Sunday, 30 March 2014



I wasn’t totally sure of the best way to proceed on this – trial and error was definitely the order of the day.  It is very different to working from a chart, and although I have created designs and decided which stitches to use, I have only ever done small-scale things, like trees on Christmas cards (I’ve used various stitches and techniques over the years, including canvas work). So I selected a rubbing...

... And ran a scan of it through the computer using Gimp (a free photo manipulation programme) to try and intensify the image and markings and get more definition between light and dark. I tried to reduce the white space, and  clicked on  engraving or embossing (under 'distort'), and I worked from that.

I cropped around the right-hand corner, and my aim was to focus the centre of the embroidery on the bit with the squarish shapes in it, surrounded by what looked like three walls, because I felt those shapes lent themselves to stitches like Rhodes and Norwich. However, even though I marked my image into sections and stitched matching sections onto the canvas (10HPI because it’s better than 14HPI for thicker threads), the central point was somehow too high up, and  I started off stitching too small, so I worked a bigger area of the picture than I intended. Next time I might try marking the canvas in some way to help keep me on the straight and narrow and stick to the plan – perhaps a few painted lines on the canvas would help.

I did put in quite a bit of planning, and used photocopies of the rubbing to mark up stitch and thread suggestions for the different areas, and marked the thicker, darker areas  with a felt tip to make them stand out even more. But somehow, as I went along my design grew, like Topsy, and took on a bit of a life of its own, so the plans were abandoned, and I stitched, and unpicked, and stitched again.  This may not be the best way to do things, but it worked for me on this occasion. I could have been bolder in my use of stitch and thread (but I think that about everything). Overall I think more planning, and more attention to detail (especially in relation to placement) would give better results.

The central shapes, which I wanted to stand out from everything else should have been bigger and in a thicker thread.  Consequently, there didn’t seem to be as much texture and definition between high and low as I wanted, so I used a lot of tent stitch for the ‘background’ areas. I did try one or two other stitches to start with, but everything seemed to be on the same level, so I unpicked them. However, I did work the tent stitch in different threads in different areas, to give a much patchy, bumpy sort of effect, but it is not as apparent on a photograph or scan as it is in reality. And I ought to have remembered about leaving white space instead of trying to cover everything with stitching – I can’t think why I forgot this, because I was reporter, and then a sub-editor, for more years than I care to mention, and I know about the importance of white space as far as page layout/design is concerned!

But I loved stitching this. I had such fun doing it, and I learned a great deal in the process, especially about how essential careful planning is, and felt a real sense of achievement when I finished. It may not be perfect, and looking at the completed piece I feel there are lots of things I would do differently if I started again, but on the whole I rather like it, and it’s not too dissimilar to what I had in mind at the outset. 

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