Jacobean Crewelwork is the first module of the RSN Certificate Course.

RSN Crewelwork piece update

The last time I updated you with progress on my first RSN Certificate piece, there were still a few things to work through. I can’t believe it is almost complete now!

The squirrel – and his tail!

I finished his body in long and short shading, just a couple of tricky points – his toes and his arm. At first with this arm, I tried to shade it, but all that happened was he looked like a wounded squirrel with a bandage on! I also used one of the darker shades of brown, and it certainly does look very dark in comparison to his body and face. Though I’m not sure using the other colours would have worked, as I have used a variety of the lighter browns on his body, and using even the darkest  of those would probably have left a very indistinguishable arm. With his toes, because I chose to use the light colour on the hillock,  the difference between his toe and the hillock isn’t very well defined. I have added in some of the darker colour on his toe to try and get this difference, but it could do with a little more I feel. The little baby acorn was really fun to work – and I think he is quite cute! I used the same method as I did for the larger acorns, just in miniature. A very small padded top, with some French Knots on the base. I initially thought I would put in a couple of bullion knots, but I changed my mind, and am glad I did!

His tail was something that took me a couple of attempts to get right. At first, I started stitching from the base of the tail and working upwards. This however presented a couple of problems. Firstly, I couldn’t get the pattern working well, and secondly, the stitch direction lines were very difficult to work when starting at the base. I then re-started the process at the point I should have started from in the first place – from the tip of the tail into the body. This helped in two ways. Firstly, it allowed me to get the directional lines correct. And secondly, it gave me a long enough row to work to get the pattern in place before working the short little rows. Finishing the tail was a little like completing the raised stem stitch band – something you just have to plod along with. Once I had worked out the pattern, and when I needed to add in a couple of extra rows of stem stitch to fill the gaps, it was a good task to do at the end of the day as it required little thought.

Jacobean Crewelwork - long and short shading with a decorative tail stitched in a variety of traditional stitches

The finishing touches to the hillocks

Once the squirrel was complete, I could then add in the finishing touches to the hillocks. For the centres of the trellis work on the right hand side of the design, I popped in French Knots as I had planned. The left hand side was where I was having trouble deciding what to do. I opted for a couple of fly stitches worked in each of the trellis stitch spaces. This enabled me to tick off another stitch from the list of stitches, and it also meant I was able to add a touch of my accent colour. I finished the filling off by adding in a little cross. So something a little different but I am quite pleased with how it has finished off the hillock.

Traditional Jacobean Crewelwork with a long and short shaded squirrel and a decorative hillock

Before stem stitching  across the top of the hillocks, I had a bit of work to do to correct the outline around the vandyke stitched leaves. I had originally couched drown a single strand of the same colour as an edge for the leaf. But I was really not happy with the result. It didn’t finish the leaf off at all well. And, it didn’t cover all the paint lines! So some changes were definitely required. What I have opted for is a lighter colour green around the edge, and I used two strands of thread being couched down to finish off the edge. I am so much happier with the result! 

So now the hillocks could be completed with a stem stitch around the top of them. Making sure I covered all the starting and finishing holding stitches has been somewhat of a challenge with all of these outline stem stitch lines, and something I’m going to have to consider more next time. Definitely smaller stitches would help, but there are times when weaving the thread through the stitches on the back would have helped greatly. Live and learn as they say.

Some traditional stitches used in Jacobean crewelwork

Decorative leaf – adding the details

Moving up to the leaf in the centre of the right hand side of the design. My idea of working satin stitch down the middle proved to be a little more problematic than I had anticipated! There are some really tight ‘bends’ to negotiate, and working around them whilst also maintaining a good coverage of the fabric wasn’t easy! Looking at it after I had completed it I saw a few little spots which needed an extra stitch or two to be added in to complete it nicely. This however was easier to finish off after the majority of the stitching had been completed than it was to try and get it ‘just right’ first time round. I am going to have to practice these types of shapes for satin stitches I think. It looks lovely when finished, but is quite a problem to stitch at the moment, and I think would come in handy in other designs! As I seemed to be finishing everything with stem stitch, I thought it might be nice to use chain stitch around this leaf. I hadn’t got far before I decided this was not going to look right! So back to the trusty stem stitch to outline the leaf. Adding in the seeding stitches was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Firstly, stitching in random order is something I seemed to struggle with after all of this exact stitching! Certainly something I didn’t think I would ever have a problem with. But, despite the stitches needing to be directed in random directions, they really do need to be the same length. Not surprisingly, this was something I also struggled with! I can only assume that practice makes perfect with this, as my stitches are not the same length as much as I tried to get them even! Something else to work on. To balance out the leaf so that it wasn’t too heavy on left hand side, with nothing on the right hand side (it looked a little odd with just the one row of stem stitch), I stitched in a few extra rows of stem stitch, and finished the leaf off with a running stitch. Again, so hard to get everything even, but I am quite pleased with the finished result.

Crewelwork leaf stitched with stem stitch, satin stitch and seeding stitches

The top right hand flower – and what to do with those petals?

You may recall that I learnt how to stitch Cretan stitch, which I had used in the top right hand flower (I’ve decided it’s a flower not a leaf!) in my class a few weeks ago. As I had a bit of a gap in the stitches in my first attempt, I decided to re-stitch this one, along with completing the petal on the opposite side of the flower. I have to say, I quite like this stitch! It works up quite quickly, and once you understand how it works and where the centre lies, it is a really lovely stitch. I thought these petals might need something more to finish them off (I was thinking groups of bullion knots), but after completing the centres in Cretan stitch, I changed my mind, and decided just outlining them would be enough. Adding anything might make it quite ‘heavy’ – especially lots of billions, and in Jacobean designs, there is supposed to be some unfilled areas, and I don’t have a lot of them!

The back petal in this group has proven to be quite difficult to work out what to do with it! But decisions must be made, and I decided on a little ‘branch’ with clusters of French Knots coming off the centre. A tip Heather and Owen gave me when deciding on design details like this, is to copy your design a few times, and draw a few different options to help you make up your mind. Another option I thought of was to do another Cretan stitch, and a further option again was to have a vein down the centre with padded satin ‘leaves’ coming out of this vein. I’m very happy with the decision I made!

When stem stitching around the edge, I again came into trouble with holding stitches and the paint line. So a small change saw me pop in a couple of rows of stem stitch along the bottom edge to get around those problems!

A Jacobean flower stitched with a variety of traditional stitches

The top left hand flower – some whipped and woven wheels, and more couching!

The flower in the top left hand side has been finished off by couching around the laid stitch leaves, and popping in a selection of whipped woven wheels and woven wheels. I really enjoyed working the whipped and woven wheels -they are great little things to be able to stitch, as they add a wonderful dimension to the piece. I admit I prefer the whipped woven wheels – I love the way they pop off the fabric with that weave around the foundation threads. A tip Heather gave me is that if you are stitching woven wheels, you must have an odd number of spokes to your wheel, otherwise you will end up in trouble quite quickly as you won’t be able to maintain the over and under pattern of the weave. But for whipped woven wheels, she always uses an even number of spokes. This seems to work for me! The only thing with this stitch is that it is hard on the thread. Really hard on the thread. It wears it down so quickly with the weaving and whipping, so that is a lot of starting and finishing that needs to be done in an appropriate place on the design!

I was really starting to get the hang of couching at this point, and something that makes a bigger visual difference to the stitch than the distance between each holding stitch (which is still better when even), is that these stitches need to be very petite to be visually appealing. You can see how ‘large’ my stitches were when I worked the veins of these stitches. But after some practice, I now have a much better idea of what I’m doing, and making these holding stitches as small as possible gives a much better result.

Again I had trouble covering the holding stitches when it came to the stem stitch outline around the inner petal. So, another chance to practice more stem stitch, and add in another row – this time in another colour!

Crewelwork flower stitched with a wide variety of stitches including whipped and

What next?

From my looking at this piece, I think it’s ‘finished’! And it is approved by hubby which is always nice. But, we will see! Owen was concerned about some stray fibres on the thread that will need to be attended to I believe. I have ‘scratched off’ some visible paint lines, and I think on that front it is ok, but I probably need to get out the magnifying glass and a strong light to double check!

My next class is in a couple of weeks time, and fingers crossed, I get the ‘go ahead’ to take it off the frame, and mount it. My mount board is now ready (that in itself is a process that I will tell you about at a later time!), but the real tricky bit of mounting it lies ahead. Heather says it is a big, big job to get it done in one day, so I will be busy no doubt that day!

And then, the canvas work module will ‘properly’ begin! I have mounted the canvas, and I am sampling stitches, so I just need to make that final decision on the photograph I want to use, and go forth!

A traditional Jacobean crewelwork design stitched and designed for the RSN Certificate by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery

21 thoughts on “RSN Crewelwork piece update”

  1. Hi Catherine! I love your squirrel and I think you did very well for your first piece. Canvas is a lovely module too. Anything goes and you can explore so many stitches and speciality threads. Have fun, Jessica

    1. Thanks so much Jessica! I can see what I should have done differently but it’s all part of the learning experience! I’m looking forward to canvas work a lot more than I thought I would and can’t wait to start it!

  2. Oh, very well done! I do see what you mean about the squirrel’s arm, and one or two other elements, but I do think the whole thing is a success. I’m sure you’ll get the go-ahead for the next stage!

    1. I hope I do get the go ahead! There are certainly things I would do differently next time – both with stitches and design elements, but overall I think it has turned out ok! Fingers crossed.

  3. It’s lovely! The squirrel is sooo cute with his huge fluffy tail and I really like the stitch choices you’ve made on the flowers/leaves, especially Cretan stitch, which is one I use very rarely. Looking forward to your canvas work.

  4. Oh well done Catherine, it looks wonderful and I really like the autumnal colours.

    Reading through your post I can see you have learned quite a lot from stitching this piece and I’m sure it will stand you in good stead for the canvas work.

    1. Thanks Ann. I have definitely learnt a lot working this piece and I’m keen to start work on the next piece. Something I have never done before so a lot to learn!

    1. Thank you! The brief listed quite a lot stitches, and said we should use roughly 18! It sounds like a lot, but it is really easy to work them all in. And it gives it nice variety!

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