Archive for the ‘goldwork’ Category

Do you want to see why? Here is my framed practice cloth with all six different leaves stitched with the stitches called for in the chartpak.


I stitched these leaves with the specified silk thread and the different stitches I’ve been trying to learn. Not a single one of these leaves is acceptable. Not one. See how crude they are?

Now here are all my practice cloths.


Reading from left to right, upper row first, you can see the approximate order in which I worked the practice leaves. You’ve seen the ones in the upper row before.  I think I even showed you the first two or three leaves stitched on the framed cloth after I thought I could do them well enough. I was wrong.

It’s not that I haven’t learned how to make the stitches. I can do nice straight rows of all the stitches, including the up-and-down detached buttonhole stitch that I so struggled to learn. Here’s where I first tried that stitch.


Leaf A was my first attempt at up-and-down detached buttonhole. Sadly, this is the only practice leaf on which I got the curve down the middle between the two values of green and the stitch is wrong, lots of mistakes.  See how lumpy it is? This is a stitch I invented.

On leaf B I did basic detached buttonhole to see whether I could get that curve. Nope.

At C you see detached buttonhole stitch over “metal” thread (Kreinik fine braid) foundation and at D you can see knotted detached buttonhole over the same braid foundation–threads carried across the leaf.

So I tried again, on another piece of old bedsheet.


The arrows point to sections of the leaves where the up-and-down buttonhole stitch looks the way it’s supposed to. But notice the holes and the denser areas. And the curve is conspicuously missing. I haven’t figured out how to add and subtract stitches at either side, maintaining the spacing evenly; and I haven’t figured out how to achieve the inside curve. Nevertheless, I went ahead and tried it on my framed practice cloth of motifs, with the other leaves.


It’s very easy to see how primitive this stitching is. If you can see the numbers,

#1 is trellis stitch.

#2 is knotted detached buttonhole stitch.

#3 is basic detached buttonhole over gold braid.

#4 is up-and-down detached buttonhole stitch over gold braid.

#5 is knotted detached buttonhole where I used mostly dark green so I could just practice the stitch. It is better here than in #2, which is the same stitch.

#6 is my last attempt at up-and-down detached buttonhole. Notice that it is worked along the long side of the leaf, whereas the other leaves are stitched in rows across the length. None of these is good enough.

The curved plaited braid stitch, however, is not too bad. It’s the second attempt (on this practice cloth). Here’s the first try.


Oh man, what a mess. I just cut right through the middle of that line of stitches and brushed the bits into my waste basket. It is virtually impossible to unstitch plaited braid stitch. I know because I have done it.

Here’s a close-up of the second attempt.


Not as pretty as experienced embroiderers produce, but I can live with it. And I expect I will improve with working all the curved lines of the design.

What I haven’t done is keep track of the time I’ve spent on this practice. That’s probably all to the good, as it might further discourage me. Nor have I kept track of the time I’ve just spent getting the pictures for this post. Thirty-some shots, not all at once, but a few at a time. I looked at them in the computer, then tried getting better pictures. Over and over.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been tempted to give up or how many times I have asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”  And, “Why can’t I produce good stitching?” It is VERY hard for me to give up. That is a strength, but it is also a weakness, as I drive myself too hard, always trying to do things that are beyond my skill level, always trying to do better. But this is really bad. I don’t know…..

In case you’re wondering, I am still reading physics. A commenter directed me to two books on physics and metaphysics by a physicist. I am finding them fascinating, compelling. I can’t stop that project, either.

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This year, grandson Matt will graduate from Case Western Reserve University, planning to go on to graduate school in physics. In 2005, he graduated from Friends School here in Baltimore. Here I’m going to show you how I made his high school graduation gift. For each of my projects, I keep a journal to document the process. So here is that journal. Is there anyone interested in reading this?

March 9, 2005. Although I’d been thinking about making a crazy patchwork quilt for Noah, even tacking clip_image002materials I might use to the bulletin board, today I began work on Matt’s graduation gift. After first fooling around with the idea of using a fractal image as the basis for stitchery, I gave that up as too complex and maybe not doable, or at least, not without a lot of experimentation. Then, out of the blue, while meditating yesterday, I got the idea of basing a design on Case Western Reserve University’s logo. I found it at their Website, printed it, traced it, and began thinking of ways to embroider it. This I think clip_image004I can do handsomely, using sadi (Do go read about sadi.) and Rajmahal art silk threads, gold and blue, or maybe gold, silver, and blue. On paper, I’ve begun playing with design and stitching ideas, researching filling stitches for more ideas.


March 11. I’ve framed up a practice cloth of a silky material, ordered silks from Thai Silks, begun to prepare an order for Rajmahal, and I’m still playing with design ideas. Now it’s filling stitches for inside the logo and surrounding it. I think I’ll use a red thread somehow in the logo filling to represent Friends School.

March 21. For the past ten days I’ve been working on the design, making thumbnails of various ways to surround the logo, experimenting with different values, and trying different sizes. Belatedly I thought of using graph paper for creating matrix fillings. And even later I realized that I had the scale wrong in my thumbnails, so I reduced graph paper on the computer to give me the correct scale to practice on.

Yesterday I think I settled on the final design and its size—6.5 x 7.5. clip_image012Next comes the stitching plan. I intend to stitch this piece in traditional silk and metal thread embroidery, but there are still many, many decisions to be made about colors (values, since I know it’s going to be blue and gold), weight of threads, types of gold materials, and so on. Lots of experimenting to do on a practice cloth.

The last thing I did yesterday was to transfer half of the design to my practice cloth, on which I’d already begun trying out some matrix filling stitches–traditional stitches. The logo will be done in goldwork, but that will require testing and practice to find the technique that works best with this shape.


March 27. Now I’m stitching my practice cloth, which I’ve decided to call a study. Using the Rajmahal threads I plan to use in the final piece, I’ve been trying out my ideas for stitching—laid filling for the blue part of the logo, matrix filling for the two borders. Still haven’t decided for sure how to use red, which I want to incorporate to represent Friends School and to give added liveliness to the otherwise monochromatic color scheme. Haven’t made much progress in the past week because of a dentist’s appointment and a trip to the National Gallery of Art.

April 4. This project is going very slowly. Last week I had an ophthalmologist appointment, our mailman’s retirement party, and cooking Indian dishes for our party every day from Wednesday till Saturday. Yesterday I went to Matt’s choir concert. Now I have to settle down to work steadily on this piece.


After doing all these studies, I discovered that the reason why I could not get perfect squares with the three threads lined up in battlement couching is because the Rajmahal threads are too slick and slippery. When I experimented with cotton threads, the couching looked just the way I wanted it to—a shadowbox effect.


I also thought of a better way of stitching the outside edge of the logo—using six-strand couching. It looks much smoother than the lines of laid threads.


Cutting the sadi pieces all the same length is a challenge. The sadi is not straight, so it’s difficult to judge the length. I have decided on the size of the loops I want to make, though. Now I need to do more studies of filling stitches for the outer border. When I’ve decided on how to do that, I’ll practice the goldwork for the logo.

April 7. Yesterday I stitched more studies for the outer border. I prefer numbers 4 and 5 and couldn’t decide which, if either, of these I’ll use.


To help me decide, I drew thumbnails to see how my two favorite patterns would look in the whole design.



Today I’ve begun padding the logo for goldwork. The purpose of this study is to determine what materials and how much to use for the padding under the goldwork. I’ve couched down four strands of tan craft thread and covered that with 18 strands of gold silk thread. Already I can see that the corners as I’ve stitched the padding are rounded, not as square as I want them to be. I’m going to try covering the remaining tan padding with gold felt, to see what differences there are when I attach the gold over the different paddings.

April 9. Here’s the first study in goldwork. I haven’t yet got the length of the sadi right. I think the line looks too broad. Haven’t yet decided whether to use some silver sadi in this metal work. And I have to work out which way to slant the stitches. It’s starting to look better. I tried pearl sadi as outline and decided that I like all gold better than mixed silver and gold.



April 11. Today I attached the foundation fabric and the ground fabric to the frame and transferred the design. I’m still not satisfied with the technical aspects of the goldwork, nor am I sure of the pattern for the outer border, but I will work these out, maybe with more studies, as I proceed. I’ve learned to keep going, even when I lack confidence.

clip_image036April 14. I’m not satisfied with the red accents and am going to unstitch them.

clip_image038The reason why I was dissatisfied with the red stitches is because I screwed up when I drew the center matrix. I intended to have “a” and instead I drew “b”. Oh well, it won’t spoil the final effect. I used dark blue to create the accents.

April 21. The Japanese use temporary holding stitches to keep long laid stitches in place until the permanent matrix stitches are put down. Then the temporary stitches are removed. I didn’t think to do that with the long stitches in the logo. Consequently, they didn’t stay in straight lines as I put the matrix stitches over them. Lesson learned. I’m learning a lot from doing this piece.

I used 18 lengths of DMC dark gold cotton floss for the padding. That was exactly the amount of padding needed. However, the goldwork in the logo does not satisfy me: there are broken and misshapen purls; not all the purls are the same length; in one place the padding was not as heavy (some threads pulled out and I thought it wouldn’t matter) and so the line of goldwork looks a little skimpy; and the corners are not perfect. But it doesn’t look bad enough for me to feel I have to do it over. To the untrained eye, it will look spectacular. Only I will know how much better it could be.

April 24. With the sadi purl and the Rajcord outlines in place, the laid threads look okay. I can detect only two gaps that I may be able to fix or compensate for.


The first sadi loops I made (lower left) are uneven. After doing them, I worked out a technique to cut all the purls the same length and to attach them without inadvertently pulling the thread too tight, thus breaking or distorting the purls. I’m pleased with the last three I did yesterday.


April 29. The grid lines in the outer border have not been stitched down yet, as I’m still deciding whether they should be heavier, have more threads added.


I’m also still experimenting with various ways of adding filling stitches. Here  is one study worked on the grid– using three strands of silk for the grid.


I’m having trouble controlling the multiple strands of silk in the lazy daisy stitches and the French knots. In addition to trying different numbers of strands of thread, I’m also going to try using a different needle, a straw or milliner’s needle, which may work better with the French knots.

I had to stitch some of the gold loops in the inner border several times to get them right. Some of them are still a little irregular. I may decide to redo them when I’ve finished the outer border, before framing it. Precision is part of the beauty of this kind of work, not my forte! But an irregular kind of design would not work with the Case logo. Or at least, this is the design I came up with that I liked best. So I have to stitch it appropriately. If I’m unable to master a technique for this filling stitch pattern, I’ll have to go to a different pattern.

May 2. After experimenting with four threads in the milliner’s needle and different stitches, I settled on six strands and drew a grid for practice. I also used the tekobari to separate the strands so they would lay smoothly parallel. What a difference! This study is much prettier than previous ones.


I’ve finally got it—the material, the tools, and the technique—stitching very slowly and shaping the lazy daisies and French knots with the tekobari and my fingers as I slowly pull the thread through. Now I’m back to working on the final piece, adding three strands of thread to the grid lines, which I will stitch down with cross stitches in three strands of 126, to match the lines. The lazy daisies and French knots will be in 122.

May 9. Looks like I’m going to run out of 122, so I’ve ordered more. I had just enough of 126, but ordered more just in case. I’ve almost finished stitching the outer border and have definitely decided to replace some of the gold loops. I’m also going to add a line of six strands of 126 couched between the inner and outer borders. The frame is assembled and looks great against the embroidery.

May 18. While waiting for the threads to arrive, I replaced eight of the gold sadi loops. By the way, the red I wanted to incorporate for Friends School is in the center of those gold loops. Today I finished Matt’s gift. It’s all framed and ready to give. It took 90 hours to complete this project, 16.5 hours of that on design.


A better shot on Flickr.

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After reading my post about surprising goldwork from Croatia, my friend Elisabeth has sent me information about traditional goldwork in her home district of Austria. I’ve copied and posted a few shots of girls wearing the goldwork caps, apparently for a festive celebration that included a procession. Click on the images for enlargements.





These photos are from


You can see more examples of truly magnificent work here. This is the website she left in her comment. I’m asking Ernie, once fluent in German, to read and tell me as much about this work as he can. It is truly amazing.

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Very surprising goldwork

Dear Friends, if you would like to see some ravishingly beautiful and VERY unusual use of goldwork, please go to Goranka’s website. There you’ll see bras, corsets (YES!), and purses, as well as goldwork pictures. By all means, take a look!

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Here’s the finished block, after 115 hours of stitching since April, not including the design process.

Try as I may, I could not get a picture that shows the gleam and play of light on the silks, golds, and pearls as the piece actually appears. Further down, you can click on the Flickr pictures for better views.

And now to recap.

This project began in 2005, when I first conceived the desire to create a series of embroideries on the theme of the S shape. For several years, I had been thinking about words that described my life as it had become–housebound and very limited; and all the words began with S. In fact, I began a Mind Map to collect my ideas as early as 2004. At the time I got the idea to make embroideries using the S shape in the designs, I was listening to Bach Partitas, and I thought I would like to make a stitched “partita”–a set of variations on a theme. But it was not until 2006 that I got to work on the idea seriously. By this time I had 14 S words that I wanted to make embroideries for.

I developed the specifications for what I wanted to produce and then began designing. For a few months in 2006, that was all I did–research, doodling, and making finished designs for stitching in various techniques. Then life intervened, and what with making wedding, graduation, birth, birthday, and other gifts; and taking several online courses, I didn’t do any more work on this project until April of this year.

Here is the first of the 11 designs (of 14) I have completed for this project. I did this in March 2006. You may be able to see the date in the upper right corner. In May 2006 I wrote some notes at the bottom about techniques and materials to consider for this design.

When I went back to it this year, I drew in some more tentative ideas for seam treatments, just preliminary sketches, and wrote some more notes about stitches and materials I wanted to use. I had learned a lot since 2006, and I was eager to use my new skills and knowledge on this long-term project.

If you’ve been following along, you may remember that I used my first drawing to make patterns for the patches.

You can read all about that process here:


It takes me so long to stitch things partly because I lack the skills and experience to do what I want to do. With every piece I make, there’s a practice cloth. Here’s where I tried out stitches, threads, and other materials for this block.

I should have done a lot more practicing and trials on this cloth because I unstitched and reworked many parts of the block.

While I was struggling with this block (I do much better stitching from a design and complete stitching plan than making it as I go), I had no idea how I would finish it. I didn’t want to frame it. After asking Barbara Curiel about how she had finished this block (thanks, Barbara), I remembered how I had finished the quilt I made for grandson Noah. There I used my old denim skirt for the backing, folding it around the front to form a border or band.

That’s what I did for this block. After figuring out how to make a label for it, which involved another practice cloth for trying different threads and stitches, and learning that my water-soluble pen spread on this silk, leaving no clear line for following,

I stitched my signature and the date and attached that label to silk brocade which I then backed with Pellon fusible fleece. Believe me, getting that silk to fold into mitered corners was not like working with denim. I spent three hours on that alone, and still the corners are not perfect. But it is as good as I can make it. I used silk floss to buttonhole over bone craft rings for hangers.

This block is entirely hand-stitched.

I’m not sure this is a better shot, but you can see more detail if you click on this image. You can also enlarge it by clicking on All Sizes above the Flickr image. And I’ve left notes on that image about some of the details for those who may be interested.

And here’s the back:

After thinking about this project for so long, I can hardly believe I’ve actually finished it. That is, I’ve finished the first of what I hope will be 14 embroideries, each in a different style. Will I live long enough? 🙂 The next one will not be crazy patchwork, much as I love doing that.

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For the corners of my block, Carole Samples has graciously given me permission to use some of her fan designs. I’ve chosen the ones shown in the corners of her block design on page 219 of Treasury of Crazyquilt Stitches. Here’s how I’ve used her designs. First, I copied the page and cut out the fans I wanted to use to make sure they were the right size for my corner patches. I think maybe I could have enlarged them a bit to fit the scale of the rest of the block, but I didn’t want to completely cover the lovely silk brocade fabric.

To transfer the designs I used the “prick and pounce” method. Here is one of the fan designs with my tekobari, ready to prick it.

Instead of pounce, which is a powder, I used my water-soluble pen to get these dots on the fabric.

Here’s another corner fan, stitched but not yet spritzed.

I should also point out that the nice squares stitched around the tiny seashells you can see in the first photo were done using Pam Kellogg’s waste canvas method.

Here’s a glimpse of my preparation to stitch another seam using waste canvas. I will definitely be using this method to enable me to get more elaborate stitches, perfectly spaced.

The curved chain stitch seam treatment was done using one of Carole Samples’ templates. I’ve replaced the flower motif above with the one you see here ….

and made some more additions to this seam and patch. But you’ll have to wait to see them. No shots yet. Unstitching this kind of work is more laborious than putting the stitches in!

Since I am unable to make perfectly placed stitches, no matter how hard I try, I really need a little help from my friends. If you don’t know Carole and Pam, I hope you will check out their websites.

Thanks for the encouraging comments. That’s help from my friends, too.

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But it’s coming along. If you click on the image, you will go to Flickr where you can see my notes about recently added details.

Now the question is: how shall I finish this block? Does it need a border? Should I frame it? What shall I do with it?

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