Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along – Part1

Opus Anglicanum Kit Pattern, by Sidney Eileen

Opus Anglicanum Kit Pattern

This is the first installment of my Opus Anglicanum embroidery stitch-along.  I am not going to be selling any kits, and they will not be available through my web site, but below is all the information needed to create your own kit.

My article, Basics of Opus Anglicanum Embroidery, describes what Opus Anglicanum embroidery is and the basics of how it is worked.  I will refer to that article many times while doing the stitch-along, and I highly recommend reading it before starting the stitch-along for yourself.

Queen Pattern for Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along (.jpg)
Queen Pattern for Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along (.pdf)

The image to the right is the one I will be using for the stitch-along, about 2″ wide.  Use whichever format will be easier for you to print.  It is based on one of the drawings in the Codex Manesse, a German manuscript created between 1300-1340.  You will want to use a linen fabric with the highest possible thread count.  Two layers of handkerchief weight linen is ideal, but I am using one layer of handkerchief weight linen in this stitch-along because it is what I have on hand.  You will want to transfer the pattern onto your fabric in some manner, making the image at least 2″ in diameter.  There are a myriad of ways to transfer an embroidery pattern.  In this case I recommend either printing directly onto the fabric with an inkjet printer (using this wonderful tutorial on Instructables), or using a lightbox and tracing the pattern with a pencil or fabric markers.  I used fabric markers for my template.  The colors do not need to be the same as the ones you embroider with.  The important part is to show where the shading transitions happen.  Your pattern will be completely covered with embroidery when your project is finished, so all details can be altered during the embroidering process and no one will be able to see what you changed.

I purchased my floss through the Japanese Embroidery Center Store.  If you want to use exactly the same threads I do, they are listed below.  However, you can use whatever colors you would like from any brand of flat silk.  If you want to use Soie Ovale thread, or just different colors of the JEC thread, be sure to choose a light peach for the skin, black thread, white thread, two dramatically different shades of hair color, three shades of a color for the cloak, and three shades of color for the tunic.  You will also need gold(en) thread, #5 at the largest.  For a more historically accurate finish, you will want to use a smaller thread, ideally a #1 or #2, but for those to work you need to embroider on linen that is at least 40 threads per inch (two layers of handkerchief weight usually works well).  I am working on lightweight linen that is about 35 threads per inch.

Silk Threads I am Using:
Achromatic (White) #801 – eye & barbette
Achromatic (Black) #809 – outlines & pupil
Peach #211 – skin
Orange Brown #723 – hair
Orange Brown #727 – hair
Blue #504 – cloak
Blue #507 – cloak
Blue #509 – cloak
Plum #684 – tunic
Plum #686 – tunic
Plum #688 – tunic
Imitation Gold #5 (IG-5) – crown, clothing trim, frame

You will also need:
a thimble
a small gauge embroidery needle
a large gauge embroidery needle or chenille needle (#5 at the largest)
a spool of all-purpose thread (color doesn’t matter)
a pair of embroidery snips
a pair of craft scissors or kitchen shears (for cutting the metal threads)
an embroidery frame
string for stretching the fabric in the frame


Setting Up Your Embroidery

Once you have all your materials assembled, and the pattern transferred to your fabric, you need to stretch it into a frame.  A nice slat-frame is ideal, but can be expensive.  Scrolling frames are easy to find and work well.  This piece of embroidery is small enough that you shouldn’t need to mount it for scrolling.  I have also heard of embroiderers using frames for stretching a painting canvas as a slat-frame, and that should work well provided the frame you purchase is a minimum of 8″x8″, though I recommend 10″x10″.  Canvas frames are measured by their outer size, so your working area will be significantly smaller.

It is also possible to stretch into an embroidery hoop, though it’s a bit more difficult to get even tension than with a rectangular frame.  To do this, stretch each corner to the frame individually.  Then, following the same whip-stitch pattern shown below, run thread around the entire piece.  Be sure to pull more thread in, rather than cutting and starting again.  Once all your whip stitches are in place, tighten the whip-stitched thread around the piece, working in a circle.  You may have to make several loops of the hoop before the tension is even all around the fabric.  Once it is even and tight, tie it off.  By the time you are done, the initial ties on the corners will probably be very loose, so they can be removed.

If you don’t want to deal with stretching your fabric in a frame, you can stretch it in a hoop the way hoops are designed to stretch fabric, but you will be having to constantly re-tighten the fabric, which can make achieving a consistent tension in your stitches more difficult.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 01, by Sidney Eileen

Transfer your pattern to your fabric. I used a light box and fabric markers. My piece of fabric is a little larger than my frame, but the image is much smaller, so I don’t need to set up the frame for scrolling.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 02, by Sidney Eileen

Since the image is significantly smaller than my frame, I folded in the edges until the visible fabric was smaller than the frame. I made sure that the folded fabric was not underneath the area to be embroidered, so it won’t interfere with my stitching.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 03, by Sidney Eileen

I am using cotton crochet thread to stretch the fabric into the frame.

Use a whip stitch to secure the fabric to one side of the frame. Pull more thread along the stitches as you need to in order to stitch the entire side with one thread.

Tie off the thread at the far end (I find the wing nuts on scrolling frames a handy anchor) and then pull it barely snug along the entire side. Cut your thread from the spool and tie off the beginning end.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 04, by Sidney Eileen

Whip stitch the opposite side of the fabric to the frame. After tying off the far end, pull the stitches as tightly as possible before tying off the beginning end.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 05, by Sidney Eileen

Stretch the two remaining sides. Be sure to pull the whip stitch snug on the third side, and as tight as possible on the fourth side.

Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along 06, by Sidney Eileen

This photo shows the fabric stretched into the frame, with the threads needed to complete the embroidery. There is approximately four yards of each color wrapped onto the cards.

In the next installment I will start with the outline stitches in black.

Project: Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along

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