Learning how to do embroidery

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I have never learnt how to do embroidery. Never. In primary school our classes were separated into girls and boys, and the girls would do needlework (I knitted a rat as my first project) and the boys would do woodwork. Then, after about four or five lessons into the school term, we were all thrown into the same class for 'design and technology' where we would sand down cast resin, or construct bookshelves out of wood. That was definitely more my style, which was convenient as 'needlework' was done away with completely as a subject.

Now, though, I find myself lacking in many of the skills that women here seem to have internalised at a young age. I have been slowly learning how to knit properly (you can see my knitting attempts on my Ravelry project page, or here, here and here on my blog), how to bake properly, and now ... now it's time to learn how to wield an embroidery needle and to master the art of the French Knot!

This has all come about because the WI is running a project competition to help save the libraries here in the UK. The aim of this particular project is to embroider your favourite literary quote on a piece of A3 fabric. Literary Quotes? Saving libraries? I could do this! There's only one snag.

Um, who will teach me how to do embroidery?

So, after deciding on my design and my quote I went to a really nice habby here in East London to pick up the colours I'd need. 

There is such an enormous selection to choose from, I could easily have walked out with thirty or forty different greens!

These are the colours I've chosen. Can you imagine what it's going to be? I also bought a small tray cloth to experiment on. 

... and with a little help from this chart, and a lot of help from YouTube videos, I sat down and started matching up colours and trying my hand at stem stitch.

This is how far I got. I first outlined the petals of the flower in stem stitch, in a nice purple variegated cotton thread. Then I filled it in using a teal-blue, and realised that you couldn't see the lilac/purple outline, so I did an additional outline in a deep purple. It looks very bohemian now.

I added some light pink to the centre of the flower and along the bottom of the petals, and then chain stitched dark pink over that. I can now confidently stem stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and make bullion knots! Ta da!

When I was very young, my aunt made me my very own embroidered quilt done in whitework and very light pink fabric. It was a beautiful quilt, and I remember thinking how magical the little balls of thread were that made lovely bumpy borders. Those, I now know, are french knots. And they're lovely. I want to do millions of magical french knot clusters. 

It took me hours to get this far, how on earth will I complete an A3 quote this year, nevermind by the closing date which is only two months away? Erm, perhaps I was a bit ambitious. 

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