The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate is my main opportunity to stock up on thread, fabric, materials and oddities.
Yes, I know we all buy online these days, but so often I am looking for something slightly obscure, or I know what I want to achieve, but not how. The opportunity to look and feel before buying, and to talk to the specialist suppliers who are there, is absolutely invaluable.
This time I was semi-organised, and as soon as I arrived, I went to Midori Matsushima’s stand with a shopping list of colours for the Faience Necklace designs, when I get to them. I’m hoping that now I have the silks I will have an incentive to pull my ideas into focus, because I feel that the Dreams of Amarna panels need more colour in them.
I also bought some wool felt and silk threads, some because I have plans for it, and some to have something frivolous to do. I still have a couple of those wooden pots to put pincushions in…
This slightly less dense felt – some from 20th Century Yarns and some from Oliver Twists – is much easier to stitch than the dense felt sold to crafters which is stocked everywhere. I also like the somewhat rougher texture.
I went to a workshop introducing wet felting, which I am planning to use as the initial colour blocking for the “Vision of Placidus” panel, but what I actually bought was more silk to spin into thread for the second layer. I’ll have to wait until the sore elbow and shoulder have healed, but this is something I can do in preparation for the project while I’m still working on the Dreams of Amarna. I’m thinking about Placidus quite a lot in my odd moments!
Finally, I bought a book – only one, but it’s a cracker! – and a ball of wool selvedge, for purposes that will remain a mystery for now…
Once the colour scheme was sorted out, I decided that I was going to try my usual trick again. There are elements of the panel which will be the same, and other elements which will change. The combination ensures that there is interest everywhere, but rhythm and similarity to help the eye rest.
So, the two inner circles are open chain stitch for the innermost one – at about the largest scale at which open chain stitch works without decoration, which is tiny! – and simple stem stitch. Furthermore, the open chain stitch always uses the thread used for the outermost circle, and the stem stitch counterchanges to a different weight and tone of thread.
The first circle here is done in Chained Blanket stitch using a silk perle in a warm russett-y red. Chained blanket stitch is one I’ve rarely used, but I’ve decided I like it. It produces a strong edge, and a pleasing texture. The second circle is in a rather finer silk thread, with a blueish tone – counterchange again, you see. This time I used Closed Feather stitch, which is one of the old faithfuls…
The next two continue the theme…
The outer circles are in Basque Stitch (top), which is another stitch with a family resemblance to chain stitch and blanket stitch, this time using two strands of stranded silk, and Chevron Stitch, in another silk perle. Chevron Stitch is an old friend, but as you see, it doesn’t run happily around curves – or at least, not curves as tight as this.
Still, the counterchanges of russet against burgundy, thick against thin thread, same stitches against new stitches, all seem to be working so far…
I was very taken with a length of gauze ribbon i found when I was rummaging for bits of teal fabric, and spent an idle moment or two running a gathering thread along one edge. I wasn’t at all sure where I would go from there, but as I pulled the gathering thread up the ribbon settled naturally into a tight spiral reminiscent of an Elizabethan ruff. Hmmm. Promising!
In the end, I covered another self-cover button with two layers of a rather gorgeous silk fabric which I originally bought for my mother to line a bookbox she made for a fine binding of “The Wind In The Willow”, and created a cross between a winner’s rosette and a new species of flower.
I think it will be fun to wear, but the real delight is the ruffle… It has “loft”, and a gentle glimmer, both from the gauze and from the silk button. More of a spring than an autumn piece, with that light spring green and and the gauzy ruffle, but I’ll look forward to the treat!
Talking of unnatural flowers….
What I would really like to do is think of something else to do with the tweed fabric in the centre of this. It was cut off a pair of trousers which were too long for me, but it is a nice fabric and I want to create something fun with the scraps.
The internal borders of the Nefertiti Shawl, outlining the various coloured blocks, turned out to be fairly easy, as they were part of the inspiration that struck me when I was laying out the pashmina to transfer a design to it. The threads are all silk, with a soft perle used for the chain stitch. The vertical internal borders ended up as two rows of chain stitch, which should define the coloured blocks nicely.
The horizontal border consisted of two rows of chain stitch, in the same variegated silk thread, bordering a single row of cable chain stitch in a much shinier silk thread, which turned out to have a mind of its own. It kept trying to tie itself in knots, it twisted into snarls, and it unwrapped itself when I tried to finish off ends. But it looks lovely!
My design ideas put two lines of gold on either side of the coloured blocks that I’ve taken from Nefertiti’s crown. I didn’t want to do them the same, so I decided to make the rows nearest to the coloured blocks slightly wider. Then I had a wonderful rummage in my books of stitches and chose to take the opportunity, since the rows are straight, to use the Wavy Chain Stitch I found when I was doing the Circle Skirt and couldn’t get to curve. It works beautifully on the straight!
The outer lines, I decided should be narrower. Shell Chain Stitch seemed to fit the bill perfectly. It belongs to the same family – chain stitch – but produces a light, almost textured effect.
Having made all my decisions, it became a matter of sitting quietly, doing miles of chain stitch variations. The coloured panels will follow later…
There are in fact several errors in the stitching here. However, since I kept losing them and finding them and losing them again, I decided to let them stand. If even I can’t keep them in sight, no-one else will find them…
I enjoyed using the silk thread for the stitching – but then I keep saying that, don’t I? Silk seems alive somehow, in a way that cotton, linen, and even wool, don’t.
What really surprised me was just how small the pincushion was when I finished it, using a spare fragment of silk fabric for the back. It was really quite astonishingly fiddly when it came to turning it inside out and especially when it came to the corners.
Still, here it is, done, and stuffed, and the final side closed up neatly..
And then I put it in the palm of my hand and finally realised just how small it really is…
Another one for that eventual Winter Decoration Corner, I think – in my chaotic workspace, a pincushion this size would sink without trace!
Those who follow me on Instagram may recall that I posted a picture of goodies acquired from L’uccello, on Swanston St in Melbourne, when I was there over the summer. Since I went in with no particular end in view, I was completely bewildered by the range of possibilities I found, so I didn’t buy very much, but now I know where to find them, I will do my homework in advance!
When I came home, vague and somewhat jetlagged, I sat and played with the felt and thread (a cotton from Sajou, a brand I’ve heard of, but never used before) that I’d bought, blanket stitching the felt shapes I had bought, and then attaching the felt ball using a whipped spider’s web stitch, pulled tight to flatten the ball slightly into the stacked shapes, and made a brooch. It works well, and there’s a lovely shine from the cotton.
I enjoyed myself so much (somewhat to my surprise, as small, fiddly projects don’t go well with jetlag!), I started thinking of other brooches I might make. You may have noticed that I love Teal, in almost all shades, so my next effort was to cover different sizes of self-cover buttons with different teal fabrics. In fact the most difficult thing here was to devise a backing that might help to stack the buttons as I wished them to be stacked. In the end, I created a roll of felt, and sewed the buttons to that. The finished brooch looks a lot better than in the photo, which has killed off the colour.
It has taken what felt like forever (although the post describing the start is less than a year old, as it happens), because firstly, I have to do counted work in short bursts or it drives me up the wall, secondly it is very fine and required a magnifier, and thirdly – there’s a lot of it!
In fact, to be strictly accurate, I haven’t quite finished, but that is because the skip tent backgrounds for the cartouches reach under the trees, and I want to decide how leafy I want to make them before I do miles of tent stitch that may all be covered. But I feel as though I’ve reached a milestone, so please don’t rain on my parade!
I’ve not really been able to settle to anything this summer, which has lead to a lot of reorganisation, rather than any real progress. Consequently, I keep on finding long-forgotten projects and thinking “Must finish that!”. Here’s another one…
This is in fact a legacy of the early stages of my original, pre-internet, usage of the word “VirtuoSew”, when I was producing counted cross stitch kits as “DevaStitch Designs”. The idea, developed by my husband The Australian, was to use whole stitches, fractional stitches, and back stitches to create a sort of dithered “newsprint” effect.
The Stalking Tiger never got beyond early stages, but it’s an interesting technique, if not one for cross stitchers who hate fractional stitches!
I might wait until I’ve got on top of the Garden of Eden, which also involves a lot of counting, before I try to wrap this one up…
So here is the completed traycloth, laid on a convenient tray and assisted by the hand-me-down cutlery (from my grandparents) and the hand-me-down Willow Pattern (from my cousin). We were very entertained (and very pleased for them!), when going around a stately home last year, to find that Willow Pattern was the servant’s hall crockery, although I don’t know quite why.
I didn’t attempt to stitch the two motifs identically. The original sketch of the patterns didn’t look identical, and to my mind that form of perfect repetition is overrated in any case. This shot also shows the machined “satin stitch” border, of three very narrow bands. I suspect they may be padded in some way because the bands are very heavily ridged.
I chose to use very few colours – a yellow, two oranges, and two greens. The stitchery is simple, too, stem stitch and satin stitch, with bullion knots for the stamens. I don’t much like doing bullion knots (a holdover from early attempts) but sometimes they are simply and unarguably, the right stitch for the job.
They didn’t take long, and the completed traycloth does have a very cheering look to it!
It occurred to me recently that when I finally finish the Dreams of Amarna panels I will probably want to exhibit them somewhere – displaying them at home would require a complete redesign, including moving walls! – and that, however large or intricate they may be, two panels do not an exhibition make.
At the same time, however, I’d had an idea for a design for which I could apply the combined silk and gold stitches of the Tudor Rose, and furthermore, that might allow me scope, later, to play with some of the mixed media techniques that are available…
So I went rummaging among the assorted copyright-free and Creative Commons images on the web (my goodness, there are thousands!) and found a photo of the famous painted head of Nefertiti which is in the Berlin Museum. Then with some cropping and processing, from a photo of the bust in its case it became a plain headshot with no background, rendered in the style of an old-fashioned newsprint picture. An email conversation and a payment later, that image had been turned into a custom-made Thermofax screen…
At which point, all the simplicity fell over. I’ve actually done four screen prints on the faience-coloured linen, and about three on sandy coloured linen, and none of them was good enough for my purposes. I’m not sure whether the screen is too detailed for the fabric or whether it is simply my technique that is faulty.