Counting Threads

Hi everyone

I hope you’re having a great weekend. In this post I’m going to share two works that use different counted thread techniques.


The first uses Blackwork which is an embroidery technique that dates back to at least the 16th century. It’s also called Spanish Blackwork because it’s thought that it was first brought to England by Catherine of Aragon. It became very popular during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I as a decorative element on clothing but gradually lost ground in the 17th century.

If you’ve read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer you might recall that he describes the clothing of the miller’s wife in this way:

“Of white, too, was the dainty smock she wore, embroidered at the collar all about with coal-black silk, alike within and out.”

The stitches that are characteristic of this geometric technique are Double Running Stitch (also called Holbein Stitch) and Back Stitch. It’s usually stitched on an evenweave fabric.

Flight of a Butterfly

Flight of a Butterfly  is a beautiful Blackwork and Goldwork design stitched by Sharon Burrell. Sharon began this piece as part of a class with Tanja Berlin at the 2013 Koala Conventions. She says that it was the first time she’d done any Blackwork and she absolutely loved the experience because Tanja was such a fantastic teacher. Sharon also found Tanja’s class notes really helpful for finishing the embroidery after the class.

Here’s some awesome eye candy of Sharon’s lovely stitching:

Flight of a Butterfly stitched by Sharon Burrell

Detail 1 of Flight of a Butterfly stitched by Sharon Burrell

Detail 2 of Flight of a Butterfly stitched by Sharon Burrell


Now to the  second counted thread technique……

Wessex Stitching 

When I first came across this technique I thought it looked a bit medieval and assumed it must be very old. The ‘Wessex’ name also adds to the aura of history because during the Anglo Saxon period it was a centre for embroidery and illuminating.

But no it’s actually a more recent style that was created by Mrs Margaret Foster (1843-1936) who lived in Bath, England. Very little is known about her life but her technique, Wessex Stitching, has endured because after her death her sister donated all her notes and the 300 pieces she developed for an exhibition to Gawthorpe Hall.

Gawthorpe Hall has an awesome collection of lace, embroidery and other textiles. It is absolutely on my bucket list. You can read more here.

Wessex Stitching combines a limited number of stitches in a wide variety of patterns and colours to create a decorative effect. It’s also usually stitched on evenweave fabric.

The Broken Window

We’ve been progressively sharing with you the postcards made for 2014 Creative Challenge  Stitching Love and Hope. The postcard we’re sharing in the post is a wonderful modern re-interpretation of the WW1 Silks.

It was created by Catherine Fetherston and is called  The Broken Window. It was inspired by photos of church ruins in France in WW1. The embroidery technique used is Wessex Stitching.

I find this postcard very moving and profound in its understated elegance. The colours and design Catherine has chosen are very evocative of a stained glass window fragmented and yet still splendid in its beauty.

Here are some photos:

2014 Creative Challenge Postcard by Catherine Fetherston

Detail 1 of 2014 Creative Challenge Postcard by Catherine Fetherston

Detail 2 of 2014 Creative Challenge Postcard by Catherine Fetherston

What do you think?



Elizabethan Sweet Bag

Hi there

I’m sharing another example of Marjorie Gilbey’s wonderful stitching.

This Elizabethan Sweet Bag is just exquisite. It’s quite small – 12.5 x 16 cm or 5 x 6.5 inches.

Elizabethan Sweet Bag stitched by Marjorie Gilby

The technique is counted work and best described as petit point.

Close up of Elizabehan Sweet Bag stitched by Marjorie Gilby

In this closer view you can see that the horizontal green borders are done in Long-armed Cross Stitch. The caps of the acorns are needleace while the acorn themselves are embroidered in Satin Stitch. The blue hearts are also Satin Stitch. They are then finished with an outline in Holbein Stitch (also called Double Running Stitch).

Now for a closer look at that lovely central panel:

Detail 2 of Elizabethan Sweet bag stitched by Marjorie Gilby

The centrepiece rose is again needlelace  and the birds are filled in with Tent Stitch and outlined in Holbein Stitch. The use of Chain Stitch in three colours from dark to light is very effective in creating a geometric twisted vine effect to frame this central design.

But the details that really intrigued me are the tulips and the strawberries which are done in Queen Stitch (also called Renaissance Stitch):

Detail 3 of Elizabethan Sweet Bag stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Marjorie Gilby - drawstring bag with complex patterns  5

I’ve been practising this stitch and thinking of ways I can use it to create a lovely and very delicate surface.

Here’s one of the decorative elements attached to the bag:

Pincushion from Elizabethan Sweetbag stitched by Marjorie Gilby