Finished RSN Canvaswork piece assessment

RSN Canvaswork Assessment and Comments

Assessment of my Canvaswork Piece

You may recall I managed to (just) get my canvaswork piece submitted in time for the summer assessment period. Based on some of the comments, I probably shouldn’t have rushed the mounting process, and this is something I have taken on board for future pieces. But, I have to say, given my ‘struggles‘ with the piece and technique as a whole, I was quite pleased with the result I achieved.

I won’t go over the assessment process again here, however if you would like to know more, please head over to this page, or contact me.

First Impressions

Much like the assessment of the Jacobean piece, the assessors here are looking at the cleanliness and presentation of your work, along with no canvas being visible, no worn threads and no threads being brought through to the front from starting and finishing your threads.

For this I scored full marks! Woo hoo! Always an exciting day when you see that isn’t it?


This is where we vary a bit from the Jacobean piece. For the Jacobean piece, the focus was on designing a piece in the style of Jacobean era crewelwork. Here however, it is about how well we have adapted our design source (in my case my photo of Eilean Doolan) to the technique. This includes stitch and thread choice.

Again, I scored full marks! This was something I really struggled with in terms of both stitch choice and threads to use. But those struggles did pay off!

Variety and Use of Threads and Stitches

Part of the brief for this piece was to use a good variety of cross, horizontal and vertical stitches. This part of the assessment is looking at your stitch choice, along with comments about the number of strands of threads used. The assessors don’t want to see bulk, but at the same time they are ensuring the canvas is covered. Finally, the assessors are looking at your thread choices, and if you have used a suitable thread to portray that area of the design.

On a roll – full marks again!

Original design inspiration for RSN canvaswork


Tension and Accuracy of Stitches

Much like the Jacobean piece, this criteria is looking at the tension held within the piece and the individual stitches, and that the threads have been finished ‘correctly’ and in a way so bulges aren’t created on the front. Along with this, the assessors are looking for a blending of canvas stitches in at least one area, and that all the stitches have been counted correctly.

I lost one mark here, and I have to admit I think I would have been a little harder on myself than this! The comments were that the tension wasn’t great in the beginning, however it improved.

The other problem was that not all the threads are sitting flat on the canvas when I was blending different types of threads in the needle in a couple of areas. This was something I really struggled with. Whilst it gives a lovely finish, it was really difficult to get the silks and cottons to behave themselves and play nicely together! I did eventually buy a mellor which helped greatly. For anyone considering blending threads like this in the needle, I highly recommend you purchase something like this before you begin. Whilst it is a bit slower to stitch each stitch, it does help to get the threads to sit nicely together.

Shading and Overall Effect

For this section, the assessors are looking at your effectiveness and understanding of shading.

This is quite a small assessment point, so there isn’t really much to say! For this point I scored full marks, with the comment that I ‘understood’ the shading well.


This is where it all went a little pear shaped!

The criteria to be met here was much the same as with the Jacobean – board cut with 90 degree corners, the piece to be mounted centrally, no pin pricks to be seen, and the sateen to be attached on the grain and with no stitches visible.

As I said earlier, I will not be rushing this process again, as I lost a whole eight marks here! My board was cut correctly, and the canvas was pulled taut across the board.

But there is apparently not an even rebate around the piece (I counted this so many times!). I never could get that ‘warped’ look out of it. The comments were that I should have kept the frame tight throughout the stitching of the piece. This is a fair point, as I did get a bit slack at tightening the frame before each stitching session at times. So apparently it definitely does make a difference!

On the reverse, my corners of both the canvas and sateen were too ’rounded’, and apparently the sateen was not evenly placed. Although I’ve looked at it again and I’m still not sure it is that uneven! Too many of my slip stitches show as well. This is defiantly a fault of rushing the process.

So not a great finish to the piece and assessment, but some good points to take on board for next time. In essence, I really need to spend more time with the mounting process. Some points I’m not sure I could have eliminated – there was just no more give in the canvas to pull it any tighter across the board to get the even rebate. That is something I need to do more throughout the stitching of the piece. And the rounded corners of the canvas – I’ll have to wait till I do another canvas work piece to see if I can successfully eliminate the rounded corners!

The end result

Despite the rather disappointing mounting marks, I did still manage to achieve a mark of 90%! Something I am more than happy with. Whilst I still don’t believe this is a technique I will ‘go back to’ on a regular basis, I would like to explore it more (and try and get better at mounting it!).

I was very pleased with the comments on blending and shading, as I feel they will help me with other techniques as well.

As disappointing as the mounting marks were, I now have a very clear idea of what I should be looking to achieve. At the end of the day, I really need to make sure I don’t rush this process. Waiting for the next assessment period isn’t the end of the world!

Finished RSN Canvaswork piece assessment and comments


Stitches and threads used throughout

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There are so many canvas work stitches available to use, it is really impossible to know them all, unless you spend a great deal of time with the technique. But I thought I would give you an idea of the stitches I have used throughout this piece, along with the threads used. All of the photos can be clicked on to enlarge them if you would like to see more detail.

This technique depends so much on the texture you create with your stitch and thread choice, it is worthwhile spending some time considering them. I found using Mary Rhode’sbook invaluable for this. Her book is printed in black and white. And whilst in today’s world we are so used to seeing things in colour, being able to see the stitches in black and white really highlights and emphasises the texture you will achieve with the stitch. Mary must have been one of the real experts in the technique – she covers an incredible number of stitches, many of which the tutors haven’t used before!

Marsh land area

For this area of the design, I have stitched these stitches in crewel wool and a variety of different stranded cottons.

Canvaswork stitches in detail

Front small tree

For the small tree at the front, I used a variety of stranded cottons and cotton and silk blends together in the needle

The Castle

The Castle was stitched entirely in stranded cotton – just blending several colours in the needle at the same time.

Canvaswork stitches in detail

Grassy land below castle

This area used a combination of silk, linen, stranded cotton and crewel wool – a bit of everything!

Canvaswork stitches in detail - creating water

The Water

Here, there is a good variety of both silks and stranded cottons used. Some areas have slightly more silk, and others slightly more stranded cottons

The Sky

The sky was stitched primarily in different brands of silk, though some stranded cottons were used when I didn’t have the right colours.


For the rocks I used quite a thick silk combined with stranded cottons. Some of the silks also had a twist (a little like a perle thread), which created some ‘blending in the needle’ problems.


I hope you have found this little peak into the assessors thoughts, and stitches and threads used, useful and helpful with your canvaswork adventures! Despite my comments about the technique not being one I am overly excited about, I am keen to try this technique again. I’m thinking maybe a lovely ‘white with snow’ piece. Maybe I can get a suitable picture this coming winter!

48 thoughts on “RSN Canvaswork Assessment and Comments”

  1. Congratulations Catherine on getting 90%!!! I can understand your disappointment though at losing so many marks on the mounting when everything else scored full marks. Thank you for discribing everything in such detail. It will help me a lot and I hope to be able to get anywhere near 90%! I will have to really tell myself off if I start rushing things as I tend to do that too, especially near the end of a project. I will discuss the best planning for my project with the tutors when I start.

    1. Thanks Marlous. You may be naturally better at mounting your pieces than I am, but I personally think the best thing for me is to do it in several sessions over a few days. Obviously not practical for you, and I’m sure the tutors will have a good idea how to manage that process.

  2. It seems harsh to loose so many marks on mounting. I always get my big pieces professionally mounted and framed. Still it is the RSN.
    Congratulations on your results. I really love how you did the sky!

    1. Thanks Cathy. It does seem a bit harsh, especially when no one will see it! But, it’s good to know how to do it, so I can save money on the framing process as I won’t need to pay someone to do that part for me!

  3. Congratulations Catherine on a stunning piece of work. It is brilliant. Many thanks for giving info on the threads and stitches — I haven’t worked a canvas piece before so reading this was very interesting.
    You’ll sail through the rest of the course I’m sure!

    1. Thanks so much Moira. Canvaswork is a very different technique than anything else. It is fun to be able to combine so many different threads at once on the same piece!

  4. Since that isn’t necessarily how you would mount a piece for display, I’m not sure I would worry too much. Certainly the point about keeping the canvas under tension is worth remembering, though. Canvas is such a pain to block after stitching, anything that eases the process is worth doing!

    You’ve made very good use of stitches and threads there, and it makes a much more visually interesting piece than tent stitch in tapestry wool, doesn’t it!

    1. I’m not too worried, the back won’t be seen once it’s in a frame! The tension point is a very good one. It obviously doesn’t just apply to canvaswork either, though perhaps the other fabrics are easier to pull and stretch than canvas.
      I do love the effect you get with using so many different stitches and threads. It is such a lovely way to add more interest to the piece. It is certainly a long way from tapestry in tent Stitches, though that of course has its place too!

  5. I’ve not commented before but first of all well done. It is always gruelling to have work assessed, especially when you have put so much into it. I was intrigued to see the wonderful range of stitches you used. Thank you for the detailed photos and attached names. I love canvas work and the range of stitches available are both (to me) technically demanding and a joy to find a stitch suiting a feature of a picture. I do hope you continue with your exploration of canvas work.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Pam! It’s lovely to hear from you.
      I don’t mind having my work assessed – it is part of the process and reason I wanted to partake of this course. Sometimes other people’s opinions are a positive, as I really didn’t hold high hopes for this piece when I submitted it. I had probably been looking at it for too long!
      The range of stitches in canvaswork is quite awe inspiring isn’t it! Some are definitely more complicated than others, and I imagine once you have a good repertoire of stitches you would use the same ones over and over. I’m glad you found the details useful.
      I’m sure I will explore the technique further. I actually thing there are some pictures which would be best suited to canvaswork than any other technique!

  6. Congrats! You did so well with this course 🙂 I saw your comment about using a mellor to keep your threads smooth. Something else you can use is a needle trolley. That’s what I use when I’m stitching on canvas. It’s very convenient and stays on your finger so you don’t have to constantly pick it up.

    I would be very curious to see what your mounting looks like. It sounds like they are very severe when it comes to this part of the course.

    1. Thanks Dima. I have never heard of a Needle trolley, I will look into that, thank you for the tip!
      A lot of students comment on the marking of the mounting, I am certainly not alone. I think it is probably something you just get better at with time. I’ll take some photos of the back and share with you over the next few days

  7. Well done Catherine! I lost some points on my mounting with the canvas piece. Just couldn’t get the even rebate. However, when I taught the module myself to my RSN students, even the one student who was an upholsterer by profession, really really struggled. You need so much strength in your hands with canvas. You will see that mounting on the other modules is much easier!

    1. Thanks Jessica, I hope it does get easier! And that is interesting about your prior student and hr struggles. One thing I found interesting was that traditionally you block the canvas before mounting it, as it’s eaasier to stretch when wet. Though with the lack of time, that just isn’t an option so we have to go for the brute force approach!

  8. I can only see the positives – 90% what a result – well done. I have not gone through the mounting process yet, but it does look and sound very laborious! Silk shading next, you lucky thing…

    1. A very good comment, thank you! I’m not sure I will ever like the mounting process, hopefully I will just get quicker and better at it!

  9. Is there a possibility that the assessors have been told they have been too easy on the finishing marks, so they are being extra tough this round?? Your other marks certainly reflect the quality of your work! Congratulations, Catherine, the piece is just amazing, and you should be very proud!

    1. That’s a nice thought Kathy, though I’m not sure that was the case! We can always hope…
      I’m focusing on the front and that they liked that.

  10. Congratulations on your scores. However, I can only think the judges are entirely too anal retentive. Are they just looking for and determined to find something to critique? They would become lightheaded if they saw the work I do. I embrace lack of perfection and understand that it’s all about the joy of creating and not finding fault with everything.

    1. You’ve brought a smile to my face Ruth! I’m not sure they are anal retentive, there is just a certain standard which is expected. I’ve got something to work towards for next time anyway!
      I completely agree about your comment it being the joy of creating that is important. I think this might be why I have so many partially started pieces. Once I know what is happening with it I seem to lose interest!

  11. Congrats on 90% that seems pretty good to me!
    To be honest I’m not sure I’m really understanding everything you are saying you need to do with the mounting, I’m sure it can’t make that much difference if your sateen is not straight can it?
    I guess the whole point of a course like this is that you learn to do it perfectly, just try to think of it all as positive feedback.

    1. Thanks Julie. To be honest I’m not sure I understand everything I need to do with the mounting! It’s all very finicky for something which is never going to be seen!

  12. Thank you Catherine for sharing all of the details. The clear pictures and level of detail is so helpful for someone like me who intends to take the intensive classes next year. I have learnt so much from you, thank you. You have done so well ! Congratulations .

    1. I’m so glad you are finding this useful! I really enjoy sharing my experiences and what I learn along the way – I just hope it is found useful!
      I can’t imagine doing an intensive – you are so brave! Though having said that I am giving serious thought to completing my silk shading in a ‘semi intensive’, which would give me a taste of it!

  13. A fantastic piece and I would be thrilled with a mark of 90%. Not that I would even know where to begin with something like this.
    You are one very clever lady. Congratulations on a stunning finish and well done on your exam results.

    1. Thanks so much Helen! I was quite pleased with my mark. It was an interesting technique, and one that deserves to be explored further in time!

  14. You should be very proud of that 90%. What an amazing learning experience so that you know what you wish to achieve going forward.

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

    1. Thanks Sue, it was certainly a mark better than I had hoped for! And it’s always good having something to aim for next time

  15. Great work, congratulations.
    I do have a question…you said theat the RSN wants you to stitch Canvaswork from front to back. Can you explain this a bit further?

    1. Thanks Sue.
      With canvaswork, the object that is sitting in the front of your image is worked before the elements and objects behind. So more like how you naively see things.
      This is in contrast to silk shading and other surface embroidery where you work the back elements first, and the item or object closest to you last.
      In silk shading you stitch from the back up to create the 3-D effect. In canvaswork it is reversed as you are popping in the stitches behind what is in the front.
      Does that help?

  16. Thank you so much for the detailed explanation. I had no idea how much was involved in such a piece of work.
    Congratulations on such beautiful needlework.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments Heather. There is indeed a lot of work, but it is worth it.

    1. Oh thank you, that’s so kind of you! I do like this piece a lot more know than I did when I first completed it!

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