Still More On The Packing Case

Bands In Place

Bands In Place

When I came to work the bands on the “back” surface of the packing case, I felt that the slightly darker yellow silk thread was still too bright, so I worked the Bokhara Couching in two colours – the yellow as the long stitch, and the grey as the diagonal couching stitch. That shadows it nicely, I think.

I’ve only worked the trailing satin stitch edging at the back for about twice the distance I think will be visible. I believe there will be enough layers of fabric over the top, representing the clothes of the figures, that the trail won’t show through – but there is no point making life too difficult!

Planks On Side

Planks On Side

I want to give some suggestion of the planks making up the packing case, but the silk thread is too heavy for that purpose. Fortunately I have some stranded threads that match the silk very closely, and using one of each colour breaks it up, as does using back stitches.

I used quilter’s disappearing pen to sketch approximate planks. It disappears so quickly that sometimes I’d lost my guideline by the time I was half way across!

Packing Case

Packing Case

I used a slightly different technique on the top. I’ve laid two strands across on each plank-line, and then couched down each strand individually in a brick pattern, It creates a less spotty effect, and I am now wondering whether I should take out the backstitch and use this other technique instead.

I’ve done the trailing satin stitch on the back edge, because I am fairly sure about that, but the planking still leaves me in a quandary. Have I used the right technique? Do I need to do more, to differentiate shadow from sunlit? Dare I leave it as it is, put it in place, and add any other details later?

So I am now, once again, at the “Stare at it and think” stage.

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More Kumihimo

There were so many intrigued comments about my Marudai and the braids it made, that I thought I would show you some more of the braids I’ve made.

Kumihimo is a traditional Japanese technique. The braids have a lot of traditional uses in Japan – in fact, an opera singer friend of mine tells me his Samurai costume for his part in a brand-new opera about a crucial part of Japanese history was correct down to properly made kumihimo braids in all the right places!

Kumihimo Braids

Kumihimo Braids

If you search for Kumihimo on eBay, what you will find, by and large, are bracelets. Now, I’m really not a bracelet sort of girl. I have a few chunky, “statement” bangles, which are worn specifically, explicitly and only when I’m planning nothing more strenuous than lifting a knife and fork. Cord bracelets – no.

However, I do have a lot of heavy, dramatic pendants, and the idea of making cords to point up the colours in the pendants – yes, definitely. I’ve found that sewing machine thread makes a wonderful material for these purposes – it comes in a huge range of colours, and it’s fine, supple and strong. It also lends itself well to heathering – combining several colours in a single strand – and best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive.

Yellow and Green Silk

Yellow and Green Silk

The fine green and gold cord is silk, made using some of the thread from the Tudor Rose kit – I used it to trim the Tudor Rose panel.

Orange and Green Cotton

Orange and Green Cotton

The next three, and the top, chunky pinky-maroon, are all necklace cords made using sewing machine cotton, although the maroon mookaite pendant I made the two maroon ones for has spurned both of them with scorn. I’ll try again, because I enjoy kumihimo.

Greens (cotton)

Greens (cotton)

The white one is silk, to go with a pearl-mounted enamelled cross pendant given to me by an old family friend, and which I wore on my wedding day. The cord I used then has become grubby over the years, so this one will see me through a few more. The cream and peach usually carries a glass pendant. It’s one of two I’ve tried for that pendant, in fact – but this “making things match” is never quite as easy as we hope, is it!

Apricot Cotton

Apricot Cotton

Two Colour Silk

Two Colour Silk

The round apricot rope is huge – about for or five times the size of the other round cords I’ve done. I might mount it with cord ends and turn it into a choker one of these days..

The stripy one is a fairly fine flat braid in filament silk. I worked this one as an experiment, changing the tension (more or less weight on the end) to see what effect it would have. In the end I came to the conclusion I wasn’t being dramatic enough with my experiments!

Flat Teal and Green

Flat Teal and Green

Textured Teal

Textured Teal

These flat braids were given extra texture with saree silk knitting yarns. Again, they tell me that some of my experimentation needs to be a bit more dramatic. I was hoping to emphasize the different textures, but used too many strands of the cotton yarn, so there wasn’t enough difference between the strands.

There’s scope for endless experimentation here – and I haven’t shown you the miles of gold braid I’ve made…

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More on the Packing Case

A New Approach

A New Approach

Having unpicked my experiments, I decided on a new approach..

Actually, a digression here. A lot of people talk of test-stitching, by which they mean trying something out, but not on the real thing. I did that with all those goldwork stitches in the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass, but as a general rule, my experiments do happen on the project itself. As much as anything else, this is because it is the interaction between the fabric, the design, and the thread that I am experimenting with, and if I take one of those out, I’m not testing what I need to test. I have a picture in my mind of the effect I want to achieve, but it is rarely detailed enough for me to know what to do at every point before I even begin. Instead, I rely on the project to tell me what it wants next, and while some projects are sullen (they know who they are!) others are talkative beyond belief. This one, so far, occupies the middle ground!

Top Surface

Top Surface

End of digression.

Since I had decided on how I was going to work the reinforcing boards, I decided that it might – possibly! – make sense to work some of the dark shadows to help me with their edges. I’m using the warm brown as the dark edge on the top surface, to keep the sense of bright sunshine, and the greyish colour for the front surface which is in a more even shadow. I will be combining the grey and the yellow in the reinforcing boards to help confirm that effect.

Top Edges

Top Edges

I also need to make sure that all the edges are clear and won’t fray. A packing case holding delicate antiquities should be a solid looking object, not one suggesting that even a gentle tug will take it apart! Just to give that sense of solidity, I have worked an overcast trail along each of the top edges that will be cut, whereas the edges that are within the piece of fabric are worked in reverse chain stitch. So far..

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Crazy Canvaswork Cushion – Part 8

Section Twelve

Section Twelve

Moving on…!

I’ve made something of a principle of alternating the types of stitch as I progress along the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, so as far as possible a crossing stitch is followed by a diagonal stitch, and a diagonal stitch by a straight stitch. This is part of my strategy for making an abstract, random piece slightly less random, and more under control.

Chequer Stitch

Chequer Stitch

In this case I also needed a sturdy stitch that would help to confirm the “weld” of the canvas, since although it had been tight when I first worked it, the pieces of canvas moved against each other as I worked the earlier sections.

I picked Chequer Stitch because it alternates squares of tent stitch – which will control the two layers of canvas very firmly – with squares of diagonal straight stitches.

Section Thirteen

Section Thirteen

Section Thirteen is actually a fairly simple Bargello lozenge pattern. I realise – rather late – that this may be the only place in the cushion in which I have used a straight stitch pattern, with the straight stitches oriented parallel with the long sides of the cushion. I am going to have to hope that this doesn’t make the section stick out like the proverbial sore thumb when I finally unroll the whole thing!

Bargello Lozenge

Bargello Lozenge

I found the Lozenge pattern in the “Dictionary of Canvaswork Stitches”, by Mary Rhodes, which I must have picked up in a second-hand shop somewhere, and a quick look inside shows it was a library book before that. It’s marked “Copyright 1980″, but I think there is a rather 1970s feel to this pattern. Thank goodness I didn’t choose to work it in brown!

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More progress on Loading The Felucca

Testing Placement

Testing Placement

While I was working on the packing case, which is the first embellished section I will be applying, it occurred to me that for those occasions when the light was a little marginal (grey-ish yellow is a difficult colour to stitch in poor light!) I could perhaps prepare a layer that would be applied to provide the shadow on the ground.

I traced the approximate shape and used the tracing as a pattern piece. The fabric is – as are most of them – a cotton from one of the plethora of quilting and patchwork stands I visited during last year’s Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. The print gives a sort of scrunch-dyed effect that I thought might help to create the appearance of broken, shadowed ground.

Then I realised that placing it sensibly demanded that I bear in mind the other main pieces. I’ve cut out the tracing I used for the packing case, and the forms I intend to use for the people, and spent a bit of time juggling the positions of each element.

The people, by the way, are not supposed to proper people shaped from an artist’s model. Some of the shapes have extra legs, and one of them is two people blended into one. They will be differentiated by their clothing, or at least so I hope!

Shadow Attached

Shadow Attached

As it happens, attaching the shadow didn’t take as long as I expected. I decided that edging the fabric with blanket stitch would create a hard edge which would counteract the idea of the shadow going over broken ground. I may even choose to add stitching to break up the edges even more when the figures are in. I have learnt over the past few years not to overdo detail on one section of a piece like this until I have some sense of how the whole thing is going to turn out!

I am expecting to crop this piece very close, to concentrate attention on the figures and their burden, but I learnt with the Camberwell that it is easier to have some leeway around the edges of my project!

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Loading the Felucca – starting on the packing case

Decisions Decisions

Decisions Decisions

Since appliqué is a layered technique, I had  to work forwards from the most distant object. For this subject – once the background was in place, that was the packing case.

The first thing I had to do was to work out how I was going to represent the lengths of wood running as bracing all around the box. My first thought was to use reverse herringbone stitch, as I did for the contour lines on the Map of Amarna, but as I was stitching it I became less sure.

I worked the other band in ordinary herringbone stitch, then sat back and frowned at the frame for a while.

Still More Decisions

Still More Decisions

The result of my frowning cogitations was that I decided that I definitely didn’t like the reverse herringbone stitch, and wasn’t totally happy with the standard herringbone stitch either.

I tried variations on couching stitches  – Bokhara Couching and Roumanian Couching, in the lower half of the nearer band – and was no happier.

Just as well I enjoy these puzzles, isn’t it!

Finally it occurred to me that the grain of the wood would be running lengthwise in these pieces of wood, while in the planks that make up the box, the grain would appear to run across the box. The stitching I had tried had given the impression of the grain running across the bracing struts. So I tried Bokhara Couching again, but running lengthwise.

That’s better, I think, but the next task is all that unpicking.

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Tudor Rose Turned Into a Panel

Tudor Rose Finished

Tudor Rose (Finally) Finished

At long last I got a chance to finish up and turn the Tudor Rose into a little mounted panel. I got a local framing shop to cut me two pieces of acid free mount board, and mounted it over one of them, with a little padding to bring it to life. Then I covered the other (also with wadding) with some upholstery fabric that happened to be  to hand, and overstitched the two boards together.

View Of Edges

View Of Edges

I covered the overstitching with a ribbon trim left over from when I finally mounted Christus Natus Est (whoo-hoo, some stash busting achieved!) and then, at some length and not without difficulty, attached a fine kumihimo cord around the front edge of the panel to frame it nicely.

 

It will go in that famed (and so far, still mythological) Winter Decoration Corner that I keep on talking about – when I finally create it.

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Loading the Felucca

Loading The Felucca

Loading The Felucca

Here is another one of the photographs from the Egypt Exploration Society that I would like to represent in some way.

The expedition felucca was loaded with all the excavated finds and taken to Cairo so that the Cairo Museum Director could choose what would be retained for their collection. The carpenter spent weeks making special boxes to carry the more delicate finds, like Hatiay’s carved door lintel, and a large section of decorated wall plaster (more things for me to embroider!). Then everything had to be loaded on to the felucca…

First Layer

First Layer

I’ve decided to concentrate on the group carrying the packing case. Partly this is because the whole photograph is a little confusing and difficult to decipher in places, and partly because they rather drew my eye, and I want to experiment with appliqué. What I hope to do is “dress” each figure, so the folds of the fabric I use creates the folds in the garment. I have no idea whether this will work, but if I don’t try I will never know!

Last time I was at the Harrogate Show I found myself in unfamiliar territory, frequenting the patchwork stands, in search of suitable fabrics for the ground and the clothes. I’ve used a piece of silk dupion from The Silk Route for the river. It’s a pale grey-green, and I think I will have to find somewhere else to use it to pull it into the overall design properly, but it has a lovely subtle sheen that looks quite watery.  I’ve attached it around the edges using strands pulled from the weft, because I have nothing else suitable. The ground is a sandy cotton, doubled because I could see the silk through the first layer, and attached using a single strand of stranded cotton from my stash.

Threads For Packing Case

Threads For Packing Case

You last saw the fabric I chose for the packing case being used as the background for the Crock of Gold Hoard. It’s a flimsy overdyed turban cotton which won’t take much stitching without reinforcement, so I’ve backed it with a layer of white cotton to give it a bit more body.

Then I had a wonderful rummage in my stash, and pulled out a selection of silk and cotton threads to play with. The tubes are Mulberry Silks threads (also last seen in the Crock of Gold Hoard), and I’ve also laid out a linen thread, two Stef Francis stranded silks, and a couple of miscellaneous threads from I-Know-Not-Where.

This should be fun!

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Crazy Canvaswork Cushion – Part 7

Section Ten

Section Ten

It has been ages since you  saw the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion – I got stuck and fed up with it and threw it aside in a huff, but since I’ve now sorted out the frustration I can cry “Onward and forward!” and show you Section Ten, which against my original idea, mentioned in Part Six, of choosing a horizontally striped pattern, I chose a basketweave bargello pattern. This is a pattern I have been longing to use and never had a use for.

Basketweave Bargello Pattern

Basketweave Bargello Pattern

What hadn’t quite registered with me was the scale of the pattern. It’s easy to work, although getting the colour progression right is a little tricky when you’re stash-busting!

I did maintain the orientation of the dark to light in both of the colour sections, but I wonder whether the light squares are too light. One of the advantages of this project is that it will give me references in the future to help me to remember what I need to think about when I choose to use some of these stitches and patterns.

Section Eleven

Section Eleven

Section Eleven was the problem that caused me to make disgusted noises and set the whole thing aside. I started the section using and interlocking and crossing stitch, but it didn’t cover the canvas thoroughly enough, I didn’t enjoy working it, and it was using a lot of thread. Now, I want to use up as much of my thread as possible, but I also want the shapes and sizes to balance nicely.

All of this made me downright grumpy with the whole thing.

Plaited Stitch

Plaited Stitch

Finally, over Christmas (having packed everything else away so I would have to solve the problem!) I unpicked the stitch I didn’t like, and started again, leafing though my books of stitches and patterns. Finally, I chose Plaited Stitch. It creates the horizontal stripes I had first thought of for Section Ten, but it is a diagonal stitch, so it contrasts with the Section Ten I finally did, and it is a crossed stitch, which contrasts with the diagonal stitches and straight bargello stitches of sections Nine and Ten.

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Gabrielle, the Christmas Angel – Part Two

And now, the Finale…

Gabrielle's Wings - first stage

Gabrielle’s Wings – first stage

“Angels need wings.  I have never made big wings before, only gauzy ones, so these grew a bit like Topsy! I had, fortuitously, a ball of crochet cotton which exactly matched Gabrielle’s dress, but I had already used crochet to make the lace on the overdress. Needlelace seemed an option if I could find a suitable former to hand.  Wire proved to be too thin, and the thread slipped about, so in the end I made a frame from one strand of the plastic coated wire of electric cable.  Yes, I know you can buy purpose made formers but I wanted to do it now.

Sequins, crystals, and wire support

Sequins, crystals, and wire support

After drawing the shape on heavy card, and arriving at a good shape was an interesting exercise in its own right, I couched on the wire at widely spaced intervals, then covered the wire and its plastic coat in blanket stitch using my turquoise crochet cotton. Not only did this cover the wire but it provided a anchor for the needlelace itself. I used pea stitch at first then increased the number of loops in each group first to five and then to seven to add “weight” towards the lower edge. I hadn’t provided a former across that edge as I didn’t want it to be rigid, but needlelace requires just such an edge! A single thread helped a bit but a piece of applied crotchet finally did the trick.

She looked balanced, if a bit subfusc for Christmas, so I added sequins, left over from one of Rachel’s childhood projects, mainly cup-shaped but the lower ones are long ovals to suggest pinions. Again, the colours, turquoise and silver, were a perfect match.  Some people have all the luck.  Rachel added crystals to increase the “bling”.  The halo is a cardboard former covered with cloth of gold.  I used the gathered side to suggest an aura of radiating holiness and backstitched a banner “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in red on cloth of gold, too.”

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

We timed our photography just right, too – the last sunny day of Autumn, before the weather turned thoroughly nasty on us…

Outside, hanging from a fir branch in the garden, Gabrielle made a remarkably effective member of the heavenly choir.

 

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