Su embroidery

Now I can unveil my ‘major project’.

I had often looked on eBay at kits for Su embroidery, from Souzhou Province in China, and wondered if they were worth the money.  Postage from China isn’t cheap.  So I looked for a while at the multitude of designs, in different sizes, before I chose one.  Even then I waited for another week or two, then checked the feedback for the seller before I took the plunge.  Some of the kits are offered on a ‘Buy it now’ basis, and some are for auction.  The one I selected was for auction, so there was a chance it would cost a little less. As it was, no-one bid against me so I got it for the starting price.

The things I particularly noticed in the feedback were that there were no instructions (it said exactly that in the listing), and someone had received the wrong kit.  The seller had obviously taken heed, because I soon received two emails.  One offered me a DVD in Chinese, but which would still be helpful.  It also offered scissors and a hoop.  The other asked me to confirm the reference number of the kit.

The correct way to do Su embroidery is not in a hoop, unless it is very small, so I purchased just the kit, in the middle of January. It took about 2 weeks to arrive, so not too bad.

When I opened the package which came from China I was amazed at how small the packet of thread was.   There was also the fabric, printed with the design, but not dark enough that it would show through the stitching.  Also included was a small packet with two tiny needles.  They were smaller than anything I had in my collection, but not shiny like the needles we buy here.




I spent quite a lot of time planning carefully, about a week in total.  I was unsure whether to back the silk, which was quite firm, with another fabric, or not.  At first I decided that it would be a good idea, so I tacked the two layers together, but it was till niggling at me.  I consulted with people on Facebook, and the most useful advice was that there were offerings on Youtube.  I had already looked there, so I went back and watched everything I could find.  It’s so relaxing to watch someone stitching, close-up, while enjoying a cuppa!  As a result of this, and reading my book on Japanese embroidery, I took out the tacking stitches, cut up the backing fabric, and applied strips to all four sides of the silk, and mounted it on a roller frame.




The design was traced carefully before it went in the frame,  scanned  into the computer and  three copies were printed , One A3 print at a larger size was used to mark the direction of the stitches. The other A3 print at normal size was used to make notes round the edges about the colours.   The edges of the petals are very indented, which I thought would be a problem, so I decided that they would need to be simplified.   On the A4 print I marked the simplified edges of the petals.

I also spent a fair bit of time making notes about order of work, and making decisions.  Usually the work would be completed by first working form the parts of the design that are further back, then forward, as in some methods of painting.  However, because of the alterations to the petals, I decided that it would be a good idea to use a different silk thread to outline the petals.  I did this before I stitched anything else. It took hours, but I think it will be worth the effort


Outline stitch completed

Outline stitch completed


Filament silk was supplied.  Professional Sou embroiders divide the thread many times before stitching with it.  I stitched a small practice area using the thread split in four.  If I did the embroidery in that way there was a real danger that I would never finish it.  The thread splits into two very easily, and that is how I am using it, else this project would take too long or even be abandonned to the UFO hiding place. (UFO = UnFinished Object)

A more difficult decision is how to stitch the knobbly twig at the bottom below the leaves.  I have decided to leave this until last.

The two tiny needles provide would not be enough.  I like to have a few needles threaded ready to use.  The smallest needles in my needlecase were just a little larger, but they had a round eye, and a longer eye is better for threading filament silk.  Then I remembered that I had been given a very old pack of Millward size 9 Crewel Needles.  These were what I used most of the time, more so after one of the kit needles snapped.




Here I have shown the two kit needles, the next is probably a ‘between’, and on the right the No 9 Crewel. Unfortulately the print on the needle packet has not fared as well as the contents..  I have also show the pin cushion with the ‘strawberry’.  I like to use this to keep my needles clean.  The ‘strawberry’ contains emery powder, so passing the needle through from time to time removes and dirt and grease.

At last I was ready to start stitching the design itself, starting with leaves and stems.  Two months in, I am thinking that this could be completed by mid-June. Photographs of progress will be given in later posts.


April 7, 2016. Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Su embroidery.

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