Saturday, 19 August 2017

Experiments with Rhodes Stitch on Plastic Canvas

It's the weekend and here at Bobbin and Fred HQ it's sunny with a chance of sewing. I've been binging on geometric prints and thinking about ways to interpret them in hand stitch.

I started where many great ideas begin their journey into fruition, on Pinterest of course! I searched high and low for Arabesque patterns and pinned my favourites to this board.

I've always loved this style of pattern; bright, busy, colourful geometrics are
my catnip. I'd love to bring more of them into my living space, wardrobe and my needlepoint and I'm hoping you might too and would like to read how I'm approaching it.
Armed with an idea of what I'd like the stitch pattern to look like, I started looking at needlepoint stitches that would mix and match to create repeats with.

The Octagonal Rhodes Stitch and Diagonal Framed French Knot appealed to me so I started by mixing a thread palette and having a go...

DMC Embroidery Floss and Rhodes Stitch on plastic canvas

When I'd finished I thought I'd struck gold first time! The stitch combination worked well for me and I loved the pop of colour. I'm definitely getting the Moroccan, tiled vibe from this.

I have a project designed and am looking for how to stitch it so in the back of my mind was that this will become an all over repeat pattern on a product, like a purse, so I messed around with it in GIMP (a fab, free alternative to Photoshop) to see how it'd look on en masse...

Needlepoint sample, Rhodes Stitch and Diagonal Framed French Knot


I'm not quite sure what it is that makes me recoil and want to run for cover but this evokes all kinds of wrong. I just don't know where to look?!

I think in small doses, like on an edge of a cuff, it'd work nicely but when I look at a lot of it all together my insides scream 'no, no, nooooo!'

I love the colours but that blue, wow, it's just so bright and overpowering! I also love the subtle combination of the two shades of red and so for my next stab I had a go at showing that off a bit more. 

I swapped the blue for purple and peach...

Canvaswork stitch experiments, Rhodes stitch and french knot

Aaah. It's definitely easier on the eye, isn't it?

I love how the introduction of another colour helps define the centre of the diagonally framed French knots and the peach borders create more of a Moorish tile effect but now the purple doesn't work for me.

On a peach high I decided to use that for the Rhodes Stitch and use the two shades of pink to create texture and dimension...
Embroidery sample on plastic canvas: rhodes stitch

I got a bit frustrated by this point so I didn't stitch all of this sample but I adore the colour combination.

That peach with the deep pinky reds rocks my world. 

I don't know if we're ready for a peach revival but I for one am trailblazing for the love of peach, will anyone join me?

Although I didn't finish this sample I realised the stitch size wasn't right for what I wanted but that I liked the effect of using different colours to create the middle of the diagonal framed French knots and wanted to carry that forward.

I felt like I'd lost sight of what I wanted the overall pattern to look like and what colours I wanted to see on a final piece. I love bright colours but I also wanted sophistication.

When I get in a bit of a muddle I usually like to burn everything and try again. 

Not literally! No pieces of needlepoint were set on fire during this experiment.

I just mean scrap everything that isn't working, in this instance the colourway and the stitch size, and choose afresh.

I went back to my Pinterest board for colour inspiration and selected some more DMC embroidery floss...

Embroidery Floss DMC 598, 597, 3808, 3348, 3804

I decided to make the stitch bigger and to play around even more with the colours in the french knot sections and this is what I came up with...

French knot stitch experiment by Bobbin and Fred

I LOVE this combination of colour and stitch but I think the Rhodes stitches still recede which is a shame.

The only aspect of this that isn't working for me now is how much of the plastic canvas is visible between the strands of the Rhodes stitches.

I love working with plastic canvas because it's so friendly on my hands and the construction possibilities are endless but I don't like being able to see it.

The only way I could think of combating that was to add extra thread so the stitch fills up as much of the canvas as possible.

The problem with that is I knew I would end up with too many strands of thread to pass through each hole where the sides of the Rhodes stitches met. The holes are ready made and don't stretch...I've tried forcing it through and broken the canvas before now and I didn't want a repeat of that, also it's just not easy on the hands or enjoyable to try and force thread through a hole.

I decided to separate out the Rhodes stitches and fill in the space with cross stitch.

Here it is:

Light blue, teal and pink embroidery samply by bobbin and fred

For this I added 1 extra strand to the Rhodes stitch octagons so I had 5 in total rather than the 4 in the previous experiments and I took extra care to spread the thread evenly over the canvas.

I used 2 strands for the cross stitch because the holes on the 14 count plastic canvas aren't large enough to accommodate the 20 odd strands of threads I would've had in some places if I'd have continued with the first layout.

That left me with a different shape left between them so I did a kind of hashtag stitch with 3 strands of pink.

I love the fuller look of the Rhodes stitches and how they stand out now but I think the cross stitch around them is too heavy and the pink hashtags are far from chic!

So, I had another shot at it:

Plastic canvas and needlepoint sample by Bobbin and Fred

This time round I reduced the amount of cross stitches and filled the centre with what I'm going to call an exploding eyelet stitch (if this has an official name, please do let me know!) and a french knot that spans two holes of the canvas.

I'm ADORE this result! I think it's gorgeous.

So much so I made a thread palette out of it and pinned it to my Thread Palettes board on Pinterest.

Check it out for a delicious dose of thread colour inspiration to use in your own embroidery projects!

DMC 598, 597, 3808, 3348, 3804 thread palette

Next I plan to experiment with swapping the colours around and seeing how it effects the overall look of the pattern. I will be using this stitch combo in a project very soon. If you're curious to find out what it will become, follow along to find out.

Bobbin and Fred have teamed up to teach you how to do the Rhodes stitch over on their Hand Stitch SOS post: How to do an Octagonal Rhodes Stitch. 

If my experiments have inspired you to pick up your needle and thread, Bobbin and Fred would love to see what you come up with. Show us on Instagram or drop us an email.

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  1. The photo collage and your choice of colours are beautiful. This is a very inspirational post

    1. Thank you, Jacky! I hope it's inspired you to experiment with your stitches too :)