Housekeeping

An Extensive Collection

An Extensive Collection

My mother and I are planning a panel for next year’s Christmas Cards, and I went in the loft recently in search of an embroidery frame of a suitable size.

I brought down every bit of wood that looked vaguely embroidery-frame-like, and spent a puzzled hour or so putting them together.

And got a very nasty shock. I’m quite sure I didn’t buy all of these.

Do they breed?

An assortment of frames

An assortment of frames

Actually, in my own defence – some years ago a local embroideress died, and her daughter wanted to give away all of her stash and equipment. Preferably all at once, to one person.

So I toddled off, burdened with I-didn’t-know-quite-what, and – not needing any of it at the time – put it in the loft. Then life got very busy and I didn’t get around to doing the stocktake I’d intended.

Until now.

And the most galling thing of all is that not one of those frames is big enough for the project we have in mind!

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Typed on camelback in a sandstorm

One of the reasons Mary Chubb was sent out to Egypt with the Expedition was to ease the administrative burden in London by bringing the administration of the dig under control. In the nineteen twenties, of course, typing was not the mundane skill it has become, and although there was a typewriter in the Dig House, the excavation directors were not skilled in its operation, producing typed reports that looked, in Mary’s words, “as though they had been typed on camelback in a sandstorm”.  The first task when a report arrived had always been to retype it into a more legible format so that no-one other than the secretaries would have to struggle to decipher it.

When she is out in Egypt, she soon discovers that some of the difficulties are not easily surmountable, even by an experienced typist. Sand adheres to the damp ink left by the typewriter ribbon, creating “a rather pretty embossed effect”, which sadly she isn’t always in the mood to appreciate, especially when dragged away from difficult, painstaking typing of lists to help with the excavation of delicate finds..

Text Laid Out

Text Laid Out

It was easy enough to work out how to represent the sand sticking to the paper – close-packed French knots in a mixture of sandy colours – but not so easy to decide what text to use.  Maybe “faience”, a commonly used material for jewellery and ornaments? The names of the expedition members? References ascribed to finds?

In the end I settled on “U.25.11″, which was the site grid reference for the Expedition House, which was built up on the remains of an original house of the Amarna period. I don’t, of course, know precisely which typewriter Mary used, so I have sketched onto the fabric something that looks a little bit like typescript. It isn’t exactly right, but the letter and digit forms have been sketched from looking at the letters in a typescript we recently found, of an article my father wrote in the 1960s. My whole family is going to be involved in this project, whether they like it or not, and by whatever circuitous route I may devise…

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A Sampler Tool Case

With Inspiration

With Inspiration

Here is something else I completed while I was recovering from Loading The Felucca, pictured with the two gifts from Alison that inspired my colour choices, a pincushion and a needlecase in English Paper Piecing. Considering that I selected my colours from stash, I think they have a surprisingly similar “feel”.

Some of you will recall that a couple of years ago I made a case to hold a wooden stiletto and mellor as a gift for my cousin. I’ve finally got around to making a case for three bone stilettos and a wooden mellor for myself!

I’ve included several stitches I haven’t done before, or use only rarely and I’ll write about those later.

Tools In Place

Tools In Place

It was a little tricky to find a suitable layout for the tools, but I finally decided I liked this one. I’ve blanket stitched the edges together, now, and I intend to needlefelt the layers together, just as I did with the other one.

When I find my needlefelting tool, which has gone Absent Without Leave!

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Beginning on the panel of the Excavation

Draft Of Excavation Design

Draft Of Excavation Design

When you last saw the Excavation design, I had a rather blobby draft image, created with scissors, glue, and paper, and loosely based on one of the Egypt Exploration Society photographs. The pattern of shapes creates a pleasing effect, but there was more to do..

There followed the process of turning the design idea, layout, call-it-what-you-will, into an embroidery design. I outlined it onto tracing paper, took the tracing away from the paper, stood back and wailed.

None of the lines – taken from this image, I remind you – made sense.

Transferring The Excavation

Transferring The Excavation

Fortunately my mother (an artist, remember, with a much better understanding of figure drawing than I!) came to my rescue, emphasising some lines and removing others, tweaking and balancing the figures, and then finally I got the design transferred onto a piece of the sandy coloured linen.

Now I have to invent my stitched version, based on the lines transferred, but quite possibly inventing others as I go.

At the moment I haven’t the vaguest clue where to start, so this may be another case of “set it up and stare at it”.

I seem to do a lot of that!

 

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Progress on the Thistle

Oblique View

Oblique View

I rather like the texture of the layers and layers of viscose gimp, in this photo. Every now and then an oblique view is exactly the right one, and it’s a gorgeously over-the-top effect, isn’t it!

I did find myself beginning to feel rather tied in knots by all the twisting and turning, and progress slowed noticeably as the number of layers increased and the difficulty of holding the strands just firmly enough also increased.

Worth it, though, I think!

Leaf Detail

Leaf Detail

The leaves required some slightly careful management. I wanted to use fishbone stitch, because I wanted a simple leaf so as not to detract too much from the flower. However, fishbone stitch does use rather a lot of thread, and I was just a little nervous about whether I would have enough of my lovely wool to do the job.

So I thought, first of all, that I would use the light and medium shades together. They aren’t flat, solid colour; they shade a little either side of the main colour, and this brings a little variation to what might otherwise have been a somewhat monolithic element.

Then, secondly, instead of taking the thread across the back from side to side, I devised a variation which changed slightly the pattern of the crossing in the centre. You can see in the detail in the top right hand corner, that there are two sets of threads in each section. There are only small back stitches running down the outside edges, and down the vein in the middle, so the amount of thread on the back has been minimised.

Not At All Happy

Not At All Happy

I originally hoped to use the layers and layers of viscose gimp as the base for another layer, of silk wrapped pearl purl, and of coloured wire purl.

Unfortunately, when I’d done it, I decided that I really didn’t like it at all.

It adds nothing to the design, and in fact, it even detracts from it. Out, out, out!

So having taken it out, rather grumpily, I sat back to consider whether or not I have finished the piece at all….

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Final Details on Loading The Felucca – for now!

Comparing Hats

Comparing Hats

Woolly Hat

Woolly Hat

Both of the labourers on the right have a small piece of dark brown cotton attached to their heads to give the impression of hair.

Two of the hats (the ones on the right) are turban-like things with a central section and a twist of fabric, and you’ve seen them before. They were really very successful, but the other two labourers seem to be wearing knitted or crocheted caps. Somehow trellis stitch didn’t seem quite right, so in this case I’ve used detached buttonhole stitch with return, in navy blue pearl cotton.

The final hat is much woollier. I used a heathered worsted yarn and trellis stitch. I have a few doubts about this one, but for now I’m content with it.

Foot Dangling Over Sand

Foot Dangling Over Sand

I was concerned that the dark cotton and the light background cotton were too distinct, and made too much of a contrast. My first efforts to break up the surfaces were not as successful as they might have been, but in due course I arrived at the solution – rows of scroll stitch using a single strand of thread, in tones that lie between the two extremes.

I’ve left the little foot unattached, dangling over the sandy surface and seeming to poke out of the trouser leg just as it should.

Finished I Think

Finished I Think

And behold the (nearly) final version.

I think there is just enough of the scroll stitch, and the packing case has almost the right level of detail to make sense, but not so much as to attract more attention than it should. The people have worked, if anything, even better than I hoped they would.

I’m going to wait until I know where in the Dreams of Amarna the piece is going to live – either as a patch on one of the main panels, or as a stand-alone, separate panel – before I do any more. At the moment, I don’t know what more to do, or how to do it, and until I do know, I’m not risking the success I’ve already had.

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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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