As I worked on the Jacobean Sampler collection I set myself a challenge, to take some of the elements and create a tree of life, a very popular design in this style of embroidery. Obviously the first decision was the size and I went for my largest hoop, the massive 360mm x 260mm, so I could include as many elements as possible. My first attempts were not good but I was determined to get a balanced tree.
For this exercise I intended to loosely follow the rules of flower arranging aiming to keep to 3’s of the larger elements but that was not possible, even with this size of hoop, except with the leaves. Eventually after grouping the elements and moving them around it began to take shape. In the end I choose 2 elements to duplicate and the inclusion of two more. I love the gnarled, stylized branches and trunks that are often seen in trees of life. The main trunk did not look right until I split it and choose to embellish one side with a second set of open stitches on top.
Adding the smaller elements and some leaves was easier and I had great fun selecting tiny elements to fill in the gaps.
When it came to stitching out my Trees, I opted for a raw silk noil fabric which I discovered was perfect for this embroidery. It gave all my stitch outs an antique flavour and is so so easy to embroider on. It is even hand washable!!! I get mine from Hilary at the Silk Route which is in the UK, but it only comes in one natural shade. A layer of quality stitch and tear had a second layer attached with temporary adhesive and the silk was floated on top of that as seen here.
I confess that my tree underwent “major surgery” when I realised that its form needed to be such that it could be easily split for those with mid sized hoops. In the end I was able to split it into 3 sections for 300mm x 200 (12″ x 8″ ) hoops as shown below and then into 4 sections for 240mm x 150mm (9.5″ x 6″) hoops. That involved a further split of the first section but the top and right side are the same.
I felt that anything smaller would be unrealistic and it was crucial to embroider the main trunk in one hooping. When such decisions are made I am sure I am not the only digitizer who is almost hears the “cries of dismay” from those with smaller hoops. Sorry!
On average I found that it took about five hours plus to stitch out a tree, and it will take longer if you doing it in several hoopings. However I challenge you to attempt this as it will fill you with confidence!!
As well as my usual Outline alignment stitches I have also added markers to help with the positioning of each section.
The accompanying 56 page PDF which comes with these designs takes you through the process and I have tried to make the positioning as full proof as possible using the markers and pins.
The best advice I can give is to give yourself plenty of time for this project. Large embroideries like this require methodical planning and I always adopt a full proof system to avoid mistakes. It tends to be towards the end of an extra long stitch out that we are prone to making mistakes, so triple check at least every colour before stitching out. As a colour starts I select the next colour and place it on the spare spool holder. I also tend to line up the next six or seven colours. Lastly I check again before I colour is threaded.
I also advise that you do not change the colours if at all possible as these have been carefully chosen. With many overlays and blending your finished results may be compromised if you are not careful.
Make sure your last hooping is positioned accurately as you do not want gaps between the branches and the trunk of the tree. I have made the branches a little longer than necessary to help you. Take your design through to the pale green colour for the trunk and move through that colour to see where the stitches will fall. You can easily do this by dropping the needle and raising it again in several places.
I suggest that if you change any threads you keep as near as possible to the original colour and check everything in your embroidery software if you have it. Always save an edited design under a new name to protect the original stitch file.
The time taken to embroider this out will be well worth it! Your finished tree could be framed with elements from the collection to make a superb wall hanging.
When it became obvious that the finished tree would have over 83,000 stitches I decided to remove some elements for a more simplified tree with around 74,000 stitches.
Finally by moving a few elements around I created a third tree with a bird sitting on one of the branches. All three trees have been split for 300mm x 200mm and 240mm x 150mm hoops.
I cannot apologize for the many colour changes in the trees for this style of Jacobean embroidery demands lots of colour and I assure you every colour is needed. You may be put off but actually when you working through the embroidery you will find that many of the colours stitch out very quickly. As you put a spool away it will almost be time to get the next one threaded up. When you have finished your embroidery you will need to give yourself an BIG applause. Well done for embroidering a masterpiece. Don’t forget to send me a photo or two!
The Jacobean Sampler Tree of life is available for just $24 until the end of July. After that it will cost $32.
Happy embroidering from Hazel