Working on Nefertiti’s Cartouche – 3

Cartouche Finished

Cartouche Finished

I did a lot of staring balefully.

I picked out a whole selection of threads, looked at them, and dismissed them. Partly, it must be said, because I had decided, after all, to use Plaited Braid Stitch, and that uses a lot of thread. I wasn’t sure that I even had enough of some of my choices!

In the end, I decided to use an overdyed pearl cotton in a sort of faience colour. Years ago, my mother managed plaited braid stitch using stranded cotton, but I tend to feel that that is making life unnecessarily difficult, so stranded threads or floppy threads were removed from consideration as soon as I had settled on the stitch…

I must say, I hadn’t expected to find the stitch getting narrower as I became more practised. I had to deliberately broaden the stitch as I got nearer to the start so I had some chance of joining the ends neatly.

Can You See The Join?

Can You See The Join?

And I really don’t think I did too badly – in fact, if it weren’t for the colour change, I think the join would be rather hard to spot!

And by the way – the dreaded Plaited Braid Stitch is no longer dreaded!

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Modern StitchOff Adventure – 2

Second Layer Of Circle, with net in place

Second Layer Of Circle, with net in place

Hexagonal net laid over the fibres helps to keep them from around the “foot” for want of a better word, of the embellisher. I’ve pinned it down, inside and outside the ring, and spent a lot of time struggling with a piece of blanket which seems to get larger every time I go back to it.

The challenge with an embellisher is to move the fabric when the needle unit is up, because if the needle unit is down when the fabric moves, needles get broken.

And I can assure you, they break. Eight, I think, by the end of my first serious day of using my embellisher.

The blanket got heavier and more unwieldy, but by the end of the day I was beginning to feel I might be getting the hang of it.

Early Stage Outer Circle

Early Stage Outer Circle

This might be in part because my sewing table was gradually accreting some props. I covered it with plastic tablecloth, to help the material slide, and stretched the plastic tablecloth over a clothes horse.

That in turn helped to raise the main weight of the blanket – the bit I wasn’t working on – so that it was no longer dragging down on the section I was working on.

I even piled up some of the blanket on the windowsill, and I do rather wonder what anyone passing by might have thought of the net curtains swishing tempestuously with no person in sight!

Shredded Net

Shredded Net

What was definitely not feeling better by the end of the day was that hardworking and hapless net. It doesn’t get felted in – that’s why it’s such a useful addition to the armoury of the user of an embellisher – but it does get pretty thoroughly shredded. This may be in part because I’m not yet experienced enough to know when I can dispense with it, or it may be because I’m working on small parts of the piece at once because it is so big and heavy.

Fortunately I bought a couple of yards of it, for precisely this purpose!

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Second Frostings Box

Frostings Box

Frostings Box

Many bounces and squeaks of excitement…

After a trip to the post box to pay the customs charge (I’ve no idea whether the rules have changed, or whether they’ve just got a bit zealous – Tricia has always been scrupulous in declaring contents on the package), I have received my second Frostings Box from Thistle Threads.

And yes, it’s in the same glazed card box with a magnetic clasp. Sturdy, and lovely to look at!

Frostings 2 - Group 1

Frostings 2 – Group 1

At risk of making everyone drool all over their keyboards, here’s the low-down – together with some of my ideas…

There is some hand-dyed chenille (that’s destined for Placidus, if I don’t find a use for it earlier). I haven’t an immediate use for the soutache or the strawberries, but the Flower Stamens may come in handy for the Violets

Frostings 2 - Group 2

Frostings 2 – Group 2

I’m not quite so sure about the metal threads.

I’ve not got them out of their boxes to work out how to use them, but they might make embellishment on the jerkin for Placidus, or on Jason and Medea’s clothing for The Golden Fleece. Or even form parts of Egyptian jewellery for the Dreams of Amarna.

Frostings 2 - Group 3

Frostings 2 – Group 3

Finally there are two silk gimps (all on their own to the left of the picture) and a lovely selection of fine filament silk Trame. These are in some of the colours used in the Soie Ovale, but much finer, and as Tricia describes in a recent post, the whole idea here is to allow us to twist our own threads, blending colours and thicknesses to achieve the effect we want.

Music to my ears!

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Inspired By Spring Flowers – 2

Texture

Texture

Once I’d finished the little needlebook, using the little pack from Rowandean, I thought I might have a bit more of a play, and make a scissors case and a pincushion.

So I fished out a piece of dyed silk left over from a book box my mother made for her fine binding of The Wind In The Willows, and a whole hank of fantastical, textured threads, and spent an afternoon tacking them in place and then playing with my embellisher, in order to create a mossy, textural piece of fabric to line the scissor case and back the pincushion.

Inside Scissors Case

Inside Scissors Case

Bear with me, I know the textures would snag the scissor blades! I used some of the pieces of gauze from the kit – also run gently through the embellisher – to smooth down the lining. The texture is still there, but it has been muted and slightly smoothed over. And now the scissors will be beautifully padded and protected!

The edges are simply whipstitched – a considerable effort, through two layers of felt and two layers of the embellished fabric, but I’m glad to say I didn’t break any needles doing it!

 

Scissor Case - Front

Scissor Case – Front

Scissor Case - Back

Scissor Case – Back

For the front and back, again I used simple stitchery, in undivided stranded cotton. A vaguely wisteria-like (not really Spring any more…!) fall of lazy daisy flowers with French Knot centres enliven the front.

And three wheatear stitch stems (seedheads left over from winter, perhaps…?) decorate the back.

The variegated thread makes all the colour changes happen by magic, and since my other main project at the moment is the 40-count tent stitch of Eve In the Garden Of Eden, six strands of stranded cotton is a blessed relief..!

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Lady’s Magazine Stitch-Off – A Modern Adventure

Sketched Medallion

Sketched Medallion

I have a matchless talent for complicating my life. In my defence, I can say that this will be practice for future projects, but oh, my…

I have always had in mind to try a full-on-modern, Jane-would-never-have-done-this, take on one of the Stitch-Off designs. This is going to be that project.

I’ve been intending to do something with this blanket for quite some time, and I’ve also been intending to have a serious play (as it were) with my embellisher. Not the least of the challenges will be in managing a full size, pure wool blanket – nearly six foot square, and heavy.

First Thoughts

First Thoughts

I’ve sketched out the central medallion from the design for the child’s cap by eye.  From now on, it’s a venture into the unknown…

I began by cutting leaf shapes in two colours out of two different types of felt, and alternating them around the circle. My wavy stem line wasn’t quite even, so I’ve tried to even up the spacing by eye, and attached the leaves roughly.

I’m expecting to build up this pattern in layers, and fine-tune the felting as I go, so the first stage here is just to make sure nothing moves too much..

Originally needle-felting was an industrial process for making a non-woven fabric. It dates back to about the 1860s, and these days is used for things like geotextiles and insulation. A quick rummage online told me that among the applications are tiles on the Space Shuttle and tennis court surfaces. The application to craft and art is much more recent, but it uses exactly the same needles – just not as many of them!

Blending Fibres

An Experiment in Blending Fibres

However, because of this background, an embellisher is a great way to use wool fibre as well as fabric in a project, and that in turn means an opportunity to play with colours. One of the strongest memories I have of my childhood introduction to the textile industry is visiting a woollen mill in Totnes in Devon, which made upholstery fabrics. The manufacturing process began with bales of alarmingly bright colours of wook fibre being thrown into a carding machine, and ended with wonderfully subtle, lively colours of fabric coming off the looms. I’m going to see what I can do to emulate this intimate blending of colour using my little hand cards.

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Working on Nefertiti’s Cartouche – 2

Top Block

Top Block

After I’d finished the spiral trellis stitch circle, I had some doubts about it. Maybe it wasn’t strong enough, maybe the texture clouded the impression of the shape, maybe it even killed the colour. I’ve decided – with continuing reservations! – to keep it for now. I like the effect, and the knotted texture contrasts nicely with the long and short stitch beside it. If it can’t live with its companions when I’ve finished the piece, I will be in a better position to work out how to replace it.

The zigzag is about as simple as it could be – straight stitches, tightly whipped – and the half-circle, like the one in the lower section, is  detached buttonhole stitch.

Needs A Border

Needs A Border

So far, so good.

All the individual hieroglyphs have been worked, and I think the colour balance has turned out pretty well.

However, cartouches have borders, and the border is giving me a raging headache!

I had thought of working the border in Plaited Braid Stitch, in a copper or gold, or maybe couching down a knitted ribbon. Maybe a border in some other stitch, in blue-green?

So far, every thread I’ve tried has either disappeared into the background, or made itself altogether too obtrusive. I can see myself staring balefully at it for weeks, so in the meantime I am going to tack guidelines for the eventual border (in silk, what else?) and hope that inspiration dawns…

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Inspired by Spring flowers..

Cover Layers

Cover Layers

You may recall that last year – or was it the year before?  – I joined in a “Make & Take” at the Rowandean stand in Harrogate. Last time, I bought a little kit and one of Katrina’s pages of ideas and brought them home to play with.

Of course, as we all know, the Bringing Home is the easy part… !

The colours are soft and fresh, springlike, so I thought I would start by playing with forms vaguely inspired by spring flowers. The ultimate inspiration here was from snowdrops, made by stitching a fly stitch and a twisted fly stitch on top of one another. It has almost worked, certainly close enough for my purposes. Maybe an embroidering botanist would like to play a bit more.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

The flowers are stitched on a piece of gauze which is layered over a piece of silk, which in turn lies over apiece of felt. The french knots in the corners held everything together while I tackled the flowers.

The next fragment was vaguely inspired by grape hyacinths, which are among my  favourite spring flowers. Overlapping detached chain stitches worked well, and layering gauze over the felt helped to bring the flowers out from the background.

I may choose to fray the gauze further, but I was struggling with light at this point and decided to see what I thought under different atmospheric conditions!

Crocus of a sort

Crocus of a sort

I did mention that I’m no botanist! The ultimate inspiration here were the stripy crocus I see a lot near where I live. They are getting a little old and blowsy, not the trim, upright bolts of colour that first appeared, but nevertheless the ones I’ve stitched look more like some strange new flora, unknown to either science or art!

I rather enjoyed them, all the same…

Stitched Spine

Stitched Spine

I’ve turned the resulting pile of felt into a needlebook, rather more illustrated that is usual, and with a dramatic stitched spine. This was a distinct piece of experimentation – I could have done with a milliner’s needle, but not having one I improvised with a beading needle, which was very flimsy and flexible, but did the job in the end.

Now I’ve put it under a heap of books to flatten it gradually without the squashing effect of an iron. And I still have some felt, some thread, and some gauze left over for further experimentation!

 

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Lace for Topsy..

Lace Pillow

Lace Pillow

Another report from my mother on the project to clothe Topsy..

Topsy’s dress is going to give me a reason for stitching and lacemaking. I have done some torchon lace but I want to learn a new kind of lace – Bucks Point. Lace making looks far more complicated that it is, at least when using simple patterns. There’s lots of guidance, since the design is pricked out (literally) on stiff card, often with little symbol to help you remember which stitch you are doing. The bobbins’ weight provides the tension, hence the decorative beads, and in all the patterns I have used so far, I was working with only four bobbins at any one time, even though there may be twenty, thirty, forty bobbins in the design.

I have chosen the very simplest pattern, just the new “ground” and a “cloth” fan. For none-lacemakers, the ground creates that part of the design where you are just space filling, in this case it joins the fan to the footside (the straight edge which will be used to mount the lace on cloth). The cloth stitch is made by a weaver pair of bobbins going under and over the other threads just as if you are weaving cloth. The complication lies in remembering the sequence of stitches – it took an hour and a half to work out the sequence for one fan and attached ground. Since the design is a simple repeat, the next one took three quarters of an hour with much referring back to instructions. Six fans on, it takes half an hour with just occasional glances and I am looking forward to cutting down the time as I continue. There is a long way to go as this piece is to edge Topsy’s petticoat. I have more ambitious plans for the dress itself.

Petticoat Lace

Petticoat Lace

It took four months, but I completed the first length of lace and attached it to Topsy’s petticoat. And I am pleased with the result. It’s neat, decorative, not flamboyant – just what I wanted. The first two or three sections are a bit wobbly but thereafter the pattern becomes more crisp. The blue gimp will echo the embroidery on the dress.

I had some difficulty in remembering not to cover the pin in this style of lace making, since doing just that was an essential part of all the Torchon lace I have made. But once I’d mastered that, the ground became easy to do, and, of course, the fan was worked exactly as I had done in previous lace making. Heartened by this, I felt I was ready for something more complicated.

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Stitching the Christmas Angel

Stripy Cape

Stripy Cape

Rather than being stitched in time for Christmas, I found myself stitching the Christmas Angel over Christmas. About halfway through the stitching, I also coloured in the hair with brown pen. It helps keep the head distinct from the background and the wings, and somehow pulled the whole thing into focus.

My invented bargello pattern of various pearl cottons, including some with a metallic twist in them, has turned out fairly well, if redder than I expected.

Shoulder Cape

Shoulder Cape

As a result, I chose to stitch the shoulder cape in greens. There are two variants here – green with a gold thread and green with a bright green thread. I’ve been using the green and gold as the striped “framework” for the Cape, so I simply used the green and green for the spots. The shoulder cape will be outlined to allow for a bit more shaping, using couched gold thread, but that’s one of the last elements of the design.

Decisions regarding the Wings

Decisions regarding the Wings

The next challenge was to decide how to work the wings. I started off wanting to create some sort of strong patterning, just with the stitches, but in the end I realised that, as the background is going to be strongly patterned, and the cape is so striking, the eye will need somewhere to rest.

So, plain brick stitch it is, although in another of those glitter-twisted pearl cottons, which are quite ridiculously tender and tricksy to stitch with, at least on this canvas. Even Gilt Sylke Twist and Gold Wyre seem robust by comparison!

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Working on Nefertiti’s Cartouche – 1

Lower Block

Lower Block

I need to learn to believe in myself more. As I was stitching this little seated figure, I was really very doubtful about it. I was twisting the sandy silk filament for every stitch, and it was being difficult, and looking rather odd and clunky.

Then I added the wig, in a variegated – and slightly slubby – silk perle, and suddenly I’m completely captivated!

The walking-stick like thing is a row of chain stitch with detached buttonhole stitch added to broaden the shaft. I think that works rather nicely, too.

Middle Block

Middle Block

False Start

False Start

There was a slight false start with the row of spoon-like things. After I did the bottom row of this pair, ending with a crossed spoon in heavy chain stitch and long and short stitch, I wondered whether perhaps I should vary the stitches in the row above. An experiment in that direction soon proved me wrong, though!

The two little blocks started out as closed herringbone stitch, but that looked scrappy and a bit twisted. I left the closed herringbone stitch in place, and covered it with satin stitch, breathing a sigh of relief when it worked.

The fabric is the same as I used for the Faience Hippopotamus, and it’s frightfully difficult to photograph. No matter what I do, the colour careers around the spectrum, and the grey, overcast days aren’t helping, either.

Nor is it especially easy to stitch on. It doesn’t look like a loose weave, but it behaves like one, even though I’ve supported it with a piece of calico. Stitches that I like using are proving unsuccessful and behaving oddly. All in all, although I’m enjoying it, it feels most peculiar!

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