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Crafts & Handiwork - Ribbon Embroidery, Counted Cross-Stitch, and Stumpwork Stitches

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My daughter-in-law, the incredibly talented Mary Kay Lady, has several hobbies which include the topics listed in the title of the hub. Coincidence? I think not...

Her favorite, and the one she tells me is most soothing to work on in front of the TV - especially as some of the programs do not entirely hold her interest - is counted cross-stitch. The woman amazes me...I have watched as she stitched her way through a good two inches of work, her head bent over her work, all the while keeping one ear and half an eye on the TV program she was following.

...and she never missed a stitch or a plot point.

Delicate Stitchery

Delicate Stitchery

Lavishly Illustrated book by Jane Nicholas, Milner Craft Series, Cover illustration, published by Amazon

Lavishly Illustrated book by Jane Nicholas, Milner Craft Series, Cover illustration, published by Amazon

Old-Fashioned Sampler

Old-Fashioned Sampler

Amazingly Detailed Stitchery

Amazingly Detailed Stitchery

While browsing through a local book store - they were having their summer monster sale, and we do adore book sales - we came across a beautifully illustrated volume on stumpwork by Jane Nicholas - the illustrations on the right are from an online article about her work..

I was about to return it to the bin, but my daughter-in-law reached for it, saying, "Oh, perfect. I've always wanted to try that. It looks a bit like fancy appliqué, doesn't it?"

Needless to say, I was already lost. After reading the books we purchased, however, I am lost no longer.

Examples of Stump-work can be found as early as the seventeenth century. Designs illustrated stories from the Bible or depicted the English Stuart Court - people, castles, flowers, animals, insects and fruit were popular subjects. Once the young girls of the house had mastered their stitch sampler, Stump-work would be one of their next tasks.

Parts of a Stump-work design are hand stitched separately from the main background fabric and then attached. Many different styles of stitching were employed. Fine canvas was stitched and then appliquéd to the main fabric. Wired slips or “envelopes” were stitched to produce clothing for the characters or for flower petals, etc. Fruit and faces were sometimes made by covering wooden shapes. Many types of threads such as cotton, silk, wool, and metallic threads, were used alongside spangles, beads and metallic coils etc. Often the embroiderer would stitch her initials and year of stitching on the embroidery using small pearl beads.

Designs were usually printed on thick white satin. The individual elements of the designs were easily recognizable, but the size of people, animal, flowers etc would not correspond to any truly life-size representation. The Stag deer could be smaller than the flower sitting next to it. The stars, sun, moon and rain where often found all in the same picture, giving an innocent air to the design.

Ribbon Embroidery

My daughter-in-law keeps telling me that this is such an easy form of embroidery that I should give it a try...and I must admit, the basic stitches are quite simple. Mastery of this deceptively simple art-form can take years.

I have made any number of crewel work pillows and pictures and enjoyed that form of embroidery very much. This is similar in that you can cover a lot of area quite quickly. The artistry comes in the placement of the design elements, the layers of elements that build up the completed work, and the delicacy of the operator.

Illustrations from A-Z of Ribbon Embroidery Ed. Sue Gardner

Sampler of Stitches

Sampler of Stitches

Figure 1: Straight Stitch

Figure 1: Straight Stitch

Figure 2: Ribbon Stitch

Figure 2: Ribbon Stitch

Scroll to Continue
Figure 3: Lazy Daisy Stitch

Figure 3: Lazy Daisy Stitch

Three Basic Stitches

This antique form of embroidery is enjoying a resurgence of interest. Used to embellish almost anything from patchwork bags and picture frames to corset covers (yes, Virginia, modern young women do still indulge in the wearing of corsets from time to time,) and outerwear, silk Ribbon embroidery is fun and quite easy to do. Even a novice can create elegant floral arrangements and beautiful patterns with some simple stitches.

Straight stitch: Figure 1

The most basic of stitches can be used for numerous effects

  • Bring up at A, pull through
  • Insert down at B, pull through

Ribbon stitch: Figure 2

This stitch makes great leaves or petals, and works only with silk ribbon.

  • Bring up at A, pull through.
  • Lay ribbon flat on fabric and insert needle at B, piercing ribbon and pulling through slowly. Ribbon will curl into B, so don't pull tightly, or effect will be lost. To vary curl, pierce B to right or left of center of ribbon width.

Tip: If ribbon appears straight and narrow, make another stitch on top of first one.

Lazy daisy: Figure 3

Use for petals or leaves with ribbon, floss, or perle cotton.

  • Bring up at A, pull through
  • Make loop in direction of other end of stitch and insert at B, a thread or two to side of A.
  • Pull out at C, in direction needle points until loose loop is formed, then stitch back down at D.

Note: To prevent ribbon from twisting when it's drawn through fabric after pulling out at C, arrange it around needle so it's flat. Gently hold in place with thumb while sliding needle and ribbon through.

From the author's collection

Old fashioned Christmas Angel

Old fashioned Christmas Angel

Four-Season Wreath

Four-Season Wreath

There are so many lovely examples of this artistic craft, but I would like to describe two of which I am inordinately proud. The lovely lady who graces the wall above my headboard is a sterling example of counted cross-stitch, lovingly completed for me by my multi-talented know the one I mean - the Mary Kay Lady...

The pattern called for a specific color of Aida cloth (the cloth on which most of these designs are stitched) but as that color was unavailable, she hand dyed the cloth to the required shade. The design is embellished with tiny pearls and metallic beads which give it a delicate sparkle as the light catches them, while the rich silk flosses lend a gentle glow to the lady's satin gown.

The photo hardly does her lovely work justice, but the "Christmas Angel" has pride of place in my living room.

The second is the beautiful a four-season wreath pictures at the right. From the first time I laid eyes on the design in Michael's Arts and Crafts, I knew it would one day grace a feature wall in my new home. I was going to frame it, but the delicate stitchery tends to flatten out a bit when placed under glass, and ti do love the texture. It took a while to decide how to mount the piece, but I finally settled on a quilted wall hanging with a dark green border. That is still in the works. In the meantime though, the wreath adorns one of my bed cushions where I can enjoy its beauty every day.


© 2009 RedElf


RedElf (author) from Canada on May 01, 2012:

I am taking pictures of the wreath as she progresses, RTalloni. She hopes to be finished before they go off on their camping holiday.

RTalloni on April 30, 2012:

Beautiful work displayed here! Your daughter-in-law enjoys some of my favorite hobbies. I hope we get to see the finished wreath. It sounds like it could be the topic for a hub all its own!

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 31, 2012:

Laura, thanks so much! I don't know about you, but I can always find things to buy at the craft store :D

Laura Schneider from Minnesota, USA on January 31, 2012:

What an awesome hub!! I'm stunned, and can't wait to get off from work tonight to go to the craft store, but the remaining supplies I need, and get going. I've done embroidery, tatting, crocheted lace, punch-needle embroideri, and just about every other needle "sport" you can think of. I have some ribbon, some needles, and plenty of patience, but there must be other stuff I need to buy at the craft store, too. :-) Thanks for an excellent, inspiring hub, and may your needles never grow lonely for your touch and your work never go without praise.

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 18, 2011:

Hi, SanneL! I'm so glad we were able to get you going! I look forward to seeing your results - maybe in a hub?

SanneL from Sweden on December 17, 2011:

These are some stunning embroideries!

This hub and your daughter-in-law, have inspired me to start making something on my own.

Thanks for sharing and explaining this wonderful artwork!

RedElf (author) from Canada on December 01, 2011:

Thanks so much, Ania L. Ribbon embroidery is actually a lot easier than it first appears. Hope you enjoy it.

Ania Lichszteld from United Kingdom on December 01, 2011:

Great iamges, and so detailed stiches, very artistic. Thanks for explaining what stumpwork is - I never heard of it before although so was good to learn soemthing new. And you just encouraged me to try the ribbon embroidery, the examples promise a great result.

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 05, 2011:

Thanks so much, vocalcoach! My daughter-in-law is working on a beautiful embroidery piece for me right now - a four seasons wreath. I will post pictures when it's done.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 03, 2011:

I am thrilled to find this marvelous hub on "ribbon embroidery". The photos are stunning and I can hardly wait to try this myself. I'm not that good at embroidery, but I just have to try this. How I wish your talented daughter-in-law lived next door to me. :) Rated awesome, beautiful and big thumbs up and a great big thanks to you. You sure know how to put a perfect hub together! vocalcoach

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 23, 2011:

Thanks so much Gals! The stumpwork is beautiful, but I have been doing more beading lately than any other craft. I would love to see some examples of your work.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on January 23, 2011:

RedElf, I have always wanted to try stumpwork, it is so beautiful. I look at it and keep procrastinating, I have a great respect for those who can jump into trying a new craft or should I say extende3d craft. Ribbon embroidery is very pretty especially when used on Holiday ornaments. But, cross stich is my passion. I have to agree with your daughter-in-law, it is very relaxing. I love the pictures of the stitchery crafts, they show the detail so clearly. Great job.

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 17, 2011:

Thanks so much, PaperNotes - nice of you to stop by and comment!

PaperNotes on January 16, 2011:

I wish I have the time to try out these amazing crafts. Thank you.

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 04, 2011:

Ribbon embroidery isn't as hard as it looks, either - at least not the basic stitches.

craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on January 03, 2011:

Lovely hub! I am getting into ribbon embroidery myself these days. There are so many creative expressions in it, it's amazing!

RedElf (author) from Canada on September 23, 2010:

Thanks so much for your comments - I have poseted them below without the link ;)

craft show listings 8 hours ago

When I looked into the crafts, I was so stunned by their beauty. I definitely find them so attractive. They are so nice. I hope I can make the same crafts that were presented, but if not, I hope I can just make one which looks almost the same with those handiworks. Anyways, thank you for sharing this one.

RedElf (author) from Canada on September 01, 2010:

Sweetsusieg, my grandmother used to tat. She was a lovely lace maker, and made lovely lace trimming for pillowcases and dresser scarves. I am fortunate to have some samples of her work.

Sweetsusieg from Michigan on September 01, 2010:

I love to make had crafted items, your daughter in law sure does have some talent! I have a difficult time seeing even with my bifocals! So doing cross stitch is out of the question :-(. I always wanted to learn how to tat, does she do that as well?

Very nice Hub and well put together, lovely pictures as well!

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 05, 2010:

ASFA123, and PassinItAlong, thanks so much for commenting.

PassinItAlong on August 05, 2010:

Those are beautiful, thank you for this lovely hub. the tutorials are clear and nice

ASFA123 on June 07, 2010:

nice hub

RedElf (author) from Canada on May 31, 2010:

Thanks so much, Margaridab. Hope you found it useful.

Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on May 30, 2010:

Very beautiful embroideries and a great tutorial! thanks!

RedElf (author) from Canada on February 06, 2010:

Thanks so much, Craftsmith! So glad you enjoyed it.

Craftsmith from India on February 05, 2010:

Very Well written hub !! very informative too..thanks for sharing :D

RedElf (author) from Canada on February 04, 2010:

Thanks so much for your comments! Nice to meet you!

Handmade-Crafts on February 04, 2010:

I really enjoyed this hub. Thank you for sharing.

RedElf (author) from Canada on January 20, 2010:

You are most welcome, Suzie. So glad I could help out! ;)

Suzy McBlog on January 20, 2010:

Thank you! I've been looking for instructions on ribbon embroidery simply because I have no more room for full books!

RedElf (author) from Canada on November 01, 2009:

Thanks so much Lisa HW - so glad you enjoyed it!

Lisa HW from Massachusetts on November 01, 2009:

These are very pretty (needless to say). I've never heard of it.

RedElf (author) from Canada on October 07, 2009:

Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, halleyhoops!

halleyhoops from west palm beach on October 06, 2009:


RedElf (author) from Canada on September 24, 2009:

So nice to meet you, beebee17 Glad you enjoyed the hub. - I have included your comments without the link:

beebee17 says:

4 hours ago

What a beautiful hub. I love to cross stitch although I've never tried ribbon work. It is so much better to spend an evening doing something worth while than sitting in front of the television. Puts me to sleep every time.

RedElf (author) from Canada on September 08, 2009:

Thanks, Sarah. I did manage to learn some embroidery stitches from her, and I have a few samples tucked away of my grandmother's beautiful embroidery and hand tatting (lace making).

Sarah m Marie on September 08, 2009:

Beautiful stitch work. This is absolutely lovely. My grandmother used to have such beautiful embroidery. I only wish I had learned more from her.

RedElf (author) from Canada on August 16, 2009:

Karen - so nice to meet you. Glad you stopped by and commented. Thanks so much and glad you liked the photos.

Karen_S from Orange County, CA on August 16, 2009:

Very nice Hub. The photos are great!

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 27, 2009:

Lace knitting sounds wonderful, Ria. I would certainly read about that - and love to see some pictures, too. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

Ria Bridges from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on July 26, 2009:

Haha, most of my handiwork ends up going too slowly, or I forget to take pictures of it before I give it away as a gift. :) I have written a few Hubs on the subject of lace knitting, though, and one of them has a picture of a pattern I designed, if nothing else.

I plan to do another Hub on lace knitting soon, but you know, maybe one on embroidery, or on frugal crafting, would also be fun to write. Thanks for the inspiration, RedElf! :D

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 26, 2009:

Thanks so much, Ria. So glad you liked it. Perhaps you'll show off your handiwork on a hub for us soon?

Ria Bridges from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on July 26, 2009:

I love embroidery, and I think I'm going to try my hand at some ribbon embroidery at some point. It looks like it'll be good for some interesting texture and effects. Excellent Hub, and quite inspirational!

Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on July 20, 2009:

Extremely exquiste designs and explicit detailed instructions!

Thanks,RedElf. Wonderful to have a creative and talented daughterinlaw!

anjalijo from Pune on July 17, 2009:

Hey very very beautiful images and I love embroidery I also know few stitches and I am going to try these stitches very nice and informative hub and your daughter in law is very creative.

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 16, 2009:

Thanks for the comment, Beth. I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank goodness I have so many talented people in my family, too. It's so much easier to write about them than to try some of this myself, lol ;)

Beth100 from Canada on July 16, 2009:

I love needlework too, and my favorite is counted cross-stitch. Ribbon embroidery is a close second. The photos and illustrations are wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 16, 2009:

Thank you, advisor, glad you enjoyed it and commented. Nice to meet you.

Enelle, I am indeed lucky...and she is indeed talented. I know any number of clever, talented ladies, including quite a few I have met in Hub Pages.

Speaking of which (ladies, not Hub Pages), thanks, Candie. I look at the patterns and think, "How lovely," but when it comes to actually doing it, I think it will have to wait for a rainier day, lol.

Thanks so much fro stopping by, lyla. So nice to meet you, too. Glad you liked the hub.

lyla from India on July 16, 2009: sister is good at this!But alas!poor me..I luck..:( Thanks for a great hub!:)

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on July 15, 2009:

Beautiful! I seen the finished work, but not how to do it.. I'm very good at the crewel and embroydery, but this is facinating! Thank you!

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on July 15, 2009:

You are indeed lucky to have such a talented and generous daughter-in-law. I too am waiting for pictures of her work! I'm sure they must be beautiful.

What a great hub, almost makes me want to try my hand at the ribbon stitching...

advisor4qb from On New Footing on July 15, 2009:

I enjoyed this hub!

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 15, 2009:

Thanks so much Gypsy Willow. Always happy to see you. I will pass on your message to the Mary Kay lady - I know she will be pleased.

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on July 15, 2009:

Love this hub, yesterday I bought a ribbon dispenser at the thrift shop and I was wondering how to use the beautiful satin ribbon. Now I know. Thank you so much and congrats to your daughter in law (the Mary Kay lady!) for her patience. I look forward to seeing your pics of her work.

RedElf (author) from Canada on July 15, 2009:

Thanks so much, Brenda. So glad you liked it. I wish I'd could include some images of my daughter-in-law's work, but I can't lay hands on my camera cord. Maybe once this move is over, lol.

\Brenda Scully on July 15, 2009:

wow wonderful..... like the images, this is a really nice hub

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