Spots The Eeyoropard

Got My Eye On You

Got My Eye On You…!

Under Rusty’s very bright and beady eye, I got started on the companion that Tanya provided for him in the Stitchalong on her blog, Opus Anglicanum.

Detail Of Underlayer

Detail Of Underlayer

Which turned out to be a Leopard!

This closeup of his head and neck gives you a chance to see the two different shades used side by side in the underlayer of the laid and couched work.

False Start

False Start

Once I’d finished the couching – in a modern twist, Tanya suggested working all the couching in a single colour, so that the Dragon and the Leopard will offer two versions of the same stitch – I had a slight false start with the outlining. When I tried the dark chestnut red, I wasn’t entirely happy with it. I’m not sure quite why, but perhaps it simply wasn’t distinctive enough against the orangey-red.

Spots The Eeyoropard

Spots The Eeyoropard

I went back to the dark green I used on Rusty, and used the same creamy yellow for the highlights. I don’t think I put in quite the same highlight twiddles as Tanya put on hers, but I like him just the way he is.

Apparently the Leopard of the medieval bestiary is a gentle creature – in spite of the fearsome claws, and according to Tanya, they all look “terminally grumpy”. I was talking about this with my friend @Matheknitician a week or so back when she accosted me at the MathsJam weekend, saying she was desperate to know what I was going to do with Rusty, and a day later she sent me a message suggesting that we should call Spots an Eeyoropard.

So, ladies and gentlemen, – Spots the Eeyoropard! Please be nice to him – he’s rather shy..

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A Dilemma

Dilemma

Dilemma

Now, you may recall from when I began the first one that there are to be two Crests, one for each panel, balancing each other. Furthermore, since there will be a gauze overlay, everything has to have the visual strength to show through it.

I don’t think that this silver thread has enough force or shine. Even with a fairly strong background using my Cloud Filling variation, to throw it into relief, it will simply disappear.

Auditions

Auditions

So I have been experimenting. The edge of the shield, the top of the scroll, and the bottom of the scroll, all use different threads.

All of them are equally insipid in comparison with the gold. I’m afraid that if I use any of these threads for the panel, I will end up with an unbalanced overall appearance with one corner panel seeming very faded in comparison with the other.

I  hope to find a more suitable thread at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show this week. Or alternatively – more of the gold so I can do a second gold one!

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The First Crest for The Dig – Finished

Detail Of Crest

Detail Of Crest

The Cloud Filling Stitch variation that creates the ripple effect is fairly easy to do, and once I had decided to get working on it, finishing the first panel really ripped along.

As you see, I’ve not been too pernickety about spacing. It would have been possible, but it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the original inspiration, besides being utterly maddening to achieve.

Finished First Crest

Finished First Crest

I began by working each row individually, first the short stitches and then threading the pearl cotton, but I soon found that it was much quicker to do several rows of the holding stitches, and then threading the pearl cotton through them.

So here it is, done. The other crest panel, when I get to it, will be in silver, with the same background. I need to get the other piece of fabric onto the frame and get ready, because it is good to have at least one project in which I know exactly what I want to do.

There is one question that remains to be solved – how will I edge each panel? I’ve been thinking about lucetting, crochet, or kumihimo. I have a feeling that a lot of experimentation lies in my future.

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Rusty The Dragon

First Layer Completed

First Layer Completed

I did comment that the laid and couched work romps along, and once I got going, it really didn’t take long at all to finish the first layer.

In the interests of being sure of having enough thread to complete the Dragon, I used two shades of rust-coloured wool for his body. The underlayer of surface satin stitch is worked using two strands – making it possible to blend the threads – while the couching stitches are worked using a single strand.

Looking once more at Tanya’s Dragon on the Flickr Group, I realise that I’ve not quite followed her stitching angle in all places. but I’m very happy with how the first layer turned out.

Detail Added

Detail Added

Once the first layer is done, there are details to be added.

And my goodness, what details!

There was a slight false start, because the creamy-white was too light, the wrong texture, and simply looked wrong.

Since the details are worked in split stitch, the necessary unpicking was a severe trial. However, the combination of a pair of tweezers and my brand new embroidery scissors from Ernest Wright and Sons Ltd (bought when I heard of them following a BBC article) made it as easy as it could be (still not very easy, though!).

I finally picked a creamy shade, lighter than pale yellow I used for his crest, but in the same family. It turned out really well, and even his green teeth don’t detract from his charm. He looks a very genial fellow, and I’ve named him Rusty.

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Blog Hop

I’ve been tagged in a round the world blog hop by Penny of ArtJourney, and while this post is a lot more “abstract” than my usual posts, it is always interesting to think about your own work in a different way. So thank you Penny, for giving me the opportunity!

1. What am I working on?

Er.. How long have you got? My long term project is the Dreams of Amarna, but at the moment I’m also following the Opus Anglicanum Stitch A Long, and now the weather is closing in, I will soon be back to the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion. That doesn’t include, of course, random little projects that I pick up and put down occasionally, or new techniques I try, but don’t find an immediate use for..

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I tend not to stick to a single type of embroidery, so there is a lot of cross-fertilisation between the styles of embroidery I use, and the way in which I use them.  However, unlike a lot of similarly eclectic embroiderers, I rarely work anything truly abstract: there’s usually a story somewhere at the back of any piece I work. Two more long term projects I have plans for when Dreams of Amarna is done are panels relating to The Golden Fleece and The Conversion of Placidus. In fact, the Conversion of Placidus is bubbling at the back of my mind at the moment; I had a tour of Flag Fan with Francis Pryor a couple of weeks ago (fabulous, by the way, for anyone with any interest in prehistory!), and I’m desperate to include the kingfisher I saw there…

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Because I love it. Embroidery is the medium in which I choose to respond to stories, ideas – or domestic opportunities. Many of my “non-literary” projects are worked with our house in mind – like the Firescreen, the chair seats,  or the Finnish table runner.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

It varies very  much with the project in question. For the Dreams of Amarna, I have read and re-read the book “Nefertiti Lived Here” by Mary Chubb, I have visited the Egypt Exploration Society and the Petrie Museum, the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition and Discovering Tutankhamun at the Ashmolean and I have taken a course in working with metal threads. In fact, the idea was bubbling in the back of my mind for ten years before I even set a stitch!

In contrast, projects like the Elephant Doorstop, the Stones of Venice Footstool, or the Knot Garden are much more improvisatory!

5. Tag – You’re It!
Of course, if I don’t tag someone, the Blog Tour would come to an abrupt halt…  So, ladies – Tag, you’re It!
  • Janice, who blogs at Dancing With Sunflowers, was one of the first people to encourage me to start to a blog, and to welcome me to the world of blogging. She crafts thoughtfully using a range of techniques, many of which I know I wouldn’t be good at, so I have the greatest admiration for her.
  • Jules has recently started a new blog, Needle and Pen, since she felt that her earlier blog no longer allowed space for her changing interests in craft and art. I’m going to be very interested to follow the development of her new adventure.
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Progress on the Crest for the Dig

The goldwork on the Crest for the Dig went rather quickly, and I found myself running straight into a brick wall. I narrowed my background choices down to two, and then stopped. I’ve even extended the patches of trial background, and propped the frame up to stare at.

Two Background Choices

Two Background Choices

The arrowhead stitches create a subtle effect; patchy ripples, almost here-and-then-gone-again. Rather like Amarna, in fact – it’s thought the city was inhabited for less than thirty years.

On the other hand, the pearl cotton cloud stitch variation is more reminiscent of the rippling paint pattern that originally inspired me. The variegated thread helps to stop the background pattern from being too solid and monolithic.

Choices, choices….

 

In fact I took the frame to my parents’ house, last time I visited, and said plaintively “Help!”

We stared at it, talked about it, and finally decided that the pearl cotton variation on Cloud Filling Stitch is the way to go. It’s more in keeping with the idea of the doodle that inspired this design, the thread is closer in scale to the scale of the gold thread, and it’s also a better reflection of the ripple pattern I want to bring to mind.

I’m also considering how I’m going to edge the panel of stitching. At the moment, my ideas include lucetted cord or a flat kumihimo braid. The lucetted braid might be too narrow, but on the other hand I’ve only ever done one piece of kumihimo braid, so that would be rather a leap into the unknown!

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Stitch A Long with Opus Anglicanum

Thread For Dragon StitchALong

Thread For Dragon StitchALong

Do I really need another project to fit in, I wonder?

Well, yes, I think I do. Over on her blog, Opus Anglicanum, Tanya Bentham is running a medieval stitchalong, and quite simply, when she showed us a picture of the dragon she’d designed for us, I fell head over heels in love. He’s absolutely adorable, and I really didn’t care that I’m running short of time in any one week to do anything at all!

I decided not to buy a kit, since I have more wool thread than I know what to do with (remember my stash-busting canvaswork?), but I did buy some of the wool fabric Tanya suggested, and then rifled through my stash. Most of the wool is Appletons, but the creamy-white for highlights is a remnant of something rather smoother and silkier.

Maybe I’ll make some progress with the stash-busting, after all!

Wings In Laidwork

Wings In Laidwork

As it happens, I’m trailing slightly behind the stitchalong – and my blog is trailing behind my progress, because I’ve been enjoying stitching too much to stop and write about it.

The “colouring in” element of the design is worked in laid and couched work, which consists of three layers, in modern terms – surface satin stitch, with long couching stitches at right angles, which then in turn are tied down at intervals. Furthermore, it fairly romps along, which makes a lovely change after all that painstaking or nué earlier in the year!

There are several people taking part in the the stitchalong, not all of them bloggers, so Sue set up a Flickr group so that we could encourage one another..

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Continuing On The Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose Leaves

Tudor Rose Leaves

The work on the Tudor Rose continues.. The stitches used for the leaves are what I really wanted from this course, as I am hoping that they will help me to create elements in the Dreams of Amarna – the ancient Egyptians were as keen on bling as the Tudors!

Zoom in on the picture to the right and you will see that there are four different combinations of metal and silk threads.

  • The stem – whipped back stitch
  • Alternating silk and metal chain stitches
  • Ceylon stitch with silk thread woven through it
  • Up and down buttonhole stitch with silk threads overcast through it

It was very hard to weave through the Ceylon Stitch – I didn’t pack the threads as tightly as Tricia’s instructions show, even after four leaves (two on each side). I think it would be easier in some of the applications I intend, though, because I am expecting at least some of them to have straight edges!

The overcasting through the Up and Down Buttonhole stitch was tricky to start, but once I’d got it started it was fairly straightforward – and a lot of fun.

Tudor Rose Finished

Tudor Rose Finished

The final element of the piece was the pearl purl and check purl in the centre. That was quite fiddly, and I am not sure that I worked the initial layer of bullion knots in silk in such a way as to make the layer using metal threads easy to do. I have much more practice to do to get my metal thread work to the level I saw at the Eye of the Needle Exhibition in the Ashmolean Museum a few weeks ago.

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The Aztec Blind

Aztec Hall Blind

Aztec Hall Blind

Our predecessors in our current house had a somewhat flamboyant decorative style, and we still haven’t replaced the Aztec inspired wallpaper in the hall. If the combination of terracotta and ochre makes it dark, that same colour combination also makes it seem warm, which in a draughty, 100-year-old house is  a consummation devoutly to be wished. Especially since my Geordie friends tell me I’m “nesh” (translation: excessively susceptible to cold)!

Since it’s also Grade II listed, we can’t simply double glaze,  so the first winter after we moved in, my mother suggested reviving the idea of  “blackout blinds”, padded to reduce the draught. With my usual knack for complicating a perfectly simple project, I embellished the hall blind with an Aztec inspired embroidery in rusty coloured wools on a coarse cream linen.

Jaguar Head

Jaguar Head

I started with the Jaguar’s Head frieze across the bottom. The main outlines are in twisted chain stitch, and the spots and the eye are in rough satin stitch. The background lines in the lighter shade are in my favourite Cable Chain Stitch.

I enjoyed working the jaguars. The simplicity of the stitching and the rather stark line drawing combined to create something that was very easy to do.

Central Motif

Central Motif

Unfortunately I then lost my nerve. The jaguars alone could easily have created all the effect I wanted, but the expanse of bare fabric unnerved me slightly and I filled it with another motif.

There’s more going on in this one – feather stitch and star stitches, jacobean trellis couching and burden stitch (running vertically instead of horizontally).

I may yet unpick all that section and wash the fabric again to pull the threads back into line..

Although, as it stands, it provides a salutory reminder, every time I go past, that more isn’t necessarily more !

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The Plan for the Dreams of Amarna

Trialling Backgrounds

Trialling Backgrounds

I had several very useful comments after my last post, but they all (understandably!) failed to take into account my overall plan for this project.

So, a quick re-cap, for the benefit of everyone who hasn’t (unlike me) been thinking about the Dreams of Amarna for the last twenty years. I first wrote about this in March 2010, but I first started thinking of an embroidery project inspired by the book “Nefertiti Lived Here” a good fifteen years before that!

I thought about various ideas for the Amarna embroidery for a good five or ten years, on and off, but then it finally came together in about 2008 during conversations with my cousin. In fact I started this blog partly in order to give myself a push, and to make sure that I kept at it.

Left Layout

Left Layout

Right Layout

Right Layout

My idea at the moment is for two large panels, which will be colour-blocked as mirror images of one another using sandy colours (for the desert) and turquoise (for the faience used so often in ancient Egypt).

The sandy panels are about 35 centimetres by 50 centimetres, and getting the right proportions for the turquoise will be very important.

Rough Layout

Rough Layout of the first panel

These panels will be overlaid with a gauze layer, screen printed with the heads of Akhenaten and Neferetiti. I have already done some experiments with screen printing on gauze, and I know that not only will it be rather tricky to find the right gauze, but working out how to hang it is going to be a real challenge. The gauze overlay means that colours that are subdued may not show strongly enough – in fact some of my early pieces for the project may end up being mounted as standalone pieces, for that very reason.

This post, from earlier this year, gives you a very rough idea of how the layout may look.

The Antelope Frieze and the Felucca may both turn out to be too inspidly coloured to show through.

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