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How to make stumpwork shapes


How to make stumpwork shapes


I hope you are having a good week.


Today I will show you how to make stumpwork shapes which are useful when you require dimension in your piece.



A shape like a leaf, for example, is made on a separate piece of fabric. The shape is cut out and then applied to the design, adding instant height which complements ribbon embroidery perfectly. This technique is also ideal for fairy and insect wings.



The wings of the Fairy and the little bee from my Flower Fairies™ book




There are several possibilities when making stumpwork shapes…

1. Use wire around the edge of a shape that needs to be bent into shape and on the edge of larger shapes which require support.



2. Use buttonhole stitch around the edge for leaves instead of wire…



3. Or you could use a stumpwork technique to make a little bird and cut it out. Secure onto your design, leaving a little gap to fill the shape with a fibre or toy filling.



This cute little bird is shown step-by-step in my new Roses book.





Today I will show you how to make a stumpwork leaf or bract…



1. Prepare the shape


  •  Use a sharp HB or 2B pencil or blue water-soluble pen to trace the shape or shapes onto a fine piece of cotton fabric. Draw the direction lines which will help you with the stitching a little later. Place the fabric in a hoop, pull the fabric taut and tighten the hoop.



  • Make a hole at the base of the shape on the fabric with a size 16 chenille needle, pulling the needle all the way through the fabric to make a decent hole. Use # 22 up to #30 wire, depending on the size of your shape. For this shape, I used #28 wire.  The smaller the shape, the thinner the wire should be…. #30 is thinner than #22.


  • Insert 2cm (¾”) piece of wire into the hole and bend the wire into shape, following the traced outline. Insert the wire back into the same hole. Leaving a 2cm (¾”) tail cut off the excess wire with a pair of nail clippers or wire cutters.


  • Use a small piece of masking tape to cover the raw ends of the wire at the back of your work. This will prevent your threads from catching on the wire. Do make sure the tape is not placed over an area that you will be stitching over  — move the wires out of the way before taping them onto the fabric.



2. Couch the wire




  • Use one strand of silk or cotton thread and make a knot at the long end.  Hint:  When working with shapes, remember to start about 4mm (1/8”) away from the edge inside the shape. Make a small running stitch (or two) towards the edge and continue as usual. The running stitch will be covered with long and short stitch a little later. This way, the knot will not be severed when you cut out the shape afterwards.


  • Couch the wire in place every 4mm (1/8”) or so, using the traced line as a guide.


3. Cover the wire with Buttonhole stitch.



  • Cover the wire with buttonhole stitch making the stitches close together and use an even tension for a neat finish.


Click on the image to enlarge



Hint:  For an interesting effect, use two or three different colours to shade the leaf at the same time.



4. Making shapes without a wired edge


Sometimes you need not use wire along the edge. If it is a small shape or a leaf which does not need to be lifted high off the surface of the design, you can use Buttonhole stitch along the edge of the shape. Work the stitches at an angle, following the direction lines of the shape.


5. Fill in the shape



Use long and short stitch to fill in the shape. Follow the lines on the shape for a natural finish.



Change the colour of your thread to create the shadows on the shape.



6. Cut out the shape



  • Remove the tape at the back and apply a clear anti-fray agent on the entire shape. Allow to dry until just damp and cut out the shape leaving a small seam.


  • Once you are holding the shape in your hand, cut it out neatly along the edge. Use small, sharp embroidery scissors and angle the blade so that the bottom blade is under the shape for a neat edge. Take care not to cut your stitches. If this does happen, use the anti-fray agent again or clear nail polish to stabilise the stitches.



7. Secure the shapes onto your design.




  • Secure the unwired shapes with tiny stab stitches and a matching thread.


  • Secure the wired shapes as follows: Make a hole in your fabric where you would like the base of the shape to lie. Use the size 16 chenille needle, pulling it all the way through the fabric. Insert the wires into the hole, bending the tails at the back of your work to lie underneath the shape. Secure the wires at the back with small stitches and trim the ends with nail clippers or wire-cutters, so there are no raw ends which will catch on your threads as you work.


8. Shape the leaves or bracts



Use your fingertips to bend the wired shapes into a pleasing shape.

Use a matching thread and tiny stab stitches to position the unwired shapes if necessary


The completed Leucadendron



On page 86 of my Perfect World book, you will see how to make the green cone centre.


There are so many stumpwork methods and soon I will show you how to make wings and shapes from organza ribbon. Subscribe to stay in touch.


I hope you enjoyed this little lesson… have a happy day everyone






23 thoughts on “How to make stumpwork shapes”

  1. I am almost ecstatic that I discovered your work. Thank you SO much for sharing such detailed instructions freely on your blog. I’m going to be spending a lot of time here I can tell!

  2. My dearest lady, You do the most beautiful work I have ever seen!!!! I taught myself this lovely craft/art 20 years ago. A co-worker of mine shared your website with me and I just bought my 1st book from you. I am so excited and cannot wait to start learning again. Thank you so much.
    Kathy Libert

  3. i would like to learn your best work please help me to learn tank very much excuse me i dont speak english perfectly

  4. I like very much all what you do, it’s so beautifull and also your tutorials
    So I am doing the flowers about your book. Very enjoy of it
    Thansk a lot

  5. acabo de descubrir sus trabajos son realmente maravillosos llevo bordando mas de 10 años y nunca habia visto trabajos tan hermosos como los suyos mil gracias por compartir

  6. Blessed Lady!

    Just a quick note to say… I love your work, it’s exquisite!

    I thank you for saving my sanity! I’ve been working on a Goldwork Beetle and have been “Clueless in Maryland (US)” for weeks. This tutorial explains the proper way to prepare the stumpwork shapes. If I would have had this at the beginning of my project, I would have enjoyed it more. Because of this tutorial, there will be more projects in the future! :~)

    I also want to thank you for taking the time to prepare and post your website/blog with so much beauty and information. (Unfortunately folks do not realize how much time it takes to make this material available.)

    Thanks again…

  7. Thank you – your work is beautiful and inspiring.

    I am off with scissors and wire in hand.

  8. what a lovely work i never ever seen. beautiful and very nice
    i loved ur work

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful talents. Your work is stunning and beautiful. God bless

  10. Your work is totally inspiring and exciting, I have never seen such beautiful embroidery. Thank you so much for sharing.I am new to all types of embroidery however I have ordered some of your books and cannot wait to give it a go.

  11. Questo sito è meraviglioso! Sei molto generoso a dare la possibilita’ di imparare tanto.
    vorrei acquistare il libro, gli aghi e un paio di telai. A Roms non trovo i nastri per il Silk Ribbon.
    Una domanda: vorrei acquistare nastri di seta e organza, esiste un kit con questi nastri e i colori base per principianti? Li vorrei tutti, sono bellissimi, ma prima dovrei capire se saarei brava. Lo spero.
    Complimenti grandissimi per le meraviglie di questo sito e per la serietà con cui è costruito.
    Patrizia DF

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