What are these flights of fancy that Mabel has? Well, they are short snippets about anything that I've been doing, stitching, designing, thinking about, experimenting with, and so on, which I think you may be interested in. They'll tell you about new designs, how I come up with names, changes I'm making in designs I'm working on and so on. I can't promise posts will be regular or terribly frequent, but I'll do my best not to neglect this page for long periods of time! By the way, most of the pictures are thumbnails, so you can click on them for a larger version; if you hover over one and a little magnifying glass with a + appears, it's clickable.

Can we canvas? Yes we can!

Until recently I didn’t really “feel” Canvaswork, so I approached my first proper class (which initially had been planned for last July, but got postponed several times for various reasons) with some trepidation. I came armed with two outlines which I knew to be far too detailed, a framed-up canvas which I knew wasn’t tight enough (but which by this time did at least have the required rectangular running stitch outline in sewing thread), a few samplings in the wrong sort of thread, and about one idea. I did not feel confident.

Two detailed tracings Framed up, but not quite tightly enough (and as yet minus outline) Possible stitches Some sampling

The tutor assigned to this class was Angela, and I’d been looking forward to seeing her and perhaps having a little Bruce chat with her, but unfortunately she had gone down with Covid (apparently feeling rather rough with it, poor her) and so the class was taken by Helen Jones. With only four students we each had plenty of time to discuss things with her, and for me the first thing was indeed to get that canvas tightened. I unlaced part of it, turned the bottom roller once and re-laced. It is now most definitely taut as a drum, but as that is difficult to photograph you’ll have to take my word for it!

The next thing was to simplify the outline. I was surprised at how far you take this process in canvaswork, and I fear mine probably still has too much detail (especially in the windmill) but this was as simple as I felt comfortable with, and Helen OK-ed it. To make it easier to transfer she suggested tracing the pencil lines in marker pen; this was also a good opportunity to get the horizon level. In the photograph the furthest edge of the paved area which forms the strongest horizontal line in the piece is actually slightly curved, but making it perfectly level would help to “anchor” the design when transferring it – if the horizon didn’t follow a straight line of holes on the canvas, I’d know I had to reposition it.

Simplifying the outline Tracing the outline and levelling the horizon

Having got used to prick & pounce and paint for transferring the design at RSN classes, canvaswork is a bit of a wayward module. There is no way the canvas would take the pounce in any meaningful way, and as you have to transfer the design when the canvas is on the frame you can’t just bung it onto a light box either. Instead, you build a squat tower of books with the design on top of it, place the frame over it so that the canvas rests on the design, and then trace what you can see of it through the holes with a permanent marker. It then becomes abundantly clear why the outline has to be simplified so much: the canvas simply will not take any great level of detail. It is also surprisingly difficult to manipulate the traced design if its position is slightly off, sandwiched as it is between the books and the frame. But eventually I got that nice straight horizon to line up with a row of holes, and drew it on.

Propping up the frame The horizon is in!

I can’t guarantee that what eventually ended up on the canvas is exactly like the design outline – some of the squigglier lines were difficult to trace precisely – but again it got the OK so perhaps I was being a bit too fussy. What definitely did need addressing was the fact that I managed to leave off an entire hedge, which I didn’t notice until I got home and showed the canvas to Mr Figworthy! It has since been added in.

Outline minus hedge Outline with hedge

Because it felt silly to do absolutely no stitching at all in class, I did do a tiny bit of sampling: it’s a herringbone variation which takes shading rather well, and which I hope to use to bring texture to the green bits that aren’t worked individually. It is rather fiddly, as you have to bring the needle up underneath previous stitches half the time, but I think it will be worth the effort.

Herringbone variations sampled

My next class is in January; until then I’ll be colouring in a print of the outline (officially “making a colour and shading plan”), choosing stitches and doing a lot of sampling. I’ve got some ideas for the two large tulips in the foreground and various other bits and have sketched and scribbled a few ideas (yes, my handwriting is atrocious) to be translated into sampling at some point.

A few sketches

Due to canvaswork being the Mary Mary Quite Contrary of embroidery, those two big tulips will be worked first. In all other techniques you work the background first, and then the things that are a bit nearer to the viewer, and so on, until you reach the things in the foreground. If parts of the design overlap you stitch the overlapping bit last, which looks more natural and convincing. But in canvaswork you stitch the foreground first, and end with what is furthest away in the picture. As far as I understand, this is because the further back in the design you go, the smaller the stitches get – and it is much easier to work small stitches around large ones than fit large ones into a background made up of small stitches!

Having to end with lots of green and a big expanse of sky after doing all the interesting foreground bits may sound like starting with the fireworks and going downhill from there, but I rather like it – I think those tulips will entice me into a technique which is entirely new to me and feels unfamiliar and challenging. Let’s hear it for the Tempting Tulips!

A matter of perspective

Remember the hourglass I started some time ago? I drew it in various ways, some with more perspective than others, and I chose to stitch the “flattest” version first. But even a relatively flat hourglass needs some perspective. As this is just a project for my own enjoyment I could simply wing it and see what happens, but that is not how I like working. So out come the paper and pencil to try different alternatives before committing one of them to the fabric.

Two things in particular needed sorting out: the sand in the top half of the glass, and the round top of the frame. I drew the sand in two ways, going round in circles or with straight lines going down the sides of the upside-down empty cone that is created by the sand running out through the central hole. The circle version would be easier, but I felt the lines-down-to-the-centre approach would give more of a sense of the sand running down.

Working out the direction of the sand

For the round top of the frame I drew a rough circle with concentric circles inside it, then held the paper up to my eyes horizontally, that is to say level with the floor. It turned out that when the circle looked like the oval in the design, the centre of the circle seemed to be about two-fifths from the back, three-fifths from the front.

Working out the perspective of the top

Then it was a case of strategically placing dots on the fabric to create a number of ovals inside the shape. At first I thought just indicating how far they were from the front and the back would do (the white dots), but just so I wouldn’t have to think too hard and calculate while stitching, I indicated how far they were from the sides as well (black dots).

Black and white guiding dots

My very first idea had been to fill in the shape entirely with chain stitch, but in the end I decided to work as many ovals as could be fitted into the back half of the shape, and let them space out to the sides and the front. And I’m pleased with how it worked out!

It worked!

On to the sand in the top half of the glass. I’ve started by working these long stitches over an edge of split stitch; when the far side of the sand has been stitched, the near side will be stitched in lines of longish split stitch following the curve of the glass. The sand in the bottom will be long & short over split stitch with a ragged lower edge, and then comes the fun part of adding tiny shiny beads over the top as cascading grains of sand.

Working the top sand

And once that is finished, I will allow myself to start work on a new project. Well, it’s started already in that I’ve got the fabric hooped up with the design transferred and all the threads picked – but no stitch will be put in until the hourglass is complete! Probably…

More stash, more students, a cross and a petal

As I was putting kits together for the course at Rugby’s Percival Guildhouse, I noticed I was getting a little low on some of the shades of Madeira Lana needed for the No Place Like Home project. There was plenty left for the class kits, but I have plans for this little house (watch this space…) so off I went to my two suppliers, only to find that one of them, from whom I got the larger reels of variegated Lana, no longer carries this thread! Fortunately most of the shades required were solids, and I didn’t need that much of them, so Sarah Homfray and her 25m skeins came to the rescue!

Madeira Lana for kits

One of the things I try to do in the course is to introduce different types of thread, and this wool/acrylic blend is one of them. It made its appearance in week 2. Which brings me to the students using the thread (who, in spite of the title of this FoF, are in fact the same students as the ones I mentioned last time, but “more students’ work” was a bit cumbersome). Here is how they got on with No Place Like Home (class plus some homework) and Butterfly Wreath (in-class progress). I’m really proud of how well they are doing!

Students' versions of No Place Like Home Students' versions of the Butterfly Wreath

When I manage to do some “free stitching” (that is to say not for future publication, or at least with no deadline for publication) I grab one of the many projects lying around that are awaiting completion. Some are fairly recent, like the hourglass stitched with Paintbox Threads materials (update soon), others were started as far back as early 2019, like Hengest and Llandrindod. Hengest is still languishing, but I’m getting on with the pretty jewelled cross. At the moment I’m working on the dark gold that surrounds the gems, and when that is done there is just the subtle bling to be added to the stones, plus possibly some decoration along the light gold circle. But for now I have to decide what to do when the split stitch of the gold frame doesn’t quite match up with the split stitch of the gems. Sometimes it’s a matter of simply filling in the gaps with more gold (orange arrow) – but should I perhaps make the gem corners a bit sharper by adding a few stitches in red (blue arrows)?

Gaps in Llandrindod

Perhaps I’ll work on something else while mulling that over… One thing which I hope to get to grips with in the not too distant future is silk shading or needle painting. You may remember that lovely book I got a while ago which has some exercises in it to try before starting on the full-blown projects – more about that in a future FoF, but another inspiration presented itself from quite a different corner recently. While we were having some pruning done in the garden a late rose got cut, and we put it in the kitchen in one of those tall narrow vases. It’s a lovely dark orange when in bud, but it goes progressively paler when it opens, and when it started to drop its petals I had a close look at one. Not only would the colours make for a lovely silk shading project, it looks like the stitch direction lines have already been pencilled in by the Creator smiley.

Our orange rose A petal with ready-painted lines for silk shading

Spangles, stash and students

It’s been a while since I last Foffed, but now I can burst in with a Hurray! Finally, the second of the two secret stitched models is finished (sneak peek of a tiny bit of it below) – but is it finished? Well, everything that is on my design plan is now on the fabric, but I keep thinking it may need a few more spangles before mounting…

A cutwork sneak peek

Which brings us nicely to the second part of this FoF. It’s always pleasant to get new stash, and although this doesn’t look particularly interesting it feels very nice: fluffy cotton wadding for mounting the models mentioned above (and probably the metalwork racehorse). It’s very much like the stuff the RSN gave me for mounting Bruce and is meant to compensate for all those lumps and bumps on the back of goldwork caused by the plunged and oversewn ends. By the way, having used lightweight, open-textured polyester wadding for years in cards and to put behind embroidery when mounting, and having seen pictures online of “batting” which looked more like this soft but more solid cotton (or wool), I thought they were two different things. Turns out they are all wadding if you’re in the UK, and all batting if you’re in the US. Ah, language, I love you smiley.

Cotton wadding for mounting the stitched models

As for students, I’ve been seeing nine of them for a few weeks now at the Percival Guildhouse in Rugby, and so far they seem to be enjoying themselves which is a good sign! They came to the course with varying levels of previous experience, from a lady who wants to brush up her embroidery skills after a lull of some years to one who has done mostly cross stitch until now and wants to “have a go” to some who have never done any stitching whatsoever. I was impressed with how dedicated they all are, working hard on the new stitches in class and then showing me what they’ve finished at home the next week. Here are some of the Little Wildflower Gardens (the Week 1 project) which they brought to class the week after, several of them complete with bullion knot bee – Well Done Students, is what I say!

Three students' Wildflower Gardens

…and more silk.

Did you know that so far none of Mabel’s kits use silk? I know, it’s shocking! Time to do something about it, using that pretty little flower, the Quatrefoil. Putting together a new kit means sourcing supplies, which in this case means more silk. Ah, the sacrifices I make for my customers…

To begin with the fabric, I decided on a dark red silk dupion. The obvious place to go for that was The Silk Route, who were so helpful in finding just the right silk for Bruce. Unfortunately (it is a recurring theme, I know) it is very difficult to accurately judge colours on screen, so I rang them and they very kindly sent me two dark red samples to choose from. I then wondered whether dark blue wouldn’t work as well, rang again, and even though they had already sent off the first two samples, they popped another one in the post to me!

Silk Route samples

The blue turned out to be rather too dark, and of the two reds the lighter one was definitely the one to go for. They agreed to cut my half metre lengthwise, which means less waste and a few more kit-sized squares than if it was cut widthwise. It’s a power-woven silk dupion, which is smoother and more even in texture than the hand-woven type (this difference will come up in my Goldwork assessment FoF too). I like my kits to be accessible for stitchers who have no experience with a particular technique, so not putting too many slubs in their way seemed like a good plan.

Silk Route burgundy dupion

To do the silk fabric justice, the design is stitched using silk threads. I chose Rainbow Gallery Splendor silk because, well, really just because it is one of my favourite silks smiley with its subtle sheen and lovely soft feel, but also because it is, in my experience, one of the easier silks to work with. To complement the silk, and because a bit of bling always adds a certain je ne sais quoi (not to mention joie de vivre), the petals are outlined in gold Jap with a choice of couching thread: easier but more visible sewing thread, or bouncier and more slippery but practically invisible translucent couching thread. Add needles, an aperture card and some wadding and you’ve got the components of a new kit.

Making up the Quatrefoil kits

And after a fair bit of measuring, cutting, tying, winding, folding and packaging… *fanfare and drumroll* you’ve got our new Silk & Gold Quatrefoil kit!

One of the kits ready to be sent out

PS – Just to reassure anyone interested in the Quatrefoil kit in the light of my previous PS about filament silks, Splendor is a spun silk so hopefully no moths were harmed in the making of it.

Silk, silk…

I have got a new embroidery book. Yes, another one. Shush. Anyway, it is all Mary Corbet’s fault for writing yet another irresistible review. It will no doubt be very useful for the Silk Shading module of the RSN Certificate, but really that’s just an excuse. In fact it seemed to be the sort of informative and beautifully illustrated book that would be worth having and reading even if you never stitched anything from it – and so it turned out to be. Background information about pollinators, instructions for needlepainting, and lots and lots of lovely photographs of the exquisitely stitched projects. I love it.

Victoria Matthewson's needlepainting book Information about the plants and pollinators stitched in the book Very detailed photographs illustrate the needlepainting process

It joins Tanya Bentham’ Opus Anglicanum book on my current browsing pile, and they make a dangerous pair – because they mention various silks and materials that I now want to try out!

Do you remember Ethelnute the Opus Anglicanum king? He was stitched using Silk Mill silk, which like the ones mentioned in Tanya Bentham’s book is a filament silks, made from unbroken silk reeled off the cocoon of the silk worm (which is why some suppliers call it “reeled silk”). It is beautifully shiny, but not as flat as the ones Tanya uses, so the sheen on those should be even more spectacular.

Ethelnute mounted on his satin box

I’d never heard of tram silk, but it sounded rather interesting, so I ordered a taster pack through Tanya’s site. You can get full reels from the suppliers she mentions in her book, the Handweavers Studio, but getting a reasonable range of colours plus postage would be quite expensive, which led me to go for Tanya’s mixed pack of smaller cops. Exasperatingly, I received the book with its link to Handweavers the Monday after returning from London, where on one of my walks I passed through the street where their shop is without knowing it! Oh well, I will now have a few more shades to play with plus two fabrics I hadn’t used before which I popped into my shopping basket to make the most of the postage: ramie, a fine linen-like fabric, and a lovely soft wool fabric used for Bayeux-style embroidery.

A lovely range of tram silk colours and two fabrics Ramie fabric Wool fabric

Talking of fabrics, the Pollinator book mentions a fabric that I looked at on one of the stands at the Knitting & Stitching Show, a silk/cotton blend. I nearly bought a fat quarter and then decided against it because I didn’t know what I’d use it for. Sigh.

Back to silk. The other one that caught my attention was the silk produced in various weights by DeVere Yarns, especially when I found that it was mentioned in both my recently acquired books – quite a recommendation!

DeVere silks mentioned in the Pollinators book

I’d heard of DeVere Yarns before, and I’m fairly certain I’ve seen them at previous Knitting & Stitching Shows, but somehow I hadn’t tried their threads before. They are a family business and extremely helpful: when I decided to buy one of their Colour Packs but felt that it needed an extra shade between the dark and the medium blue they had a look at the colours while we were on the phone, then called me back later after they’d had a look in better light and found the right shade to go with the pack. Not only that, when I ordered that extra silk in a different weight from the pack they emailed me to ask whether that order was correct, and when the parcel arrived it included a sample card of their various silks and other threads as a bonus – very good service indeed.

The Pastel Palette with the extra shade How the extra shade fits in A sample card

You may think that all this is quite enough silk for anyone, but there has been more silken activity in the Figworthy household. No, I’ve not been growing my own silkworms – we haven’t got a mulberry tree. All will be revealed in the next FoF…

PS – I will admit to feeling slightly uncomfortable about filament silk because the moth is not allowed to hatch; at some point I will have to decide where I stand on that. Spun silk (which is not quite so strong and has a less exuberant sheen but looks beautiful in its own way and is very nice to work with) is made from the shorter remnants of the cocoon that are left after the moth has chewed its way out, and is therefore blissfully unproblematic; it’s not even taking something from the moth that it could conceivably still want (like honey from bees). Definitely the more worry-free silk.

Quick ways to store your needles

Once or twice I have mentioned a quick-to-make needle matchbook; it’s the finishing method used in the Hardanger mini kits, I made a set of ten recently for my course students and I have them dotted around the house for my own use. I’m fairly certain I also wrote about an easy felt needle roll at least once. However, when I looked for my FoFs about these needle storage solutions to send to a student, I found that I never actually wrote them!

A narrow needle matchbook for my own use An easy felt needle roll

The reason I haven’t written about the matchbook needle books became clear when I sought out the original site from which I got the idea: that had such a good description of the process that it would be silly to reinvent the wheel! You can find the post on the Make It Do blog. The only change I made to it for the Hardanger kits was to have the patterned side of the card on the inside, so that the Hardanger patch could be stuck to the plain coloured outside. I cut the card to 6cm x 17cm, and pre-score it 2cm from the bottom and 8cm from the top; for my little project books like the one shown above, which usually hold only a few needles and aren’t decorated with needlework, I use narrower strips of card and I don’t bother scoring them, but fold them by eye.

Hardanger kits finished as needle books

Much the same goes for the needle roll – that idea came from a Mary Corbet blog post which (of course) contains excellent instructions. I did happen to take several pictures when I put mine together, so I’ll post those here as additional illustrations to her description. First cut the parts that make up the roll: a larger rectangle of felt with two slits and a cord or ribbon fed through them, plus a smaller rectangle to hold the needles; I embroidered mine with a B (for “beading”) and numbers (for the various sizes) in backstitch. Place the needle felt on top of the larger felt and roll the layers up together, towards the cord or ribbon. The top layer will probably shift a bit while you roll them, so don’t start with it right up against the edge. Use the cord to tie up the roll. Done!

The two parts of the needle roll Place the needle felt on top of the larger felt Roll up the two layers together Use the cord to tie up the roll

So here we are, two very clever ideas, neither of them mine unfortunately, but brought together here for any stitchers looking for quick ways to store their needles. Both methods take only scraps of felt and card, so why not rummage through your stash and have a go?

Ally Pally, Bruce, cards and a new book

Well, I’m back after four days away, and more or less organised again after four days back home. London was lovely, especially as I tend to wander from park to river to green space to cemetery and avoid the busy shopping streets as much as possible, and I was lucky with the weather. It was wonderful to be back at the Knitting & Stitching Show again, too, even though it was very much a scaled-down affair. In fact I was having such a good time that I didn’t think to take very many pictures! Here are two things I did remember to photograph, the big Stitch A Tree project and one of the winning quilts which depicts a “missing” panel of the Bayeux Tapestry: the one with the people who actually produced it (that sewing machine in the border is just hilarious smiley!)

Stitch A Tree Project The Bayeux quilt

Shopping-wise I’ve been remarkably abstemious, helped (or hindered) by the fact that two of the shops I really wanted to see, Barnyarns and West End Embroidery, weren’t there. But I got this lovely hand-dyed fabric from Paint-Box Threads, and some green-and-red beetle wings from Golden Hinde.

Paint-Box fabric and beetle wings

One highlight of the Show was meeting up with fellow Dutch C&D student Marlous (of the Stitching Sheep fame) at the RSN stand and then sitting down to have a good chat.

Meeting Marlous, the Stitching Sheep

Marlous was also kind enough to take a few pictures of me with Bruce on the RSN display wall (well, I wasn’t on the wall – you know what I mean); the second one shows a bit more of the rest of the display. I was rather chuffed to hear from the lady on the stand that Bruce had garnered quite a bit of interest! Later that day when I returned for a last peek I was asked to talk to a couple of ladies thinking of starting the Certificate, to give them the student’s point of view. I also asked about adopting a stitch (you can see the Stitch Bank poster behind Marlous and me), and I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

Bruce and Mabel The RSN display

The workshops went well, but teaching with a visor did present some challenges, especially as I tend to look at any problems the students have by taking off my glasses and bringing the work practically up to my nose – you can imagine how that went! Below is the only picture I thought to take of one of the works in progress, a great effort by a lady who had done no embroidery before.

A Butterfly Wreath in progress

I always take three stitched models to any class or workshop I teach so that students can see several versions of the project in real life, instead of just the one picture on the kit cover, and it was a bit annoying to find after the second workshop that one of them had gone missing. Fortunately I had an unmounted Butterfly Wreath in a folder at home, so I could make a new one. At the same time I made up a stitched model for one of the classes in the Freestyle Embroidery course I’ll be teaching next month, the little silk and gold Quatrefoil.

Stitched models for workshops and classes

Craft Creations having been taken over by a new management who even after several years haven’t got back the same range of aperture cards, the Quatrefoil card comes from a new supplier, PDA Card & Craft. My first order from them arrived while I was away, so I had the pleasure of having an interesting parcel waiting for me when I came back. Well, the cardstock is of good quality but I wasn’t happy to notice that on the blue cards the aperture was clearly off-centre. However, an email I sent on Monday explaining the situation brought an almost instant reply with an apology and a promise to send out a new set with the correct aperture – very good customer service.

New aperture cards from PDA An off-centre aperture

Another interesting parcel arrived earlier this week: Tanya Bentham’s Opus Anglicanum, which is both an in-depth look at this style of embroidery and a project book. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but it looks very interesting, and I am reassured by Mary Corbet’s detailed review that it’s bound to have been a good buy! Some of the Opus Anglicanum-inspired kits and projects on Tanya’s site are not my cup of tea but the ones in the book seem to be mostly traditional in style with the occasional funny twist (Medieval Selfie Girl, for example).

Tanya Bentham's Opus Anglicanum

Unfortunately I won’t be stitching designs from this book any time soon, but I have been getting quite a lot of split stitch practice, having picked up Llandrindod as my Embroidery Group project. I’m looking forward to adding the little touches of sparkle soon!

Steady progress on Llandrindod

Kits galore and fame for Bruce

Keeping on top of kit production in dribs and drabs is one thing, but with the Rugby 6-week course starting within a month from the Knitting & Stitching Show the process definitely needs ramping up – there are 70-odd kits to be made up! Fortunately it makes the whole production line so much easier when observed and supervised by a cat…

Cat observing the results of printing, cutting and ironing

That was cutting-and-ironing-fabric day, having printed the instructions and cover pictures the day before. Now I’m on to transferring. The Knitting & Stitching Show people choose from a selection of workshops I offer, and beyond the original proposal I have no say in what gets picked; this year one of them was Hardanger, which is worked from a chart, so those kits could be made up without any further work. However, for reasons unclear even to me I decided to make the Rugby course a freestyle one, which means all five projects need the design transferred to the kit fabric for each of the ten participants. Plus twelve for the other K&S workshop. That lightbox is going to get a lot of use in the next few days!

Getting ready to transfer designs

Meanwhile, as I was starting to stick the needles for the various designs into bits of calico, I thought it would be much more convenient for the course students to have one simple needle book in which to keep their needles throughout the course. They are quite quick to put together, and don’t they look nice and colourful? I just have to add the size 22 petite tapestry needles to complete the collection.

Needle books for the Rugby course All the needles needed (except one)

Change of subject although it is still show-related – the RSN always have a stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show and this year *modest cough* Bruce will be one of the exhibits at the London and Harrogate Shows! It was actually a very funny exchange of emails because the first one I received asked for my permission to display my stumpwork piece; flattering but surprising as I have done no RSN stumpwork at all as yet. But it turned out to be an error in terminology, and they did in fact mean my goldwork piece. Go Bruce!

Gold, gold, gold

When you get into goldwork you soon realise that it has a vocabulary all of its own – and I’m not just talking of waxing and plunging. There is pearl purl, which sounds like a superflous repetition but does actually mean something; there is the mysterious milliary wire which looks like a misspelling of military wire but isn’t, and which sometimes occurs without its second “i”; there is rococco which seems to be spelled with any combination of “c”s available. Then there are names which suggest non-existent similarities: check thread and wire check have absolutely nothing in common; wire check has much more in common with smooth purl. And why do only two of the flexible hollow purls (the cylindrical ones, shiny “smooth” and matt “rough”) have “purl” in their names, while the two corresponding facetted ones are called “check” and are designated “bright” (shiny) and “wire” (matt)?

Milliary and rococco Check thread and wire check A selection of purls, not all called purl

But some of the names you come across are not just obscure or mildly amusing, they are downright odd. Flatworm, anyone?

Flatworm. Really.

Flatworm starts its life as a rather thick passing thread, which is a metal wire or a thin strip of metal wrapped around a silk or cotton core. Then it gets bashed (not the correct technical term…) so that it ends up as an irregularly flattened, rather chunky ribbon. I describe it as “irregularly flattened” because when you try and lay it down flat, you’ll notice it twists here and there, unpredictably and to varying degrees. Not-so-flatworm, you might say.


If you use it as an outline, or a thin curve consisting of one thread only, you could couch it down as it comes, twists and all – I’ve not tried it but I think it would create rather a pleasing effect. But I want to use it to fill a shape, and for that it needs to be laid flat. Not that difficult, it just takes a little untwisting, so that’s not really the problem with this thread; what I found more challenging was managing the turns.

This refers only to filling a shape in back-and-forth rows, by the way; for a spiral filling I think getting it to lie flat around the curves would actually be the difficult bit (imagine doing that with a ribbon). But in my case the first thing I had to decide was how to make the turn. With passing or any of the other goldwork threads you would simply bend the thread around the needle at the end of a row, possibly pinching the fold with tweezers or small pliers for a nice sharp look, and go on couching in the opposite direction. But that doesn’t really work with this flattened shape. So I looked to another goldwork material, plate. It is basically a metal ribbon – flattened metal without a thead core – and it comes in Broad no.6 and Narrow no.11 (not shown in the picture) with the broad version also available Whipped (with a metal thread wound around it).

Broad plate and whipped plate

This metal ribbon is attached only on the turns where it is sharply folded over, and it zigzags rather than lying in parallel rows. As it can’t be couched along the rows because of the overlaps it tends to be used for relatively small, or at least narrow, shapes. Online you can find many beautiful examples of acorns and other shapes filled with this material, but for copyright reasons I will show you an unfortunately rather messy bit of my own sampling.

Plate attached in the characteristic zigzag pattern

I did actually try turning the flatworm as you would any other metal thread (orange arrow), just to see what the effect would be, but as the picture shows it isn’t very good. Even after pinching the ends together there is a noticeable gap which shows the underlying felt padding. As this is an extreme close-up it is not quite so visible in real life, but still far too much to be acceptable. The other turns have all been done by securing the flatworm on the edge of the padding with a stitch parallel to the edge, and then folding it over with another couching stitch close to the fold (yellow arrow). Although there are still slight gaps, these are so small that they don’t offend the eye when seen at a normal viewing distance, so this is obviously the way to go. Watch this space for pictures of the flatworm used in a proper project!

Turning the flatworm

As those of you who take the occasional look at my Facebook page will know, another golden moment during the past week was the arrival in my Inbox of the assessment for the RSN Certificate Goldwork module, a.k.a. Bruce. I will write more about the various scores and comments later, but for now I will just reveal with a grin on my face that I passed with a Merit and an 88% overall score. Haasje was speechless smiley.

Haasje was quite astonished when told the result