Mary Barton’s Work

And finishing tips…

When preparing new designs for the US Fall 2021 Needlework Expo, I was in the middle of a prolonged lockdown. I was working on a different antique reproduction, when it became clear that the lockdown would not end before Expo – meaning I couldn’t get the piece framed, or even get framing supplies I needed at home to do it myself. Dilemma…

So, I put the other repro aside (she’ll reappear soon) and looked through what I had to see if there was something small I could stitch and frame myself in time. I’d been wanting to stitch this strange little bird, and it seemed like a good opportunity.

The original antique had been stitched in wools, some of which had faded more that others. It was framed in an old-fashioned, heavy frame that made the design seem more dour than I think it needed to be. It’s not a fashionable type of antique needlework, but I could see it had good bones, as they say.

The antique original of Mary Barton’s Work

It was a different kind of reproduction for me, and I decided to stitch it in the partially faded, autumnal, but still bright tones that attracted me initially. To suggest the fullness and richness of the wools, I stitched it 2 over 2 on 32-count fabric (‘Ale’ by Picture This Plus).

Stitching up quickly, I enjoyed creating these full roses and wondered what type of bird Mary Barton chose to represent. I wondered about Mary Barton, and who she was. Without a date or place, she is impossible to find, but it’s clear she loved colour and took pride in her ‘work’.

Often in my life, I’ve found that restrictions and limitations can lead to tremendous creativity – to trying things differently and to discovering that you can do unexpected things. On a smaller scale, this process played out in this little design. As I stitched, I played around with ideas for how to frame and finish it, knowing I had to use what I had in hand.

I took a ready-made 8 x10 inch frame and played around. The piece of linen I had stitched on was not big enough to lace in this frame, so I had to get creative. Here’s a simple rundown of my finish, which I will be refining and exploring more in the future.

Finishing tips for Mary Barton’s Work

What I used:

  • A standard 8 x 10 inch frame
  • A sharp embroidery needle
  • Floss used to stitch the design
  • A hot iron
  • Pins
  • Backing fabric (the one I used is quilting cotton, ‘La Rose Rouge’ by French General).

I found that the quilting cotton had the same colours and tones as the design, as well as echoing the roses. So I cut a piece big enough to lace (ie 2-3 inches larger than the frame on each side). I decided to use it to frame the design. I love how it brightened the whole look of the piece. Of course, you could use any fabric that you like, and that you have on hand and adapt the process for a frame in your stash.

I took the frame apart and placed the quilting cotton down to see how it looked in the frame. Then, I took the stitched design and folded each edge under to a size that harmonised with the frame. I didn’t want to cut the linen, as I wasn’t sure if I would end up framing it differently, so I ironed the edges down instead.

Now, my ironed edges were not perfectly straight, but I carefully ironed the corners so that they would not be visible from the front. I then took the pressed design and pinned it to the backing fabric.

To attach the stitched design to the backing fabric, I decided I wanted to use some basic embroidery stitches – not to hide the hand-stitched finish, but to celebrate it.

In opposite corners, I stitched a row of cross-stitches (using 1 strand of Cranberry), stitching through the linen and the quilting cotton. I started in the middle of the line and worked outwards, then coming back to start from the middle and work in the opposite direction, to make an (almost) even line. I used a sharp embroidery needle and stitched a few stitched past each edge of the linen.

Then, to frame this line, I stitched some basic running stitches on either side of the cross stitch line, using 1 strand of Caramel.

Top left-hand corner showing embroidery stitches

I used this pattern of stitching in the top left-hand corner and the bottom right-hand corner of the stitched design.

Bottom right-hand corner

Then, in the other corners, I used 1 strand of Dirt Road to stitch a single Smyrna cross, through the linen and backing fabric.

Smyrna cross in the top right-hand corner (stitch also on the bottom left-hand corner).

After this, the stitched design was quite firmly attached. I removed the pins, and ironed again. Then, and I simply pinned and laced the quilting cotton as I normally would to frame a finished design. (When lacing, you do not need to pull as tightly as you normally would a stitched piece.)

I loved the finished look – and you could do any embroidery stitches that you like. As my linen fabric was quite firm, it held its shape well. If you’re using a looser fabric, you might need to add additional embroidery stitches to attach it firmly to the backing.

My embroidery stitches are not straight, and my stitches not perfect. Nothing I stitch ever is. I love how it shows my hand-done work, and the finished piece is not only Mary Barton’s Work, it’s mine now too. I hope you enjoy creating your own collaboration with Mary Barton and I can’t wait to see your ‘work’. Please tag me @mojostitches on Instagram – I can’t wait to see.

The chart is available from stockists now, and will be available as a hard-copy chart and pdf in my Etsy store at the beginning of October.