Constructing the needlebook part 2

To pick up the story of the needle book…(read the first installment here)

I had discarded the fraying flannel pages that I’d quickly snipped out from the inside cover of the needle book. It’s possible that if I’d adjusted the tension on my sewing machine as RM suggested I could have kept the flannel from stretching, but nothing I could do would have kept the flannel from fraying. It was simply not the right material for this job.


Beginning again with the inside of the cover, the printed fabric sewn to the muslin, both pieces having been folded under on all four sides before being sewn together, I attached the new felt pages. I used strong, ivory colored quilting thread left over from my quilting days.


As I worked the row of back stitch that held the pages into the inside of the cover, I noticed that the ivory stitching looked really pretty next to the slightly rusty red felt. An idea popped into my head (my head was pretty empty at this point so there was lots of rooms for ideas to pop around!).  ‘What if I put numbers on the pages to correspond to the number of the needles?’ So a page for only number 3 crewel needles, a page for only number 5 needles and so on. And then I thought ‘What about stitching a little running stitch line half way down the page so I could store the needles by brand?’ Bohin on the top, JJames on the bottom, etc. I left two pages at the back blank for any other needles.


I found some ivory stranded cotton and quickly stitched in the numbers (tiny back stitches) and the dividing lines (small running stitch). Once that finishing work was done, it was finally time to attach the inside cover complete with pages to the outside cover that I’d embroidered. I placed the inside cover on top of the outside cover, centering it and then pinning it in place with straight pins. The muslin side of the inside cover was face to face with the wrong side of the embroidery. Lastly I stitched them together using an invisible stitch again. It was necessary to slightly adjust the fabric as I worked.

The next step was to press the front and back covers with a gentle steam iron, placing a folded towel underneath the needle book so the crewel work embroidery didn’t get flattened by the iron.

The very last thing to do was to sew a little green button on the front and a green loop on the back to hold it closed.  Notice, I’ve put my initials on the back cover so I won’t lose it and so someone, someday, might remember who made it.

It’s rare that I write about how I finish the pieces I embroider. That’s because I rarely finish them! I have an ever growing portfolio of embroidered pieces and I have no idea what to do with them. I see them as really involved practice pieces, not necessarily as pieces to be framed or made into pillows or whatever.

The cap project I’m working on now is different from all the other pieces: it’s going to be a little cap on a little wooden hat stand (to be made by my wonderful father in the future!). Trevelyon’s Cap will be like a little sculpture or decorative piece which sits on a table in my home and sparkles in the lamp light. The screen project (which is coming along, slowly, but still on the horizon) is also already destined to be something.

Honestly, though, the upcoming goldwork piece I’ll be doing during the RSN course in a few weeks time is like the others in my portfolio: it will perhaps be framed. I didn’t frame the crewel work piece from last year’s RSN course until Easter 2012 and then only because all the students from the Rugby course were asked to contribute their work to our first exhibit of RSN work in Rugby. If I hadn’t been asked to have it framed, it would probably still be sitting in the portfolio.

This brings me to you, dear readers; what do you do with all your pieces of embroidery? Do you, too, have a portfolio or a drawer where all your beautiful embroidered pieces languish in the dark? Or do you frame them all transforming your home into a gallery showcasing your talent? Or do you have so many cushions that your entire neighborhood could sleep at your house and there would be enough pillows for everyone to have at least two?



13 thoughts on “Constructing the needlebook part 2

  1. When I complete the stitching on pieces, they go into an archival storage box with layers of textile conservation paper. Sometimes I frame them, mostly I just look at them once in a while. I frame pieces when I have a need for that
    specific piece. Even when I’m giving a piece to someone, I don’t frame it. I might include “free framing” but everyone has their own ideas about framing or making pillows. Of course, many pieces never get completed and are still in their tote bag.

  2. I tend to frame my pieces when I finish them, but I think that is because I have a very special framer, who knows exactly how to frame embroidery. I shamefully admit to having 54 framed pieces of my work going up my stairs and in my upstairs hallway. Too much? No, I still have room for a few more pieces, I think 🙂

  3. Finishing. Tricky subject. I have a good stack of unfinished pieces. I’ve franed them but no one has any wall space left. My mom told me years and years ago “no more pillows!” Pillows and neckrolls and small sewing tools are nice because I can finish them myself, but I’ve kind of maxed out everyone I know with them. So I finish gifts and ornaments, but most pieces, especially things that need to be framed, they just sit. (For a while I moved to beading but now I’ve filled everyone’s arms with bracelets and necks with neckalces and I’m again stuck.)

  4. I no longer do pillows because the things I embroidered as a child were literally overused and destroyed. I can buy pillows (and similar) to overuse and destroy almost anywhere. Considering the above, I now spend a great deal more time on a project than I used to, there is NO WAY I want them to be destroyed like that. I do have a few that have been framed, and two pillows I did still exist. I also made a curtain for the window on our kitchen door. To keep the sun from fading the back of the design, there is a second fabric layer that faces the sun, and a white layer in the middle for double protection. An idea: I am working on replicating a quilt that I saw at a museum. It was completed by rural schoolgirls in the very early 20th century. Each quilt square (8x8inches) is hand embroidered, then the girls hand quilted them together. On that sort of thing you can embroider for as long as you need/want to and still have a place to put it when all of the squares are finished. :-)I am sure many embroiderers can figure out a subject and “invent” thier own quilts. They will take a while to complete, but it will be something you can do long term, many “”different”” projects (each square) and at the end be proud of what you have done. :-)And the best part of a quilt (even small) is that if you want to try a new technique you can use it in a design that “fits” into your quilt and even if you decide not to continue with that technique you can just do the single square, or if you like the technique, you can do more and arrange it nicely when you have enough squares. Also, if each square is a different project you can put it aside and embroider a gift for a friend and go back to it later. Subjects can be almost anything, and if the subject is such (like birdhouses or fish) it may mean that there is no particular order of the squares so you can not do it “wrong”. Speaking of quilts, the Victorians used to do “crazy quilts” that were often embroidered. Perhaps those could be on your list of things to do with multiple projects. I mean someone could make multiple “crazy” squares, embroider them, and quilt them together. And if “crazy quilts” don’t appeal, you can make typical quilt patterns and embroider them, as though they ARE “crazy”, and be happy as a clam. 🙂 Anyhow, that is my two skeins..erm..cents worth. 🙂

  5. Good idea to stitch the numbers!
    I do all the things which you’ve mentioned with my embroidery pieces.Also I do embroidery on dresses 🙂

  6. What a question Kathy. I had an exhibition last year and of course didn’t sell much so I have heaps of framed pieces, 3D pieces and one wearable all lurking higgledy-piggledy in my studio. If we had enough walls we could hang some but since we tend to collect other people’s works the walls are pretty well covered. The 3D pieces I make fight with my husband sculptures for table room. So the bottom line is: the studio is chockers with framed and finished pieces and many many wips.

  7. I get my framed and do not stitch quick enough to worry about filling up my walls. The reason I frame is so that I can enjoy, evaluate and preserve them.

  8. Kathy, I had a stitching friend tell me that she framed each piece
    To show off the piece best. Then she hung them on her stairway wall, not particularly trying to match anything. Now I have many framed pieces of all sizes on the walls of my guest room,floor to ceiling. I will occasionally rearrange them. When I do not have guests I keep the windows covered to prevent fading. I still have way too many unframed. But I am fortunate that my husband will mke frames for me and I do frame them myself. Occasionally I have pieces that need to have special framing and I do send them to be framed. I also have many pillows, etc as well as a china/display cabinet filled with many smalls! LOL! I continue to embroider with wonder of where to place them as I look at the continuing pile of growing unframed/unfinished pieces

  9. I realise that these pages are from some time ago. I want to construct a needlebook and was interested in your description. However the images IMG 67, IMG 69,IMG 74 and IMG 77 do not appear and clicking on them leads to a page with the message “Whoops! Whatever you are looking for cannot be found. Would it be possible to restore them?
    I would be very grateful if you could as I want to make a needlebook with a number of pages.
    I am a reader of your blog although I almost never comment. I particularly enjoy your articles on crewel embroidery.
    Thank you for your time and attention.

    • Hi Helen,
      Thanks for letting me know about tho missing images. Off and away into cyber space I guess…All are restored except the one that shows me pressing the crewelwork cover using a towel so the stitching doesn’t get flattened. The trick is to place a fluffy towel on the ironing board, put the crewelwork face down onto the towel and then press gently. That way the stitching sinks into the pile of the towel and not onto the hard surface of the intoning board.
      Have fun making you needle book and, if you’d like, send along a picture! I’d love to see it.
      Liebe Grüße,

  10. I am so thrilled to find your site throguh Pintrest. I smock children’s clothes and always need a bit of help on the embroidery stitches that I come across every once in awhile.Thank you so much for sharing!

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