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 March 2018

Thinking About Pansies

I have been pondering pansies lately. There's a project I'm looking forward to working on that involves pansies, lots and lots of pansies! I want to wait until a couple of the current projects are finished before starting the pansy project, but in the meantime I've been looking around at real and embroidered pansies for ideas.

Trish Burr has created some wonderful pansy projects and I've worked some of them, the most recent being Victorian Pansies. Before those, I stitched a design simply called Pansies.

Detail of thread painted embroidered purple pansy flower and bud (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

Pansies (Trish Burr's original)
There are a lot of things to like about this project, not the least of which is that it's primarily in purples. I enjoy stitching in most colours, but I'm always happiest when I'm stitching in purple or red.

What really caught my eye, however, was the highlight on the back of one of the petals. (Click for a larger image and see the inset with the green arrow.) I just had to see if I could stitch that highlight. It was the element that really made the piece for me, not that I wouldn't have wanted to stitch the pansies anyway!

The project was a kit with the design printed on cotton satin fabric. I'm not a huge fan of cotton satin for stitching because I find that it can be prone to 'opening up' around the edges of elements. I much prefer linen (or silk) for thread painting. I'm glad that Trish has since switched to a wonderful linen for her kits.

Working from back elements to front elements, I started with the stems and buds. (The pansies were embroidered with single strands of DMC cotton floss and a #10 crewel needle.) The stem for the topmost flower had to wait until the flower was stitched since the flower is behind the stem.

Thread painted pansy stems and bud (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

Next up were the bud sepals and the petals on the upper flower where I got to work on the highlight. I did a lot of thread parking evidenced by the mess of threads around the needle minder. (Thread parking usually looks worse than it is!)

Thread painting the top pansy (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

The highlight wasn't quite right at first. In fact, there were a handful of issues with these initial petals.

Pointing out problem areas on thread painted pansies (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)
  1. The dark line has a stitch direction problem: it's too curved.
  2. The stitching on the highlight is too regular so it looks like a band. It needs more randomness because it looks unnatural. (You can see the band more clearly in the photo above this one.)
  3. The blending on the petal edge is too stripey.
These issues were all fixable and there was no need to rip anything out!

Here's the improved version:

Detail of purple thread painted pansy with problems resolved. (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)
  1. I added a few more stitches along the edge of the petal to extend the dark colour and 'corrected' the stitches with the bad direction by lightly stitching over them.
  2. The highlight was made more 'sketchy' by extending some of the stitches outward. It now looks like a highlight and not just a band of lighter colour.
  3. I was able to get a little bit better blend by adding colour to break up some of the stripes, but there's still a problem because the two colours are simply too far apart value-wise to truly blend. If I had used a shade in between the two values I probably would have had better initial results. By the way, I was experimenting with shading along the edge of the petal so I created the striping problem. If I had followed the instructions I wouldn't have had striping.
After completing the stem on the uppermost flower, all the stems, buds, and the first flower were complete.

Preparing to embroider (thread paint) the lower two pansy flowers. (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

As is usual with Trish Burr projects, the stems (and other green bits) are a gorgeous blend of colours. They look 3-D. I especially like the sepals; they have the coloured pencil look that I always work towards.

The middle flower came next. It was very straightforward and easy to stitch.

Cream coloured thread painted pansy (detail). (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

I was well-behaved and didn't overwork the thread. My reward was a lovely sheen on the floss.

Showing the shininess of the DMC threads on some thread painted pansies. (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

The last pansy on the bottom was just as easy as the one in the middle. With the benefit of hindsight and more thread painting experience, I would stitch this flower differently today. I would create more contrast between the petals. For example, it's too dark between the top edges of the bottom petal and the two side petals. The bottom petal somewhat disappears into the two side petals.

Last thread painted purple pansy (detail). (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

Here are the finished pansies:

Finished project: thread painted purple and cream embroidered pansies. (Pansies designed by Trish Burr)

This was a very satisfying project and is still available from Trish as a download.



  1. I love this. Wonderful to see it close up. The colours are sumptuous. And I totally agree that the highlight makes it.

    1. 'Sumptuous' is the perfect word. Trish chooses the best colours!

  2. Such a beautiful piece, especially those colors.

    1. It's hard to go wrong with pansies and especially in purple! (I'm a bit biased, though, when it comes to purple. :-) )

  3. Amazing stitching! Your pansies are gorgeous. But it the tips you gave are enormously helpful! I'm trying to teach myself needle-painting, and seeing the before and after of your fix is a lesson in itself :) I love pansies too, and have also been drawn to them recently. I just found out they come in pink, and am longing to stitch one!

    1. I'm glad the tips are helpful! I hope you have found a suitable candidate for stitching. Pansies are a lot of fun to embroider. Trish Burr has some free pansy designs that might be a good starting point.

  4. This is such a beautiful piece. Silk shading is something you need to get into the swing of, and you have certainly done this here. The colours are lovely, I adore purple pansies! Have you seen Diana Lampe's pansy book? It is full of beautiful pansies!

    1. Oh, yes, Diana Lampe's pansy book is a definite must have. It's one of the things I'm using for my 'pansy pondering'. (By the way, all of Lampe's books are treasures; she does exquisite embroidery.)

  5. Breathtaking work! Thank you for the detail pics and for sharing your "mistakes." Very helpful to see the process.

    1. I'm glad that seeing the process is useful. Thread painting takes practice, but it's also very forgiving and many things can be 'fixed' without ripping anything out.

  6. Gorgeous. Your patience is amazing, especially single thread.
    Another thank you here. Always helps to see what others feel about a pattern, or a reminders for your own work, which you did. :)