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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.






Grotto for the 17thC

The major and final kit for the first 18 months of the Thistle Thread Stumpwork Casket course is shown at - a small trinket box that uses various of the techniques we’ve learnt.

The front panel is a grotto – a traditional motif in 17thC stumpwork.  Here’s mine :


Here’s a bigger version of the pic, but it gets cut off on the right hand side…..


The techniques include 2 versions of velvet stitch (a 17thC stitch), french knots, couched gimp, silk wrapped purl in loops and chips and long and short stitch. The water is created from gilt sylke twist, silk wrapped purl and gimp. The coral is made from flat silk over thread padding.

Things I learnt :

- to couch gimp from the outside in, in order to maintain the funny bulgy shape required by the rocks. Yes, that final line of gimp will fit in with a little tweezer persuasion

- I don’t like chipped s-w purl so much. I’m a real ‘shade’ person and it’s too blocky for me. I also cut most of my chips too long.

- In the historical pieces, the s-w loops are very evenly laid both vertically and horizontally. I like what I did on the left looped rock – a lot of random placement. I think it looks more natural, but that’s my personal preference, not really the correct thing to do.

- With the water, it was easy to couch everything (with care not to crush the s-w purl with the side of my hand), but hard to persuade the gimp close enough to the other threads to hide the ground.  Some of it disappeared a bit under the s-w purl.

The piece is laced onto a piece of cardboard to maintain the tension until it’s Finished onto the small wooden box we’ve been provided. I have another 4 sides to complete before I get up to Finishing, tho.

We’ve hit the 18th lesson of the Course this month. The Stumpwork component will start in March next year.  I’m really glad that there is a bit of a break because there were 1700 odd pages and who knows how many links to relevant historical pieces on the Web in the 18 lessons of Part 1 and I need more time to study all of it.

Here’s some pics of some grottos from historical pieces :

From a mirror at


The rocks here look to be made from stretched silk wrapped purl. Perhaps with some french knots or drizzle stitch in a ring of browns around the edge near the water there? I need better magnification to see better. Or better eyes. The fish in padded and detached needlelace (the kind of thing we’ll be doing in Part 2 of the course).  For the water – there looks to be some colour on the ground between the two fish tails in green/blue/cream – perhaps satin or long and short stitch?

It’s typical to have fish/es and/or a mermaid occupying a 17thC stumpwork grotto. In the case of the trinket box grotto, the use of silk wrapped purl for the water makes adding a creature a more advanced technique!

Remember the fish towards the rear of the water- you’ll be seeing him again.

From the mirror featured in


Rocks and water in long and short stitch – and the coral done in what may possible be couched silver thread that’s gone black?

And from, a grotto which is more like the one we’re doing for the trinket box :


I can see looped gimp, couched gimp, drizzle stitch and velvet stitch in the rocks here.

First Batch of Line Drawings

I’ve been working on converting images to line drawings. I’ve done the tree on the right and the large strawberry and the sun on the top part of the mirror, working anti-clockwise around the design. This is a bit clearer, isn’t it!

Line Drawing 1


The blank space under the strawberry will be hillock. I have to work on the flow of the hillocks from the top of the mirror to the hillock the tree stands on on the right hand side – probably by adding a second, background hillock behind the tree which is at the same height as the top hillocks.

I’m basing my tree on the one shown in the panel at Metropolitan Museum 1974.28.200. I love how the smaller branch, done in tent stitch, gives the appearance of being further back from the main trunk, which is detached needlelace done over padding. The leaves on the rightmost branch of the main trunk are also done in tent stitch, also making them appear further back. The detached leaves on the main trunk  (most accompanied by ‘shadow’ surface stitch copies of themselves) add another dimension. The moss, created by drizzle stitch, adds texture. Zooming in on the image at the Met shows that the trunks are done in several shades of brown, and the moss is done in lots of different shades as well. I can’t wait to (attempt to) re-create it.

Metropolitan Museum 1974.28.200

Metropolitan Museum 1974.28.200

I used 5 pages of tracing paper to create my design for the tree.  On the first page, I drew just the two tree trunks and the owl. The second had the surface stitched leaves – so placing the second paper over the first, I could see the full design created so far, but still retain separate physical copies of these different stages of the tree ‘build’.  The next layer was the detached leaves. The final layer was the flower and the snail (space fillers under the tree). The drawing shown here is the ‘full’ tracing, showing all 5 layers, with the detached leaves marked in a gold pen on the outline. I made some of the leaves ‘fall over’ the edge of the mirror, to soften the mirror edge, as I want my piece to be organic in feel.

The snail falls off the edge of the mirror. I’m not sure whether I like this or not. It gives a sense of continuity of ‘life beyond the mirror’ – but given that the outer 1cm of the mirror will be covered in silver tape, there won’t be much snail to see! Perhaps a smaller motif, a bit closer to the tree.

I hope that you like my winking owl.

Mirror Design Board Finished

The Whole Design Board

The Whole Design Board

Taking each side in turn,



I’ve made the flowers to the left (between the Leopard and the Lady) and the flower the Lady is holding match – as if she’d plucked one.

There is a parrot shown in the tree on the right hand side on the original casket – I’ve replaced it with an owl, which is my favourite bird.

Left Side

Left Side

The left side hasn’t changed.



On the bottom, I’ve added a carnation to the far right and my initials to the bottom center. This is more or less how I do sign my initials (only more flourish-y) so I think it’s a good choice.



The original creator used stamps. ( ) I don’t think I’d do the flourish over the top of the “MH” – the detail is a bit fine, it’d get lost in the moss around the pond.

Right Side

Right Side

Butterflies added on the right side to balance the butterflies on the left side. My water dragon (which I want to do in russets, blues and cream in long and short stitch) – I’ve made his wings stubbier. They’ll probably be semi-detached. There’s some space filling to do, but as advised, I’ll worry about that later.

Next is to do the line drawings, making the whole thing a lot ‘cleaner’.  The one aspect that I need to think about in particular is what the various hillocks are doing.

Advice, suggestions?

Latest on the Mirror Design

Left Hand Side

Left Hand Side

I like the alternatively swinging stems of the iris and the borage. Techniques as yet undecided, but probably flat to balance the rose in the centre.

The rose and it’s leaves will be a mass of detached work with underlying satin stitch ‘shadow’ motifs – it’s the motif from the centre of Two Ladies Personifying Taste and Touch . I’ve loved this motif for years and really want to do more or less exactly as is, except that there will be only a few leaves on the left hand side and lots on the right hand side, overhanging the glass of the mirror slightly and extending down around the corner to overhang the CatSnail (notice he’s moved)

The butterflies shown are just placeholders – I’ll think about exact shape and size later on – but more or less that size, and various wing placements.  I like the size and wing placement of sitting butterfly sitting on the iris’ leaf. I’ll go for as much surface work on the mirror as I can, because I have so many leaves – I don’t want to go completely insane implementing the detached work.

Left Side/Bottom

Left Side/Bottom

Sue Jones’ comment on my last post about the appropriateness of medieval designs in a 17thC design made me look at the CatSnail more closely and realise that a rounded shell (the original medieval version is flattened at the bottom) is the appropriate shape for the 17thC. Less ‘cartoon-y’.

The bottom left border will be a naturalistic looking bird standing on a tree stump on a hillock. I call this type of motif “creature on a stick”. There are lots and lots of Parrots on Sticks in 17thC Stumpwork.

I’ve got a bit of a hole above the bird and below the borage – in 17thC stumpwork design, there isn’t supposed to be a single square cm left uncovered. I need something small….probably a small flower.


Bottom/Right Side

The middle bottom is the pond that the water from the Water Dragon (on the right side, you can just see his head) pours into. The pond will be surrounded by moss done in various muted colours. The bird, er, Snail Cockatrice sort of creature on the right hand side, having a drink from the pool, is from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Acc Num 1070-1873. The panel in question isn’t shown on-line, but is on Twixt Art and Nature page 31 (top right corner).

Drinking Cockatrice. V&A 1070-1873

Snail Cockatrice. V&A 1070-1873

Definitely long and short stitch on those wings and tail, and or nue for the snail shell.

The pond may or may not contain one or more fish. The moss may or may not have a few coral beads sprinkled on it, which I’ll also be using as the fruit for the tree on the top left of the mirror, as if they’ve fallen down onto the moss

Older iteration of mirror design, showing the Fruiting Coral Tree

Older iteration of mirror design, showing the Fruiting Coral Tree


There’s a tree stump in the bottom right hand corner. I want to do little detached flowers on coiled wire stems that ‘spring out’ from the stump. I’m going to add various grasses around the pond. I’m thinking about maybe putting my initials (in pearls?) on the bottom somewhere.

I don’t think that it’s quite right that I call it ‘design’ yet. This is a more of a detailed ‘thought board’ or ‘collage’. I also think that I’ve shot myself in the foot a little by not using the line drawings that Tricia provided as part of the course, imposing the need on myself to produce my own line drawings. However, going this way, with coloured images, is helping me envision the highly textural and organic piece that I want to do.

So – to fill that hole on the lower left hand side, and the details/grass and whatever else along the bottom. Then I shall wander up the right hand side. Comments? Ideas?