Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Candlewicking: A contemporary twist

The snowflake cushion top is finished...

...but I’m not sure I’ll use it for a cushion. Perhaps a seasonal wall hanging. I stopped short at the border of French knots and straight stitches, I felt it was gilding the lily.

This was an interesting project, a mix of history, materials and technique. You can read my earlier posts about candlewicking here. I used this kit as a practice piece, playing with stitch lengths and really getting a feel for stitching with cotton string on plain muslin.

Like they are found in nature, each snowflake I stitched is different – some feature tiny backstitches for the straight lines:

Others have longer straight stitches for more dramatic lines (those tiny backstitches were getting a bit tedious!):

I need to rinse this piece a few more times to dissolve the water-soluble blue pattern lines. But you can still see the rustic effect of string and simple muslin fabric. I suspect the exact same pattern with traditional embroidery floss would have a much smoother finish and overall delicate look. I wonder which I would prefer?

I was desperate to complete this kit so that I could move on to something I really wanted to try: candlewicking with a contemporary design, on fabric of my choosing. I had some vintage French linen towelling fabric in my stash, so I cut a small hand towel size and hemmed the edges. Then I doodled a familiar pattern:

You might recognise the style – these are some of Carina’s blossoms, from her book Stitched Blooms. But these little pretties are a far cry from the book’s bright palette:

Carina is the Queen of Colour, but since I first saw this book I was curious to see the flowers in simple cotton whites.

I love the textures! I used a tight grouping of French knots for the centre of the flower, stem stitch for the tendrils, and back stitch for the petals and leaves. The tactile weave of the linen, the soft, thick outlines of the cotton string...the neutral colour really plays to the overall effect.

Now this is more my style...I’ll finish this and try a few more of these “contemporary candlewicking” projects!

What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!


  1. Wow! These look so beautiful! I love the way you've used a contemporary design and adapted it. I've never tried candlewicking, but I think it looks great.

  2. These look great! I'm a real fan of white on white and white on cream.

  3. I may be slightly biased here, but I think it's looking really great. Love the white on white with the SB motif. :-)

  4. Your first post on candlewicking prompted me to hit Ebay for some small kits. I've enjoyed it so far, and it has definitely helped me with colonial knots.

    Side question: When you have a larger project, do you use a hoop and somehow position it so it doesn't crush parts you have already worked or do you use a frame?

    1. Great question! I did use a hoop - I needed a taut, flat surface to work the stem stitch in particular - I think the string is such a robust material it didn't seem to mind a bit of squishing...and after a gentle hand washing and line drying, a steaming with the iron seemed to coax it back into place just fine. Cx

  5. I love how the snowflakes turned out, lovely and folkie and the new piece is looking lovely looking forward to seeing it finished
    Clare x

  6. I really love these. The one from the kit is so traditional and beautiful, and the project using Carina's pattern is so fresh. It's so interesting to see her pattern done in white, but it works well.

  7. It looks beautiful Chrissie, I really like that you are working out your own ideas and patterns now that you have done the first piece. xx

  8. it looks great! What thread are you using for the next design? The leftovers or did you find something comparable?


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