A design being stitched as part of the RSN Certificate - learn about the process over at Hillview Embroidery

A Canvaswork Update – And Some Progress 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you with the progress (or lack of!) on my RSN Canvaswork piece. I’m back to the RSN on Friday, so I will get some feedback then, but until then, this is what I’ve got!

Working with canvas work stitches and threads to create texture and interest

The last time we looked at this piece, I had transferred the design, and had made some first stitches, but I wasn’t really understanding (or enjoying!), the piece.

Moving through the ‘Mental Block’

I had quite a break from it over the school holidays, but one thing I noticed was that part of my problem was I was really struggling to see the canvas properly. I think Heather thought I was a little mad when I told her I struggled with this! As embroiderers, we all know the importance of light, and anyone who visits my home will probably quite rightly wonder if we are an ‘in situ’ catalogue for The Daylight Company. I’m sure we have more than an average household of two adults! But alas, on Saturday even with the light streaming through the window and one such lamp on, I was still struggling. So I decided to see what I could find.

One reason I keep going back to The Daylight Company lamps is I find they are a really high quality – and aesthetically, they aren’t too bad either, despite being on the pricey side. I felt that yet another floor lamp would be a step too far, but something portable, that I could take away on holidays, would be a good way to go. I ended up narrowing it down to two different table lamps – one almost double the price of the other. The more expensive one was the one that specifically mentioned needlework , and you can get a magnifier for it too. But I just couldn’t justify spending £100 when the difference between the two was not that great from what I could work out I needed it for. A quick look on Amazon told me The Daylight Company sell them through Amazon, and it was even cheaper than through their website directly! I can’t work that out, but either way, on Sunday my new lamp arrived, having spent £40 rather than £100 (and yes we have Prime, and yes we get our money’s worth!).

I’m not sure what has changed now, if it is now just my determination to get this module done and out of the way, or if the fact I could actually see it clearly made a difference, but I’m actually starting to enjoy the process!

Rhodes stitch worked with a variety of different thread colours to achieve an interesting and textural finish

Things about canvas work I’ve worked out

I’ve worked a few things out now that I have ‘properly’ started. If they are correct or not I don’t know, but I’m hoping with some guidance on Friday all will become clear.

Firstly, it seems that you really have to pull the threads quite tightly through the canvas for them to sit nicely on top of the canvas. This seems to be the way with all of the stitches I have tried to date – half Rhodes, Rhodes, leaf, leaf 2 and hourglass stitch, with a few tent stitches thrown in. I do need to find out if there is another ‘filler’ stitch I can use other than tent stitch. You can tell I didn’t pull some threads tightly enough, particularly on the hourglass stitches in my first row. In subsequent rows they seem to sit a lot neater on the canvas.

Secondly, where you ‘park’ your threads can save you a lot of time! When I first started (and you will see this with all the grey and green threads sitting on top), I was parking everything above the stitching area. This seems to open yourself up for creating quite a messy back (which we don’t want as it will make it more difficult when mounting). What I’ve found that seems to work better is parking your threads on the outside of the design somewhere, and ‘travelling’ over already stitched areas. When you use that thread again, it will still resume from the same spot as it finished, so the ‘travelling’ is temporary. Doing this though, means that you have to remember when you mount canvas work, you apparently show the canvas for a few threads the entire way around your piece. So I think this means you want to avoid parking your threads in this display area as you could distort the canvas somewhat.

Thirdly, I think I’m finally understanding the importance of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ working stitches! It is a very commonly used phrase within the RSN, and their book on the subject tells you on nearly every stitch if it is a fast or slow working stitch. This could of course come back to me just wanting to finish it, but it is a nice thing to be able to see progress being made.

This is not a ‘neat’ style of embroidery – to minimise bulk on the back, Owen has said that travelling threads across distance on the back isn’t recommended. Also, I’m attempting to achieve the subtle colour changes in the photo – and that involves mixing the threads in different combinations – and changing those combinations ever so slightly! So there are a lot of variations of a very similar colour theme being used at once. And if I thought it was too far a distance to travel with the thread, I have threaded up again. I’m sure I spend more time threading the needles than I do stitching with them!

At this point, I really don’t know what to think about it! I don’t want to do any more before Friday – firstly, if I have to start again, I’d rather have to not re-do too much! And secondly, the foreground in the picture changes slightly, and I’m not sure if I should change the stitch I’m using (currently hourglass) to something else or not. Maybe I could continue to use the stitch, but introduce some pearl threads into the wools gradually, until it is just being stitched in a different thread? I’m quite happy with my choice of stitch for the ‘brown mush’ -it seems to have quite a nice texture to it. So, wait and see time, and if I have to start again, I think I will do just that! Turn the frame around and start at the beginning by re-tracing it all! At least I think I’ve got the hang of it now. I’m hoping with a bit of guidance, I’ll be ok and will be able to really make some in-roads with this piece (fingers crossed!).

If you are a canvasworker I’d love your input! Any tips and tricks you might have up your sleeve will be greatly appreciated!

20 thoughts on “A Canvaswork Update – And Some Progress ”

  1. I am clueless about canvas work, but I think your leaves are wonderful, and the brown looks very rich and muddy. I like the gray, but I don’t remember if they are rocks or something else! Their color mix is very interesting to look at, and they drew me in to the other parts of the work. Hope your Friday conference gives you more insight and encouragement!

    1. Thanks Kathy! It’s not a style I’ve ever attempted before so it is quite a steep learning curve. The grey blocks are rocks – well they are supposed to be anyway!

  2. Having decent lighting will make a huge difference, I agree. I like the start you’ve made here – it will indeed be interesting to discover what the feedback is, but I think what you’ve done is promising.

    It sometimes helps to use a slightly bigger needle than you think you need, to reduce the wear on the threads. You will probably find that each stitch will have different demands in terms of tension, and that those demands will change with the thread used. Don’t panic, do be willing to test stitch!

    1. Thanks Rachel! I felt I was using quite a large needle already but I will keep that in mind. Thread wear (and finger wear!!) seem to be part of this type of work. You have reinstated some confidence in me that maybe it’s not start again time, so thank you!

  3. I’ve tried canvas work a few times and found it very bulky and disagreeable. The two times I’ve done it I hurt my left arm a few times while stitching on the project from pulling the needle at the back. I recommend being very careful once you start ending all those threads.

    1. Thanks for that Dima. I haven’t noticed my arms but my fingers sure do hurt! I’ve now purchased a couple of thimbles to try and use. It is hard work pulling through all that thread at times, and trying not to destroy the stitches already in place!

    1. I think practice is definitely a big component here, I’m noticing it already. I think it being such a different style than I’ve ever tried before it is just a little difficult to get my head around it!

  4. Best part of a huge challenge like this Christine is the satisfaction when you achieve it. I’m so enjoying following you on your journey of discovery in the needle world of art. Cheers Glenda

  5. I love to see you canvas work Catherine. I have admired canvas work for a long time but when I tried it I could not stand the feel of the fabric. Unlike fabric, canvas is harsh and every time I touched it I would shudder lol. I enjoyed doing the stitches and so tried to recreate the effect on my evenweave fabric but alas it was not a great success, as you cannot get the tension with the softer material. So alas it was not for me, this doesn’t stop me enjoying seeing yours though, so keep up the good work you are doing a brilliant job..
    Helen x

    1. Yes, it is definitely a very different experience using canvas rather than fabric. I’m not sure I’m going to create many canvaswork pieces, as I’m not enjoying it as much as other stitching techniques. But it is a good thing to know how to do, and I love the textures achieved! It does make me wonder if they can somehow be transferred to other forms of embroidery. I’m hoping to have an update for you soon – I just need to stitch a bit more!

  6. I’ve done a little canvas work, but I’m mostly a cross stitcher. About 12 years ago, when I was 43, I had the same problem with the light. I couldn’t get the room bright enough to stitch. And then I realized it wasn’t the light, it was my eyes. Quite a surprise since I’d never needed glasses before. Now I have to use readers to stitch, but at least I can still stitch.

    1. Unfortunately I’ve been wearing glasses for some time, and the last check up said they were the same! So I guess that means it was just the light for me, which has made an enormous difference and I now don’t have those problems with this piece thankfully! I do feel like looking at all those small holes I might need to go back to the optometrist though!

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