I’ve felt the face was rather weak, so I decided to try again.
This time I needlefelted the padding underneath, to try to get the nose, the heavy brows, and the mouth in place.
Then I covered the padding that seemed the better with silk, and stitched the features again. In some ways, this is better than the first attempt, but it still looks a bit twisted. The eyes are certainly staring, but the nose isn’t straight.
In my defense, it became harder and harder to stitch, even though I began to feel that the shaped padding wasn’t shaped enough. Or even padded enough!
I think that before I attempt another version, I need to work out a way of keeping the silk under control while I add the features, without actually attaching it all the way around
In spite of that, I decided to attach this face in place of the last, and see whether I felt that a face “stuck on afterwards” would be a problem.
Well, no, I don’t think it is, although it’s hard to be sure. Not least, it involved removing still more of his headdress. That will need more padding to sit well with a more padded face.
I am sure that I need a new version, though. At present he looks like an apoplectic trumpeter, and that is not a good look for the Heretic Pharoah!
This photo shows the central section, with the major felt sections in place, and the minor ones left until later. That in turn means that the colour range is not quite right, because the greeny-teal is missing.
What it does show, however, is that the disheartening spotty effect I experienced with the Piano Shawl is entirely prevented by the couched stems!
Since my blue felt was made using layers of blended wool sliver it has some slight variation of colour, which I was hoping to pull out in my stitching. That may not quite work, but at least I can try.
I also want to make the fawn leaves much more varied, so although there are several successful treatments I could choose to use in all cases, I’m going to try to be more experimental.
This photo is already out of date, because I’ve unpicked the fawn leaves once already, and I’m not entirely sure about some of the details on the large blue leaves. The light blue half-Cretan stitch may not survive to the finished garment!
There is a mid-blue knotted edging stitch on the top edge of the two outer blue leaves which I may have invented at the time, and certainly can’t reconstruct in the cold light of day. The spine of the central leaf is Square Chain, with the corners couched down with a darker thread, and the edge is closed feather stitch. There will probably be a lot of closed feather stitch – it is a useful stitch for the edges of these shapes.
I’ve not written about the Colossus of Akhenaten for a while, but that isn’t to say I’ve stopped thinking about it. Unfortunately Akhenaten is proving obstreperous (as in life, so in embroidery…!)
I decided to try to sneak up on him by playing with details such as the crook and flail regalia.
I don’t want these to be couched to the fabric in bits, I want them to seem like miniaturised regalia, so I’m planning to thread various coloured purls onto wire and then poke the end of the wire through the fabric to the back.
This heavy purl – called “Rope” on the Golden Hinde website – seems to work perfectly for the crook, but single wire wasn’t strong enough to support it, so much of the experimentation was to get the right number of strands. I’m so glad I have proper goldwork scissors – the rope is tough and springy stuff.
You may recognise the materials in some of these experiments for the flail!
The two on the left use silk-covered purls in blue, with heavy gold pearl purl. The two on the right are coloured and gold purls, some of those used in the chipwork on the belt.
The potential handle is a gloriously stiff, over-the-top purled pearl purl in blue and silver, named something like “winter spiral”. I have my doubts about it in this context, because it’s silver rather than gold, but we’ll see…
I couldn’t resist trying the crook and flail trials in place.
I’m happy with the crook, but the flailing bits of the flail are giving trouble. None of the options really looks the right scale – the purls are too small, the pearl purl may be a bit too heavy, and the “winter spiral” handle doesn’t look quite right, either.
I haven’t put all the felt pieces all around the coat, because apart from anything else I have limited tolerance for cutting out bits of felt, but I have a good start made, and I can start playing with stitches, which is much more fun!
This is one of the most complex motifs.
The blue felt is one I made myself, because I didn’t already have a suitable one – which explains the thin patch at the top. Wet felting is not as easy in practise as it seems in theory!
The teal leaves were easy, of course, because I have already decided to use feather stitch. After that, some thought was required..
A teal trellis, couched with pale yellow, provides the “lift” here, and one of my favourite stitches, cable chain, provides the fronds. I’ve reduced the number of fronds – I think there were two between each petal – because I thought it would look fussy otherwise.
The blue stitching on the blue felt is Crested Chain. The colours are close enough to create texture, rather than contrast, rather as the slightly rusty pink square chain modifies the petal colour in a different direction to the dark blue chained blanket stitch of the leaves at the base.
As with all the elements of this design, when I have the whole piece more or less finished, I will expect to add further details and tweaks to balance it all across the piece. We’ll see…
There’s a new course from Thistle Threads, concentrating on the use of silk-wrapped purl threads. It looked like fun, and it includes the bonus of some extra samples of different sizes and colours.
I’m always trying to learn more about the more obscure and interesting corners of embroidery, and the reconstructions of no-longer-current threads and materials play directly into my fascination with early technologies.
The first stage in this case is to work outlines in gold, and on this occasion I deviated slightly from the instructions.
Normal practice these days is to plunge the ends of the gold thread and sew them down at the back, but it used to be more common simply to cut the thread and oversew it firmly on the front. So I’ve done that. It saves a bit of the expensive gold thread, and as this is a small decorative panel and not for a garment or other item which will move a lot, I think it will be successful.
It’s still important to run the thread in the right way over the design to minimise the number of cuts, of course!
The final part of the first month’s instructions is the first element of the silk purl, couched in a spiral to fill a pair of leaf shapes.
You can see that I have rather crushed the silk purl into place, which is a pity as it has introduced breaks or cracks into the purl, but then, this is an extreme close up. Without a magnifier, it is simply an impression of colour and texture.
The spiral is worked inwards from the gold outline, which is probably the only way it could be done – imagine the difficulties of finding the right central point to start from!
I’ve already mentioned that, although I have more yet to do on the Dreams of Amarna, I have little thoughts, now and again, about my plans for the next Really Big Project, the Vision of Placidus, inspired by Pisanello’s “Conversion of St Eustace”, Elizabeth Goudge’s “Herb of Grace”, my mother’s fine binding of “The Wind in The Willows”, and the kingfisher I saw at Flag Fen. Oh, and the “Chasse a la licorne” tapestry in the Musee de Cluny.
The Stag with the crucifix in his antlers is going to be the major character, and while I know I’m tearing into a genius of the past, I think Pisanello’s stag is a bit too tame for the story…
My first thought was to start from Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen. After all, he’s full of personality and presence, and a recognisable figure to add to the layers of meaning and reference. But no, I think the crucifix won’t settle well into the antlers, and the pose isn’t quite right, either….
Then I spent more time rummaging online for pictures of stags, and came up with another to try. I like the challenging, direct stare of the pose here, but it puts the onlooker in the position of Placidus (according to the stories, he took the name “Eustace”, or more probably a Latin variant thereof, when he became a Christian), and I want Placidus to be in the picture. That said, he was a second century Roman, and I’m intending to dress him in florid fourteenth century dress, so don’t expect too much accuracy…
My next thought came from a book about the landscapes of Capability Brown that I bought for my cousin for Christmas. I’ve told her about the plans for Placidus, and she opened her gift, leafed through it, and then turned the book to me and said “Would this help?”
This is by no means the first time my cousin has helped me with design planning – it was talking to her that enabled me to crystallise the ideas for the Dreams of Amarna – and I like the photo enough to have three attempts at it. I still don’t think I’ve got it right. That said, all of these sketches have allowed me to think, not just about the pose, but about how I will use my threads to create the effect I want, of the illumination in the scene emanating from the crucifix.
When I finished the first set of embroidery on the sleeves of the coat I said I thought it might need Something More.
After some thought, I decided that the Something More in question was a bit of light. This required a little negotiation, as my client (my mother) had wanted rich colours, and had originally enacted a veto on the lighter ones I had picked out. But then, she’d not seen what I had in my mind, and once she did, my tentative suggestion of a few lighter bits was met with a definite “Yes”.
She also said that what I’m doing is not quite what she had in mind, but it’s better. Phew!
The first small, exploratory illumination was to add some pale blue stitches around two of the lobes of this bud (flower?). I didn’t want to add too much because, first, this isn’t meant to be actual illumination, and second, I felt that if I added these stitches all around, not only would I run into trouble in terms to angle and sense, but it would suddenly start looking a bit stiff and too “matchy-matchy”.
There’s a phrase I never used as a teen, even though I certainly had the concept…!
For the second sleeve, it was harder to settle on the best way to “lift” the motif. There was already the tiny tuft of pistil stitches stitched directly onto the fabric, which had done something a little similar.
For now, I’ve simply added a row of French knots highlighting the curves. The yarn is mohair, and has a lovely high shine which adds to the variation in the effect.
In case I needed to say so – I am really enjoying this project!
I really cannot imagine what I was thinking of when I worked this piece. The design was a transfer, I remember that much, and I worked it many years ago.
It is yet another discovery from a forgotten box, and the reason it was in the forgotten box in the first place is that I’ve not the vaguest idea what to do with it!
The fabric is a variegated gauze, and the embroidery is in two variegated silk threads – the florets in satin stitch (on gauze – I must have been mad!) and the leaves in long and short stitch.
The burgundy gauze isn’t quite so bright in real life – it’s turned out really very oddly in the photograph – and the green leaves don’t disappear in real life as they do in the photo.
I have thought about applying it to an evening blouse – I wouldn’t need jewellery with that at the neckline – and I’ve also thought of mounting it to create a non-folding fan, but the engineering involved in the latter rather defeated me, and I have yet to find a fabric that it will work with for the former.
These forgotten boxes, by the way, are beginning to drive me absolutely wild – there’s something I would love to write about if only I could find it, and not only is it not in any of the boxes I have discovered by accident, it is in none of the sensible places I’ve looked, either!
The second sleeve began in the same way as the first, with felt motif elements lightly needlefelted into place. There is a similar motif on the body of the coat, but with the colours reversed. Whether I will use similar colours in embellishing it, I don’t know – wait and see!
I am removing the tacked design outlines as I go, at least where they show around the edges. It may not be entirely necessary, but it’s much more satisfying not to be spotting them as I work, and I know I would spot them in the finished coat, even if no-one else could do so.
The edges of the large leaves on the second sleeve began with straight stitches over the edges, using a wonderful mohair yarn from Gumnut Yarns. The different amounts of shine from the various threads I’m using will help to add another level of interest to the whole design.
The second level of detail is worked in Up and Down Blanket Stitch, which is a very old favourite. This time I’ve changed the relative heights of the two uprights to create a more varied effect.
There’s a lot going on with the flower motif; Thorn Stitch on the lilac petals and a variant of Loop Stitch on the purple ones, using different thread colours to change the emphasis on the colours.
Crested Chain Stitch in teal edges the flower shape (given it’s a Jacobean style design, realism has nothing to do with it – I’ve not the vaguest idea what sort of flower it is supposed to be!) and I complicated matters for myself by working inward from the tips of the horn shapes to the centre. It is a directional stitch, so although most people won’t be able to notice that sort of detail, I think it is worth doing.
In fact, it was finished a long time ago, and somehow I didn’t get around to writing it up…
Not that there is much to say. All of the interest (almost!) was documented in the stitching.
The old form has been scraped, holes filled, sanded, and repainted, and the cushion is a simple shape, tidied up with piping cord.
Some of the interest, in fact, is in the backing fabric. It’s an unremarkable jacquard woven pattern in cotton on a synthetic warp, but the design – rather ironically, since I’m card-blind for all practical purposes! – is a design of suits I created during my MSc in Textile Design Technology. It’s clunky, and not well-differentiated, but it was the first time I designed a jacquard pattern. The only time, too, but it was fun while it lasted, and I’m glad I asked the technician to weave a half-metre for me instead of the 10 cm that was all that was needed for the module.