Wretched Excess Sampler

The chef has been joking to his dinner patrons, as they swoon over his latest over-the-top dish, that I am going to embroider a sampler that says "Wretched excess is only the beginning." He's been saying that for so long now that I thought I had better get to it. I started with a vintage whitework tray cloth, in keeping with the culinary theme. I found an elaborate capital "W" online (can't remember where, sorry), downloaded it, and traced it onto the cloth using dressmaker's carbon paper. Then I went to town with padded satin stitch, outline and seed stitch. Lots of fun!
I wanted the rest of the text to be very simple in contrast to the baroque "W", and I felt that cross stitch would be appropriate. But the cloth was too fine to do counted cross stitch, and I didn't think I could draw little "x"s accurately enough, so I tried waste canvas for the first time. I simply drew my letters on the stiff canvas and embroidered over my lines. The colour below is more accurate on my monitor. The thread is DMC 518, what I would call a French blue.
Removing the canvas was a bit of a trick - I had to soak the cloth in water to remove the starch, and then use tweezers to unravel the threads. But in the end it all worked just fine.

I stretched natural linen cloth over an artist's canvas stretcher, positioned the blocked embroidery, and used a curved needle to couch the fine linen to the backing. As I quickly realized, using a curved needle also required a a bit of dexterity since they are hard to hold properly. It's interesting to encounter little problems like this, since they remind me how foreign it can feel for a beginner to take up needle and thread for the first time. Tomorrow I'll hang it in the restaurant and take another picture for you. Sorry for the odd colour and lack of sharp focus in the above pictures - I fear my camera is dying.


  1. How clever to use the canvas and then remove it. I love your baroque, exquisite W.

  2. That is so funny and also incredibly beautiful, Heather! How did The Chef react when he saw it?

  3. onesmallstitch11:07 AM

    Splendid! love the contrast between the W and cross stitch I've had trouble removing waste canvas - never thought to wet it, clever. I've been using a curved needle to stitch books and it definitely took time to master. Hope both the chef and his patrons appreciate the work.

  4. I tried several times yesterday to leave a comment, Blogger is such a pain with their illegible security codes!! It will also not accept a Wordpress ID.

    None the less, trying again to say that I think this is fabulous, just love the extravagant W!

  5. absolutely fantastic heather!! your stitches are like no others.

    i've never heard of using the waste canvas and then removing that - what is that for? also would love to know more about the backing... if you feel like explaining any of these details!

  6. Thanks, everyone! Waste canvas is a product available at the same places you can buy aida cloth and needlework supplies. The canvas I have is made by Zweigart, and it is a loosely woven, starched canvas that comes in different sizes, just like aida cloth. It is often used when embroidering on velvet or other hard-to-mark fabrics - you just draw your design on the canvas and embroider over it, then unravel the threads when you're done. Kind of a pain, but it's often the only way to work with difficult fabrics.

    Maybe I should do a tutorial on how I do the backing. It's basically an archival, reversible way to stabilize and support a piece of needlework. More to come, and thanks for asking, Dru.

  7. Hi. I thought the waste canvas is supposed to be pull out, piece by piece...I learnt this in a Japanese cross stitch book. However, not very sure if that is called a waste canvas too?

  8. Yes, it's the same thing. But the starch they use makes it hard to pull out thread by thread, so wetting it dissolves the starch and makes it much easier to pull out.


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