Leven’s Hall Pillow – Finished!

The pillow designed by Phillipa Turnbull called the Leven’s Hall Pillow has been one of my favourite pieces to stitch. A big part of that is the color scheme. The rich reds, deep blues and creamy golds are simply beautiful.


Whenever I get to the end of a project like this – a large project – and I’ve finished the last large area, or large group of motifs to be stitched, I always think to myself  “I’m almost done! not long now!” and then, I begin to stitch…and I stitch… and I stitch… and I stitch… Well, you get the idea! Those little finishing bits always take so much longer to embroider than I think they will take!

The large stem was the last big area I needed to complete and embroidering that in Romanian couching was really fun! I’d only done that stitch once before and I really enjoy the rhythm of Romanian couching. The stitch creates a spine down the middle of the stem and I find that particularly pretty.


Then the only thing left to do were the tendrils of stems stitch and the outline of the whole piece. ‘This will be quick’ I thought. Ha! However, when it was all done, the stem stitch tendrils really finished the piece beautifully.


In the instructions it says to outline the piece using a long line of laid double threads couched down every 2 or 3 centimetres. I had fallen in love with the Reversed Chain stitch so I chose to embroider the outline using that stitch.


It makes a nice border and I love the texture of the Reverse Chain stitch.


Below is a photo I took while the piece was still on the frame, on the evening I finished it.


Aren’t the colors stunning! I am definitely going to make this up into a pillow with tassel fringe. I’ve even found a supplier in the UK that sells fringe I think will work. They’re called George Spencer and the fringe is on this page.  I’m thinking the 413 range or the 707 range of colors. The 707 looks like it’s made of a wool similar to Appleton’s Wool in texture so that could be an especially good match.

If you have an opinion please let me know!



It’s All in your Mind

Look closely at the two photos below. Can you see the difference in the drawn red lines that are on top of the stitching? In each photo I’ve traced over the stitches with a drawing tool to highlight where the stitches begin and end and the direction in which each stitch travels.


In the photo above you can see that the stitch lines are longer and shorter than one another and they are all going in one direction. They remind me of some diagrams I’ve seen showing how to do long and short shading. While I stitched this area i was thinking “long stitch, shorter stitch, longer stitch, shorter stitch…”


Example 2

In this photo (above) you can see the stitch lines in red are much shorter and they are stitched in more different directions. While I stitched these stitches I was thinking “sketch a line of color, feather in another line, now sketch a few lines again, now a few more feathered lines sketched in…”

This is how I have finally determined that how I think about long and short stitching makes all the difference in how it looks. In other words, it’s all in my mind!

I have figured out how to imagine, or think about, placing the stitches to create a smooth, beautifully shaded long and short stitch. As with anything we learn, each of us understands how to do it in a slightly different way. We may all actually DO the same thing, but how we think about doing it may be quite different. In my case, thinking about long and short stitches – one longer or shorter than the next, didn’t give me the results I wanted. I was too focused on the length of the stitches and keeping them at a specific angle and not focused enough on the shading, curving execution of the stitches.


It was an ah-ha moment when I saw that what I needed to imagine doing with my needle was sketching, with short strokes of thread, the shades of color into the shape. When I imagined my threads as short, sketched lines of color, all blending together to create the shaded effect, the stitches could then be at ever so slightly different angles, following the curve of the shape rather than being rigidly straight from the outside to the inside of the shape.


It’s especially apparent in the photo above where you can see the curve of those smaller stitches. My stitching looks softer and blends better if I imagine I’m sketching with a soft coloured pencil rather than laying down straight stitches, one longer and the next shorter. While concentrating on varying the length of the stitches, I paid no attention to the shading or the shape I was stitching.

Below is the blue bird with part of the feathers stitched using my old technique – thinking “long stitch, shorter stitch, long stitch, shorter stitch…” it even look mechanical!


Below is a photo of the blue bird when I stitched thinking “short sketched line, feathered line, short sketched line, feather line, sketched line…” It’s softer, more artistic, more beautiful.



What’s really strange about this discovery is that I stitched the feathers closest to the yellow belly of the bird (badly, as in the first photo) one evening. The next morning I got up and stitched the feathers at the top, nearest to the back. When the whole thing was finished then, and only then, could I see very clearly what I’d done differently. Even as I was stitching I didn’t notice that my technique had changed.

It was a revelation! Out came the old stitching and in went the new and the difference was so obvious!

How do you think about long and short shading? What do you imagine doing with your needle to get a good result?

Please share your tips with us all!

Basket Weave – So Pretty!

Once I finished the basket weave laid and couched work, I began to imagine how the finished piece would look. The two curved shapes that are filled with this combination of long laid stitches and short couching stitches are a distinctive part of the design.


From an angle it’s easy to see the basket weave of the stitch. The golden yellow color reminds me of the lovely oak baskets I have in my home.  Deciding where the color of the couching stitches changes is left up to the discretion of the individual stitcher in Phillipa’s instructions and I really enjoyed thinking through where I wanted the colors to change.

The piece looks elegant while also being cozy and comfortable. It’s quickly becoming my favourite piece of Phillipa’s that I’ve stitched!


The dark blue laid and couched work you see at the top of  the photo above and, more closely, in the photo below, is sometimes referred to as Plaid Stitch. It’s created by laid stitches crossing one another forming a grid and then shorter couching stitches making a cross inside alternate squares of the grid. There will be French knots inside of each empty square, adding a dot of contrasting color.


Which one is your favourite? The one above (sometimes called Plaid Stitch) or the one below (Basket Weave)?


Let me know!