Stuart Silk Purl Flower – Month 1

Stuart Silk Purl Flower Kit
Stuart Silk Purl Flower Kit

There’s a new course from Thistle Threads, concentrating on the use of silk-wrapped purl threads. It looked like fun, and it includes the bonus of some extra samples of different sizes and colours.

I’m always trying to learn more about the more obscure and interesting corners of embroidery, and the reconstructions of no-longer-current threads and materials play directly into my fascination with early technologies.

Stuart Flower outlined in Gold
Stuart Flower outlined in Gold

The first stage in this case is to work outlines in gold, and on this occasion I deviated slightly from the instructions.

Normal practice these days is to plunge the ends of the gold thread and sew them down at the back, but it used to be more common simply to cut the thread and oversew it firmly on the front. So I’ve done that. It saves a bit of the expensive gold thread, and as this is a small decorative panel and not for a garment or other item which will move a lot, I think it will be successful.

It’s still important to run the thread in the right way over the design to minimise the number of cuts, of course!

Silk Purl Couched in a spiral
Silk Purl Couched in a spiral

The final part of the first month’s instructions is the first element of the silk purl, couched in a spiral to fill a pair of leaf shapes.

You can see that I have rather crushed the silk purl into place, which is a pity as it has introduced breaks or cracks into the purl, but then, this is an extreme close up. Without a magnifier, it is simply an impression of colour and texture.

The spiral is worked inwards from the gold outline, which is probably the only way it could be done – imagine the difficulties of finding the right central point to start from!

Thinking about the stag for the Vision of Placidus

Pisanello "Vision of St. Eustace" in The National Gallery, London
Pisanello “Vision of St. Eustace” in The National Gallery, London

I’ve already mentioned that, although I have more yet to do on the Dreams of Amarna, I have little thoughts, now and again, about my plans for the next Really Big Project, the Vision of Placidus, inspired by Pisanello’s “Conversion of St Eustace”, Elizabeth Goudge’s “Herb of Grace”, my mother’s fine binding of “The Wind in The Willows”, and the kingfisher I saw at Flag Fen. Oh, and the “Chasse a la licorne” tapestry in the Musee de Cluny.

Based on the Stag from Landseer's The Monarch of the Glen
Based on the Stag from Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen, with an attempt at

The Stag with the crucifix in his antlers is going to be the major character, and while I know I’m tearing into a genius of the past, I think Pisanello’s stag is a bit too tame for the story…

My first thought was to start from Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen. After all, he’s full of personality and presence, and a recognisable figure to add to the layers of meaning and reference. But no, I think the crucifix won’t settle well into the antlers, and the pose isn’t quite right, either….

Second attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers
Second attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers

Then I spent more time rummaging online for pictures of stags, and came up with another to try. I like the challenging, direct stare of the pose here, but it puts the onlooker in the position of Placidus (according to the stories, he took the name “Eustace”, or more probably a Latin variant thereof, when he became a Christian), and I want Placidus to be in the picture. That said, he was a second century Roman, and I’m intending to dress him in florid fourteenth century dress, so don’t expect too much accuracy…

My next thought came from a book about the landscapes of Capability Brown that I bought for my cousin for Christmas. I’ve told her about the plans for Placidus, and she opened her gift, leafed through it, and then turned the book to me and said “Would this help?”

Third attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers
Third attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers

Fourth attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers
Fourth attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers

Fifth attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers
Fifth attempt at a stag with a crucifix between its antlers

This is by no means the first time my cousin has helped me with design planning – it was talking to her that enabled me to crystallise the ideas for the Dreams of Amarna – and I like the photo enough to have three attempts at it. I still don’t think I’ve got it right. That said, all of these sketches have allowed me to think, not just about the pose, but about how I will use my threads to create the effect I want, of the illumination in the scene emanating from the crucifix.

A good use of time, even if not a stitch was set!

Jacobean Coat – Sleeves – I was right!

Details Of Light
Details Of Light

When I finished the first set of embroidery on the sleeves of the coat I said I thought it might need Something More.

After some thought, I decided that the Something More in question was a bit of light. This required a little negotiation, as my client (my mother) had wanted rich colours, and had originally enacted a veto on the lighter ones I had picked out. But then, she’d not seen what I had in my mind, and once she did, my tentative suggestion of a few lighter bits was met with a definite “Yes”.

Sleeve One Highlights
Sleeve One Highlights

She also said that what I’m doing is not quite what she had in mind, but it’s better. Phew!

The first small, exploratory illumination was to add some pale blue stitches around two of the lobes of this bud (flower?). I didn’t want to add too much because, first, this isn’t meant to be actual illumination, and second, I felt that if I added these stitches all around, not only would I run into trouble in terms to angle and sense, but it would suddenly start looking a bit stiff and too “matchy-matchy”.

There’s a phrase I never used as a teen, even though I certainly had the concept…!

Sleeve Two Highlights
Sleeve Two Highlights


For the second sleeve, it was harder to settle on the best way to “lift” the motif. There was already the tiny tuft of pistil stitches stitched directly onto the fabric, which had done something a little similar.

For now, I’ve simply added a row of French knots highlighting the curves. The yarn is mohair, and has a lovely high shine which adds to the variation in the effect.

In case I needed to say so – I am really enjoying this project!

A strange buddleia

A Strange Buddleia
A Strange Buddleia

I really cannot imagine what I was thinking of when I worked this piece. The design was a transfer, I remember that much, and I worked it many years ago.

It is yet another discovery from a forgotten box, and the reason it was in the forgotten box in the first place is that I’ve not the vaguest idea what to do with it!

Buddleia Flower
Buddleia Flower

The fabric is a variegated gauze, and the embroidery is in two variegated silk threads – the florets in satin stitch (on gauze – I must have been mad!) and the leaves in long and short stitch.

The burgundy gauze isn’t quite so bright in real life – it’s turned out really very oddly in the photograph – and the green leaves don’t disappear in real life as they do in the photo.

Buddleia Leaf
Buddleia Leaf

I have thought about applying it to an evening blouse – I wouldn’t need jewellery with that at the neckline – and I’ve also thought of mounting it to create a non-folding fan, but the engineering involved in the latter rather defeated me, and I have yet to find a fabric that it will work with for the former.

These forgotten boxes, by the way, are beginning to drive me absolutely wild – there’s something I would love to write about if only I could find it, and not only is it not in any of the boxes I have discovered by accident, it is in none of the sensible places I’ve looked, either!

The Jacobean Coat – Sleeve Two Embroidery

Sleeve Motif 2, Stage1
Sleeve Motif 2, Stage1

The second sleeve began in the same way as the first, with felt motif elements lightly needlefelted into place. There is a similar motif on the body of the coat, but with the colours reversed. Whether I will use similar colours in embellishing it, I don’t know – wait and see!

I am removing the tacked design outlines as I go, at least where they show around the edges. It may not be entirely necessary, but it’s much more satisfying not to be spotting them as I work, and I know I would spot them in the finished coat, even if no-one else could do so.

Another Leaf Detail
Another Leaf Detail

The edges of the large leaves on the second sleeve began with straight stitches over the edges, using a wonderful mohair yarn from Gumnut Yarns. The different amounts of shine from the various threads I’m using will help to add another level of interest to the whole design.

The second level of detail is worked in Up and Down Blanket Stitch, which is a very old favourite. This time I’ve changed the relative heights of the two uprights to create a more varied effect.

Sleeve Two Flower Detail
Sleeve Two Flower Detail

There’s a lot going on with the flower motif; Thorn Stitch on the lilac petals and a variant of Loop Stitch on the purple ones, using different thread colours to change the emphasis on the colours.

Crested Chain Stitch in teal edges the flower shape (given it’s a Jacobean style design, realism has nothing to do with it – I’ve not the vaguest idea what sort of flower it is supposed to be!) and I complicated matters for myself by working inward from the tips of the horn shapes to the centre. It is a directional stitch, so although most people won’t be able to notice that sort of detail, I think it is worth doing.

Finally! Crazy Paving Canvaswork finished!

Finished Form Cushion
Finished Form Cushion

In fact, it was finished a long time ago, and somehow I didn’t get around to writing it up…

Not that there is much to say. All of the interest (almost!) was documented in the stitching.

The old form has been scraped, holes filled, sanded, and repainted, and the cushion is a simple shape, tidied up with piping cord.

Backing Fabric
Backing Fabric

Some of the interest, in fact, is in the backing fabric. It’s an unremarkable jacquard woven pattern in cotton on a synthetic warp, but the design – rather ironically, since I’m card-blind for all practical purposes! – is a design of suits I created during my MSc in Textile Design Technology. It’s clunky, and not well-differentiated, but it was the first time I designed a jacquard pattern. The only time, too, but it was fun while it lasted, and I’m glad I asked the technician to weave a half-metre for me instead of the 10 cm that was all that was needed for the module.

Same design, different stitches

Ribbons And Bows
Ribbons And Bows

I’ve been rummaging in a variety of boxes, because with “Leaving the Tyne, 1915” finished and on display, and two “Dreams of Amarna” pieces in a good state, I feel as though I have a bit of mental space and time to consider, not just the progress on the Dreams of Amarna, but also any other half-thought-through bits and pieces I may find.

I’m not sure whether that is going to be true, but I live in hope! These “bits and pieces” are particularly obscure and particularly hard to find something to do with.

Amy
Amy

These two Lovely Ladies were part of an exploration of stitch ideas and silhouettes, originally with the idea that they might become teaching pieces. They originate with a sampler of cross stitch and ribbonwork silhouettes I devised in “DevaStitch Designs” days.

When I thought of teaching, I extended the idea by enlarging the heads, and playing with stitchery to replace the ribbonwork. However, I’m not much of a teacher at the best of times, and when I asked a few people, I was told that the second version, with silk georgette layered to create the impression of the silhouette, would be daunting for beginners, and uninteresting for improvers.

Ouch.

Annis
Annis

So I’m still trying to work out what to do with them. I rather enjoyed doing the silk georgette (it’s held down with back stitch, then chain stitch, and then satin stitched over the top!), and it certainly makes the bead necklace stand out nicely. The two parts of the hat provide clear, distinct shapes to outline and fill with stitched patterns.

I still have some ideas for a lady in the cloche hat that I’m dying to put into action, but at the moment I have no good excuse to do so!

The Jacobean Coat – Sleeve One Embroidery

Sleeve One - Felt applied
Sleeve One – Felt applied

Having decided to start with the sleeves, and with stitch and thread choice for the small teal leaves in place, I could start to think about the other details. This picture shows the basic motif, with no stitching on it and really no idea where to start.

Incidentally, the coat fabric is a lovely clear pale green, and it doesn’t matter what I do, it just doesn’t photograph to advantage – or at least, not in winter daylight. I’m hoping Mam will be able to wear it in the spring, and we’ll be able to get some good photos for you to see!

Flower Detail
Flower Detail

I have decided that each of the motif elements will be stitched around the edge, or – as with the feather stitched leaves, stitched from edge to edge.

I think the stitch around the edge of the purple shape is called “Loop Stitch”. It creates a “spine” which can have arms of whatever length you want. In this case I wanted them neat and not too big, and they’ve almost disappeared into the felt in some cases.

When I’d added the outline, I felt something more was needed, and added the scattering of blue French Knots. They help to vary the colour and change the tones a little. This is not going to be an exercise in minimalism!

Felt and Embroidery On Sleeve One
Felt and Embroidery On Sleeve One

Here you see the – for now – finished motif on Sleeve One.

The large leaves have Blanket Stitch edges, and a large central vein made using one of the un-named stitch variations from my books by Edith John.

The reason I say “finished for now” is that I feel it may need a few light details to add a bit of sparkle, although I’m not sure of colour, or placement. I’m leaving the idea to sort itself out in my head as I continue to stitch.

Now, where had I got to…?

Starting After The New Year
Starting After The New Year

What with one thing and another, it is quite some time since you last saw Ankhsenpaaten. I had got quite a long way, and was pleased with progress, but still not entirely sure about her.

Then, of course, we had the Christmas period, and I don’t even attempt to stitch anything that requires serious concentration during that time. There are simply too many other things competing for my attention.

And besides, my favourite place in which to stitch is occupied by the tree….

Details Crisper
Details Crisper

So when I came back to her, I was full of trepidation. This seems like such a simple way to create an image, but in order for the “Stare Hard and Then Stitch” approach to be really successful, I need to have some sense of the whole thing in my head, so that the stitch sizes and threads all fall naturally to hand as each element is worked and reworked. The long break, and a variety of other things happening in the background, mean that my mental “map” of this piece had fallen out of my head, and needed to be painfully clawed back in again.

And “painful” was indeed the word. I’ve not regained the sense of surety I was beginning to feel at the point when I stopped working on it.

Moment To Pause And Think
Moment To Pause And Think

However, I continued to juggle with lights and darks, adding some of the details in the extension of the head and neck at the back which supports the stone in an upright position, staring and then stitching, and stitching and then staring.

I’ve brought the strong darks around the ears a little more to the fore, emphasized the light area down the side of the face, and brought a little more detail around the mouth and the line of the jaw.

There are elements of this I’m still not entirely confident about, but I am also becoming afraid of going too far, and ruining it by doing too much.

Time to stop, turn my back, and come back when my anxieties have stepped into the background and I can judge more truly. I’m declaring her “provisionally finished”.

The Jacobean Coat – colour and stitching begins!

Felt Applied - Sleeves
Felt Applied – Sleeves

The second stage, after all those stems, is to start adding colour. I’ve started with the sleeves because they are a bit more manageable than an entire coat, and it gives me a chance to feel my way towards the colour distribution of the stitches over the felt.

The purply colours and the teal are from sheets of that lofty felt I used for the princesses, while the beigy-brown was one of my grandfather’s sweaters, found in a box looking moth-eaten and thrown in a hot wash to felt it a bit. We’re a thrifty family…

The placement of the motifs is different for each sleeve, one above and one below the elbow, and it isn’t even the same motif. Repetition is overrated!

Tiny Leaves
Tiny Leaves

I think I will probably settle on using feather stitch over the felt for these tiny leaves, which are scattered throughout the design.

The rest of it is going to be a riot of stitches and stitch combinations, so this will provide a moment of rest in embroidery, a moment of reassuring similarity from which the exuberance can take flight.

It will also give me something to be doing if inspiration fails for any of the motifs!

One of the things I have learnt, over the years, about working on these large projects that involves making it up as I go along, is that there needs to be something useful to do while the next bit is being mulled over – it reduces the pressure and gives space for the mind to wander over new and interesting stitch choices.