Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ruth Schmuff's Zinnias Explained

Someone who reads Blog (you know who you are) greatly admires the silk ribbon embroidery flowers Ruth Schmuff is adding to the Melissa Shirley canvas above.  I grabbed the picture from Ruth's blog (she's given me blanket permission which I am abusing shamelessly this morning) where she is showing off progress on this design which is one she is teaching at her NP shop.  It's one of her mystery classes.  You can read about the upcoming mystery class on her website (second link below).

Anyway, the zinnia that Ruth is stitching is done in silk ribbon embroidery, which is really easy.  I promised to explain how it is done and now that I am doing Boring Background on the Rabbit Geisha and there's not much to see, I've worked out a tutorial on making zinnias.

First you need supplies.  In this photo you see a 5x5 piece of 18 count canvas, a bunch of silk ribbon (it's important for making zinnias or daisies that the ribbon all be the same width as their petals are all the same width but otherwise you can use any color or colors you want), a thread in a color that looks good with your silk ribbons (I choose #8 perle cotton in pink),  something to trace a circle onto your canvas with (I choose a small round metal sauce container), a laying tool (I like to use a nut pick from a nutcracker set for ribbons and ribbon-like threads) to keep the ribbon untwisted, and a sharp needle with a large eye.  I use size 18 crewel embroidery needles when doing silk ribbon embroidery.  They have a sharp point (you'll see why you need one in a minute) and an eye large enough to thread the ribbon through.  In the photo above I've drawn a line around the outside of my little sauce container that is around 2 inches across.  You can make your circle any size you want. I want to make my flower up as a pin so I need a pretty large circle.  I also need a larger flower for demonstration purposes and my line is a lot darker than yours should be.  It'll show through the sheer organdy ribbon I picked for this project so don't make a dark line like I did.  You don't need something that photographs well like I do.  You will also see in the photo that I put a dot in the approximate middle of my circle.  You don't have to have the exact center, just an approximation so you'll know where to stop the ribbon.  You may also want beads to put in the center once the silk ribbon embroidery is done.

Once you have your circle, use your coordinating thread (I used pink perle cotton) and stitch 2-3 rows of tent stitches outside the circle you've drawn IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE A FLOWER PIN.  Obviously Ruth didn't do this step as she was stitching a painted canvas but I need the rows for making my flower into a pin.  If this is just a test sample for you or if you plan to stitch a zinnia on a canvas, skip this part.

Now cut a length of ribbon and tie a little knot in the end, just like you do for any other stitching.  I normally use a 12-16 inch length of ribbon and suggest that you not use more than 18 inches worth of ribbon.  Come up about half way between the outer edge of the circle and the middle.  You are going to start doing the outer ring of petals first.
Now the scary part.  Look carefully at the picture.  See the needle sticking right into the silk ribbon there at the edge of my circle?  Go down right through the ribbon to the back side.  This is why you need a sharp crewel needle. You are going to sew ribbon through itself!  Silk ribbon stands up to this nicely, too.  Pull the ribbon through itself slowly and carefully and look at the point where the ribbon goes down into itself.  You can pull it all the way through like Ruth did for her zinnia petals or you can leave a little curl on top, like a breaking wave, which is what I did in many of my petals.  Isn't that neat?

Once you get over the horror of piercing ribbon (this is called the Japanese ribbon stitch or sometimes just plain ribbon stitch) you just move over a bit, pretend to be the hand of a clock, and repeat all the way around the circle.  If you want to switch colors when you run out of a length of ribbon, please do so.  Ruth used seven colors of silk ribbon for her zinnia petals to match the colors painted on the canvas.  I used five colors in all.

Continue around the circle a few times until this outer ring is all filled in. If you don't like a color, put a petal in another color on top of it.  This is another reason to use a sharp crewel needle--in silk ribbon embroidery sometimes you have to stitch right through more than one ribbon petal to get the placement and look you want.  For my sample there isn't a top or bottom side since we are looking down into the flower center.  So turn the canvas any way necessary to stitch the outer ring.  Once you are satisfied, start on the inner ring.  Leave the center blank (I left about 6 threads empty in the middle) so you can put in beads or French knots or metallic stitches there.

Switch colors as you like (or to match the painted canvas).  Note that Ruth's zinnia doesn't have a smooth edge like mine, but again, she is matching what is painted and I am making a pin to wear.  Above is a photo of my finished flower with the center empty.  Another close up is below of the same stage.

I finished the center by doing 2-3 French knots in the very center of the empty space with my pink perle cotton, then ringed the French knots with more French knots in my dark pink organdy ribbon.

I cut out my canvas, folded the edges under, put a piece of finishing foam on the back, and covered the edge with green beads.  This weekend I'll pick up a pin back to put on the rear and will have a cheerful pink daisy to wear this winter.

The silk ribbon embroidery part took about 90 minutes.  The beading took 2 hours.   Silk ribbon embroidery is quick and easy and you get terrific results from it.

Interesting in seeing more silk ribbon embroidery projects?  Explore the River Silks website.

No silk ribbon was harmed in the making of my pin.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
Blogging at
Archived Yahoo 360 postings at


Coni said...

OK. It's official. You are my needlework hero! THANK YOU for such a fabulous post!

Can you hear me chanting "I think I can, I think I can"?

NCPat said...

This is so clever!! No zinnia will be offended by the replication either! Running from the shoe....

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Pat, you are really funny. I'm not throwing any shoes at you today. (No promises about tomorrow, though. LOL)

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

My pleasure, Con. I think you can, too! After all, you have that Laura Perin piece that needs a flower in the center. With a sharp needle and patience you can plop a silk ribbon embroidery zinnia right on top of it!

Front Range Stitcher said...

Clever girl. Thanks for the tutorial, the pin is lovely!

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Glad you like the flower pin, Madonna. Now let's hope my mother likes it! It will go on her Christmas present package on the ribbons and she can wear it later.

Once I finish it. I need to add more beads and then put the pin back on this weekend.

marianne said...

Excellent class, well explained and clear but I don't think this will pass The Society For the Prevention of Harm to Ribbon's guidelines.


The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Whoops! We are in trouble with TSFPHR.