Finishing the Form Cushion – Stage One

Corner of the Form
Corner of the Form

When I’d finished the stitching of the canvaswork for the Form Cushion, it was a little puffy and warped, and badly in need of blocking, but being long and thin I had nothing suitable for blocking it on. Until I had an inspiration – use the form itself!

We covered the form with an old towel, and then worked on alternate sides of the form. I’ve put an old length of cotton curtain header over the canvas, so that when I come to remove the staples, it will be fairly easy to do.

In theory…

It took quite a lot of heaving and tweaking, and the combined efforts of my mother and myself (for a client, she’s having to put a lot of effort in here, isn’t she! – she’s started on renovating the form too.), but in due course we managed to get the canvas firmly attached, and stood back to look at it.

Taking The Long View
Taking The Long View

 

It didn’t look nice and smooth as it does here. It was bumpy and lumpy, and not very happy at all.

So I steamed it gently, using a steam iron but not letting it touch the wool. Very, very carefully, and slowly..

It started looking a great deal better (even upside-down), but then we set it aside, still stapled in place, for a few weeks. We wanted to be sure that it was very thoroughly dry before we moved on to actually making the cushion.

And besides, I’m not entirely clear on the type of cushion it will be!

Three Rabbits – or are they Hares?

Three Rabbits Bag
Three Rabbits (or Hares) Bag

Rummaging around as I try to reorganise the house, I’ve rediscovered a bag I made some time ago.

The Three Rabbits (or Hares) design is an ancient one, found all along the Silk Route and in many different cultures. I’ve seen it in textiles and ceramics, carved as mere outlines, polychrome with a wealth of fabulous detail. I’ve also seen variants with animals other than hares, and even variants with more animals in the circuit.

Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David's bag
Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David’s bag

I think I first encountered it when I first met David Singmaster, the mathematician and metagrobologist – it’s one of his many interests, and he has a drawstring bag decorated with the design that he takes everywhere, stocked with mathematical puzzles and games to entertain anyone who comes near. I saw it recently when David and his wife were at a conference my husband and I attended, and his wife remembered that her mother had had to remind her of how to do the French Knots for the eyes. I took delight in noting the puzzled brows that ensued whenever David took anything out of the bag!

My version is one of the simplest, I suspect. I designed a very simple circuit of hares (or rabbits!), and embroidered it using chain stitch on a russet coloured furnishing fabric. The bag is padded with wadding and lined with the same fabric.

Bunny Buckle
Bunny Buckle

Finally I designed a small buckle-type ornament made of a strip of fabric embroidered with a very definite bunny  embroidered in stem stitch, and put one on each end of the strap.

I’m intending to do a much more complicated version one of these days, maybe with a mille-fleurs background like the tapestries in the Musée de Cluny.

Watch this space, as they say!

The Worktop bin – finished

Edges turned in
Edges turned in

There is always more “engineering” involved in these projects than you expect. Once I’d turned in the edges and done the herringbone stitch “piping”, I realised that the top of the bin was probably going to be on show on the inside. I found some felt to line it with, but since it was a spare offcut, I decided to run a line of straight stitches on the inside, just in case there wasn’t enough of it!

Felt lining attached
Felt lining attached

I attached the felt with small stitches, not too tightly, but just enough to make sure that it doesn’t move unless I want it too. It’s almost a pre-felt, not too dense, so it showed some adventurous tendencies. Some firm treatment, a tug or two, and it settled down nicely.

Vertical Seam
Vertical Seam

Which allowed me to consider tackling the seam turning it from a flat piece to a tube. After some of my usual thoughtful staring, it finally occurred to me that I already had the answer: Herringbone stitch, just like the edge finish at the top.

Obvious, really, isn’t it! It makes a sturdy seam which won’t permit much lateral movement, and since I’ve used it on the top edge, it doesn’t introduce yet another texture.

Finished and in service
Finished and in service

When it came to sorting out the base, I put the sawn-off milk bottle inside to make sure I made everything fit, and folded in the canvas, holding it with a few rough stitches.

Finally I attached a piece of very dense felt to the bottom to hide all the canvas edges and make sure they don’t scratch any of the furniture. It is already in use, and you have to admit it’s very much better than an unclad sawn-off milk bottle would be!

 

Experiments for The Head of Nefertiti

Screen and equipment
Screen and equipment

You may recall that the final “Dreams of Amarna” pair of panels is intended to include the heads of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, screenprinted onto gauze, and floating over the top as free-hanging veils.

I decided to have a small screen done of Nefertiti, in order to practice the technique and experiment with the different types of gauze.

Too heavily printed
Too heavily printed

The screen duly arrived, and I did about six prints, all of which were dreadful. I put the screen away in disgust and decided to try another time.

This print shows some of the problems. I pressed too hard, obscuring some of the detail and caking the fabric – in this case a linen, because I have a plan to add silk and gold embroidered highlights. It would be impossible to get a needle through, and if I did, a metallic thread would be stripped in short order.

Printnig On Gauze
Printnig On Gauze

There’s clearly a trick to it – a combination of pressure (not too much), amount of ink (enough!) and angle of the squeegee (just right).

These two prints on gauze give me some hope. The orangey-terracotta is the small, blocky screen I bought to test out the idea first of all. I’ll embroider something over the top of this, just to see how it works.

And the head of Nefertiti is rather better, too. Next time I get out my Dreams of Amarna pieces to stare at them and play with layouts, I will be able to hang the gauze in front and play with distance and placement.

I’m beginning to think that it isn’t outside the bounds of possibility that I might finish the Dreams of Amarna one of these days, and even be pleased with it!

Coalbrookdale in Cross Stitch

Coalbrookdale - Detail
Coalbrookdale – Detail

Many years ago I used to design counted cross stitch kits, and did some for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. I did think of turning a certain very famous picture into a kit, but since we never finished the test stitch, it is just as well they decided not to go with it.

This is something else we’ve found in a fit of tidying up, and thought,”hmm, we should finish that – it will look good!”

"Coalbrookdale By Night" by Philip James de Loutherberg. Copyright The Science Museum
“Coalbrookdale By Night” by Philip James de Loutherberg. Copyright The Science Museum

It was done in the early days of computer-aided cross stitch design. I scanned a postcard of “Coalbrookdale By Night”, in the somewhat apocalyptic vision of Philip James de Loutherberg, and then spent some time tweaking the number of colours the computer used to render the design as a cross stitch piece. One of the problems with this form of computer design was that, no matter how much human intervention was involved, the design tended to end up being a bit spotty.

Coalbrookdale Cross Stitch
Coalbrookdale Cross Stitch

You can see that spotty effect in the detail picture above.

The human intervention did at least result in the removal of the entirely superfluous lime green stitches that the computer package used to scatter across every design it was involved in. I never did understand why that happened, but the first change I always had to make was to change the lime green into something more suitable.

What I have to do now is think of something useful to turn it into when it’s finished….

17 UFOs in 2017

Still More Circles
Still More Circles

Meredithe (Pomegranate and Chintz) and Anne (Frayed At The Edge) are running a challenge for the year – 17 UFOs in 2017. The idea is not necessarily to finish, but to make substantial progress, on 17 UFOs.

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Now, I’m not sure I have that many UFOs, and I have many new projects I want to work on (more on those soon), but I do have a good few that are stalled, or that I’m not sure whether I’ve finished or not, so although I’m not going to join in regularly, I will try to use the impetus of the challenge to remind myself to assess progress.

Blanket Stitch Fans
Blanket Stitch Fans

1 Eve in the Garden of Eden – I really want to finish this so I can sign up for the Stumpwork Lion!
2 Nefertiti Shawl – well, clearly, I want to be able to wear this!
3 Queen Anne style teacloth – this is a travelling project, so it depends on where I go and whether I have light or time to work on it.

From The Back
From The Back

4 The Modern Stitch-Off – I’m not sure whether this is finished or not, so if I can at least decide that by the end of the year, I’ll be pleased.
5 The Christmas Angel – I was going to work on the Christmas Angel last year between Christmas and Epiphany, and never set a stitch on it.

Shoulder Cape
Shoulder Cape

6 The Faience Necklace – this has been a real trial to me, as I can’t bring the design into focus. I’ve got some lovely silk thread so maybe that will help me to get started.
7 The Swan – I got the first layer of Laid and Couched work done, and have had trouble working out the detail layer…

Swan - First Layer
Swan – First Layer

8 The Unicorn – again, first layer done, details escaping me.

Unicorn - the first layer
Unicorn – the first layer

I have a lot of other things I want to do, which are barely begun, never mind finished, and as I have said, in the case of several of these projects it is not a matter of simply stitching, so much as deciding what to stitch, and then stitching it.

My real target for the year with these eight is to have finished the Nefertiti Shawl and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Anything else is a bonus!

Continuing The Worktop Bin Cover

Bargello Panel
Bargello Panel

Once I’d settled on a pattern, it fairly romped along. Ten count canvas is such a lovely rest after the forty count linen of Eve In The Garden Of Eden!

As with the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, I’m not buying extra wool for this, hence the row of light stitches which aren’t the same shade as the other two. Most of the thread is Paterna Persian Yarn, but the odd one out is Appletons. The texture and level of shine are different, but then, anything will be better than a sawn-off milk bottle!

Edges Turned In
Edges Turned In

The next stage is to turn in three of the edges. I’m going to use the canvas at the bottom to help create the bottom of the bin, so I’ve left that, but the short edges will be seamed together – somehow (I’ve not solved that puzzle yet!).

Herringbone Edge
Herringbone Edge

I’ve learnt, over the years, that it is better to finish the folded edge of a piece of canvaswork than it is to try to fold the edge to be completely invisible.

So what will be the top edge of the bin has now been finished with herringbone stitch. It creates a lovely piped effect, much denser and firmer than a simple overcast stitch, and that will be very useful to help the bin stand up!

 

Poppies And Wheat, Cleaned and Conserved

Some of you may recall that some time ago, my mother and I were planning to reframe one of my Grandmama’s embroideries, and discovered to our horror that it had been glued to a backing board made of strawboard.

In due course, we found a textile restorer, not too far away, and I took it to her. And now we have it back again. In the course of the work, it was discovered that two different sorts of glue had been used. One of them was unstuck fairly easily, but a particularly acidic glue had been used on the back of the embroidery itself – almost as if the framer did not believe the work had been finished off properly. Which it had – apparently it was very difficult to find some threads to take out to test for colourfastness!

The fabric and thread are both much brighter than they were, but the very acidic glue that was used is the reason for the bloom of staining around the embroidery. It’s much reduced, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible to remove it entirely.

So, Gentle Reader – be careful with glues and boards. Avoid if you can, use neutral-pH as far as you can, or someone in the future will be muttering imprecations in your direction!

The Red Panel on the Nefertiti Shawl – Part Three

More Circles
More Circles

Third installment..

Remember, the two inner circles are always in the same stitches – Open Chain Stitch, and Stem Stitch.

The two outer circles in this case are in Herringbone Stitch, and Half-Chevron Stitch. I’m a little disappointed that neither the counterchanges of colour nor the counterchanges of thread seem to show in this photo. I assure you, they were there when I worked it!

Still More Circles
Still More Circles

The first of these is Breton Stitch, which is a little like Herringbone stitch with added twist. I’m sure I could have done it with the twist towards the outside, but I think like this, it will balance some of the other circles which have a strong edge.

The second is Wheatear Stitch, which I have found myself turning to every now and again, although maybe not often enough. It produces a spiky but continuous line, so while it has definite uses, it is also one which doesn’t work in all contexts. That  said, I enjoyed working it, so maybe I will be able to tweak either the context or the stitch, so as to use it more…!

This pashmina is going to be quite the stitch sampler, isn’t it!

Small canvaswork worktop bin

First Trial
First Trial

I have a small plastic bin – cut down from a milk carton – on the worktable beside my chair. It’s very useful for odds and ends, but it scarcely adds to the ambience.

Since all my embroidery at the moment – “Eve in the Garden of Eden”, and something I’m planning for “Dreams of Amarna, but haven’t quite got ready for stitching yet – is fine and detailed, I’ve decided to work a cover for it in bargello work.

One stitched and one drawn
One stitched and one drawn

I’m using another of those offcuts of 10-count canvas. Ideally I would use something finer, but since I want a rest for my eyes, and in particular to use up some more of that persian yarn, I’ve been playing with various patterns in an old book. In this case, one pattern drawn on, and the other stitched, partly in wool, and partly in a fine silk, just to help me with stitch placement.

Another trial
Another trial

I’ve decided to use the rusty colour, which I have rather a lot of, as the main colour, and I’m trying to find a small pattern that won’t dominate the room. I don’t think the “pomegranate” pattern qualifies…, but this one might…