canvas work piece and working out the finer details

Canvaswork Update – Filling in the Gaps, a Castle, and a Little bit of Sky!

It’s been a while since I updated you with where I’m at with my RSN Canvaswork piece. This post has been in draft mode for a while, as I keep thinking that I’m getting so close to being able to show you more! So at length, here it is!

The last time we looked at this piece, I was getting quite excited about how texture, colour and dimension play such a huge role in this type of work, how my understanding of these more ‘artistic’ elements was improving, and how with this better understanding, I was more confident in how to interpret the photo I am using as the basis for my design.

Canvaswork is a great embroidery technique for creating artistic pieces as it is so adaptable in presenting differences in texture and dimension. Learn more by heading over to Hillview Embroidery!


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Feedback from the tutors on my incorporation of different types of thread

One of the comments Heather gave one lesson was that Canvaswork ‘looks better’ if it incorporates something other than just wool and stranded cotton. And whilst from my ‘stash’ I had accumulated a rather large pile of silks, silk wools and perle threads, I wasn’t doing a very good job at incorporating them into the piece.

When back at home after class, I had a further look at my stash to see if there was anything more I could use, and started thinking more about the threads I was using for each part of the design. I think half the battle is actually acknowledging that I needed to think about my thread selections a little differently, and work out how I was going to incorporate them in! A little frustrating perhaps, as I have this ‘machine thread’ (though it certainly couldn’t be used with my little machine!), which would have been good for the foreground area, so this feedback a little earlier might have been useful. Not to worry, I’m actually quite happy with that area as it is! And maybe I can gently incorporate it in as part of the finishing touches if I feel it needs it.

Thinking about it, I could have perhaps stitched the water in silk threads, but that may have been too ‘shiny’ for the scene, which on the whole is rather gloomy. Maybe it is a case of incorporating the silks in with the cottons in this area, but again, I like the flow of the water, and I feel that with it not being overly shiny, it fits in well with the foreground. Your  thoughts on this would be appreciated!

A case of new threads to be purchased!

So I decided the best thing might be for some silks for the sky, and to use a mixture of silk and linen for the grassy area under the castle. However this required buying more threads! My poor hubby just doesn’t understand how I can have ‘all’ those threads, and still not have the ‘right’ threads or shades! I unfortunately don’t live close to anywhere that sells anything other than the DMC or Anchor thread, and I knew the likelihood of getting somewhere with a wider range was questionable in the time frame I had, so I went online. Anyone that has ever attempted to colour match online will know the challenges this presents!

For the silk thread, I used Sew and Sew and bought some Au ver a Soie thread. For anyone in the UK, they have an amazingly quick turnaround and you will have your products within a day or two. They actually guarantee next day delivery if you order before 1pm on week days. I will be using this service today, as I didn’t purchase enough of some of the shades! My selections of these threads wasn’t actually too bad! There is only one thread that I got that was completely wrong, the others are perfect for the sky.

For the linen thread, I decided to try out the Hand Weavers Studio in London that a fellow Canvasworker at class had told me about. I think it is probably a good thing I couldn’t get to their shop – by the look of their online store, I would have been very poor at the end of it! You won’t find the ‘normal’ brands of thread here, they specialise in providing stitchers, weavers and knitters with hand woven threads made locally. I was a little confused at how the thickness of the linen thread worked, but they have a good guide which I used, and when it arrived, I think it was probably the right choice! The linen threads I purchased are a little thicker than a stranded cotton thread. The green threads I did quite well at colour matching, the blues I chose I missed the mark a little! I also purchased some silks from them – and one is an incredibly fine silk which is truly beautiful. The service I received here was excellent also, and despite not advertising themselves to do next day delivery like Sew and Sew, they do! I am definitely going to try and visit this shop in person – who knows what I’ll come out with!

Filling in the Gaps

You may have been wondering what I was planning on doing with these ‘gaps’ in foreground – the one above the leaves, and the one just below the rocks, right at the front.

For the area above the leaves, I had most of the battle done – it was just a matter of stitching it! Originally, it had been stitched in the wool threads, and I felt the bush at the front was receding too much behind these stitches. The wool was just too thick a thread! As I keep mentioning, I know the bush at the front isn’t meant to be a focal point, but ultimately, if I’m not happy with it, I need to deal with it! So it has been in the ‘unpicked’ stage for a while, and I’ve finally got on with it and re-stitched it in much the same style as the area just above it. I couldn’t recall exactly which threads I had used, so I have gone with a best estimate, and it has turned out reasonably well! My only complaint now is that because I have continued with the same stitch that was above it, and the way it all sits together, it may have been wise to take the entire area out and re-stitch it for consistencies sake, but overall I ‘think’ I’m happy with it.

Having any canvas showing in canvas work is something that should be avoided! So what to do with those blank areas? Find out on Hillview Embroidery!
By using more appropriate stitches and thread on canvaswork a better effect is achieved


The area at the front is a little ‘grassy’ area. I was a little stumped as to what to do here! In class, you have access to a wide variety of different books and references, and one of the great references and inspiration points, are the little books of photographs of prior students work. These are great to look through, as it gives you ideas on what the assessors are looking for, and how to incorporate different elements into your designs. With canvaswork having so many stitches available to you, it is sometimes difficult to identify what you should be using, so these examples of prior students work is great, as you can see these stitches in practice. And that is how I decided what to do in this area! I found a stitch I liked, asked Heather what it was so I could find it in my stitch book I’m referencing for canvaswork, and stitch it in. I also decided this was a great time to add in some different threads – so this area has been stitched using a perle 5 thread, quite a thick thread really, but not a problem, as you have to cover all the canvas!

Using perle thread and slanted gobelin stitch to create the effect of grass in canvaswork


A hill and a castle appear

Before moving onto the castle and the mountain, it was time to use those new threads, and stitch in the grassy area below the castle!

My grassy area is actually quite ‘bright’. At first, I was very hesitant about using such widely different toned threads, but now more of the piece has gone in around it, I’m ok with it. This has been stitched using slanted gobelin stitch – a stitch I really enjoy stitching!

The French knot trees were another thing altogether! After purchasing the linen threads, I really wanted to use them to create these trees. But firstly, French knots on canvas are difficult to do, and secondly, the thread didn’t ‘behave’ as I expected it to. So, after three attempts, and not being happy with any of them, I decided to go with some wools for the trees. It still contrasts nicely to the silks, and the knots are a lot neater, so I’m happy with the end result! But how to use these linen threads now?

At last! It was time to stitch in the background mountains and the castle!

The first step is of course working out what stitch to use. For the mountain, as I didn’t have any vertical stitches, Heather recommended this nice vertical stitch that creates a bit of a diamond. It is more effective if it is used in a straight row across like on the right hand side of the castle, rather than diminishing on the horizon on the left of the castle, but it still gives a nice effect and it breaks up the piece nicely. As the mountain is very similar in colour to the water on this somewhat gloomy Scottish day, I did need to make sure the mountain was stitched quite differently to achieve this differentiation, otherwise it was at risk of being more water!

I have left an area under the mountain blank on the right had side. I would like to use a really low cut turkey rug stitch here. But, on my sampler that I made up I just didn’t quite get it right, so I am going to need some help to complete that!

working a mountain using straight stitches in canvaswork


For the castle, I am used a combination of rice stitch and tent stitch. I actually quite liked the idea of using brick stitch as it seemed quite apt, but on my sample stitching it just wasn’t as nice a stitch as the rice stitch. I’ve used rice stitch for the more front facing walls, and tent stitch for the side walls. Heather is a little apprehensive at using tent stitches, as she says they can make the dimensions of the piece a little off. This is because the stitch is so small that it is easily ‘forced’ into the background. But Owen is comfortable with this approach and suggested it as a way of differentiating between the walls, so it just goes to show how many interpretations there are!

With the castle now completed, it definitely needs some details added in, which I think is going to have to be achieved by backstitching in some of the fine lines you can see on the photo. Stitching up this castle was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be! Creating a 3-D structure on a flat piece is never easy, and when using stitches, it is quite difficult! I’m hoping that by putting in some of these straight lines to add definition it will work out ok.

A castle worked on canvaswork before adding definition lines


A bit of brightness – the sky is coming in!

The end is starting to appear – I’ve started the sky!

Despite the already photoshopped original picture, I ‘m going to brighten up the picture a little more again, by using some slightly brighter threads for the sky. Obviously nothing too drastic, but just enough to add a bit more light into the picture.

I’m starting the sky by stitching mosaic stitch. I’ve stitched a good ‘chunk’ of the sky in this stitch, but for a couple of reasons, I’m stopping with it as it is now.

Firstly, as the sky reaches the horizon, I want to use a smaller stitch, probably cashmere stitch. By doing this, I’m hoping the castle and the mountains won’t appear to be ‘behind’ the sky.

And secondly, I think I need to use another stitch! A lot of what we do in the Certificate is about exposing us to a lot of different stitches. So with the Jacobean piece, they recommend you use a minimum of eighteen stitches, with canvaswork, it isn’t so structured, but you still need to show you have used a good variety of stitches from the straight, horizontal and cross families. So my plan is to use another large stitch to join up with the mosaic stitch (cushion stitch maybe?), then perhaps use a ‘medium’ sized stitch under these two larger stitches, and then finish off with the cashmere stitch right on the horizon.

example of mosaic stitch being used to create a sky


And that is where this piece is up to! I technically only have one lesson of stitching left, but I think what I will do is mix up stitching, mounting and starting the next piece like I did with the Jacobean piece over the last lesson/first lesson of silk shading. I definitely feel that it is possible to get the stitching done with one last lesson and homework, which is the important thing. I am dreading the mounting of this though, I found the linen tough on my hands – the canvas is going to really hurt! So spreading it out will hopefully help with that.

canvaswork being stitched as part of the RSN certificate progress
An update on the progress of my RSN Certificate canvas work piece


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update, and next time, I’m hoping it will be very close to being finished! Let’s hope there’s not too much unpicking to be done!

33 thoughts on “Canvaswork Update – Filling in the Gaps, a Castle, and a Little bit of Sky!”

  1. Catherine…this is AMAZING. While I have almost NO experience with canvaswork…it is exquisite! The colors all seem to flow nicely. I love the variety of stitches! I only know tent stitch and one or two more! And the variety of threads makes your piece sing! While I never was drawn to canvaswork, your piece makes me wish I had learned more about it! Lucky you to have the opportunity to take this lovely class! Thank you for your detailed explanation of the piece. It tells me just how much artisitic talent it takes to ponder creating this beauty! I hope you take this blog page and save it in a notebook somewhere or have your blog made into a book for yourself for posterity! Congratulations on your lovely work!

    1. Oh, I certainly wasn’t expecting that kind of a reception from this post – thank you so much!
      The whole reason for me doing canvaswork in the Certificate, as like you, it didn’t particularly appeal to me. But, the more I stitch it, the more I’m enjoying it, and I actually want to explore this technique further! I don’t think it will ever be a ‘favourite’ technique, but it is one that I now enjoy stitching. And despite my early struggles, I actually think it’s done more for my development than the Jacobean piece did, even if that was where I learnt more ‘regular’ stitches.
      I had never thought about making these little posts up into a book for prosperity – I love the idea!

  2. Catherine,
    The variation in the sky is just exquisite! The castle is forming up very nicely, I think you are capturing the walls pretty well. The only thought I have is to consider the light, since you have brightened up the sky…that might give you a more 3-dimensional affect? This will be a piece that becomes an heirloom! What are the dimensions?

    1. Thanks Kathy! I’m going to wait and see what the feedback on the castle is on Friday – I’m not sure what I should be doing with it! And the colours were chosen by a tutor, so I’m not sure I want to mess too much with them! I do think that the side of the sky I have started on is the brighter side of the picture, and I might make it gradually darker slightly as I head over to the castle.
      It’s actually quite a small piece – about the size of a 5′ x 4′ photo, I chopped a bit of the sky off, so it’s not quite that big!

      1. WOW! I was thinking 8×12 or something large!! You are packing an incredible amount into that little package!!!

        I’m not great with colors or art anything, so definitely listen to your tutor!!!!?

      2. Oh gosh, if it were that large I’d be here a lifetime! This is definitely not a ‘quick’ technique- probably because of all the detail in the stitches. ?

  3. Looks fantastic, you really have completed loads now. What lesson are you on now? I’ve just picked up my next lot of homework today ( that’s lesson 4 completed). Good luck

    1. Thanks, it feels good to have a good chunk done and the end in sight! Apparently next lesson on Friday is number seven, but it all got a bit messy at the beginning when I was spending half a lesson mounting the Jacobean and half a class doing this, so it’s probably only really six if you take that out of it.

      1. I’m trying to aim for a finish ready to mount on lesson 7, as I think I should be able to fit in 2 more lessons before the end of term. Everyone says the mounting takes a long time & is difficult to get right at first. I’m hoping they will let me have the design brief for canvas work before the holidays too. Hope all continues well with your stitching.

      2. My tutors started talking to me about the next module in about lesson five or six, so I’m sure they will start asking you to think about what you want to do. Mounting is hard work, and I had a lot of problems, hence it needing to be dragged on for so long. But, I was actually glad that I wasn’t doing it all in one day! That would be really tough. I think as long as you have enough time to stitch at home, and know what you are doing, that would be achievable, and you probably don’t need two full days to mount either, which will give you time for the last minute touches.

    1. Thanks Rachel. I’m enjoying it more and more, and would actually like to explore the technique further! I think there’s a lot more to it than what I’m doing with this piece.

      1. I’ll see whether I get any decent picture of one of my experiments in that direction. It’s behind glass, so the answer may be No, but if I can it will be another for you to analyse, along with other previous students.

  4. Cathy This was a great post. Many thanks for all the helpful insights.
    You are obviously a hard judge on your work. Don’t forget to stand well back from your canvas when making an assessment.Congratulations and again thanks for your blog

  5. Love this piece, so effective using the different types of thread. I use Sew and Sew and agree they are really quick

    1. It’s a really interesting learning experience working the different threads and stitches together in a way that is so different for me!

  6. It’s amazing, I can’t wait to see the finished piece! I love how you mixed all the stitches. Thank you so much for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party this week. Pinned!

  7. This is beautiful, I love reading about all the stitches and threads and your thoughts behind them. I’m looking forward to seeing it finished now.

  8. I loved reading how you’re choosing the types of thread and stitches for the scene you’re creating. It’s interesting to see the variety of textures different thread and stitches create.

    Thanks so much for linking up to last week’s Stitchery Link Party. Aloha hugs!

    1. Oh thanks Pam! I’m currently re-working the castle, but hopefully it will be done in the next couple of weeks!

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