Saturday, 13 August 2011

Borage and a Honeysuckle

Long time no posts then 2 in quick succession!

The thoughts I aired last time about my current path of enquiry, might seem a little controversial, and so I stitched the petal of a honeysuckle to help show more clearly what I am trying to explore. 

Borage continued

The Borage petals didn’t need any stem stitching in the end, and I can also see historic examples where that is the case for this particular flower. 

I found this way of working meant I was able to greatly exaggerate the curves of the petals without the ‘restriction’ of a chain stitch foundation:

CIMG5543  CIMG5545  CIMG5547 CIMG5548 CIMG5549 CIMG5550 CIMG5551  CIMG5553 CIMG5554

So as you can see, sewing directly didn’t mean that the shape ended up jagged and uneven, on the contrary, I can see on historic examples that this treatment of petal edges added textural variety to certain motifs on larger pieces. 

Later, I gave the Borage some little green ladder stitch leaflets, with a central detached chain. 


I used the ladder stitch technique in Sweet Bags.  I think it is a lot easier to understand than anything else I have seen on this stitch and the author explains it is exactly how the Elizabethan’s produced theirs. 

The Borage however, is in trouble:


As you can see, I exaggerated one of the petals so much I forgot it would get in the way of the leaflet.  Oh dear, well never mind, time for some quick thinking.  That resulted in a decision to make a leaflet tip above the petal as well.  Can’t say I’ve seen an historic example (as yet) that tried that little trick !!

The middle alas, is coming out! (and maybe the leaflets will too because it was very late when I selected that particular green..). 

You know, if the petals weren’t so neat, then maybe I could rip the whole thing out.  Trouble is, it’s grown on me, so I’ve decided to take out the row of white and maybe do something 3-d??


Anyway, then I made a ‘direct’ honeysuckle, in the same way:


Below you can clearly see how DBH always forms slightly higher on one side, until you get to the end and mysteriously it ‘beds down’ as it should.

This is a pretty loose cording row I’ve taken here and right at the end of, is my first stitch.  As the shape is increasing at this juncture, my first stitch is taken into the ‘little leg’ of that row.  Increasing outwards like this, in an arc, means you always end up taking the first stitch outside the first loop space, especially as its leading up to forming a horizontal line of stitches.  

CIMG5560    CIMG5564

The picture below is interesting and I’ll talk about that more in the future.  But for now, if you can see in there (?), the two horizontal bars at the very end of the row represent a M1 increase in DBH lingo.  The lower bar is actually the end of the return row on the previous row and the other one is the ‘little leg’ (non-loop space) of this side of the work.  Altogether it means I increased one stitch each side on that row. 


Oh, and here are the ‘little legs’ I mentioned last time.  They are much more apparent now as I learnt to keep my work much looser than I used to.  Result was, it was very easy to stem stitch into each pair.

 CIMG5568 CIMG5569 

Below is the first side almost completed. 

I’d like to draw your attention to the first stitch on each row, after the stem stitch.  See how it is quite vertical and there is no evidence of ‘wrapping’ the thread round anything, which could ‘possibly’ add bulk to those inner regions. 

I have compared this characteristic to historic pieces and there are, in my view, clear similarities.  In fact, the main reason I decided to try out this new way of working was because I kept seeing a particular treatment of the surrounding shape that made me very curious as to its basis.   

This means the overall effect might be considered (perhaps), comparatively ‘crisp’ (?)…


Below you can see I have finished both sides.  The tops of the two outer sections are left un-stem stitched and this is what I can see happening on the historic example that this motif is based on.

 honeysuckle 2

Now the picture below is quite interesting.  If you peer at the central spear you can see it tapers down to a single detached chain stitch. 

I haven’t yet worked out exactly the procedure they used on this section in olden days, but I can see on every piece of historic embroidery (virtually) that I look at, that the points are finished in a particular ‘set way’, that ends with a solitary, detached chain stitch.  I’m not quite there yet and as you can see, near the end of my tip is (horror of horrors) a lump! 

Also notice the sides of the spear and how flat the whole thing is.

In my view, a foundation of reversed chain produces an elevation of the inner stitches.  To my eyes, this elevation is apparent in reproduction pieces but is not in historic pieces.   

So, it might be said that this ‘version’ of stitching directly and stem stitching afterwards keeps the work very flat.

Honeysuckle 3 

The other thing that I keep noticing about historic pieces is that the outermost edge is slightly higher than anything else across the DBH landscape.  This means that at certain angles it catches the light.

When there is a foundation of standard chain stitch and particularly reversed chain (which is thicker) in modern pieces, this outer edge is not so apparent and the holes inside chain stitches seem much larger by comparison.

 stem stitched honeysuckle  

Honeysuckle 1

To back-up my personal ‘theory’ as to this being an valid alternative way of working – that might possibly have been more prevalent that we know – I have seen one piece of unfinished DBH work, where there is no foundation chain made and the stitching was being done directly, in this side to side manner.  The piece is of a bird however, and I know that birds were stitched directly in this way. 

The other piece of evidence I have is a picture of the back of a completed coif, where a strawberry has been completed in small running stitches for the DBH. 

The back of this honeysuckle also looks like small running stitches.


Very soon I will tell you more about this little fellow !!!


Really must dash !


  1. Beth,Your work is just amazing. Everytime I see a new piece I am in awe of your talent. Your descriptions are so interesting. The thing that really is interesting is the even tension your produce. Congratulations on another stunning piece of work.

  2. Oh, thank you Shirley!
    You are so encouraging.
    I dont know what is happening with the comments authorizing blah but I am not always able to reply??
    You make a good point - yes I am finding this new 'linear' way of working my easier to understand in terms of correct tension.
    Actually, I just found another Honeysuckle, made flat, with metal combined that has NO outline, the stitches seem a lot larger than those used on the bird that is next to it.
    I'm looking at Trellis Stitch again now, as per 'Sweet Bags'. I must say, my head is throbbing with that chapter as it would appear I need not use a twisted thread for that one after all...

  3. Just saw this through Pinterest and was wondering what stitch you used on the petals.

    1. hi Dee
      Sorry its taken me such a long time to reply. Yes, the little leaflets are made of Ladder Stitch, but at the end, you use the central 'flying stitches' or rungs, to hook up a line of Chain Stitch, then end it off, go round the back and start the next one. Its particularly effective worked in gold metallic thread.