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Time consuming embroidery

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My latest crafty project is a bit of embroidery. On a recent trip to Birmingham, the ancestral homeland, as one might call it, I was given a half-finished piece of embroidery which had recently been unearthed. It is a tray cloth, such as were once prized by hostesses for the dispensing of tea and cakes. This one has a motif in each corner, a basket of flowers. However, this is no ordinary left-over project, this has already been worked on by two generations and they are hoping that I, as the third, will finally finish it. The cloth is very yellow with severe creases set in it so the first job is a wash and iron. Then, to work.

Tray cloth

Tray cloth, threads and embroidery hoop

I was also given an embroidery hoop and a bag of lovely embroidery thread but unfortunately, not all of the original colours remain. None of the four motifs is completely finished although two only need the basket handle finishing. The original brown thread is not to be found so I may have to use a lighter one or else seek a similar shade in Hickeys (see the resource page). The other motifs are only half-finished and will need quite a few more colours. I have the original purple thread that one of the baskets was begun in so I can finish it and do the other. I will also need pink, red, blue, green and a peachy colour to finish the leaves, flowers and other decorations.

Tray cloth motif

This motif is unfinished, the leaves, flowers and basket still need sewing.

Although I receieved an embroidery hoop as well (always wanted one!), it might not be much use for this project because all the work is done around the edge of the cloth. I don’t know much about different kinds of embroidery. I know what cross stitch is but that’s about it. As you can see from the pictures, the fabric has the design drawn on it in blue. I don’t know if all embroidery has this or just some types. Any ideas would be welcome as I can’t seem to find an answer on the internet! The stitch used in the motifs is mostly satin stitch. There are a few French knots but, fortunately for me, most of them are already done. I find French knots quite tricky, I can’t figure out the right way to twist the thread around the needle. I do like them though because they look effective, especially as the centre of a flower. The other stitch used is a kind of stem stitch, which I will have to work out how to do first.

Tray cloth motif

One of the motifs is finished except for the handle of the basket.

Even though tray cloths aren’t really used now, I’m looking forward to doing this project, partly because it’s something new for me, but also because of the feeling of being part of something other people have done. So, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!



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