old mixed media piece

Humpty Dumpty isn’t quite finished so I thought I’d just show you something I did a long time ago and which hangs on a wall in Big Sis’s home. Nowadays I take photographs of nearly everything that I make but back then it just wasn’t thought of. Not having to consider the cost of film nowadays makes it easy to snap away at will and when I was last in Scotland I realised that I had no other record of this little piece but this is the best image I could get due to the reflections off the glass. It’s approximately A5 size and it’s a mixture of stumpwork, hand embroidery, stiffened fabric leaves and flowers, a little faint colouring on the fabric for sky, and handmade garden tools. It’s based on a black and white illustration in Thomasina Beck’s book, The Embroiderer’s Garden which I bought the same year I did this piece. I’m visiting Big Sis next week so I might try to take a better image of this garden scene but then again, I might be too busy taking pictures of Jasper instead!

garden embroidery


move to trash

I thought this little turtle would be something quick and easy to do but I made it more complicated. The original pattern only has a single layer of felt for the legs and the shell markings are hand embroidered. I deviated and sewed the shell markings by machine and used two layers of felt with padding for the legs and all that extra stitching and padding made it more difficult to sew together. I’ve also just realised that I forgot to add the chin strap for his party hat! At the start, I thought of him as a possible extra pin/needle cushion but needles are likely to get lost amongst the stuffing. There’s an option to ‘move to trash’ any blog post that I’m currently editing and I might just end up doing the same with this little guy or at least consigning him to the box which holds all those other not-sure-what-to-do-with-these things.


portrait three pt2

Portrait three was finished less than an hour ago. I can’t decide whether he’s an old-fashioned butcher just missing his apron or whether he’s out for a Sunday stroll to check out the local talent. Either way, his hat-holding hand took several practices until I was satisfied enough to settle for the last one. The straw boater hat was made from three layers of fine loose weave fabric, moulded over a small bottle cap, stiffened with fabric stiffener before trimming the brim to size and adding the ribbon band.





portrait three

Yesterday I began a third stumpwork portrait, another man this time, wearing a striped blazer and carrying or wearing a straw boater. I tried the Jan Messent method for his hat-holding hand but I wasn’t happy with the result. To give the fingers form, the book says to use “cord or smooth string no thicker than 1mm (1/16in)” but I used a soft crochet cotton of a similar diameter which I only had in a green shade. It all went well until the final stitching around and between the fingers. I used fine 100% nylon lingerie and bobbin thread so that I could make really small stitches and the book doesn’t give any suggestion as to what to use. I’m not sure if the lingerie thread was the main fault or I just didn’t take enough care over it (I really shouldn’t watch television and stitch at the same time I know) but it’s not suitable for this portrait anyway. A hand in this position is more often seen resting on a lady’s lap and not for doffing a hat, which is my intention.


I promised photographs if I ever made a hand the Messent way so here’s three in one, showing the process. Top left: lay a piece of stiff vilene on a base fabric, draw a hand and fingers outline then lightly glue the cord fingers in place. Lower left: add a little light padding over the back of the hand when the glue is dry then cover with the actual hand fabric. Centre: stitch around and between the fingers using small back stitches. Cut out close to the outline stitching using fabric glue/fray stop on any raw threads.



On the other hand (ha ha), here’s the stumpwork hand which is much better for my purpose. Each finger wire was bound with two strands of embroidery thread then the tip was bent over and the whole finger bound with thread from the tip all the way down to the “wrist” before securing the thread end. All the fingers and thumb were then bound together. With this method it’s possible to shape the fingers with small pliers to make the hand more realistic. I’d never made one of these hands before and I didn’t pay too much attention when I was wrapping the hand itself (blame Foyle’s War for that) so it’s a bit rough and ready. Still, it was only a test and I like how they could be made larger or smaller depending on the gauge of wire used or how finely or thickly they were wrapped. I still think that there’s something about these hands that make them look a little creepy, but we can’t have everything, can we?



Meet Beryl

I’ve had a hankering to do some stumpwork portrait-type pieces for a while now.  After spending a couple of hours on the internet this morning in the hope of finding additional tutorials but only finding images of finished pieces, I bit the bullet and just had a go based on Barbara and Roy Hirst’s book Raised Embroidery which I bought at an exhibition at the NEC Birmingham 18 years ago but which I have always backed out of using for a specific project.

Beryl was the first name that came to my mind for this first ever stumpwork portrait but it seems to suit. Her nose isn’t quite right but I believe stumpwork noses are often difficult to do. Barbara Hirst only gives noses a faint suggestion in her book and Beryl is the very first stumpwork portrait I’ve ever done so I think it’s ok. With practice, hopefully I’ll improve my technique. I intend to put Beryl in a little picture frame but as there are other head shapes on my hoop at the moment, she’ll have to wait until they’ve been given some character too. Beryl is 3.5cm across the shoulders and 3cm from the top of her hat (excluding feather) to the base of her wrap.





down time

A hat and tunic (not quite finished) for my small posable figure. The hat was made first and I think I’ll now make a yellow one in a different style to complement the tunic. Strange that I thought the french knots looked well spaced until I saw them in the photographs! The stitching was a theraputic means to while away both the hours spent on train journeys last week and to take my mind off the fact that our internet connection has been more off than on over the weekend.




more practice required

This cavalier-type gentleman was yesterday’s free motion machine embroidery effort. Features on faces are difficult to control and I know that his ear should be longer! In fact, there’s quite a lot wrong with his face but I think his hint of a smile suggests that he’s OK with his faults.

Update: JP says he looks like Guy Fawkes – I agree. His hair isn’t long enough to be a cavalier I don’t think.

This one I’ve just done in the last hour – it’s supposed to be one of the playing cards from Alice in Wonderland. My apologies to the original illustrator!