Hand embroidery is quite an 'unchattable' thing these days (I am not sure that is even a word, but it sounds nice anyway). Everyone is so busy, there is no time for the quiet precision of hand worked stitches; fancy sewing machines can do it anyway, so what's the big deal?!?!?!? Well.... you see, in my opinion, there is a place for both. I love all the stitches my machine can do and I use them frequently, but....I love the way hand work offers you complete freedom to use both fabric, thread and stitch to create unique combinations of pattern and design. You can take your needle exactly where you want it and you can vary the thickness of the threads to add interest to the motif. There is also a serenity about holding the hoop in your hand and twisting and turning the threads with intricacy, that calms the pace of the day. So enough waffling... how is the cushion design coming along. Well....rather interestingly actually.
The first thing I did was to secure down the darker blue circle with some Colonial Knots. There are loads of tutorials on Youtube (which is how I learned) about how to do these, so I am not going to go into details except to say that the experts are right - they are easier, neater and less bobbly than french knots and I use them alot in my stitchwork.
The next thing I wanted to do was look at the applique curvy diamond shapes around the circumference of the dresden plate. These were fixed on using fusible web and so have technically 'raw' edges. In fact the fusbile webbing gives it great stability, but it needs some thread around the edge to doubly secure the shape and to emphasise it. I chose a great outlining stitch - the Palestrina knot.
This stitch is more than just a pretty name, it has rhythmical and theraputic powers, while providing a great outlining feature. It is delicate and almost looks like beading. I used some 100% silk thread from www.vineyardsilk.com that I bought at the Harrogate show and it is just a dream. I decided to alternate the colours so on the next one, used a crimson coloured thread.
Pleased with these results, I was a bit at sea as to how to manage the main form of the design. My original inspiration was still in my head.
I tried drawing freehand swirls and scrolls on with a chalk pencil, but I could see that the main problem was going to be how to keep each pattern repeat the same. Having made a bit of a mess with my rather paltry attempts at drawing, I went to bed disgruntled. I don't know why, but the best sewing thoughts always coming rushing into my mind early in the morning and so it was. Of course - I needed a stencil. Quilting uses stencilling all the time to repeat patterns, why it was perfect. I leapt to my bookshelf and pulled out this....
and began colouring in. I chose a tambour stitch in blue for the simple shape in the centre. Tambour stitch, or chain stitch as it is often called is a universally stitched stitch. I see it in books about Japanese embroidery, French embroidery, Italian embroidery and Russian embroidery, which is where I learnt it. We lived in Moscow from 2002 until 2006 and every week, for four years I took a class with a wonderful Russian lady called Lydia, who spoke not a word of english, but was nevertheless a formiddable teacher, who accepted nothing but perfection. After the first few months, she told me that I would never make a 'stitcher' - LOL!! By the time I left Russia, she said I was a 'trooper' - I am not sure if that is a compliment or not, but she gave me several beautifully embroidered items, which are amongst my most treasured possessions and a tearful hug. It was at times tortuous, at times incredibly rewarding and never, ever easy. I served my apprenticeship for sure - learning intricate drawn thread work and surface stitching that is never far from my fingertips everyday. Tambour is like the staple diet of an embroideress and never disappoints.
The scrolling motif called for satin stitch and this is something I think alot of people dread. It is easier now that we have lovely threads like perle cotton #8 to use, which means we are not fighting with getting stranded cottons to lie flat. On linen too - it is easier, you just move along one thread of the fabric at a time, making sure to point your needle in towards the last thread as you go down into your work. Smooth it with your finger and when you iron it - it will melt together seamlessly... forming a bold statement on your embroidery. A few more of my fav little colonial knots and Voila! I think this is going to be rather a dramatic cushion!!
So, a way to go with this one... but I'll keep you posted.
Also been busy with some free motion quilting on my machine. Next time...'wrestling with machine quilting'... it is going something like this... exciting huh?!?!?
Hope you are all having happy stitching days too, Ruby x