The first theme for this first month is: Needle painting. Also known as thread painting, silk shading, opus plumarium (by Helen M Stevens) and even soft shading, as well as long and short stitch. Needle painting refers to the method of embroidering so that the finished piece looks quite realistic, as if it were painted.
The first name that comes to mind in the needle painting field won't be a surprise to any of you and that's, of course, Trish Burr. I have the pleasure of owning four of her five needle painting books, any of which provide enormous amounts of inspiration and make you want to run for a needle and begin at once! My plans for this month of the challenge are from her 'beginners' book:
I started and muffed the red rose you can see in the upper right hand corner during December, but this month I'm hoping to do the other two florals you can see on the cover and the lovely yellow Welsh Poppy piece as seen below. I'll be using the glorious silk fabrics I bought from The Silk Route's stall at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show as backgrounds - the pansies on the off-white shade, the dog rose on blue and the poppy on the brown shade, I think. (First though, I want to have a go at the peach and white version of the simpler rose piece on some ordinary cotton.)
What I love about The Silk Route's silk fabric is that it's so much smoother than many silks one can buy and so works better for this kind of embroidery, in my opinion. There are still some slubs at times, but they seem to me to be both smaller and fewer than most of the 'rougher' dupions I've seen and bought.
There are a few other books you might find helpful if you're wanting to learn needle painting skills this month:
* Long and Short Stitch Embroidery, Trish Burr
* Redouté's Finest Flowers in Embroidery, Trish Burr
* Crewel and Surface Embroidery, Trish Burr
* The A-Z of Thread Painting, Country Bumpkin (eds) (from which the floral above was worked)
* Beginners' Guide to Silk Shading, Clare Hanham
* RSN Stitch Guide - Silk Shading, Sarah Homfray
All of the above are reviewed on Needle'n'Thread and can be accessed, along with some tutorials and worked examples on Mary's Needlepainting page. You or a friend may already have one or more of these, or you might find them in your local library, so it's worth checking what you can borrow before investing in lots of new books!
In case anyone's especially interested in investing in the Trish Burr 'Beginners' book, then here are a couple more pages so that you can see just how much detail the instruction pages go into:
As you can see, they're excellent (although my photography was not!)
Sarah Homfray has posted a short video tute on YouTube giving a simple overview of working long and short stitch, and she shows the progress of a complete floral portrait from original drawing to completed embroidery here on this video.
Perhaps you might like to try one of Tanja Berlin's kits? Or one from Trish Burr? There are many other, less specialised kits that companies like DMC and Anchor offer, which can also fall into the needle painting category depending on how they're worked, or you might just want to try a design you've seen elsewhere, in a stitchcraft magazine or something similar.
Helen M Stevens' work. I own all but one or two of her books and, whilst she doesn't use the plethora of colours to create the shading that Trish Burr and others do, the fact that she uses silk floss does quite a lot of the shading for her, given that the light seems to create so many extra tones within each shade. The butterfly on the right was stitched from one of her designs and, even here in stranded silk (Madeira's), there seem to be at least two blues used. In floss silk, there seemed to be several! Silk thread is more challenging to work with, but the resulting sheen is quite worth it!
Feel free to share links to your plans and your progress below and also do share any links you have found to good on-line tutorials, whether video or photo based. The more the better and I haven't been able to find as many as I would have liked as so many that came up in my Google search were for machine based work (which you're welcome to do as your needle painting work if that's your interest!).
This dog portrait was worked from the RSN's Embroidery Techniques book, which also has a section on silk shading/needle painting. I don't plan on doing anything this ambitious again in a hurry, (if ever! The monotony of the colours was hard for me to bear...), but it just shows what a determined beginner can accomplish. So, if you have lots of confidence, feel free to attempt something advanced!
I'm planning to post my weekly challenge work updates on Mondays, so I'll be bringing you all up to speed on how my own needle painting work is progressing on 6 Jan.
Don't forget, there's still time to join in the Needlequest challenge. In fact, you can sign up absolutely any time. Details and sign up comments are on the Needlequest page. Any questions, please feel free to ask!
(PS All photos, other than those of the Trish B book, decorating this page are my own work in previous years.)
Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014