Visiting the little town of Nyon, Switzerland, you might have the impression that this picturesque point on Lac Leman is a quiet, sleepy place, perfect for sipping coffee and strolling around, gazing the medieval architecture. Tucked away amongst the beautiful buildings and several thousand years of history though is a beautiful little shop that is a must-see for any embroiderer, Canvaes Folies.
Canvaes Folies is the stitching home of Laurence Lieblich, who is an incredibly talented designer, stitcher and teacher. Her designs are riotously colourful and utterly charming and, if you can’t make it to Switzerland for a lesson, you can check out her blog, with its very nice stitch guides in English and French and some stitch-alongs on projects. I highly recommend the needlepainting/peinture à l’aiguille tutorials as it’s very valuable to see the logic and ordering behind stitching some of her larger, more complex projects. I think Laurence’s tutorials are a very helpful resource for anyone interested in silk shading as it is one of those techniques that the best way to learn is to see worked examples on how to deal with as many different scenarios and situations as possible and then try and adapt it to your stitching situation. Until you have the experience that you get a much better feel for it at least!
One of the great things about Canvaes Folies is that, as well as a colossal range of kits, designs, House of Embroidery threads, silks, DMC and some fabric, there’s a huge diversity in the techniques Laurence teaches too. I initially went along to try some pulled thread work, as whitework is one of the things still on the ‘to do’ list. I hope that sampler will eventually surface on the blog but progress has been pretty dismal… On my next visit, I succumbed to the temptation of picking up some silk shading in the form of the beautiful Papillorama design.
One thing I like about Laurence’s approach is that she encourages you to work the designs in your own choice of colours and stitches. The kit instructions come with lots of recommended stitches and good photographs if you want to try and copy what has been done but encourage you to go and play. I definitely enjoy following other people’s designs, as you can probably see from how much I enjoyed starting the canvaswork piece, and I probably get less moments where I feel stuck and stumped for what to do next when there’s a set of instructions, but as I can and have designed my own pieces, it feels a bit lazy just copying someone else. This ‘guided but not dictated’ approach is a good compromise between the two.
As the butterflies are such a colourful design, I had a lot of fun going through and picking out some silks. Everything is working in House of Embroidery variegated threads which I absolutely love. Their fine silk is noticeably shinier than the raw silk (what I’m using) but the raw silk is still unmistakably silk but has great coverage.
If you are buying their threads online, just be warned that their thread labelling is sometimes a bit weird, for example ‘India’, exists as S52 and S52M (check out the first photo after the cut in this post). I wouldn’t even immediately assume they were related colourways as one is reddish purples and blues, whereas the other is similar to Wine Glory (dark pink/white variegated) but with a pale pink instead of white so there’s less contrast to between the section.
My progress on this project has been a bit lethargic as, since starting this one, I’ve managed to finish another piece of silk shading and goldwork, as well as start a million more things, but that’s not because I’m not enjoying it. The silk is a dream to work with, and the vanilla linen is very easy to work with. In terms of needle choice, most of the stitching has been done with a size 10 embroidery needle, with any weaving parts using a size 26 tapestry.
I’ve been working around three or four different variegated threads per butterfly, which is a little excessive but just having a lot of fun with the colours and different stitches to apply. Doing long and short stitch over such small areas brings its own challenges over bigger pieces but is proving a nice way of sampling different approaches to putting in the stitches. It’s a genius design for sampling work as each butterfly can be worked with a series of different stitches. You can see some dodgy needlelace on the larger, purple butterfly with some questionable tensioning. I have done some needlelace before, but it’s very different working with the fine silk thread versus something closer to silk gimp. I am resisting the urge to cut it out for now as I am trying to get out of the mentality that everything I do must be suitable for RSN assessment or otherwise perfect as I just need to get more practice in for these things and I would like to just relax and enjoy it. I have fallen in love with needlelace in variegated thread though, it’s just awesome.
I’ve really liked stitching this piece so far but find what has been an impediment to getting on with it is the ‘argh, what stitch next?!’ feeling, so I’ve ended up drawing up a rough stitch guide. I’m not completely copying the stitch placement of the original so I hope this will help and, as I have a dreadful memory for stitch orders, I can just consulted the Embroidery Stitch Bible then and focus on stitching, not getting lost in what to do.
There’s plenty to be done on this one and lots more colours to enjoy as I go. I’m going to try and fully complete it section by section as it’s an awkward size for working in my ring frame as it doesn’t fit completely even in my largest hoop. It’s a chance to get on with some chain stitch, French and bullion knots though for the butterfly bodies and heads. I really hope I’m going to be able to get back to Nyon soon, it is well worth a short visit. If you’re in Nyon, stop by the wool shop, Wooly Tricot, and the incredibly adorable patchwork place, Au Coeur du Patchwork, which also offers a great range of workshops, too!