Another UFO

I’ve been finding long-hidden projects again.

This one is a cotton fabric bag with a strip of aida inserted in one side, which I think was a subscribers’ gift for Needlecraft magazine, some time in the distant past. In DevaStitch Designs days, I created a range inspired by the Bizarreware of Clarice Cliff (with the approval of Wedgwood, the rights holders), and I suspect that my original idea for the design was to add it to the range.

And then something happened and the bag disappeared into a box for what feels like centuries. I’ve found it again, and this time I am determined to finish the wretched thing, and start using it.

It has become clear that the aida is slightly off-grain, but it’s not likely to show when the piece is in use. If I were to make a bag with a cross stitched element I would work the cross stitch separately and apply it afterwords, so that the straight grain was indeed straight.

The first thing to do was to finish the black outlines, which are such a distinctive part of the Clarice Cliff style, and which will make everything else simply a matter of colouring in.

I had to invent a bush or two, because my chart didn’t cover all the fabric I had available, but once the windmill and extra bushes were in place I continued with the sky.

Then I got slightly tired of blue and gave myself a bit of a rest by filling in the windmill. I have more to do, of course, but I think it will be quite cheerful when it is finished.

SlowTV Stitchery Episode 31 is now live, in which progress continues to be made, and some thought is given (again) to the eventual mounting of the piece.

So What Next for SlowTV Stitchery?

Progress on the Christmas Angel
Progress on the Christmas Angel

The next episode of SlowTV Stitchery is now live – Episode 30 – in which the cornering plans are discussed, and the future of SlowTV Stitchery is considered, while the second corner is completed.

Since it looks very much as though we’re all going to be spending a lot of time at home this winter, I think I’ll continue with SlowTV Stitchery, even when the Amarna Family Group is finished. So my first thought is to work on finishing this canvaswork angel, which I started some years ago, galloped through the actual angel, and then ground to a shuddering halt on the background when I got sidetracked by an inspiration for one of the Dreams of Amarna projects.

North Shields Headland

If that doesn’t keep me quiet for long enough, I’ve been working on a sky for the first version of the North Shields headland that I worked for Leaving The Tyne. This is another piece that simply needs me to sit down and work at it, but although it’s small, it’s fiddly to hold the frame and stitch at the same time. Putting it on my stand and using my magnifying light will help me to settle down to it.

But first, the Angel. At least, until I run out of metallic threads!

I suppose this is a UFO…

A Beadwork UFO
A Beadwork UFO

I was looking for something else entirely when I found this beadwork brooch started on a piece of perforated paper. It must be close to thirty years old, like the Japanese Embroidery kit, so it’s been languishing for a while.

There seems to be a bit of a theme of tidying up UFOs in odd moments while I’m working on the Amarna Family Group, so it didn’t take me long to decide that it would be a good idea to finish this one while I’m about it!

Beading Finished
Beading Finished

Nor did it take too long to finish the beadwork, once I’d found my bearings on the chart and learnt how to distinguish the different bead colours end-on, as well as side-on. The pale blue, lilac, and dark lilac look much the same when most of what you see is the hole through the middle.

The only time I’m happy to use glue with my stitching is on the back of pieces like this, so I painted the back with glue and trimmed the paper to size, adding a felt back and the brooch finding.

Brooch Finished
Brooch Finished, complete with stems

Once I’d done that, however, I thought that as a brooch, it would look a bit half-hearted. So I decided to add some stems – just randomly strung green beads from the leftovers, using proper beading thread and a beading needle.

Then I oversewed the edge in dark green, filled in the gaps with inktense, and tied a tiny bow at the front. I don’t know whether the original designer would approve, but I like my version better than theirs!

In other news, Episode 29 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live. In which it is noted that two needles are not less trouble than twenty-seven, some further thought is given to the presentation of the finished piece, and a milestone is reached…

More Progress, Amarna Family Group

As I kept on with the little girls, of course, I kept on with Nefertiti, and eventually tackled the famous profile, which worked better than I feared, although I will admit that the lighting here doesn’t let the skin colour show as much against the gold as it does in real life. Next was the gold uraeus on the headdress, which, as I commented when I worked Akhenaten’s uraeus, does feel rather “peak Ancient Egypt” in the use of gold to hold down gold! Still, the royal blue against the golds is enough to make the heart sing.

You can see here that the blue in Nefertiti’s skirt has been replaced – all but one stitch, which I will have to deal with in the “details” phase of this one – the list for which is getting increasingly full of anxieties!

Nefertiti’s feet were among the anxieties, but as you can see from this photo, just leaving them right to the end was increasingly untenable, in spite of the stool leg and the foot cushion to anchor the gold threads.

However, the difficulty of working them starting away from the rest of the body was also considerable, and I do think I made the right decision in waiting until I could start from the legs!

I’m still not sure whether I will fill in some of the sections of the stool Nefertiti is sitting on. At the moment, it looks strong, but it doesn’t separate itself from the background as much as perhaps it should, especially as the figures are looking so striking. I don’t want Nefertiti to look as though she’s sitting on air!

Episode 28 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live, and it considers the post mortem reputations of kings, the perils of scarifying a lawn, and the expertise of the laundries of Amarna.

Textile Tours of Paris

A little while ago, we were in Paris – a trip planned last year, and carried on with, sanitiser in hand, in spite of the certainty of quarantine when we got home.

Amid a variety of adventures (we were staying with family) we went on a Textile Tour of Paris with Rebecca Devaney.

We met at Metro Quatre Septembre, and Rebecca guided us to the various shops, telling us about the history of the atelier system and the particular histories of the various shops as we went. Even my non-embroidering engineer uncle found things to interest him – there was a poster for a manufacturer of sewing machines which pivoted (to use the modern term) to aero engines during the first world war! – but in fact, all of us found something to respond to our particular interests.

The shops are all very different, and now I’ve visited them I will be better prepared for another visit, perhaps with plans in mind. What they share is knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff – in fact one of those in Au Ver A Soie is doing an RSN course. Online, in these days, naturally, but it was a great delight to see someone else’s work, if only on their phone.

If you get a chance, when travelling is easier, do take a tour with Rebecca. She’s delightful, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, and the extra bits and pieces of information you have, not to mention some sense of all the interesting materials you can find, are all well worth the effort.

As you can see, I was fairly restrained in my purchases, because I had not travelled with extra suitcase space, or planned in advance. The grosgrain ribbon matches the stone in my engagement ring, the brown ribbon with irises is for a hat, and so is the orange flower lace, the silk thread from Au Ver A Soie and the fil dentelle from Sajou are just to play with, and the little ostrich kit is my entertainment for the period between Christmas and New Year!

And in other news, Episode 27 of SlowTVStitchery is now live, and discusses reaching an important turning point, and the delights of solving embroidering puzzles.

Variations on a theme, 2

Leaf outline
Leaf outline

There’s plenty of variety in the stitching on the bedcover, although the choice is limited to those that can control a fabric much inclined to fray.

You can see here some close blanket stitch, nested feather stitch, and chain stitch used to add details.

The interesting thing that my mother has found as she’s worked on this one is that the spashy, “watercoloury” feel of the original print is becoming something slightly blockier, and more like an oil painting or a pastel. Since as a painter, oils are her first love, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised…!

Birds in progress
Birds in progress

The birds, here, are a case in point. The slanted satin stitch seems to me an effective cross between feathers and brush strokes, and make for an emphatic motif. We looked hard at this photo, and then went rummaging in both of our stashes for more pinkish reds. It’s safe to suggest that there’s some unpicking ahead…

And while that is in progress, I can report that Episode 26 of SlowTVStitchery is now live! It concerns the distinction between bugs and features, and the siren call of shiny new projects – something we all know about, I think!

Japanese Embroidery, 2

Flower Petals and Buds
Flower Petals and Buds

Once the padding was done, the next stage was the flower petals. These were fairly quickly done, in satin stitch. I tried to keep the stitches in the right orientation by starting in the middle of each petal and working the halves separately.

Have I mentioned before how much I love the effect you get with flat silk? The stitches almost glow, even in poor light!

Flower Centres In Place
Flower Centres In Place

The instructions for the other elements weren’t quite as clear as I expected them to be, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. That said, I could fill in the gaps with a bit of guesswork, so it’s all good.

French knots for the flower centres, using hand twisted thread. I found the needle harder to thread here, because the twisted thread was quite heavy, and it untwisted easily, too. This is a problem I’ve noticed with my hand twisted thread before, and I’d love to know whether there is anything to do to avoid it!

Forget Me Nots
Forget Me Nots

The leaves were satin stitch, again in twisted silk, while the stems were in stem stitch. The pattern didn’t specify, but I took absense of specification to indicate using the silk untwisted. It keeps the stems light and delicate, anyway.

So, finally, after nearly thirty years, I’ve finished the forget-me-nots!

Now I just need a pot to put them in….

The next episode of Slow TV Stitchery is up – Episode 25 – on reaching the fourth border, and the pleasures of lute music. Do go and have a look!

More on the Amarna Family Group

So, edges. Obviously, with the straight version of this technique, the edges are simple – either every single one is plunged, or maybe every other one, if the threads are used doubled. I have a strong aversion to plunging threads, I hate waste, and I just couldn’t face the tangles I experienced when I was working on Christus Natus Est.

So the edges of this piece are being done simply by turning the thread back on itself. I will, of course, have to cut the thread to fill in the corners, but that’s much less fuss, and I am intending to oversew each end very firmly, and not plunge the threads at all.

I began on Nefertiti’s dress intending to do something like I’d done with the pleats on Akhenaten’s kilt, but making the lines more definite.

Having started, though, I decided it wasn’t at all satisfactory. Whether it was the wrong colour, the wrong resolution (not that I can make the lines any narrower!), or simply not simple and crisp enough, I’m not sure. I was sure that it needed to come out.

So that’s what I did.

Unpicking is really not fun, and some of the white silk fell victim to my unpicker, so the raggy bits had to be eased to the back and tidied up before I could even think about reinstating the white.

Notice, however, that the little girls are making pretty good sense just as they are!

The next episode of Slow TV Stitchery is up – Episode 24 – which covers Looking ahead to The Next Epic Project, lessons from the Impressionists, and the trick of making a design’s evolution look “meant”. Do go and have a look!

Grape Hyacinths, 1

Now This Is A UFO
Now This Is A UFO

Now this is definitely a UFO (UnFinished Object).

It would help, of course, if I could remember why I was doing it – other than that I’ve always loved grape hyacinths!

Clearly the leaf needs to be finished, but looking at it again, I’ve decided that I don’t like the way that I originally worked the flower heads, and I need to unpick them and start again.

I don’t know how I’m going to do them, or what I’ll do with it when I’m finished, but at least I have a starting point.

Leaf Completed
Leaf Completed

So here we are – the leaf is completed, with some added darker stitching to help throw the smaller leaf forward a little. The stitching is a mixture of chain and reverse chain, stem stitch and outline stitch, and I’m quite pleased with how it conveys the texture of the leaf.

Then, out with the scissors and much snipping and pulling out.

I’m still not sure how to do the flowers.

However, I’ve been keeping on with the Amarna Family, and the video – number twenty three, would you believe! – is now live. It contains musings on fabric to cover a stele.

Amarna Family Group Progress

Grapes reinstated
Grapes reinstated

In the end, I sighed, consigned the Cretan memories to perdition, and decided to do the little girls in the same colour as their parents. However, while I was looking at the tangle of limbs and bodies of the two smaller girls on Nefertiti’s lap, I thought that something definite would need to be done to keep them from turning into an amorphous tangle of limbs, something like one of my early memories of my two big cousins. I’ve since got my cousins separated in my head, but I thought it would be nice to keep Nefertiti’s daughters individual from the start!

With Outline Section
With Outline Section

So I started putting in an outline on the eldest daughter, using a fine, very dark brown thread from Devere Yarns.

Only to stare at it with hostility, because it somehow managed to look a bit too clunky!

Considering that Devere silks are really very fine, this is quite an achievement, although I’ll admit it wasn’t one I particularly cherish.

Little Girls Making Sense
Little Girls Making Sense

So I decided to just keep working on the “block colours” of the design and trust to later inspiration to find out how to keep the girls from blurring into an undifferentiated shape. I’ve left a few deliberate gaps where limbs cross, to help the design “read” properly.

And I’m not sure, now, that they really need anything else…

The video is well in advance of these posts, because I lost the photos I was going to use. Heigh-ho. Anyway, enjoy Episode Twenty Two, in which, among other matters, the mathematical concept of “triviality” is discussed…!