Stitchcraft Articles


  1. Review of Little Owl, blackwork kit by Classic Embroidery
  2. Review of Believe by Designs Works
  3. Review of Woodland Winter by Rose Swalwell
  4. Review of Gardener Chick by Heritage Crafts
  5. Review of Cow - Sheep- Pig - Bull
  6. Quaker Style
  7. An Introduction to Bargello
  8. Half Cross Stitch
  9. Band Samplers
  10. Swedish Weaving
Earlier Stitchcraft Articles

Review of Little Owl, blackwork kit by Classic Embroidery

This pretty little design is sold as a 'weekender' and certainly can be completed in a weekend or a few evenings.

I chose the evenweave version but all of the stitching is suitable for Aida. The instructions are very detailed and I started with the backstitch outline. I realised that the horizontal centre on the chart isn't correct but since I'd already started and there was ample material I continued. It's always a bit risky to unpick in blackwork as traces of the threads may be left behind.

When I work backstitch in blackwork, I'm always aware of the reverse stitching showing through to the front so to make right angle crisp, I work some stitches forward so that they are not at an angle on the back. This may not be necessary and perhaps it would be better to use running stitch.

With the backstitch and whole cross stitch in two strands complete, the three infill patterns are worked with a single strand. The running stitch on the bird's front was quick and easy and the instructions give an order for the more dense stitching on the head to make them reversible.

The wing stitching can also be worked as reversible following the stitch guide given but I'm afraid I found that a bit more tricky in the small space and gave up. Afterwards I thought that perhaps working the pattern vertically rather than horizontally may have made it easier as most of the rows are longer. So when I tried that on one wing, it was a lot easier to follow and the reverse is patterned but not a copy of the front.

The finished owl is three and a half inches in diameter and if reversible would fit in a four inch round flexihoop. If mounted carefully it would make an attractive window hanging. My finished owl looks perfect from the front but perhaps I'll try again and take more care over the backstitch.

The kit in available in evenweave and 14 count Aida. There was a little black floss left over.

Having finished the Little Owl, I still felt that making it completely reversible was a challenge. Obviously not necessary but interesting. So I started again, this time in brown on cream and worked in outline in running stitch with two strands. This looked very neat but better after I'd invested in a pair of hardanger scissors to cut the ends closer.

Whole cross stitch as I normally work it is not reversible but if I worked every second stitch then it would slope on the back. I remembered a pattern booklet called Reversible Cross Stitch Sampler by Needlemade Designs and there was the answer:-

Work one half cross stitch every second space left to right;
Return with second half of crosses in spaces;
work top stitch on alternate stitches left to right;
work under on return to make stitches lie in the same direction.

The filling stitches for the bird's head and breast had come out reversible the first time but try as I might I couldn't make the honeycomb pattern the same on the back following the instructions. I tried variations on scrap fabric and finally worked out a completely reversible order of stitching. The front still looks neater than the back as I had to finish off ends in the running stitch making some places thicker than others. You can judge for yourself from the photos.

Little Owls

My next challenge is mounting the finished Litle Owl in a flexihoop.
by Anne Peden on Fri, 28 Aug 2015, 10:16
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Review of Believe by Designs Works

A pretty little design of the word with fairies and beads.

The pattern advises running cold water over the darker red and blue shades of floss because they may not be colourfast. I wondered about using vinegar to fix the colour but decided to play it safe. As it was the colours didn't run at all.

The threads were already on the shade card in the same order as the key but no floss numbers are given even for comparison just colour names. I was a bit worried about mixing them up after I'd removed some to rinse so I took a photo. Even then I wasn't convinced about where to place them on the card. Only one shade dark lavender didn't seem to be correct but it matched the photo.

I began in the centre with the whole cross stitch of the word. That and the star shapes were easily worked. The little fairies with partial cross stitch, backstitch and french knots were more intricate to work but not too difficult.

That left the beads which are sewn on with a single strand in a similar shade using the beading needle provided. There was lots of leftover floss in all the shades, the least in the brown of the backstitch but still ample. believe by design works

The whole design was worked in less than a week and the finished embroidery fits a standard photo frame of 7 by 5 inches. Imagine, Dream and Hope are from the series with the words in the same shades and there are other series in similar style but different colours Faith and Love, Family and Friends so if you like this idea there are lots of others to choose from.
by Anne Peden on Fri, 21 Aug 2015, 09:04
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Review of Woodland Winter by Rose Swalwell

A pretty little design from a seasonal set. Derwentwater Designs has many Spring, Summer, Autumn Winter sets. This is one of the smaller sets.

Firstly I had to sort the threads onto cards by colour. Rose Swalwell never uses any partial stitches but the stitching completely covers the design area so that can be a bit complicated if there are lots of shades.

I decided to begin with both browns in the tree trunks as it's easier to go wrong if you work too far in a single shade. The shade with the most floss is a mid grey so I decided to leave that to last and use it to fill in the gaps without having to refer to the chart.

I gradually introduced all the other shades so that I could check I hadn't made any mistakes. Then when I was happy that all but the mid grey was stitched I finished the whole cross stitch. A border of the same shade left only the backstitch. That is worked in two shades of brown, the lighter brown charted with a dotted line which wasn't so easy to see so I had to refer to the finished picture to check. trees

The whole embroidery was completed in less than a week with lots of leftover floss.

Woodland Winter is brighter and with more peach than the illustration on the kit cover. The set of four seasons could be worked and mounted in a single frame.
by Anne Peden on Fri, 14 Aug 2015, 10:55
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Review of Gardener Chick by Heritage Crafts

Heritage Crafts have lots of birds and flower kits converted from the artwork of Valerie Pfeiffer which are very pretty and timeless.

I decided to try out one of the smaller Chickadee kits Gardener Chick which comes from the set Artist, Christmas, Fisherman, Gardener, Golfing, Kitchen, Rain and Tennis. A weekend project, these would make nice little gifts or even be suitable for a greetings card. The Christmas Chick has been the most popular of the set.

The kit has large black and white charts, the cross stitch on one A4 sheet with the added backstitch shown on the facing page superposed on a faded version of the chart.

The only problem I had with the chart was that solid symbols are quite difficult to distinguish, especially the playing card club and spade shapes which are used in the same area. The spade shape is a blend with one strand of the club so close in colour too. To get round this I highlighted one of the symbols on the chart.

The design is worked with several variations on partial cross stitch, only a few quarter and three quarter but more of vertical and horizontal halves in different colours. The instructions given are very clear with diagrams of how to stitch these on evenweave and on Aida fabric and certainly it wasn't difficult on the evenweave version I worked on. It might be a little more tricky on Aida but the result is effective see
by Arts and Designs on Thu, 16 Jul 2015, 14:05
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Review of Cow - Sheep- Pig - Bull

We decided that it would be a good idea to stitch a few different suppliers' kits to review them for our customers.

I started with this small Lanarte kit and found that although it's small, working one over one in half cross stitch on 28 count evenweave presents some challenges. It took some time before my eyes become accustomed to the very fine stitching especially since I began in the middle with the pink pig. There isn't much contrast between the light colours and the white fabric.

After stitching the pig, I decided that there was little point in stitching the white areas. This meant that I had to be even more careful about finishing off the thread ends so that none would show through, but this was already essential with the black floss.

As time went on I became quicker. The black contrast of the bull stitching was easier, the sheep being mostly unstitched white didn't take long and the cow with dark thread and white areas was quite easy.

Cow-Sheep-Pig-Bull, The finished cross-stitch

There is off course plenty of left over floss. And as I planned to make this a present for my little granddaughter, it seemed a good idea to add the animal names as in lots of her little books. I chose the red of the sheep's tongue but there's enough floss of other shades as it took less than four strands of the enclosed length.

We'll add a copy of the word chart with purchase of the kit.

Now it just remains to see if she can identify the rather lopsided cartoon animals and I'll make my next project something on a bigger stitch count.
by Arts and Designs on Wed, 15 Jul 2015, 10:18
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Quaker Style

Crewel work was very popular in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. With the new trade routes to the Far East opening there were exciting new possibilities to use silks and linens and ladies began to make elaborately patterned clothes and bed hangings.
Quaker Christmas by Midnight Stitching
The ladies of the New World also enjoyed embroidery often dying their own floss and taking inspiration from the birds and animals around them The simple style of working in only one shade of floss on a contrasting background appealed to the Puritan mind but the floss could be shaded by steeping wools in indigo over varying lengths of time to give different effects.

We have put together a collection of cross stitch patterns in Quaker style. Since most are worked in whole cross stitch using one or very few shades of floss these are often ideal for beginners. Shading can be introduced with overdyed floss or sampler threads to recreate the American Colonial style.

Simple Fabric Dyeing

Some of the patterns use specially dyed fabric to give an antique look but if these are not available or just to add your own individuality to the samplers, why not dye your own fabric using tea or coffee. The finished fabric comes out a warm cream with slight shade variation.

First wet your fabric and then dip it it a cup of black tea or coffee. By varying the amout of tea or coffee used you can achieve lighter or darker fabric. When you are happy with the colour add two tablespoons of white vinegar to the cup and dip the fabric again. The vinegar sets the fabric. Then let the evenweave fabric dry naturally, iron it and it is ready for use. The smell of the vinegar disappears.
by Arts and Designs on Thu, 23 Oct 2008, 17:10
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An Introduction to Bargello

There are lots of names for this style of canvas work including Florentine embroidery, Irish stitch and Hungarian stitch showing that this popular stitch has travelled and been adapted to suit the style of the time and place.

Flame stitch is a very descriptive name for one version where points and gradual shading remind us of a fire. But there are few rules and this style of canvas work needs little practice before the stitcher can design and create very individual items.

Worked in straight stitches and usually in one direction, adjoining stitches should overlap by at least half of the length of a stitch, so that if the pattern is being worked over six canvas threads you would not move up or down more than three. The traditional flame would be the best place to start with where each stitch is the same length and the pattern is set by the first row and then following rows are exactly the same but in different colours or shades.

A colour wheel will be a useful aid when choosing colours, two directly opposite colours such as red and green or yellow and purple will make the brightest finished article. Work dark to light in one colour followed by dark to light in the other or dark to light followed by light to dark to give a different effect. More subtle designs can be worked by choosing shades from one area of the colour wheel or work entirely in pastels or dark shades the possibilities are endless.

The flame stitch pattern is useful for all sorts of articles from spectacle cases to cushions and the article can be worked very quickly. With larger pieces, it is best to work on a frame to keep the canvas straight and care must be taken when making up as canvas does have a tendency to fray.
Bargello tieback pattern
The example shown was used to make a simple curtain tie back and worked in four shades of blue. In this case the stitching was worked in six strands of stranded cottons over 20 count double canvas. The finished embroidery was back with plain blue cotton and loops were crocheted at each end. This was worked to co-ordinate with a large project a dressing table stool. Add a few stitches to the width and back with velvet and make a stylish spectacle case.

Good fun and quick to work, Bargello will continue to be a favourite for generations to come.
by Arts and Designs on Wed, 17 Sep 2008, 19:11
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Half Cross Stitch

Some cross stitch designs have areas of half cross stitch (which is the first leg of a cross stitch.) Half cross stitch is a very useful stitch to cover areas which don't require so much prominence such as shadows, reflections and backgrounds. background half cross stitch Little Donkey

When stitching The Little Donkey picture the most interesting part is the subject itself but it needs a background or it would be floating in mid air. The half cross stitch background is effective and unobtrusive and best of all very much quicker to work.

So even where the pattern doesn't specify half cross stitch for a background it is always worth considering for at least part of those large green boring areas after the interesting bits have all been done. Especially since we all have the next project in mind by the time we get to that stage.
by Arts and Designs on Fri, 23 May 2008, 14:46
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Band Samplers

Band Samplers are a very old form of embroidery dating back to the Late Middle Ages. These were stitch references where the lady of the house tried out new stitches and then put away the rolled up sampler until she needed it for reference or wanted to try out a new stitch. They went out a fashion when books of stitches became more readily available.Sheep and Rabbits by Elizabeth
Modern band samplers although often also a collection of different stitches are meant to be displayed and usually have a theme or attractive colour scheme.

Hardanger is often found in band samplers and this makes an interesting project to try out this form of embroidery especially if it's combined with cross stitch. Some band sampler use a variety of flosses giving interesting textures while others work with a limited pallette.
Acorn Band Sampler by Ginger & Spice
From the traditional 17th Century band sampler by Donna Vermillion to the very modern Chocolate Cake Sampler by Casey Buonaugurio, from the simple one nighter band sampler by Jeannette Crews to the challenging Wildflower Drawn Thread Sampler by Linda Driskell, there's sure to be a band sampler to suit everyone.

Click here to see our current range of patterns.
by Arts and Designs on Mon, 26 Nov 2007, 13:33
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Swedish Weaving

This traditional craft had a revival in the 1930s and 40s and is becoming increasingly popular today.

It is a type of pattern darning worked on Huck fabric which has floats on one surface running vertically. The technique picks up these floats and weaves geometric patterns. The needle used is blunt and never pierces the fabric. Because of the use of regular weave it is considered to be a counted thread technique.

Unfortunately, the fabric is becoming more difficult to find but it is possible to use Aida and pick up part of the loops. Then the weaving can be used in conjuction with other counted thread stitches.

However although Swedish Weaving has only two basic stitches, straight and loop stitch, complicated patterns can be built up. If special threads are used such as sampler or watercolour floss, then very interesting effects can be achieved. See the Swedish Weaving Pillows by In a Gentle Fashion.
Straight stitches are threaded between loops either in a straight line or in a pattern and go through a float only once. Swedish Weaving straight stitches

Loops are worked first through one float and then another returning to the first and passing through again. Swedish weaving loop stitches

Although the stitches are simple they can be worked into very elaborate designs mainly used for household linens.
by Arts and Designs on Sat, 20 Oct 2007, 19:40
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Earlier Stitchcraft Articles ...

Something a little bit different ...
Ribbon Embroidery ...
Counted Beadwork ... Beadwork was very popular in Victorian times when it was used to decorate evening dresses and bags and in furnishings such as cushions and footstools.
Assisi Embroidery ... Assisi embroidery comes from the Italian town of that name and was once used to decorate ecclesiastical linens.
Blackwork Easter Egg - a simple example. ... There's nothing very complicated about blackwork.
Would you like to try hardanger ? ... Some of you have recently expressed interest in hardanger, so we decided to research the subject a little and look for a few products.
New Baby? ... News of an expected new baby is always very exciting, and not just to the parents-to-be!
Miss Potter - Renaissance Woman ... Hollywood has seen a ready market for adaptations of British childrens' classics - Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and so on, but now director Chris Noonan has made a new movie based on the life of the storyteller rather than the stories.
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat ... ... Or perhaps, «gravitationally challenged», but it just doesn't scan.
Searching for Golden Threads ... I had a long search to find the
Mounting Your Embroidery On Card ... This is a short piece with advice on mounting your embroidery on card for framing - what type of thread to use and how to do it.
What Colour Is Blackwork? ... Blackwork is over four hundred years old
Not Another Embroidery! ... There are many, many cross stitch and embroidery designs and kits out there.
Goldwork ... Goldwork embroidery
Stitching Techniques And Tips ... An introduction to working cross stitch, blackwork and needlepoint designs with some useful tips and advice for beginners.
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