How a shisha clover changes

I was getting on really well with the Shisha Clover. My order of working the various parts was not exactly as it will be in class, but that shouldn’t be a problem. On Monday evening I’d finished everything (including the clover outline) except for one part – an outer outline of fat, juicy French knots made with plump soft cotton to go between the top tear drop’s inner outline, and the clover outline. I’d done these before on other designs, and I like the look of them. They make a statement, they are bold. And when I’d stitched them the statement they made was “we’re too bold for this design”.

Don’t you just hate it when your stitches talk back to you?

Anyway, there was no help for it; they’d have to go. But what would the thing look like without them? I should really have been able to remember – after all, they’d only been there for ten minutes or so – but I couldn’t. And although I’d taken several progress pics, I hadn’t taken one at that particular stage. What if I took them out and then decided it did after all look better with them in? I turned to my photo editing program and a bit of digital French knot removal. The conclusion: with the French knots it looks fussy and cramped, without them it looks bare.

With French knots, or without?

My first idea was to take out the knots and re-do them in a thinner threads, closer to the purple wool outline. I wasn’t absolutely sure this would work, but surely it must be better than the big French knots. Foolishly, I decided to sleep on it. The result: red ghosting when the knots had been removed. And in places where it wouldn’t be covered. Help! By now desperation was setting in, so I created a little mild ghosting on a corner of the fabric and then dabbed it with bleach. This morning that ghosting had practically disappeared and the fabric had not disintegrated. It might still disintegrate in the long term, but I wasn’t too bothered by that right now, as long as it lasted until the workshop in November.

The ghosts of French knots

The overnight ghosting turned out to be more persistent, and of course there were the pencil dots of the transfer, but on the whole it worked out all right. Except for the bit where I got some bleach on the green outline and turned some of the hand-dyed cotton white… Fortunately I found a crayon in the right shade smiley.

The ghosts are getting fainter - but so is some of the colour

So it was time to stitch. I still wasn’t sure about using French knots of whatever size and was debating what to do when a friend on the Cross Stitch Forum mentioned that she preferred the big knots to the empty version because it sort of echoed the lacy edge of the bottom motif. Bingo! The bottom motif uses a fly stitch shisha variation, so why not use fly stitches in red coton à broder around the purple wool? Not all the way around, but in the same way as the left and right-hand motifs, and working the stitches in graduated size. And so I did. And it worked. Thank you Sally Squirrel for your brilliant suggestion.

Shisha Clover finished

And if you would like to stitch the Shisha Clover yourself, and you’re in the neighbourhood of Rugby on Saturday 14th November, do join me at the Percival Guildhouse day class.

How a shisha clover grows

Later this year I’ll be teaching a day class in shisha embroidery at the Percival Guildhouse. Some years ago I used the Shisha box top as one of the projects in a course of mixed techniques, but this was meant for a two-hour class, so something a bit more complex was needed to fill a day class. I still wanted it to fit in a 6″ hoop, though – I’ve got plenty of them smiley, it’s a nice size to turn into box tops or cushion cover patches, and while large enough for a fair bit of stitching it isn’t so large as to be inconvenient to hold for a long period of time. After some experimenting I settled on a clover-shaped design. This then needed to be made into a simple outline for transferring, and a slightly more complicated drawing showing the various stitches used.

The transfer version of Shisha Clover The Shisha Clover version showing the stitches

Then it came to picking colours and threads. I want to offer a variety of threads for the students to use, some of which they may be familiar with, others not; and the colours should be quite bright and a bit folksy. Ideally I’d offer several colourways, but that’s just not practical; on the other hand, the transfer outline will be in their chart pack so they can always do another one some time later! To work out what colours I wanted to use exactly, I printed several copies of the stitch drawing and went to work with our old box of crayons and partially dried-up felt tips. Based on the one I preferred, I then digitally coloured in the chart using my photo editing program. Quite therapeutic, and it made me feel rather up-to-date what with colouring books for grown ups being all the rage!

Some of the stitches took some deliberation too, especially the clover outline. In the end I narrowed it down to two options: laced running stitch, or whipped blanket stitch, both in two shades of green. I like the look of the blanket stitch better, but it is quite labour intensive and I don’t want students to be left with too much to do at home. I may decide to include stitch diagrams for both versions and let every student decide for herself; but the first thing is to stitch both versions myself and time them.

Coloured in, with laced running stitch Coloured in, with whipped blanket stitch

So Join The Band is temporarily shelved, and I’ll be stitching away with coton à broder, soft cotton, stranded cotton, silk perle, metallic cord, sequins and beads attaching mirrors, couching cords, and creating bullion knots, buttonhole wheels, French knots and seed stitches. Not quite so soothing and relaxing as those repeated purple, green & blue bands perhaps, but I’ll definitely enjoy the cheerful colours and the variety of materials!