January 26, 2016

Stitchy Snippets - Counting Threads

In keeping with it's regal name, the British Royal School of Needlework is centred at Hampton Court Palace which stands grandly alongside the river Thames. The school teaches the traditional practice of embroidery which has been passed down through the centuries. The training focuses on precise and exact techniques and can be rigorous at times for the amateur such as myself. Not dissimilar to a Kung Fu student who is put through their paces, although using far less muscle.

Attending a class at the school is truly enjoyable, especially in such an awesome setting. As I sat tucked away in the light airy galleries of the palace, overlooking the manicured gardens I wondered if there could be a more apt location to do drawn thread work. This type of embroidery is often grouped with Whitework as it is usually practiced on white linen, embellished in white and often combines several types of embroidery. A key feature of this style is to cut warp or weft threads away from the base fabric and embellish the remaining threads which creates a lace effect.

The preparation requires a lot of patience as threads should be counted accurately in order to follow the pattern (which posed a challenge first thing on a Saturday morning). Traditionally, the stripped threads are woven back into the fabric to leave a seamless edge. Once the preparation is underway the stitching is relatively straightforward although I found that the stitches that at first appeared simpler were the most difficult to execute well.

The action of deconstructing and reconstructing the fabric is very fulfilling and the delicate outcome that is produced has a unique finish and effect compared to other types of needlework.

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