An Experimental Thistle

Preparatory Felt

Preparatory Felt

After I’d (mostly) finished Loading The Felucca, I found myself temporarily lacking inspiration for the Dreams of Amarna, so I thought I’d have a go at an idea that has been burbling around in the back of my mind for a while. I’m hoping a change of scene, as it were, will “reboot” my imagination.

The background fabric is a silk brocade, and I’ve padded the thistle itself with wool felt, in several layers (three under the topmost green circle, in fact).

I drew the whole thing freehand, and I think I will remove and replace the lefthand leaf with a reversed version of the righthand leaf. It will look more balanced and altogether happier if I do.

Working with Gimp

Working with Gimp

I’m intending to use silk purl and coloured wire purl for the thistle flower, but I wanted something for those to be embedded in. I’ve chosen to use a gold and viscose gimp, and I’m couching it down in a series of fringes zigzagging across the flower.

Each fringe is twisted back on itself – I used a pin as a sort of handle – and held down with small stitches at each end. As each additional layer went on, the “free” ends were held down a little less firmly. It’s a delicate balance between controlling the thread sufficiently (and remember gimps are very stiff and have a mind of their own!) and leaving it looking free and springy!

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The Fourth Labourer

PinningFourthLabourerFinally, after all that trouble with the Third Labourer, I moved on to the fourth.

After some playing around with colours, I decided to dye some of the fabrics I’d bought to clothe these fellows (Bahama Blue, if anyone wants to know!). It proved to me that some of the fabrics which I had expected to be cotton weren’t, but that doesn’t matter in this context. This project is going to be a positive riot of different materials!

You can see that I made considerable use of pins to control the fabric and keep the pleats in something resembling order, holding the fabric to be ironed, and simply leaving it while I thought about the next stage.

Fourth Labourer Finished

Fourth Labourer Finished

The stripy fabric for this fellow’s shirt is the same as the stripes on the first one, overdyed with the blue, and the bold blue check was overdyed with a stony beige colour, to try to make it look a little dusty. It barely made any difference, but sometimes “barely” is good enough.

I’m very pleased with the way the folds suggest the raised leg, and the turned in sections of the tunic create some bulk for the shoulders.

And, though I say it myself, I think the folds of the shawl (if that’s what it is) are an absolute triumph. They are secured in a few places, but I defy you to find the stitches, even if you zoom in on the picture, and I’ve avoided crushing any of folds.

Yet Something Is Missing

Yet Something Is Missing

The basic figures are now completed, and I’m really rather pleased with how they’ve turned out, but I do feel as though there may be some details missing.

More staring and thinking required…

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More Unfinished Objects

Tent Stitch Flowers

Tent Stitch Flowers

I keep on finding things that I’ve not quite finished, don’t I – and in some cases I had completely forgotten about them.

Like this one. I know it was a kit – stranded cotton worked in half-cross stitch on canvas, – but I don’t know why I bought it.

And I clearly had something in mind for it, because I have attached it to a cotton furnishing fabric. Equally clearly, it wasn’t going to be a cushion centre, or I would have centred it on the fabric. It is only about three inches square, so I suspect I had in mind making it into a needlecase.

But before I do anything else with it, I have to find some way of covering those raw edges of canvas with something that looks deliberate!

Any suggestions?

 

Coloured Crane

Coloured Crane

In other news, though – I’ve finished the second Crane!

Actually, you may recall that it was the first, but I decided it looked too overheated in the pot it was destined for, and set it aside for another version.

I found in when I was looking for something else, and finished it. At least, the embroidery…

I will probably mount it on a circle of card, and put in that famed Winter Decoration corner.

At least I know what I’m going to do with this one!

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The Third Labourer

Beginning The Third Labourer

Beginning The Third Labourer

The mini-iron has been very helpful in turning and pressing the edges of the fabric pieces – sometimes before they’re applied, and sometimes afterwards, but at first I was very surprised to find myself wielding it left-handedly, more often than not. Then a little further thought, and it made sense – the difficult part is controlling the fabric, so naturally I would use my better hand.

First of all I started on the middle figure, forgetting that he is the nearest to the camera. So I stopped working on him – leaving his trouser bottoms in place – and moved on to the figure on the right.

Then the pleated drape cause me a great deal of trouble. Then I wasn’t sure about the left leg. Then I realised that I’d used the checked fabric I was intending for the overshirt.

More unpicking. Grr!

Pinning Third Labourer

Pinning Third Labourer

I reinstated the trousers and the drapery in white fabric and then started trying to fit the overshirt.

I’ve been making extensive use of that set of pins that Karen Ruane sent me (thank you again, Karen – they’ve been invaluable!) as I try to work out how to make the overshirt sit properly.

In this case, however, having pinned and stitched, and unpicked and pressed and restitched, I decided I still had some reservations.

Still more unpicking.

Grr yet again!

Spot The Differences!

Spot The Differences!

 

So after much more puzzling and unpicking and re-stitching, I think I’m happier now. I’ve reduced the bulk in the left shoulder, removed the drapery, which is in the photo but didn’t “read” well in the applique, and reworked the overshirt.

Again.

None of the lower edges have been caught down, which I hope will help create the proper effect of garments that can move around a body. That does mean, of course, that I will have to be very careful not to crush the final piece when I’m storing it, but I do think it will be worth the effort!

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Dressing the Second Labourer

Using The Mini-Iron

Using The Mini-Iron

Since I decided after dressing the first labourer that using rectangles of fabric was the way to go, when I started on the second I began by cutting out every bit that I expected to need.

That meant:
two pieces for the legs, a piece for the body of the top, a piece for the section of the top below the waist, a piece for the turban, a piece for the sleeve, and a piece for the cloth thrown over the shoulder.

I bought myself a mini-iron to make the job of folding in the edges easier, lighter, and less perilous. Fortunately there are two more labourers to dress, so I will have plenty of time to improve my skill!

Two Labourers Clad

Two Labourers Clad

The trick to a successful applique is the order in which the elements are layered.

So in this case, the first pieces are the trousers. They are stitched down each side, and tweaked in the middle to create some impression of a body underneath. The bottom edges aren’t held down, so in storage this piece may be a bit delicate.

The turban is done in just the same way as the first one, but this time I used a cream linen thread for the central disc.

The sleeve was next, and then the “skirt” of the top, which is gathered to give it a sense of bulk. It is tethered by the underlayer, but not attached at the bottom edge. The right-hand edge isn’t tethered, either, because in due course the Third Labourer’s clothing needs to fit underneath..

Finally, there was the body of the top, and the fabric thrown over the shoulder. I don’t understand why he didn’t use it to pad his shoulder against the packing case, but the photo says he didn’t!

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Crazy Canvaswork Cushion – Part 10

Section Sixteen

Section Sixteen

The last section, Section Sixteen, gave me a lot of trouble. I suppose that is partly because the end was in sight, and I wasn’t quite as focused as I could have been!

I was originally looking for a crossing stitch, but every single one I tried either looked wrong, or simply failed to cover the canvas. I sent several tweets enumerating my trials, with one or two strands being too fine, and three strands too heavy, and in the end I abandoned the crossing stitches entirely.

Framed Triangle Stitch

Framed Triangle Stitch

In fact I devised my own variation on Triangle Stitch, which I’ve called Framed Triangle Stitch. I rather like the way it has turned out. It is a bit of a trial to stitch economically, but since I am attempting to reduce my stash, that is scarcely a problem!

Although I like the pattern it creates, I’ve been somewhat concerned about the scale of the pattern, which is perhaps a little too similar to the blue pattern of Section Thirteen.

However, I now have the challenge of unrolling the whole piece, blocking it, and working out how to finish the cushion.

As they say – watch this space!

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Dressing the First Labourer

Unsuccessfu lAttempt

Unsuccessful Attempt

Having stared thoughtfully at the people, I cut out some clothing shapes out of one of my pieces of quilting cotton, and started trying to create folds in them as I attached them to the fabric.

The trousers were tricky, but not impossibly so. The jacket, or top, or whatever it is, brought me to an abrupt halt.

Dearie, dearie me.

That didn’t work at all, did it.

The bulk and the folds are all in the wrong places. He’s certainly crumpled, but it isn’t the right sort of crumpled! And don’t even get me started on how difficult it was. I felt as though I was all fingers and thumbs – it was almost as bad as working with glue!

Cue much muttering, unpicking, and rethinking.

Turban Completed

Turban Completed

While I was thinking, I had a go at the turban.

The textured deep crimson is a circle of trellis stitch, a densely knotted needlelace stitch I’ve used a lot in my various Thistle Threads courses. The thread is silk, from a bag of “odds and ends” from Mulberry Silks. I cut out a circle of the fabric I’d stitched and gathered it to create a crimson bobble.

The cotton around it is a narrow tube of the fabric I was using, tucked under the crimson bobble at either end, and held down with odd little stitches to create the effect of folds.

First Labourer Clad

First Labourer Clad

That worked. It also gave me a thought. There seems to be very little shaping in the garments we see in the photos from the dig – not least, in such a hot climate, loose, airy, voluminous clothing is likely to be a lot more comfortable!

So the next version of the labourer’s clothing was made, essentially, by cutting out a series of rectangles and applying them separately. In this case, there was only one rectangle for the sleeve, and then another for the body. It’s been gathered in to create a loosely bloused waist, and left flat and unfinished on the inner side where it will be covered by the next labourer’s clothing.

I think this has worked a great deal better. I might even be able to bring my imagined picture almost fully to life!

I’ve also added another layer for the face of the second labourer. There won’t be much of it visible, but the first labourer’s clothes are supposed to be behind it, so the addition was necessary.

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More Experiments!

Back Of Sample

Back Of Sample

You could be forgiven for thinking that I had finally lost all common sense. We’re all interested in fibre, fabric, and stitch, but even so, expecting you to take an interest in a photograph of a plain piece of felt seems a little extreme.

Especially a very ordinary, single-colour, and entirely unadorned piece of felt.

So what am I up to?

Mischief, of course!

Does it help if I tell you that it’s really quite a thick piece of felt?

 

Front Of Sample

Front Of Sample

 

Or does it help if I tell you that this is the front?

I bought an “inspiration pack” of threads, and this thick square of felt at “Sewing For Pleasure” a while back, with absolutely no idea of what I expected or intended to do with it.

While I was wondering about it, I remembered reading about a medieval satchel that had been made by sewing the pieces together within the thickness of the leather. I didn’t feel quite willing to attempt something structural, but it gave me the idea of trying to work a sampler of stitches without the back showing.

Detail Of Sample

Detail Of Sample

I even managed to work some of my favourite stitches.

I originally began with a wavy line of Shell Chain stitch, and then built up the design from there. Some of the threads were too heavy to use in this context, and there was a wonderful heavy slub that I couldn’t find a use for (never fear, I will!) but I had great fun alternating texture and shine, space-filling and line, and just playing.

I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I’m rather pleased with how it turned out!

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Beginning the People

Stabilising the People

Stabilising the People

Once the packing case was in place it was time to put the people on. I’ve used iron-on transfer adhesive to stabilise the cotton fabric for the people. It isn’t likely that I will make use of the adhesive, but at least the tracing paper on the back allowed me to draw outlines of the people to cut out.

There was a brief pause while I made quite sure that I had traced the people the right way round to ensure that when I put them on, the fabric side would be uppermost and not the glue side, then I cut them out..

People Attached

People Attached

Attaching the people was fairly straightforward, using single strands of silk pulled from a bundle of odds and ends. I even tacked them in place with silk – which just shows how cavalier I have become since working with metal threads and Gilt Sylke Twist!

Very little of these cotton people will show once I’ve dressed them. They are there for two reasons – because I felt that it would be easier to do that dressing if I had some sense of the bodies beneath, and because I know from working on the Camberwell Panel that small bits are hard to place precisely, especially in conjunction with other small pieces. Since the people are inside their clothes, putting the heads and feet on last would put them out of kilter in comparison with everything else.

I have cut and left unattached one foot of one of the people because I need to put a trouser leg behind it, and roughly stitched a line between the two people I’ve cut out as a single piece of fabric. That should help me to ensure that when I dress the furthest of them, I don’t use more fabric than I need, or create a finished, turned edge that adds thickness where I don’t want it.

Now I need to stare thoughtfully at the photograph for a while and work out just how to approach the next stage.

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Still that Packing Case

Stitching Done

Stitching Done

I’m rather afraid you’ll be fed up with this packing case. It’s caused me no end of thinking and re-thinking, stitching and re-stitching, but now I think I’ve done as much as can be done while it remains a separate piece. I may add more stitched details to the final piece, but that will be after I have everything else in place.

So the next job is to turn it into that separate piece which can then be attached in place on the background, and then itself become the background for the main adventure, which will be dressing the figures.

Trimmed Packing Case

Trimmed Packing Case

And here it is. I have left the fabric around the edges attached and folded it back to provide a little padding.

I’ve used single strands of  stranded cotton to hold the extra fabric in place, and trimmed the unbound edges close.

None of the planks run quite true, but since the whole thing is a wild experiment that may go dreadfully wrong, I’m not going lose any sleep over that. If it looks wrong when it’s finished, I’ll unpick those bits and put them right. If it looks right in spite of wonky planks, I shall pretend it was meant to be that way..

Packing Case Attached

Packing Case Attached

Thank goodness I marked a couple of points to help me put the packing case in place. I double checked the placement with the tracing paper people, then went around the edges catching them down with small stitches and a sharp needle.

As far as possible, I stretched the packing case as I was attaching it. It puts the turban cotton under some slight strain, but with all the support underneath, I think it will be fine. I would be much more worried if this were to be applied to a garment…

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