Thursday, 13 May 2010

How I made the Stump work mini fabric book

Well finally, here is the finished repro Girdle Book, with its beaded neck and flat Turks Head Knot tassel.  Remember the book itself measures a mere 2 inches!


As you know I based the idea on an historical item of jewellery that was worn round the waist on a long chain.  I also mentioned that my version of that idea is secular, in fact, this is a stump work mini fabric book made for my daughter about…………… her DOG!!

As you can see, the whole thing was an embellishing fest’!

And you know, the more I added to it, the more it came together, in other words, I found my own way of really understanding some of the basic ideas behind the lavish decoration on Elizabethan items.  The colours are so strong that you have to add lots and lots of themes, like patterns; colour repeats; contrasting effects and naturally consider patina, luminosity, reflection etc etc in other words, lots of stash-busting ideas.


As you can see, it contains 2 photographs protected by thick transparent plastic (recycled) and 4 white fabric pages stitched together that have Image Transfer prints of little caricature sketches I would hurriedly draw of our dog, to stuff into my daughter’s lunchbox when she was at school.  Well, she kept all those drawings in a little box, so I raided it and set to work...


I got the idea of mounting DBH stitching onto card from Dorothy Clarke’s ‘Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery’.  In it she describes how to make serviette holders out of a Pansy design by mounting them onto card.  I think this idea is really great and you can think of endless things to do with it, like stuffed portraits.  So, here I made a heart- shaped book!

How to Start

The whole thing began as a freehand drawing of a heart which I cut out and pinned to some calico and drew around.  Then I stitched 2 hearts with red Detached Buttonhole in a loose way and later stuffed them with standard filling using a handy Bodkin.  Once that was done I cut them out leaving tabs so I could mount them onto card.

Heart template 
padded heart

Shopping list:

1.  Stiff Cardboard (re-cycled Pizza supports)

2.  Cotton red DBH stitching (2 shades plus a metallic type)

3.  White fabric (re-cycled)

4.  Transparent plastic (re-cycled)

5.  Rhinestones

6.  Gold thread (hand-embroidery and machine types)

7.  Beads (gold, red, pearls, silver)

8.  CQ stitching

9.  Mini ribbons & mini roses

10. A piece of choker jewellery with a daisy design

11. Patchwork fabric

12.  2 Photographs

13.  Stuffing

14.  Gold tassel cord (purchased)

15.  Turks Head Knot (purchased)

16.  Large vintage pearl bead (recycled)

17.  Gold elastic

18.  Antique bronze flower charm to conceal join

19.  Decorative braid from stash.


I used spray mounting glue to get the hearts onto the card thinking that would help but it made things very difficult when I came to stitching them securely later on as the glue causes dirt particles to adhere and discolour the work.

Mounting Photographs

Once the hearts were mounted onto the card, using the same template I cut out patchwork fabric to mount the photographs. 


To do this, I cut out 2 more pieces of stiff (Pizza support) card in heart shapes, 2 photographs in heart shapes and 2 pieces of recycled transparent plastic, in heart shapes.  

Then I stuck the mounted photograph to the other side of the stuffed heart and sewed all around the edge to secure everything.  This was easy and took no time. 

Embellishing Borders

The next part was difficult, however, because I had to finish off the raw fabric inner border covering the photograph with Crazy Quilting seam treatments on one side and beads on the other.  This proved to be very time-consuming as the stitches were tiny and I had to take care not to scratch the plastic covering the photographs or pull the fabric out of shape (or stab myself too many times!!).  Remember, its only 2 inches both ways + 1 inch depth.



White Image Transfer Pages

Then I printed the little drawings onto some white sheeting using image transfer paper for an inkjet printer, remembering to use the ‘mirror’ function on the printer settings so that the text would come out the right way.

Ironing Image on Fabric

Now when it came to ironing them I was aiming for a matt effect.  I found the best way to achieve this on my iron was to only press for 8 seconds, rest for 3 seconds and repeat this twice more.  Then quickly pulling the paper off, carefully, but taking tremendous care not to let the thing cool down or else it will develop an unattractive glossy sheen.  (Also remember to always protect your ironing board cover!)

Stitching White Pages

Then I used the heart template again for the white pages, leaving a hem of about 1 cm for tucking in.  Then I stitched the white pages together using hand patchwork technique of ‘blind stitch’. 

I should add the white pages took a long time to stitch together because the chemicals that make up the Image paper are very difficult to stitch into.  I wished at that stage the chemical had stopped short of the edge, however, when I came to bead the circumference of the white pages I was actually glad that it was there as it gave the page stability. 

Sewing Gold Mini Hinges

After all that was done I created the mini hinges that I described earlier (see earlier post).  These consisted of little loops of gold lame, say about 4 loops, then I went round all of them with tiny buttonhole stitching and tied them with thin ribbon.  I found using this method very in-keeping with how the Elizabethans tied their shoes etc.  Later I concealed the ribbon knots on the mini-hinges with ribbon roses in a matching colour because they are just so girlie!!


For newbies, this is what I mean.

Below you see what the hinges look like from the inside, I think its important that they looked decorative from this view as well.  The other advantage of using extraneous loops like this, is that they don’t cramp the pages as they’re opened.  This is another important factor in the overall feel of the item.  I used 2 hinges on each page.  


Beadwork Back

Next I tackled the beadwork back.  I used a simple ‘5-bead netting’ trellis, the kind you see a lot in Tudor paintings.  You make this by adding 2 beads, adding the shared bead and then add 2 more.  For the next row you go into the shared bead, then start sequence again.  (Its explained fully in The Beader's Bible by Dorothy Wood.)  Essentially a grid design that I then had to adapt to fit round a moulded shape.  This took a long time because the margin for error is nil  as the eye immediately rests on the oddity if you decrease incorrectly.  I had to take it out and start again twice!  It was worth it though because it unifies the whole thing by helping to integrate the large rhinestone design on the front.  (For information about the front see earlier post.) 

Braided Trim

Between these two ideas is another ‘unifying’ them, that of the gold and pearl braid running along the edge of the top heart.  I found I needed to add this because the lighter inner area of the book was a bit wide and needed to be concealed.  I was fortunate enough to have this particular braiding in my stash.  I don’t think they make it anymore, its quite old.  If you notice, it not only links the front and the back by means of the pearls but also because of the pattern.  Its a gentle winding curve that echoes the curved form of the padded heart. 

Stages of Construction of 5-Bead Netting

How I beaded the back:

I made the beaded lattice on the table, working from side to side downwards, checking the dimensions every now and again and anchoring the whole thing to a pair of scissors.  I went through each bead only once.  This did not matter at this stage as I knew later on I would go through each of them once or twice more.


Then I rested the beadwork on the heart shape and carefully chose where (and how) to tension and secure the thing in place.  I started from either side at the top, taking great care with how I wanted to centralise the design.  Then I increased and decreased outward, taking tremendous care to mirror each action on both sides.


But saying all of that, even though you are extending the pattern to fit the shape, at the same time you’re moulding the outer edge to echo the overall shape of the thing.  I thought this part was very interesting because I didn’t realise that in decreasing you can achieve this with  as few beads as only one bead at a time in between the shared bead because what actually creates the whole visual effect are the lines of vertical shared (gold) beads coming down.  Furthermore, it helped me decide that I’m going to do this again on the repro bag.

Fitting the Clasp

Then I made a clasp with thickish gold elastic and an antique pearl bead.  The colour for this clasp had to be right, although it might be a little larger than I would have preferred.  I don’t think it detracts though, because there is so much ‘going on’ design-wise, however, this type of clasp has caused readers to refer to it as a needlecase, which is OK really because I borrowed the idea from the Chinese needlecase in my workbox.


As the clasp is merely gold elastic, I concealed the join with a little flower charm that broke off a mobile phone decoration a couple of years ago.  It fits in because its mock antique bronze.


Beaded Neck

Here is a close-up of the neck.  The red beads are very dark but terrifically shiny and so I lessened their deadening tone by adding gold and pearl crowns either side.  The red beads are about 2o years old, for cheap beads I can see now they were really well made. 


Attaching Choker Jewellery Interconnecting Piece

Below is the Celtic style piece of choker jewellery that I threaded the cord through to connect book to cord.  I chose it for design and function as it has an all-in-one ring from which to dangle the book.  Of course the cord was too thick to be able to move along the chocker piece (I found out!), so I added two lines of silver beads on either side to conceal the gold securing stitches, as you can see, its slightly thicker on the left.  But that’s ok, as long as you match the gold colour, you can get away with a certain amount of ‘compromise’. 



Flat Turks Head Knot

Here’s the flat Turks Head Knot.  Again its a very early Christian Celtic design that the Elizabethans adored.  Its my opinion that along with the Talismanic significance of gemstones (see earlier post), the symbolic legacy of these Celtic designs also conveyed something to the Elizabethans.  Here its formed flat, exactly the same formation can be positioned and then tightened around a cord to form the familiar cylindrical Turks Head knot that you see on Swetebags and ships rigging.  The Bag I’m working from in fact has in excess of 35 such knots.  I recently worked out how to make them, so that will save me some money!! 



So in the end its 3 things; its a heart tassel/quasi evening bag charm, a mini fabric book and a stumpwork keepsake.  I like the multiplicity of purpose!

Correction of information regarding name of stitch used for front design goldwork:  I used “Threaded Back Stitch” as described in Mrs Christie's 'Samplers and Stitches'.  Chosen because: 'very little thread passes through the material'.  You can use a different coloured backstitch but I find that if you use the same then the end result is very much like a Cabled Chain stitch but easier for a gold passing thread to complete. 

Bag Progress

Here’s the pattern for the next motif.  Thankfully I’ve found another type of silver Lurex that will suffice for much speedier mock-ups as I need to spend more time working out the complex methods of construction.  For instance with the next flower below.  If you notice the middle section marked with a number 7.  Its my guess that this element was created in a one ‘frill’ idea, then continues outward into 7 individual petals. 

I might be wrong and find that it is in fact made of  7 individual petals that are brought together with the pearl purl but from what I’ve learned so far about curl, I don’t think so because if you notice on the drawing of the photograph below, the curl for this middle element is very exaggerated.

Flower Motif 2 Pattern
Second Flower Motif of Detached Buttonhole
Phew, gotta go!


  1. Very nice...and great instructions!
    Thanks for your visit on Stitching Fingers and comment.

  2. So lovely. I like all of your stuff. Yoby Henthorn

  3. Wow, what alot of work! And really beautiful gift. Thanks so much for sharing the details, I suspect that this is something I'll refer to in the future.

  4. this is awesome. so comprehensive.
    thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Thanks for all your comments everyone, much appreciated.

    I'm supposed to be making The Bag, but I wonder if this blog is also maybe going to turn into: '101 things you can do with DBH, lol!!!'

    Keep 'em coming ppl!

  6. This is a very, very nice post, Beth Lea. Thank you for sharing it in such a wonderful way. Anneliese

  7. That's adorable ......Lorna

  8. Hi, I love your blog and it's such an inspiration to me.
    I'm making something similar to this for my Mum's birthday in January, thank you so much for sharing the wonderful instructions so I have a very faint chance of creating something as wonderful.

  9. Thanks Anneliese, Lorna & Elizabeth,

    I'm working on an Embroidered Ring now. Specs are: it must be silver, must not be too delicate that it cannot be worn, and it mustn't be too big.

    I'm not a big lover of silver but if I keep the colour register to 'very light and shiny' it might work. I've made the first layer of the maquette. I'm pleased so far but can see some head scratching moments further on. It's going to have three tiers and a very special addition....wont say anymore for now !

  10. Waiting in anticipation.
    I'm only 15 and your work is a great inspiration for my crafting endevours in any free time I have!

  11. Totally adorable.