Friday, 16 November 2012

No. 10 Downing Street

In the spring of 2013, the Oxford Branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild will be holding an exhibition of members work. I did not manage to submit anything for the last exhibition, so I am hoping to do so this time but I am already heavily committed to other projects. In an effort to include work from as many members as possible, as well as the main exhibit there will be an additional exhibit. Every member has been asked to produce a piece of work 5 x 7 inches in dimension, in any technique of their choosing on the subject of doors. Members were asked, if possible, to submit this piece of work by the November meeting so that photographs could be shown at The Big Stitch on 1 December, 2012 at the Ashmolean Museum.

I have known about this project for a few months but, of course, did not get on with it straight away. I did not want anything to slow my progress on the Goldwork sampler! My original idea for this project was to do the Sanctuary Knocker of Durham Cathedral in gold work. When I eventually started my piece, only two weeks before the November deadline, I realised that I would not have sufficient time to do anything as elaborate as that (as an aside, see this beautiful rendition of the Knocker in Goldwork). My plan B was much less elaborate and, I thought, really simple. I decided on a representation of, perhaps, the most famous door in England, No. 10 Downing Street. A white number 10 on black silk – simples!

I found an image of the door and enlarged it so that the number 10 was an appropriate size but the image was so pixelated as to be useless. I used drawing software to recreate the digits with really sharp outlines and printed this onto thin copy paper. I wanted my embroidered digits to be as sharp as possible so rather than trace the design onto tissue paper, I used the copier paper as a template and carefully couched #4 silver thread around the outline. This looked like it was going to work well until I tore away the paper. Even though I scored the paper with the tip of my tekobari to help it tear more easily, the process pulled and distorted the stitches. Instead of perfectly formed digits the result was a mess!

© Carol-Anne Conway

I printed out a fresh copy of the design and place a small piece of tracing paper on top, then used a needle to prick holes, closely spaced around the outline. I used this pricking to transfer the design onto the silk with white pounce powder. This worked well except that I had not got the design on the straight grain of the fabric. The grain is near impossible to see through the tracing paper. The zero looked ok but the number one was clearly not upright but I was able to rectify this by hand. Again, I couched #4 silver around the outline hoping that this would give a crisp outline to my satin stitches.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I wanted the stitched numerals to look perfectly white with none of the black background showing through so I laid stitches of white silk inside the outline, working perpendicular to the direction my top stitches would follow. Finally, I satin stitched in white silk working over the couched outline.

Now, I thought that I had come up with a really simple design but I had overlooked the fact that two of the most difficult things to stitch are a straight line and a perfect circle. Any minor deviation from true sticks out like a sore thumb! I am reasonably happy with the number one but the zero – well, let’s just say it could be better.

© Carol-Anne Conway

It doesn’t look too bad if you don’t get too close.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching


Rachel said...

The simplest things are always the hardest to get right!

Kathy said...


I completely understand! Letters and numbers are the most difficult, especially now that we are used to seeing them perfectly formed thanks to computers. It's a great idea and so clever - well done!

Susan Elliott said...

Wonderful!! I love love love the idea of 10 Downing St. I want to buy the t-shirt when you mass market!!