An embroidery adventure that ends with a wedding


Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth Braun
Have you ever been asked—or taken upon yourself, as your own idea—to do an important piece of needlework, one of significance, maybe even historical or memorable importance? As stitchers, we may have a talent unique among our communities, or we have friends who know the value of our handwork and want a memento from us (as someone would want a painting, quilt, or piece of furniture).

What if the embroidery request challenged your skills by encompassing something you've never done? Whether you jump right in or struggle with your confidence as you start, a commission or special project is worth it. Blogger and stitcher Elizabeth Braun (http://sew-in-love.blogspot.com/) worked on such a project, making an embroidered panel for a friend's wedding dress. It's an embroidery adventure full of meaning, love, and embroidery tips to which we can all relate. Read on as we interview Elizabeth about the project.

Beautiful Bride courtesy of Leonard Adjei for Benkowsky Photography, Accra, Ghana

Stitchery on clothing, with a twist


Q: We describe this project as an "embroidery adventure." Have you ever done anything like this before?

Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth BraunELIZABETH: No, this was a completely new type of piece for me. I’d made a ring cushion before, but never done anything so much part of an important occasion as this. Also, it was my first piece of what one could call ‘couture embroidery’ as the only stitchery I’ve done on clothes before has been a few basic flowers on baby knitting projects. The other firsts for me were working on fine netting and using water soluble stabilizer. So, yes, ‘an embroidery adventure’ is a good name for it!

Outlining Panel, photo courtesy of Janet Wellock, Halifax, EnglandQ: How did the project come about? Why did the bride want an embroidery panel?

ELIZABETH: My young friend, Lauren had been living in Ghana for a couple of years and was to
marry a local man in December. She bought a beautiful dress, but, in her words “the scoop at the back is too low, especially for Ghanaian culture (a woman’s back is considered XXX in Ghana!!!). So my mum is going to take some netting off the bottom and insert a panel in the top. We have got some silver jewels and cream beads to be sewn sparsely onto the panel in some kind of design to make it match. But it won’t need to be too complex because it’s actually going to be mostly under my hair…. Mainly for if my hair swooshes, everybody doesn’t gasp with shock!” She asked for “just something matching-ish” as the dress proper was fairly heavily embroidered and embellished, and said that “anything is a bonus on bare netting.”

Even though it was never really meant to be seen, I wanted to make it as good as I possibly could, especially as I’d always been fond of Lauren and so loved the idea of doing something like this for her. Also, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and couldn’t really work with the idea of ‘just anything’. Oddly enough, I’d find that harder to achieve than a very precise design brief!

Challenge accepted: metallic threads on netting


Q: Which Kreinik threads did you use? 
Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth Braun

ELIZABETH: Japan threads in 001 (silver) matched the embroidery on the dress proper perfectly, especially the #7 thread which I used for most of the silver work – couched down with #1, as were the smaller lengths of #5 that lent themselves well to the detail in the larger flower centres.

Q; What were the challenges—and solutions—to working on netting? 

ELIZABETH: Anyone who is used to working on loosely woven linen will have an idea of the difficulties involved. The netting was just a grid of tiny, cream hexagons and getting any sort of detail on it would have been almost impossible without stabilizer. Of course, unlike with something like linen, I couldn’t just back it with muslin or calico as the whole of that part of the dress was just embroidered net, so I used water soluble film to keep the whole thing straight in the working hoop and to allow enough stitches to be put in to make the shapes solid and stable enough.
Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth Braun
Stitching on this film was a little bit like embellishing a thin, plastic raincoat, it was rather an odd texture to work on! Once I had the design traced onto the net, (another challenge – getting enough ink on to the fine filaments of the netting so as to be able to see them clearly enough to work with), I mounted them both into a 10” hoop, keeping the stabilizer film fairly taut, but the net at its natural level of stretch bearing in mind the needs of the ‘end user’. Couching down the silver threads on net posed an extra problem as I needed to be sure to make each couching stitch cross one of the net filaments in order for the silver lines to be properly attached to the net. It would have been all too easy to have them hanging off in places.

Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth Braun
Once the embroidery was complete, the stabilizer had to be removed. Thankfully, I’d done a couple of samples as part of the design process and had learned how to (and how not to) remove it thoroughly. This part was scary! I needed to snip away the film fairly close to the motifs so as to leave relatively little to get stuck in the silk satin stitches. If you leave any behind, the motifs are really sticky and then dry encrusted - hard and scratchy, so I wanted to minimize the risk of this. I was really scared of snipping one of the net threads and ruining the whole piece! Mercifully, that didn’t happen, but I did need to rinse the panel twice and then flatten it thoroughly as the Japan threads twist a lot when they get wet. (They dry much flatter though.)

Embroidered dress panel courtesy of Elizabeth Braun

Many of us share a similar start to our needlework lives


Q: Where, how, or when did you get started doing embroidery? 

ELIZABETH:  I did some small projects as a child, but got into embroidery as an adult when I was home with CFS back in 2002-2005. I needed something to do that would stop me feeling sorry for myself and, as I gave most of the things I made to friends, it also helped me to reduce the feelings of isolation so common with long-term conditions. A Taiwanese friend had arranged for her cross stitch magazine subscriptions to come via me after she went back, so I looked through some of them and decided to give it a go myself. It all started there and I’ve learned multiple techniques over the 15 years since then.

Q: What projects are you working on now? 

ELIZABETH: Embroidery-wise at the moment I have a large cross stitch picture that I’ll be making up into a sofa scatter cushion/pillow in slow progress and I have another two projects hooped up to start – a rose thread painting and a meadow scene freestyle. Nothing with metallics at the moment, but I do use them in as many project as I can, because I just love the effect they give.

Other than these, I’m busy knitting for the babies that are expected in my group of friends this summer and also making a start on knitting and sewing my own clothes for next winter. I need pretty much all new things and I want clothes that fit and that I actually love, so I’m going to do it myself. One or two will feature embroidery.

Be inspired by this unique, meaningful, endearing project, whether you work on it solo or with a group (the Royal School of Needlework worked on Kate Middleton's dress, and three dozen seamstresses worked on Grace Kelly's wedding dress!). Read more about Elizabeth's adventures in sewing and stitching on her blog: http://sew-in-love.blogspot.com/

Photo credits:
All the photos are copyright to Elizabeth Braun of Sew in Love Stitch Art, except the photo of tracing the panel (called ‘outlining panel’) which is courtesy of Janet Wellock, Halifax, England (i.e. the bride’s mum) and the photo of the beautiful bride one which is courtesy of Leonard Adjei for Benkowsky Photography, Accra, Ghana.  All used by permission.



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