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Posts Tagged ‘embroidery’

Blackwork Biscornu, Complete

I’ve been sitting on this post for several days as I’m far more delighted with the actual biscornu than the photos of the biscornu. I’m having trouble getting the whole project in focus, which clearly has to do with my inability to retain information concerning camera lenses. Mr Apparently has explained which lens to use when more than once, and I’m afraid it just hasn’t stuck. That said, here’s the finished biscornu:


The word biscornu is derived from a French adjective meaning skewed, quirky or irregular. It’s an eight-sided tufted pillow often used as a pincushion. I’m rather in love with it.


I thoroughly enjoyed the blackwork embroidery, although my eyes and shoulders are somewhat happier not to be focusing on the tiny linen weave. I’ve stated firmly that I Am Not Ever Undertaking Such a Project Again, but I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if I started a smaller biscornu project. This one is 60 stitches wide; perhaps 40 might be more gratifying. And I’m rather intrigued by ribbon embroidery

Many thanks once again to Rainburst Embroidery for putting together such a lovely kit and to my mother for gifting to to me.

I’m working my way through the unfinished-projects pile and expect to have more FOs soon!

On Blackwork, or Embroidery, Part III

So when the cable modem broke down, leaving me without news, blogs or any of the myriad other ways in which I can waste fruitfully spend a couple of hours online, I decided to devote this offline time to the modern blackwork embroidery of the biscornu pattern. Which first meant trying to decipher “even-weave linen,” a type of fabric commonly used for embroidery but which I had yet to encounter in experimenting with free-form crewel.

What I really needed was something to magnify the linen. I found a pair of reading glasses I’d bought long ago for computer work and set myself up by a sunny window to stitch a set of guidelines onto the fabric. And then, on to the blackwork and beading.

blackwork front

My learning curve was fairly straightforward. The only trick to following the well-written pattern is to understand the layout of the linen, in which every two horizontal and vertical threads equal a square. After a day, my hand intuitively went to the right spot without counting. Stitching the guidelines was the absolute worst part, because I was not yet sure of what I was doing, and my eyes were not used to the tiny weave of the linen.

My Holbein stitch is decent but not perfect, but since no one will every see the back of my work, I’m not too concerned. It took about a week to stitch the blackwork and flowers and add the seed beads on the front.  I then spent another week duplicating the border and blackwork (but omitted the fairy flowers and beads) for the back. The repetitive, easy-to-memorize geometric pattern is incredibly satisfying to stitch.

blackwork soaking

As I type, the front and back are soaking gently in a cool Eucalan bath. This step perhaps frightened me more than any other, but the colors seem to be fast. I should have the biscornu finished this week!

Et Tu, Jemima Puddleduck (Embroidery Part II)

My mother gave me the biscornu kit for Christmas. I was delighted. I was intimidated. It sat on the coffee table for two months while I considered the best approach.

The border of the biscornu is done in cross stitch. I have some sort of undefined bias against cross stitch; it evokes images of religious samplers and busywork. But I really wanted to be prepared to tackle the biscornu pattern, and so some cross stitch practice was in order.

About 40 years ago, my mother purchased a set of two Beatrix Potter bibs to embroider as a baby present. She cross stitched the Peter Rabbit bib, presented the gift and never embroidered again outside of the aforementioned French knots. For my entire childhood, the other bib sat on the back of a high shelf in her bedroom closet, behind the skeins and skeins of needlepoint yarn. I knew it was still in her basement. She brought it to me. I cross stitched.

I conquered Jemina Puddleduck.

jemima puddleduck

I did not, however, conquer the ground and the lettering, feeling sufficiently confident about my ability to freehand cross stitch. Also, I may have pricked my finger several times. Those needles are sharp.

Next: In which I approach the sixteenth-century blackwork with great trepidation

Crewel Intentions, or Embroidery, Part I

The Apparently family is back online, thanks to a kind TWC repairman named Harry, and so I’m finally ready to confess a crafty secret I’ve been holding close the past few months. I’ve been dabbling in embroidery.

My mother is a champion needlepointer. The woman has spent hours stitching the most complex of canvases, from the Swan Boats in Boston’s Public Garden to intricate, fanciful vases of peonies. But apart from a few French knots, neither of us quite had the embroidery bug.

Last fall I discovered this lovely little Etsy shop, Rainburst Embroidery, and the curious little tufted pillow called a biscornu. I may have put a blackwork biscornu kit on my holiday wish list, and we’ll get back to that in a couple of posts. I had embroidery on the brain, if not in my hands.

In January, I stumbled across this book: The New Crewel: Exquisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery. Katherine Shaughnessy has made a little craft empire out of her modern approach to crewel. The free-form nature of crewel appeals to me, as well as the fact that it’s traditionally sewn with wool on linen, and so I tried my hand at one of the New Crewel designs:

crewel circles

Since I’m quite drawn to spirals, I next spent a few days working on my satin stitch.

crewel swirls

And then I tossed all the embroidery supplies into the closet, because after a week of tiny stitches my back, shoulders and eyes were sore and unforgiving. But the needle and hoop would not let me rest…

Next: In which the intrepid new embroiderer encounters Jemima Puddleduck