Featured Project – Stumpwork Green Man

Today’s featured project is really a stunner, but once you find out a little about our stitcher Rebecca Ray, you’ll see why.

Rebecca stitched up this amazing stumpwork green man based on this Urban Threads design in all his dimensional glory. What is stumpwork? Well, basically it’s a kind of embroidery where the stitched figures are raised from the surface of the work to form a 3D effect. Often stitches are worked around wire to create the shapes. Sometimes machine embroidery tries its hand at this effect using foam to “puff up” areas, but Rebecca went old school and the effort really shows!

Rebecca’s kindly offered to talk a little about her stitchy background and some of the effort that went into this wild guy…


Stumpwork is a medium we haven’t seen much of on UT designs, and I’m smitten! How did you get into this particular type of embroidery?

I was introduced to stumpwork while I was an apprentice with The Royal School of Needlework, a few years back. 

Holy cow! No wonder your stitches are so mesmerizing! That’s really the sort of thing you can’t say without going into a little more detail. Tell us a bit about your experience with the school?

I’d always loved embroidery but I wanted to learn more than the basics I knew, so I applied to the RSN back in early 2005 and started in September of that year.

Out of loads of applicants they only took on 7 that year. It was very hard work because you learnt each technique on your final piece, no practise runs, so much of my apprentice work you can see on flickr was the first time I had tried that subject! Because of that you really learn stamina for stitching, and you can become quite fast at it too.

How long did you study?

The school year was broken into 3 terms, and there are 3 years in total. You learn around 6 to 8 subjects each term, with a term being around 100 hours each. Between terms you worked in their commercial studio learning how to repair and restore embroidered textiles, taking on new commissions and preparing things for exhibition. It was very very interesting, and although it took a lot of blood and sweat and tears I enjoyed every minute of it.

Plus, I now have a rather snazzy certificate signed by the queen!



What made you choose the design you did? Did anything in particular about the Green Man make you decide to take him on in 3D?

I originally chose this design because I was looking for something to give to a dear friend of mine who had just moved house. As it turned out she recieved something else and now someone else wants to buy it from me! But it was the leaf elements of the Green Man that I thought were perfect for stumpwork, even if I nearly poked my eyes out with the cake wire a few times!

What kinds of stitches did you use? Any favorites?

I used trailing to cover the edges of the 3D leaves (and cake wire), and couched threads over the edges of the flat leaves in the background. The gold curls are done in chain stitch and the eyes and mouth were done in satin stitch.

working small

In progress...looking a little naked!

How long does one of your creations take you? Any interesting challenges along the way?

For the most part my creations take a fair bit of time, because there is usually quite a lot of stitched detail in them, but I have learnt to have both speed and stamina thanks to my appenticeship and time spent in a commercial embroidery studio. When i can sit down and dedicate time to a project I can usually get it done faster than if I’m constantly stopping and starting.

Stumpwork Green Man

Any advice for people looking to tackle a similar project? Other than perhaps to study at the Royal School of Needlework? 

Spend a little time planning what has to happen before you start. Sometimes a problem arises and you have to make allowences for that, but a project like stumpwork will run much smoother if you plan out what needs to be done and in what order, before you start.

And when it comes to cutting out the leaves, take your time! It is so easy to cut through the stitched edge while your trying to trim back the excess fabric. Oh, and try to be carefull not to poke your eye out with the wire while your shaping it!

Green Man

Thanks so much for sharing, Rebecca!  I know your stumpwork style is certainly going to inspire someone else to take their work into a whole new dimension. I myself am pretty tempted to travel over yonder to England and try and get into the Royal School of Needlework, which I imagine to be in a large, medieval castle with Harry Potter-esque classes that may or may not involve magic.

I might be wrong in this assumption. Only one way to find out!

Do you want to be a featured project on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at support@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

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21 Responses to “Featured Project – Stumpwork Green Man”

  1. 1
    • Rebecca Ray says:

      Oh, and I meant to say that each 6 to 8 subjects was 100 hours each, not the terms were 100 hours each! They would be very short terms if that was the case… Whoops! 😛

  2. 2
    Carol Anderson says:

    Absolutely incredibly BEAUTIFUL! W O W

  3. 3
    Cathy Cattle says:

    Wow, and a double take of wow!! Great to see this work being done. Amazing piece.

  4. 4
    liz says:

    Beautiful and truly inspiring!

  5. 5
    Eva says:

    Oh my goodness! This is beautiful! How cool to know about the Royal School of Needlework! On places to go list, at least for a tour!

  6. 6
    susan strach says:

    totally awesome just amazing that someone could do that with needle and thread

  7. 7
    Romilly says:

    Niamh –

    The RSN offers classes to the general public as well as to Apprentices. Becoming an apprentice has several issues – specifically the age limit, for me! LOL I found out about it when I was 30. Well over their maximum age.

    But if you want to see what goes into some of the “intensive” coursework, Kathy over at the Unbroken Thread did a series on the intensive course she took in crewelwork last month: The direct link to the entire series is here: http://www.theunbrokenthread.com/blog/category/royal-school-of-needlework/rsn-certificate-course/

    Enjoy! It was an amazing read!

    • Rebecca Ray says:

      Sadly the apprenticeship ended the year after I graduated (i was 26 when I started, 29 when i finished), but there is now a degree course in place with no age limit! For those interested in a 1 or 2 day course there is information available from the RSN’s website, and they also run a certificated course for more intensive classes in certain subjects too. Certainly worth a look, but I’m biased!

  8. 8
    Pam M says:

    Stunning! Stupendous! Amazing! Wonderful work, Rebecca. Congratulations.

  9. 9
    xperimentl says:

    Gorgeous. This is the perfect pattern for stumpwork.

  10. 10

    That is AWSOME!!! I have to learn this method! Way to GO!!!

  11. 11
    marjolein says:

    I don’t believe it!Its amazing how much fantasie we people have!Beautiful!

  12. 12

    This work is spectacular! I wish there was a traveling exhibit of this fine art we could see lots of it up close. If I get across the pond again I will try and go on the tour of this Royal School. I have one question about the difference between trapunto (A raised, dimensional surface created by putting additional batting or stuffing into areas to sculpt the surface) and stumpwork. Maybe they really are the same thing, just one is an Italian word and one an English word.

    I saw this a few month back ( http://www.tmz.com/2010/12/05/queen-elizabeth-underwear-auction-miami-baron-joseph-de-bicske-dobronyi-sepy/#.TkYEPXO0w4Y ) and I imagine they were embroidered by the Royal School. Take a scroll through the picture on the site I posted to see the hand detail.

    • Rebecca Ray says:

      Hello Kathleen,
      Trapunto and stumpwork are very differnt, even though they do create a raised apperance. Stumpwork is where you create parts of the final piece separatly from it and then attach those shapes to the piece to create a 3D form, where as trapunto is compleated by doing all the outlining stitches on the final piece and then adding the extra padding within those outlines…
      Hope that sheds some light on it for you, and i hope that made sense!

  13. 13
    Carol Ward says:

    Awesome!!!! This is so great.

  14. 14
    Rebecca says:

    I LOVE this. Thank you for sharing this!

  15. 15
    Jude Hood says:

    What a lovely piece great use colour and amazing stitches! Reminds me of
    an autumnal riot with a whimsical take on it!

  16. 16
    Judy says:

    this piece is outstanding, i’ve never seen anything like this, this would make a gorgeous wall hanging

  17. 17

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