RSN Jacobean Piece for Certificate

Progressing with the RSN Crewelwork piece

Things certainly feel like they move very quickly with the Certificate Course at the RSN! Day three saw quite a few different areas being worked with quite a bit of homework for me to get through. Generally speaking, the homework set is roughly the same amount of work that you would get through in a day of stitching at the RSN. The total number of hours of the Course is roughly 78 hours as detailed by the RSN. It might sound like a lot when you put it like that, but when you consider 40 of them are in class (spread out over eight days), it really isn’t that bad!

Our tutors for the day were Heather (I think she is the ‘normal’ Friday tutor), and a last minute change due to these horrible colds going around saw us with Helen McCook joining Heather. Helen is another brilliant teacher – and had us all laughing away at break with her stories of misadventures (perhaps caused more by a lack of attention to the ‘rules’ of a stitching studio than anything else!) during her apprenticeship at the RSN.

To start with, I was shown how to do raised stem stitch, which I am working down the main stem. In the same way with trellis stitch, the placement of the initial foundation stitches is important. It is important to get these bars laid as evenly as possible, to give the finished stitch as polished and even a look as possible. With both this stitch and trellis stitch, one thing I found interesting is that to get the stitch placed most accurately, you lay the thread across your fabric, determine where you want it to sit, and then stitch through the thread at that point. I thought you would end up in quite the muddle doing this but it works an absolute treat! This is using wool thread (Appelton’s to be exact) – I’m not sure you would get quite the same result with say a stranded cotton, but it is a useful tip for these two stitches in crewel embroidery.

working raised stem stitch

After getting home and having a good look at the stitches, you guessed it – I wasn’t happy with the result. There was too much spacing between the initial rows of stitches, and as they were reasonably tightly placed after that, I thought there wouldn’t be any hope of fixing this. I tried to work a row or two in between to better cover the fabric, but these rows sat too high off the fabric in relation to the to the other rows. So one night, I very carefully cut out these stitches, being careful to not cut the foundation bars. As far as I can tell, they aren’t too bad! A little uneven in places to be sure, but not rip it out bad!

foundation bars for raised stem stitch

When at home and re-starting to stitch this, I ‘problem solved’ a little (don’t ever let anyone tell you embroidery doesn’t involve problem solving!), and I worked out what I thought were my main mistakes – firstly, the initial row wasn’t started in quite the right place, and secondly, my second row needed to be very short to accommodate the angle of the trunk. I still haven’t finished the whole trunk, but I’m much happier with the result as it stands now! There are still a couple of bits of paint showing, and depending on how far over these rows get pushed by subsequent rows, I may need to very gently and carefully take off some of these bits of paint. Another reason for thin paint lines! At least that nasty blob has ‘disappeared’ now.

The second element I learnt about was padded satin stitch, which I am using for the tops of my acorns. The first step is to split stitch around the outer edge. These stitches need to be tiny – about two millimetres in length! I found myself at times ‘undoing’ stitches just because I was coming up far too close to the where the last stitch had ended! But, the neater and smaller these stitches are made, the better the end result will be as you will have a firmer row of stitching for your satin stitches to sit against. I decided I only needed one layer of padding, as the wool thread is quite thick and sits quite high from the fabric without layering. As I was only doing the one layer, I stitched within my split stitch lines in the opposite direction (perpendicular if you want to get fancy) to how the final layer will sit. Satin stitch is then used to go over the padding, and the split stitch line, to give a nice and polished finished. On the whole I am quite happy with these little guys. A couple of the edges could be a little crisper, and I lost my tension a bit on one, but all in all, not too bad an effort. These little flowers over on the side are stitched in normal satin stitch, and I found I was definitely getting the hang of things by the end of all that satin stitching!

Laid work is very similar to satin stitch – except there is no split stitch outline worked first, and unlike satin stitch where you always start each stitch on the same side of the motif, laid work has virtually no thread on the back, as the start of each stitch is right next to the finish of the previous stitch. This allows the stitch to cover much wider areas. If satin stitch were to be used, it could bunch up (not to mention a lot of thread wastage!), whereas laid work eliminates this. My edges aren’t very even, so I will be couching down a thread around them to give them a nice finish! I also had to try my hand at shading whilst completing laid work. To do this, you gradually (or not so gradually in my first attempt!), work one colour thread, followed by one of the next colour, back to the first colour, two of the second etc, until it is a little blended. Definitely not my finest work on that front – it is much more like block shading than anything else!

working laid stitch

To finish off the day, I made some leaves in Van Dyke stitch. You may remember that when I was completing this stitch as part of TAST, I couldn’t get the ‘plait’ which sits on top to go quite where I wanted it to go. I now know that this is because of poor tension. The top plait will move around a tad, depending on whether you pull to the right or left as you are completing each stitch. I wasn’t particularly successful on my first attempt (or my second at this leaf either for that matter!), but the second leaf (and third attempt at the first leaf!), saw much better results. One thing I am a little surprised about it the willingness the tutors are for you to ‘draw’ guidelines on your work in pencil, provided it will be covered. This helped tremendously with the placement of this centre vein (and hence the plait), so I am very thankful they encourage this! For some reason I was sure this wouldn’t be allowed!

And that filled a busy, and productive, day at the RSN! Lots of homework (most of which you have seen completed above), but so much fun! I’m learning a lot, and it is hard to believe, that with one more class, I will be half way through this project! Definitely an AHHH moment! I still have a long way to go on the quality of my output, but that is all part of the journey.


14 thoughts on “Progressing with the RSN Crewelwork piece”

  1. That was a fascinating post! So interesting to follow you through the ins and outs of learning to perfect these stitches. I think I’m enjoying this course nearly as much as you are!

    1. I’m glad you are finding it interesting! I found there isn’t a lot of information out there about the course from the student’s perspective so I’m trying to give as much useful information as I can. Still so much to learn – I’m sure I come out of each class knowing less than I did before I went in!

  2. Gosh I enjoyed reading your post so much yesterday that I’ve come back today and read it again!!

    You must be very satisfied that you are doing so well, I can hardly wait for the next installment!

  3. You are obviously a perfectionist when it comes to your embroidery. I could barely make you the problem that you had on that trunk. I hope it works better for you now. I have done a few embroidery pieces, but I don’t have the patience to perfect this craft. Your work is quite pretty.

    1. Hi Wendy. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series! How are you finding your acorns? Quite cute little things! Im going to do two with bullions and two with French knots. How are you finishing yours? Can’t wait to see the progress on your piece!

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