Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Needlequest 2014 - January - technique - Needle Painting

It's time to start the Needlequest!  I've been looking forward to this for many weeks and here we are, all set to go.=)

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.

Of course, you can work needle painting onto more or less any closeweave/plainweave fabric and the choice is yours as to which you use for your own work.  I just like to have the gentle sheen of silk as a background and am hoping, in the fullness of time and when I've worked enough pieces, to create a display of several florals, birds and maybe butterflies too in one large frame.  We shall see....

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.

Certainly not to be overlooked in this area is 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!

Good hunting!

(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


Queeniepatch said...

Such beautiful work! I am looking forward to seeing what you and those who join in the challenge create. Have a wonderful creative 2014, Elizabeth!

Wendy said...

This is an area that scares me as I'm such a novice embroideress, however I have the perfect project in my WiPs pile, it's a Crewel work piece that, though lacking the delicacy of Trish's work, does use long and short stitch and so might be good for a beginner like me.

Anonymous said...

Exquisite needle work ~ beautiful ~ xxx

zenuwpees said...

Splendide broderie felicitation Marie-Claire

Rachel said...

I can just imagine that that dog would have taken some perseverance for a beginner - well done indeed! I'm sure the flowers will seem simple by comparison!

Isabelle said...

oh, I have this book too. It is wonderfull.
I wish you an happy new year 2014.

Deborah said...

Well done! The dog is marvellous and I can see the hidden hand of Helen Stevens behind all that directional fur. I've also got several of her books, for the sheer beauty of them, not out of any wish to do her kind of embroidery. I know my limitations!

But I did a really big needlepoint picture some years ago, of nasturtium flowers in a brass vase, and got lots of help from a book on crewel embroidery by Jane Rainbow, lovely name. She showed how to use various stitches on carnation flowers, and her techniques were really helpful. Can't remember the name of the book - sorry! I used DMC wools on 10-count canvas, so "really big" is no exaggeration. Your lovely flowers look tiny by comparison but should go a lot more quickly.

I found your blog in a reference by Jane of Chilly Hollow, wonderful woman. I'm grateful to her and to you, and I'll be back.

Deborah Hubbard, South Africa