Whilst I was working the stumpwork poppy recently, I took some photos of the technique for one of the petals, which I thought may be of interest to anyone who wants to know how to create a wired element for a stumpwork piece using needlelace. (There's a fabric based one too.)
The first step is to create a wire outline for your selected shape. In this case, I had the printed guide in the kit to help me, but you could also be working from something in a magazine, book or even your own drawing. Naturally, it needs to be the exact size and you simply bend the wire to fit. It doesn't have to be too exact a fit at this stage. Stumpwork wire bends very easily too, so no special tools are needed.
The next stage is to couch the wire shape to a needlelace pad. You make this pad yourself by folding a rectangular piece of fabric (here, lightweight calico is used) and tacking along the edge opposite the fold. You will need two layers. Couch the shape in place and at this point you will need to be as exact as you can manage in getting your shape correct. It was easy for me at this point in the process as I could still see the impression of the shape from where I'd worked the first three petals.
Fasten on a length of thread by simply taking the needle under the couching stitches along one side of the shape. Don't worry about any ends as they will be taken in later on. Take the thread under the wire and into the shape and begin to fill in with your chosen stitch (in this case, detached buttonhole stitch) using the wire itself as the anchor for the first row.
Continue until the first row is done and, oh, don't pull these stitches too tight or work them too close together. When you get to the end of the row, take the needle back under the wire and then start the next row taking it over the wire back into the shape.
Anchor future rows onto existing stitches and keep on going until you run short on thread (or finish the shape, whichever is sooner!!). It's good to use fairly long pieces of thread for this type of work, but that depends on how durable your thread is. If you're working with a more delicate thread, such as silk or a metallic, then you'll need to take that into account.
When you come to the end of your piece of thread, anchor it off in much the same way you started the piece by running it under the couching stitches and along the stitches at the side of the shape.
Fasten on a new piece in the same way and continue working the filling stitch until you can't reasonably get any more stitches into it.
When your shape is full, then begin to work close buttonhole stitches all the way around the outside of the shape completely covering the wire and taking in any lose fastening on and off threads. Fasten it off finally by hiding the thread as best you can among the stitches wherever there is a reasonable space that will not show.
Your shape is now complete, but still couched to the pad. So, now snip away the tacking stitches holding the pad together and pull the two layers apart as much as you can to reveal the couching stitches between them. Snip through some of these and pull them out.
Your shape should now come away cleanly in your hands and all you need do it pull out any odd couching threads (using a contrasting colour couching thread can make this much easier to do).
This method can be used with a variety of shapes as you can see here from a photo I took whilst working on the stumpwork bee wings a couple of years ago. In this case, the filling stitch was working around in an almost complete oval along the wires and then just pulled together with a suitable stitch or two in the middle.
I hope this has given some insight into how these detached elements are made and has been helpful! See the next post for how to assemble a wired flower!
© Elizabeth Braun 2012