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The Illuminated William Morris Part 4a - The Fox (Prep)

(originally published 26th August 2014)

Greetings one and all - sorry I didn't upload a blog last week, I've been away in the North, visiting my talented friend and colleague Tracy Franklin in Durham, to share some Royal School of Needlework student assessment work. I managed to get over to Lindisfarne and had a glorious day scrambling about the ruins of the priory.

And now we're onto the Fox part of the William Morris illuminated letter project! This technique is known as silk shading/thread painting/long-and-short stitch. It is use to 'paint' pictures in thread (traditionally silk, but nowadays stranded cottons such as DMC or Anchor etc) of flowers, birds, animals, even people.

Draw your stitch direction lines first on your paper template, then on the fabric

For me (and by default, my students), this technique is all about prep, prep, prep. The technique is demanding enough in itself without adding in extra challenges like not knowing which direction to work the stitches, which colours to put where, and the overall 3D effect aimed for.

Deal with one section at a time - draw the lines, then stitch the section

Drawing stitch direction, or 'flow', lines first on the paper template (allowing for mistakes and adjustments and rubbing out!), then on the fabric, means that you can see how the stitches need to move throughout the section. Do they need to curve? Where? How sharply? Often, the simple step of drawing directional lines on an embroidery outline makes the whole image 'pop' into 3D.

Outline the shape to be stitched with a fine dense split stitch, on the design line itself

After the area that you're about to stitch has been filled with directional lines, the next step is to outline that area with a fine, dense, split stitch - usually in the same shade as the long-and-short stitches that will soon cover it will be. This split stitch provides a firm, even edge against which the needle will tuck the eventual long-and-short stitches. Once the edge is in place, the first row of the thread painting can be worked!

Split stitch only the outline of a section that is not overlapped by another other section


I teach many students this technique, and am always dinging on at them to prep, prep, prep before even threading a needle. Those that listen to me are really glad they did! :) See you next time as I start working up the fox's back! Love 'n Stitches, Kelley


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