Completed castle in canvas work and thinking about highlights!

Canvaswork Update – and so close to being finished!

I’ve been busy stitching away, and haven’t really had a chance to update you on where I’m at with my canvas work piece! I’m really pushing myself at the moment to not only get this piece finished, mounted and handed in, but to also get started on the silk shading module of the RSN Certificate before the end of term. Which isn’t far away – term finishes in mid June!

The decision on the castle

You may remember (if you have a good memory!), that I had stitched in the castle the last time I updated you on this piece. I wasn’t completely sure about it. Whilst I was reasonably pleased with it, there did seem to be something ‘missing’. And the more I looked at it, the more I was convinced this was the case!

A castle stitched in rice and tent stitches on a canvas work piece


Whilst the feedback on my sky was quite positive, Owen wasn’t sure about the castle. Heather felt it was probably ‘workable’, but Owen convinced me that it should be attempted again. And this is when I learnt that rice stitch is really difficult to take out! I’m not one for timing how long it takes to stitch something. I know a lot of embroiderers will tell you this is how much they got done in so many hours, but to me, that would take the enjoyment away. If it was a piece to be sold I can see why you would want to know this, but in a way, I’d prefer not to know! I just go with ‘lots’.

But one thing I can tell you is, that it took about six hours to completely take out the castle. On a positive note, it didn’t take as long to stitch second time round!

Whilst I didn’t spend the entire lesson unpicking the castle, I unpicked the ‘main building’, which was enough for Owen to be able to sit with me and work out a plan of attack. One interesting comment he made was that it is important to take and submit photos of these types of decisions. At first he said this as he thought it wouldn’t be possible to get the right effect and level of detail using canvaswork stitches, and that I would possibly have to use general embroidery stitches. Hence, I needed proof that canvas work didn’t ‘work’. But as it turns out, I have used the same canvas work stitches, just in a different way. Though I am still going to be submitting a variety of ‘this is why’ photos (read on to find out why!).

A new plan for the castle

Sitting with such an experienced embroiderer and teacher at this point was a real eye opener. I admit, at times I am a real ‘just go for it’ type of person. This isn’t to say that I don’t think about what is about to happen from my actions, but maybe I take a positive outlook and assume the finer details will work themselves out along the way! The way Owen approached this was very different (and a lot better I might add!).

He spent quite a bit of time really examining the building. Working out how it all links together, which walls are facing the same as each other. He then re-traced the castle with a lot less detail than my original tracing. This is going back to the point I made earlier, where some ‘non cavaswork stitches’ might be required.

The next step was to re-trace this simplified version onto the canvas (which was actually done by way of tacking stitches to eliminate any confusion on which line was the ‘new’ line).

Another serious look at the picture saw another change in approach. Whilst until this time, the thoughts were that the way I had ‘broken’ the building up into its pieces was correct, on further examination it appeared that it wasn’t quite right. The building has a slightly different ‘front’, and the walls which I was treating as facing the same way wasn’t exactly correct. This is where the re-stitching became a lot quicker, as there was a lot more tent stitch than rice stitch second time around!

And so, the re-stitched castle appeared!

a work in progress shot of a canvas work piece being completed for the RSN certificate
The sky is completed, but does the castle still need defining?


There’s still questions about ‘clarity’!

So after re-stitching the castle, I actually felt a lot better about the whole piece. I could see, when I stood back, that the eye seems to naturally ‘follow’ the building more. This is where using tent stitch in such way has helped, as it draws your eye subconsciously in the right direction!

And yet….. I still wasn’t happy with it, and thought it could do with a bit more definition!

Another chat with Owen saw this niggling feeling being correct. But how to correct it? I had stitched a bit more of the sky in, and the blue was really helping to offset the castle better, but it’s still not well defined within it. I posed the question on Instagram and got a ‘mixed bag’ of responses – so I think it really is a case of personal choice! So the next step Owen took was to put large, black stitches over the areas which need ‘something’ to help better define it. Now whether it was because it was black, or because the sky wasn’t completed at this point, I was still very much on the fence. But after class on Friday, I’m now convinced that I should do something more with it! There does need to be a disclaimer at this point – whatever I do to the castle from this point on will not be canvas work. Therefore, I’m doing this knowing that I will get marked down for it. But, at the end of the day, I have decided I would rather have a piece I am happy with. This is the reason why I need all these photos printed to submit! I have no idea if they will even look at them, but they might help my case!

I’m still yet to find the ‘perfect’ colour with which to do this with. When I was finding some thread for the lamb’s face (yes, the lamb has appeared!) one thread really caught my attention. So I am about to find out if that will work! So, stay tuned on the problems of detailing! In some ways, I’m really regretting doing something which has proven to be so troublesome. But, this is the best way to learn! Canvaswork might not be the best technique to achieve fine details, but it is an effective technique in many other ways!

Finishing the sky

The sky was possibly my favourite part of the whole piece! I loved working with the silk threads, and I really enjoyed the stitches of mosaic, moving into large diagonal, moving into small diagonal.

At first, I was convinced I was going to use cashmere stitch as the smallest stitch in the sky. But after only a few stitches I worked out this was just not going to work. The diagonal was just not quite right to fit in with the other stitches that proceeded it. Regardless, I’m really happy with how it turned out!

You will notice that ‘my sky’ bears very little resemblance to the sky in the photo. I did this to let more ‘light’ into the piece. So even though the sky was an already altered sky from the actual day I went to Eileen Donan, I still wanted it to be a bit brighter! I’ve also tried to add in a few ‘clouds’ with cream threads mixed in. I’m really happy with the effect – it has really lifted the piece if you ask me!

RSN Canvaswork piece with just the finishing touches to be made


Now to finish it!

This piece is now so close to being finished! I need to get to the bottom of this detailing, and then all that is left is the mounting stage. Something I’m not looking forward to, as the canvas is quite sturdy. So whilst it’s going to be a lot easier to work out if it’s on the grain or not, getting it to that point is going to be a little difficult! You may or may not be able to tell from the photos, but the stitch choice has ‘warped’ the canvas a little, so a bit of tugging is going to be required! But I’ve got my thimble at the ready so I hopefully will be able to feel my finger tips at the end of the process this time round!

With only three more classes that I can attend this term, it is going to mean quite a bit of homework. But, I have set myself some ‘time goals’ of when I want to get certain things finished, and that means pushing on. And I can always recover during summer! So stay tuned for the beginnings of silk shading!

36 thoughts on “Canvaswork Update – and so close to being finished!”

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts about the certificate course. You provide so much detail, it really helps me building a picture of what the course is actually like! Only a month left until my next two day classes. Hope to have finished my goldwork pheasant and the silk shading from my last day class by then!

    1. Thanks Marlous, I’m glad you find the posts useful. I want people to get a real understanding of what it is like, as I am aware it is a privilege to be able to do this. Your pheasant is looking amazing from what I’ve seen on Instagram and Facebook! What day class are you doing next?
      Have fun stitching!

      1. Thank you, hope to finish it next week so I can post about it. I am doing ‘the secret garden’ which is stump- and ribbonwork and I am doing crewelwork.

      2. I can’t wait to read about it! Those classes sound like so much fun, but then again, most of them do!

  2. Amazing to read the thought process and discussions about the final stitches and fixes. This going to be a treasure when complete, no matter what the committee says!

    1. Thanks Kathy! One thing I’m learning is that the assessment process is a subjective process as well as a technical one. I’m really happy with how it has come along to this point – such a different and intriguing technique! And surely a bit of back stitch can’t hurt!

  3. I have loved seeing your updates on Instagram. It is gorgeous. Frogging is never fun. Six hours of it is impressive. The new castle looks wonderful. Beautiful work!

    1. Thanks Renee. I’m glad I had a break in between all of it! If nothing else, my hand was cramping from having to hold the tweezers so much to get it all out! I do think it was worth it though.

  4. This has been really informative. I envy you your time in this class. You are truly learning the artistic ins and outs of canvas work, its different stitches and the results! Beautiful.

    1. Thanks Karen! I didn’t know much at all about canvaswork before this, but it’s been an interesting and challenging technique to learn. And we all learn from our mistakes and needing to do it again!

  5. You must really want that certificate, because you did a LOT of work to make this better. I see the difference and applaud it, as well as your decision to like it more than worry about it being exactly what it ought to be.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! There were times I was wondering what I was doing! But I’m glad I persevered as I can see the difference it has made. And I’d probably always look at it and wonder ‘what if’ if I didn’t give it another go!

  6. Really interesting post – thanks for sharing in so much detail Catherine. As frustrating as it is for the stitcher when something doesn’t go quite right, it’s really useful for us fellow stitchers to see where we all go wrong on projects and how we fix them – we can all learn together from each other’s mistakes (and, of course, successes!). It’s looking wonderful now and I can’t wait to see how you get on with the silk shading module 😀

    1. Yes, I think you are right – it’s a great way of building up a little community of stitchers if we share the ups and the downs. We all have our moments! I’m really looking forward to the silk shading module. I must too keen to start it, and wish there wasn’t the summer break coming up!

  7. Yes, unpicking takes, if anything, even longer than stitching. But you can use this – as I think you have – as “thinking time”, working out why what you’d done didn’t work, and what you need to do differently. I don’t know that I agree that the castle needs any more, but I do know that however good the photo, it doesn’t tell the whole story…

    1. Completely agree Rachel! I think as long as lessons are learnt from the unpicking process it’s never going to be a ‘waste’. There is definitely some ‘uncertainty’ around if the Castle needs more definition. I’m in the camp that thinks it does, but sometimes I wonder if it’s possible to get too close to these things to really know!

      1. I usually wait, if I can, until I’m certain. If I’m wondering whether it really needs something, I tend to assume I will get the “something” wrong. But of course yours is coursework so you will have to finished it and hand it in.

      2. I think I just need to make the decision and go with it! As you say, it needs to be submitted so my ever indecisiveness needs to be conquered!

  8. I think it’s lovely as it is, I can’t wait to see in finished. Thank you for sharing the update at The Really Crafty Link Party this week. Pinned!

  9. Beautiful job Catherine! It was amazing watching you work on this piece and seeing it come to life. It sounds like you get a lot of guidance from the teachers. I wonder how it would work out for students who come in from outside the UK to take a week course. It must be a really mad dash getting things stitched before the next class in order to get feedback.

    1. Thanks Dima. The teachers really are fantastic and I’m learning so much from them! I really don’t know how I would cope in an intensive version of this. There would be a lot of very late nights and early starts to get it done, or at least, make the most of the time.

  10. I think this piece is just beautiful. I admire you taking the time & trouble to restitch so much, I’m not sure I would have had your tenacity. Thanks for sharing with us all at #HadnmadeMonday

    1. Thanks Pam – I certainly question both my patience and my sanity at times! But I’m glad I persevered with this one.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This