15 December 2017

Embroidering with Light

The best thread painting results are not achieved with flat filament silks. I prefer a less blingy thread--cotton or spun silk--for most shaded work. The antique silk threads I'm using on the Society Silk violet project, which are essentially flat filament silks, are extremely reflective.


08 December 2017

Nasturtiums on the Go

A bouquet of floss, a new needle, a hoop, and a freshly drawn design means only one thing: a new project!


01 December 2017

Fine Lines

One thing I've noticed on Society Silk embroideries is that there is an unending array of edge treatments. Except for some of the simpler edges, I don't think I've seen the same edge design twice!


Examples of Society Silk edges





24 November 2017

Vegetables or Dessert?

The work on the antique violets is progressing along nicely. I've completed a second motif which is a copy of the first. I like the reverse S curve on the one stem with its little hint of Art Nouveau.


There are only three unique motifs on the doily. Each one is repeated once to create a total of six violet bunches. The duplicate motifs have very slight variations and I'm adding other differences such as not using the exact same colours on the stems. The flowers, of course, can't be duplicated as you can't exactly replicate thread painting--and I never want to!

17 November 2017

Blue Burrd of Happiness

Trish Burr creates amazing thread painted birds and then shares them with us so we can stitch them. How lucky are we?

This is Trish's exquisite little bluebird. By the way, I think all of Trish's avians should be called 'Burrds'! I stitched this several years ago and it was a lot of fun.


10 November 2017

Antique Violets: Handle with Care

I'm working on an unusual project and I realise that stitching with antique silk embroidery thread on an antique piece of stamped linen is probably just a little bit crazy.

OK, perhaps more than a little bit crazy, but it sure has been fun!

Before I could start stitching on the Society Silk violet centrepiece, I had to rummage through my cache of antique threads to find appropriate colours. I have threads in all sorts of varying levels of usability as you can see in the photo below.


These are pretty much the standard conditions that I encounter with antique threads. The top thread is a tangled mess and is the least desirable. The middle thread is in its original wrapper and this particular one is in pristine condition. Often, threads in these wrappers are worn on one end resulting in very short lengths with which to stitch. I generally avoid threads in the old paper wrappers.

The bottom thread is in the best condition when it comes to stitchability. When the silks come as a skein with a knot in the middle, they are generally in a good usable state.

03 November 2017

Visiting the Embroidered Past

I am fascinated by Society Silk embroidery. Society Silk is the modern name for a style of embroidery that was popular at the end of the 19th century and lasted through the beginning of the 20th. It was known as Art Needlework in its day.

Society Silk designs typically consist of florals which can be incredibly realistic or very simplistic. There are other designs, but from what I've seen florals dominate. The finished pieces overall tend to be table linens.

Vintage Society Silk centrepieces

27 October 2017

The Sampler is Finished

The crewel sampler is finished...at last! The final motif was a rose in the lower left hand corner.


The centre of the rose--the green buttonhole stitching--is not symmetrical. It is drawn that way. In fact, the entire piece has the feeling of being hand drawn. If I had thought about it I probably would have adjusted the centre a bit to make it more symmetrical, but it's fine as it is. I kind of like the fact that the design is a bit informal.

20 October 2017

A Starter Bird

When it comes to thread painting it seems to me that most designs/kits are floral-oriented. I would venture a guess that the second most common theme is birds.

I have stitched a handful of birds over the years and I definitely have more planned for the future. I find that birds can be a bit more tricky to stitch than flowers, but once you embroider a few birds they become easier. I wouldn't, however, start with a bird as my first thread painting project, a simple flower is probably a better choice.


The first bird I stitched was Robin on Blossom Branch which is a kit of an American robin designed by Tanja Berlin. I had thought about starting with a bluebird by Trish Burr, but didn't think I was quite ready. I wanted a simpler bird.

13 October 2017

Good Things Come in Threes

At last! I've made decent progress on the crewel sampler. I finished the last of the three large central motifs.


06 October 2017

Slow Progress

I am slowly plugging away at the vintage Elsa Williams crewel sampler, emphasis on slow! I finished the largest of the motifs, the one in the centre.

29 September 2017

Bullions are not my Bete Noire

Bullion stitches are beautiful. I have not had much occasion to use bullion stitches so I'm not that great at executing them.

It took a while for my left-handed brain to visualise how to make the stitch. I'm used to reversing right-handed stitch diagrams, but it took me a while to get a handle on bullions. Once I did things got a lot easier. I still require more practice, but I can make decent bullions.

A few years ago, I wanted to force myself to work on these stitches and found this little kit from Roseworks.


08 September 2017

Crawling Crewel

I like this little Elsa Williams crewel sampler, but it's taking way too long to make progress. I think I should have been done with it ages ago! I feel like I'm crawling.

I enjoyed stitching the most recently finished motif. It has purple which is always good!


01 September 2017

The Berlin Bunny

Embroidery designer Tanja Berlin has a wonderful thread painting kit called Wild Rabbit. I remember when she first started showing photos of the design as a work-in-progress. I asked her many times when it would become available as a kit. Unfortunately, for me, the rabbit was a teaching project so couldn't be released as a kit until the classes had run their course. I waited very impatiently and it felt like decades!


25 August 2017

Unchallenged Crewel

I have had an intense few weeks working on the SFSNAD Summer of Love challenge piece and am a little burned out embroidery-wise.

I haven't been stitching much recently, but I did complete a couple more motifs on the Elsa Williams Crewel Sampler. It's a fairly relaxing--and definitely not challenging--project to embroider.


18 August 2017

Out of Time

The deadline for submissions to the Summer of Love challenge was Tuesday. I stitched and stitched and stitched, but was unable to finish in time to meet the deadline.

I'm extremely disappointed...and exhausted. I think I stitched for 8 hours on more than one day over the past extended weekend. (I stitched everyday from Friday through Tuesday.) The piece is nearly finished, but not done. I am frustrated, but here are some colourful pictures which make me feel better.

The pink flower is one of four big flowers on the design. The photo's a bit deceptive. This is the largest of the big flowers and took many hours to stitch.


11 August 2017

A Challenging Challenge

The Summer of Love challenge continues. It's not finished. I don't know if it's even close to being finished. I have no sense of how long some of the elements will take to complete. I'm working on the parts I think will be the most time-consuming first, but I keep stitching elements that are taking longer to complete than I expect.

I'm not going to make the deadline for mailing the actual piece, but I still might have a chance to send a photo which can be submitted as late as 15 August (next Tuesday). That gives me 4 more days to stitch. (Yikes!)

Last time I left off with photos of some rather boring-to-stitch daisies. Those daisies are done.


04 August 2017

Flower Power Challenge

The San Francisco School of Needlework and Design (SFSNAD or SNAD) is holding a stitch-at-home challenge in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. I had the opportunity to visit SNAD in the spring and the wonderful administrative assistant Beth did a little arm twisting and talked me into participating.


As the challenge is sponsored by DMC each participant was given the choice of a theme accompanied by 3 skeins of DMC that must be included in the piece.

I chose 'Flower Power' and you can see the 3 skeins that I must use in my design in the photo above.

28 July 2017

Bird in the Purple Flowers

Ebay is a weird and wonderful place. For the purposes of this post it's in the weird category.


There's an embroidery kit for sale that I stitched about 10 years ago. It's called Enchanted April and was produced by now-defunct JCA under the 'Elsa Williams Heritage Collection' brand.

The subject is an egret in what appears to be a jacaranda (a common and beautiful tree where I live). It's quite a spectacular (and large) piece. I waited quite a few years before tackling it and I remember that it took a fair amount of time to stitch.

21 July 2017

Hello, Goodbye


I was rummaging around in my workroom and came across a crewel piece from 2005. It is a project from a class taught by Carol Algie Higginbotham entitled Crewel Spray.

The class was one of many being offered by the Embroiderers' Guild of America (EGA) regional seminar that happened to be hosted by my local chapter that year. I remember the seminar as being a lot of fun!

14 July 2017

Back to Crewel



I used to stitch a lot of crewel, mostly commercial kits. My first projects as a child were crewel and I always loved embroidering with wool.

Over the past 10 years I've moved away from crewel into techniques like thread painting, but I miss wool.

07 July 2017

Burr-gundy Rosebuds

Trish Burr has some lovely beginner projects including this one: Burgundy Rosebuds. It's included in her book Needle Painting Embroidery: Fresh Ideas for Beginners which is my go-to book when I need a quick, relaxing embroidery project.


I purchased this design as a kit several years ago before the book was published (back in the days when I was pattern-tracing-resistant). I recently found the kit when I was organising some embroidery items and decided it was time to work on it.

30 June 2017

Grisaille Peas

Ann's Orchard Pea Green Clutch Bag
A year or so ago I saw a picture of some lovely embroidered purses by Ann's Orchard Needlework (designed by Emma Pavier). There were three bags in three different colours: blue, green, and red. The designs reminded me a bit of William Morris or Arts and Crafts style.

The purses are all solid white embroidery on coloured backgrounds. I thought I should buy one because, well, it just looked like so much fun to stitch! I tried to buy only one, but I couldn't decide between the blue and green. I bought both. I liked the red, but was able to resist...for the moment. (By the way, the postage was quite reasonable.)

23 June 2017

Too Much Grass?

The birch project is finished! Well, maybe...

At least the long grass in the front is well and truly tied down. I have no more worries about that after finishing off the flowers.


16 June 2017

A Victorian Treat with a Twist

Here's a fun piece I stitched a couple of years ago. It's yet another wonderful thread painting design by Trish Burr called Victorian Pansies.

I did a lot of 'what if I...' work on this piece and tried to challenge myself to see what would happen.

Warning: this is going to be a terribly geeky post. Feel free to skip the text and enjoy the pictures.

09 June 2017

Pretty Pink Flowers Under the Birch

The Jo Butcher kit Under the Silver Birch is coming along nicely. After the purple flowers to the left and right of the tree trunk comes a scattering of pink flowers. They are composed of 3 different shades of rosey pink. The 3 shades are mixed in the needle to create different combinations. The flowers are quite pretty and they light up the piece.

Each flower is topped by a French knot. I decided to stitch the knots first in order to determine placement for the flowers. 



02 June 2017

Disturbing Grass

The Butcher birch tree project is moving along. After the tree came the grass.

Really, really long grass.

The darker grass towards the front went in first. The instructions call for it to be stitched in 2 different shades and not blended so it comes out stripey and, did I mention really, really long?


26 May 2017

French Rose

Original French Rose by Trish Burr
I've stitched many Trish Burr designs over the last several years. (If you like Trish Burr you're in the right place.) This is my favourite: French Rose. In fact, this is probably one of my favourite embroidery projects ever.

I loved the rose from the moment Trish posted a photo of it on her web site. There was something about the glow in the centre that caught my eye. I remember waiting very impatiently for the design to become available!

The rose is based on a botanical illustration by Redoute with some excellent editing by Trish.

It was finally published in Colour Confidence in Embroidery and I started working on it as soon as I could get my hands on the book.

19 May 2017

A Happy Little Tree

Jo Butcher's embroidery work caught my eye a few years back when she was featured in Inspirations magazine. I liked her designs and colour sense. I also found her use of painted/printed backgrounds interesting.

I'm usually not a fan of pre-printed backgrounds, but most of the examples that come to mind are from old commercial kits where the background is more important than the bit of embroidery stitched on top.

Jo Butcher's designs made me reconsider my bias against pre-printed backgrounds and I recently acquired one of her kits: Under the Silver Birch.

Besides being a lovely design it's a nice kit. The design is printed on a sturdy piece of linen, there appears to be ample (separated) cotton floss, 3 different needles are provided, and there's even a pre-cut mat.


12 May 2017

Golden Oldie

Way back in 2007 I had the opportunity to take six days of goldwork classes with Royal School of Needlework (RSN) tutors in Iowa. RSN used to teach in Iowa every year and, although I didn't know it at the time, 2007 would be their last year there.

The first session was a one-day introduction to goldwork class. The next two days were for intermediate goldwork and the last three days were devoted to creative goldwork.

The first two classes were taught by the fabulous Shelley Cox and it was like goldwork boot camp. I learned so much. I especially liked the project for the intermediate class. (I don't know if Shelley was the designer.) It's a wonderful goldwork rose.


05 May 2017

Burr Iceberg Rosebud Complete

After some fussing with the final shading and shadows the Burgundy Iceberg Rosebud (designed by Trish Burr) is complete (and no whiteout in sight).

When we last saw the rosebud only the main flower petal had yet to be stitched. That was completed and this time I did the bottom 'glow' to my satisfaction on the first try.


28 April 2017

Finishing up Herbier

Herbier was completed fairly quickly although I created more work for myself by adding more of the gorgeous House of Embroidery (HoE) threads to the mix.

I had a bit of assistance while stitching, although she was at her most helpful when sleeping!


21 April 2017

Rosebuds and Whiteout

I was happily stitching along on the rosebud part of Trish Burr's Iceberg Rosebud, minding my own business, when things kind of took a wrong turn.

The glow from the bud bottom was all wrong. There was too much of the lighter colours.


I was not happy.

14 April 2017

Herbier: Such a Trouble Maker

Herbier: original design
Every year, my local Embroidery Guild of America (EGA) chapter puts on a couple of public needlework displays. Along with many other chapter members I provide completed embroidery pieces for the display.

Last year I thought it would be nice to stitch something specifically for display and I wanted a surface embroidery project primarily composed of decorative stitching (as opposed to thread painting). My thread painted pieces usually depict naturalistic subjects (flowers, animals, etc.). I don't typically use decorative stitches (e.g., chain, most knots, fly, stem, whipped, buttonhole, etc.) because, to me, the whole idea of thread painting is that you shouldn't notice the stitching, you notice the thing that is being depicted. So, the stitches employed in thread painting tend to be utilitarian (e.g., long and short, split, French and bouillon knots) rather than decorative.

I chose a Canevas Folies kit called Herbier. It was colourful and had enough different stitches to be interesting. I bought it from The French Needle (who no longer carry Canevas Folies kits). The kit calls for DMC and House of Embroidery (HoE) variegated threads. French Needle helpfully included the (HoE) threads required by the kit.

That's when the trouble started.

07 April 2017

A Little Burr-y Trifle

One of my favourite embroidery books is Trish Burr's Needle Painting Embroidery: Fresh Ideas for Beginners. It has lots of small, elegant projects that are just right when I need something relaxing or quick. It's like a delectable box of chocolates. Every project has something to recommend it, but none of the pieces is overwhelming especially if you're a beginner to thread painting.

I recently needed a quick-to-set-up project and decided on the Iceberg Rosebud. It's a tiny little flower with a classic, gorgeous Burr colour palette of roses and soft, natural greens.

I'm using this piece to try out Trish's new Belgian linen fabric which will be a welcome relief after the challenge of stitching on the unfriendly-to-surface-embroidery summer flowers table runner fabric!

31 March 2017

Starting with a Finish

Welcome to the first post of a new blog. Let's get things going with a finish!

I recently completed a table runner. It started out as a kit, but, as I'm in 'what if I did this...' mode, the finished piece looks just a little different from the original. 

The colour palette on the original is what caught my eye. I liked the summery pinks and yellows/oranges.