When is a failed design a fail? Or is it more a learning experience? Find out more about this piece, what worked, what didn't, and what was learnt! And if it really was a 'failed design'.

‘Inspired by Anne’ – A somewhat ‘failed’ design!

Is a 'failed design' every really a 'fail'?

This piece was another small piece I worked on from the ‘Delectable Morsels’ kits by Alison Cole Embroidery

As soon as I saw the fabric and materials, I knew exactly what I wanted to create! I had been re-reading the ‘Anne of Green Gable’ books (surprising what you find when you unpack!), and to me, the colours looked perfect for a country fence with the moon shining down.

But, it was one of those designs which worked much better in my head than it did in practice!

What were we given in this pack?

As with all of these pack, there was a lovely variety of different materials and threads that we were given to ‘play’ with.

  • ‘Threadworx’ Stranded Cotton – this is a lovely cotton and is slightly variegated. It isn’t like a DMC thread where you can choose your own thread length. The thread is pre-cut, which comes with it’s own advantages and disadvantages
  • Caron Wildflowers cotton pearle thread
  • Stef Francis 12 ply silk
  • Threadworx Overdyed Kreinik #8 Braid
  • Devere Yarns silk
  • Silver Smooth Purl #6
  • Silver Bright Check Purl #6
  • Silver Pearl Purl #1

My idea for these materials

As I mentioned, my idea for this came from images formed in my mind again after reading some of the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series.

The moonlight shining down seemed to me to be appropriate for the colour of the fabric. I liked the idea of only outlining the design (so no ‘fill’), except for the stumpwork flowers. I was originally thinking an old farm gate, I’m not sure why that became just a fence, but anyway!

Stumpwork flower petals

I started by stitching the stumpwork flowers. Whilst the three different purple threads we were given were all quite different, I liked the idea of creating a flower from each of them.

The Pearl thread petals

The pearl thread, whilst it worked up quite quickly, was probably a bit bulky for the size of the petals. I decided to try something new here, and stitched in a couple of rows of detached button hole stitch to create a ‘lace flower’. No idea if there is anything remotely like this in reality, but it answered my question on if it was possible to do this on a stumpwork petal!
Stumpwork flowers worked with detached buttonhole stitch to create a lacy edge to the petals. Designed and stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

The Stranded cotton petals

The next flower was stitched up using stranded cotton, so no surprises there!

Stumpwork flower worked with a beautiful Devere Yarns silk along with some purl used in a non-conventional way on this 'failed design' by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

The Fine Silk petals

And for the final one I used the Devere Yarns silk. What I found interesting with Alison’s notes here was that the silk, whilst you can purchase it different thicknesses, is all made from the same thickness single strand. So if you are using a single strand, it doesn’t matter what thickness thread you have on hand, you can use a single strand and it will be the same.

Using this silk thread - the different weights of this thread

I did experiment with this, as I needed a green thread, and choose one from the silks I have received over the past couple of years in their Advent Calendar. For this, I chose a 12 thread, which on their website says is the same as using a single strand of stranded cotton. It did feel marginally thicker than the single strand of 18 thread. Of course there was no in depth analysis on this, more just my ‘feelings’. So I’m not 100% convinced that you can use a single strand of any thickness silk in your collection and end up with the same result.

An enjoyable thread to use!

This was the first time I have really used extensively the Devere Yarns silk, despite having quite a collection from their last couple of Advent Calendars! The one thing I can say is these threads are beautiful to stitch with! At first I thought it would be somewhat weak (as it is quite fine), but when stitching in split stitch (which DMC has a tendancy of snapping when stitching), this thread performed well, and I had no snapping problems. It is a silk thread, so you do need to be aware of the thread wearing quickly. But even in this it held up very well!

stumpwork flower worked with DeVere Yarns silk thread and metalwork purl flowers. Designed and stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

Surface stitching and metalwork embroidery

The remainder of the embroiery was worked with the idea being that only the outline of the object needed to be stitched. 

This seemed to work with certain elements, but I feel that perhaps the moon would have been better if it had been stitched with some chip work filling. 

The owls added at the end were quite an after-thought. In hindsight, they probably should have been the centre stage to give the piece some ‘grounding’. Larger, more prominent birds in goldwork would have been a much better option I feel, however they were only stitched on as an after-thought!

And the finished piece

And here is the ‘finished’ design. It really doesn’t look ‘done’, and my husband asked what I was going to do to finish it, which isn’t a good sign! 

But for now, it is ‘done’, and in the ‘lessons learned’ pile!

Lessons learned in this 'failed design'

Whilst this is a piece that didn’t really work, and could be put quite fairly in the ‘failed design’ category, I think it is also useful to think about the lessons learned.

Something to draw the eye in

Firstly, having something to draw the eye in is important. In this case the after thought owls could have taken a much larger part in the design. As it is, the piece looks like it isn’t complete. Something is missing. So whilst my original idea may have been sound, it wasn’t executed well, and the end result is something that would probably never achieve what it potentially could have.

The importance of 'just stitching'

The next point, which is possibly the most important, is the point that does it really matter that this ‘didn’t work’ as a design? It was an excercise in using a set of materials – which was achieved. I also explored more ‘new to me’ ways of stitching and using materials. Regardless of what the end result is, to me, this is probaby more important. 

I’ve come away knowing more about design than I did before I stitched this piece. ‘Failed designs’ are bound to happen. And it was a piece for me, so does it really matter? I think not. It was a chance to explore and try different things. That is what is important!

So, what do you think, is a 'failed design' really a fail?

Or are you more like me, and decide to focus on what you’ve learnt from the process?

Let me know, I’d love to know your thoughts!

When is a failed design a fail? Or is it more a learning experience? Find out more about this piece, what worked, what didn't, and what was learnt! And if it really was a 'failed design'.

18 thoughts on “‘Inspired by Anne’ – A somewhat ‘failed’ design!”

    1. Thanks so much, Cathy! Despite the whole design not really working, I was pleased with flowers in particular. I’m glad I’ve finally worked out a way of completing stumpwork elements, even if it isn’t ‘per the book’ as they say!

  1. I think we learn more from things that don’t work out according to the plan in our head. It requires evaluation, reassessment. You’ve done that. So no, it’s not a fail. And I love the flowers.

    1. Anne, you are very wise! I think the evaluation and assessment process is important for all pieces, provided of course we learn and remember from them.

  2. We always learn from these things, I think! It can look perfect in your mind, but you won’t really know until it is stitched up. And DeVere silk yarns are just perfect to stitch with!

    1. I’m hoping I learn from these things Jessica, it would seem wasteful if not! I’m glad I’m not the only one who perhaps has different images in their head to reality. And I love how much you have been using the DeVere Yarns recently. Your pieces always give people like me something to aim for!

  3. Failed designs leave opportunity for growth! If we do not take risks we cannot expand as artists. Thanks for sharing this and the individual components in the piece were cool! 🙂

    1. Yes, you are right I think Deborah. And as children, we learn through ‘failing’ and making mistakes. Somewhere along the line, we deem failure as a bad thing, when really it is just a learning experience!

  4. I think this exercise highlights the real challenge of working with new stitching techniques and materials and manipulating them into a pleasing design that reflects the idea in your head. It’s a lot to grapple with! Reading this made me think about some of the great artists, often they create numerous pre-studies of what might eventually become their Opus … the work of incredible art we admire … but their steps towards the realisation of their vision is painstaking and faltering at times. But we would never say it wasn’t worth doing, and the pre-studies are often a valuable insight into the process of achieving that idea. I love your vision and the individual elements are beautiful, it might be an idea you return to develop but thank you for sharing the journey with us! 😀

    1. It is interesting reading everyone’s comments, and how they relate, and how others also, relate to this feeling. Again, I had not considered the great artists, and how they worked and designed their pieces. I always found it so interesting too, looking at the development of their pieces and then standing in front of the masterpiece itself. Definitely some food for thought! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Firstly I think the very idea of coming up with any design from a bag of unknown goodies is amazing and exciting – a true way to extend the creative wires in the brain!
    I don’t think it’s a fail at all as the flowers are beautiful and I love the idea of the lacy blanket stitch around the petals of the perle flower. The colours really are moonlight colours on the piece.
    My only suggestions might be to remove the owls entirely, thicken the moon in the sky with more thread and maybe stitch some fine, delicate stars to give the effect of night.
    Actually, this design that you’ve created would look wonderful on black fabric.
    Congratulations on a very good pass, not a fail!!!

    1. Thank you, Prue! I do like the idea of stars now you have mentioned them, I hadn’t even considered stars before! I agree the moon should have been filled – maybe a mixture of metallic and silk threads. But, it is ‘done’, and lessons learnt! I don’t think I will finish it, as I might like to come back to it in time as a bit of a ‘testing’ piece of ideas.

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