London Embroidery School: Broderie Anglaise

Do you remember that time when we used to go to classes? Where sewing groups would meet, exchange biscuits, gossip and the best way to stop unruly seams from rolling? Those halcyon days? Well, lucky me, because I recently got to head back to the basement of the London Embroidery School for a spot of Broderie Anglaise, where I started their Lace Series Course what seems like a couple of lifetimes ago.

I do honestly think that digital learning has plenty of great things to offer. I was optimistic about the resurrection of Craftsy which looks to be a success (complete with soothing orange colours! Existing Bluprint members seem to be able to enjoy full premium access until 16th October). I have taken many other digital learning courses and thoroughly enjoyed them over the years…

However, if I had the opportunity and the money to do everything in person I probably would, especially right now where the thought of one more video anything makes me want to scream. I’m still recovering a little from the trauma of the synchronous Festival of Quilts fast and furious organza frenzy class too

 I was very happy to see that London Embroidery School, as well as their great online offerings, are back to in-person classes too. Welcome to Lace Lesson II: Broderie Angalise – the perfect technique for working out all your stabby frustrations at one too many conference calls. With the London Embroidery School classes, you have the option to purchase the class with or without equipment, in this case a wooden stiletto for stabbing purposes. A stiletto is the one thing I don’t own, so it was a good addition to the craft bag, though this one did seem to have some slightly sticky residue on it that turned the whitework brown. It got better with use but I might have been a little upset if this was some treasured heirloom garment I had spent hours on.

What lurks behind…

Broderie Anglaise is a strangely well-known term as it seems to be a technique that is something of a staple on summer clothing, where taking a garment and sticking lots of holes in it can be considered a good design feature for ventilation. It’s generally a lot less fussy and delicate than other kinds of lace but it is still very beautiful.

The one thing that would prove a struggle to get my head around was deliberately poking rather large holes through my work. The sample design for the class has four types of eyelets in it, buttonhole and overcast stitch edged circles, as well as their teardrop shaped equivalents. The rest of the design is just some stem stitch and satin stitch.

The thread is DMC écru Moulinè Special and I don’t think there will be any love lost between me and this thread. It’s a stranded embroidery floss but it’s weak and fluffy and horrible. The stem stitch in the piece ended up looking very delicate but just so sad and lifeless. I have to admit it does have a good sheen on it but it is very prone to breaking and its furry, fluffy ways make it a pain the thread (unexpected issue of wearing a mask… how do you lick your thread ends?!)

The first eyelet was just with overcast stitch. All you need to do is put two runs of alternating running stitch around, stab your fabric, then you’re ready to go. I was surprised how clean and nice of a hole the stiletto made and you can shape and size it relatively easily too. My next eyelet was with blanket stitch and this did not go smoothly. You can see a few of the threads hinting at some unholy mess at  the back, as I managed to leave a few loops dangling and then when I joined in a second thread for an ‘invisible’ handover, I didn’t secure the ends fast enough which added to the growing thread jungle. Whoops.

The teardrop shaped eyelets weren’t especially challenging though it was nerve wracking taking some scissors to the fabric to cut away some of the excess after stabbing that too with the sticky stiletto. I think poor buttonhole stitch has an undeserved reputation as being a really difficult stitch to do. It’s a pain to get new threads in and to get the edges just perfect, but it’s a meditative when you get rolling with it and it’s very satisfying when you get the little nubs to line up just perfectly.

I think if I was transferring my own design for the larger circles I would have pre-drawn the lines for the inner rings because I was not great at drawing symmetric circles which shows on the final eyelet. That was a little bit of a shame as the first buttonhole eyelet was an unmitigated disaster but the second one had much better stitching but was just horribly misshapen because I didn’t do a very good job of putting the running stitch in at the centre.

Satin and stem stitch are good old friends but I did find getting ‘sharp’ shapes with the moulinè more challenging than I expected. It’s such a fluffy, changeable thread that I found it didn’t always behave as expected and it can look very different after you give it a little stroke with the needle. This made it challenging to get good coverage of the thread shape.

The short classes really do go by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t learn any new stitches in this class but it was fun getting to stab the fabric and try something different and making eyelets really isn’t too bad. At least under the watchful eye of a teacher it isn’t. I think something must have really infuriated with me as, when I went home to go and practice a bit of what I’d learnt, I ended up stabbing rather too hard! Whoops! I’m hoping that next week’s lesson might contain a few hints and tips on ‘what to do if you’ve murdered your design’!

Overall though it was just so nice to be stitching with some company. I liked the finished sample piece a lot but I have to say that this wasn’t really a piece that was speaking to me while I was working on it. It’ll make a nice sampler but I wasn’t too heartbroken with my accidental wanton destruction of the fabric. Still, good to learn something new and even better to do it in company!  

12 thoughts on “London Embroidery School: Broderie Anglaise

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