Those of you who read The Unbroken Thread will undoubtedly remember how much difficulty I had with my canvaswork project for the RSN Certificate. I was a complete beginner and had no concept of how canvaswork was done, how to use the different stitches and, for that matter, how to DO the different stitches. At the beginning it was the most frustrating, hopeless feeling I’ve ever had whilst learning any embroidery technique. Of course, when I got to the end of the project, I loved it and felt competent to embroider canvaswork pieces successfully in the future – which is the point, really.
I spent all afternoon on Saturday mounting my RSN Canvaswork piece. Although it was hard work, I will say it went far better than it has on previous course pieces. Kelley Aldrige, my tutor in Bristol with whom I took the last 4 days of the course, kindly allowed me to make a short video of her re-mounting a piece of hers as she clearly explained the process and added tips to help me. This part of embroidery is not delicate, gentle or effortless. It takes strong hands, concentration, determination and patience. If you are mounting a piece with anything that stands away from the fabric or is delicate in anyway, you will need a bubble wrap frame on which to rest the embroidery as you work. It’s easy to make one: take 4 sheets of bubble wrap the width of the top/bottom and sides of your mounted embroidery. Roll each piece tightly – very tightly- making a long baton of bubble wrap. Lay the two longest pieces on a table parallel to one another. Lay the shorter pieces on the top and bottom of the longer pieces. Using masking tape, join them together so you have a frame of bubble wrap. You can now lay your embroidery face down on the bubble wrap frame without worrying about damage from pressure on the front as you work. You can see the bubble warp frame underneath the mounted and partially backed canvaswork piece in the photo below. This step comes after you have attached the embroidery to a covered piece of board using stitches. Although this process is time consuming and critical, it isn’t impossible to learn. I hope, in the future, to be able to produce a video or an e-book with clear instructions on how to mount and finish embroidery. All too often I’ve heard about someone taking their precious piece to a framer who doesn’t understand the correct process and, when they pick up the framed piece, it has been damaged and looks terrible in the frame. Yes, it’s time consuming, yes, it’s a new technique to learn, but I believe it’s completely worth it to know, 100% that your piece is mounted correctly. After the cotton satin has been folded under and securely pinned, then it needs to be attached using a curved needle. During my first RSN course with Nicola Jarvis, she showed me how to do this and I had moderate success. During my second course – again with Nicola – I had even more success. In the time between, I’ve mounted some of my own work at home and gotten even more confident. Attaching the cotton satin to the canvas was a bit different as canvas has holes between the thread so the needle must go through one of those holes as opposed to regular fabric where you can push the needle through at just about any spot you choose. The mounting is worth a good percentage of the points on my assessment. Here are the criteria for the reverse when mounting: Reverse
The corners of the canvas have been folded neatly and are square and flat
The sateen is on the grain, taut and clean with square corners and an even rebate
The slip stitches are consistently of even size with no slip stitches or pin pricks visible
We’ll see what they think but no matter what marks I get, I know my mounting has improved and I feel so much more confident about being able to do it than I have before. And that’s the point of learning something isn’t it? Quick addition, one of our readers requested a better photo of the finished piece so she could really look closely at the detail. I’ve put that here, below, so you can see everything in glorious – or not so glorious! – detail.
Thank you to those of you who suggested – ever so gently – that the paper umbrella on the RSN Canvaswork piece wasn’t quite right. After looking at the piece again I saw the same thing you did – it didn’t fit. I took it to a friend who is very creative and an artist – although not an embroiderer – and her first comment was “Umm…the umbrella isn’t right. Everything is created with fiber on this piece. The umbrella needs to be made of fiber – fabric or thread.”
However, I couldn’t begin work on attaching the umbrella to the canvaswork until the specialist thread I needed arrived from England. The thread arrived on Friday and now I can show you the finished piece. Below is a photo of how the piece looked with the rice paper umbrella.
The thread I needed is called Ultrafyne Polyester 120’s Sewing Threads from Restore Products in the UK. It is very, very fine thread. Below you see four strands on a piece of black card. At the top is a strand of my hair and then the Ultrafyne thread, followed by sewing three and silk 100/3 thread.
I used a number 12 needle. Number 12 needles are so thin that it’s very easy to bend them when you stitch. And if you push on the needle too hard with an unprotected finger, the needle will stab you from the eye end – it’s that sharp!
Firstly I recreased the folds on the backed silk so they were crisp and sharp. Then I stitched together the top of the creases from one side to the other and back again. The entire umbrella is only 2 cm tall so I did all the work using my magnifying lamp.
Next I pulled the stitches tight, gathering the folds in the umbrella. After I carefully trimmed the bottom and the top, I attached the umbrella to the canvaswork.
I stitched down the sides first and then stitched down each of the ‘valleys’ in the folds to the canvas. The photo above is after I’d stitched the sides onto the canvas but before I secured the valleys to the canvas. Those tiny holding stitches in the valleys of the folds kept the folds even and held the umbrella in place. The last thing I did was to stitch across the top with Au ver a soie 100/3 silk to hold the folds in place and create the decoration at the top of the umbrella.
I think it’s a much better solution and the top of the umbrella even looks like a shellacked paper umbrella I bought years ago in Taiwan. The top of the umbrella, where all the folds come together, was bound with a ribbon-like piece of raffia and the folds were all bunched together at the tip.
I’ve started the mounting process now that the umbrella is finished and I’ll get that finished this week – I hope! – and then finally send it away for assessment. Whew! So, what do you think? Better? I sure think so!