A little bit of Schwalm Whitework

Some of you will remember that I started a Schwalm Whitework piece a long, long, long time ago. I had to put it aside for a while but it certainly wasn’t forgotten! This afternoon I decided to get it out and continue to work on the filling patterns. I’ve finished all the outline stitches and all that’s left to do are the fillings. I say “all” but really there is quite a bit of it to do!

Before I begin to create the pretty fillings I have to prepare the fabric by cutting away threads inside the shape to create a grid. This always makes me VERY nervous since I don’t want to cut the wrong thread! Doing it after a day teaching  isn’t the best time since I’m rarely that relaxed (usually exhausted!) nor alert enough to do this kind of delicate work! But today, I felt I could succeed so I started again.

Schwalm Whitework


Each time I pull this piece out of the drawer and unwrap it from the tissue paper, I am shocked at all the blue on the fabric! I purchase the fabric with the design already traced onto it from Luzine Happel (I’m so lucky to live not far from her and have been to see her twice!). Each time – after my initial shock – I open the book to the very end and reread the instructions for washing the piece when I’m finished stitching it: When the entire piece is finished I’m to “Soak it overnight and cook it the next day – if possible in a big pot and not the washing machine.” This will remove all the blue…this will remove all the blue…this will remove all the blue…


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Creating and stitching in black and gold

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on the blog. I’ve been so busy creating things and stitching that I just haven’t had a minute to sit down and write anything. Additionally, it’s the end of the term and grades were due which is a huge job this year because I’m teaching English for the first time and an Abitur level course. (College entrance level course). I know you’re all a lot more interested in embroidery than the German educational system (see too, for that matter!) but my new responsibilities have eaten up enormous amounts of time and energy this school year. I hope now that I will be better able to balance my time between my administrative responsibilities at school (less time spent here I hope!) and the joyful occupation of embroidery!

As you know from the last post (remember that post?) I am working on two new cap designs. I’ve decided not to stick the patterns as three dimensional caps but to do them as panels instead. I’m currently embroidering a panel of my first Trevelyon’s Cap for teaching purposes and am really looking forward to being able to mount and frame it creatively when it’s finished. It will be fun to have two others to hang beside the first in about a year’s time (if I stitch quickly!) Below is a drawing with my initial ideas sketched out.


The first one I’ve begun is the gold (metal thread) and black silk cap. Like many of you, my favourite photo from the post on January 8, 2016 was the black and gold coif at the bottom of the page. I just love the combination of black and gold. Some of you right remember the blackwork piece I did years ago to which I added gold accents. I gave it to my father and it hangs in their home in Iowa. Every time I return I am reminded of how much I like that combination of colours, threads and techniques so I thought I’d do it again on this next cap project!


I can tell you that working with metal thread on such small pointed shapes take a lot of patience and a good, strong pair of tweezers! However, I find the process of couching down the pearl purl and pinching the tips of the leafs into sharp points completely satisfying. Once the gold thread is on the fabric, it’s there to stay. The fact that they leaves aren’t completely symmetrical nor are they the exactly the same is charming and I love that the original design is hand drawn so, therefor, not computer perfect. We got so used to perfect designs and airbrushed or enhanced photos that I find the human element in the wonkiness delightful!


The leaves in the centre of the design are outlined with pearl purl and will be filled with chip work (one of my favourite if not my very favourite metal thread techniques!). The leaves on the sides of the design will be different. The first on eI’ve begun to outline using passing thread but I’m not sure yet what I will use to fill the shape – most likely blackwork of some kind in silk or cotton.


I’m home all week this coming week as we are on winter holiday.  I’m ready for next term (at least I think I’m ready,  but one never knows!) so I can relax and get lots of fun stitching done.


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A new cap design – redrawing the past

As you know, I’m working on a new cap design. Well, to be honest I’m working on two new cap designs. After beginning work on the gold cap, I fell in love with another Trevelyon design containing pomegranates. Some of you may remember my very first RSN Certificate piece which had a pomegranate as part of the design and I’ve loved them ever since!

This time, rather than printing the original, tracing it, scanning it back into my computer and then touching it up so it’s useable, I began directly with the original and cleaned it up. I want you to think about that – using a computer I cleaned up the pencil marks of a man who lived over 400 years ago. At first, I was so taken with the process I didn’t stop to think about what was going on before my eyes. As I worked, it occurred to me that my mouse was erasing smudges that had been made on the original drawing. I was erasing smudges that had been part of the image since just after it was drawn by Thomas Trevelyon’s own hand.


It was time travel right in front of me, on my desk.  I was “touching” (using a computer, granted) the work of someone from a very long time ago. I was cleaning up the marks, the smudges, the damage that had happened over all those years so we, here in the 21st century, could use his design again. Do you think it would EVER have occurred to him that someone, in 2016, would want to use his design? For that matter, do you think he ever thought about 2016? I doubt it! I certainly don’t think about 2415, do you?

After all the touching up was finished, I had this beautiful pattern from which I will be embroidering a cap in crewel wools. That means two new caps on the go at once. I certainly won’t be bored! I like the idea that I’ll be doing two completely different techniques at the same time and it should provide interesting reading for all of you.


When I was thinking about the finished product, I wondered if I should make two more caps or if it might be more interesting to stitch one panel of each and frame them. That decision hasn’t been made yet but I’ll certainly take your input! I always love help in making these decisions!

As for colours, I haven’t decided yet but I DO think that using either Heathway wool or Renaissance Dying crewel will be a better choice for this project than using Appletons. Both Heathway and Renaissance Dying crewel wools are finer than Appletons and I’ll be working in a very small space, so thinner thread will help me to make more beautiful stitches.


I’m currently reading a fascinating book by Dr. Susan Kay Williams on colour, entitled “The Story of Colour in Textiles”. The book is widely available from major booksellers all over the world and I highly recommend it! It’s entertaining as well as informative. This book will help me to determine which colour would have been available to embroiderers in the 16th century and I think I’ll try to limit myself to those colours for this project.

Working again on projects based on historical patterns has brought me back to one of the reasons I love embroidery – it’s the connection with history, with all the people who came before us and embroider things that we still cherish today, who made someone’s life more beautiful by creating a piece of art for them to cherish. I’m proud and grateful to be part of that tradition!

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