I ‘ve been meaning to get this post up for a few days (well closer to a week) now, but with internet issues followed by a derailed train adding hours to each of my ‘real world’ life days, it hasn’t quite gone to plan. That and a very fun Burns night!

I mentioned last week that things had not quite gone to plan with the mounting of my Jacobean piece on my first class back of the year. It’s still not fully mounted, but progress has been made!

Preparation for Mounting

The process starts by, not surprisingly, preparing the mount board. Using two L shaped guides, I ‘sampled’ different board sizes and positions (how much space to the top, bottom and sides) I wanted. Once I had that sorted out, I measured this, and then measured the mount board to the same size. Before the knife touches the board, you need to triple check that the piece of board you have measured out is square using a set square, and that you have actually got your measurements right! I used my notebook to note down not only the size of the board, but also the space around the piece (how much ‘excess’ I had to the top, bottom and sides).

A second piece of board is then cut to the same size, using the first cut out as a guide (and being careful to only cut the second piece of board!). The two pieces are then glued together to create one board that is about 5 mm thick. Whilst it is drying, weights are placed on the board to ensure it is glued together flat.

Once the boards are glued together and the glue is dry (I did this next stage in my next lesson a week later, but it could be done a lot quicker, depending on the heat of your environment and drying time), calico is stretched and glued to the board. This is where strong hands come in handy! You cut your calico so that it is easily going to cover the front of your board, and to a size that gives you a large piece of fabric on the underside to ‘hem’ onto the board. Each side on mine has between 15cm and 20cm folded to the underside. There is no need to worry about ironing the calico before attaching it to the board, as the stretching process eliminates the creases (although if it is really creased from being in the bottom of your cupboard it might not be a bad idea to get the iron out onto it).

Centring the calico on your board, and using pins to hold it in place, you work your way around the board, stretching the calico so there is absolutely no movement of it on the front. This means you are doing a lot of pulling of the fabric to get it stretched very tightly! Owen showed me to do the top and bottom first – stretching and then gluing, before repeating the process on the longer sides. The glue is placed about 5cm in from the edge, as you can’t stitch through glue! The corners are cut and then glued with no bulk on the board. Given what happened to me in the next stage, I would recommend weighting your board on the wrong side just to ensure the board remains flat.

Preparing the embroidery on the mount board

Once the glue is dry on your calico, it is time to mount your embroidery! I’m not entirely sure how people normally do this entire process in one day, as there is quite a bit of ‘down time’ whilst waiting for the glue to dry. For anyone contemplating doing the RSN Certificate, it’s probably a good idea to start the mounting process in lesson seven (or whatever your second last class is), as you should be able to cut and glue, and then calico and glue in the one day if you do the first part first thing, and the calico straight after lunch. This would of course mean you lose out on stitching time, but the mounting process is hard work, and personally I’m glad it has been extended over a few lessons for this reason! I would actually like to be done with it now, but I’m learning a lot, and am glad I haven’t rushed through the process.

Paying careful attention to the grain of the fabric, the embroidery is stretched and pinned onto your board. Finding and lining up the grain of the linen wasn’t easy, and Heather said she struggles with it, and that she’s never 100% sure she has it right, though she was a lot better than me! I now know what I’m looking for, so hopefully that will make it easier next time. It’s not only the grain that need to consider though – you also need to make sure you have the embroidery placed on the board so that it is ‘pleasing’ to the eye. I used my notes from when I originally measured the board, and made minor adjustments to this placement.

Its a careful process getting ready to mount your hand embroidery. Lots of pins, lots of patience, and lots of hand strength! Learn more at Hillview Embroidery, trained at the RSN

Once you are happy with your placement, using pins, you pin your embroidery to the board. At this stage, the pins are about two and a half centimetres apart. Once you are sure you have the grain correctly lined up, the fun begins, and you start adding more and more pins, and stretching as you go along. And when I say add more pins – it is a lot more pins! By the time you have finished, you will have a pin about every half a centimetre.

Then you need to step back and see how you went! I struggled to keep the grain straight around the corners, so there was a lot of re-pinning and stretching and moving to get it ‘right’! By the end of this my poor delicate hands were definitely in need of a rest!

Now this is where the process  “stopped” for me on my mounting day! Whether I pulled the fabric too tightly, or perhaps the board wasn’t flat to begin with. But, however it happened, the board wasn’t flat at the end of this process, and had quite a reasonable warp to it! Apparently not common, but not entirely unheard of either. Heather is certain the board was flat before we started, Owen was questioning that, as apparently “over stretching” to the point of warping the board isn’t easy to do! Whatever the case, we will never know! In an attempt to rectify the situation, I then had to release slightly the tension by about a thread (so not much) all around the board, before weights were placed on it to try and flatten it out. All the while hoping the embroidery wouldn’t be flattened too much! It sat like that for about three hours, and when I went home, it was much improved, though I needed to keep it under heavy books for the remainder of the week. Both Heather and Owen were very sweet, and said that in an ideal word, you wouldn’t go straight from pinning and stretching to sewing it on, but you would let it sit and relax for a few days. Apparently, what can happen is that after a few day the fabric needs to be re- stretched as little ‘bubbles’ or ‘ripples’ appear as the fabric aclimatises to it’s new position.

Stitching the embroidery into place

Last Friday, on a day when I was juggling both mounting and my new canvaswork piece, the next stage of mounting began. After readjusting the fabric again, as it had relaxed just slightly, it was time to learn herringbone stitch, and using buttonhole thread (a surprisingly very strong thread), attach the linen to the calico.

Herringbone is an easy “continuous cross stitch” to work. My biggest problem throughout the whole process of this stitch was using the curved needle – I felt like I had ten thumbs and was always dropping it!

I was worried about working the corners, but by mitring them and then using a slip stitch, I was impressed at how well they came together. I often wonder who was the first person to come up with things like that! I’ve never really understood mitred corners, but they seemed quite easy once being shown how to work them! Firstly, some of the excess fabric is trimmed away to lessen the bulk. Then the corner of the fabric is folded into the board, creating a square on the board. The two sides are then folded over the top. At first it looks like there is a really large gap that will never pull together. But by using little slip stitches, and taking a little step back each time you work the slipstitch on each side of the crease, it pulls together very well. The last stitch is worked right into the tip of the corner, and when pulled tightly, creates a nice, almost pointy, corner. The hardest part of working the corners was actually the herringbone stitch either side of the corner. This is because you have so many layers to get through,and there tends to be more glue to work around too!

I didn’t do a lot of this in class, just enough to get the hang of it so I could finish it at home. Again, my weak hands let me down, as each herringbone stitch needs to be pulled very tightly. I really struggled with this, and also pulling the fabric tight at the same time. Heather had a solution for me though! She gave me a monster tapestry needle, which I used to pull each stitch tightly after working three or four of them.

The whole process went reasonably smoothly once I just sat down and did it! The only hiccup was one corner which for the life of me I couldn’t get through all the layers of fabric, and the calico, as the glue was just in the wrong spot. After about half an hour I finally managed to get around it in a way. I was just about ready to give up I can tell you! That corner is definitely the worst of the four, and I probably didn’t pull everything tightly enough either. A lesson learned though – make sure you don’t get the glue too close to the corner!

Stages of mounting traditional hand embroidery demonstrated by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery, trained at the RSN

Another lesson learned is that I think I need to invest in  a thimble of sorts. My fingers were sore and worn at the end of the process, and I’m not sure I could have stitched anything else immediately after! I’ve never used a thimble before, but after framing up canvas and now this, I think it’s time I bought one!

What’s next

Heather said that again, in an ideal world, a time of ‘rest’ for the fabric after the herringbone stitch is worked is ideal, as apparently what can happen is that ripples can still appear after that is worked. If that happens, Heather said I’m in the happy position of being able to rectify it, as I will see that, and if need be, next lesson I will lace it.

Either after lacing the fabric if need be, or if not, just moving straight along, the next step is to carefully, using ‘invisible stitches’, attach cotton satin to back it. And then it will be done! A big sigh of relief will happen at that point!

I’m hoping that next Friday it will all be done!

Despite these little hiccups, I’m actually really pleased it has happened. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but I think I’m learning more about the mounting process this way, and by giving the fabric the necessary ‘breathing space’ between each stage, I’m minimising the likelihood of ripples and bubbles appearing on the front. Heather has said that most marks are lost on the mounting process, and I’m sure that already I have lost marks, but I’m hoping that I won’t have to worry about ripples appearing once it’s all packed up and waiting for assessment!

A piece of crewelwork embroidery mounted in the traditional way by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery, trained at the RSN

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