stitch along part one, the dragon

Right, Let’s get this party started.

To start off you need to tension your ground fabris on whatever frame you’re using. Laid and couched work is not something you work in hand.

Stitchalong scans-0Stitchalong scans-1

Stitchalong scans-2
Stitchalong scans-3

I always prefer to tension the fabric on the frame before marking the outline as it stops the fabric slidng and keeps the outline more accurate. YOu can use a pencil or a proper fabric marker (I often just use pencil)

You only need to mark the pattern from the first pdf onto the fabric, the others are for the outlines.

We’ll begin at the centre with the wing. One first point is not to be intimidated by the sheer length of the initial stitch used in this technique. Work up the length of the wing, rather than across – always take the longest stretch you can with this part of the stitch. Lay one long stitch down. At this stage we’re using the crewel wool doubled over.
then bring your needle right back up again. Laid and couched work doesn’t go across the back of the work. Be careful to make sure you get these initial stitches nice and close together (don’t worry if you occaisionally come back up the same hole, and forgive yourself if you accidentally take a stitch along the back now and then, we all do it). Keeping everything on the surface not only conserves expensive naturally dyed threads, it also makes the finished piece lie smoother and flatter
Work along until you’ve covered the surface area with long stitches, remembering to keep all the threads at the front.
Dont worry if it looks a little ruffled at the point, the couching will eventually even it out. If you look at the back all you should see at this point is a series of tiny stab stitches and the bits where you’ve anchored your ends.
I’m showing you the next stage a few rows in because I started at the very tip of the wing wehre there wasn’t really a long enough piece to show you how it works, you may find it easier to start in the middle and work outwards if you find the short bits harder. For this part of the work go down to one strand of thread rather than two (with my dyed stuff its best to halve the length as well).

bring one thread up at right angles to the laid stitches and strech it right across them before takng it though

bring the needle back out again a few millimetres back along the thread and sew it down – this is the “couching” part.

work your way along the bar you’ve just put down, stitching it into place, before startng another. Your bars should be between 3 and 4 mm apart, and the couching stitches holding them down should be about the same distance. Don’t be tempted to make your gaps too wide or you will jeopardise the structural integrity of the work once it’s taken off the frame.

Also, don’t line up the couching stitches or you will encourage gaps in the laid work to appear. Stagger them instead.

the back should look something like this


Once you’ve completed the wing, move on to the contrasting feathers at the wing base.

Dont be tempted to do all the laid work first and then couch everything at once. The long laid stitches are unstable and easily snagged, so it’s far better to stabilise one area before begining the next.

Next comes the little strap across the base of his wing – notice that I’ve worked that at right angles to the wings themselves, instead choosing to take the thread across the longest stretch.


next his leg and the front half of his body. When using this stitch the definition is added to the body with the later suface stitches, so if two parts the same colour run together, do them as one and add the detail later.

If you prefer you can fill in the eye with a bit of white, but I’m working the eye as negative space (leaving the background fabric to show through) because I like the way it adds a little depth.


Fill in the wing tip, and then the tail, remembering to treat the whole tail as one area. Now there is a technique you can use to work laid and couched work around a curve, and I did think we’d use that on his tail, but I tried it four times and unpicked it fourtimes (and I NEVER unpick) but there was simply no permutation of a curved stitch on his tail that works, so just work if straight like the rest.

dragon 15

However, I am going to show you how to work the crest that runs around his tail on a curve.

Start by doing the top of his tail fairly straight running down his spine, then, when the curve starts to drop away, brng the stitch back and instead of going back to the start, tuck it under the last row of stitch

dragon 17

Then bring the needle back up again in the normal place


BY overlapping the stitches in the tight part of the curve and splaying them out around the wider edge you will begin to curl the laid work around the curve. You can see that it looks different at the back because you get a longer rown of stitch around the inside of the curve.


dragon 16

It might take a bit of practice, but you should be able to get the laid stitches to curve elegantly around his tail


which means that the couching stitches are worked like the spokes of a wheel, which is less abtrusive to the finished design.


Once you’ve filled the little tip of his tail all of the colouring in is done

Right, my dinner’s ready and it’s been a long week, so I’m going to stop there and do a second installment on Monday. I Plan on having enough wine to be reasonably incoherant so anything I wrte afer this won’t make sense anyway.

For part two we will be using the second third and fourth pdfs with the outline, but that ought to keep everyone busy over the weekend

~ by opusanglicanum on September 5, 2014.

39 Responses to “stitch along part one, the dragon”

  1. You’ve earned your dinner and your wine! Thank you, Tanya. All very clearly explained.

  2. I shall have to lag behind, as I won’t get to this for a week, but the explanation is clear, and he looks lovely!

  3. Thank you for the explanation, Tanya. It’s easily understandable and also tells me what I should have done different the first time I tried couched embroidery.

    I have a question to anybody reading this: I can’t decide on the colors of my embroidery. I have a bright veg dyed orange yarn (madder dyed), and red (veg dyed) and yellow (acid dyed). Plus green, also veg dyed and several cotton embroidery threads in different colors. The orange and the red are quite similar when put next to each other.
    Shall I try to use as many of the wool embroidery yarns even if there’s a fair chance that some will blend or shall I just use the colour scheme Tanya uses for her dragon (which I like)? Using Tanya’s colour scheme would mean using blue and white cotton emboidery thread.

    I’m not a purist and I don’t think many people will notice the difference in the finished piece, but sometimes I try to be purist.

    So the question is: shall I try to be as much purist as I can and risk not enough visible difference between the colors or shall I go for bold colors and a bit more cotton? I can’t decide.

    • I’m new to this technique, but I’ve been experimenting to find a way to work it successfully without using wool (I’m allergic to the stuff, alas). I’ve tried cotton and I think that you’ll be very disappointed with it for the main stitching areas. For the laid threads, you really need a thread with some ‘bounce’ in it, like wool. Cotton doesn’t have the right sort of give for the stitch. The surface stitches for the outlines and details are less fussy, so you can use what you like for them.

      • I’ve done it with fine silks, both plied and unplied, the trick is lay the first layer quite neatly, using two or three strands so that the area gets covered when usnig a harder thread – many strands of something very fine works much better than one or two strands of something thick.

        saying that you do occaisionally come across some quite fluffy perle cottons – perhaps you could look into the finer knitting cottons

      • Thanks for your reply, Sue and Tanya. I think I’ll do the dragon body with the orange wool and then we’ll see how long my other wool threads will last. The rest will be done with fine cotton embroidery thread.
        I used that cotton thread successfully for some couched embroidery (but that was on a stretchy t-shirt fabric).

        I was even thinking of using my handspun alpaca yarn (in grey) for embroidery, but I don’t know how many meters I got out of the 15 grams. It probably is fine enough for embroidery.

    • IF you hajve reds and oranges a fiery red dragon might be nice?

      • I have decided now: my dragon will be orange, grey, green and yellow. All wool except for the grey which is handspun alpaca. For the white highlights I will use cotton thread.
        I’ll decide about the fifth colour when I need it.

        The red looks too much like a darker shade of the orange, so I won’t use them together.

      • I’ll be interested to hear how the alpaca works for embroidery

  4. Ooh, it looks beautiful already. I so want to join in, but my kit hasn’t arrived yet. Sometimes being across the pond and waiting for the mailman isn’t any fun.

    • the time it takes for airmail to the states seems to vary quite a lot, I wonder if it depends which part of america you’re in?

      • I think the cards took a full two weeks to get here. I suppose the only thing fast is the “air” part. Once the plane lands, the trucks take over and then it’s regular mail delivery. But that’s okay. In the meantime, I’ll just drool over the pictures and instructions. It just makes the anticipation greater.

      • I had no idea it would take so long – my spoonflower order arrived the next day after I got the dispatch notice!

        i guess the post office is crap both side of the pond

      • The kit arrived today and I’m soooooo happy! I love it and can’t wait to get started! The U.S.Postal Service is notoriously slow–and crap is a good word. However, I won’t dwell on that now that the kit is in my hands. Have a great week.

      • I ordered my kit on the 28th of August and it arrived here on the 8th of September. Which was about what I expected for trans – Atlantic mail. I’m on the eastern sea-board of the US.

      • its hard to know how long things will be in transit

  5. Is there a place we can put photos of our progress, Tanya?

    • ooh, I hadn’t thought of that!

      Im not tech savvy enough to know, can we do an open posting pnterest or something?

      you can always put them on your blog and I’ll link if you send me it

  6. Kit arrived today. It’s beautiful, cant wait to get started.
    Photos – if you have a Flickr or Photobucket account I think it may be possible to post an image here – (the code hereafter is a test) [IMG][/IMG]

  7. Ok that didn’t work. 😦

  8. I have a question about the colours you have sent me please. I know I will be asked what the dyes were, so rather than guess I will ask. There is apple green, lemon yellow, med/pale blue, a mauvish shade and rich rust.

    I have completed the first wing area so far, about 45 minutes. So I calculate this first colour blocking lesson will take me around 3-4 hours, but I have to do it in 30 minute sessions, once a day.
    I will post pictures of my progress on my disgracefully neglected blog –

    • the green are a bit of a mixed bag because I overdyed several different yellows and forgot which was which by the time they were done – so green is some sort of natural yellow plus woad, blue is woad, lemon yellow is probably either weld or persian berries, mauve probably logwood, rich rust sounds like english madder – I’ll be able to tell you with more certainty once I see a pic cos its hard to tell from a description

  9. Thinking about posting pictures somewhere, a Flickr group is probably the simplest – not all the people taking part will have blogs. I could easily set one up if you don’t want to do it yourself, Tanya.

    • If you dont mind that would be great – I know nothing about flickr and worky work is a bit mental at the mo so I’m, too knackedred of and evening to shout at the internet

  10. We have a group on Flickr, here:
    Needs some tidying up, but you can join it and then post to it.
    For the present I will moderate photos – to keep out spam and nasties – so there will be a delay before they appear in the pool. (I’ll try to check every day at least.) Flickr is free to join, so let’s see some pictures – mine is rather lonely there right now!

  11. Is it too late to sign up?

  12. My kit arrived yesterday — San Francisco Bay Area — and I wanted to thank you for making these beautiful materials available. The natural dyes are incredible — gorgeous, gorgeous stuff — and the wool is lovely. Can you tell us more about how the threads were made?

    • The threads are bought in their Undyed state from texere, a local mill in Bradford. I usually premordant with alum before veg dyeing. Some threads, like the richer purples and the hard scarlets, have a second mordant with iron or tin after dyeing to adjust the shade

  13. […] Part one […]

  14. […] shirts are. I learned laid and couched work by following the stitch-a-long on Opusanglicanum, this post in particular. Time factors meant I’d have to supplement with other stitches, like some of my favourites […]

  15. […] the same basic instructions from last year are available here […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: