starting owl by Becky Hogg

Becky Hogg Metallic Thread Owl Kit – the first of the summer projects!

Summer holidays have started at the RSN, and so has a new project!

The summer holidays have now begun for the RSN Certificate term time students. The intensive students will be working very hard in the not too distant future, but for me, I won’t be back until September. There are a couple of additional classes that have been added in, but I’m not sure I can go along, as they clash with that pesky thing called work!

But, this doesn’t mean I will be doing nothing for the next three months! I’ve got quite a lot planned, and it will definitely be keeping me out of mischief.

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And a Stitch-along for my first piece of metallic work!

One of the great things about blogging is that you get to meet so many wonderful people from all parts of the globe. The internet may have its faults, but some things about it are fantastic!

A few months ago, Natalie from Sew By Hand in Montreal suggested we stitch the same Becky Hogg project. I jumped at the opportunity- Natalie is an extremely accomplished embroiderer and works the most beautiful gold and metal work pieces, so to have her there to offer suggestions and advice was too good an opportunity to miss. And the other lady joining us is another lovely and talented embroiderer – Dima, of D1-D2. If you follow along with Dima, you will know that she recently completed an Alison Cole butterfly in goldwork, and also recently purchased a Becky Hogg kit. And so this little stitch a long was born! Natalie and I are completing Becky’s owl, and Dima is completing the lovely fox. I actually think all of the designs in this ‘series’ by Becky are really lovely, and you really couldn’t go wrong with whatever you choose!

If you wish to follow along with Natalie and Dima’s progress on their pieces, please do make sure you stop by Natalie’s Facebook page and Dima’s blog.

We decided for a June start. I was a little slower starting, as I was busy with my RSN piecesin the lead up to the end of term. Being what seems to be ‘typical’ embroiderers, we all have other pieces to fit in as well as this one, and there isn’t any pressure to get things done at the same time which is nice!

The Owl Kit

I don’t know about you, but I always get a little bit excited when opening up new kits. And this one was no exception!

The kit comes with everything you need to make the owl, including a hoop and ribbon to hang it in. The booklet Becky has written with the instructions is beautifully laid out, with lots of instructions for those of us who have never attempted this style of embroidery before. I have however, made a couple of changes. Whilst you could stitch the owl in the hoop provided, along with displaying it, I felt it was too small to stitch in, and am using one of my trusty elbesse ‘hands free’ hoops. I know this is a personal preference point, but I do feel stitching this technique is easier with a hands free hoop or frame – I may be ‘doing it wrong’, but I do find myself using both hands to place the thread and stitch it down, and I think I would be in quite the muddle if I also had to hold the hoop!

Another thing I have changed from the original kit is the embroidery needle used. The kit comes with a size 10 embroidery needle. I found as I was working that I wasn’t quite able to get the needle close enough to the prior row of couching, so I switched it over to a number 12 embroidery needle. And it has made such a difference! Some people may not like using such a fine needle, as they are more difficult to thread, and I do put a ‘curve’ in them when I work with them. I asked Heather in one class if this was ‘normal’ and she said it was – it is just such a fine needle! Natalie recommends using a number 12 sharps needle, which is a little shorter than an embroidery needle, so you can get very close stitching done!

The wool felt that is provided in the kit is a mixture of synthetic and wool. Natalie prefers to stitch on 100% wool felt, as the metallic threads don’t ‘sink’ so much into the felt. None of us traded the felt in for some wool felt – and I am already seeing my stitches ‘sink’. So next time I will be making sure that any felt padding I use is the 100% wool variety. It will be interesting to see the difference!

The only other supply you are recommended to use that isn’t supplied with the kit is beeswax. This is used quite extensively in gold and metallic thread work to strengthen your stranded cotton that you use when couching down the gold and metal threads. Unless you do this type of work, it isn’t likely you will have some in your stash. I was given mine when I started my RSN silk shading piece (not to use on the whole length of thread in silk shading – just enough to help thread the fine needle). Interestingly, I can’t actually see that the RSNsells it in their shop, but Sarah Homfray’s site has some available. If you have a local needlework shop and you are interested in getting some beeswax, it might be best to ask them.

My only other comment on the kit is that the exact details of the materials you are using aren’t noted. So the size of the passing thread, the exact DMC colours etc, aren’t given to you. This is obviously no big deal unless you are particularly nosy like me, or, run out of thread, as the kit doesn’t come with full skeins of the DMC, just a small part of one on a cardboard bobbin.


The beautifully packaged owl metallic work kit by Becky Hogg


The stitching begins!

I haven’t actually completed a lot to show you – just enough to give you a taste of this little project. I think it might be a good thing it is a little project – I’m not sure this is a ‘quick’ technique to stitch!

Applying the felt padding

After carefully cutting out the felt padding (the outlines were already on the felt!), using small straight stitches, the felt was attached to the linen fabric. Firstly, using just a few stitches around the shape to hold it in place, and then going back and ‘filling in the gaps’. The bottom layer didn’t require quite as many stitches as the top layer, where Becky suggests putting the stitches in 2mm apart.

Different sizes of felt padding are used to pad goldwork
Different sizes of felt padding are used to pad goldwork


Couching the silver passing thread

Now for the exciting part! And the part where I am liking having both hands ‘free’.

Becky has included two reels of silver passing thread, which are worked simultaneously. By unravelling a length of thread on both reels (I have been unravelling more than the recommended 20cm, as the thread is quite ‘kinked’ from being wound on the cardboard bobbin, and I am finding it easier to ‘unkink’ the thread with longer lengths left free. Although they are more likely to get tangled), and using one strand of yellow cotton (that I have put through the beeswax), the passing thread is couched onto the felt padding. The couching stitches are recommended to be 4mm apart. I probably should have measured how far that was before I started, as they were probably closer to 3mm to begin with, and ended up at 4mm. So a bit uneven, but I’ve decided to leave it as is and just continue on! It can be enhanced shading on those smaller gap areas!

When working his wing, the passing thread is worked continuously, meaning you just go around and around the wing.

Turning the corner at the bottom tip of the wing I am finding a little difficult, but think after a few rows I am getting the hang of it. On top of these couched passing threads, sequins are attached – which I will also be using to hide some flaws!

The other ‘problem’ I am having is in relation to the felt, and the rows sinking in on each other, rather than getting higher and higher. I don’t think this is going to have any real impact, other than the wing won’t have as much of a padded look as maybe what it should have done.

Couching silver passing thread in metallic work kit by Becky Hogg
detail of couched passing thread on felt padding


So a slow start for me! Natalie has done a lot more, so if you are interested in seeing where this little project is heading, do make sure you head over to her Facebook page. If the fox grabs your attention, and you want to see a lot more couching of passing thread, do make sure you head to Dima’s blog and see her progress!

And hopefully next week, I’ll be able to share my completed wing with you!

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26 thoughts on “Becky Hogg Metallic Thread Owl Kit – the first of the summer projects!”

  1. I love these kits. I wanted to get the squirrel when I was at Hampton Court but they had run out! It already looks really good and I can’t wait to see your progress. If you would like some tips, get yourself a copy of Alison Cole’s book (little book of Hints and tips). She has some really invaluable tips on gold work which I hadn’t read anywhere else and which are really the kind of tips you pick up during a workshop. Among lots of other things it covers turning sharp corners, reducing gaps in brick stitch, doing straight lines and fixing wobbly edges. It helped me a lot when stitching my pheasant.

    1. Thank for the tip Marlous! I have that book and it never crossed my mind to look in it, I will rectify that now! The squirrel is one I want to do too – maybe my next one ?

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one with ‘a list’ longer than my arm! I rarely hear people say they don’t like gold work and I am definitely enjoying it at the moment!

  2. Wow – sounds like fun! I don’t think I’m quite ready for Goldwork myself but I’ll certainly enjoy watching your piece unfold 🙂

    PS I use Thread Heaven and highly recommend it. I have 2 pots on the go – one for colours and one for whites (and very very pale colours)…….maybe I’m just OCD? 😀

    1. I’m really enjoying it Bella! It’s one of the techniques I’ve always been a little intimated by too. But it is fun, and there’s only one way to learn.
      That’s good information on Thread Heaven, thank you! I’ve never used it, but know several people who recommend it. I would never have thought of getting two pots – great idea!

  3. This is interesting Catherine! Good work! Wish I could also do the same but my time won’t permit me ha ha..Will be waiting for more on this. ?

  4. Using both hands seems perfectly notmal to me, in fact, although I am strongly righthanded, I’ve been known to stitch left-handed when the occasion so demanded. I’ve done some goldwork, and I don’t think I would attempt to work it without some sort of mount or clamp for the frame.

    You’ve made a good start, that’s for sure!

    1. I glad I’m not the only one who thinks stitching two handed is normal! And I’m becoming decidedly less right hand dominate the more I stitch!
      This is a nice introduction to the technique!

  5. I have recently started gold work and am totally hooked. It does put a strain on the eyes though – but the results are fab! Look forward to reading about your progress.

    1. Yes, I’m definitely enjoying it! I’m seeing the real advantage of a magnifier, but once you get used to using one it isn’t too bad. And I need to use one for silk shading, so the more practice the better!

  6. I’m complete rubbish at stitching with two hands but I do love having both hands free. I tend to stitch with my right hand, using it to push the needle from the back and front leaving my left hand at the back only to make sure the thread doesn’t kink creating knots. I really should learn how to stitch with both hands more effectively though. Your owl looks lovely, I think what you and Natalie needed is maybe one more layer of felt padding so that the wing wouldn’t look so flat. What do you think?

    1. I used to be rubbish at stitching two handed, but am much better now I’ve used a slate frame! My right hand tends to be on the bottom, and my left on the top. Unless I’m doing gold work when I seem to need both hands!
      I’ve just finished the wing, and it really doesn’t have much shape or height to it at all! A third layer of felt may have helped, as it seems to have sunk the more rows I’ve done. I’m interested in stitching with 100% wool to see what difference that would make.

      1. I think my main problem is my setup. Right now the way I sit my frame is too high so my shoulders start hurting if I try to use both hands. I need to get a slate frame with trestles. I think it will be much better than what I have right now.

      2. Slate frames are great, but I would leave them for bigger, longer term projects. I find with the seat frame or table clamp I can find a good stitching position most of the time ?

  7. That metallic thread sounds a bit complicated, but it does make a lovely work (at least in your capable hands). Thank you for sharing at The Really crafty Link Party. Pinned!

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