All Stitched Up! | Issue 147

20th July 2018

Hi There,
There are times when we all struggle to maintain focus. There are endless distractions that make focusing on a particular task almost impossible as we try to get things done at work or complete projects at home – including those projects we’re trying to complete with needle and thread!
You know that moment when you get effortlessly lost in a task, when the world around you becomes a blur and you find yourself in your sweet spot of just getting things done? That’s focus!
Thorin Klosowski from spoke with Susan Perry, PhD, who acknowledges that whilst each of us have our own triggers that break our concentration, each time we lose focus it can take us up to 25 minutes to return to our sweet spot. Each time it's broken, we restart the focusing process, using up our brain's resources which means that we’re slowly growing exhausted by the distractions around us!

But is it possible to train ourselves to be more focused? Absolutely!

As the triggers for losing focus are different for each of us, we’ll need to spend some time ‘focusing on our focus’ so we can eliminate what’s keeping us from our sweet spot of getting things done. By doing so we’ll ensure we make our limited time with needle and thread count.

World of Needlework
Threads 101
The origins of the first embroidery threads are unknown but it is not unreasonable to assume that the first examples of embroidery resulted from man discovering that the same stitches that were used to hold hides and cloth together for clothing, could be used to create decorative patterns.

We have come a long way from the days of crude bone needles and coarse threads, and the glorious array of embroidery threads that are now available can be quite overwhelming. While it is easy to become seduced by glowing colours and sparkling surfaces, it is always an advantage to have some understanding of the materials that you are using – those characteristics that make each thread type unique and some more suited to particular tasks than others.

This will help you to avoid inappropriate choices and relieve the frustration of trying to stitch with an unsuitable thread.
So, what are the characteristics that make threads different from one another?
Thread Twist – 'S' twist or 'Z' twist?

Most embroidery threads are created by spinning short fibres together then combining several fine threads, or plies, to create a strong, durable thread. Exceptions to this are threads like silk filament and most metallic threads.

As a general rule, the longer the fibres, the stronger the thread – this is why long staple cottons and wools produce superior results to short staple ones.

The plies are twisted together in a clockwise or counter clockwise direction, resulting in a thread with either an ‘S’ or ‘Z’ twist. So how can you tell the difference? Take a single strand of thread and look carefully at the way the plies are held together. If the line of the twist goes from upper left to lower right it is an ‘S’ twist, like the centre of an S (fig 1). If it goes from upper right to lower left it is a ‘Z’ twist, like the centre of a Z (fig 2).

Regardless of which way you hold the thread, the twist will be the same. Divisible threads will have each strand created by twisting in one direction then the bundle of strands will be held together by twisting in the opposite direction. For example, each strand of stranded cotton is created with an 'S' twist but the group of six threads are held together in a 'Z' twist (fig 3).
The majority of threads - cotton, silk, linen and wool - are ‘S’ twist but rayon and some silk threads tend to be ‘Z’ twist. So why is this important and how does this make a difference when you stitch?

For many stitches and techniques, the direction of the thread twist has little perceptible impact but there are some stitches where it becomes very obvious. This difference is made much more apparent when working with a single strand of thread.

Stem and Outline Stitch

For example, take a single ‘S’ twist thread (tapestry wool or cotton pearl are ideal) and work a line of stem stitch from left to right.

Then, take another length of thread and work a line of outline stitch from left to right. Now compare the two rows of stitching - the outline stitch is very smooth, and it is difficult to identify each stitch but the stem stitch is quite textured and each stitch is clearly obvious. This occurs because the thread untwists as you work the outline stitch but overtwists as you work the stem stitch. Now, if you were to take a ‘Z’ twist thread and do exactly the same thing, the stem stitch line would be smooth, and the outline would be textured.

Bullion Knots

Again, take a single ‘S’ twist thread and work a bullion knot, wrapping the thread in a clockwise direction around the needle. Then, work a second knot, this time wrapping the thread in a counter clockwise direction.
The first knot will be very smooth as the thread plies have been untwisted as you wrap around the needle and they are lying next to one another.

LEFT ‘S’ twist thread wrapped clockwise
RIGHT ‘S’ twist thread wrapped counter clockwise
The second knot will be textured with each thread wrap quite discernible as the plies are more tightly twisted together. If you were to repeat this exercise with a ‘Z’ twist thread, the results would be the opposite – the knot that was wrapped clockwise around the needle will be textured, the one wrapped counter clockwise will be smooth.

Interested in Learning More?

The above article is an excerpt from the book A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2 published by Search Press, which features a ‘Getting Started’ guide to needlework including needle charts, introduction to threads, detailed information about hoops plus step-by-step guides to over 145 different stitches. Printed copies are available to purchase from our website.

Have Your Say

In All Stitched Up! #144 (HERE) we unpacked Pat’s conversation about her upcoming trip to Bruges, Belgium in the hope someone could point her in the direction of shops that specialise in all things needle and thread. It turns out that Bruges is quite the travel destination and after hearing from a number of our readers, this week we fill Pat’s travel itinerary – and maybe a suitcase or two – as we indulge her love of needle and thread!

Lynn Healy
‘The Handwerk Huisje is excellent and whilst Textile Scharlaeken is slanted towards lace, it also has some embroidery materials. The basement of Brugse Boekhandel has a treasure trove of textile books in all languages and there’s also t’Apostelientje which specialises in lace, but also has some very interesting threads which can also be used for stitching. I’ve also purchased some fabulous embroidery scissors there! t’Apostelientje is just across from the lace school, Kantcentrum, which has a nice little museum of antique lace and is part of the Jeruzalemkerk complex. The church within the complex is very interesting as it has a most unusual altar that was used in the movie ‘In Bruges’.’
Ingeborg van Oorschot
‘I just wanted to pass on some tips for Pat who is travelling to Bruges. I'm from the Netherlands but have visited the Bruges area of Belgium. I'm sad to say that needlework stores are sparse and generally offer a limited range of choices in our neck of the woods. Whilst Bruges is known for its lace, I have found a few more general craft stores in Bruges. Stikkestek which offers Cross Stitching Kits, fabrics, DMC threads and craft materials including wool for knitting and crochet.

I would also recommend a visit to Scharlaeken as they offer Cross Stitch Kits and books as well as tatting and bobbin lace materials, fabric and other needlework crafts.

t Gaerenhuys
Furthermore, there is an excellent needlework shop in Gent - t Gaerenhuys. I have personal experience with this shop and they offer a great selection for the Cross Stitcher - I would highly recommend a visit to Gent which is an easy 25 minute train ride from Bruges. I hope this helps and I wish Pat a wonderful trip. If she has time to travel to the Netherlands, I'd be happy to recommend some Dutch stores as well!’
Olivia van Caillie & Trini Folliot
‘I would also recommend a visit to Scharlaeken which can be found in the very centre of Bruges at Smedenstraat 20. They sell flosses, yarns, Coton a Broder, kits and tools and a lot of embroiderers go there to buy their linen. I have taken many embroidery classes and I was told this is the place for linen! While there, Pat could also ask for additional addresses in the vicinity. I hope this helps.’
Jennifer East
‘I had a short holiday in Bruges and although I didn't find an embroidery shop, I would really recommend the Lace Museum. It is very interesting and also has quite an extensive shop of threads and lace making tools. Also, if you are visiting when they run classes, they are often happy to let you see the students’ work.’

Kantcentrum Lace Museum
Frédérique Berg
After recommending many of the same places of interest listed above, Frédérique added that ‘Bruges is above all a lace dedicated town. Scharlaeken has been trading for several generations and has many hidden treasures. Not everything is on display and therefore you must ask. They have the finest cloths and linens found nowhere else and are a major supplier for very fine threads for lacemakers and embroiderers alike. t’Apostelientje is worth a visit just for the beauty of the shop, but also sells authentic European handmade vintage lace with certificates of authenticity. August will also see the International Lace Congress being held in Bruges from the 13th to 19th. Do enjoy your stay.’

Brigitte Lameire
Brigitte added to the conversation by suggestingGobelin Creative which specialises in patchwork and quilting. They can be found at Langestraat 25 and if you can take your time, there are many books of all kind there and you can definitely find a pearl!’
Merolyn Coombs
‘I spent a week in Bruges several years ago at a time when I was most interested in Bobbin Lace, so it was the ideal place to pick up patterns, bobbins, threads and ideas. There are multiple shops in the old part of Bruges selling lace tools and they have plenty of embroidery items as well. I would suggest staying mainly in the old part of the city and you won’t be short of embroidery and lace stimulation - all within walking distance. At worst, hire a bicycle or take a horse and carriage!’

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Christine Hetherington

‘I found Scharlaeken Handwerk, which can be found at Philipstockstraat 5, a lovely shop. There is also another one almost next door, which are both about 20 metres off the main square. I purchased a number of items and found them to be excellent.’

Pat, I hope your trip affords you the time to indulge your love of needle and thread in the many places listed above. We wish you safe travels and look forward to hearing about your adventures abroad!

Featured Project
Which Stitch is Which?
Over the past few months we’ve been working on updating the Inspirations Magazine Index, which is a publication that catalogues and indexes all the projects across every issue of the magazine into one easy to look up book. Essentially, it’s the ultimate search tool for all things Inspirations Magazine and this new edition will be out in October to coincide with the release of issue #100.

The updated Index revealed that by the time issue 100 is out, we will have published step-by-step instructions for 200 different stitches. Now if you’re trying to work out which stitch to use for a specific project, with that many to choose from and more, it’s ok if you’re feeling a little unsure or even overwhelmed!

This week we’re taking a look at one of the quirkier stitches from the repertoire, known as Ghiordes knot. It sounds obscure, but you might be surprised to learn step-by-step instructions for it have appeared 12 times already in the magazine over the years and it is actually a very useful stitch.

Ghiordes knots are used to create velvety pile that is formed by leaving every second stitch as a loop that is later cut and combed.
Most effective when worked in cotton perlé, it’s the perfect stitch to create the top of a thistle, add grass in a meadow or give a bumble bee a fuzzy behind!
When working an area of Ghiordes knots, you will find that the closer the stitches are to one another, the thicker the plush will be when cut and combed. Regardless of the shape to be filled, Ghiordes knots should be worked in straight lines which helps to avoid the stitches becoming tangled in the previously stitched loops.

‘Hint of Spring’ by Jane Nicholas – Inspirations #77
As you work, hold the loops out of the way with your thumb or finger. The direction you choose to fill a shape may depend on the finished effect you require as the upper edge of a row of knots has the securing stitches exposed.

Ghiordes Knot is also known as single knot tufting, or Turkey work. You can imagine how useful this technique might be when stitching a design of a turkey and re-creating the magnificent tips of it feathers… but actually the noisy and extremely tasty bird has absolutely nothing to do with the name!

Image courtesy
Ghiordes Knot / Turkey work is actually the stitch that was used to make Turkish carpets and is first and foremost a rug making technique where it is often referred to as rya stitch. Ghiordes is a town in western Anatolia (now part of Turkey) that produced highly prized prayer rugs.

So, now you know a bit more about this fascinating technique you might be inclined to try a project which calls for its plush finish, some of which we have listed below for your stitching pleasure.

‘Warm Wishes’ by Anna Scott – Inspirations #72
To fully master the technique, you can find it listed in our book ‘The Embroiderer’s Handbook’ which features more than 150 stitches illustrated with easy to follow step-by-step photographs. The Embroiderer’s Handbook essentially takes most of the step-by-step instructions from across all the issues of Inspirations and puts them altogether in one quick reference powerhouse. Definitely worth considering adding to your needlework toolkit.

Did you know?

Apart from myriad uses in embroidery, Ghiordes knot is also very useful for toy repairs. Inspirations assistant-editor Ellaine was telling us how she once added a mane that had been worn away with toddler love back to a favourite toy giraffe using Ghiordes knot in short rows with yarn. Thanks for another great tip Ellaine!

Looking for More Ghiordes Knot Projects?
Warm Wishes

Warm Wishes by Anna Scott from Inspirations #72 is a gorgeous navy blue linen scarf, embroidered in fine wool thread with cheery blooms in shades of peacock blue, raspberry, copper and garnet.

Warm Wishes


Caprice by Susan O’Connor from Inspirations #44 is an exotic embroidered evening bag, with beads and sequins.


Inspirations Issue 44

Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest by Susan O’Connor from Inspirations #50 is a gorgeous raised embroidery study featuring two designs ‘Raspberries and Bluebell’ and ‘Crab Apple’.

Summer Harvest

Postcard from Provence

Postcard from Provence by Susan O’Connor from Inspirations #83 features golden sunflowers stitched with stumpwork and surface techniques.

Inspirations Issue 83

What Are You Stitching?
After looking at stitches and threads in their various forms throughout this issue of the newsletter, we thought we’d share with you a few of the stitches we found in our ‘What Are You Stitching?’ files . . .
Bobbin Lace | Maria Sammut
‘I wanted to make a Baptism Dress for my Granddaughter so I designed and worked the bobbin lace and then made the dress, shoes and head band with silk thread and silk material.’

Maria, the time and talent you’ve poured into your granddaughter’s Baptism Dress made it an incredibly special outfit for a significant occasion and is worthy of passing down through the generations.
Hardanger | Tina Pedrick
‘I have made many handmade Christmas decorations over the years, along with Santa which includes a Dorset Button on his hat. The pattern for Santa came from Nordic Needle.’

Tina, what an innovative use of Hardanger and the Dorset Button is a fabulous addition! It must be a joy to decorate your tree each Christmas with what you’ve produced with needle and thread.
Italian Drawn Thread | Suzi Bloemker
‘This technique gave me headaches and made me think I was going blind - Italian Drawn Thread! This piece - a hand towel - is called Isabella and is designed by Barbara Kershaw. We did this through the Group Correspondence Course of the EGA. There were 9 of us that attempted this piece, but only one lady finished it in a week.

A few of us managed to finish it after a couple of months or more, while some started but are yet to finish. I could only work on it for an hour before having to put it down so I could rest my eyes or take some painkillers for my pounding headache, but I was determined to finish it and managed to do so. Counting, cutting and weaving threads was exhausting!’

Suzi, whilst you may not have enjoyed the process, your work is meticulous! Your perseverance definitely paid off.
Perforated Card Work | Raelene Grueber
‘Apart from hand embroidering our ancestor’s information on my family history quilt which spans almost 500 years, I love designing and recreating Victorian Paper Punched Mottos. Popular from the 1870’s onwards, many are still seen in period dramas. I sell some on occasion, but it's more of a passion and for my enjoyment than anything. These are done in long stitch on a heavy perforated paper.’

We love that we’re still able to honour methods of times past through our needles and threads today, and Raelene, you’ve done a beautiful job of recreating the past! We hope God truly does bless your home.
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William Morris in Appliqué


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Elizabethan Sweetbag

This Week on Facebook

 Such a spectacular design.


‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’
~ Stephen R Covey ~
What's On
Bridging Stitches
Bridging Stitches / Un pont entre les points | EAC Seminar 2018

University of Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Days of Vines & Stitches
Days of Vines & Stitches | Greater Pacific Region of the EGA Biennial Seminar

Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park California, USA

Jan Taminiau | Reflections Exhibition
A major exhibition on the work of Jan Taminiau

Centraal Museum
Agnietenstraat 1, 3512 XA Utrecht, The Netherlands

Hanging Thread: Gillian Creelman
San Francisco School of Needlework & Design
Suite 604/360 Post Street, San Francisco
Exhibition: “I walked out and was inspired” by The Five Muses
Days of Vines & Stitches | Greater Pacific Region of the EGA Biennial Seminar

Snape Maltings | The Quay Gallery
Next to the River Alde, Snape, Suffolk

28 JUL TO 11 AUG
Contemporary Textiles Exhibition
Buda Historic Home and Garden
42 Hunter Street Castlemaine, Victoria
30 JULY | 12:00
The World's Longest Band Sampler
For World Embroidery Day

San Francisco School of Needlework & Design
Suite 604/360 Post Street, San Francisco

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