A little needlepoint (4)

For my 19th-century style sampler book, I tried out some designs from Mrs Henry Owen’s The Illuminated Book of Needlework (1847) which you can read online here. Clockwise from top left are Berlin stitch, Perspective stitch, Darmstadt pattern, Willow stitch, Diamonds, Double pointed star, Point stitch, Feather stitch, and (centre) Sutherland stitch.

9 x 2″ samples from 1847 needlework book

I don’t know much about Mrs Henry Owen, but she certainly knew a lot about needlework. I’ve worked these samples on 22-count mono canvas, with various silk and cotton perle threads, mostly no. 8 or 12. The space-dyed threads are particularly effective when worked on canvas like this.

I particularly like the centre design, which Mrs Owen calls Sutherland stitch:

Sample of Sutherland stitch, from Mrs Owen’s 1847 needlework book, worked with hand-dyed cotton sashiko thread. Mrs Owen suggests adding beads.

I also like the double-pointed star:

Double pointed star, from Mrs Owen’s 1847 needlework book. I added the long cross stitches to unify the space between the stars.

And this is Perspective stitch, surprisingly effective and quite modern:

Perspective stitch, from Mrs Owen’s book of needlework (1847)

I wouldn’t normally choose to do this kind of counted canvas work, and I don’t normally enjoy following charts, but I did enjoy making this little sample. It’s very satisfying how the stitches come to life as they are worked. Soon I will be able to start compiling the pages of my sampler book to bring all the samples together.

A little needlepoint (3)

The third sample of miniature needlepoint for my sampler book comes from a chart in the Antique Pattern Library and, like the previous samples, is worked on 40-count silk gauze. I used spun silk thread and tent stitch.

Needlepoint sample on silk gauze, through the magnifying glass

This is the original nineteenth-century charted design, which I printed:

Cross stitch/canvas work chart from the Antique Pattern Library

I wasn’t keen on the colours so I changed them.

Needlepoint sampler before border

It’s amazing how different it looks for being worked in an alternative colour scheme. I adapted the original design by leaving off the outer border and adding a more simple satin stitch edging.

You can see the pin marks from where I blocked it back into a square (ish) shape when it got distorted through stitching

I don’t know why I have decided to make these samples so small, but I do enjoy miniature needlework. Since this little venture is purely for my enjoyment, I figure I can make my own rules, right?

A little needlepoint (2)

Another sample of needlepoint for my Ellen Mahon style sampler book. This one is taken from a design by Sarah Bland (1810-1905), who created many designs for canvas work and embroidery. You can read a little more about her here, and you can see more of her work at the V and A Collections here.

Details from a needlepoint sampler by Sarah Bland, V and A Collections

The great thing about antique canvas work and samplers is that it’s relatively easy to replicate the designs and motifs by zooming in to a photograph and transposing the stitches onto graph paper. I really like this little stylised flower motif:

Needlepoint sample based on a design by Sarah Bland

It isn’t an exact copy, but it’s near enough. I like the idea that women were designing their own work despite the fact that embroidery patterns were commercially available in vast numbers. To me that suggests a recognition of self-worth and individualism, finding a voice through which to express a lived experience. Needle and thread often seems to me more like writing than drawing. Hand stitches in particular are as characteristic as hand writing, whether they depict text, shapes, or abstract patterns and lines.

I worked this one very small as well, like the last one – single strand of DMC cotton thread on 40-count silk gauze:

A Little Needlepoint (1)

A few weeks ago I made a small sample of needlepoint for my sampler book inspired by the 1850s one made by Ellen Mahon (here). She has a couple of examples of needlepoint, but I’m making a few more. I’m not setting out to make a copy of her book; I’m just seeing this exercise as an opportunity to try some of the techniques learned by my nineteenth-century predecessors.

I have a copy of the excellent Samplers, by Rebecca Scott, which I’ve used for reference. The design below appears at least twice in the book – as a motif on a cross-stitched sampler and also as a knitted motif on a pincushion. This suggests that this design was probably commercially available during the nineteenth century. By enlarging the photos I’ve been able to make an approximation of the charted design:

I do like a challenge, so I stitched the design on 40-count silk gauze, with a single strand of DMC embroidery thread.

It looks huge here but in real life it is very small. A sense of scale is often hard to convey in the virtual world. I find that very interesting.

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