box of birds final

At last, the box is finished and the construction of it was more challenging than the embroidery. It’s taken me several hours every day for a week to put it together and add feet and a padded lining. More than once I had to unpick stitching and start again when things didn’t line up as I thought they should have, or wait until the blood stopped flowing after I’d pricked my finger yet again with the point or eye of the curved needle. I used Jane Lemon’s Embroidered Boxes book for the basic box construction but after countless failed attempts to get the lid to lie flat after employing her hinged lid method, I resorted to a method of my own devising which was more successful.


While making this box I realised the following: the more I sew, the more interested I am in achieving a higher standard of work than I am in reaching the finish line; that I really enjoy making three dimensional items; that being able to use a curved needle is challenging but not as difficult to do as I once thought; and that using my own solution to a problem can be very satisfying.

The completed box is approximately 15 cm wide, 10 cm deep, and 11.5 cm high. As usual, apologies for the poor lighting in the images!


box of birds lid

Here’s the little blue tit who may or may not grace the box lid together with a fat ball he’ll be hanging from. The bird is not quite finished (no beak, no feet, some turnings-under still to be done, no stuffing) and I’m not sure about the fat ball. This is the third version of a fat ball but I think it might be too high although it doesn’t look too bad in the image but I have a spare which I can reduce in size and compare.

box of birds 4th panel

The final side of the box of birds – the little dipper, keeping his feet dry on a rock in a river. The rocks are heavy duty interfacing covered with grey silk and a scrap of patterned polyester.

box of birds 3rd panel

Panel number three is the pied wagtail, balancing on a fence post.

The fence: lollipop sticks cut to size with a craft knife and coloured with wax crayons. Posts connected with craft wire. The fence is held in place with a few stitches and a spot or two of fabric glue at the base of the posts.

The purple flowers/grapes: see yesterday’s post.

Tendrils: thread dipped in fabric stiffener solution then wrapped around a wire. Uncoiled when dry and stab stitched to fabric.

Grasses: Chopped up scraps of free-machine embroidery from a few years ago.


box of birds flowers

This past week I’ve been working on the background for the pied wagtail but it’s not quite finished so you’ll have to wait a day or two for the main reveal. The image shows little triangles of colonial knots with a few french knots in between, stitched onto water-soluble interfacing. I tried colonial knots a long time ago but couldn’t easily convert from right to left-handed instructions so gave up on them until The Left Handed Embroiderer’s Companion by Yvette Stanton made me think again and with my hoop clamped and both hands free, I find they’re not difficult at all and I’m now a fan. I can’t make up my mind whether these triangles are less like wisteria (my original intention) than bunches of grapes but I don’t think the wagtail will mind either.

box of birds 2nd panel

The robin is now stitched to his perch. I stretched sufficient silk over a base layer of muslin on my Millenium frame to give enough room for another panel to be stitched before the fabric comes off the frame so I’ll have to cover up the robin so it doesn’t get damaged while I stitch the next bird. The branch is soft cord with a wire inserted along the core and then wrapped with knitting yarn. The wired leaf was made a couple of weeks ago using Appleton’s crewel wool.

box of birds tree stuff

After I’d posted the branch samples, Joyce of Little Felt Houses asked if I’d thought about using wrapped wire. I had discounted this method but Joyce’s comment prompted a rethink.  Thank you Joyce! It was quick and easy to do and the wire can easily be manipulated into shape. It needs finessing a little but the method is a definite keeper.


I also made a 4cm long wired leaf this week. Any wired leaf instructions I’ve ever read have not specified a particular fabric to use but I’ve never been entirely happy that it’s virtually impossible to trim the fabric back to the edge of the leaf without leaving a few stray fabric threads which then have to be camouflaged by colouring with a marker pen or glued down. A eureka moment came last week when I watched a YouTube video showing a stumpwork leaf being worked on organza. Naturally, I had to try it for myself. My organza was a cheap polyester variety but it held up quite well and because the organza fibres are fine, it was fairly easy to trim them back. No colouring or gluing required! According to the RSN Stumpwork book which arrived in the post yesterday morning, any fine fabric can be used for wired shapes. Why have I never considered this myself?


I couched the wire in red thread so that it would be easy to see when unpicking it and then realised when I was actually doing so that the couching thread should have been the same as the leaf, since the fabric and the resultant leaf would never be separated. And yes, it was difficult to unpick. Two strands of green DMC embroidery cotton used throughout. Buttonhole stitch around the wire and a row of badly applied split stitch along the inner edge.


The front of the leaf. More un-fabulous stitching, this time satin stitch with overcast stitch for the central vein.


The back of the leaf with even more rubbishy stitching and can you spot a couple of organza fibres? I didn’t see them until after the image was taken with the camera’s macro setting. They show how fine the organza fibres are but now I know they’re there I could easily snip them off.