More Progress on Akhenaten

I’ve decided that Akhenaten’s headdress should continue with basketweave couching in crimson twist.  I was in a quandary about the padding for this – it would be dreadful to have white padding leering at me where the twist changes from up to down –  when it occurred to me to colour my own. So this is the ordinary cotton “string” used for padding, which I have coloured with one of my inktense blocks and a little aloe vera gel, and then waxed once it had dried.

Couched Coloured String
Couched Coloured String

Of course, the colour didn’t seep all the way through, as you can see from the whitish-grey ends of the couched pairs here, but at least the colour will ease back rather than drawing attention to itself.

You would think, by the way, that the waxed string would be fairly easy to couch in place, but it wasn’t. It had a will of its own, and far too many ideas about wandering off!

Bastketweave Couching
Bastketweave Couching

But it worked beautifully.

As I understand it, basketweave couching can be worked turning the thread at the end of each row, or sinking it. I would have liked to have turned it, as that is the more economical technique, but I felt that this would create the impression of a compact and complete shape, whereas – however stylised it is – this shape represents a three-dimensional object, the headdress wrapping around Akhenaten’s head.

That means more than 70 ends to sink, through silk, thin padding, and calico.

Oh well, onwards, ever onwards!

More on the cover for the magnifier

Braid Stitch Curlicue
Braid Stitch Curlicue

The embroidery on the new cover for Maggie The Magnifier is relatively simple, but it does involve a few favourite stitches.

First and foremost, Braid Stitch. Not the Infamous Plaited Braid Stitch – I was sure I wouldn’t have enough wool for that! – but the ordinary Braid Stitch. I’ve been fond of it for years, as it makes a good, strongly textured line, and it’s much easier than it looks. It’s also fairly easy to work in the hand, and this was very much a holiday period project, using bits and pieces I could easily get hold of, which didn’t include my embroidery hoops!

Magnifier Embroidery Finished
Magnifier Embroidery Finished

The central rosette uses satin stitch (not a favourite, exactly, but very effective!), Romanian Stitch, and in the centre, a little knotted stitch that I’m sure I know from a book, and has a name, but it just came swimming up out of my head, unattributed, as though I was making it up as I went along.

The buds, or finials, or whatever they are, are in nested fly stitches, outlined with further fly stitches, and you will note, from this view, that I stuck to my decision to draft the design by hand, and not tweak and even it up. This is very much a piece of domestic, informal embroidery, and there’s no reason for it to look glossy and machine made.

Trialling a finishing technique

Attaching The Geese
Attaching The Geese

I’ve not been finishing any of the Amarna pieces for presentation, because once mounted and framed, they take up much more space, and also because I’m not sure which pieces are going where. However, the needlefelted pieces are not going to form part of the main panels, and I rather think it may take more than one attempt to get them just right. I’ve decided I want to present them rather as pieces of fresco are presented in museums, on a background which is similar in colour to the main colour, but not close enough to mislead.

So the first thing to do was to find a suitably-sized artist’s canvas, and cover it with some padding and then a nice woollen fabric which is a warm yellow, slightly darker than the felt background. Then I cut around the Amarna Geese to make a rough, uneven shape. I should probably have cut off a head or something so that the fresco would look suitably fragmentary, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to do that!

Mounted And Signed Too
Mounted And Signed Too

I used a fine woollen thread to attach the felt to the background fabric, as far as possible remaining within the thickness of the felt. That was quite tricky, and I wonder whether there might be an easier way. I’m glad I didn’t start with the two princesses!

My Morse Code signature is in double straight stitches, following an edge. And there’s a bit of a corner left open there. I might do an extra goose head and add it in as a separate fragment!

Progress on Akhenaten

Finished The Wig
Finished The Wig

Working with goldwork in a European winter is optimistic at best, and much as I enjoyed working the Detached Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch with Return, it took rather longer than I might have hoped. When I managed to sit down with a quiet mind, a good light, and plenty of time, I found that the work would speed up. It was tricky to keep it even – I didn’t entirely succeed, either – and I wondered, halfway through when it was rather too late, whether I should have worked it “upside down” as in Jacquie Carey’s book “Elizabethan Stitches”.

Silver Plate
Silver Plate

I have decided to keep working on the head and the crown, at least until I don’t know what to do next, so the next section was to be the top of the headdress. Now, although the colossi don’t show Akhenaten wearing the combined crown of upper and lower Egypt, I’ve decided to reference it in the colours for the headdress.

Finished Upper Crown
Finished Upper Crown

So the top section of the headdress is a zigzag of sliver plate. It’s not as even as I would like, perhaps, and I am wondering (I’m doing a lot of wondering with this one, aren’t I!) whether I should have started at the bottom and worked up. I’m not sure I have enough left over to do it again, so unless and until I decide I can’t bring myself to leave it this way, I’m going to remain content with my very first effort using silver plate.

Finally Finishing The Embroidery on Eve In The Garden of Eden

Coiled Silver Wrapped Strip Added
Coiled Silver Wrapped Strip Added

The Coiled Wrapped Silver Strip finishes off the metal thread frame for the cartouches beautifully. It fits between the rows of crinkle strip and pearl purl, and almost balances on top of the pearl purl, so it’s raised quite high.

And once the first cartouche frame is finished, there’s the second one to do!

Webgimpe Added
Webgimpe Added

Then, finally, the last stage before the adventure of turning it into a box is to add the gold webgimpe, which is a rather stiff woven ribbon.

I know it looks a bit twisted, but the next stage is to block it. Then I have to tackle the question of glue again. It will be a while before I tackle that challenge!

Cover for my new magnifier

Desktop Magnifier
Desktop Magnifier

Meet Maggie the Magnifier, so called to distinguish her from Jenny the Jensen Magnifier Light. Maggie was a Christmas present from my cousin. She’s wonderfully sturdy, with a nice heavy base, and notwithstanding the base mentions 1815, we think that was the foundation of the company, and Maggie herself is probably from the 1920s. She will be very useful for details and work at the table, rather than at my embroidery frame, but she needs a cover, both to keep the dust off, and to stop her setting fire to things on those rare occasions when the sun comes out.

Making the cover seemed a good way to pass the time over the period when I had Akhenaten hidden away, so I used a piece of brushed bouclé fabric and some rather lovely wool thread I got from somewhere-but-I-can’t-remember-where.

Inspiration And Progress
Inspiration And Progress

Since I did the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off, I’ve become very conscious of what I learnt that I didn’t anticipate – becoming aware of how much more often an embroiderer of that period would have reckoned that Close Enough Is Good Enough, how often a pattern would have been sketched on by eye, rather than prick-&-pounced for precision, how much effect and speed would have trumped detail. I’m trying to apply that myself – when I don’t need exactitude, I don’t intend to strive for it. I hope it will make fun new projects more fun, and more “free”. This is a perfect candidate for that approach.

The basis of the design is a floral pattern from a rather gorgeous book called “Pattern and Ornament in the Arts of India”, with curlicues in the corners of the square of fabric. I practiced a couple of times in a notebook, and then simply drew the design in chalk on the fabric and started stitching.

This is going to be one of my New projects for this year…

6 and 6 in 2018 – the six “old” projects

This year Meredithe and Anne have come up with the idea of managing “Significant Progress” on six old projects or Works In Slow Progress, with room for six entirely new ones – because we all know how easy it is to be completely knocked for a loop by a shiny new project or sudden obsession with a new technique! – and have called the project “6 and 6 in 2018“. I wasn’t a very organised contributor last year, and I probably won’t be this year, but I do intend to try!

For the sake of accountability, here are my “old” projects:

More Progress On Eve
More Progress On Eve

First of all, “Eve In The Garden of Eden”. This means constructing and covering the box. That in turn implies the use of glue, which as I’ve mentioned before, makes me very nervous indeed. It will probably take some effort to get up the courage to tackle it at all!

Red and Blue Sections
Red and Blue Sections

Secondly, the Nefertiti Shawl. It’s such a lovely cheerful colour that I want to be able to wear it, which should be incentive enough, wouldn’t you say?

Yarn And Pattern
Yarn And Pattern

Thirdly, the Amarna Backpack. I’ve made a fair bit of progress here, and I’ve learnt a few useful lessons, but I want it to be useable, and preferably lined, by the middle of the year.

Progress on the Christmas Angel
Progress on the Christmas Angel

Fourth, the Christmas Angel. It really is simply a matter of getting it set up so it is convenient to tackle this one, but of course in terms of work to be done it has strong competition, from number five.

Starting Akhenaten
Starting Akhenaten

Fifth, of course, is Akhenaten. I’ve put him away over Christmas and missed him terribly, so I have a strong feeling that he’s going to send the rest of them to a distant second place!

Another Attempt
Another Attempt

Sixth isn’t really a single project, but rather the crystallisation of ideas which are already bubbling in my head, like the Faience Necklace, and the beginnings of ideas for the Vision of Placidus. There are some that need to be out on paper for the next stage of mulling over. Anything that helps with that will make this year a huge creative success!

Round-up for 17 in 2017

I have had a look at my progress on the projects I listed for the challenge run last year by Meredithe (Pomegranate and Chintz) and Anne (Frayed At The Edge) – 17 UFOs in 2017.

Webgimpe Added
Webgimpe Added

In most cases, I didn’t even look at the projects, in spite of my very best efforts. In my defense, when I made the list, the projects for the Head of Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and my two little Amarna Princesses hadn’t even occurred to me, and they completely distracted me! Their project for this year – “6 and 6 in 2018” takes this possibility into account, allowing for reports on six old, or at least long-running, projects, and six brand new ones which pop up out of nowhere. I can’t be the only one who gets completely taken over by new ideas!

So, here’s the round up…

Blue Section
Blue Section

1 Eve in the Garden of Eden – all I need to do here (all!!!) is to make the box. At the moment the fabric is pinned out to straighten it a bit. I think I can call this “substantial progress”!

2 Nefertiti Shawl – I’ve recently written about the headache that this has given me. I need to get all my silks out again, and think hard about the next stage. I think I may have the faintest hint of an idea for it, but as I say, that needs much more thought.

Blue Flower
Blue Flower

3 Queen Anne style teacloth – I got something done on this when we had a bit of a heatwave, and I’ve worked out the stitches for the Blue Flower. I just haven’t done all of them yet. “Progress”, but not “substantial progress”, I think!

4 The Modern Stitch-Off –  I think I will decide that this is finished, but I reserve the right to change my mind!

Progress on the Christmas Angel
Progress on the Christmas Angel

5 The Christmas Angel – I made a good start on the background, but there is a good deal more to do – again, “Progress”, but not “substantial progress”.

6 The Faience Necklace – I’ve thought about it, but done nothing…

7 The Swan – not a stitch!

8 The Unicorn – not a stitch!

I think it is fair to say that since I was ambushed by some wildly exciting ideas, it’s scarcely surprising that my attempts to finish other projects fell somewhat by the wayside. It was a nice idea, and I’m glad that Meredithe and Anne came up with it, but we none of us allowed for my wayward spirit of invention!

Akhenaten – the next stage

BackStitch Details
BackStitch Details

Once I had stuffed the figure from the back, I began to add to the backstitch outline with, for want of a better term, internal outlines.

I realise that the detail of the crossed arms has given him a hollow chest, but as the embroidered details are added I will be able to adjust the padding, if necessary removing some of it. Adding the stitching is going to be interesting. Some of it will need to balance over the curve of the padding, and some of it I will need to tighten a little through the padding – for example, his carefully-carved belly button.

At this point, I had to pause for thought. When the idea first came to me, it was the pleated loincloth that I could visualise, but the rest of the piece had yet to come into focus. I went rummaging on the web for polychrome representations of Akhenaten, and rummaging in my stash of threads for inspiration. And then suddenly, that inspiration duly arrived….

Detached Up And Down Buttonhole Stitch With Return
Detached Up And Down Buttonhole Stitch With Return

I remembered the ornamental stitches of the Tudor Rose Project, and fished out the Gold Special Tambour and Gilt Sylke Twist. Akhenaten’s wig is sometimes represented as black, and sometimes as blue. Black can be a somewhat problematic colour, often too dominating or simply “killing” other colours, so I decided I would go for blue, and the Indico Blewe Gilt Sylke Twist looked like it would produce just the right effect. Using the Gold Special Tambour as the thread for the return of the Detached Up And Down Buttonhole Stitch With Return helps to give a little more emphasis to the glint of the gold in the Gilt Sylke Twist.

But it’s not a quick stitch. This is going to take a while….