mini tutorial: preparing corn cop leaves for embroidery

A few years back, there was a challenge on a German textile art mailing list to use corn cop leaves in an embroidered piece. I didn’t get anything spectacular done, but I did find a technique that makes their use feasible. It’s fall once more, and I decided to revisit that idea. I’m trying to share the fun with you, but unfortunately I have no camera, just a scanner, so it’ll be without illustrations for the most part.

You will need:
* Corn cops complete with the outer leaves (don’t steal them if you can avoid it)
* Acrylic emulsion as used for mixing your own acrylic paints, or glossy, transparent, fluid acrylic gel (not the thick ones)
* Surrogates like fabric glue or bookbinding glue may or may not work, I haven’t tested them, but they are often acrylic emulsions either
* a soft brush and maybe a small container to soak the leaves in
* baking paper, newspaper paper
* a device for pressing plants flat, or a few heavy books for the same purpose
* some iron-on vilene, preferrably stiff or semi-stiff
* a flat iron
* optional: background fabric and bondaweb
* any other stuff you want to use in your piece

Keep in mind that the process is kind of messy. You will want to wear old clothes and maybe rubber cloves. Also, remember that acrylic solution will turn into insoluble plastic matter when try. Clean brushes and such at once, the best thing to use for that is warm water and natural soap.

Peal the leaves off the corn cop. If you want them green later, do it at once, if you want them yellow let them dry on the cop for a few days. Tear them in stripes that will lie more or less flat. Let them dry until they feel completely dried out (may take a few days). Drying them in the press at this stage will make the rest of the process easier, but is not necessary. Tear them into stripes that will lie flat with some pressing if they are too concave for that naturally.

Now carefully paint the dry leaves with the acrylic emulsion or gel, or let them soak in it. Apply additional layers of it until they are completely soft again and are somewhat glossy on the surface. Let them dry until they are still soft, but no longer really wet on the surface or too sticky. They should be somewhat glossy now.

Then put them into the plant press or on a hard surface below a few heavy books. Never put them in books if you want to read those again. Put the leaves between sheets of baking paper and above and below those a layer of old newspapers. The newspaper shouldn’t come near the leaves because it is likely to stick to them for good, while baking paper can be peeled off later. Leave them in there until dry (several days).

The acrylic emulsion they were soaked with turns into a kind of plastic. When the leaves are dry again, they should be reasonably durable. They still can break when you bend them hard, and they may curl up when laying arround for months. You can stitch through them without making them crumble or split, but you should always use a sharp needle that fits the thread size and work stab action.

In order to keep them safe in the long run, they should be ironed on vilene to secure them against damage or curling. If you want you can cut them out then and bond them onto some other fabric. Iron them as cool as possible, and always iron from the backside or through baking paper. Otherwise the leaves will stink like popcorn and your flat iron will get dirty. A tryout piece I did like this shows no visible changes after 3 years, but keep in mind that green plant parts are not lightfast.

Finally, I’m showing you another tryout piece, a corn leaf I stitched on. Against my usual procedure, I have embroidered it before ironing it onto backing, just to see if it’s possible. I used the actual tast stitch, reversed buttonhole band.

corn leaf

I have never tried this with other plants, but I think I will this year. I know that I’m posting this a bit prematurely, without experimenting with other plants first and also without a finished piece to show, but I wanted to get it out before the snow covers all usable plant material in my nook of the woods. As always, comments and questions are wellcome. If you try this, please let me know your experiences and results. I’m curious.

As additional eye candy I show a detail scan of the same leaf:
corn leaf detail

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2 responses to “mini tutorial: preparing corn cop leaves for embroidery

  • Cath

    Thanks for sharing this information. Your embroidered cob leaf looks fantastic. I would never have thought of being able to include plant leaves like this. It’s a really cool idea.

    Like

  • crazyqstitcher

    You are so clever. I too, would not have thought of using real plants. I wonder how petals would work. I will have to go experiment now.
    Thank you for sharing your information.

    Like

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