Monday, March 3, 2014

Blue Russian: Creating Ermine Out of Thin Air

The last step in bringing my Northern Light Santa to life is to give him ermine trim on his cloak.   From the first I know what I wanted the collar and cloak edging fur trim to look like.  I wanted something that looked like this--

That immediately ruled out making the cloak trim from French knots or their larger scale brother-Colonial knots.  Not that your Russian Santa can't have wonderful fur made this way--check out THIS Melissa Shirley beauty with Colonial knot fur trim made from a variety of threads, stitched by Becki Gebhardt for a class at Enriched Stitch.  Gorgeous!

It's just not what I want. It doesn't look like my Neiman Marcus example.  How about turkey work or some of its variants?  Santa's gray fur hat in the Brenda Stofft Santa here is turkey work in two threads. It's a little too choppy and thick, not floating.

Maybe a smoother turkey work, like Suzanne's Santa?

No, too dense.  It will take over the piece.  But switching threads to Caron's Snow would work.  Like the ball on Santa's stocking cap from the magic fingers of Libby Sturdy--

No, not turkey work.  I can hear the gasps of fear all the way in the middle of nowhere!  I can't send Blog readers into cardiac arrest.  Turkey work is not quite right, anyway.  And Caron's Snow is too thick a thread for this delicate area.

There is Velvet stitch (second Santa from top in the link below).  No, this is very pretty but a bit too much for such a small area as on my Blue Russian.  His ermine collar is 10-12 threads wide at the widest point.  It looks more like what I want, however.

I could use satin stitch with a sparkly thread like Arctic Rays like Vicky did.

To copy what she did I would need two colors, white and gray.  Arctic Rays does have two grays as well as white, plus folks whose shops don't carry Arctic Rays might be able to pick up ThreadworX's Legacy Collection thread instead (second link).

But then I had to face the question, what will either of these threads look like next to the Wisper and Petite Silk Lame Braid I have used for Santa's wrist trim, beard and eyebrows?  I did have some white Legacy Collection in my stash so I laid it on my canvas next to Santa's head. It looked ok but the whites were slightly different and the fuzzy synthetic thread was a little too over powering.  Sigh.  Back to the drawing board.

I still didn't have the right stitch.  How about rya stitch, another turkey work variation? That'll work but I am not one hundred percent pleased with it.  After all, folks are going to have to learn a new stitch and you still have the problem of knowing what thread to use that won't overwhelm and hide Santa's face and that will look good with the threads already chosen.

The more I thought about this, the more I decided to stick with the same threads I've already been using--a white and gray Wisper combined with the glow-in-the-dark Petite Silk Lame Braid.  But what stitch?  It needs to be easy but elegant and maybe something with a twist....

Stay tuned until tomorrow to see how I figured this out!  I am going to postpone Part Two of Ermine Trim until next Monday due to the snowfall. I will be too busy today and tomorrow to write the follow up article, so let's put it off a week.  Thanks!

Questions? Email me at chillyhollow @ and I'll get back to you by the next day.
Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
Blogging at
and at
© Copyright 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.


  1. Jane, I think this is why I've built a small collection of fur collars and cuffs in various shades at estate sales. (Apparently, folks remove them from one garment & transplant them to another.) I figured that, some day, there would be an animal on a canvas that would benefit from an appliqued fur coat. If I were stitching Blue Russian, he could have a strip of the white mink I got last week. You'll find just the right solution.

    1. I've got half the problem solved, Cindy. Never thought of real mink, although that would be fabulous! But of course when you are writing stitch guides, you can't specify shops stock mink collars and coats.