- Arts and Design
Stumpwork and Raised Embroidery
Stumpwork and Raised Embroidery
Learn a little bit about the traditional English style of raised embroidery now known as stumpwork, learn the best way to set about mastering the techniques and see some recommended book titles. Have a go for yourself!
All photos are pieces worked by myself and more can be seen on my blog: www.sew-in-love.blogspot.com
A little background information
What we now usually refer to as 'stumpwork' got going in England in the seventeenth century, post Elizabeth I's reign. In those days, quite complex scenes telling stories - often from the Bible and the Apocrypha - were worked using various methods of raising the stitches. Scale was often inconsistent so that a pear hanging on a tree may be several times larger than it 'should' have been and a bee flying nearby was a similar size. Lots of needlelace was worked and there were many human and animal figures portrayed. The technique was brought back into the spotlight in the late twentieth century by seminal stumpworkers such as the late Barbara Hurst and Muriel Best.
Modern raised work seems to be divided into two major categories - variations of the original style using modern methods and materials; and very realistic nature studies making use of wiring techniques. Some prominent stumpworkers also blend in techniques in ribbon embroidery (South African Di Van Niekerk being one of these) and goldwork (see the work of Alison Cole from Australia). Other big names in the modern raised embroidery field are the UK's Kay Dennis and Australian Jane Nicholas.
It's not known exactly how the term 'stumpwork' came into being and there are people in the textiles world who actually object to its usage, preferring 'raised embroidery' instead. Personally, I'm happy with either, as long as what I want to describe is clearly understood.
What do you call this style of work?
Should we say 'stumpwork' or is 'raised embroidery' better?
Master the technique for yourself
I'm often asked what the best way to learn stumpwork is. My answer is usually: Buy a kit and work that. The reasons for this are many, but two come to mind quickly: The instructions are usually thorough and designed with beginners in mind; and they contain everything you need so that you don't have to source speciality materials such as wires. Not only is everything on hand in about the right quantities, but you don't have a lot of stuff hanging around if you decide that the technique isn't for you. The picture you can see here is one I worked from a (sadly, long since deleted) DMC kit.
Moving on from that and you want to create some more advanced pieces, there are several excellent books on the market and a few good embroidery magazines also regularly feature raised projects. If you've never bought 'Inspirations' magazine before, then that might be a good investment. The UK 'Stitch' magazine also offers stumpwork pieces from time to time.
Finally, once you've got the basics well and truly under your belt, then is a good time to start thinking about designing and working your own pieces. Some people are very keen and want to start at this point, but I feel it's best to let an expert take you by the hand and guide you through the process in the initial stages.
Stumpwork books from Amazon - Learn from the experts!
Here are some of the best titles in the stumpwork field today. I own all of these myself and can recommend!
One of the most recent recent titles giving a really good 'how to' for creating faces and hands on figures. Very up to date application of traditional techniques.
A good introductory guide to what's possible covering figurative work (with lots of needlelace tuition) and a little modern wirework.
A wonderful project book detailing how to make the four seasons picture shown on the cover.
Step-by-step instructions on creating all the raised embroidery stitches you'll need as well as needlelace stitches, using bead and wirework.
A practical guide to creating so many raised work elements - flowers, fruit, insects etc, complete with designs bringing them together into beautiful projects.
Jane Nicholas Specialised Stumpwork Books - Concentrating on certain topics
Her brand new book focusing on wonderful butterflies etc!
This is a huge volume of well over 400 pages with lots of photos. Also covers techniques in goldwork and flatwork embroidery.
Everything you need to know to create realistic stitched dragonflies.
How to create 8 stumpwork pictures inspired by medieval illuminations.
A wonderful selection of beautiful designs.
Classic, out of print titles - Can still often be found second-hand
These are the classic stumpwork texts that most really keen raised embroiderers will have on their bookshelves. Although they're out of print, there are always copies being sold via Amazon sellers.
This is the main text to get by the modern queen of the technique! She uses a lot of the traditional style but with a modern look.
More by Barbara Hirst.
Muriel Best's book even covers clay modelling for your piece!
Dating from 1978, this is possibly the oldest of the modern texts.
A relatively short volume that I wished I owned, but is now fairly hard to get a low cost copy of. Worth looking for!
Blending Stumpwork with Other Techniques - Add in some ribbons or some goldwork...
Some modern raised embroiderers are creating wonderful pieces by merging stumpwork styles with other impressive embroidery techniques. Sample some for yourself with these terrific titles!
Di van Niekerk has written several books blending stumpwork with ribbon embroidery. I like this one the best. I learned to do raised flowers that were not wired through this volume!
Spectacular projects for those who like something really good to sink their teeth into.
A second volume featuring more wonderful work.