The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 1
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 2
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 3
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 4
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 5


RSN Silk Shading Threads safe and ready to go!

Traveling to and from one of the RSN courses is always a bit of a production. It’s not like I’ll be able to pop home if I forgot something…Berlin is a long way from Bristol! So I always do a few things to make sure my materials and equipment get to and from England safely.

For the silk shading course my biggest concern is the silk itself. I have 28 different colors of “Au Ver a Soire” silk for the project. This is a large investment and I want to make sure it stays in perfect condition throughout the entire course including the traveling. When I was in London for the first four days of the RSN Canvaswork course, one of the students had a wonderful idea for keeping her threads accessible and safe when the stitching day was finished. She generously allowed me to take a photo.


She’d made a long, narrow pillow which could be laid across the top of the slate frame when she was stitching. The pillow kept the threads from getting tangled since they were resting on fabric and they draped nicely over the pillow. They were visible while she was working and it was easy for her to get the color she needed. At the end of the day – and what you can’t see – is the flap of fabric that folds up to cover the threads keeping the safe.

Yesterday I made my own version of the same thing using slightly different materials* (see note below)


I started with an old, rather thin cotton bath mat. The length was just right for the three thread holders and, folded along with a bit of left over quilt batting, it was the right thickness.


After I had folded it and made sure it was the correct length and width, I pinned it and then stitched it together along the edge using large basting stitches.


Next I took some of the white cotton fabric I bought years ago that’s in my stash. I cut it to the width of the ‘cushion’ plus a bit more so I could have a hem along each side. Then I stitched it up along the ends and at the front edge of the cushion. I hemmed the sides and the bottom and it was done!


The last step was to lay the thread holders with the thread in them along the length of the pillow and stitch them on using button hole thread. I stitch them loosely so I could get a strand of thread off easily. Below you can see the thread snugly wrapped up in the fabric that extends from the pillow. It will be easy to move from place to place and the thread will stay safe. If it looks like it will unroll, I’ll use a couple pieces of ribbon and tie them around to keep it from unrolling.


When I arrive at the studio to stitch, I’ll unroll it and all my threads will be there safe and sound!


I’ll let you know how it works once I start using it!

Have you ever made something like this for your threads when you’re working on a large project? Share your solution with us!


*This year I’ve made a promise to myself the I will not purchase one more thing. I have enough: enough equipment, enough thread, enough fabric, enough of everything, really. Late last year I did order one of the new stands from Just a Thought and I’ll be telling you about that when I go back to Iowa for a visit this summer where I had the stand shipped to my parents. I have signed up for a course with Jenny Adin-Christie in August and I think there may be a materials fee for that. Other than those two things you should NOT be hearing about me buying one more thing. If you’re interested in how I’m doing buying Not One More Thing (the name of my new blog) take a peek at it here.

Drawing the RSN Silk Shading image

Last summer my brother came to the USA from Australia. Although we weren’t able to coordinate our time together in Iowa with our family, he generously agreed to bring over a light box that I’d seen online from Create In Stitch in Australia. They were having an amazing sale so I bought one and had it shipped to him. He then carried it over in his luggage and I brought it back to Germany. This light box has been around the world!


This weekend was the first time I’d had occasion to use it and it is WONDERFUL! It’s large – A3 size which is 29.7 cm by 42 cm. The light is strong but doesn’t glare and the surface stays cool. Above is a photo of the printed image with a piece of tracing paper over it. Below is the tracing paper with a piece of heavy drawing paper over it. You can see the image clearly no matter what kind of paper is being used. It works equally well over fabric (that’s a post for another day!)


Using a hard pencil – 4H – I traced the outline and then got out my coloured pencils to do the work of colouring the image. The purpose of this exercise is to practice seeing the colors in the image. Yes, the flower is white, but it’s far more than white! You can see some of the pencils I used in the photo below along with the scribble paper I used to test the color before I used it on the drawing. Often the lead in the pencil doesn’t look the same as what is coloured with the lead.


That scribble paper is like the test fabric I’ll have with me during the course. I have made up a small square of calico backed grey silk to have next to me so I can test thread combinations before I commit them to the real thing.


Above is the drawing next to the photo. Of course, using drawing paper, the white isn’t as white as in the photo but that wasn’t what I needed to “see”. White is pretty easy when it’s white. This image, however, has shades of grey, blue, pink, violet, green and yellow in it. The green sepals were a bit tricky since the greens have black and a mustardy yellow/brown in them.


Overall I’m pleased with the drawing. I may do it again on white paper to see if I can get the shading/shadows even closer to the image. It took a while to color the image, but I know that the silk shading will take a LOT longer!


Getting ready for RSN Silk Shading course

I have been stitching lately but I’m also getting ready to go to Bristol to begin the RSN Silk Shading course with Kelley Aldridge. I’ve learned that being well prepared means I’ll be able to use the time I have with my tutor productively. Learning silk shading is the point, not all the other bits and bobs that need to be done in preparation.

“What needs to be done?” I hear you ask. “You have your thread and your silk and the image is chosen – what’s left to do?”


This weekend here’s what I did to prepare:

1. Go to copy shop to have a high quality photo printed so the colors of the cosmos by Mandy Disher are clear. She very kindly gave me permission and sent me a super high quality image.


2. Print the image using different effects to highlight the shade or tone of the image. Thank goodness for computers!


3. Cut the silk thread to shortish stitching lengths, put them on the thread holder, make tags for each color and put those on the thread holder. This job took f o r e v e r… and I hate fiddly, uninteresting stuff like that. However, it will save lots of time and now I’ll be ready to thread my needles and stitch.


4. Draw and color the image using coloured pencils. This is recommended in the RSN Silk Shading book by Sarah Homfray and it’s a great idea. It makes one really LOOK at the colors and how they all work together. I’ve started but haven’t finished the drawing yet, so I’ll post that in an upcoming post for you to see.

Here are photos of me working out which coloured pencils work for which thread. Below are the “whites”. They’re not really all “white”, especially the one second from the right.


Here are the greys. Except some are more blue and some more purple and some more silver…you get the idea!


Lastly the greens – which aren’t all green. In fact, some of the pencils came from the brown area of the pencil case.


This is definitely going to be about perceiving color and tone and shades. If nothing else, it will be good for my artistic eye!

5. Cut the calico used for backing the silk. Not time consuming but it must be done.

6. Make a list of everything I will need to take to Bristol. The list isn’t that long but I make it early so I have time to go over it a few times, knowing I’ll catch something I’ve forgotten.

What a wonderful, fun weekend! Only two weeks until we fly to London and drive to the village of Wick in Somerset where we’ll be staying. I am SO excited to be seeing Kelley and her students again and be surrounded with other people who love embroidery as much as I do!