Spring 2024: Google ended its email subscription service in 2021. I believe I've found a replacement, but haven't had time to test it. I have been stitching a little bit here and there and have some posts ready for when the email subscription is active again. Fingers crossed, I'll have time to rouse this blog out of its dormancy sometime this year.

30 June 2017

Grisaille Peas

Green embroidered purse by Ann's Orchard
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.)

The kit is nicely packaged and appears to be very complete. The pattern is printed on a canvas-like fabric which should be heavy enough to stand up to being used as a purse. The ground fabric is not green, rather the green is printed on the fabric. Both sides of the purse are embroidered which made me happy. I always feel a little cheated when only one side of a purse is embroidered and the other side is blank.

Ann's Orchard Pea Green Clutch Bag: Kit Contents

The kit includes a large hank of white cotton floss, purse frame, padding, lining fabric, needles, beads, sewing thread and instructions. The stitcher provides fabric glue for purse construction and there is a recommendation for the type of glue to use.

I thought I was going to stitch the purse 'as designed', but then I started thinking about it which usually gets me into trouble.

Example of Victorian grisaille beadworkI have a fascination with a certain style of Victorian bead work that entails monochrome beading on coloured backgrounds. Sometimes there are touches of muted colour, but the beading is mostly shaded greys; let's call it 'grisaille work'. I like the play of the monochrome against the saturated background colour.

Some of the designs are very intricate and my favourite examples have a 3D quality to the shading. I'm sure it interests me because of the shading which shouldn't be surprising!

Grisaille is an art term meaning painting everything in shades of grey and is pronounced something like 'grizz-eye'. (Thank you to Rev. Sandy for identifying this style for me!)

Anyway, I started thinking about the purse and wondered if I could stitch it in shades of grey instead of all white.

So, I made some coloured copies of the purse fabric, got out some pencils and started 'colouring'. These are extracts from the colour copies:

Ann's Orchard Pea Green Clutch Bag: Experimenting with greys
Ann's Orchard Pea Green Clutch Bag: Experimenting with more greys

With the initial shading plan in place it was time to start testing the idea with thread.

I didn't want to test on the actual fabric so I bought some similarly-coloured cotton quilting fabric and drew part of the design onto the cotton. Then it was time to start trying the greys.

Ann's Orchard Pea Green Clutch Bag: Stiching on a practice piece of fabric

I have not had a lot of time to work on the purse, but I haven't found the right recipe for the greys. I'm close, but not quite there. The only rule I gave myself was that I would use the whites that came with the kits. I kind of wish I could use a softer white, but the hank is so big I hate to waste it and I think it will work.

I also might change the greys that I'm currently using. I'm not sure the current selections are sufficient.

This project is on the back burner so I don't know when I'll return to it, but it'll pop up now and again. I need a good uninterrupted span of time to figure out the greys and then I'll be able to work on the real piece.

I want to get this purse done so I can work on the blue bag. I'm going to do something different with that one, too!



  1. Finally got the chance to read through the entire blog start to now. Love it all. I am really intrigued to see how the purse comes out. Embroidered purses are so tempting. Angelina

  2. Thanks for letting me see the process and provide input as you have worked on the shading process for this lovely purse project! It's an intriguing way to further define the design while also still honoring it.

    There is a good deal of finesse involved in this type of technique, and I completely understand about deciding on the choice of greys, let alone the stitching decisions.

    Can't wait until you bring this off the back burner and work on it some more!

    -- Sandy (the Rev one)