Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tutorial - Raised needlelace strawberry (stumpwork)

Would you like to stitch a lovely raised strawberry on one of your pieces?  Perhaps to decorate a section of crazy quilt?  Or as a special motif in a sampler?  Today's tutorial will guide you through the process step by step.

There are several ways of producing a stumpwork strawberry.  This needlelace version was the one I learned via a Royal School of Needlework kit a few years ago and is one of the simplest.  You probably already have all the things you need in stock.

These are the materials you need to hand: Your fabric mounted in your choice of work frame, (here, a 5" hoop), some red felt, red and green embroidery threads, some red sewing cotton, some gold or yellow contrast thread for the seeds, a crewel embroidery needle, a tapestry needle and a couple of pins.  You'll also need a little bit of paper or tracing paper.

Stage one is to draw out the shape of the strawberry on some tracing paper or, if you prefer, some bondable paper.  Here you can see two of different sizes so that the shape is raised up gradually.  The inclusion of my index finger gives a clue as to scale, but you can use whatever size you need for your piece.  Generally speaking, the larger the finished berry is to be be, the more layers of padding you'll need in order to get a good raised shape.

After you've cut out your strawberry shapes from the paper, just pin them onto the red felt and cut around them.  Stumpwork isn't a very exact science, so you won't need to be too precise, but if you prefer to be, then by all means use bondable paper and cut around the shape that way (in the Jane Nicholas style).

This tutorial concentrates mainly on the larger size of strawberry, so there will be two layers.  Using the crewel embroidery needle (I used a no. 7) stab stitch the felt shape into place using red sewing thread.  If at all possible, find a close match to your chosen thread as some tiny specks may otherwise show through and spoil the effect (unless that's the effect you want).

One layer in place (above).

Here (above) you can see both layers stitched into place - the larger covering the smaller, giving a nice, raised bump.  Below is the view from the back of the work.

Now that the padding is securely in place, it's time to think about which needlelace stitch is best to use.  My choice for this berry would be corded single brussels stitch, also known as corded detached buttonhole stitch.  The corded version produces a denser effect than the non-corded one that I've used in things like wired insect wings and so gives better coverage.  This is especially important if you weren't able to find a matching colour of padding.

This picture is from Kay Dennis' 'Beginners Guide to Stumpwork' published by Search Press.

In order to make needlelace, you first need to work a row of backstitch all the way around the outside of your berry shape in your choice of red thread.  In this example, I'm using Anchor #8 pearl cotton in colour 47, a slightly dark red. You could also use stranded cotton in plain or variegated shades, but I prefer pearl cotton for needlelace as there is only one strand to work with and that reduces risk of getting the needle caught in more than one strand.  #12 pearl cotton is another possibility.

When that is complete, bring the needle through at the top left and then change to the tapestry needle which is less likely to catch in the felt or stab your finger!  Begin to work a buttonhole/blanket stitch taking the needle through the top back stitch but NOT through the fabric.  Needlelace is all worked on the surface.  This part can be a little tricky as you will need to make double sure not to catch your needle in the felt and, as you are working slightly uphill, that can be quite hard.

When the first row is complete, pass the needle under the back stitch at the side of the berry.  (I apologise for the poor quality of this photo!)

This is the 'corded' part: Take a line straight back to the left hand side, again passing the needle under the stitch at the side.

Begin now to work your second row of buttonhole stitches taking the needle under both the stitch in the previous row and the cord.  Over the next couple of rows you will probably need to increase the number of stitches in each row in order to get good coverage.  Simply work more than one into a few of the stitches on the previous row, spacing the double stitches out nicely.  To reduce, just do the opposite - miss out a few stitches and just work, say, 5 stitches into 6 or 7 on the previous row.

Each time you take a new trip across the berry, you'll need to make sure that you have enough thread to complete the row.  However, you're almost certainly going to run out at some point.  just pass the needle through to the back of the work and fasten off.  Bring up a new thread in the same place and carry on as before.

Fill up the whole berry with needlelace and, when it's finished, just take the needle to the back again (you may well want to swap back to your crewel needle as it's sharper) and fasten off.

Here, I threaded my crewel needle with some of the Kreinik cord 104C and made some French knots on the surface of the berry to look like the seeds.  You can also use small straight stitches or any other technique that you think will produce the effect you want.

Moving on to the small leaves (sepals??) at the top of the berry and I'm going to create those using open based woven picots.  For this you need one of your pins again.  Insert it into the fabric above the berry and bring it out again as near to the berry as you can.  This is quite fiddly as, again, you're having to work uphill and you don't want the pin pulling at and spoiling your needlelace.

Fasten on your green thread at the back.  Again, I've used Anchor #8 pearl cotton, this time in shade 266.  Bring it out to the right of the pin as near to the berry as you can.  Pass the thread around the top of the pin, then take it back through the fabric to the left of the pin as near as possible to the berry.  This is the final size and approximate shape of your sepal.

Bring the thread back to the front of the work directly to the right of the pin and take it up around the head of the pin again, crossing over and going from left to right.  This is another good time to change to a tapestry needle.

Begin the needle weaving as shown, first going over the outer threads and under the central one.

From the other side, weave back the other way this time going under the outer threads and under the inner one.  Don't pull too tight or you'll lose the shape of your picot and it'll end up being over narrow.

Continue weaving and, every couple of rows, stop and push the rows towards the top of the pin so that you can fit as many rows as possible into the picot.

When the picot is finished, change back to the crewel needle and take the thread through to the back.

Bring the thread to the front again just where you want the picot to be anchored.  You may want to do as I did here and make it closer in to the berry so that the finished result will be slightly curved and give a more raised effect.

Repeat the picot twice.

Here's our finished berry!

This is a smaller version worked over just the smaller piece of felt padding and done with the Anchor #12 pearl cottons.  (NB I think Anchor no longer manufacture pearl cotton #12 in shade 47, although other darker reds seem available).  The seeds here were worked with small straight stitches in Kreinik cord, 102C.

NB: Can I remind everyone, please, that if you want to pin this tutorial (or any other) or post a link elsewhere, to only take one photo.  Recently, some have begun to pin every photo from some tutes and, as the whole thing is already in the public domain and it goes against my blog copyright statement, I've not been at all pleased about it.  Pin and link by all means, but please keep it to a reasonable level.  Many thanks for your kind interest!=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013


semplicemente giusi said...

Elisabeth ... questo tuo ricamo è stupendo ... mozzafiato ... bellissimo tutorial ... proverò a ricamare ...anche se mi sembra difficile ... ma proverò ad imparare .. sei un ottima maestra per me ...un grazie grandissimo ... giusi_g

Queeniepatch said...

Thanks for a clear and inspirational tutorial.

Annette-California said...

WOW! I will give this a go! Fantastic tutorial - thank you so much. I love your strawberry - super sweet (pun intended)lol.
love Annette

Rachel said...

Using stranded cottons allows for nicely graduated colour changes, but I agree that unless you specifically want the colour changes it makes life much easier if you use pearl cotton or even crochet cotton.

rose of Walk in the Woods - she/her said...

What beautiful berries and great tutorial too!

Wendy said...

great tutorial. Some day I will try stumpwork. thank you.

Suztats said...

Great tutorial! I love buttonhole lace, but this was the first time I'd heard of corded BL!
I like to play with stumpwork, and enjoy seeing yours.

Sparklyjools said...

Great stuff- as usual:)!

zenuwpees said...

La fraise est tres belle Marie-Claire

JudyC said...

這真是一個超棒的教學! 謝謝妳! judy

Brynwood Needleworks said...

Thank you for the tutorial and the book recommendation. I just found and purchased a copy for myself and can't wait to try to make my own strawberry. An acorn will then be next on my list!