Monday, January 20, 2014

Flowers from The Olden Days in Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery

First, Some History:

Back in the olden days of Brazilian dimensional embroidery, our popular rayon floss was hand-dyed in Brazil (hence the name) and sold under names such as Var-I-Cor and Mat-I-Kor. Household items were stitched with these brightly-colored fibers; they were later produced under brand names such as Star, Divine, Dye-Pot, Rajmahal, Marlitt, DMC and today - the EdMar Company, located in the United States.

The vibrant colors and development of dimensional stitches fueled the growing popularity of Brazilian embroidery. Those who learned the basic stitches taught others and soon it seemed like everyone wanted to know how to produce this beautiful needlework. As small groups met to stitch and share, interest grew, and one farsighted teacher, Virginia Chapman, began offering seminars in the USA and supplying books, threads and designs. Virginia's dream was a guild where all could meet, learn, and share ideas, and she founded the Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery International Guild, Inc. over 20 years ago with membership now reaching into a half dozen different countries.

I was invited to write about Brazilian embroidery for Needle Arts, the EGA magazine, and some of the above information is excerpted from that March 2013 article.

The Floss - The Stitches - The Flowers:

I've written before about the Z-twist floss (EdMar threads, Candlelight Threads), compared to S-twist floss (Perle cotton). When one makes looped (cast-on) or wrapped (bullion) stitches with Z-twist fibers, the threads are wrapped clockwise around the needle for best effect. If only Perle cottons or other S-twist threads are available, one would wrap the needle in a counter or anti-clockwise direction. A milliners needle works best for these stitches.

It's always a good habit to (with Z-twist floss) stitch - or progress - in a clockwise direction for other stitches, too.  Detached buttonhole stitch, lazy daisy, stem or outline stitch., etc., apply to this suggestion. Embroidery or chenille needles and sometimes a tapestry needle are suggested, but use the needle you like. 

Remember, the things I write about are ideas that have worked for me - things I've learned from other instructors, and things I've experimented with when I don't feel like following directions from start to finish. (It works! sometimes...)

I've also found that satin stitch (parallel straight stitch for those who don't love satin stitching) shimmers in the light when all stitches are 'laid' on the fabric. This is a good idea for all of the rayon twisted fibers ...when the twists match, the embroidery is truly lovely. You can lift the floss up from the fabric a couple of inches and then settle it in place to qualify as "laying the stitch", or you can twirl your needle to loosen the twists (they tighten as they go through the fabric).

Enough Already!!  The Flowers, The Flowers...:

Through the years our dimensional and even non-dimensional stitches have been combined, rearranged or re-invented to produce beautiful dimensional flowers. You'll be able to read more if you follow the links at the BDEIG website. There is also a page of basic stitch instructions, books with instructions, AND there's a BDEIG membership form.  --and you can drop me a note any time. I love to talk about B.E., and if I don't know an answer (totally possible), I can put you in touch with someone else who will help.

We all respect the rights of designers who want to provide (i.e., be able to afford to provide) more designs for stitchers. For many of us, Brazilian embroidery is closely tied to our small businesses, so we always appreciate your consideration. And credit. (uh, oh ... I feel blatant advertising starting to surface)....
      If you like a flower, you can write and ask permission to use it on a design you create to sell. But if you want to use a flower you find on anything you embroider, have fun. Substitute flowers if you like.  I have LOTS of them here in My Book of Stitches. (Available at my website or through Amazon)  
Sometimes you'll recognize a stitch but with a name I've bestowed upon it -- mostly because, try as I might, I don't seem to be able to keep up with every stitch floating around.

But back in The Olden Days, so many people copied each other's Brazilian embroidery flowers so freely (it was probably how they learned from each other) that original copyrights and credits became murky. Over 50 years later, it is generally agreed that some of these original flowers have entered the public domain.
When I stitched that little quilt, "The Olden Days" -- Early Brazilian Embroidery Flowers,  I used these flowers but drew different greenery for each of the 16 flowers, trying to use a different stitch for each so those who stitch together can learn from each other.

But you don't have to make a quilt. There are lots of ideas floating around for these flowers ... you can use them to decorate pockets, a needle case, fabric post cards, an art journal, a crazy quilt or even a sane quilt. Or make an ornament, flowers stitched in holiday colors, or an Easter egg with a bunny or a chick on one side, flower on the other.
(From Millefiori #828 - Flower Patch Pillow)
If you decide to use them all in one color-coordinated project, or in a quilt, I suggest purchasing your fabric first. Next, select your floss colors to complement the quilt fabrics (I used all Iris colors, with just a bit of Glory and Lola here and there). And I used beads (always cheerfully taking the place of colonial or French knots or flower centers). I just like the sparkle.

If you decide to copy/paste these blog entries, try this (to save paper): Open a Word file. Make 2 columns, narrow margins, 1-2 points between columns. Copy the blog entry, photos and all. Paste it into your Word file. Re-set the line spacing to single spacing and re-set the font size if you wish. Now you are ready to stitch, plus you will have a traceable pattern. (It is just SO hard to hold your fabric up to your computer monitor and trace, trace, trace....)

I'm going to post a picture of the final flowers that I stitched, and then a pattern. And then some instructions and sources, if you want to read more. Each of the flower designs will fit into a 2.5" square. If you wish to title your flowers, I traced the letters using a font named Eurostile, 14 pt.

Well, Finally!  I'll Bet You Never Thought I'd Never Make it to Here:
(The original post about The Olden Days flowers is here.)

#1 of 16:  Fuchsia
The Fuchsia.

Greenery. Iris, medium green
  • Alternating satin stitch leaf.
  • Brazilian outline stitch (floss held below the line of stitching) for stems.
  • Double the Iris floss to outline stitch the fuchsia stem.
Stamens. Glory, light green. You can stitch the stamens with a traditional pistil stitch, or you can try the NEW cast-on pistil stitch that I developed and couch gentle curves. Instructions for the new cast-on pistil stitch are here.

Iris, light
  • Make the flower center with 5 side-by-side bullions, left to right: 12, 10, 10, 10, and 12 wraps. [The pattern shows 2 vertical center bullions, but I made 3.]
Iris, dark.
  • Satin stitch the top of the flower at an angle.
  • Add 2 reverse lazy daisy stitches on each side. For the reverse lazy daisy, begin the stitch at a distance away from the flower and offset the [a-b] start of the stitch so these side petals will taper to a point. 
  • At the top of the bullions, add a 15-loop cast-on stitch. Refer to photo. 
Brazilian dimensional embroidery instruction books are listed below. I use these for reference, and then I make changes when I feel like it. I hope you'll do the same to make these flowers truly your own creations.

Aguilar, Zeann.  Dimensional Embroidery
Ferrell, Ria       JDR Brazilian Embroidery, Book 1
Freitas, Maria.  The Art of Dimensional Embroidery
Johnson, Barbara Demke.  Brazilian Embroidery Instructions
Montague, Rosie.      Brazilian Three-Dimensional Embroidery
Wakefield, Rosalie.   Take A Stitch
Wakefield, Rosalie.   My Book of Stitches
Wakefield, Rosalie.   My LadyFlowers
#2 of 16: Maria's Rose
Maria's Rose. Maria's Rose, developed by Maria Freitas, is one of our original dimensional flowers. It is similar to the bullion rose or Bossa Nova Rose which follows, except that each stitch is a cast-on instead of a bullion. Experiment with the number of loops you make for each stitch, and you'll be surprised at how this flower changes itself!
Greenery. Iris, green.
  • For each leaf, begin with a straight stitch at the end of the leaf. Start the stitch along the center vein so the floss tail doesn't shadow through the fabric.
  • Working down toward the stem, make fly stitches, some longer than others to make a ragged leaf. The stitch at the stem end is longer and becomes a flower stem.
Fine Growth. Glory, light green. The fine growth which makes Brazilian embroidery so elegant is often used, and there are many ways of doing this fill. You can make long-tailed feather stitches, or you can couch straight stitches. Another interesting method of couching fine growth is done by Rosie Montague in her book (this Dover book is readily available from most vendors). She begins at the flower and makes a 1-inch straight stitch. Halfway back along this stitch, she will couch another 1-inch straight stitch. Then she repeats this same process, first in one direction and then another until the background is filled. The stitcher has an option of grouping French knots or beads to indicate tiny field flowers.
Maria's Rose. Lola.
  • On each side of the tiny center square, make cast-on stitches, 8-loops, 10-loops, 12-loops and then 14 loops. Work in a clockwise direction and slip the floss behind the needle, holding the loops on the needle as you pull through the fabric and settle the stitch in place. This will prevent unwelcome kinks at the end of the stitch. Start each stitch slightly behind  the previous stitch.
  • On the second round of stitches, you can continue making cast-on stitches, increasing the number of loops for each, or keeping all cast-on stitches to 14 or 16 loops. 
  • Continue with a third and fourth round of stitches until you reach the outer dotted area of the pattern.
  • Optional. Add an 8/o seed bead at the flower center.
#3 of 16: Bossa Nova Rose
Bossa Nova Rose
I'm adding this edit.  When I first worked on this flower I wrote a detailed blog post. If you'd like to see more, please visit the above link.

  • Iris, medium green. Stitch the leaves with buttonhole stitch. Work from the base to tip of leaf for each leaf.
  • Iris, light green.  Outline stitch each leaf with this lighter color and add a row of outline stitch for each leaf and stem. If you like 'bright', try a metallic thread for this step.
Flower. Lola.
  • The Bossa Nova Rose in Barbara Demke Johnson's book (and elsewhere) begins with 3 French knots at the flower center. (I used a big sparkly bead.)
  • Now make bullions around the flower center, beginning with 10 wraps, and increasing 2 wraps for each until you reach 24-wraps. Finish by filling out the circular shape with 24-wraps. If you tuck each bullion closely beneath the previous, you'll see the flower pop up even higher on the fabric.
Flower Buds, Calyxes and Stems.
  • Lola. Make each flower bud with a 12-wrap bullion and a 15-wrap bullion. These bullions overlap at the tip but are side by side at the base.
  • Iris, green. Add 2, 8-wrap bullions just beneath these buds and finish with an outline-stitched stem.
#4 of 16: Snow Flower
Snow Flower.

I stitched my Snow Flower from instructions in the book JDR Brazilian Embroidery by Ria Ferrell, but there are variations in several books. Choose one you like, or vary these instructions and create your own!

Greenery. Iris, green.
  • The leaves are side-by-side lazy daisy stitches. If you extend one of the starting points slightly and offset the stitches as you work up the stem, you'll find you don't need to stitch a stem (It's an optical illusion) and your greenery won't be so bulky.
  • Double the Iris floss and outline stitch the flower stem.
  • Iris, Color #1. Make stamens using the cast-on pistil stitch. Where the stamens join the flower petal, add a 6-loop cast-on stitch.
  • Lola, Color #2. The upper petals are 60-wrap bullions. Make the first two bullions side-by-side, and add a third, 50-wrap bullion just in front. Refer to photo.
  • Across the base of the bullions and just above the Color #1 cast-on stitch, add a 10-wrap bullion. Just above this, make an 18-wrap bullion, tacking the center. This bullion should cover the base of the 3 looped bullions.
These flowers make wonderful class projects, and if you decide to teach them, please give credit.

Now before Blogger takes away all of my space (if they do that), I'll take a break. We have 12 more flowers to stitch and I'll write about those in the next two blog entries. I hope you have fun playing around with these flowers and, if you have any questions, please email me, or leave a note in the Comments section of this blog. Have fun!



  1. Oh,Rosalie..its been a long while since I visited any of the blogs including yours,hence missed your last post.So glad that your DH is doing better,hopefully will do still better in the days to come.
    Thanks a ton for these tutorials too :)

  2. Thank you, Deepa. It's nice hearing from you. I'll get the other flowers up soon; also references to them in past blog entries, while I was stitching them.

  3. Thank you for this! I have looked all over for something on the history of Brazilian embroidery and there is precious little on the web. I really appreciate your taking the time to share your knowledge!

  4. I wrote a big article for the EGA Needle Arts magazine - March 2013. You might be able to get reprints. I wrote about the origins and also about contemporary dimensional embroidery and the Brazilian embroidery guild.

  5. Do you Know Madame Maia?

  6. Hello!
    My name is Alina. I’m fourteen years old. I study in 8th class. I’m from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I founded the information about you by network. I want you to help me know more about history of origin of Brazilian Dimensional Embroider. I like to stitch, know many methods of embroider. I’m fond of Hardanger embroidery and recently find out the Brazilian Dimensional Embroider. Unfortunately, there are no Edmar shops in Russia where you can buy thread and stitching sets. On-line shopping is not guarantee me to deliver what I really want.
    Also, there are few books about Brazilian Dimensional Embroider.
    I’m interested the history of origin of that Embroider. Some sources says, that it’s birthplace is Brazil in honor Elisa Hirsch Maia (often known as Madam Maia), others tell – America, as company of Edmar, that produce all necessary for embroider - is American company. What do you think about this? Also, I want to know: Is that embroider popular in Brazil? I’ve not found any information about that. I just know that it is popular in North America, Great Britain and Australia.
    I’ll be grateful you to answer that questions. I’ll promote Brazilian Dimensional Embroider in Russia.
    See you soon,
    Alina Khissyametdinova
    Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

  7. Yes, I am entirely agreed with this article, and I just want say that this article is very helpful and enlightening. I also have some precious piece of concerned info !!!!!!Thanks. Send flowers to Brazil