Let’s go berry-picking together, shall we? My embroidered raspberries are ripe and ready to be plucked! I had so much fun working on this week’s project. I’ve been playing with combinations of pressed botanicals and embroidery over the last few months, and I LOVE the results! I think they go so well together. It’s also much faster to finish a project since you save on embroidery time!
I don’t think a summer goes by where I don’t eat a copious amount of raspberries, even if it’s the store-bought ones. They’re one of my favourite fruits and it doesn’t feel like summer without them! Unfortunately this year, our red raspberry bushes only produced about five berries. ☹ They’re supposed to produce twice, so fingers crossed for the end of summer/beginning of fall. On the other hand, our black raspberry bushes were incredibly generous for their size! We didn’t have quite enough to bake desserts or make jam, but there was enough to stuff my face whenever I went out to pick them 😉. They’re smaller and firmer than red raspberries, but they’re really good, especially when picked under the warm sun.
To fill the void left by the absence of red raspberries, naturally I had to embroider some. There’s an abundance of wild raspberry bushes at the edge of the woods on the way to the forest (which don’t produce much fruit either), and last spring I gathered a lot of leaves. Some were left to dry to make tea blends, and others were pressed with every intention of using them in such a project as this at some point. I really love the idea of combining embroidery and pressed botanicals in the same project!
The vision in my head was that of a branch laden with juicy berries and beautifully pressed leaves. I knew I wanted to use beads to make the raspberries sparkle. So I got my herbarium and my sketchbook out and began to design…
Embroidered Raspberries ~ My Creative Process
1. Designing the Pattern
Confession: I don’t like designing. The sketching of what I want is my absolute least favourite part of the whole process. I’ve never been very good at drawing, so I find it frustrating not to be able to reproduce the wonderful idea in my head on paper. I’m working on it and trying to sketch more to get better, but it can be a real struggle sometimes.
Fortunately, you don’t need a great sketch to produce a beautiful piece of embroidery. The needle and thread do all the work. In fact, you really just need a rough outline of what you want to stitch. And I didn’t even have to worry about the leaves since I wasn’t going to embroider them. All I had to plan was their placement (which ended up changing anyways!). So anyways, step 1 is to sketch/plan where you want each element to go. As you can see this is a super rough sketch, but it’s all I needed for this project, thankfully.
2. Transferring Pattern on Fabric
I chose a piece of muslin for this project, because it’s a bit thicker and sturdier than my usual go-to factory cotton or linen. I knew the berries would end up being a little heavy with all the knots and beads, so I chose something more suitable than thin cotton. The off-white colour was also perfect for the colour scheme I had in mind. I used my lightbox and a mechanical pencil to transfer my design from my sketchbook to the fabric. Again, all I really needed was the main branch, a few stems and peduncles, and I just drew circles where I wanted the berries to be. The fewer markings on the fabric, the less you have to cover with thread later if you change your mind about something. I made the berry outlines smaller than their intended sizes to ensure they would be fully covered.
3. Choosing Thread Colours (and other materials)
I had already picked some pressed raspberry leaves and played with them in Step 1 to determine where they would go on the finished piece, but there were still the threads to be chosen and the beads to find. I didn’t go out of my way to get anything specific and just used what I already had on hand. Consequently, I dug around in my floss box for thread that looked raspberry-coloured and found some slightly darker than what I envisioned, but still suitable. They’re from an unknown source (I have a lot of random thread bits in my box!) but their closest DMC matches could be #304 (Christmas red medium), and #777 (very dark raspberry). For the branch, peduncles, and sepals I used #937 and #3347. And finally, I located the perfect beads, a tiny bag hidden away with just enough for my project!!
4. The Stitching: Branch & Peduncles
The first thing to embroider was the main branch and the little peduncles, since they are the elements the most in the background. I stitched a short stem where I knew I wanted to place a pressed leaf that didn’t have a stem. Near the bottom of the branch I left my pencil marks, since the leaves going there did have a stem already. I didn’t embroider the little thorns at this point, just the main outline. I used a split stitch and DMC #937, and made certain areas look “thicker” by doing two rows. This was to make the branch look more natural and less uniform. I stitched everything using two strands of thread, unless otherwise noted.
5. Embroidering the Raspberries
Normally, the leaves would be next, but since they’re not embroidered, they will be placed at the very last, otherwise they will certainly break as I manhandle the hoop to get the berries done. So berries it is instead! I used French knots first, starting with #304 and ending with #777. I didn’t completely fill the areas to leave a bit of space for the beads. Once I was satisfied with that and each berry was filled with French Knots, I added a few more details to my branch.
6. Branch Details
I did a few straight stitches using only 1 strand of thread along the main branch to represent the thorns (still in DMC #937). I also stitched the little sepals on top of the raspberries in lazy-daisy stitches using DMC #3347.
7. Adding Beads
Once that was done, I went back to my berries to add the beads! This was definitely the most exciting part of the project!! I used seed beads; some red, and others in this iridescent pink and red with touches of yellow. I’m so happy with the result of this!! I used silk sewing thread (not necessary, but the colour was the closest match to the berries). The seed beads are pretty small, so I needed a beading needle to be able to stitch them on. They’re long and have a very thin shaft so that the beads slide through no problem!
I stitched my beads on very randomly, switching between the two kinds and adding them where I had left space in between my French knots and in other little spots where it looked like one was needed. I absolutely love how ripe and juicy they look!! Beads really make such a difference in embroidery, I love it!
8. Adding the Leaves
And now for the finishing touch – the leaves!! I ended up adding more than I originally planned and slightly changed the placement of some, but I’m SO happy with the result!! I added another little 3-leaf cluster at the very top and love the effect. Its leaves weren’t pressed completely flat, but that small detail adds a bit of dimension to the piece. I’m so glad I pressed a few of those! I had many larger leaves, but only two smaller clusters. I used Elmer’s transparent school glue and a paintbrush to glue the leaves to the fabric. I’ve tried this before with other pressed florals and it seemed to work, but if anyone knows of a better way (or better glue) to do this, please let me know!
Finishing the Piece
Now I just need to find a good way to frame/display the piece that will protect the dried flowers! Again, suggestions welcome. It’s a bit tricky because the leaves are flat but my berries are pretty 3D. I fear a glass frame would crush them. A shadow box might work? I shall have to experiment a bit and figure something out :). There has to be a good solution to this.
I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how I embroidered my raspberries! What do you think of the embroidery/pressed leaves combination? I’m hoping to make more of this sort of thing in the future – maybe next time I’ll use pressed flowers and embroider the leaves. I know I’ll most definitely be using beads again, they add so much charm and life! I fell in love with beads and embroidery when I worked on my Loving Lilacs Inspired from Jane Eyre, and I knew I had to try it again. My next project involving beads will probably feature blackberries…the time for picking them is fast approaching and those bushes are looking much more generous than the raspberries! 😉