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?



Embroidered Portraits arrived today


This post is mainly a book review so I won’t be offended if you skip town now.


Jan Messent’s Embroidered Portraits arrived this morning, delivered in a grey plastic heat-sealed bag, Royal Mail approved for sending books, and there was no unnecessary extra packing inside unlike yesterday’s delivery. Once I’d taken the book out of the bag I sat down for a long read and there are indeed plenty of ideas, inspiration and techniques just as it says on the cover. The cover photograph shows a portrait that is pure embroidery with no appliqué or raised work of any kind and I thought that was slightly misleading.  You wouldn’t know from the cover that there are no such projects in the book although there are additional photographs and approximately half a page of text explaining how it was embroidered.

Facial features for the rest of the portraits are either painted with watercolours, drawn with coloured pencils, or embroidered and the excellent close-up photographs throughout the book make it easy to see just what was done and how. Supplies required to make a portrait are cheap to buy and easy to source if you don’t have them already. The costumes can be made from scraps of fabric and lace or even worked partly or all in needlelace if you were so inclined although this book doesn’t show you how to do needlelace. The texts for the construction methods for three types of head (full frontal, profile and three-quarters) are easy to follow and there are plenty of accompanying photographs to refer to. There are lots of suggestions for making hair, wigs and costumes and Jan even has an alternative to the wrapped-wire hands generally found in stumpwork, using cord-padded fabric cut into a hand shape and outline stitched around the cord to indicate fingers. I can’t post a photograph from the book to explain this so you’ll have to wait until I make some myself. Or buy a copy of the book for yourself, I certainly recommend it if you think you’d like this kind of craft.

This afternoon I began to read the book in greater depth but I just couldn’t wait ’til I got to the end before ‘having a go’. This is where I got to after about an hour and a half. Still a long way to go and at the moment it reminds me of Boy George – no insult intended! I haven’t yet decided if it will be male or female or what the hairstyle or the costume might be but I’m sure I’ll have fun choosing. I got so involved in this that I forgot to go to my exercise class but as far as I’m concerned there’s no contest!


birthday books

In April I made stumpwork portraits of Beryl and Doris, using the internet and one or two books I have for assistance. I haven’t attempted any more although I have often thought since then about how B and D could have been better but can’t quite figure out what it is that I’m not happy with. I have a birthday soon and my sons are treating me to some books so I’ve ordered Jan Messent’s Embroidered Portraits which I hope will provide me with the answers I’m seeking.

I also ordered New Designs in Raised Embroidery by Barbara and Roy Hirst, a follow-up in 1997 to their Raised Embroidery which was first published in 1993 and which I bought a copy of at an exhibition in 1996. It’s a delight to read but I confess that although I’ve used their techniques many times I’ve never attempted an actual project from the book. I’m hoping that New Designs won’t just be a re-hash of the first book with some different pictures.

Making a scotty dog from scraps of felt and a little bird from a home-made pattern is one thing but I would like to make different animals too and I know I don’t have the inclination to attempt my own patterns for them so when I spotted Stitched Safari: 18 Adorable Animals To Make With Felt by Tomomi Maeda I ordered that too, particularly as one comprehensive review mentioned dogs being included. What fun!


I ordered the books through Amazon.co.uk if you want to check them out yourself and read the reviews. There were lots of other books I wanted to order but I had to draw a line and there’s always Christmas. Once I’ve got these three in my twitchy little fingers and had a chance to read them I’ll let you know what I think of them.