Beginning to stitch the Panel of the Excavation

Finding The Ground

Finding The Ground

When I first looked at the picture of the Excavation, I realised that when I had only a small section on view, I was finding it hard to work out what was ground and what was human, so my first action was to go over the ground lines again, using a pinkish quilter’s pencil. It helped a little…

I decided next that if I could get the lines for the ground stitched, it should make decisions about stitching the humans easier. And those decisions need to be made a great deal easier, because since I transferred the design onto the fabric, I’ve stared at it, on and off, for weeks, wondering frantically how I was even going to start on it. I don’t usually suffer from this sort of bewilderment, so I’m in a terra incognita, here.

Not At All Sure

Not At All Sure

And truthfully, this isn’t as much help as I hoped. I’m working in the hand, because I find a lot of the basic stitches easier that way, and I am expecting it to be worked largely in line stitches.

The lines that have been stitched are all the ones in the design that indicate the ground surface (or, in the front, trenches and spoil heaps). There’s not enough structure here to help hold the panel together as I’m working on it, so I am going to have to think a little harder, work out a system for the people, and possibly completely rework the ground when I’ve done the people.

I know I can’t expect all my projects to flow as easily as did  “Loading the Felucca”, but I really had hoped for a little less head-scratching and a little more stitching!

10 Comments

Finishing The Thistle

Thistle Finished

Thistle Finished

Well, I decided in the end to unpick the silk pearl purl. I was extremely disappointed about that, because the whole idea of this project was to provide an underlayer for the pearl purl.

On the other hand, I do think it turned out rather well. The gold and viscose gimp makes a beautifully tangled, almost “fluffy” head – there’s something like 10 metres in that head, an entire skein of thread, uncut, and twisted back on itself in little one-inch fronds.

Even if I did feel as though I was using my pins more like a windlass!

The three shades of green wool break up the otherwise rather monolithic leaves and I’m very pleased with my fishbone stitch variation. I took care to make sure the two strands I was using lay side-by-side rather than twisting up, but in truth that wasn’t much of a problem.

Thistle Signed

Thistle Signed

The stem I worked in raised stem stitch band, incorporating rather more of the dark thread, and trying  to make sure that I didn’t catch any odd bits of the felt – harder than it looks!

Finally, having decided that my planned embellishments (the silk pearl purl) were blemishes rather than embellishments, I took them out (cautiously) and signed with my usual Morse Code initials…

I didn’t have any plan for this piece, but I’m so pleased (in spite of my disappointment!) that I’m quite seriously considering framing it up.

22 Comments

Stitching “Typed on Camelback in a Sandstorm”

U2511 Detail

U.25.11 Detail

The whole idea of this patch is to recall an incident that Mary Chubb describes, in which sand adhered to a freshly-typed page, creating “a rather pretty embossed effect”. In the end, I chose the grid reference of the Expedition House, where the team lived during the digging season.

I used a selection of silk threads from Mulberry Silks, from a colour family called “Old Cotswold”, which I’ve also used for the panel showing the Crock of Gold Hoard. It included a russet, a mid-grey and a very pale greyish-white as well as several sandy colours.

I used all of the colours this time, and discovered that the threads are not all the same, some being finer than others.  That’s perfect in this case – some of the grains of sand would be finer than others, and I could accentuate or reduce the differences by using more or fewer wraps in my French Knots. I think it looks really very sandy indeed!

U.25.11 Typed In Camelback In A Sandstorm

U.25.11 Typed In Camelback In A Sandstorm

It took a remarkably short period of time. And what’s more, considering that I’m not really a fan of French Knots (I never could get the hang of them when I began embroidering), I rather enjoyed it. Although I must admit, it was beginning to get quite tricky, what with all those layers of thread. I swapped over to a sharp needle and even that was a struggle!

Still, that’s another piece completed…

Sandy Stitching

Sandy Stitching  – click to open in a browser tab and run the animation

And, as a bonus – an animation. This was put together by Simon Walters (@cymplecy on Twitter), using some photos I provided. I’m impressed with what he produced, considering that I didn’t take the pictures in a very controlled environment, and it will give you some idea of the view I had as I built up the effect, colour by colour

Thank you, Simon!

13 Comments

Sampler Tool Case – the stitches in the sampler

The whole idea of the sampler on the case is to have a few reminders of stitches I haven’t done before, or use only rarely…

First stitches

First stitches

The first row was Fishbone Stitch in navy blue pearl cotton. I wanted something definite to create the edge of the panel. It was a little tricky to stitch on the soft pre-felt, but as I soon remembered – that would be true of all of them!

Next, Mountmellick Thorn Stitch in reddish-pink cotton. I’ve only used this once before, on the Jacobean Work Panel, largely because I have not found a suitable application. I enjoyed it, though, and now the stitch will be before my eyes more regularly, maybe I will find one…

Open Chain Stitch is an awkward stitch. In Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, she says it is best used as the basis for further ornamentation, such as single chain stitches across the bars. and I think you can see why. I used a pale yellow pearl cotton. I like the thread, but the stitch is one that needs more work!

Second Stitches

Second Stitches

Next, Sorbello Stitch, worked in overdyed blue mercerised cotton. I’ve used this stitch before, to work the modern villages on the Map of Amarna, but at this larger scale the form and texture of the stitch is easier to see.

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch has become one of my favourite stitches since I used it for the Silken Crane and the Antelope Frieze. This version uses an overdyed pink/red pearl cotton. It does show colour variations nicely!

Bonnet Stitch is a new one for me. I am absolutely sure that yellow rayon is not what the stitch was developed for, but it worked rather well, and I enjoyed it.

Third Stitches

Third Stitches

I chose Feathered Chain Stitch next because I wanted something fairly wide, and fairly open. The navy stranded cotton makes a strong central axis for the panel.

Petty Chain Stitch is a new one for me. I found it in one of the books by Edith John that I have. She named it after the student who created it by accident when she confused the instructions for two stitches – immortality of a sort, I suppose! I’ve used a pinkish wool slub, doubled to even out the thickness. I’ll try to remember to use this again, in a less textural thread. I think it could prove useful.

The Herringbone Stitch, I chose because I wanted something narrow. You will have noticed I’ve tried to create a rhythm of stitch widths, although it isn’t a repeating pattern as such. The golden pearl cotton has a lovely shine.

Fourth Stitches

Fourth Stitches

Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch is another old friend. The challenge with this blue overdyed rayon floss was not in the stitching, but in wrangling the fifty or so metres that joyously tangled themselves as soon as I untied the skein!

I’ve never used Butterfly Stitch before, either. I’m not sure that the textured pinkish cotton does it the best service, but it creates an interesting effect.

Feather Stitch is harder to stitch well than you might think. The de-twisted gold rayon cord certainly didn’t make life easy, but it helps create an emphatic stop at the end of the panel.

14 Comments

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!

15 Comments

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…

10 Comments

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!

12 Comments

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!

 

11 Comments

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….

17 Comments

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.

13 Comments