Embroidery School

January 15, 2023

This sampler was a smorgasbord of disappointment, but with each stitch brought the meagerest of morsels tasty enough to try again. This post is lengthy, but it goes through the process almost entirely (I only omitted some ridiculous attempts that weren’t even worth discussing), but I think the final test swatch made all this effort worthwhile.

Our first course on this table of dismay are these very sad pomegranates.

They started to get better along the way, but wow, these are some very unappetizing embroidery.

Some technical notes:


  • Use color changing thread or change colors within stacks. I prefer the color changing thread.
  • 3 strands; 1/2 arm length for each side, or 1 arm for both sides in one go. Both sides in one go makes one side lighter, which could be cool, but maybe not what I want.
  • Use short stitches, about a centimeter long.
  • For crown, stab to point, then “blanket” between to bend thread. It gives a very pointy look depending on how far you bend the thread downward.
  • Couch outermost threads on curves or backstitch 1/2cm.
  • Fern stitch is good for pomegranate leaves.
  • French knot for arils; 3 or 4 strand white for pith between arils emphasize crown for drama; note how the shape of it reminds you slightly of the Virgin Mary, but in red; maybe deep dive in the mind about historic and religious significance of the pomegranate but ultimately keep it to yourself; maybe not.
  • Pomegranate is still looking way to “birthy,” and I need it to be much more fruit-like and far less womb-like while intellectually understanding that they are the same.


  • Short stitches at base, but elongate upward
  • Use of a highlight thread was interesting, one strand at end option b is smoother (right); use dark and light orange in real project.

Consider having the pomegranate leaves or poppy leaves provide a resting space for pomegranate and poppies droop a little in the leaves’ shadow. Or have pomegranate more supported by the poppies…

Rosemale waves:

  • Move in direction, 3 threads; can mix threads 2 main, 1 contrast.
  • Experimented with blending colors.

January 16, 2023

I have made such a great many number of stitches.

I stitched various test swatches with different needles, different thread counts, different techniques and stitch patterns, but it turns out that the simplest and least complicated stitches were the ones I used most.

The slow and deliberate layering of color and stitch reminisced to my old days of oil panting: layering and building up texture or color while playing down or smoothing out textures when necessary.

I started this morning with just one thread. it looked beautiful. I used all short stitches and made foundational stitches, not unlike building a frame or constructing a 3D object. These stitches would be like the braces of a wall. Then I would fill in areas with little seed stitches, and here I noticed that I could leave some open to play with the background color or highlight with a contrasting thread. It was a productive morning, but it didn’t stop there.

If you look carefully, the upper left corner of the pomegranate skin is done with one thread. At about 1/2 inch, I switched to two threads. One thread was delicious, but I wanted to see how much smoothness I would sacrifice with two threads to compensate for the time. I think the difference isn’t significant enough to spend the time between one or two threads, so I have opted for two.

I also emphasized the pomegranate crown to reference the Virgin Mary because I felt like it, and also because the pomegranate looks less womb-like, so it can afford the allusion.

Furthermore, I abandoned the idea of the French knots for arils and did a basic seed stitch with three threads on two needles (one white and one burgundy) and just worked the area top-down. While I think there’s too much white (pith), it is exponentially better.

I continued to the poppies and gave them an outline, but I’m not so sure about it. I won’t know until I wash the backing off and see it against the actual fabric. I didn’t photograph it, but when I did the first row of stitches on the right poppy, it looked very nice and poppy-like. I think maybe the stem is too thin because California poppies are delicate, but broad. I really liked the poppy on the right:

The fern stitch was pretty straight-forward and is worked with three strands. I’m not sure yet if this is the right green, but I’ll do some small color swatches on scrap fabric before I jump into the real project.

I worked rather diligently to get the creamy effect of the rosemale “waves” because in traditional oil, the colors are loaded on the brush in such a way that they appear to be made in one stroke with several colors, but they are slightly blended still somehow individual. At least this is how I think rosemale is done. I’ve never actually performed it, and Bestamor died before she could teach me.

I moved the waves in the shape like they might be painted; moreover, I thought of this whole exercise as a painter. It felt familiar and warm, and I would be lying if I claimed to not enjoy it.

I don’t want to dramatize it; it was difficult, but satisfying work, and I am feeling very close to being able to jump in to the actual dirndl which is laying patiently in pieces, unpressed, on the mannequin.

I printed this test out at 125%, so the sizing is the last major thing I need to work out for the bodice.

Technical notes:

  • Use a light box or window in my case to trace the drawing directly the washaway paper.

Next up: Wash the stabilizing paper off the fabric.


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