Couching

Currently I’m enrolled in a class taught by Natalie Dupuis called “The Humble Couching Stitch”. After a very long year when I wasn’t feeling (or being!) very creative, I decided that a class was just what I needed to rekindle my creativity and this was the perfect choice!

As a surface embroiderer I do loads of couching on my pieces. I particularly love laid and trellis work which requires couching threads down to create the layered patterns.

The couching stitch is one of the most versatile stitches there is and can be used in both traditional and contemporary embroidery, such as the piece I did for my City and Guilds Course, below.

Natalie’s class focuses on the couching stitch as used in metal thread embroidery. There are a number of things that I’ve particularly enjoyed. Firstly, the organization and delivery of the class is first rate. For each technique we  have access to background videos, readings that are available online or to download, high quality images and demonstration videos. There are assignments for us to do each week or every two weeks depending on the size and scope of the topic. As we work, there is a discussion area for each assignment where all students can upload and comment on their own work. Others can comment on your work as well and Natalie replies to every single comment.

It’s inspiring and encouraging to see the work of other students and the atmosphere Natalie sets online is positive.  Uploading images and comments is easy and straightforward so I’ve spent very little time doing technology and loads of time stitching: the best balance for any online class I think. We have weekly Zoom lecture meetings where we learn more, go over content we’ve been assigned to read and have a little time to talk with one another.

We started with basic couching. Below is the best brick pattern couched work I managed. My stitches still aren’t perfectly straight but they’re MUCH better than the first one I did (farther below).

We then moved on to underside couching.  It is a very cool technique and I loved it but it was tricky! If you want to learn more about underside couching, here is a link to a fabulous video by Sarah Humphrey. I took a class from Sarah years ago at the V&A and started on the piece you see at the beginning of the video. I had the best luck using a gold tambour thread which is super thin. The thinner the thread, the easier it is to get it under the fabric.

The couching as labeled in the photo –

#1 – left-over #7 silver passing thread  (too lumpy)

#2 – Same as #1 but with silk on top of the muslin (still too lumpy!)

#3 – #4 gold passing thread (better)

#4 – Gold tambour thread (best!)

#5 – Same materials as example #3 but using the method I found worked best for me whilst doing example #4.

It worked pretty well but the Tambour thread works best. It’s so fine that it’s really easy to pull through – even the silk.

You can see that I am NO expert and my samples look a bit scruffy. However, that’s the point – I’m learning!

We then moved to diaper patterns which I LOVED!!! I decided to do two different patterns in two different threads. In the first I used gimp thread and colored silk to couch down the gimp.

The second is a pattern  from the Fisherman’s Pall (below) and I used gold thread with purple silk to couch down. As you can see from the area I couched, I really, really enjoyed this technique!

Last week and next we’re focusing on the technique called Or Nué. I have NO experience of this technique and it is very s…l…o…w. I’ve chosen to replicate my logo in one color for my first try. Typically Or Nué is a shaded technique but may be done in one color. We’ll see how it turns out when I’m finished.

If you’re interested in Natalie’s classes on Teachable, here is a link to that page.

This is a link her her web page where you can read more about her and her work.

The course I’m taking now, of course, is full. The next course is called “Ode to the Palette” and I don’t know if it’s full or not. I’ve signed up and am looking forward to learning even more about color!

It’s never too late to learn something new or learn more about something with which you are already familiar – and it might even bring back your creativity, as it did for me!

 

Sweet readers

About a month ago I got an email from a reader asking if I was, or had been, ill with Covid 19. Then, last week I got two more emails asking about me and my family and Covid 19. They were concerned that I hadn’t written a post for a very long time and were checking to see if I was OK. Isn’t it lovely that people whom we know only online can be so concerned for our health and well being?

The answer to those questions is…yes and no. Yes, we are all fine and no, no one has been infected with Covid 19 in my family. We are truly blessed (and very careful!).

The reason I haven’t been writing any articles for the blog is simple – I haven’t been very creative lately. Although I did produce a crewelwork piece for the National Academy of Needlework Teacher Certification Course I’m doing, that was really the only thing that I’ve designed, stitched and finished since Covid 19 began. Afraid that I was losing my creative juices, I explained to my mentors in the NAN teachers program that I just couldn’t get anything going. They all replied that they were in the same place creatively. Whew! I felt a LOT better!

Here’s is the darling little needlebook I did for my course way back in the autumn of 2020. It’s called “Acorn Hill Needlebook” because our family home was given the name “Acorn Hill” by my mother. Our home is on a hill, we have tons of oak trees which means, in the fall, the hill is covered with acorns!

 

One thing that has kept my needle moving and my mind calm during the last months is stitching reproduction samplers. I finished this stunning sampler by Amy Mitten called “Tour van Holland” that I began in my first sampler class almost two years ago. It was a joy to stitch and I learned so much! Amy does beautiful reproduction and original samplers as well as embroidery projects that are historically based. Her work is wonderful! You can see it here.

In September my older daughter had a new baby, Harriet, and I made a quilt for her. My husband and I worked on it together and it was really fun for both of us! There are now three little granddaughters to love and spoil – if only I could see them! That has been the WORST thing about Covid 19!

For the first time I’m participating in a stitch-a-long on Facebook embroidering the Ann Morison sampler. At the same time, I’m working on Sarah Spencer’s reproduction sampler. Both of these come from Hands Across the Sea Samplers. Nicola reproduces historic samplers and they are so lovely. Nicola’s charts are exceptional, easy to follow and she includes the history of the girl and the time in which she lived, which I just love!

Ann Morison stitch-a-long progress

Sarah Spencer progress

Truthfully, it is nothing short of amazing that I’m embroidering counted samplers! Me! who couldn’t count her way out of a wet paper bag a few years ago, is finally becoming competent!

Just before Christmas I made a stocking for my granddaughter, Adeline, with this darling fabric and a cross stitched band. It was a quick project that turned out beautifully!

The last thing I want to share is the crewelwork piece I’ve been struggling with and am now finally happy with: The Prince’s Thistle. The first article about this project is here if you want to read about the inspiration behind the design.

I reworked the leaves multiple times, each time becoming less happy with how they looked. Finally, I found a lattice pattern I liked and, once the leaves were finished, I was able to start stitching. I’m really happy with the center, which is all padded satin stitch. The diamond shapes get thicker (more padding) towards the bottom of the oval and the result is really lovely. I’m now getting ready to work on the flower and look forward to showing you my progress in future posts!

Thank you to the readers who inquired about my health and well being – you inspired me to sit down and write a post!

Trevelyon’s Garden Pin Cushion – Finished!

This beautiful piece of silk on silk embroidery has been safely rolled up for months, waiting for me to find the time to finish the project. I started it way back in March, 2020 . Here is a link to the first post I wrote about the pin cushion.

I was inspired by three different historical references. First and foremost is a petticoat thought to have belonged to Queen Anne of Denmark held in the collection of the Burrell Museum, Glasgow. Having seen and photographed the petticoat years ago when I was in Glasgow, I had access to close up photos that I had taken. This helps enormously when I’m working on an historically inspired piece.

Secondly, a painting of Elizabeth Vernon, the Countess of Southampton, which shows a large  pin cushion her dressing table. Granted, it isn’t an embroidered pin cushion, but it is a very important part of getting dressed every day. Much of a woman’s dress, such as the one she is wearing, was held in place using pins. Just look at how many pins are in the pin cushion!

Thirdly, I again used botanical drawings from the Trevelyon’s Miscellany of 1608. It’s one of my favorite sources for designs as well as history.

In my imagination, the embroidery was meant to replicate a small piece of the petticoat that might have been found and turned into a pin cushion as a way to preserve the scrap of beautiful embroidered fabric.

It’s now been made into a pin cushion, filled with crushed walnut shells, trimmed with gold twist and ribbon tassels at each corner. It looks just as I imagined it would look. However, I’m not sure I’ll be putting any pins into it – ever!