Prince’s Thistle – a new crewelwork project!

I’ve been visiting the past more often during this time when we can’t go anywhere else with 100% safety. Through books, podcasts and research, I’ve travelled back to Tudor and Jacobean times and, on one of my travels, I came across the beautiful silver traveling canteen below. Isn’t it just stunning?

If you want to know more about the canteen and Bonnie Prince Charlie, a good place to start is here, at the National Museums Scotland website.

It’s believed that the canteen was a 21st birthday gift to Charles Edward Stuart. He brought the canteen with him to Scotland in 1745. The Duke of Cumberland captured the canteen on the field after the battle of Culloden in April, 1746. Cumberland then gave it to one of his aides, George Kepple, who kept it in his family until 1963. It was acquired by the National Museums Scotland in 1984, after a successful fundraising effort to ensure it remains in Scotland.

It is a beautiful object, with an association to one of the most romantic figures in Scottish history. (Sadly, the reality is less romantic by far…) Nonetheless, the thistle on the cup inspired me to created a new crewelwork design entitled “The Prince’s Thistle”.

Above is a color rendering of the design. As you can see, the stitches include my favorite – laid and couched lattice on the larger leaves. I’ll be using Turkey work for the top of the thistle, as have many other designers. There will be touches of silver in the design as a nod to the silver canteen and the workmanship of Ebenezer Oliphant, the silversmith who created the canteen.

The threads I’ll be using are my all time favorite threads from Catkin Crown Textile Studio – Heathway wool. I just love these colors! It’s going to be fun watching this come together over the next few months.


Unbelievably busy!

It just can’t possibly be September yet! The summer has flown by and I’ve gotten some, but not a lot, of embroidery time.

We had family for just under a month staying with us from all over and loved every minute! I got some stitching done and finished a project I’m teaching to the lovely members of the Quinsippi EGA in Quincy, Illinois at the end of September.

This is a new crewelwork piece I designed just for them called “The Queen’s Pomegranate”. It was inspired by the emblem of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.

The design changed some as I worked up the model. I was really unhappy with how the lower leaves looked when I stitched them as illustrated in the drawing, above. My initial idea was to have satin stitch on the bottom half and seeding on the top half but that was a non-starter right away. Not enough color or texture in relation to the rest of the piece.

The next rendition of the lower leaves was to use the same techniques I’d used in the crown – namely stem stitch and French knots. That REALLY didn’t look good – too busy!

I let the first stem stitch/French knot sit while I worked on the turned over leaf which I decided to work in long and short shading. When it was finished, I was very happy!

As it turned out, shading was the perfect answer. Everyone who’s seen the pomegranate comments first on the shading – ‘Ooohhh, I love those leaves!”. Obviously it works!

Along with embroidering the model, I’ve been working hard with my graphic designer on upgrading my kits. I am so excited to show you what the completed kits will look like! However, I’m going to let the members of the Quinsippi EGA Chapter see them first. The one thing I’m most proud of is that the kits will not contain disposable plastic.

If you belong to a group who would be interested in having me come to teach, just let me know via email at kathy “at” I’d love to hear from you!

Crewel Work Retrospective: Part 4

By now I must have accumulated at least 5,000 hours, don’t you think? Do you keep track of the hours you spend stitching? I didn’t until I began my City and Guilds course and then we’re required to keep a record of how much time each component takes. This is a smart idea, especially if you’re going into embroidery or textile arts as a career.

Click here to read more.

The sweet Blue Bird was my next project. It’s designed by Nicola Jarvis and is one of many William Morris Inspired Crewel Work Bird designs she’s produced. This one was a gift for one of my daughters and hangs in her living room. It’s a lovely project!

I also continued to work up pieces by Phillipa Turnbull. The photo below is of her Leven’s Hall Pillow design. The colours are in the same family as The Marriage Pillow and they will look beautiful side by side – if I ever make them up into cushions!

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The Leven’s Hall Pillow design uses a stitch that was new to me called Raised Leaf stitch. I’ve since used it in a piece of my own and will be forever thankful to Phillipa for introducing it to me!

Then, on a visit to the UK, Nicola asked me to embroider an epic crewel work project: Loveday.  When I said yes, I had no idea how long it would take and I didn’t care. It’s a wonderful, engaging, interesting, beautiful, playful, delightful piece of crewel work and I loved every single minute of stitching it!

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I started it on January 10, 2015 and finished in on October 24, 2015. I worked on it every day and, towards the end, I woke up extra early to work on it before leaving for school. The canvas is 55 cm x 45 cm. When I finished it I was simply thrilled with the results! Nicola has it now, to share with students. Someday It will return to me but I’m perfectly happy with it travelling around for now!

The last course I did in crewel work was with Tracy A. Franklin at the studio of Ali Halley. This course was a sampler course of various stitches worked in a grid pattern similar to the samples in Tracy’s book “Crewel Work”.

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Have I done 10,000 hours of crewel work? Maybe, maybe not yet…but I’ve certainly done 10,000 hours of embroidery in the last 8 years. And every stitch helps make you better. However, I’m not finished learning. There are still so many techniques to improve on, so many new ones to learn and so much more embroidery to create! I’m looking forward to the future…as soon as my hands are ready to go back to stitching.