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And so following on from my last post, as promised more embroidery and more colour! Once all the leather onlays had been stuck down to the covering leather it was time for some back-paring with my French paring knife. I did this with some caution given the fact that there was already embroidery on the cover, making sure I didn’t go through the back of the leather too far and cut the sewing threads.

For the board joints, I laid the leather over a rounded edge of perspex and sanded it with a sanding block to take off a line of leather where the hinge was going to fall (as you can see in the below image on the right-most line). This was there pared along with the French paring knife to lose the harsh line and create a bevel either side of the board joint. 

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Once the paring was complete I was left with a rather attractive reverse pattern or “halo” on the back!

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It was then time to embroider the leather. All of the bindings I have done recently have been solely embroidered by hand however for this binding I knew my sewing machine was going to come in very handy for certain parts of the design, in part to speed up the process, and also to save the tips of my fingers. I did have to manipulate the leather somewhat to get it to pass through where I needed it to as my machine doesn’t have a very deep throat but I managed to make it work.

For the intersecting lines holding the whole design together, I marked them onto the leather by pricking through the tracing paper template with my needle pricker. I was then able to use these holes as a guide to mark on the surface of the leather with pen and chalk and used these lines to run the sewing machine along.

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I knew I wanted these lines to be done in metallic thread however my sewing machine has issues with this type of thread so I knew it wouldn’t be possible to use them together. As a compromise I decided to sew these initial lines in a neutral white thread and then I was able to run a whipping stitch along the whole length using the metallic copper thread to get the colour and effect I wanted.

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I developed different ways of holding the leather to make it possible to get to the areas I wanted to sew through. As the leather is thick and not flexible like cloth it would not have been possible to use an embroidery hoop so I had to develop different means. One way was by having the body of the leather under a weight on a table, with the area I wanted to embroider hanging off the edge so I could easily pass the needle from the back to the front of the leather and vice versa.

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The other way was by rolling up the two outer edges of the leather and holding them in place with bulldog clips at the bottom and top edges of the roll. I could then hold onto the roll of leather in one hand whilst sewing with the other.

All of the embroidery work I did on the onlays before they got stuck down could now be added to. In the case of the rose, the outlines of each of the petals had already been run around with a running stitch so I then used a whipping stitch in the same colour but thicker weight of thread to add definition to their edges.

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The centre of the large flowers was cut out in a darker coloured onlay and I wanted to add more detail to this. I did so by tying a patch of French knots in four different colours of thread, using three thicknesses of thread for each knot.

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The “Dido” daylillies had been quite heavily embroidered before going onto the covering leather with a series of couched stitches radiating from the centre of the flower. In the design I planned for these flowers to have outlines so worked a border around them using the sewing machine and then run a whipping stitch of the same colour around it to add definition.

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I did the same with the darker green lines within the petals.

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Moving onto the irises, when the onlays were off the book it was of course not possible to run a thread outline around the outermost cut edge of the onlays so this was all done once they had been stuck to the covering leather. For speed I did all of these initially with the sewing machine and then ran a whipping stitch of the same colour of thread around them, as seen below around the leaves and petals.

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I added further detail to the petals of the irises by using small stitches in a gradient of different colours, and then filling in on top of the yellow onlays using small French knots.

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The stitches broke up the colour and shape of the onlays beneath them but benefitted from the background colour. 

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The leaves were also built up using a series of stem stitches over the whole patch of green onlay – in fact these was probably the most time consuming part of the whole design taking far longer than I had anticipated to fill!

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The same outline thread treatment applied to the orchids and their leaves too, starting with running round the outer edges with the sewing machine. 

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And then this line was defined by using a whipping stitch.

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However when it came to the body of the orchid leaves I decided to use my sewing machine to add linear pattern to the leaves, working backwards and forwards using three different combinations of top thread and bobbin colours to add variation.

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I wanted the intersecting copper-threaded lines to have more impact. On the sample board I filled a small section of it in entirely with small stitches using the copper thread but thought this seemed too bold. I therefore decided to do a run of stitches bridging the lines along the whole length of them, looking a bit like a ladder. I was really happy with the appearance, as seen below.

The butterflies in turn each had more detail applied, starting with adding further threads to define the shapes and colours.

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The bodies of the butterflies were then built up using a variety of stitches and colours of threads.

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What seemed like an endless feat of embroidery had finally come to and end and I was really pleased with how it was looking. There were however just a few areas that I thought needed a little extra detail, so I used my fine ball point pens to add more definition.  

Below, the stem and bud of the orchid, plus in between the threads sewn onto the orchid’s leaves, had some green linear detail drawn on them.

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And a bit of mottling was added to the wing tip of the Hypermnestra butterfly.

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I always like to take a photo of the reverse of the leather before sticking it down to the book as it will never been seen again! It tells a story of the work that was done to achieve the results on the front of the leather and I like to keep a record of this.

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And so the day I thought would never come had arrived – the leather was finally ready to stick to the book. 

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After so many hundreds of hours working on it up until now I wasn’t exactly looking forward to that daunting task. The next post will show how I went about sticking the leather to the book and the further details I was able to add once it was on there.

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