Su embroidery project – further progress

Since my last post, I have been away which means that very little progress has been made since then.  I always find that if I have to break off from a project, I go back to it with less enthusiasm. This photograph shows progress after about 11 weeks of stitching, so the end is in sight.




As I get nearer to the end of the stitching I am wondering if I need to do something more to enhance the design.  For instance, I could outline the leaves to give more definition, but I am not sure whether this is in keeping with the traditional way of working. when all the outlines are filled, and the leaf veins are in place, it might be more clear what is needed.

So I will go now, and sit down for the evening to stitch, and contemplate.


May 9, 2016. Embroidery, Su embroidery. 3 comments.

Silk threads

Spring is here, and there so many distractions. For one thing, the garden needs to be prepared for the seeds and plants, and it is so nice to be out in the sun.

Even so, my Su embroidery project is progressing at a steady rate.  I spend between 2 and 4 hours on it most days, with the occasional day doing other things which need to be done.  I am enjoying it but as the weeks pass my perception could change.  I have already broken off to prepare another, much smaller project which I can take to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting, and it is tempting me.  I once took a project of this size to a meeting and found it very difficult not to keep knocking the people to either side of me.

Today I will address thread problems, knot-problems, and not-problems.

When I unpacked the thread for my Su embroidery project and spread it out it looked beautiful, gleaming up at me. On Youtube I had found how to deal with a skein.  Quite simple, straighten it out, find the knot, and snip through all the threads.  Then hold the thread in the middle and braid before putting onto a rod.  Professional embroiderers simply drape or knot the threads unbraided over a rod which is beside them as they work, so they can select each thread as it is needed.

By the time I got to deciding how to deal with the thread, some of the skeins were a little tangled and the brown was very tangled.  So the brown was straightened out, and cut as described, and eventually braided.  I did not cut the others, as I was not too sure about the length of thread to work with.

Someone who embroiders for a living can probably work successfully with a much longer thread than most people.  The others were just twisted and put onto a card.  It was a mistake not to braid the brown threads, as this stops them getting more messy.



The point I want to make here is that this is a problem, but not a disaster. It helps when working with any fine thread if your hands are not rough, to avoid snags.  However, filament silk is very strong, and a tangle like this can be remedied in a few minutes.  I simply took each thread in turn and pulled between my finger and thumb a few times and voila!


DSC00077 (1)


These are the same threads.  If you closely you will be able to see how the thread splits naturally in two roughly equal parts.  There are still a few fuzzy bits, but these tend to straighten out as the thread passes through the fabric.

The other problem I  had with the thread was to do with the colours.  As I mentioned, the printing was paler than the threads.  This means that I have tended to use less of the darker colours colours when stitching the leaves and stalks.  Maybe I have used the threads correctly, but I won’t really know until I have stitched the flowers.  At the bottom left there were more leaves which were not green.  Cream and coral pink and brown  were needed.  The  yellow thread is too bright and the pinks are too rose-y. I considered using some of my other silk threads, maybe splitting them and untwisting – too much effort.

Eventually I came up with the idea of colouring some of the silk with silk paint.  I tried a length of the first and third shades of pink, using yellow paint in an egg-cup, with a little water added.  It takes a little practice, to drain the thread without squeezing the colour out, before drying it.  Two immersions worked well.  The colour was a little uneven, but it really did not matter in this instance.  The dried threads then had to be ironed to set the colour before they could be used.


In case you are wondering I am working with a thread length of about 16″ (40cm), which is not so different to the length of a cut skein.  The demos on YouTube show the thread knotted onto the needle, leaving a small tail.  In the demos the stitches are quite long, so the end of the thread is reached before the knot comes undone.  Not so with mine, as my stitches are quite small in some areas.  Also there are a few occasions when I want to undo a stitch or two because the angle is all wrong.  That doesn’t happen in the demos!

As it comes off the skein, the separated thread has a slight twist, which straightens out as the thread passes through the fabric.  I keep giving it a little twist back, as this helps the individual fibres to stay together.

I have found it interesting to use a thread which I had not previously tried, and to learn how best to handle it.  Another thing I found as I used thread straight from an uncut skein, is that it becomes difficult not to tangle the skein.  To avoid this I wound all the threads except the brown onto the middles of used toilet rolls. Two colours fit on one cylinder. They have so many uses!

This has proved successful, as I don’t need to touch the wound thread.  I just pick up the card cylinder, hold the loose end, and unwind a length before snipping it off.

Next time I will discuss various aspects of this project with the benefit of hindsight

April 15, 2016. Tags: , , . Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Filament silk, Su embroidery, Thread. Leave a comment.

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. Leave a comment.

Schwalm Embroidery and Crazy Quilting

It’s a good thing photos have a date on them! This has made it easier for me to find the work completed in the last 2 years, to add to this blog.

I follow Mary Corbet’s blog,   It is a good source of information.  In 2009 Mary reviewed Luzine Happel’s  book ‘Basic Principles of Schwalm Whitework’.   I had been looking at different types of whitework for a while, and had tried Mountmellick.  The the idea of drawing out threads grabbed me.  The book (and several others that are available from Luzine) has been translated into English, so I sent for it.  I got impatient waiting, as the book was damaged and returned to sender, so I started this piece while I was waiting.  And of course there aspects of it that are far from correct, but nevertheless  I am pleased with it.




In fact, so pleased with it that I could not just consign it to the drawer where so many other pieces of complete work hide.  For some time I had the urge to make a Hussif,  so I looked on Pinterest for ideas, and this is what I came up with.





When the book arrived, I found it absorbing.  I had also been looking at Luzine Happel’s blog, where she shares so much information about Schwalm.  Schwalm is traditionally done using linen, so I had bought some linen offcuts for practice pieces, and a larger piece to make something more substantial.  I can now understand Mary Corbet’s love of linen for embroidery.  I would recommend both of these blogs.

In order to get more practice, I decided to make a sampler.  I planned blocks, and I also wanted to practice different edges.  As a result of using Pinterest I discovered how useful Youtube can be.  By following links I found a number of tutorials and spent many hours watching video tutorials for all sorts of things.  I particularly like the picot hem which is on the right hand side and the bottom edge. I found it easy to do and love the way it lies flat, as there are only two thicknesses of fabric, and many hems have three. The corner was not difficult to do.  Some of the blocks are from the book, others from the blog.


Schwalm sampler

Schwalm sampler


My next Schwalm was a pair of mats, again using linen offcuts  I found these on Luzine Happel’s blog.


Sunflower mats

Sunflower mats

I used different filling stitches in the middle, although when I stand something on the mats the centres are not really seen.  I still intend doing a larger piece of Schwalm, but it is still very much in the planning stage.



I also became fascinated by Crazy Quilting.  I like to work to a plan, as with the Schwalm embroidery, but also enjoy a piece where  I can make things up as I go along, and meander.  It is a good way of using fabrics and threads from my stash.

Again I made use of Pinterest, and followed links to find the information which helped me.  I also downloaded ‘The Art of Crazy Quilting’ by J. Marsha Michler from Amazon’s Kindle shop. It is just a booklet really, but as it is full colour, and easy to look at on a computer or tablet, it is well worth the 99p I paid for it.

Here is the first cushion.




While I was stitching I was enjoying it so much that when I went to buy the edging and the inner I bought enough for another one.  I knew to expect some shrinkage when stitching these, so I waited until first one was done, and measured it before buying the inners.

The second one was in a different colour scheme.


Ealry stage

Early stage


Here it is when I was just laying the fabric on the backing fabric.  There are different techniques which can be used to assemble crazy quilting, but this is the one which suits me.  When I am happy with the layout, I photograph it, then tack the pieces into position, with a narrow turn-under if on raw edges, making sure that there are no gaps. When this is done I stitch all round the outer edge with a sewing machine and trim off the excess fabric to about 1/4″ from the stitching.  There is no reason why more should not be added later if you wish.  What I like about crazy quilting is that there are no hard-and-fast rules, and if something doesn’t work there is always a remedy to be found.

Here is the finished cushion.




And here are a few close-ups of my favourite bits.




The blue one has a lot of buttons, and I also took the opportunity to use up some variegated threads



Here I have done some applique.   Some of the pieces of fabric are experimental or sample pieces. The flowery piece at the right is from when I attended a Textiles class, and experimented with painting on fabric.




Some scraps of guipure lace embellished with beads.  The lace below it is just caught down with stab stitch at the bottom edge, so that it didn’t flap about.




Another variegated thread and another way of stitching the lace edge.


My large project as about half done now, and the first two posts should be ready soon


Happy Easter to you all




March 26, 2016. Tags: . Crazy Patchwork, Drawn thread, Embroidery, Schwalm. Leave a comment.

Back on the job

I haven’t posted for a long time. Since the beginning of 2014 I have done a lot of things other than embroidery, and I have done a lot of trying out types of embroidery which are new to me.  Some of these have not been to my satisfaction. The most satisfying of these has been Schwalm embroidery, which I have found very calming.  I have also completed two crazy quilting cushions.

Just lately I have started getting my act together a bit more,and have completed a lot of projects large and small which had been abandonned for one reason or another.  I have also tried Ruskin Lace, which I found very tedious and difficult, and Hedebo.  Hedebo takes less setting up than Schwalm and Ruskin Lace.

I have a large project which I have worked on for 2 or 3 spells, but it is not yet ready to show you.  Another project, an experimentalon, was started, but did not work out.  Parts of it can be salvaged, and I will start again, having learned from my mistakes, but not yet, as I know where I went wrong but do not yet have a solution.

I had to decide whether to abandon this blog, or whether to get out my new camera, which I hope will give better images, and continue.

The decision has been made, as I have found a project worthy of series of post as I progress.  I have been working on it since the end of January, and it is about half completed.

On returning to this blog, I was surprised to see how many times it has been viewed, which shows the value of the tags which can be added, to help searches for particular topics.

My next post will contain some photos of work which has been completed in the last two years. The one after that will be the new project.

March 22, 2016. Embroidery. Leave a comment.

Resolutions 2014

I just looked back at last year’s resolutions.  I did quite well.  I reduced my stash considerably, both by selling and giving away to charity shops, and by using threads, yarns, and fabric.  I also stopped (but not until July) spending hours playing games on the computer.

The other resolution was to finish projects already started. Hmm. There not many of them, but I have added more that are planned, some of them are prepared, and ready to go.

At the moment I am taking a rest from the goldwork.  I was not feeling inclined, but continued in spite of that, and it was not the right thing to do.  I need to take out a bit that is just not right and do it again. So I put it away (sounds familiar?) and started on something else.

So, I need to finish the goldwork, and the Christmas tablecloth which has been on the go for years.  I also need to do something with all the squares I crocheted.

There is something else I intend to do.

I have some embroidery magazines.  I buy them, and look at them, particularly the lovely photographs of the projects.  I haven’t done many of the projects. I look at the websites of the advertisers.  But I have never read all the articles. Some have been glanced at, with the intention of reading them.

The only way I can think of doing this is to have a plan. Each Sunday evening I will get out one magazine. It will be there waiting for me on Monday morning, and I will read it from cover to cover.

I’ll let you know how I get on.


January 1, 2014. Embroidery. Leave a comment.

Chicken scratch embroidery

I bought this gingham fabric when I was on holiday earlier in the year, intending to do something craft-y with it.  Then I remembered Chicken Scratch embroidery which I saw on Mary Corbet’s website.  I found this free design on Nordic Needle’s website.  It was fun to do, with just three different stitches.  I also have another piece of fabric of the same colour which I bought to go with it, so it will be a cushion cover.

chicken scratch kitten

This kind of embroidery has other, more pleasant, names. It is also known as Amish embroidery  or Snowflake Lace.

It wasn’t until I had decided to use the fabric that I realised that the check design is not woven, but printed. It made things a little more challenging.  That’s another mistake I can learn from!

 I finished this in just a couple of evenings, but hoped to have made the cushion cover before this post, but a holiday, and Christmas shopping have intervened. I have also acquired two new (to me) books, on Whitework and Drawn Fabric.
Since then I have been planning more projects, in particular the Goldwork.  It’s amazing how long the preparation takes.  It has taken an afternoon and two evenings just to prepare and mount the fabric on a frame, and transfer the design using small tacking stitches.
I was about to take this photo, and I have just noticed that I have basted the backing fabric to the wrong side of the top fabric.  I have a BIG decision to make here – do I dismantle it, and start again, or do I leave it and carry on?  I like things to be right, and the ‘right’ side of the fabric does have a lovely sheen.  I have this nice pair of scissors with a notch in the blade for just such an occasion.  The scissors are about to be used.  It may be some time before the next post!

November 24, 2013. Tags: , . Drawn Fabric, Embroidery, Goldwork, Whitework. Leave a comment.


This butterfly, which is a blackwork design by Tanja Berlin, appeared in ‘Classic Inspirations’ magazine.  I have wanted to do it for some time.  My original thoughts were to do it in white on Midnight Blue.  When I got round to looking at the fabric I had bought it was not the colour I had expected, so I had to have a rethink. My next thought was pastel shades.  Then I decided to read the instructions, and realised that two colours was probably the maximum I could use without making it look messy.

The effect I was trying to get is a butterfly at dusk.  I decided on a soft lemon shade, and the swirl is a very pale blue/grey.


I have also omitted a wing, as I really didn’t like it, and I am pleased with the end result.  It is probably going into a matt silver frame.  The next project also has an animal theme….

November 15, 2013. Tags: , . Blackwork, Embroidery. Leave a comment.

Mountmellick finished at last

This Mountmellick piece is finished at last.  I had problems deciding which filling stitches to use, and which parts should be left unfilled.  The flower on the left has net stitch, and the one on the right has cloud stitch, which were both new to me, but interesting to do.  I decided to leave the centre flower as it is, because it looks dramatic.  If it had more stitching it would not stand out.


I have been working on several future projects.  All at once I have lots of ideas.  I eventually made up my mind what to do with the butterfly, and decided that keeping things simple was the answer.

The goldwork piece in the same design as this is making progress, but the butterfly will be next, followed by something else which should be very quick to do.

October 31, 2013. Tags: . Embroidery, Goldwork, Mountmellick, Whitework. Leave a comment.

What do caterpillars do in autumn?

This morning I was taking cuttings and this is what I found under a geranium leaf.


The caterplillar looks very comfortable in its hammock, which I presume is the beginning of a chrysalis.  It looks as if he’s had a munch at the leaves, to build himself up before the winter.  He looks nicely plump.  I’m saying ‘he’, but of course the creature which emerges will be a ‘she’.  Who knows which gender a caterpillar is?  Maybe it has no gender, as procreation is not a part of this stage of its existence.

This most apt, as the project I am just starting involves a butterfly.  Having have been on holiday for a couple of weeks, not a lot of embroidery has been done lately.  I am building up steam, getting two projects ready for the cold months ahead.

October 12, 2013. Tags: , . Embroidery. Leave a comment.

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