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.

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.


Creating the Hawthorn Blossom

Hawthorn blossom

I was venturing into new territory with this piece: I’ve not incorporated 3 dimensional and detached elements into miniature jewellery designs, so I was a little nervous that it would work out and I could pull it off – not only as a one-off, but as a workable design that could be repeated bespoke.

Here’s how I did it:

detached wire slips

I finished all 5 petals. It probably doesn’t show up in my trademark excellent cameraphone pics, but I used various random shades of white to give a bit more depth to the overall flower. Then I cut each one out, trimming closely to the edge.

embroidered wired slip


That’s the reverse of the petal, BTW.


This was actually the most nervewracking bit – trimming close enough to remove frayed edges but not accidentally cut any threads on the slip.


Hooping up again in the ground fabric that would be the base of the piece – black cotton – I used a stilletto to make a small hole in the fabric into which I plunged the wire tail of the first petal:




After each petal I bent the wire tails back and couched over them in a strong silk machine thread before trimming them off.

Stumpwork flower

stumpwork wired flower

This is the beauty of this technique: each petal is pliable enough to manouvre individually, so each petal can be cupped and bent to make the overall flower more characterful.


The back finished off and secured, I started to work on the centre of the flower with pale spring green coloured silk french knots:

wired stumpwork blossom

Finally I used little glass beads stitched on in silk machine thread to represent the individual stamens:

stumpwork hawthorn blossom


There you go! Like the real thing? I’m very happy with how it turned out.


Making a Stumpwork Hawthorn Blossom – Part 1


So one of my goals for this year for Mother Eagle is to stretch and develop my embroidery skills, and so when it came to this, the first new design of the collection I wanted to return to stumpwork techniques. Longer-time readers may remember that when I began taking my embroidery more seriously I made a sampler of sorts, a Death Cap Mushroom using various stumpwork elements as a means to try new stitches. However I hadn’t really employed any in my jewellery so far. Looking at the Hawthorn tree, I felt the actual blossom would be the element I would focus on, as there are a few other plants on my list with red berries, and the white flower is as much an icon of the hedgerow.

I chose to make the flower 3-dimensional by creating each individual petal from embroidered wired slips.


First I used the image above to draw an individual petal shape, which I then used as a pattern to create out of silver plated jewellery wire.


Made 5 of them – one for each petal.


For this first one I marked the shape on the fabric too, but I didn’t bother on subsequent slips as the wire was thick enough to really hold it’s shape. Then I  started to couch the shape down using 1 strand of cotton.


Even though this is a crappy photo you can see that I’m couching it very tight, which is called trailing.

There are some books that say you can just couch it with a few stitches but this way gives you a much tighter neater finish.


When the whole wire is couched down like this, I start filling the shape with embroidery. I should probably mention too that my fabric is a light calico.



OK so when that’s done (I used split stitch, obv) it’s fine close buttonhole stitch all the way around.



And that’s done! Now repeat 4 more times.

Check back later in the week for the rest of the progress.