Friday, 2 April 2010

Creating curl with Detached Buttonhole 3-D flower petals

Detached Buttonhole Blue Flower

Well I finally sorted out my problems with curling Detached Buttonhole petals; the type of curl and the extent of curl, hence the hiatus.



In this picture you can see me unpicking some of the ‘compensation’ stitches I’d made with slanted encroaching Gobelin stitch.  The background of the bag is completely covered in this stitch using silver thread.  What’s interesting about this is that the stitches are worked vertically, as I can  see clearly from my museum image, and not horizontally, as is the modern method.  More about that later, as I just want to concentrate of the ‘curling’ concept this time. 

I know that last time I said I would produce a diagram pattern for the basic petal of this flower, but alas that will have to wait until next time, as I really need to explain my experiments with the curling. 

First off, as you’ll recall, I’d been using a reversed chain stitch base line.  I really like that way of working, it gives you a firm base from which to start and very even results. 

So I proceeded in that way but I quickly ran into difficulties and I have to admit, they became increasingly worse as I tried to complete the flower.  To my horror the resulting petals looked like this:


As you can see, they were much too curled, too malformed and very disappointing indeed. 

With the usual pressures of time, I hoped I could just maybe tweak them into shape but when I returned to look at them the next day they’d stubbornly flipped back into their mutant shapes.  So then I thought it was because I’d not combined them with metal thread and I made another one with it here:


Again, you can see its better but its still not curling as its meant to.  Its curling in a more controlled manner at the outer edge but what’s even more disconcerting is that although this time I’ve used metal, you can see its lying flat against the ground fabric and not looking raised enough.  This was a big problem.  I concluded it  lacked some inherent ‘springiness’.  Its hard to explain but it just wasn’t lifting up off the fabric as I can see it should from the image. 

Now I could have left it at that and just plodded on, especially as it takes so long to sew one of these things as you can’t use very long thread as it tangles with the metal.  If you recall I’m using several strands silver lame.

I really could have accepted the petal pictured above but I still felt I could improve on it.  After all, I wanted to be as faithful to the image I was working from as I possibly could.  I didn’t want a  ‘modern  interpretation’ vaguely based on an old flower design.  So, with all this frustration I realised for the first time just how accurately I want my reproduction to be.  I think I mentioned before, I don’t want the bag to be an all-consuming head-banging passion but I want it very much to look ‘right’.  

We think of Elizabethan embroidery as a domestic art movement but I believe this bag was made professionally and in all likelihood it was produced by The Worshipful Company of Broderers, which was given its royal charter in 1661.  I wont tell you too much about them at this stage just that in those days, they used to sell their wares not far away in a covered market.

The fundamental errors I was making with the petal  eventually made me realise I was stuck.  So I left off stitching anything for a few days to put my thinking cap on. 

Then I received an interesting email from a reader which turned out to be extremely germane.  In it I was asked what I’d discovered about the base line.  That got me thinking... 

I came to realise that I was making increases where I didn’t need to.  It intrigued me as to why I was doing that, then I realised I was in crochet mode.  In crochet the concern is to keep the work flat on turning a corner, so you naturally create more stitches.  However, the aim here is to do the reverse and make the work stick up, or curl.  If you think about eyelashes for instance, they are spaced evenly along the edge of the lid but ‘appear’ wider apart or to have less lashes in the middle.  This is an illusion as all the eyelashes are parallel, if you were to flatten the eyelid out into a straight line.  So, I concluded that the base line needed to allow for this movement of the stitches and give the illusion that at that mid point there are less stitches.  See here:


To be fair to the museum image, it does show all of this but I cannot tell from it what’s supporting the first row of DBH. 

Well, with that thought I decided to scrap the reversed chain start as it was too tight to work with in this instance and it had itself too many stitches as I was looking for less  for this purpose and I needed to explore other methods.  I was primarily looking for a base line that was looser but not too loose, and most importantly would allow room for the DBH stitches to lift upwards, so in a way I needed a base line that would also allow for the ‘rotation’ of the first row stitches, as the reversed chain was making them peg down too firmly. 

After working a couple non-starters I realised that I needed to enlarge the image of the bag to its max and try and see the solution therein.  What I can see from that is, that whatever foundation/base line they used, they stitched over the entire thing, in other words there was no row of remaining stem stitches, which is what it looks like if you use only one side of a reversed chain foundation in the usual way.  

So then I:

  • Made one with backstitch – terrible, too difficult to control.
  • Made one with chain stitch regular – again, terrible, too difficult to control.
  • Made one with reversed chain stitch BUT THIS TIME, I used both sides of the stitch and it looked like this:


As I hope you can see, by doing it this way the entire petal just totally flipped right over like a swissroll! Although this proved they couldn’t have used this method on the bag, I am actually very pleased I did this because this odd formation could be really useful when it comes to making modern 3-D type flowers….more later.

  • Then I made one with a normal chain stitch, not reversed BUT THIS TIME I used both sides of the stitch and this is what I got:


At last, this is exactly the same orientation of first row stitches as on the bag itself.  Hope you can see but they are loose and slanted as compared to the subsequent rows that are straight.  Finally the petal is lifting up from the ground fabric as its does in the image.  

Here’s a close-up of the finished thing and it looks  extremely similar along the base line as it does on the image of the bag itself:


From this I’ve concluded that if you grab both sides of the chain stitch:

a. it creates a thick/padded first row which is a firm base without being too tight and is loose enough to allow rotation of the first row of stitches built onto it.

b. it doesn’t have too many stitches or is too tight, which would cause the petal to flatten out as they are basted down permanently in one position.

b. by grabbing both sides of the chain stitch, it lifts the thing away from the background which is further enhanced by the subsequent stretching of the outer edge of the completed petal.

Supplies Update:

My gold and silver supplies are on their way to me.  I’m excited but also worried.  Apart from anything else, if the Lurex is what I should go with, it may be that its so thin I need to get 40 count linen.  For sure, the silver will decide the scale of everything else.   

Until next time!



1.  Have to finish the mini book by 8th April

2.  Working on ideas for making the orange into a ‘slip’ and attaching it to something else, like green velvet…

3.  etc etc etc


  1. Hello Beth Lea, I admire you determination to master this petal. It looks truly beautiful now. You are certainly a very talented lady. Hugs Judy

  2. Judy, what can I say, thanx a lot! Yeah, looking back I dont know why I took so long. I suppose I hadn't realised just how much I wanted it to look like the real thing. By the way, I showed The Husband the image and the flower side by side and he gasped at the likeness. So, all I can say is, the real thing really does sparkle like jewellery....

  3. Beth, can you tell me, when you do the buttonhole stitch do you pull the thread through towards you horizontally, or upwards from the work...vertically. I know his can made a difference to the "twist" of the way the buttonholes sit.
    am having another go properly! dont want to get drummed out of the service!

  4. Shirley Hi
    I replied to this on your page at Stitchin. You make a good point. The answer is I always pull the thread up and away from me for all buttonholing, both corded and uncorded. There are certain rare situations where you pull down but that would correspond with the needle pointing downwards as well.
    By pulling upwards you achieve 3 things:
    1. The rope-like smooth edge of the top of the stitch e.g. it will not be lumpy. This is because you are working with the S twist. I did do a post on that but I am amending it to include more pictures. Bear in mind you should also buttonhole TOWARDS your dominate side. If you start the wrong side, your work will be uneven by comparison.
    2. Your stitching will be much much faster. Those large pieces of Venetian needlelace were worked incredibly fast because of course if your orientation is correct, then the stitch just really slips into place, kind of thing.
    3. Wrist strain is minimised if you pull upwards. Because to pull downwards means you would need the needle to be pointing downwards too and that is very bad for the wrist for long periods.

    I tell you, the day I sorted out my buttonholing, it was like I went through this secret door and into a vast landscape......(o-oh, there I go again!!!)