In the same way I drew, and then coloured my Jacobean piece, with this piece, I followed the same steps. First, a sketch of my design, followed by printing a couple of copies of it. One I used to colour in to get an idea of the colours I would use, and another with my initial stitch ideas for each element.
Despite needing to use a large number of stitches in the RSN piece, there were still some stitches I hadn’t used and I was interested in learning them. The main stitches I was keen to use in this piece that I hadn’t used before were burden stitch and battlement couching. I also managed to get Pekenese stitch worked in too.
One thing you learn at the RSN is the importance of planning your piece carefully. This is still something I need to work on, but I did make sure I had thought through the piece before placing the first stitches. There were some changes to my initial plans which we’ll talk through, but it was nice having an idea of what I thought I wanted before starting.
The Pomegranate and Burden Stitch
To learn burden stitch, I decided to use it on the pomegranate. It took me a few attempts to work the stitch out, but eventually I got the hang of it!
The first error I made was not keeping the bands close enough together. I found the stitch seems to work best if the bands are reasonably close together. I settled on a distance of about four millimetres. This was of course made more complicated by the shape, so perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if it were a regular shape. More practising is required!
Once I’d established the ideal distance of the bands, my next problem was to not get confused about where I was up to with the stitches! The first row was always ok, but after that, I would get myself into quite the pickle! Most of it would be correct except I’d mess it up somewhere and need to start again. I found the best solution for this was to start each subsequent row on the edge, rather than in the middle, which was where you start the first row. This helped me keep the ‘one up one down’ pattern for some reason.
And my final problem was more about the shading than anything else. It basically just took a few attempts to get this to work in a way I was happy with it. There’s still a bit of a jump in the colour at the bottom, but that is all there is available in the colours, so I just had to go with it!
I was really keen on using a few different stitches in the grapes. I thought it would be nice to have a mixture of whipped and woven wheels, along with padded satin stitch in a ‘pattern’ around the bunch of grapes. But despite all attempts to get this theory to work, the whipped and woven wheels just didn’t work. The shape of the grapes wasn’t right, and they looked more like flowers than grapes! So after stitching and then taking out about six grapes, I finally came to the conclusion this wouldn’t work, and I opted for padded satin stitch for all the grapes. A much better result! I still got my variation I was after, just with colour rather than stitch choices.
This is also where I’ve been able to work in my battlement couching. What a fun stitch! And you could have so much fun with different colours as well. I’ve stuck with the greens I’ve used throughout the piece, but you could add some lovely colour variations by mixing up your colours used.
I quite enjoyed working the trellis work on my Jacobean piece, and this was a great way to expand on this. By using the technique of sewing ‘through’ the thread once laid in position, I was able to get evenly spaced trellis work to begin with. The point to remember with battlement couching seems to be to make the initial trellis large enough to allow the subsequent ‘layers’ of trellis work to be placed on top. All in all, I was quite happy with how it worked out!
Leaves and Acorns
I didn’t try any new stitches in this element, it was just a good opportunity to practice.
I used heavy chain stitch for the stem. Another stitch I love to use!
The acorns saw yet more padded satin stitch, and some French Knots for the caps.
The leaves I completed in long and short stitch. I learnt here the importance of keeping the split stitches as small as possible. My first couple of attempts gave some very messy and unbecoming results! After a bit of contemplation I decided the fault may not necessarily be the fault of the long and short stitches, but perhaps my split stitches. So after more unpicking, and some very small stitches later, I started again. Almost immediately I could see the difference it made! A very good tip to have learnt the long way before starting my silk shading piece.
The leaves I found also had some tricky directions lines to take. But after drawing in a few lines, I was more comfortable with it, and it seemed to work better. I’m looking forward to learning more about this over the coming weeks! Perhaps what I should have done is drawn them on a paper version first, but in the end I managed after remembering from the online classes I did with Tanja Berlin (the fox and the pansy), that sometimes on the first row, a very short stitch is required to help change direction.
Butterfly and Bees
The last two elements were quick and easy, again after some changes to the original plan.
My initial decision was to stitch the butterfly in coral stitch. But I just couldn’t get a nice result with that stitch. After a look through the RSN’s book on Crewelwork (available at places like the RSN, the Book Depository, Amazon and Abe Books), I settled on Pekinese stitch, which interestingly according to the instructions, is also known as blind man’s stitch, as Chinese embroiderers are said to have gone blind stitching this stitch on such a small scale!
Needless to say, my stitches are not that small. Big enough to be able to see what I’m doing, and work the stitch! Despite the threat of blindness, this is a lovely stitch!
The little bees saw the return of satin stitch, just on a smaller scale!
The finished piece
And so, my Crewelwork piece was finished. I enjoyed learning some new stitches, refining others, and just generally exploring designing a piece on my own without the comfort zone the tutors offer.
Whilst not all of my original decisions worked out, I did like having a plan of stitches and colours before I started. It was worth the time and helped me make decisions when the first idea didn’t work!