Glimpse: a coloured openwork bookmark – PART ONE
I’ve chosen this project as a way of explaining the coloured, counted openwork I have been working on recently, based on the examples in this old book from the Internet Archive. This is my own ‘take’ on the stitching, and is not necessarily the way it was originally done.
I am splitting the bookmark project into two posts. This one covers the materials and tools, and explains marking out, edging and cutting the threads to make an area of mesh. (The same technique works for similar types of embroidery on mesh, so it’s worth learning.) In the next post on this project we’ll do the fun bit – filling the grid with stitches.
Materials and Tools
Fabric: I worked the original bookmark, shown above, on 25 count cotton/linen blend furnishing fabric. This isn’t a fabric that is widely available. A good 28 count evenweave fabric – linen or cotton – will work very well indeed. I am using 28 count DMC linen for the working photos. You will need a piece of fabric at least 100mm by 250mm to make the bookmark. The open area of the bookmark on 28 count linen will measure 115mm by 35mm. Any light colour of fabric will suit this project. I am using cream.
Thread: You need three different colours of pearl cotton size 12. You can use plain colours, such as DMC Coton Perlé 12, or colours that are slightly variegated, which I’m using here. These are Gütermann SULKY Cotton 12, in three of their ‘Blendables’ shades. Another variegated option is Stef Francis Fine Pearl Cotton thread. Whatever colours you chose, one of the three should be close in colour to your fabric. This is the colour that you will use for edging and for the filled squares in the pattern (cream on the chart). Choose second, darker, colour to be the background colour, (shown as two shades of green on the chart, simply to make the working method clearer), and a third shade to use for the highlights, (orange on the chart).
Tools: Use a size 24 tapestry needle, which has a blunt point that won’t split the fabric threads. A small crewel needle is also useful for darning in ends of thread. It is essential to have a pair of very sharp embroidery scissors with fine points, suitable for cutwork. Otherwise you will have problems with cutting the threads cleanly and correctly. Obviously you’ll also need a good light to work in, and as much magnification as necessary to see the fabric threads clearly and comfortably. You don’t need a hoop or a frame for this work.
Now let’s get going!
Marking out the grid area
The grid for this bookmark is 31 spaces wide and 9 spaces high. The first step is to mark this area out, using running stitches, over and under two threads. Each stitch on the right side of the fabric marks a space in the grid.
At the corners, the stitches should cross. Double check your counting, before you go any further, as it needs to be right if the pattern is to work out.
The edging stitch is worked in two movements, over two by two threads, one fabric thread away from the running stitch marking lines. It holds the fabric threads in place when they are cut, and makes a diagonal stitch on the back of the fabric which is very handy for darning in thread ends.
Thread your needle with the main (cream) colour and start part way along one side. The stitch must line up with the marking stitches, as shown on this chart.
Here’s how to work the stitch:
Keep repeating these two movements. (To get around a corner, you need one extra backstitch, to keep the pattern going.) This is how it should look on the back:
Cutting and withdrawing threads
Okay, deep breath! This is the stage where it can all go horribly wrong. But you’ve counted and double-checked, so if you work carefully you won’t have any trouble. Don’t try to do it when you are tired or in a hurry. Don’t take the marking stitches out until you have finished cutting all the threads that need to be cut.
You are going to cut close to the edging stitches, one fabric thread away from the marked lines, and you will cut each pair of threads that are marked by a running stitch. To make sure you don’t cut more than two by accident, get the two threads onto one blade of the scissors, making sure that the point of the blade is clear of the fabric. Then gently snip these two threads. Never snip pairs of threads that are not marked by a running stitch: these are left uncut to form the grid for the coloured stitching. You will be cutting two threads and leaving two threads alternately, all along all four edges, starting and ending with a cut pair. Clear about what you need to do? Okay, start snipping.
When you have cut all the pairs of threads that need to be cut, begin teasing out the cut threads with your needle. You should soon start seeing the pattern of square spaces taking shape.
And you should end up with this:
The next instalment will show you how to get from that to this:
Watch this space!
Queries, comments, thoughts on these instructions? Please get in touch.