Topsell, finished

topsell_finished 003

topsell_finished 001

topsell_finished 002

As you can see, I’ve finished Topsell as a slip (on padded card),  attached the slip to a green background, added some long stitches under his feet as in the original etching and then attached that to a green/gold background. I’ve just finished stitching calico to the back of the green/gold background to hide the lacing. Finished!

I’ll do a post about lacing Topsell onto card separately.


Topsell, a stylish Gentleman

Topsell the 17th c Cat

Topsell the 17th c Cat


I’ve very pleased with my interpretation of the original woodprint :

topsell_originalI didn’t get his eyes right….I’m beginning to think that, never mind all the various techniques in embroidery, it’s faces that are the hardest thing to do!

I had made his thigh a little large (that area of light stitching).  I was really reluctant to frog it, since it’s 1 over tent stitch on 38 count. Lesley U, my mentor, suggested that I use Jo Sonya craft paint, lightly, to cover over the area. It worked rather well.  I used plain water (Jo Sonya paint is soluble in water) to blur the lines of paint over the several colours of stitching in that area.

The linen distorted pretty badly. I didn’t think blocking would help – Topsell is one solid piece of stitching! I’ve cut the edges straight – and the right edge is coming in really close to the shadow at the bottom there.  I’ve decided that I’m going to cut him out and do him as a slip on a background, re-stitching his whiskers and the shadows under him.  Now to decide what I want to use as a background…….


Tail-less Topsell

Almost done….



An image I’ve been familiar with and wanting to do for awhile (given my adoration of cats) is  from Edward Topsell’s “History of Four Legged Beasts and Serpents and Insects” (1657). Multiple eyebrows,  giant weird thing above his nose and all, it’s a very distinctive sort of cat.

topsell_originalI’ve found a German wood print (? I think) of this image. ( )


I’ve been stitching my version of Topsell’s cat for “easy” work. Tent stitch on 32 count linen using the AVAS D’Alger threads I won from the 12 Days of Christmas competition Tricia/Thistle Threads held last year. I call the piece (and hence the cat I’m creating) “Topsell” for short.

topsell 001

He’s 17cm (6.7″) high – a fair bit of stitching but in this winter cold, my Fibromyalgia plays up so I’m quite happy to curl up and do some straight forward stitching.

Funny to think that I was completely intimidated by tent stitch when I started it, but now it’s an ‘easy’ stitch for me. I’ve found that the far the best way to get each stitch looking plump (and if in flat silk, jewel like) is the “L” stitch approach. That is, to form an “L” on the back of the ground between each stitch. This approach does use a lot of thread. Jacqui Carey has a wonderful diagram of where to move for each new stitch, as if the needle were a pawn on a chess board, in her book “Elizabethan Stitches”. Tension is also all important – I find pulling firm at the end of each needle stab is working for me. It’s all about getting a rhythm, because inconsistent tensioning of the stitches really stands out because the stitch is so simple. I’ve also found that the completion of the first part of a stitch, pulling firm, cements the tension of stitch before.

I particularly how his legs have turned out

topsell 003And his face

topsell 002

He’s a startle-eye cat, rather than a sleepier looking one, like the original. And yes, that is a (real) cat hair sitting over his top of his nose. There is approximately half a cat stitched into this piece, due to the proximity of my cats in this cold weather.

I feel there is a disconnect between his chest colour and the rest of him at the moment, but it should all come together when I do his (circular) thigh and his tail. I’m using colour changes for the colour of his fur, his anatomy (such as to make his chin and cheeks stand out, and the difference between his chest and his body), and to reproduce the flavour of the original etching – all of which has been a bit of a balancing act. Getting his thigh looking right will be a bit tough – the lines I drew are not quite right and definitely far too numerous – but I’ll figure it out.

I’m saving doing his whiskers for last. I’m thinking a fine, highly twisted thread for those.

Silver Thread and Silk Wrapped Purl

s-w purl silver stem 006

Having covered the stem in silver passing, I found out that there was a problem, pointed out by friends.  The passing was too thick. The loops formed on the side of the stem sat out such that the gold twist (or any other thread) could not sit comfortably up against the stem but was pushed out by, and left the loops (complete with all of the grey thread stitches couching down the passing) exposed.

I tried another silver thread in my stash – tambour thread. This was too thin in the coverage of the felt – the felt was sitting up inbetween the couched tambour strands.  I then ordered a variety of silver threads from Alison Cole, and settled on a 3 ply twist, laid length wise along the stem with no felt padding – how the original motif was done.

While I was waiting on the post, I thought I’d have a go at a silk wrapped purl motif. I did basket stitch (trellis work) of s-w purl over s-w purl

trellis s-w purl trial 001….and decided that I didn’t like it. You have to pick a colour for the horizontal lines of s-w purl, and between that and using several shades of s-w purl to colour the flower, and the texture and height of s-w purl in general, it was just too visually messy for me.

I decided that I wanted to basket s-w purl over a gold thread.

Late one night, I threw down the already used purl over a couple of gilt threads.

Some medium rococco :

trellis s-w purl trial 002I wanted to try the rococco because I wanted an organic feel. However, the dips in the rococco thread dictate where the s-w purl can be laid – or if you ignore the dips, it makes it sit funny. Maybe some fine rococco would work better (I don’t have any)  Ok….next…..

Some 3 ply gilt twist :

trellis s-w purl trial 003I liked this as soon as I tried it, and went no further in my trials. The particular colour of this twist worked really nicely with the s-w purl as well.

So, going on to do it properly, with some fine microsurgery to secure the unwrapping ends of the s-w purl chips…..I’m happy with the effect – I like it a lot better than the s-w purl basketed over s-w purl, which I showed at the beginning of this post.

s-w purl over s-w purl trials 001

I’ve been given direction to do the gilt twist outline before laying down the s-w purl, and to do it after. I was told to do it after to help pack the s-w purl together and to avoid having any of the outline hidden by the s-w purl. However, I found that in doing the outline second, my laying of the twist was dictated by the shapes formed by the purl, resulting in a rather round bulgy flower top. Not the pointy fleur-de-lys/acanthus type tips that I was after. So I’m going to do the next bits outline first to compare.

At the size of the motif I’m doing, there wasn’t room to do basket stitch in that left hand spur, so I did “humping”, a method Tricia taught us.

Silvering the Stem

After doing the butterfly, doing the stem in silver metal thread was next.

First, the padding.

s-w purl silver stem 001


I had done the attachment stitches at about 1/2 cm apart. (er, 0.2 of an inch). When I showed this to Leslie at her EGV Guidance Group, she said to go over my stitches with a lot more stitches than were much closer together – about 1mm apart. This would help the felt sit nicely flat, so the metal thread would sit properly in turn. She mentioned that this was where artificial felt acted differently to proper wool woven felt.  The only grey felt I had was artificial. It got all tufty as the fibres broke up, and wasn’t completely flat.  This  didn’t end up being a problem for this piece, but I think investment in proper felt for padding is worth it in the future.

The original piece used silver twist. I didn’t have any so I used B&J (Benton and Johnson) #4 silver gilt passing. Chris from Lesley’s Guidance Group suggested I’d be making life very painful for myself if I attempting to lay the passing in a pattern in any way similar manner to the original twist and thought laying it at an angle across the stem would be a better idea,  couching it down at each side

Partially done. I started in the middle to help get the angle of the thread correct.

Partially done. I started in the middle to help get the angle of the thread correct.

I finally realised why one would want a mellor. I spent a lot of time pushing the threads together with my fingernail and you’re not supposed to touch the stuff anymore than necessary or it’ll tarnish. Tweezers bruised the thread, exposing the cotton core.

Felt Padding

Felt Padding

I’m pleased with this – I got a bit of a pattern going as I went backwards and forwards over the thread and covered the felt well. Lesley had advised me to trim the felt so it’s edges ended just inside my drawn line. Then I did my couching stitches on the drawn outline – so the stem ended up at the size I drew it.

The last piece of silver was the vein of the leaf. I did this in #16 B&J silver gilt passing. I thought using the thicker passing thread would look better than using more passes of a finer passing thread for a leaf vein.

s-w purl silver stem 005Next, gold twist!



My work order for the trinket box side is

  1. the butterfly (silk thread)
  2. the flower stem (silver passing)
  3. outlining the motif (gold twist)
  4. silk wrapped purl

Silk thread always goes down before the metal thread because otherwise it can catch on the metal thread stitched onto the ground and be damaged. The s-w purl goes down last, using the same principle, and also because it can be accidentally crushed.

I’ve done the butterfly…..


Satin Stitching

Satin Stitching

I tore up a few suga of a thread at the chinline with a single swipe of the point of my laying tool, so pulled them down to the side and secured them using just a few suga from the matching thread. Those are secure stitches for a waste knot over on the wing.

Long and short stitching

Long and short stitching


Outlining and an eye

Outlining and an eye

I’ve found darkest brown works better than black for outlining – it’s not as stark, but still shows up well. A personal choice. From my observations, outlining of motifs in the original period embroidery could be

  1. a shade a bit darker than to the darkest shade used in the motif,  (particularly when the outline was gimp)
  2. a dark brown
  3. less common : the drawn outline left exposed
  4. I’ve seen a couple of examples where a light coloured thread was used for outlining
  5. You can tell when black thread was used, because the thread has broken/come away/stained the ground because of the black’s acidic properties.

but whichever approach was used, it remained consistent throughout the piece.

Silk Wrapped Purl Motif for Trinket Box Side

For my next Trinket Box panel, I’m doing a motif based on

S-w purl flower original

Even tho I saved down the image from the Met Museum, I think that the photo above is about as clear as mud. You can see it much better if you go to the original, if you care to, and check it out here :*&what=Textiles%7cSatin%7cCase+furniture&pos=3#fullscreen

Click on to see the details about the piece.

I’m going for the motif in the lower right corner. The motif is edged in a couched gold twist thread. The stem of the flower slip is edged in the same way but filled with a silver twist thread.

This is the line drawing I worked up

s-w purl line drawingThe top middle really needed a space filler. The original has a little bug. I’m not into bugs and decided to use a butterfly instead.

Coloured :

s-w purl motif coloursI recognise the flower as being a daffodil, but the original wasn’t in yellow and I want to keep to the colour scheme used on my trinket box panels so far – russet and blues. (Even if the flower looks a bit pink on your monitor, it’s actually 2 shades of russet and a cream)

Here are the s-w purls supplied for the Trinket Box that I’ve selected to use on this motif :

s-w purl colours 001

The twist (well, it’s a gimp) I show was a present from Fran. It’s marked “Vintage Russian Silk Gimp on Silk”.  It’s quite stiff and a lovely old gold colour. It should hold the sharp shapes required by the motif well. I’m thinking of filling the stem with a silver purl, mostly because I don’t have any silver twist in my stash.

The techniques used with applying the s-w purl are looping and basket stitch. These have been taught in the TT Stumpwork course.

s-w purl techniques


The long and short stitch butterfly will be done in silk thread.

And that’s pretty much it! I’m currently setting up a slate frame to stitch it on – I want really good tension so all of that s-w purl doesn’t do anything evil like bow after it comes after the frame. I’m adding a calico/muslin backing, to support the weight of all that purl.




Mr Fishie Finished


Here is Mr Fishie, finished!

Mr_Fishie 018

I added the zig zag plate – this is an unusual plate available from the Thistle Thread website. It’s much finer than the ‘usual’ flat plate. I don’t have any flat plate in my stash at the moment, or I’d do a comparison photo for you. The total zig-zag width is a bit narrower than flat plate from memory. tho it’s sold out at the moment.

Adding the moss really added life and dimensionality to the piece.

Mr_Fishie 019


Two sides of the box down, three to go!!

Mr_Fishie 020

Mr Fishie Himself

The top of my stumpwork trinket box isn’t to the (Thistle Thread stumpwork class) design – it’s my own. I’ve designed it to tie in with the front of the box, a grotto, which I was posted about at

Mr Fishie design drawingThe writing is unreadable, but never mind. It gives you the overall idea. I’ll explain as I go along.

Today I’m going to talk about the construction of Mr Fishie Himself. He’s based on, which shows the whole piece. The relevant bit is (from the centre bottom) :


Lesley U, my EGV (Embroidery Guild of Victoria) Guidance Group mentor, advised me to do a ‘slip in hand’. That is, the padding and linen top are all of one piece before it is attached to the ground rather than attaching the padding to the ground and the top over that. You can do tiny stitches to attach this 3 dimensional object, rather than having to use an outline (such as a gimp) to hide the attachment stitches. The original Mr Fishie doesn’t have an outline so I went for this technique.

Working from the paper design, I made the felt padding – 2 layers of wool felt backed by interfacing. The interfacing, I learnt from Mary Corbet, makes the wool much neater in the cutting. I also found that the extra strength was useful when making up the in hand slip. There is a second layer underneath the layer shown, smaller than the top layer.

Felt padding

Felt padding

Then I worked with calico (muslin) to find the right size for the actual fish while leaving enough unstitched linen on the borders to be able to be stitched around the felt.

Mr_Fishie 008


Then I stitched Mr Fishie

Mr_Fishie 011and added an eye. The eye was from (thanks, Fran!)

…coloured the unstitched border with a felt pen, rather than having white edges show up against the ground Mr Fish was going to be attached to

Mr_Fishie 012I used a little fray check so the linen wouldn’t fray itself into oblivion and got a little colour run onto the silk stitches. Lord knows what is in Fray Check.

A quick check to make sure the stitching and felt were a good fit…..

Mr_Fishie 013


Then I cut the shapes out and attached them to the felt

Mr_Fishie 016

Mr_Fishie 015

Yes, Mr Fishie already has a pool to swim in. More on that later.