Bone Disaster!

Bone Disaster!

So it turns out not all vintage 1950s cotton pillowcases are created equal when it comes to upcycling them for embroidery fabric. There I was happily working through my latest batch of new designs I had transferred to my roller frame. Couple days later… it appears this permanent iron-on transfer pen is fading.

But my chair is right in front of the window and we have just had our 4 days of summer, so maybe I thought, I have been lax in covering up my work and have myself to blame for the sun bleaching.

That would be a fair assessment had I not then rolled the rest of the fabric down and seen all the other, covered up designs, faded away too. Not just faded, bleeding, and even imprinted on to the covering fabric.

My guess? 60-odd years of greasy heads on this particularly fine pillowcase has imprinted it with oil, despite being Lenor-fresh. Nice.

But dear reader, that is not the disaster of this story. Here is the lovely little Human Femur 2.0 I just completed in single stranded split stitch:

When I took it off the roller, what did I find?

UNEVEN TENSION! Shock horror. Maybe once I put it into it’s tightly fitting little brooch mount it will be ok?

Nope. Puckered.

Seems the heavy and robust cotton I was using before can withstand being attached to the frame at just vertical ends, this one is just too refined.

Thank the embroidery Gods for big mercies, but in case you’re wondering, the Hare is ok. Once mounted he looks perfect.

What to do?

Octopus love

Octopus love

Sorry there isn’t much step by step photography in this one – last weekend was a total stitch fest and I didn’t pause much…so here’s the before shot:

When I did the transfer outline for this one, I pressed a bit too hard on the fresh ink so I got quite a coarse line. I was worried it would show through, but having done my two skulls I was totally into split stitch-shading everything so used this with some more variegated silk thread to hug the line really tightly. 3.5 hours later…

I totally love him, and his little french knot suckers. I know I’ll be doing him in loads of different colours to come.

But 2 hours later…

See, I had real struggles with his eyes. So much of a creature’s character is in the eyes and when you’re working small embroideries it is really hard to capture that. I don’t want him to look cartoony.  I don’t really want him to look cute either. I just want him to look like an octopus. Arguably it doesn’t look that much better having picked all the little black thread fibres out of it and stabbed it, stabbed myself and generally had a frustrating evening. Even more annoying is that the eyes in the original sketch were pretty much perfect.

I basically went back to the greeny silk and split stitch again, finished off with little pale grey french knots.

But I know what to do next time.

Death Cap

Death Cap

So much learnt!

Here’s a brief summary:

  1. Dyed the Salamanca fabric in tea and backed it with cotton

  2. Raised stem stitch band in cotton (twice)

  3. Bullion knots in cotton

  4. Needlelace (Single Brussels stitch) in cotton

  5. Padded felt slip in wool viscose and cotton padding

  6. Brick stitch in Crewel wool

  7. Detached woven picot in cotton

  8. Couching in cotton

  9. French knots in cotton

  10. Lettering in backstitch and skull in padded satin stitch in cotton.

The afterglow of successful creation. I’m basking right now.

Finishing off the mushroom

Finishing off the mushroom

So we come to the end. I’ve skipped ahead a few steps in this post so you’ll see all the final stages.

After finishing the woven picots, all the main sections were done, and it was left to tart it up a bit. First, I couched in the cap.

I used two different colours, in groups of 4 threads, one on top, and one underneath.

Then I decided to use another of my lovely hand dyed variegated cottons in a browny, brambley colour scheme, first to couch a line to the base, tidying up the leaves and base, and then used 2 strands to do lots of french knot texture to look like soil. This worked beautifully with the varigation of the threads to give a really natural depth.

Tune in tomorrow for the final piece’s full frontal glamour shot.



When I first saw this stitch described in the RSC Stumpwork book, I got really excited. It was really the stitch that confirmed I needed to do another toadstool just so I could employ it.

Again, when I think of traditional Stumpwork I think of fancy little things like this. Some 3-pronged detached woven picots to be precise.

I used some gorgeous hand-dyed variegated dark green cotton. They were actually super simple to make. I thought I would leave them detatched but realised they would just flop to the front so put a couple of little holding stitches in there to make them undulate. Also realised my stupid mistake of transferring the (indelible) design of the outline of these to the fabric, even though it would be exposed by the detached leaves. So I coloured it in in pencil – it becomes a shadow!