Finishing the Hounds

Outlines Done
Outlines Done

The next task was to work the outlines and the ground.

Each hound is outlined in a contrasting colour, as is each leaf shape.

The outline colour is also used for the little details – mouth, eyes, ears, and at the point at which I took this photo, I’d stitched all the ground (in twisted chain, which I don’t think is at all historically accurate, but it was fun!) but not yet outlined the tree trunks.

More Variations
More Variations

This photo gives a sense of the effect of the chocolate brown outlines around the green trunks, and affords you a nice close up of the leash on the front hound, worked in cable chain stitch, very small and neat. This is another one where I doubt the historical accuracy, but I was so pleased to find myself thinking up ideas like that I was in no mood to spoil the fun.

I don’t usually go in for such overheated ideas as New Year Resolutions, working on the principle that if I want to change something, I don’t hang around waiting for the new year to do so. However, stitching the hounds has given me something a bit like one – I need to go back to my first love, to the effects of stitch and thread, and the use of them to denote the textures or the ideas I want to convey. Let’s see how that pans out!

Highlights And All
Highlights And All

I give you The Three Wise Hounds, design by Tanya Bentham, stitched by me. I didn’t quite finished them by Twelfth Night, but since Epiphanytide lasts until Candlemas, on the second of February, I think I can get away with it!

Stitching The Hounds

Flat Colour Layer
Flat Colour Layer

One of the delights of Laid and Couched work is the slight sense of a return to childhood, but with added skills, as it were. The first layer consists of the threads laid and couched (hence the name), and is rather like “colouring in”: it produces a layer of flat colour, which will be tweaked and detailed later.

Or in this case, not quite flat colour. The thread Tanya includes is wool that she has dyed herself using natural dyes, and there are unevennesses in the colour that only adds to the charm. As you can see from the two large blue leaf-shapes. I was a bit over-determined to pack in the stitches on the frontmost hound and didn’t have thread leftover for the leaves. This being a holiday project, I went rootling in my stash for an indigo wool, and they only one I have is both much darker, and a different structure. But that will matter less when the details are added, so onwards!

Trellis Variation
Trellis Variation

Each leaf-shape used the other colours in a different way – as grid, as outline, as couching stitch. The outlines are in split stitch, and each of the grids is couched slightly differently, with a horizontal stitch, a vertical stitch, and upright cross or a diagonal cross.

In addition, I experimented with grid spacing for the blue one shown here. I like this variation, even if it does produce a rather loud plaid effect!

I was quite glad to find the variations slipping in. They might be a sign that I’m recovering from Akhenaten!

Mounting Akhenaten – Part One

Thousand Watt Glare
Thousand Watt Glare

Akhenaten has been glaring at me autocratically (well, that’s in character, at least!) from the far side of the living room ever since I finished him, and I decided he needed to be off the frame and hidden away for a while. At the moment, I’m rather out of love with him, not even sure he’s come close to my original conception. I need to hide him away so that I can move on Other Things.

I took this photo just before I cut the thread holding the fabric in place, and you can see from the shadows just how strongly raised some elements are.

I think he’s looking pretty anxious about what lies ahead, as well!

Bubble Wrapped
Bubble Wrapped

I don’t think Akhenaten can possibly be as anxious as I am. We have a phrase in our house – “exporting stress”. There was a lot of that going on. In fact, I banished The Australian from the room lest I prove contagious!

However, I read, a little while ago, of using layers of bubble wrap to protect a raised piece while mounting, with holes or popped bubbles to alter the amount of padding so that the most highly-raised elements don’t also suffer the highest pressure. Considering the fragility of the uraeus, that’s important.

So I decided to give that a try. I’ll report when the whole process is finished!

Lacing Calico
Lacing Calico

And it’s going to be quite a process, because there are three layers of fabric to wrangle, and I’m not going to frame him under glass, so the mounting is going to be on display, at least to a degree.

I’ve started by lacing the long sides of the calico supporting layer, quite closely, to spread out the tension, and then the short sides. These were spread out a bit more, and I also stitched the edges of the folded-up short sections to the calico sides.

Starting The Hounds

Starting the Hounds
Starting the Hounds

Finishing Akhenaten this year has left me rather wiped out. It’s not helped by the fact that he needs to be got off the frame and mounted somehow and that is proving Not Entirely Trivial, as The Australian would say, so I’ve been getting a 1000-watt glare every time I enter the room.

So I thought I would tackle something smaller and friendlier over the holidays, something that would help me gather my thoughts, and give me a change of scale and emphasis. Tanya’s gorgeous laid and couched work hounds seemed just the thing. I lost my heart to them months ago, when Tanya first showed them, but Akhenaten was such a dog-in-the-manger that I didn’t buy a kit.

Starting The Hounds
Starting The Hounds

However, by the time I went to Harrogate, he was finished, so I decided he didn’t have a vote any more, and indulged myself. After metal threads and silk, wool is a lovely change, and the medieval habit of using the direction for the lower layer that makes for the longest stitch on the surface means that each section is slightly different, and stops me worrying about what I’m trying to represent. Which is also a lovely change.

I’ve decided that they are called Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, in honour of the season in which I am stitching them.

State of the Tablecloth – 2

Basque And Herringbone Stitches
Basque And Herringbone Stitches

I like Basque Stitch – it has a family resemblance to blanket stitch, and recalls chain stitch as well, so it’s a good stitch to pull together a piece that includes both.

The inner petals are closed herringbone stitch. I’m determined to nail this stitch one of these days, but this is not that day. It was a constant battle, and it looks a bit raggy.

Although not raggy enough for me to unpick it!

Blanket Variation
Blanket Variation

I unpicked and tried several variations for this one, and I’m still not sure of it.

The centre is a spiral of stem stitch, and the blue is the one from the tulip in the previous post.

The outer petals are in fishbone stitch, and the inner petals are in another blanket stitch variation. I think I may have got this one from one of Edith John’s books, and I’m pretty sure it will look much better once the transfer has been washed off. If not, I may have to re-stitch yet again!

Vandyke Stitch
Vandyke Stitch

I think I suggested these might be harebells, or something similar. They are worked in Vandyke stitch, and although they do create a strong effect, it may be a bit busy.

Whatever else it is, this will be a wildly colourful tablecloth!

Knitting and Stitching Show, 2019

Harrogate Haul, 2019
Harrogate Haul, 2019

It’s that time of year again, and usually I try to do my Harrogate Report over the weekend when I’ve come back. This time, however, I went straight from Harrogate to help with the MathsJam Gathering, and didn’t really get home until Wednesday.

The two pieces of silk are to give me choices for the Faience necklace, the Sheepjes Whirl and pattern are for the next trip to see The Australian’s family (I don’t know when it will be, but I’m ready!), and the figured organdy matching silk and silk thread are honest stash: I fell for the organdy and got the others on spec. I’ll think of something to do with them eventually. Yes, really. I’m determined to!

I met up with Elizabeth of Sew In Love Stitch Art (always great to have a coffee together, and a wander through the halls), and met in person for the first time Georgina and her lovely goldwork animals, and Tanya and her modern medieval embroidery, inspired by the Luttrell Psalter. I bought her kit of Hounds to help me reboot myself over the holidays. I fell in love with those hounds months ago, but Akhenaten wouldn’t let me buy them. He doesn’t get a vote now I’ve finished him!

Two Workshops
Two Workshops

I also got Katrina Witten’s new book – signed by the author, no less. I’ve always loved what Katrina does, and there are ideas percolating in the back of my mind.

There are two reasons for going to the Show over two days, firstly because it makes the buying a little calmer and more methodical, and secondly because it means there are opportunities to attend the workshops without everything else becoming crowded and stressed.

This time, I investigated “Contemporary Fabric Manipulation” (I’ve no idea what, if anything, I will do with that) and “Drop Spinning”, using an absolutely gorgeous blend of baby alpaca, baby camel, and silk. I don’t know what I will do with it, but it’s lovely!

Acquired At MathsJam
Acquired At MathsJam

Then when I got to the MathsJam, an old friend popped up with a small box, which turned out to contain a gorgeous pair of Ernest Wright “Stork” scissors (pretty sure he doesn’t read the blog, but just in case – thank you!), Sue of TortoiseLoft appeared with some rather nice Sajou threads I’ve never seen before (thank you!), and Scott Elliot gave all of the attendees one of his very newest puzzles (thank you, too).

So, what with one thing and another, I have many new things to play with!

Nefertiti Shawl – an excursion into duality

Trying To Recover The Pattern
Trying To Recover The Pattern

Having completed one green panel, I decided that I wanted the other green panel to be not quite the same, and I couldn’t work out how to approach keeping the family resemblance and maintaining some sense of balance.

So I asked The Australian, who you may remember is also a mathematician. He looked at me in some perplexity for a while. In fact, as I explained the layers of patterns I’d created, he eyed me more than a little askance, and then went very quiet for a while (you’d think he’d be used to it by now…).

Finally, he suggested I think about duality. Now, this isn’t a philosphical thing – it’s quite tightly defined, in the geometrical sense, at least – see this Wikipedia page – so after some discussion over lunch, we decided that if I were to regard the elements of the two green panels as duals of one another, it would give me a systematic way to approach the second one, rather than flailing around randomly.

Now I had to decide what was what’s dual….

For example, in the first panel, I chose between floss silk or stranded silk, and in the case of stranded, between solid colour and variegated; then in terms of stitch orientation (going clockwise), between vertical, diagonal, horizontal and the other diagonal. In this context, I’m not sticking to the idea of a binary choice, so for example with stitch orientation I will go to the next 45degree angle around the clock face, while with the thread, I’m going to pick some ordering of variegated stranded, plain stranded and variegated floss and then move along to the next in that sequence.

Jacobean Trellis
Jacobean Trellis

In terms of the stitch choice, essentially there are four: Jacobean trellis, darning stitch (rows of irregular running stitch, in effect), Bokhara couching, and Woven Stitch.

Woven Stitch
Woven Stitch

I can choose to make Bokhara Couching and darning stitch each other’s duals – that will move the heaviest stitching to different places in the panel.

The other two will be each other’s duals, with the added complication that they have each involved two different threads.

Have I simplified my life or complicated it?

A backing for the Robin (in progress!)

The Robin Completed
The Robin Completed

You may vaguely recall the little robin with stumpwork holly that I worked a couple of years ago. I mounted him on a circle of card and then didn’t make any more progress..

Starting Backing Panel
Starting Backing Panel

But I have now!

I’m using leftover fragments of silk from various Thistle Threads courses to do a rather tame crazy patchwork circle to cover the padding for the back, and then he can hang or be propped in a corner somewhere, looking cheery. I’ve settled on a simple quadrant arrangement, so I have four seams to deal with.

Seam Treatment 1
Seam Treatment 1

I said, when I found “Floral Feather Stitch” that I’d be using it again, and here it is, tweaked and embellished with a Fly stitch and a French Knot to emphasize the “floral” element. I really like this stitch – a simple, but extremely effective variation. Or maybe a stitcher’s “mash-up”!

Seam Treatment 2
Seam Treatment 2

The second uses Interlaced Herringbone Stitch, with the second pass interwoven with the first and then tied down with short straight stitches. This one is maybe a little monolithic, but the first one is so simple, I didn’t want to unbalance the appearance with anything broader.

Seam Treatment 3
Seam Treatment 3

The third is Chevron Stitch, embellished with alternating Fly Stitches and Detached Chain Stitches on the “top” edge. This one went a little ragged, but I still think it works.

Seam Treatment 4
Seam Treatment 4

The final one has alternating Half Buttonhole Wheels with Straight Stitches filling the gaps. Again, this could have been expanded and extended, but I thought there was quite enough for the purpose!

Green panels, Nefertiti Shawl

Completed Green Panel
Completed Green Panel

There are two green panels in the design of the Shawl, which is based on the polychrome panel around Nefertiti’s famous (and unique-to-her) headdress, and they’ve been giving me no end of trouble.

If I’m completely honest, in fact, this whole piece has been giving me no end of trouble. The fabric is particularly mobile (although not quite as bad as that other pashmina I did!), and it’s been hard to find stitches that work comfortably. Originally I was working it in the hand, and that made it even harder.

Close Up Of Progression
Close Up Of Progression

In the end I outlined the design sections with chain stitch, and then picked a few stitches and threads. I tried to get some sense of variation in stitch density as well as colour. So there are complete coverage sections (using Bokhara Couching) and almost-no-coverage sections (using darning stitches) and almost everything in between (everything else)!

I’ve also changed and counterchanged between variegated and solid colours, and between floss silk and stranded silk. This is one of the reasons I ended up needing The Australian’s mathematical eye to help me keep track of the pattern I was building up in my haphazard way!