Crewelwork Linen Gown – Samples

Before I committed to moving forward on this project, I made up a sample. I used the wool threads I had on hand, which are the Lana wool threads I use for machine embroidery. I had to make do with the colors I already had, which didn’t always blend that well or match the original. Overall, I was still pretty happy with how it looked.

I started a second sample, but stopped when I realized that it was a bit larger than the actual scale of the gown. Between that and the Lana being slightly smaller than the Fine d’Aubusson I plan to use, it was taking a long time without adding any new info.

Crewelwork Linen Gown Samples

Confession time: I’ve owned a tambour hook for about 10 years, but never actually used it. I’m a “jump in the deep end” sort of person. I hate making practice projects. So those two samples? That’s ALL the tambour embroidery I’ve ever done before starting this project.

Needless to say, there’s been a steep learning curve.

Nevertheless, I jumped into work on to my first panel, using my actual thread and fabric. Much to my shock, I was clumsy and slow all over again. I could only work for about 10 minutes before wanting to throw it all out the window.

The biggest issue was that my samples were stitched with the fabric in my favorite hoop. Without realizing it, I’d developed the bad habit of rotating the hoop so that all my stitches could be worked in roughly the same direction. All the speed and skill I developed only applied to stitches worked in that direction.

Once I switched over to my tambour frame, I couldn’t rotate the frame any longer. Every stitch not at that perfect angle was painfully difficult, with the hook getting snagged in the wool. With all those circles and flower petals, very few stitches were at that perfect angle.

I was back almost to square one. I needed to slow down and learn how to stitch at any angle. This was not exactly conducive to jumping in the deep end.

I had to work in very short chunks of time, with breaks in between. The first day, I could feel a huge change between my skill in the morning and my skill that evening, about 3-4 sessions later. The next few days weren’t as dramatic, but I could still feel the improvement every day.

After putting in 1-2 hours daily for about a week, my confidence picked up again. I stopped fighting the curves, and could stitch about 350 degrees without fighting the stitches. There are still a few angles that consistently trip me up.

Once I stopped fighting to make each stitch, I could focus on getting my stitches smaller and tidier. At this point, I’m about 35 hours into practicing and I can see a big difference between my earliest stitches and my most recent ones.

Crewelwork Linen Gown Samples showing improved skill with tambour embroidery

I’m not sure if it’s clear in this photo, but the purple flower was stitched in the first 5 hours of working in the tambour frame. The large leaf and red berries were stitched around hour 32. I can see a distinct difference in the size and tightness of my stitches. The purple flower is also a bit fuzzy looking, since I was constantly snagging the wool.

I’m also getting faster. I estimate that each motif is taking about 6 hours now. As a comparison, the first sample took at least 10 hours. Some of my time is spent experimenting with which colors to use as a gradation. I hope I’ll speed up a little more as I settle on the colors and fine tune my technique.

Even though I want to be good right now, I appreciate that I can feel my skill growing nearly every day. I’m glad I worked that first sample, but even more that I am practicing on a larger panel before I tackle the gown.

I’m also very happy that this is still usable work. I don’t think I could bear it if I had to scrap so many hours of work. It’s hard enough to think I’ll be cutting it up!

All of my thread colors have finally arrived, so my next goal is to complete each motif in both colorways. That will also complete the section I’m currently working on. If you want to see in-the-moment updates, check out my IG stories for progress photos.

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