Posts Tagged ‘couching’

The first stitches

Long time, no blog.  Sorry about that.  I have been rushed off my feet this month, as I’m also in the process of setting up my own business (nothing to do with embroidery; it’s a music agency).  However, I have been able to do a few stitches, especially as a good friend from London has been up here over the last few days with her sewing machine in order to finish off the bridesmaids’ dresses for a wedding in the area.  I took a couple of days off work and carted the embroidery over to her hotel so we could keep each other company.  It was an excellent arrangement.

So here’s the progress I’ve made so far:

Progress so far

Not too shabby, given the time available.  Here’s a closer look:

A closer view

And here’s a detailed look at the stitching:

The stitching in detail

The thick dark purple lines are the wool lucet cord you saw being made in an earlier post; it is laid and couched.  It’s plunged through the fabric using an awl.  The sort of awl which is normally sold for the purpose of embroidery is no good for this, because the cord is too thick, so I use what I affectionately term my Big Girl Awl.  This is a formidable-looking implement that I picked up in the DIY section of Wilkinson’s for about half the price of my effete little embroidery awl.  I’m currently looking for a cork to stick the end in when I’m travelling with it (no, really, I don’t drink enough wine), because it is extremely sharp.  I’m couching the cord with ordinary sewing thread, which is almost invisible even close up.

The gold is also laid and couched.  This is DMC metallic embroidery thread, which, like most common embroidery threads these days, is 6-ply.  I cut off a short piece and use single plies from that to do the couching.  The stuff is an absolute blighter to work with, because the laid thread has a strong tendency to separate itself into individual plies while you’re couching it and the working thread is rather easily damaged by the needle, but that’s pretty much standard for all metallics.  It looks good once you’ve tamed it.  The starting end of the couched thread can easily be plunged through the fabric with a needle, and I was originally doing that with the finishing end too, but that is incredibly fiddly, because by the time you get to the end of the couching there are inevitably six separate strands of different lengths, and it is not easy to get them all to go through a needle, especially since there isn’t much of them to work with.  Fortunately, once again Mary Corbet came up with exactly the technique I needed at the time I needed it.  If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend her tutorial on using a thread lasso, which turned out to be a much easier way to deal with the ends of the gold thread.  In fact, if you’re interested in embroidery and you’re not following Mary Corbet, why not? 🙂

Finally, the purple “windswept triangles” are outlined in twisted chain stitch using three strands of Anchor embroidery cotton.  I wanted quite a heavy outline because these are part of the ground design.  At the moment I’m thinking of harmonising the tendrils of lucet cord with the windswept triangles by edging the former with the same purple I’m using for the latter, but using only one or two strands.  That will probably be done in a back stitch or straight chain stitch with closely spaced French knots.  The triangles will be filled, but I haven’t yet decided how, although I have just got some more beads which may feature in that task.  I’m very much making it up as I go along.

Seems to be working quite well so far, though. 🙂

New threads

Today I went out for some supplies.

Threads and beads to be used in the project

Almost inevitably, the colours don’t reproduce perfectly, but you do at least get the idea.  From left to right, we have:

  • Anchor 939, denim blue – same shade as the fabric, just a bit lighter.
  • Anchor 119, dark purple – tones reasonably well with the purple cord, but again a bit lighter.
  • Anchor 337, dark salmon.
  • Anchor 336, salmon.  (These two colours are really not as vivid as they look here.)
  • Anchor 292, cream.
  • Anchor 874, light antique gold.
  • Anchor 844, olive green.
  • Anchor 845, dark olive green.

Then we have a reel of purple thread for couching the cord (and that is a good colour match); a reel of Coats Diadem, which is a thin flat gilt braid; and a packet of seed beads which, at any rate in daylight, tone beautifully with the fabric.  I’m looking at them now under artificial light and they look almost black.  Not that this will be a problem, because they will be there to provide a bit of very subtle glitter.  They are Gütermann seed beads, size 11, colour 6635.  I bought two packs because John Lewis have recently rather drastically downsized their range of beads and I wanted to be sure I didn’t run out in mid-project.

I’ve also ordered some gilt purl from Sarah Homfray (see links on the right); won’t need it just yet, but I want it so I can get an idea of where and how I’m going to use it.  If all goes well, this weekend I am actually going to be able to make a start on the embroidery at long last.

Oh yes.  Hallo, Canadian friends.  Happy Canada Day! 🙂

Framing a solution

Last time I posted, I was musing on the subject of suitable embroidery frames.  This morning I went out to do the shopping as I usually do on a Saturday, and when I set out I fully intended to call at one of the larger shops in the centre which sells a range of DIY materials in the hope that they might have some strips of wood they could sell me.

And then I had an inspiration.

This was what I bought!

I remembered that The Works, which is a remainder bookshop and stationer’s which also sells some artists’ materials, had a selection of stretched canvases at reasonable prices.  I went in there and discovered that they were selling one canvas this size for £6.99 or this pack of four for £9.99.  Clearly, since I needed two, it made sense to buy a pack of four, but when I got to the counter the lady at the till pointed out to me that the front canvas has a slight rip (you can see it at the bottom of the picture).  I replied that this was fine.  I don’t want the canvas.  I want the nice substantial wooden frame on which it is stretched.  Nonetheless, she thought I ought to get a reduction, so she rang her manager and sold me the pack for £6.99, which meant I got four good frames for the price of one, far better made than I could manage myself, and probably cheaper.  Result. 🙂

In this photo you can also see the sample of dark purple cord I’m making on the lucet; it’s already clear that it works against the blue.  I don’t like to waste samples, so this piece will become a security cord for my new USB flash drive.  It was always going to need one anyway.  I also went to see my favourite haberdashery lady on the market and bought from her two reels of thread as you see, and two skeins of DMC gold metallic floss.  I will be couching the full thickness of the floss onto the fabric from one skein using either one or two strands from the other.  Once I have my friend’s measurements, I will be going back to her to get the wherewithal for the mock-up.

The next interesting question is this.  Do I a) remove the canvas altogether and stretch the fabric over a bare frame, or b) stitch the fabric to the canvas and then carefully cut out the canvas underneath?  I can see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and any comments on this subject would be invaluable, especially if they’re based on experience – many thanks!