A garden on canvas and duck

A few weeks ago I got two new fabrics to play with: a medium weight cotton canvas in light blue, and a cotton duck in off-white. Both are non-count fabrics, although the cotton canvas looks as though you might count it – it has a much more noticeable weave than the cotton duck. Both are quite a bit heavier than any of the other fabrics I use; that was in fact why I got them, to see if they could be used without the need for a calico backing. They can, but the downside to that is that it is also difficult to transfer designs onto them by lightbox, especially when the design is fairly complex with a lot of detail in a small space, like the Wildflower Garden I had decided to use for my experiments. I just about managed to get a workable transfer drawn, but for future occasions I made a much darker transfer picture, and divided it into two parts, so that I can transfer all the grass and stalks first, then superimpose the flowers.

The Wildflower Garden pattern darkened and split

Having got the transferring out of the way, it was time to stitch. First up was the medium cotton canvas. It’s light blue, which is the colour I usually use as a background for the Wildflower Garden. Because of its very visible weave I was afraid it might be difficult to place the stitches accurately, but that turned out not to be as much of a problem as I had expected. The needle went through the fabric easily, and didn’t get “persuaded” into the holes when what was needed was to pierce the fabric threads. I like the colour, which I think sets the design off well, but on the whole I think the texture shows itself just a bit too much. The fabric is perfectly usable, especially for the little Shisha flower projects (which has a much simpler transfer), but I probably won’t get any more of it.

Little Wildflower Garden on medium cotton canvas

On to lightweight cotton duck. This is not at all lightweight compared to the quilting cottons I tend to use, but it is the lightest weight of cotton duck. I got it in off white because I thought it would work well as a neutral background for freestyle projects (I am trying it out with some leaf outlines at the moment). It’s not really a suitable background for the Wildflower Garden because the daisies don’t show up quite so well, and the little bee’s wings get rather lost. Still, in order to compare the fabrics I thought it best to work the same design on both, so the Garden it was.

I like this a lot. It’s got enough texture to be interesting, but not enough to distract from the embroidery. It’s heavy enough not to need backing, and provided the transfer design is printed in bold enough lines it can be used with the lightbox. I would imagine it takes an iron-on transfer quite well too. It would be interesting to try it with the prick and pounce method, but as yet I haven’t been brave enough to tackle that. As for stitching on it, that works well; it is dense enough to make accurate placement possible, and soft enough for the needle to go through quite easily. Yes, I may well get some more of this in a variety of colours.

Little Wildflower Garden on light cotton duck

This would also look quite good as a background for goldwork if you don’t want the sheen of dupion, I think. But for now I have other fabrics lined up for that…

Remnants, ducks and Essex

Besides a splurge on hoops I’ve also been splashing out on fabrics. The immediate reason for this was my goldwork boot. This was stitched on a dusty pink fabric which was lovely and soft, quite densely woven but with a good drape. As my sketches for a goldwork parasol began to take shape, I started thinking of the sort of fabric I’d like to stitch it on; and I decided I’d like to stitch it on the sort of fabric that came in the boot kit.

With the kind help of the Royal School of Needlework I contacted Angela Bishop, who taught the boot day class. She replied very promptly but was unfortunately unable to help as it was a fabric from her stash, sourced from the remnants box at a fabric shop. She must have a lovely fabric shop!

Doing some research in my own local fabric shop and online, one of the things that became clear was that the fabric I was looking for was heavier than quilting/patchwork cotton. But what is the weight of quilting cotton? Most websites I looked at simply called it “medium weight”. Eventually I found that this apparently meant somewhere between 140 and 160gsm (grams per square metre), while a fabric described as “medium-to-heavy” was 200gsm, and I’d already found out earlier that my heavy-weight calico is 208gsm. On the whole it looked like I should aim for something between 200 and 240gsm, or described as either medium-to-heavy or heavy.

I found that in Essex linen. I’m not sure why it is called Essex linen as it doesn’t seem to have any clear connection with the county, and it is in fact not linen but a linen/cotton mix. Never mind, it’s 200gsm, comes in some very pretty colours (though not the dark dusty pink of the boot), and judging by the online pictures it looked not quite identical but definitely similar to the boot kit fabric, so I got a few colours to try out – including a bright but unusually cool shade of orange which I probably wouldn’t have bought if it hadn’t been half price, and just enough to push me over the free postage limit, which meant I effectively got the fat quarter for 30p.

Essex linens

So having seen and touched them in real life, are they like the boot fabric? Well, not quite. They don’t feel quite as soft, or as dense. But they will make a very nice background for goldwork projects, or other freestyle embroidery for that matter, so I’m pleased with my purchase.

Then there were two other fabrics which I’d bookmarked on eBay some time ago when I was looking for a heavier cotton fabric to use in the Shisha and freestyle workshops, hoping to do away with the need for backing fabric. One of these was confusingly called “cotton heavy canvas” in the title and “medium weight cotton canvas” in the description. I rang the company and asked whether they knew the weight of the fabric, but they said they didn’t class their fabrics by gsm weight; they assured me, however, that it was heavier than quilting cotton. On the grounds that I would be able to use it anyway, be it with or without backing fabric, I ordered a metre. It arrived yesterday, and it’s an interesting fabric – it’s a relatively coarse weave, quite dense, and up close it almost looks like a counted evenweave fabric with less noticeable holes. It’s definitely thick enough to use without backing, and as a result transferring designs of any complexity will need more than just window with good daylight, it’ll need the lightbox; I think I could just about transfer the Shisha Flower without it, but not something like the Little Wildflower Garden. The picture shows this cotton canvas side by side with my usual fabric for these designs, a pale blue quilting cotton – as you can see the latter is a much finer weave; it is also much thinner, but that may not be so obvious from the picture. As for the colour, the cotton canvas seems to have a definite hint of turquoise (again, not so noticeable in the picture) which is surprising considering that the shade I bought was called Pale Blue.

Cotton canvas and quilting cotton Cotton canvas and quilting cotton, close-up

The other fabric I looked at was cotton duck (irrelevant but interesting snippet of information: the “duck” in cotton duck apparently comes from the Dutch word “doek”, or “cloth”). According to Wikipedia, the lightest duck is no. 12, which weighs 7 oz per 36 by 22 inches – no doubt a useful way of measuring its weight when introduced by the Cotton Duck Association (I wonder if they are affiliated with the Rubber Duck Association), but not of any great help to me. Fortunately Wikipedia helpfully converts this into more modern terms, informing me that 7 oz per 36 by 22 inches equates to 390gsm. A slightly alarming result, as this is rather heavier than the piece I ordered from eBay was described to be: “approx. 7oz per square yard or 240 gsm”. I may just have to cut it down to a square yard or a square metre and weigh it! Anyway, it too arrived yesterday, and is equally interesting. A dense fabric with a slightly softer feel than the cotton canvas, it will likewise need the lightbox for any detailed transferring. The weave is not nearly so visible as on the cotton canvas, and I wonder whether that will make accurate placement of the stitches easier. It looks like a nice, neutral background for freestyle stitching, with just enough texture not to look bland or flat.

Cotton duck fabric Cotton canvas and cotton duck

Later today I’ll transfer the Little Wildflower Garden to both fabrics, and I’ll let you know how they stitch up!