’t realize that paillettes came quite this small! I did mean them for spangling the background (which I may or may not do)however, they are perfect for use as a group for features like this.


This shows the paillettes with a strand of DMC thread to give perspective. The top of the tiny bottle they came in says “GTSF4”

I wasn’t entirely happy with the Overlapping Sequins method. It involves attaching the sequins from only one side (the right) so the paillettes have freedom to move a bit. I think the method would work better on a straight line of paillettes, rather than a small curve where they simply aren’t there to hold each other down.

Labels: , ,

13 September 2008

Historical Sampler – My Blog

I’m not completely happy with what I’m putting in my blog.

It’s turning out to have the contents  “this is what I experienced when doing this explicit motif”.

Which is all well and good, but I want to put some more theory and historical examples in as well.

I’m not putting my blog down – but I do want it to have more, to make the information content more valuable.

For example,

* examples of variations of a motif (eg, different types of borage during the 16th and 17th C)

* some theory from the old books, like Wace and Jourdain, (which I can legally repeat), and more references to more modern books on things like say…..padding with string? The old methods – not the ‘modern’ way of things, as much as I can.

I’m learning, and if you want to, you can learn along with me. (or tell me of my mistakes)

I think I’ll set up separate posts on various topics and add to them as I find more information/images, then flag that a post has been updated.

Posts about particular motifs (eg one all about borage, with different examples) I’ll use the label “Embroidery_Motif” as well as “Historical Embroidery Sampler”. Ditto “Embroidery_Technique”.

This is my sampler so far :


I have a lot of background information to catch up on if I want to research/write more thoroughly about each motif and method! *smile*

Labels: ,

Historical Sampler – Stylized Borage

This is from

and is a Pillow for a cross with depiction of stylized vegetal ornamentation

Late 16th – Early 17th century


I am going to do a borage from it. It’s very stylized.



I had originally drawn it leaving room for the paillettes in the centre, but decided to modify the petals and ovary to meet in the middle, and will put the paillettes over the top.

Hence a little design line modification using thread instead of pen :



I’m going to do it in Laid Embroidery, with the two horizontal petal in silver, and the others in gold. (with matching couching threads in silk)

I attempted a petal in silver passing thread.

I did not have a good time. *grin*

The passing thread is quite stiff, and the petal quite tiny. I lost the ‘pear’ shape of the petal, and got an oval instead :


I was using Mary Brown’s Technique for laying thread for irregular shapes. It ends with only one thread in the middle. My attempt just doesn't look 'good'.

It took 2 hours, and I just couldn’t get the passing to obey me, even tho I had my nose to the canvas, and was keeping the tweezers in my teeth in between very frequent uses of them in an attempt to bend the thread into shape.

I think it’s a case of inexperience with using the passing thread (this is my first time) in combination with a very small irregular shape.

I'm going to have another go using a modern silver metallic thread, that should be more malleable to my needs to get a better petal shape.

I'm having thoughts about using Lurex for the gold petals - that'll be more malleable than the gold passing.

Labels: , ,

10 September 2008

Historical Sampler – Snail III


Here’s the snail in better focus……

He’s quite raised, with the layers of string and felt, but some of the motifs I’m going to be doing are going to be a lot more raised.

Labels: , ,

9 September 2008

Historical Sampler – Snail II

Following Emily’s tutorial from

I continued with the snail.

Remembering that with the raised stem stitch,there are 3 stages :

1. layer of satin stitches around and around the string

2. layer of couching stitches

3. layer of stem stitch that actually forms the woven top.

Here is the body, partly covered in raised stem stitch :


I had originally done the couching threads in one strand of DMC, and done the stem stitch in one strand. It didn’t provide enough coverage – I ended up with a kind of ‘open net’ appearance.

So I re-couched with a full thread of DMC, and did the stem stitch with 3 strands.

I found that having the couching stitches in a shade that was close to the stem stitch thread colour was a good idea because there comes a point on the other side where you just can’t fit in any more stitches but the couching stitches are still just visible.

You do want it different enough in colour that you can easily see what you are doing, because you don’t want to put your needle through the satin stitches (step 1) or *through* a couching stitch (step 2), which will stop you in your weaving tracks.

Here the body is completed, and the first layer of felt for the shell is ready to be sewn down :



Next, there have been two layers of felt sewn down, and 3 waxed bumpf strings couched down.


The body has been partly covered in satin stitch. I like the red from the underlying felt that can just be seen.


I hadn’t re-read the instructions since I started and assumed the body would be raised stem stitched as well. I concluded that I couldn’t do that – the inner part of the shell was way too tight to get the thick couching thread through.

There would be a way to do it if the bumpf was laid a couple of mm apart.

However, looking at the instructions again, I found that the shell was only satin stitched.

This was a good thing, because I’d already decided that I was happy with the snail the way that he was. I really liked that red streak.


I’m working hard on focusing the camera – really!

Labels: , ,

7 September 2008

Historical Sampler – A Snail

After the popularity of the googly eyed bug, how could I not do another creature? *grin*

I’m doing a snail.

The technique is outlined at

in Emily's The Floss Box’s blog.

which I found through Paula Hewitt’s (Beauty of Life blog) on-line stumpwork resources page

I also am going to use the description of raised stem stitch from


The snail’s body is done by couching down three strands of thick thread, then covered in raised stem stitch, which takes several steps.

The body is padded with two layers of felt, then the string with raised stem stitch is added over the top.

This is my snail so far :


It's on the opposite side of the laidwork rose's stem to all my other work so far.

  • I used DMC bumpf thread as the couched thread. (DMC No.4 Soft Cotton col. 2725 yellow, which I actually have for padding string work in goldwork)
  • I found it easier to couch the threads separately rather than all together. This helped in that I got a bit tricky and used a single string at the tip of the tail.
  • I waxed the thread before using it, to stop any furries from sticking up. This is a tip from Berlin Embroidery’s Fleur De Lys tutorial – the part on sewing down string

"...and then pull all the strands together through beeswax, so that the string is entirely coated and stiff with wax. Waxing the string will ensure that it is firm so that the shape of the padding does not deform when sewing the purl chips over top and so that no fluffy parts of the string will stick up between the chips."

I originally saw this tip on using waxed string as padding somewhere else, but this is the only reference I can find in my notes at the moment.

  • I think would be easier and quicker (although I didn't do it) to plunge the ends of the string as gold threads are in goldwork, rather than having to deal with fluffy cut ends and couching them down firmly.
  • The second step in doing the raised stem band stitch is to cover the string entirely in a base thread, just going around and around it using a tapestry needle.

This is actually harder than it sounds. You don't want the loops to be so loose that they move, or so tight that they take the 'pad' out of the padding string. I'm sure I'll master it with practice.

  • The next step is to put down more loops, these ones 5mm apart, to actually loop the stem stitch around.
  • Then I get to do the stem stitching, which Emily says takes ages.

For the body, I'm going to use a single strand of the DMC variegated thread in brown (it goes from a goldy fawny mid brown to ecru).

Sally (DragonSally, LtlPengy, who are you on this forum?) and I have discussed the colour of the shell, and we both instantly thought of a deep rich blue-red (almost brown) for the body.

I am flirting with the idea of having it in stripes - a gold yellow and the red. The more comical the better, I've seen in extant embroideries when it comes to bugs.

Labels: , ,

Historical Sampler – Another Borage

I’ve done another borage in detached buttonhole stitch, in a single strand of Royal Blue DMC thread.

I used the Royal Blue because this is the colour I used in the veins of the gold borage, and I wanted to help bring that colour out.


The sepals were just in straight stitch. The same green as the sepals of the gold borage, to also help ‘group them together’.

The spike was outlined in chain stitch to give it a clean outline then filled in with satin stitch laid at different positions to give it some texture. It was done in a single strand of Madeira cream silk and my black vintage artificial silk from Sally.

The spike is a better shape that the one of the gold borage since I was able to draw it on the existing design (remembering the original designs didn’t have spikes) rather than trying to insert it between two existing fishbone petals as with with the gold borage.

I am unsure whether it outline the borage or not.

I don’t want to outline *everything*, but it’s hard to see the details of the petals. This photo below shows the borage in place with the other motifs :


What do you think?

The examples of the borage that I see in extant embroideries usually aren’t outlined. Plymouth’s aren’t.

And what do you think of my detached buttonhole stitch? (The calyx of the rose bud doesn’t count – I had less practise with D.B.S. and with GST then)

Labels: , ,

5 September 2008

Historical Sampler – A Googly Eyed Bug and a Leaf


Here’s the googly eyed bug and a detached buttonhole leaf.

The bug

I detached buttonholed his wings in silver Au Ver A Soie silk thread, and outlined them using some vintage artificial silk (from Sally- thanks Sally!), angling the needle to go partially under the buttonholing to get a thin a line as possible.

Without the outlining, I didn’t think his wings stood out enough.

The eyes were done with three stitches each, then circled in chain stitch. This is a kind of backwards way to do it, but with so few stiches there was ‘stepping’ in the height of the stitches and this way I could adjust where the chain stitch went, and get a clear circular outline, rather than doing it the other way around and partially covering the chain stitch.

French knots for pupils.

I do wonder if there is a better stitch I could have used for his eyes.

I didn’t have much room to use the pattern from the body of that V&A bug I showed in the last post – just two lines of red and one of blue.

I think he looks sufficiently goofy.

The Detached Buttonhole Leaf

This was done in olive green YLI silk. And then three strands of yellow YLI in stem stitch down the middle.

I’m becoming more comfortable with detached buttonhole stitch. I’m finding that the hardest things are

* finding the next loop from the row above to knot around. Often it’s a blind search with the needle to find where the needle will next go through easily.

I have been known to go back and insert extra stitches to cover a missed loop but I’ve found it’s a good idea to do it after finishing the whole piece. Inserting extra stitches means inserting the needle through the ground (so it can come up and around the two threads) and this ties the net to the ground. This means that the net  isn’t free to do it’s little bit of stretching when it’s attached to the bottom row.

* NOT getting knots in the thread because if the thread knots and then is pulled tight into the ‘buttonhole knot’, well, insert swear words here. (I went back with the needle and put a stitch through the knot to sew it down to the backing so it wouldn’t stick up. Hardly ideal, but I couldn’t see any other way out of it).

Labels: , ,

1 September 2008

Historical Sampler – Borage and Laid Leaf

I’ve unpicked the outline from the borage.

The only troublesome part was the spike. There are a few fluffy bits of couching thread that I just can’t get out, even with the Berlin needle nose tweezers – but you can really only see them if you are looking for them

I’ve also finished the leaf.

I found that if I laid a couching stitch only every second GST thread, I couldn’t see the couching thread (and hence the effect) so I couched every GST thread.

I then laid a vein in thick Jap, and outlined it in a double line of Jap No. 1 to give the leaf definition.


Here’s the borage, back to his old self :


I’m now working on a bug


because a friend said she wanted to see it’s google eyes.

I’ve done the wings in detached buttonhole in the silver coloured silk thread I have for couching.

I’m going to outline the wings in the thinnest black that I can, and do a red and blue striped body.

He’s inspired a bit by this bug from a cushion cover, V&A Museum number T.120-1932


I wish I had more body space to work with!

Labels: ,