Tag Archives: stumpwork

Review: Stumpwork Butterflies & Moths

Stumpwork Butterflies & Moths
Stumpwork Butterflies & Moths by Jane Nicholas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am incredibly impressed by the level of research in Jane Nicholas’s insect embroidery books. I don’t read them expecting to learn more about the critters she embroiders, but I do: The natural history and basic biology of the insects are included; she also includes the history of the use of those insects in art, design & embroidery; and all of the projects are based on specific species of insects, quite true to life, with background information on their classification, habitat, and life cycles. It blows me away.

I’ve now completed one of the butterflies–the Chalkhill Blue Butterfly.


Below is a photo of an actual Chalkhill Blue Butterfly, to give you an idea of how realistic the embroidery is:

Wow, right?

The instructions were detailed, thorough and accurate. This time, I used a much finer gauge of wire, and it was much easier to couch to the fabric and buttonhole stitch over it.


The instructions for shaded satin stitch in the wings also made sense, and made a final product that looked mostly like the photo in the book (any discrepancies I’m chalking up to my poorer relative skill level).


The wings cut out well and inserted through the background fabric no problem, and the remaining instructions to embroidery the body and antennae were simple and accurate. Voila, the final product (beside the ladybug I embroidered from her beetles book a few weeks ago):


Some imperfections to note:

-I didn’t have the stripey thread she used for the antennae, so mine are solid.
-I also didn’t have and couldn’t find 3mm beads for the head, so my head is not quite the right proportion for the body–still, I think it works
-I also didn’t want to pay shipping on the brand of chenille thread she used for the body, so I used a fuzzy thread I could buy locally. It’s not quite right but it’s better than the shipping charge would have been.
-And lastly, you can see the pencil tick marks on the background fabric showing where the butterfly ought to have extended to, according to the “finished size” photo/diagram. Mine is clearly smaller. I followed the patterns for the wings quite carefully, so either the photo/diagram of the finished project is a smidge off, or you’re supposed to buttonhole stitch around the wing shape, and not directly over it. In any case, it’s a minor thing, and won’t affect my ability to use the butterfly pattern on anything else I choose.

Five stars. I’m having a fantastic time with stumpwork so far. Yes, it’s small and fiddly, but the smallness means that each element works up really quickly, and I can see lots of potential for including little bits like these on clothing and bags and other projects.

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Review: The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection

The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection
The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection by Jane Nicholas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic book for the advanced beetle-loving embroiderer. This may be a small audience, but it’s a wonderful book–from the research on the inspiration insects, through to the instructions and projects using stumpwork, goldwork, crewel, beading, and applique techniques.

I finished my first stumpwork beetle –the ladybug–and can say that the instructions are clear, the measurements and diagrams are accurate and make sense, and the project worked.


In person, this little guy measures about 1 cm long.
In person, this little guy measures about 1 cm long.

It is definitely not a perfect project, but I learned some things in doing this one:

  1. You cannot substitute the 24-gauge jewellery wire you have on hand for the 28-30 gauge florists’ wire called for in the pattern. It makes too thick a border for the wings, and once you finish the wing, you’ll have a devil of a time trying to get the wire through the background fabric.
  2. Draw the outlines on to the back of the background fabric, so you can still see where the legs go after the front has been covered by the wings. Draw the outlines of the wings on the front of the wing fabric, because honestly you’re going to cover the whole thing front and back with stitches anyway so it doesn’t really matter where it goes.
  3. The black seed beads you have on hand are maybe not quite small enough.
  4. You will absolutely need to have good, clear detailed vision of objects held at about nose-distance. Doing couching stitches over even 24-gauge jewellery wire, and then padded satin stitches to fill in tiny shapes only a few millimetres in each direction, will require you to hold things pretty close to your face and be able to see them relatively well. This may mean reading glasses. If you’re me, this will mean reading glasses worn in front of your regular prescription glasses. Hazel Blomkamp, whose wonderful crewel embroidery books I got the double-glasses suggestion from, gently reminds her readers to take off the reading glasses before being seen by anyone. Or you can take selfies and post them on the internet, which is what I did.

    In a 4" embroidery hoop, to give you a sense of scale.
    In a 4″ embroidery hoop, to give you a sense of scale.
  5. Working itty-bitty black stab stitches around the borders of the two teeny pieces of black felt that form the body underneath those wings will require the brightest light you can find. Don’t try to do this in the kitchen at 10pm.
  6. After 30 minutes stitching while wearing two pairs of glasses, you will not be able to see well without them.
  7. But you can totally do 3D stumpwork embroidery.  It’ll even be recognizable when it’s done, if a bit messy.

    See? 3D!
    See? 3D!

Given that these little ladybugs are so small, I think they could be a super cute touch on a shirt collar or placket or something.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with this little guy. It’d be a fun pendant for a necklace, don’t you think?

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