Two princesses

Two Princesses Fresco
Two Princesses Fresco

There’s a fresco of two of the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, which is quite well known, and indeed, was mentioned to me by the speaker, when I went to a lecture at the Egypt Exploration Society about the textiles in Tutankhamun’s tomb.  I decided to have a go at representing this fragment using my embelllisher, to provide a companion piece for the three Amarna Geese I worked a while back.

Children in ancient Egypt – of whatever rank – appear to have run around naked much of the time, and with shaven heads. I’ll just have to get the outlines right….

Starting Two Princesses
Starting Two Princesses

I bought some more of the pre-felts I used for the Amarna Geese at “Sewing For Pleasure” in Birmingham, on the day I met up with Sue of Tortoiseloft blog.

Then I printed out the image I found online as large as I could and started planning my variation. It won’t, of course, be an exact reproduction of the fresco. It will be a sort of inlaid felt version of what I think might have been the real life inspiration for the scene.

Embroidered Detail
Embroidered Detail

Long-time readers may recall that I discovered with the Amarna Geese that embroidered details help to bring a scene to life, and at least if the embroidery is worked in wool, responds well to being needlefelted.

So after cutting out my two little princesses, in a single piece, I started to add details – lines to make sense of the bodies, the delicate eyes and eyebrows, the lips, and the necklaces. I’m very pleased with how they’ve turned out, because the felt doesn’t take pencil, so I was on my own – drawing with my needle.

Now I have to work out how to create the impression of the fabric backdrop and bench my two little princesses are sitting on….

The Head of Nefertiti – continuing progress

Necklace and Polychrome Bands
Necklace and Polychrome Bands

So this is where we left the Head of Nefertiti. the polychrome bands and the gold edges of the headdress are done, and I have worked a section of necklace.

I keep flip-flopping between feeling that that section of necklace is just right, and feeling that it really isn’t enough at all. I like the sense of a delicate flash of colour barely surviving the years, but at the same time, there’s an inner glitter-girl that wants to see a bit more than that..

Gold Browband
Gold Browband

So, while I think a little more about the necklace question, I thought I’d make another attempt at the browband. This time it is simply straight stitches, in a slightly finer thread than the rest of the gold stitching. It’s not perfectly regular, but, again, the slight unevenness evokes the damage of the years.

And besides, by now, you must know that regularity of stitching is not my forte!

Is it done yet?
Is it done yet?

So, again, I find myself at a pause.

I’m happy with the browband, I think, definitely happy with the polychrome bands, and the gold trim.

However, I’m still not sure whether I’m happy with the necklace.

Since my thought is to quilt a pattern into the background, I had best be certain that I’m happy before I start attaching padding and picking patterns!

 

Canvaswork again – The Lady By The Lake

The Lady By The Lake
The Lady By The Lake

This is my second post of canvaswork for Catherine of Hillview Embroidery.

The Lady By The Lake has a much wider range of stitches and threads in it, including blends of stranded cottons, ribbons, and a variety of wools. The canvas is a double thread canvas which makes it possible to separate the threads and work some of the design in petit point.

I wrote a post about the Lady when I first started blogging, but I have a very much better camera now, and an incentive to take the picture down from the wall. Considering the canvas is still under glass I am very pleased with how the photographs turned out. There are enough different materials and textures in the scene to provide a good workout for thread and stitch selection muscles…

Sky And Mountains
Sky And Mountains

The sky and clouds are all Milanese Stitch, worked in blended Persian yarns with three strands in the needle.

The mountains are in Gobelins Stitch in tapestry wool, and the lakeside hills with their forest and villages are a whole tangle of interesting variations of stitch and thread.

Hat, Face And Blouse
Hat, Face And Blouse

The face and arms were worked in petit point, separating the double threads to create single thread canvas, and worked in stranded cottons (blended). The hair (she didn’t have quite such glorious chestnut hair on the painted canvas itself) is also blended stranded cottons, worked in a sort of long and short stitch. The hat has spider’s web stitch roses on it, and she’s wearing large pearl bead earrings.

Skirt And Bench
Skirt And Bench

It was the idea of experimenting with the skirt that attracted me. I used a bordered Hungarian Stitch, worked in three shades of pearl cotton and combining them to create the impression of five shades in the skirt. It worked!

The blouse is also pearl cotton, this time Linen Stitch, which is effectively the back of Basketweave Tent stitch put on the front.

I changed the wooden, slatted backed bench of the canvas into a padded one so that I could do the upholstery in Reversed Mosaic Stitch.

Lake And Town
Lake And Town

The lake itself took ages to do – row after row of darning stitch using all sorts of ribbons and threads, including some truly ghastly double knitting acrylic yarn which would have made a dreadfully uncomfortable jumper, but made a very good lake surface, with that slight sparkle you get when there’s just enough breeze to move the water.

Balustrade And Lake
Balustrade And Lake

The balustrade was worked in Soft Embroidery Cotton. I assumed it was something like limestone, and not marble with a polished surface, so the thread needed to be dull to let other elements shine.

Again, click on the pictures to see more and have fun thinking about what I should have done differently!

Canvaswork – Sunset Study

Sunset Canvaswork
Sunset Canvaswork

Catherine, of Hillview Embroidery, is doing an RSN canvaswork course at the moment, and commented in a recent post that the folder of photographs of the work of past students at the back of the studio has been really useful, partly for ideas, and partly just to practice analysing designs and stitches.

I have two canvaswork pieces that use ornamental stitches to represent the textures and colours they depict, both worked when I was a teenager. It’s much easier to analyse someone else’s work than your own, so Catherine, this post (and another, as yet unwritten) is for you!

Sunset Sky
Sunset Sky

It was actually the sky that made me buy this particular painted canvas (this was long before I’d tried designing my own!). I think the stitch is Hungarian Point, and since the canvas had such a graphic feel, rather than being painterly, I was quite happy to leave the sky with those sharp colour changes. The pattern in fact runs clean through from bottom to top, but that those same colour changes mask the fact. The heather clad hills are in Plaited Stitch, worked small to help them recede. And the foliage of the tree is Ray Stitch. I do wonder whether I should have done the ray stitch facing downwards, but some of the pines have a slight upward curve, so they are staying as they are.

Lady In Punt
Lady In Punt

Almost all the threads in this piece were wool. It’s a fairly large gauge canvas, and again, there’s so much flat colour that blends wouldn’t really be suitable.

The lady in the the punt is Soft Embroidery Cotton for her skin and hair, and tubular synthetic for her gown and hat, and the punt is straight stitches in assorted browns. The tree trunk is effectively in stem stitch, and the bushes at the front are interlocking elongated cross stitches. They look surprisingly bushy, don’t they!

Trees And Bark
Trees And Bark

The trees in the distance are in Upright Cross Stitch, which makes a good intermediate texture between the bushes at the front and the distant hillside.

And that near tree? That’s one of the reasons I didn’t finish. I found that not only was I not enjoying the combination of stitches, I was running out of the threads and colours I was using. I threw it in the loft in frustration and disgust and only fished it out again after I’d read Catherine’s post.

The sea is another reason. I still haven’t worked out how to do it, and at the moment, I am still not at all sure I want to.

You can click on all the pictures to see them more closely, so Catherine, your homework is to look at them all, think about what you like and what you’d have done differently.

And if any of you have any suggestions for the sea – let me know!

The Second Worktop Bin

Stage Four
Stage Four

I did indeed find myself mixing and blending a lot of different browns to fill in all those brown sections.

Remember what I said about stash busting being “an inexact science”? Well, the trick about dealing with that (in this context) is to make the various infills and changes look deliberate. I scattered the different shades in a random looking pattern across all the different diamonds. There are four or five different blends, and outside the central section there are only two of each shade in any one row.

Stage Five
Stage Five

The central section has brown diamonds all the same colour because I was using the central section to help me lay out the trellis pattern, and I simply kept going. In fact as I look at the canvaswork while I write this post, the central section blends beautifully into the outer sections. It really does look deliberate.

The tiny diamonds that lift the whole effect are in a very light cream. Fortunately I didn’t need much of this one, and I had enough!

Inside Top In Place
Inside Top In Place

I profited from the experience of making the first little worktop bin, and instead of stitching the inside section after I’d folded back the top and stitched the rim, I worked it while the canvas was still flat, which was altogether easier to do!

Although I confess, I was wondering whether I would have enough of this beige to complete it, or whether I would have to take it out and use a different colour entirely…

More progress on The Head of Nefertiti

The polychrome band is finished
The polychrome band is finished

Once I had finished the polychrome bands, I sat back and looked at them. Using the darker shades of the colours in the darker part of the print helps to tie it all together and wrap the bands around the headdress.

I had a moment or two of concern, then decided that I would not, after all, ruin everything if I continued to add the other elements of the design that I had planned. There is always a moment or two of fear, especially when an early section has gone well!

Trialling Leather
Trialling Leather

The original bust shows something that looks like a browband of gold, fairly plain and flat. I fished out a piece of gold kid, but although the photograph doesn’t show it very well, the kid is the wrong colour (too pale, and not yellow enough) for the gold thread, so I have to think of something else.

*Thinks hard*.

Necklace Trial
Necklace Trial

Meanwhile, I thought I would experiment with the necklace, or collar. My thought was that, rather than do the whole thing, I would do a small section of it, to make sure that I maintain the feeling of an embroidery, and not a portrait of a portrait.

What I have done here is to make radiating stitches of the gold thread, and then use the same whipped filling stitch I used on the polychrome bands, but alternating them so there is a hint of a gold net underlying the collar.

I like this, but maybe I do need to do an entire collar’s worth.

*Thinks hard*. Again.

Nile Tilapia Fish

Glass vessel in the form of a Nile Tilapia fish
Glass vessel in the form of a Nile Tilapia fish

There is a glass vessel which frequently shows up in image searches relating to Amarna, a representation of a Nile tilapia fish. I saw it reconstructed by a modern glassworker in a recent programme about the art of Ancient Egypt presented by the British art critic Alistair Sooke. The glassworker said it was a somewhat unnerving technique to do, and with all his experience, and all his practice, he was never entirely confident of his results until a fish was finished,

That being the case, it seemed to me that as an example of the skill of the artisans of Amarna, the glass fish deserved to be included. I’ve found a public domain image to act as my source – and to show you what I’m talking about. I’m thinking of padding it slightly and attaching it to one of the background panels as a fish-shaped slip, rather than a rectangular patch, but we will have to wait and see what seems the right thing to do when I’ve finished.

Getting Started on the Nile Tilapia
Getting Started on the Nile Tilapia

I’m using some rather lovely vintage linen thread, bought at the recent “Sewing For Pleasure”, on a fine but sturdy cotton. I wanted something that would not require a backing, but I’m not sure that the fabric will be left to show, so I could have used some plain calico. The thread is wonderful to work with, strong, lustrous, and resilient. Much better than any linen thread I’ve ever worked with before – they’ve tended to be stiff, and a little “dead” in feel. This stuff is a delight!

So far, the stitches are blanket stitch, seed stitches, chain, stem, and feather stitch. I’m rather enjoying this!

The Head of Nefertiti – working with Silk

Trial Weaving
Trial Weaving

You will recall that I was rather underwhelmed by the effect of my first attempt at weaving the silk into the gold. Leaving the threads loosely packed to allow the gold to show through allows them to look untidy, and the colour is somehow a little flattened, not the rich, strong colour I wanted.

Different silk threads whipped in
Different silk threads whipped in

So I decided to work the whipped style of filling stitch instead. It creates a strong colour, something like a grosgrain ribbon, in fact.

I’m using primarily colours from the Mulberry Silks “Nefertiti” colour range (appropriate, don’t you think!), and I’m happy with the rusty red. The navy is actually a heavy perle type and I’m not sure where it came from. That works too.

The lightest colour, however, on the far right, is too fine. It produces too retiring an effect, and weakens the whole effect. So I tried one of the stranded silks from Thistle Threads (lower example, left), and wasn’t convinced by that, either.

Third trial
Third trial

This looks better. In fact the two light blue-greens are different, although that isn’t as clear in this photo as I might have liked. They aren’t as green as I would have liked, but I’m reasonably happy. If I decide to redo them, I may have to redo the whole thing, as the unpicking earlier on has left the Ladder Stitch a bit floppy.

The Head of Nefertiti – Goldwork Completed

Primary Goldwork
Primary Goldwork

There are small elements of goldwork which I am planning to work last, but most of it, I wanted to put in place first, so that I can be sure that the whole thing remains in balance.

As I’ve mentioned, the framework for the silk is in Ladder Stitch – the whole of the first section redone, as I threatened.

The narrow line around the base is in reverse chain stitch (much easier to work in a frame than the ordinary chain stitch). The coloured bust suggests a gilded inner section for the headdress, and I have yet to decide how to represent that. Maybe gold kid?

The ornament on the front of the headdress looks rather heavier and thicker than the other lines, so I’ve worked it in Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch. I’m a little disappointed with it at present, and wondering whether I need to pick a still heavier stitch – such as the dreaded (not any more!) Plaited Braid Stitch. I’ll decide, I think, when I’ve completed the rest of it.

Trial Weaving
Trial Weaving

So, on to the silkwork. I had a previous, failed print to experiment with, and I’m just as glad I did.

I’m rather underwhelmed by this effect, with the silk woven through the gold. I thought it would allow a subtle glint of gold, but in the end it has simply undermined the effect of the silk. Hmm…

Some early (very early!) experiments for the Vision Of Placidus – Part Two

First wet felted tree
First wet felted tree

Once everything had dried, I could sit back and look at my trees.

This is the first one I did. It used some multicoloured merino in the trunk, and two greens from the beginners felting kit I bought on eBay a while back. They’re not very nice greens, but all I’m doing is investigating the technique.

There are only two or three layers of wool in this one, which means there are gaps in the felt, and the junction of the trunk and the canopy is a bit flimsy. Gaps in the felt for the canopy are no problem at all – they would help to add depth to the finished piece. Since everything will be caught down (somehow – I don’t yet know how!), strong, dense felt isn’t really the aim here.

Second experimental tree
Second experimental tree

The second experiment had the addition of some short staple (that is, short fibre length), very crinkly wool. I was hoping it would result in greater shrinkage, which it has a little. It also produced a greater variety of shades in the canopy, lightening and interrupting that rather dull green. This may have promise, and the felt itself seems a little more stable and would be easier to stitch into.

Since the fibres are rubbed and soaped and rolled, and generally beaten up, it’s not surprising that the effects of trying to place the fibre colours to create a particular appearance is, to put it mildly, an inexact science. I wonder whether I could combine needle-felting with wet-felting to make the results more controllable?

Third experiment, with yarn
Third experiment, with yarn

In the final experiment, I added crocheted chains and some tangles of yarn as well. Some parts of the chain didn’t felt in quite as well as I might have hoped, but with more crocheted chain and a better understanding of how to felt it in more thoroughly, it might produce a very good effect.

My semi-spun yarn on the trunk has worked, though, and looks even better in real life, although, again, what it needs is the courage of my convictions and rather more of the same.

So, not a completely unsuccessful experiment, and certainly a good basis for further experiments, perhaps with added stitching…