Christina  in Winter White Cape
at Snowflake Lane

Randy and I finished up our shopping at Bellevue Square where they have “Snowflake Lane” each night during the holidays. He’s now entertaining us playing an assortment of Christmas music, Broadway show tunes, and pieces from the 20’s to the 50’s. I’m at a distinct disadvantage with “Name That Tune” for that era, since I wasn’t even born yet, but my Mom is having a great time!

Snowflake Lane

Knotted Blanket Stitch

Since I always like to keep my hands busy, I’m working on an edging stitch for one of my embroidery samplers. I decided to do a Knotted Blanket Stitch, which I’ll show  how to do here:

Step 1- Make a loop
Step 2 – Needle through loop and
above the lower thread from last stitch

Step 3- Pull loop tight around needle
Step 4 – Pull thread through, making
sure that loop stays tight to form knot

You might also be interested in:
Stitchwork Samplers
More Embroidery Samples

Merry Christmas from our family to yours and wishing us all Peace on Earth.


I’ve spent some evenings working more on hand embroidery.  Let me know if you want instructions or thread types on any of the stitches!

Top Row:

  1. Herringbone stitch
  2. Herringbone stitch
  3. Cretan stitch – similar to herringbone, but with a twist
  4. Cable stitch
  5. Laced running stitch – simple but looks nice!
  6. Pekinese stitch – while this isn’t very difficult, you need to work at keeping loops the same size
  7. Laid trailing stitch – very thick raised couched cording
  8. Feather stitch
  9. Heavy Chain stitch- this is almost a braided stitch
  10. Twisted Chain stitch
  11. Chevron stitch
  12. Open chain stitch -this fine wool (DMC Medicis) is a bit tough to see- looks like a ladder
Bottom Row:
  1. Double Chain stitch
  2. Feathered Chain stitch – nice vine-like look
  3. Crested Chain stitch
  4. Top: Rosette Chain stitch  Bottom: Buttonhole Wheel
  5. Two Color Chain stitch – this is done with two threads in your needle, but just catching one each stitch
  6. Rope stitch
  7. Raised Stem stitch
  8. Blanket stitch
  9. Whipped Blanket stitch
  10. Long & Short Blanket stitch
  11. Closed Blanket stitch
  12. Up & Down Blanket stitch – make a nice little knot along with two strands to side

While I currently define myself as a “fiber and mixed media artist”, I struggle with the definition. I started early on as a seamstress,then as a costume designer. I moved to being a quilter for a short while, then specialized in art quilts. I’ve played around with many styles, but basically feel my niche is in representational art.

When I started falling in love with making my own fabric, I became a surface designer.  But, I was still pretty wrapped up in using my fabrics in my quilts.  Now, I’m moving even more to embroidery.  Whether it’s dense machine embroidery, thread painting, intricate machine quilting, or hand work, stitch seems to give me a tactile grounding that no other medium has for me.  But how do I define myself?  Where does this work fit in?

I know that most shows that are quilt-centered are very strict about their definition of a quilt… 3 layers connected with stitch, often needing to be professionally bound in some way.  If I decide to create a stitched piece and stretch it over a frame or canvas, then it won’t qualify.  So the question is, how important is it to me to fit into the categories that show producers have come up with?  Or even, how important is it to me to continue to exhibit?  Is it more important to create and then find the right niche for my creations, rather than creating to fit particular guidelines?

While I don’t feel like I have a strong enough discernible style or large enough body of work to go into solo shows, I do enjoy having my work out in front of the public.  The question is, will work that is not formally a “quilt” get accepted into shows?  Do I feel I need to break out of confines of being defined as a quilter?

I don’t know that I have the answer for that yet.  Maybe as I work out my goals for the upcoming year, it will become more clear to me.  How do you define yourself?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Quick tip for productivity:  I recently found the iPhone app “Evernote“.  This is a way to organize all your notes, including Word docs, Adobe Acrobat PDFs, and simple text inputs.  You can also use it online or download a version to your computer, as well.  They all sync together. You can organize notes into notebooks (so I have one notebook for my studio, one for family, one for my blog, etc.) and put as many items within each notebook as you want.  It’s a great tool!

Two blissful days of studying and practicing Elizabethan Embroidery… seems a little self-indulgent when I’m not prepared for the upcoming holidays, but wonderful nonetheless.  Our instructors, Gail Harker and Penny Peters were wonderful and the class was both intense, yet relaxing.  It may not seem like much, but here is my sampler of some of the types of stitches used in Elizabethan Embroidery:

Top row (from left to right)
Pearl Stitch (2 thicknesses of threads)
Fly Stitch
Stem Stitch with French knots
Satin Stitch leaf with back stitch outlining and vein
Laid-work grid with diagonal couching (a couched filling)
A Plaited Braid Stitch (in heavy wool yarn)

On the bottom row (left to right)
Running Stitch
Back Stitch
Split Stitch
Stem Stitch (loops)
Slanted Buttonhole Stitch
Chain Stitch
Knotted Stitch
Plaited Braid Stitch (in gold-wrapped thread)
Plaited Braid Stitch (in purple metallic glitterati)
We also did some needle-lace (not pictured.)        
Here is a close up of a few (I especially like the goldwork!):
This goldwork sampler was made by Penny Peters,
one of our teachers:
Here is another sample by Penny of laid-work:

You might also be interested in:
More Embroidery Samples
Snowflake Lane & How to Make a Knotted Blanket Stitch (with video!)

Queen Elizabeth 1 in stunningly embroidered

We started the Elizabethan embroidery class today with a slide show of incredible examples both from paintings and surviving pieces of embroidery.  Of course, fashion followed the monarch herself.  Her intricately embroidered dresses were masterworks and sometimes were so heavily jeweled that she would have to be carried, rather than walking.  In this picture to the right, the embroidery depicts all sorts of wildlife, some quite realistic and others from imagination.

Botanical & natural themes in Elizabethan gold work

Themes for embroidery during the 16th century generally tended to coincide with what people knew: botanical and animal life.  In this piece of gold-work (where the thread is wrapped with pure gold), undulating vines with leaves, flowers, caterpillars  moths, and other bugs are depicted.   However, Queen Elizabeth had a penchant for being one of a kind (she even had laws against others being able to wear things as grandiose as hers… like the size of their neck ruffs!)

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me…”

In this painting, the embroidery design covering her dress is of eyes and ears, to imply that she could see and hear all and was omniscient over her subjects.  Wouldn’t that strike terror into the hearts of her court, servants, and the general populace!

On the left sleeve, a jeweled serpent wraps and entwines itself, holding a heart-shaped ruby from it’s mouth, representing the queen’s passions (the heart) being controlled by her wisdom (the serpent.)

Looking at examples from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s textile collection in London, as well as other British sources, we came to a greater understanding of the sheer magnitude of the embroidery movement during the Elizabethan era.

Other objects which I found interesting that were heavily embroidered were caskets (a type of box… not a coffin), books, and intricate gloves and mittens.  Maybe more on those another time.

After whetting our appetite with amazing image, we got down to stitchwork for the rest of the day.  So many stitches are able to be seen, but historians don’t always know exactly how they were done.  There are often more than one way to create the same stitch.  So, we’re learning many stitches, but not doing them necessarily in the same way which the were stitched in the past.

We are using authentic materials: wool, linen, and cotton for threads and fabric the most part, although some silk fabric was also used in that era.  I didn’t realize that the term “crewel embroidery” means stitching with wool.  Hopefully I’ll have a finished sampler or more done by the end of class tomorrow, so I can share some photos!

Look at the elaborately detailed embroidery

Preparations all complete, I’m off for two days to the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts to learn all about and practice Elizabethan Embroidery.  I’ve really been looking forward to this, as I do all of the classes at Gail’s, partially because so much of my work is done by machine that it’s nice to slow down and have the relaxing experience of hand work, and also because I really enjoy history and costume.

My love of costume goes way back to my childhood.  Sure, like many little girls I enjoyed playing ‘dress-up’, but I guess I never really outgrew it! I remember my parents taking us to a medieval faire when I was quite young, and I’ve continued attending many of them throughout my life.  When I was 14, I had my first job… working for a private seamstress doing alterations and clothing construction.  I tore out and replaced so many jeans zippers with elaborate top-stitching, that I pretty much swore off of garments for some time (and still have somewhat of an aversion to sewing clothing.)  When I started in college, I wanted to be a costume designer.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really ready for college at the time, so went off to work after one semester.

Nikki and I in our historical costume at
Reno Friesian horse show

I did love to dress quite wild, either in vintage clothing or items that could be considered costumes in my early 20’s.  Then I started a small business making Rock ‘n Roller costumes for bands and fans, which I kept up for a short time.

Through the vagrancy of life, my main chapter of costumery took a hiatus for some time, though I never lost my love of it.  Then I had some fun in reviving this long-lost love of mine, when I had my beautiful Friesian mare and was showing her regularly.  From time-to-time, there were costume classes at the horse shows, so we both got dressed up in Renaissance gear.

My Friesian mare and I in full Renaissance costume 

Now, with my older son being a Viking aficionado and member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), I get to play at dress-up once again.  There’s even a chance that I can do demonstrations of the embroidery I’ll be learning at the “Ursulmas” event in January.  I’m so lucky to have two sons who actually like doing things with their Mom!

Well, I’d best be off to bed, as I need to get up early and drive to La Conner for class (about a 75 minute drive from our home.)


Last night I helped my son Ryan finish up his wool Viking tunic.  This has been a terrific learning experience.  We went together to pick out the fabric (had to be wool for authenticity.)  He made the pattern from historic sources and his measurements.  I taught him how to pre-wash the fabric and straighten the grain, layout and cut the pieces.  I then taught him the basics of using my Bernina sewing machine (winding the bobbin, threading the machine, stitch length, type of stitch, etc.) and then let him go about constructing the garment.  We did one fitting prior to doing the final seaming, where I suggested we insert some gussets under the arms, to give him a more natural range of motion.  When it was constructed but not hemmed, he asked if I could dye it… the color didn’t go as well with his under-tunic as he had thought.  We did several samples to get the color where he wanted it (and because I don’t have a lot of experience with wool) and then I dyed the whole tunic. 

We were down to the final steps, hemming and adding some authentic hand-woven trim which he had purchased.  I think he really wanted me to do the hemming… but I got out a needle and thread, showed him how to do it, watched for a few stitches, and then let him finish it up.  I did go ahead and topstitch the trim on for him.

What a wonderful way to be able to contribute to him.  First, teaching him the basics of sewing and that he is capable of doing it.  Next, letting him pursue his passion-not just allowing him, but supporting and encouraging him.  Finally, being able to share this time with him… going to his event with him (yes, I’ll be in costume too) and letting myself be enlightened about how much this young man of mine really knows about the era and culture with which he is so entranced.

I still need to finish my Viking apron dress tonight, as the “Good Yule” celebration is happening on Saturday.  I’m excited to be doing a Viking embroidery class at the event, particularly after getting to see the Bayeux Tapistry last June.  More on that in the future!