Test pieces, samplers and muddy paw stitches…….

flower embroidery


More floral embroidery…..this was a sampler/test stitch piece from the Autumn when I was having a little play around with some old embroidery motifs.  The wool fabric is just an old piece of wool blanket, a left over from cutting out stockings and tea cosies…..

The threads used are just little pieces of tapestry wool left over from making the grannies paperweight blanket (I’m such a hoarder, I really hate throwing things out and try to find uses for every last scrap of fabric or tiny tail of wool)


selection of vintage needles


Small lengths of wool are folded in half and half again, then gently knotted in the middle and made into tiny skeins, then put in a tin out of the way…they’re often just the right amount to try out a few stitches (depending on the stitch pattern) and it saves me using longer lengths of the vintage wool I prefer to embroider with.

Most of this wool is tapestry wool but I also like to embroider with vintage crewel and Persian wool (that’s the tapestry wool which is 3 strands loosely twiddled together…you can use it as 1, 2, or 3 ply, and it comes in cut lengths or skeins). Both are good for detail work such as adding highlights to a flower petal.


tiny wooly skeins


Along with preferring the vintage wools I also like to use vintage needles for much of my embroidery, this is just a selection of my needle collection……the needles from way back when just seem to be of a better quality and they keep their sharpness much better then modern day needles. (they also have the prettiest little packets)……I always check needles of this era before I buy them when I can (there’s nothing worse than lovely needles all gone rusty…and if you try to sew with them the rust comes off on your fabric) however if they have just a tiny fleck of rust I find it generally will come off if you gently rub along the rusty bit with some ultra fine black glass paper.  It removes the nice shine but they still sew beautifully.

Often the “sharps” or very fine needles from yesteryear are much skinnier than modern needles and make stitching over papers (when you are patch working in the English way) much easier.  Being so fine they seem to skim over the paper and only catch the fabric.

When I’m embroidering over old blanket fabric with tapestry and crewel wools then my all time favourite needles to use are the crewel embroidery needles made by Kirby’s of London…..they’re quite short and much thinner than a regular tapestry needle….they’re also nice and sharp and just slide through the fabric.


floral sampler


This is my most recent tester, I was inspired by all the snowdrops that I’m seeing shooting up everywhere, (along with snowdrops I’m seeing tiny purple shoots of crocuses and bright yellow celandine….it may still be proper chilly out but the first signs of Spring are certainly showing) ….I like making little samplers, trying out stitches, if the stitches are wonky or turn out odd then it’s not a problem, I can try out different thickness’s of wool to see which suits a particular stitch better……….


flower samples



The tiny clusters of figure 8 knot (or French knots) are a shared joke between me and Bernard (he’s been coming in with the muddiest little toes you can imagine, and it seems every time I into the kitchen to make a pot of tea then I’m greeted by a set of dirty cat prints across the floor.  A bonus for me when I’m sitting here embroidering is having the boy come up to see me, supervise which wool I’m using, and then he’ll either nest in amongst any on the floor…it all gets tipped out next to where I’m working…or he’ll jump up on my lap and cuddle himself down, often with his chin resting on the edge of my work table.

Whenever I visit a textile collection I’m sure to make a beeline to see any samplers on display, the skill of the little girls who embroidered them always amazes me……I’d like to make my own but I’m really trying very hard to not start any new projects until I’ve caught up and finished any stray wip’s.  But I don’t count these test pieces as something new, instead they help me unwind a bit between projects, and shake out any tangles in design compositions….. (I often find that what looks good on paper or in my head can look quite pants in reality, and then when I’m just playing about, doodling almost, a new idea can happen and it will look fine.)



more often than not this is how I make my French knots….not a true French knot but it’s nice and plump and I don’t think anyone can tell the difference


7 thoughts on “Test pieces, samplers and muddy paw stitches…….

  1. Hello Erica, can you recommend a good method of doing french knots. My recent attempts are not looking good…… love your blogpost today.

    1. Thank you : )
      I’ve put a little update on the bottom of this post which links to a you-tube tutorial on how to do a Colonial knot (or Figure 8 knot), it’s a bit different to a French knot but gives a nice plump little stitch…if you’re having trouble with the regular French knot then you might find this a bit easier.

      1. Happy to share, my sister tried to explain this technique to me over cake in a fancy tea room and I wasn’t really getting it, she calls it colonial knot but I checked how to do it on you-tube I realised I already knew it but as a figure 8 knot. I find it tends to give a constant result than a French knot.

      2. I made several colonial stitches yesterday and am (hopefully) getting the hang of it. Enjoy your cups of tea.

    1. Hello and thank you for stopping by…..Thank you for your nice comments. Not all the packets are full but I prefer to keep the needles in their original packaging…..and yes Bernard is very beloved and most of the time can do no wrong, though he does get a bit windy from time to time and demanding tummy rubs at 4 in the morning don’t always endear…

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