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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

24 March 2012

Limited amount of Maroon Silk Velvet available!

Tanya B of Opus Anglicanum recently bought an awfully big lot of maroon silk velvet. I received a piece, and I can testify that it is truly is lovely!

She still has some available to sell, but I'd grab it sooner rather than later if I were you.She's selling it in A3 and A4 pieces which makes a piece ideal for finishing a small-medium sized piece. I know from my own attempts to buy silk velvet that it's difficult to find (on-line at least) and even more difficult to buy just a small piece. And at the prices it costs, you don't want to buy more than you need - unless you are rich, and would like the opportunity to roll around in it. I rubbed my face in it, myself, then put it safely away from the cats, because I can see it being a total cat hair magnet, although I wanted to keep it out to admire it for a bit.

To repeat her details
"For those who are interested I have a few A4(roughly 12inches by 81/2) and A3 (roughly 16 1/2 by 12 inches) pieces to spare. A4 is £5 and A3 is £9.50. postage is £1 uk, £1.50 europe, and £2 rest of world. contact me for paypal details"
 1 pound = $US1.58

Tanya can be contacted via her blog entry
 If you are at all interested in Opus Anglicanum (the "English Embroidery" done in split stitch using wool) she does beautiful work.

The velvet :

Tanya mentions on her blog that the velvet is a little bright than in her photo - on her blog with the black background. I've just compared the material with this screen, and it looks a tad darker than it appears on my screen. Either way, it's a traditional blood-red maroon. Perfect for gold!

A piece of Tanya's work ....this is one panel of a much larger piece she's working on :

Her entries on this piece can be found at

She also did that excellent tutorial on Opus Anglicanum faces - which is also totally applicable to doing faces in the Or Nue style - The "Little Faces" tutorial - by far the best and informative tutorial on this aspect that I've ever seen.

Mary Corbet talks a little more about Opus Anglicanum in a post if you'd like a light overview. (I am not going to talk myself into doing an Opus Anglicanum post now, nor about talking about historical embroidery and velvet! Must post on Heart of The Thistle, must post on Heart of The Thistle....been too busy enjoying embroidering it :-)

12 March 2012

Extracting A Pattern from the Extant Embroidery Image Part I


Ages ago, I saw an entry on the Historic English Embroidery blog by Helen Cowan.

The blog is unfortunately now defunct, but fun to have a look at for a précis of costume history and some great costume and embroidery images.

I instantly fell in love with

All the information I had, or ever found, on the piece was the date 1661.

It was the right hand image – an enlarged detail from the sampler (top left hand corner), and shown enlarged on the right hand side, that I really loved. It reminded me a little of a Bargello piece (one of my interests) in the way that the colours were blended.

Plus, it was just plain weird, which I liked as well.

Recovering from a long year of extra-illness, the time came at the beginning of this year that I was ready to do the piece. It was simple –  tent stitch plus a few other simple stitches, ideal for getting back into practical embroidery. A “Zen” sort of piece, where I could just embroider, and not think too much.

I didn’t have a *clue* what to call this *blobby thing* so I ran a competition asking for a name, here on the blog. Lia de Thronegge won, with her suggestion of “The Heart of the Thistle”. It does have a heart in the middle, and the outside is kind of thistle-y. I do love thistles.

Also, a friend gave me a beautiful Birthday book for Christmas that I intend to use as an Address Book. This piece would make a fine cover for my new Book.
“The RHS Birthday Book showcases the work of Lilian Snelling MBE (1879-1972), in particular her mature style, which formed the outstanding model for the British botanical artists of the latter half of the 20th Century.”
An example of Ms Snelling’s work ……
Beautiful, hey! A whole book of these hand coloured drawings (aproximately 60 of them) deserves a special cover!

Extracting a Line Drawing Pattern

The Image to Examine

I needed the highest resolution copy of the image that I could get in order to draw the lines pattern as precisely as possible.

Working from a image scanned from a book is better than working from an image from the Net. Internet images are, only ever 72dpi (dots per inch) at most, but you can scan images from a book at a much higher resolution and see the image in much more detail. I’ve had 300 dpi suggested to me by experienced embroiderers as a scanning resolution.

The best that I could do was enlarge the image in Photoshop.
There are software utilities available on the Net to increase image resolution, but that’s a topic for another time.
I’ve found that altering the colour balance in the image helps to see the image more clearly – making different details stand out. (Photoshop/Image/Adjustments/Variations)

(more magenta)
(more cyan)

I started a rough drawing over the top of the printed copy of the cyan adjusted image, which I found to be the clearest. This was most definitely in pencil, with a rubber (eraser) in the other hand, drawing around the different coloured sections and outlines. This was to discover the ‘look and balance’ of the pattern.

The Charm of Wonkiness versus the Need for Truth

Sometimes the original embroiderer stitched the pattern a bit out of true. Going under or over pattern lines. Or the original pattern was (very often)a  bit wonky. The physical thread itself (especially with wool or other thicker threads) blurs lines.

I could have simply traced the embroidery as is,  but then I’d add my own wonkiness through those factors above, and end up with a piece that was pretty out of kilter.

Given part of the charm of these pieces is a certain uneveness, I needed to balance ‘wonkiness charm’ with a well designed line drawing.

Finding the Basic Shapes

What I was looking for was
  • repeated elements
  • straight lines, at whatever angle
  • smooth curves
  • reflected curves (or converse or other related curves)
  • mirrored elements
  • (white space or ‘background’, although this isn’t relevant to this piece)
  • balance in the pattern, which is judged by eye and experience.
I find that judgement of eye is best achieved by taking long breaks from looking at the image (a day or two) then having a good look, and listening to your gut instincts. The human eye is very good at picking up imbalance and unevenness.
The way to build experience is to look at a lot of contemporaneous pattern line drawings and look how they are put together by various shapes, how the shapes balance with each other, and the white space (unembroidered or background part). Looking at the image in a mirror can help, giving you a whole new perspective.
This involves an awful lot of staring at the image. I didn’t expect to get the final drawing from drawing on this first copy – it was just to give me a rough idea.

For example, look at

I wanted to get those sort-of-semi circles to balance with each other in size, and the rate at which they enlarged at a regular amount.

I went through the same process with the center of the piece :


The outermost ring is a definite heart shape, but it took a lot of peering to determine that the innermost ring was a wedge shape. That innermost ring is almost indiscernible in the image I see before me on the screen as I write.

Repeated Shapes 

One particular aspect to look for is any repeated shapes and if there is any variation between them. I’ve found that there usually is. Then to decide which version to go with.
Because this piece is vertically symmetrical, I principally studied just one side on the image, but looked at the other side for any variations. I also had the repetition of the thistle ends down each side, which echoed each other in their shapes.

For example, did I want  pattern_extraction_detail (LH side)pattern_extraction_detail (RH side)

My choice here contributed to small choices/decisions I was making throughout my study. I went for the more rounded right hand side version, rather than the pointier left hand sided version. So – other thistle ‘ends’ would need to be more on the rounded side as well, if they were to fit in with this one.

Another choice….. Did I want to go with
pattern_extraction_detail (LH)
pattern_extraction_detail (RH)

And another…..

Looking at the light pink layer (4th from the top) of this top thistle edge, did I want the smooth join with the rest of the thistle (LH side) or the hillock sort of bump (RH side)? (I went with hillocks)

After awhile, the pattern starts to build itself.

Just so you don’t die of anticipation, here’s the final pattern that I came up with (which has been stretched out to fit the book) :-


with a quick repeated pic of the original for comparison


I’ll talk further about extracting the design from the image of the original piece, and then go onto drawing the final pattern, choosing colours, transferring the pattern onto the ground and so forth in further entries….I’ve cheated badly, I’ve already spent 40+ hours on the actual embroidery of the piece :-)

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5 March 2012

A Brilliant Opus Anglicanum/Or Nue Tute, and who was asking me ..... ?

Tanya of the Opus Anglicanum blog has written a brilliant tutorial on embroidering faces in opus anglicanum. She includes many general tips on stitching and thread, then a step by step (including photographs) of the embroidery of a jowly fellow from an alter frontal. He has the typical bulgy eyes and high forehead of these faces. Great stuff!

If you are wondering what Opus Anglicanum (which translates to "English Embroidery") is, there's a nice but brief introduction at\
Tanya specialises in the technique and her blog makes very interesting reading as well.

This technique was the mother of Or Nue and the tutorial is relevant to those interested in that technique as well.


Now, who was it that was talking to me about the needlepainting book "Embroidery from English Gardens"? I've finally received a copy from the library, and I'm ready to talk about it..... :-)

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2 March 2012

The Franses Exhibition - Tudor and Stuary Embroidery

The link is from The Essemplaire Newsletter .....

 "The Franses exhibition includes museum quality embroidery and needlework, as well as rare examples of English knotted Turkeywork and woven tapestry. Also included is the Crocker Tapestry,  a recently discovered Elizabethan tapestry, a masterpiece acquired for the famous west coast Crocker family by Elsie de Wolfe in 1911.  Woven in the 1580's, and in exceptional condition, it the most important English Renaissance tapestry to appear for over fifty years.

The selection of textiles begins around 1485 with the accession of Henry VII and ends with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the overthrow of James II, the last Stuart to sit on the throne of England.  ......" (from the Introduction)
The items are shown starting from the bottom row of the first Exhibition page. Click on each object to zoom, although the images don't have much zoom detail, unfortunately.  You can step one zoom further in by RightHandButton-Mouse clicking and selecting "Zoom In". This will show design details in much better detail that the original zoom, but not stitches. Any more zooms, the images just pixellate. (Rotten web resolution!)

The details for the item are on it's page - the Catalogue tab provides abbreviated details.

The exhibition is of interest in spite of the zoom and not much technical detail because it has items that I, at least, haven't seen before.

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