Stumpwork Yoshi

My almost 14-year-old step-son recently asked me if I’d make “one of those circle things I do” for him and his specific request was Yoshi from the Super Mario Nintendo franchise.   As this is the first time he has ever asked me to make him something I could hardly say no.

With every project I undertake, whether it’s dressmaking, hand embroidery, knitting or crochet, I like to develop my skills.  So I thought I would put to good use the Royal School of Needlwork Stumpwork book I picked up from a charity shop last year for the bargain cost of 50p.   Yoshi’s face seemed to lend itself to a raised element, with his giant green nose, so I decided to use a needlelace slip technique to create his face.   In stumpwork embroidery, a slip is any separate piece of embroidery worked off the frame and then applied to the main embroidery.   There are lots of different ways to make slips, they can be wired; which is great for elements you want to stand out from the fabric such as petals of a flower; can be made from counted canvas, needle painted or plain fabric.   I decided to use needlelace, mainly as it is a technique I have not yet tried.


Couching for needlelace slip

The process starts by tracing the shapes you wish to make.   I added a couple of milimetres to the edge of the slip as I intended to pad it, meaning it would need to be slightly larger than the original shape.   I should point out that I haven’t really used the right embroidery floss for this.   Ideally a Perle thread should be used but I only have stranded cotton at the moment so that had to suffice.

Once you have traced the shape the tracing paper is then stitched onto a backing fabric with either a herringbone or running stitch.   The tracing paper helps to protect your needle from the backing fabric and creates a barrier between the needlelace and backing fabric.   You then couch a thread around the outside of the shape, which is known as the cordonnet.   This is the framework for working your needlelace over.


Needlelace slip starting to appear.

The needlelace is created with buttonhole stich, working from left to right, taking the working thread underneath the cordonnet  once you get to the end of the row and working the stitches like corded buttonhole stitch, taking your needle under the first loop of the previous row, underneath the cord and over your working thread.   I’m not great at tutorial’s so here is a great link to a tutorial for a needlelace heart.

Once I’d created all the shapes I needed, it was time to start assembling the piece.   First of all I used some cotton batting to pad the areas of the embroidery I wanted to stand out.


Padding and starting to apply the slips

I then used a single strand of floss in the same colour as the slip to carefully stitch the edges of the slips to the main fabric or each other, where appropriate.


Needlelace slips assembled

Finally I used an attached woven picot, similar to that used for my Wave piece, to create Yoshi’s spikes down his back.   His mouth and eyes were finished off with satin stitch.


Yoshi’s finished face

I love the effect this created, I think it gives him so much more character.   To make the hoop actually look like a finished piece I created a border of Yoshi eggs and the brick blocks from the classic Mario games.


The finished piece

I had great fun making this piece and I was put in the post to my step-son today (he lives about 100 miles away from us now after we moved from Hampshire to Warwickshire in 2015).

I hope you enjoyed me waffling about this piece.   If anyone is interested, I have finally decided to open an Etsy shop and have already listed a few items, including my Wave piece.


Greetings from the Midlands

Well, those couple of months I said I would need to settle in in my new home in the Midlands quickly stretched to nearly a year and a half. I’m really sorry about that. Suffice it to say that I have been spoilt with the additional free time my new job provides and have been using every free moment to craft.

As I no longer work in an office and am home based the majority of the time, my need for new, smart outfits has diminished. There have been a few new dresses, jeans and t-shirts made in the last year but generally my dressmaking activity has reduced.    However, my work desk at home is in my sewing corner and the desk with my machines on it is next to me whenever I’m working, meaning that, if it’s quiet, I can sew while I’m being paid.   I always said I wanted to be paid to sit at home and sew all day, and now I do.

Sewing a whole garment when you could get an urgent call at anytime is not ideal, however, and there have been occasions when a half-finished maxi dress has been hanging from my sewing machine for more than an hour with a seam half completed, just because work has picked up.   This meant that I needed to find something I could do when on shift to keep me occupied in the quiet periods but that was easy to put down if I had a call come in.   I started hand embroidery completely by accident when I was trying out some free motion embroidery with my machine and I couldn’t get it to do something and had to resort to sewing by hand.   In the last year I have produced quite a bit of hand embroidery, particularly for gifts over the Christmas period, and my skills have increased.   Here’s a few examples.

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This week I finished a piece based on the woodblock print “The Great Wave off Hangawa” by Hokusia. Which has completely taken off on Instagram.


I’m used to getting about 65 likes maybe on Instagram but when I posted this piece I went on a 4 hour drive and when I got home I had over 200 notifications on my phone and climbing.   I wasn’t sure what was going on and eventually the likes stopped at just over 4000!!!!   My followers also more than doubled in a week.   This gave me the hint that a few people out there might like my embroidery work and I thought I ought to kick this blog thing back into gear and tell you more about my embroidery.

When I decided to make this piece I was in a creative slump between projects and had no idea what to make and had little inspiration.   My husband had recently relegated several pairs of his old jeans to my fabric pile and so I had quite a bit of denim to work with.   One of the styles of embroidery I have been learning more about recently is Sashiko and with it’s Japanese origins for some reason Hokusai’s wave popped into my head and I thought I could combine the denim, Sashiko and the Wave into one piece.

The background was achieved using free motion machine raw edge applique and embroidery and I added wave peaks using a stitch called detached woven picot.   Here‘s a YouTube video on how to make these stitches.   I then finished off with some French knots.   This piece is not at all what I had in my head when I started it as I had envisioned using some beads and pearls and possibly even some lace to add to the frothing wave heads, but halfway through the woven picot occurred to me and I thought it mimicked, but didn’t duplicate, the fluid curls of Hokusai’s waves so beautifully that adding anything extra to it would be excessive.

I hope you like this piece.   I hope to post more of my crafty endeavours in the coming weeks, certainly before another year passes.   Catch you soon.