Deadly Henbane – Stumpwork Part 1

Henbane petals

This will be a post in two parts.

I realised a funny thing the other day – that this (along with, I suppose, the Hawthorn Blossom) are not miniatures, but rather larger than life. This made by chuckle silently inside. I’m sad like that.

Soooooo. Black Henbane. I think it is a gorgeous flower:


And I wanted to capture all that lovely veiny detail, obvs. I decided to do a similar thing to the aforementioned Hawthorn Blossom and make detached wired slips.

wired slips

And I got some nice heavy white cotton and using fine machine silk, couched it down:

couched wire

The little holes are where I made a mistake and used the wrong colour. That done I took the correct shade of variegated olive green silk and started to attempt to  interpret that beautiful vein structure.

vein embroidery

Now, don’t tell me the veins should be purple. I am using the picture above as my guide and I see them as greenish. But to enhance this, I used a nice dull aubergine silk to add detail:


At this point I was feeling like this wasn’t going to look like Henbane but I press on. Perhaps a much finer thread for the leaves would have been better?


Using 2 threaded needles I finished off the slip with buttonhole stitch using both cream and purple silks. Here’s the first completed one:


Henbane petal

Rinse and repeat…

detached wired slips

Henbane petals

Yeah, so at this point I did feel like it might resemble said bloom at the end of it. Two more to go and the final construct…

Procrastination, Distraction, and Getting On With It.

stumpwork Crab apple hand embroidery

Procrastination is the art-killer.

Who said that? I did, just then. I would believe it too, up until about 4pm yesterday I was having a very unfocused day, distracted, starting things, stopping, forgetting what I was doing. All quite annoying and not very me. But then I obviously got my shit together and did most of the Crab apple you see above. Other things I did/was distracted by:


Moving house chaos in the spare room.


More tidy and lovely light-filled lounge. So much floor space!


Fox in the garden! I never seen one before. We call him Oscar.



Having a little wood burning/staining session in the kitchen.

All varying degrees of usefulness. I think really I was putting off doing the Crabapple because initially I thought I would get a bead and wrap it in silk to make a completely detached 3D apple. But then I couldn’t find the right bead and had a little fret about the composition. As you  know I don’t do sketchbooks, and I barely ‘design’ anything; I have an idea and I make a rough shape or transfer pic and then I stitch it freehand. But because I wanted this to be a pendant, I didn’t want to have too many elements in it and also, having an apple-type element is a bit of a gift – easily recognisable, able to construct simply, nice colours etc. I scratched my head. I puzzled.

Here’s what I came up with:

Leaf embroidery

Decided to do a detached slip for the leaf, in lovely variegated silk on to some calico. I did these before on the Hawthorn Blossom, and nice to see that I could actually remember how to do it without looking at my own instructions.

silk embroidered leaf stumpwork

detached slip

Put that to one side, now do the fruit (the POME if you’ve been paying attention)

padded slip

Picked some nice hand dyed wool viscose felt in a rosy colour and stitched it down in a nice little puff, stuffing it with cotton batting. Then I started satin stitching over it in silk a bit like I did with the Acorn Pendant.



It’s slightly haphazard because of the puffiness of it, so the long stitches don’t want to lie regimentally flat. All the while I’m pondering on the nature of a crab apple that they’re not all uniform red, and I want to get some more russet type colours in. So I got some orange silk and started randomly weaving over the top of the red silk. This is what happened:

apple stumpwork

Photo doesn’t do it justice (when does it ever?) but it actually is very pretty. Then I sewed a little brown root out the bottom. Then I cut out and couched down the leaf to the top:

hand embroidered stumpwork apple

Not bad really! I need to get a felt tip and colour the edge of the leaf where the white calico is showing, and it’s not finished yet because I want to put a little stalk on there too.


Migo deciding if she likes it. She started trying to eat it after this so not sure if that’s good or bad.

Stumpwork Willow Branch

stumpwork willow branch hand embroidered

I know I seem to always say this, but I’m really pleased with the way this one turned out. When I had decided on the construction I thought that as it was going to be so simple, it might not be so effective. I also wasn’t sure about how the detached woven picots would behave as willow leaves, and whether they would give that twirly, tendril-like appearance. They are in fact infinitely poseable. I wanted to achieve with this piece that soft, falling, almost ethereal quality that white willows have in the spring. And I’m also really happy that it has a catkin-quality too – maybe because of the yellowy green.

First I used a bit of crewel wool to make a line of stem stitch down the centre of the brooch, then added some french knots to mark the leaf buds. The wool gives a nice furry sort of texture, which I wanted to suggest the fuzziness that willow has at certain times of year.


Then I started with the willow leaves. My good friend the detached woven picot comes into his own again here. I used 2 different shades of variegated silk here – nice, pale, yellowish green and one with a more mossy tone – and tried to make the leaves as slim as possible.



Then it was a simply a case of filling up the branch with leaves!


It’s great how the construction of this stitch makes the final picot quite stiff and so you can twist them around and make the whole thing have real movement.

This was the look I was going for:



Making the Birch Forest

Embroidered silver birch brooch

I’m very pleased with this, but it also feels a bit ‘un-me’ in a weird way. The whole thing seems very elegant and contemporary and somehow a bit of a departure from my normal style?

Now, the photos are as usual crappy, but I have a good excuse this time, as it’s because the embroidery is so pretty that the photos came out so shit. Because I used super fine super shiny silk thread, silver – naturally – this one in fact:

fine silk

The silver one on the right and the ivory one on the left. They reflect the light like crazy! Having done a few stumpwork pieces I wanted to do something more 2-D, and in good ol’ split stitch. For the composition, I realised it is the whole tree, but very much the bark of the birch that is so iconic and so trying to do a whole mini-tree would have been unsuccessful. So I took this picture as the inspiration and used my new rectangle birch frame (ha!) and did a tight close up of a few trunks;


So started off drawing a few guidelines freehand:



Then filled them in in split stitch in silver fine machine silk.


At this point I had a happy accident when I came to finish the embroidery on the trunks and couldn’t find the silver silk. Bloody cats. So impatient that I am, and realising that as my house is currently more cardboard fort than house (moving day approaches) I had better just use another similarish colour and hope for the best.


Turns out the addition of an ivory silk edge gave a great depth to the trunks and so I overstitched the other two to give the effect of light hitting them.

Then we get to the exciting bit.


NOW it really starts to look like birch trees. I used dark grey cotton and overstitched the trunks pretty randomly to give that lovely papery silver birch look. Then finally, I added some chunky french knots in some gorgeous heavy weight variegated silk in beautiful autumnal colours so represent the leaves:


There’s a silver birch next to my bus stop and I remember a few months ago when I was thinking about this collection, that when I did a birch I wanted the golden autumn leaves that look so delicate and like they are suspended in air.



I took the flash off for this last one in an attempt to show you the colours and sheen better, but I suspect it will only be when I do the proper shoot that you’ll get the true effect. I just love that this is a Birch forest in a birch frame.

One last thing; This will be the last post and indeed the last embroidery for a couple of weeks as we relocate to the other end of the country on Monday/Tuesday! Fear not, once we have internet restored, and stitch pit established, you can look forward to normal service and more creations. If you’re not already, please ‘LIKE’ my Facebook page as I will probably update on there a bit in between.

Making the Mandrake

stumpwork mandrake pendant

I had fun making this little chap. I knew instantly exactly how I wanted to create it. I was going to blog this in two goes but life is crazy at the moment so it’s a one hit wonder.

fine jewellery wire

I bought some special silver plated copper wire. It’s 0.2mm thick and to be honest probably slightly too thin to be flexible yet firm enough to be controlled easily. But the stuff I had already was too thick and I ended up with this:

wire doll

Just a bit too chunky.

wire mandrake

So I made this little wire mandrake frame and then wrapped him with crewel wool.


This was a lot harder than you’d think.

mandrake doll

The genius thing though is even if it looks kinda messy and fuzzy, it just adds to the authenticity of the mandrake root man.

mandrake stumpwork

I then attached the root to the ground fabric with more crewel wool through the little holes still visible in the wire arms and legs.

mandrake wool and silk

I then chose Forest hand dyed variegated silk and began to create the Mandrake’s sprouting leaves. I used detached woven picots to create these:

detached woven picot

mandrake leaves

detached woven picot stumpwork


mandrake stumpwork embroidery

Considering the overall composition I felt like it lacked something, so as this is the first truly poisonous plant I added a little something:

mandrake with little skull

I think the skull gives it a sort of medieval grimoire touch.

mandrake pendant

Definitely a conversation starter.