Akhenaten’s Headress Rethought – stage two

The Cobras Hood
The Cobras Hood

Having decided that all those delicious manipulations of brass mesh weren’t going to help in this case, I cut out the shape of the cobra’s hood from the brass mesh, (not getting too close, in case I cut the thread attaching it!).

At this point I realised it wasn’t quite strong enough, and attached the bent piece of pearl purl from the first attempt to the back in order to provide more support.

Bending back the brass mesh helped to conceal the supporting pearl purl – although whether anyone will be able to notice it is a moot point!

Cobra In Place
Cobra In Place

The final stage of the cobra was to attach the same piece of silver spiral with gold band to take the place of the snake himself, in front of the hood and to a new piece of gold kid. This time I looked again at some pictures of cobras, and made sure the hood was set back a little from where the mouth would be.

New Version Of Headdress
Cobra and vulture heads in place

I used the same “vulture’s head” as last time, but helped it to stand out slightly by winding some blue wire from a tiny bit of blue purl around the large gold rope I used for the vulture’s neck. You can see how small it is, but it’s surprising how much difference it makes to the final effect!

Once I’d attached the gold kid, I could cover the bottom edge with gold spiral, and then trim the upper edge to create the shape I wanted. This is the stage you see here. However, I then decided that the upper edge needed a trim, so at some point I must tie myself in knots to attach some sort of trimming to a curved shape stretched over a padded base.

Wish me luck!

Mending a tablecloth, second stage

Split Stitch in place
Split Stitch in place

Having settled on a smaller circle, but still worried about the stability of the fabric, I paused for thought.

I’ve used tear-out fabric stabiliser underneath the fabric, and placed a circle of it over the previous overcast stitch ring so as to leave trimming out what isn’t wanted until the last moment. It’s now enclosed between two layers of stabiliser, so I shouldn’t catch my needle in it.

And this is definitely a case for using a hoop. Most of my Amarna pieces have been worked in slate frames or bar frames, and the Jacobean coat is being worked in the hand, but a table-sized piece of fabric of which a small element is the focus requires a more limited approach!

Needlelace completed
Needlelace completed

I decided in the end to use simple cloth stitch for the needle lace, but of course, choosing to work it in a circle rather complicated matters! I had to use several lengths of thread, so it became a matter of concern to make sure that firstly, there was no chance of it coming undone, and secondly, weaving in the ends made sense!

It was also important to bear in mind that while classical, straight cloth stitch has a free “return” stitch, I couldn’t expect to keep control of a “return loop” in my circular variant. So instead of that, I whipped the base of the stitches to create the heavier line.

Patterned Buttonhole Stitch
Patterned Buttonhole Stitch

Once the needlelace was finished, I had to consider the edging. The whole aim of this exercise has been to cover the hole in the tablecloth in a manner that looks considered and deliberate – not just a mend, but a thoughtful mend. So the edging had to be thought about too.

In the end I chose to work a pattern in the buttonhole stitch – the uprights of the buttonhole stitch covering the split stitch and the edge of the needlelace alternate one long with two short. I also considered enlivening the needlelace with some daisies in white, reversing the blue on white of the main decoration, but decided that that was going a bit too far!

Akhenaten’s Headdress, Rethought

Original Headdress
Original Headdress

Of course, I had to take off the gold headdress when I decided to make another attempt (and another, and another!) at the face. Then, when I looked at it again, with my new version of the face in place, and still more new ideas swirling around in my head, I decided that it wasn’t quite right, either in shape or in conception, and needed a little more help…

Blue Twist And Brass Mesh
Blue Twist And Brass Mesh

First of all, I think the first piece of gold kid I cut was the wrong shape, but secondly, and more interestingly, the cobra doesn’t really stand out against the gold kid, so I decided to try again.

So I began by folding a piece of brass mesh and attaching to it a loop of the same blue twist I used to emphasize the edging of the belt. I had thought that this might be rather tricky, but the brass mesh is fine enough to take stitching without too much trouble.

At this point I should probably say that from the base to the top of the loop here is no more than a centimetre. This is all very small and very fiddly indeed!

I also experimented with some pleating and crinkling of the brass mesh. I like the various effects, and I’d love to fit them in somewhere, but unfortunately I couldn’t quite work out how to make them work in this context.

The whole piece is so striking that I am finding it particularly difficult with the last little details, because they need to have enough personality not to be overwhelmed, but I don’t want the final piece to feel “spotty”. The eye needs somewhere to rest occasionally, rather than zooming frantically in all directions!

Mending a tablecloth, first stage

Choices, Choices
Choices, Choices!

Over the New Year, my cousin showed me a rather charming embroidered tablecloth she’d bought, only to discover, when she got it home, that it had been rather amateurishly adapted for a table with a parasol. She doesn’t have such a thing, and all the ironing in the world hasn’t flattened the buttonhole stitch, so she asked, could I think of something?

Yes, I could. I’ll re-do the buttonhole stitch, slightly larger, and infill the entire hole with a needlelace stitch of some sort. I’ve not decided which of these threads to use, but I’m prepared for when the decision is made!

Not at all central
Not at all central

When I got it home, and folded it carefully to check that the hole was central, I discovered that it really wasn’t.

It really isn’t at all, in fact. And this close up gives you a chance to see just how tatty the oversewing around the edge turned out to be.

Oversewing, not buttonhole stitch. I’ll have to do better than that, won’t I!

This will be a very large hole!
This will be a very large hole!

In fact, once I’d done a bit of playing around and found a suitable circle that both encompassed the existing hole and placed the hole centrally, it was HUGE – at least three inches across!

That seems too big – even for infill with needlelace, it seemed to me that this would unreasonably weaken the fabric, so I started to think of suitable backing materials, and then emailed my cousin to ask whether she had some thoughts. After all, it’s her tablecloth.

She rang, and we had a chat, and she says she would prefer a smaller, non-central hole, without too many baroque attempts at backing it. So simple it is, then…

Akhenaten’s Face – Yet Again

Needlefelting A Different Way
Needlefelting A Different Way

Having found the last attempt didn’t result in quite what I was aiming for, I tried a new approach.

This time I took the outline of the face from the main piece, and needlefelted around it to get the shape to fit. Then I tried to get the features in place again, but having learnt from last time, I tried to leave the felt padding a little softer so as to be a bit easier to embroider. When I was trying the wet-felted versions to be further needlefelted, I used several different wools to see whether it made a difference, but with my level of inexperience, it didn’t, so this time I just used the first that came to hand.

Face In Progress
Face In Progress

Then I stretched silk over the top and began to stitch again.

When I tweeted this picture in a frustrated I’ve-had-enough-of-him pause, one of my friends replied “It’s Cassandra O’Brien!”. Which gave me a much-needed giggle – although I have a lowering feeling that Akhenaten and Cassandra might have got along quite well. Not necessarily the most admirable of people, either of them.

And don’t my lovely copper/rose-gold headed pins disappear beautifully against the fabric!

Face In Place
Face In Place

This looks rather better, I think.

I would have been happier if I could have made the brow heavier, and the nose more forward, but by now I feel I’m entering a world of diminishing returns, and may even start to make negative progress, which would be disheartening to say the least.

Now to see how this face copes with all the fuss of headdress and accessories…

Jacobean Coat – Large bloom

Large Bloom
Large Bloom

You can see here that I’ve reversed the colours of felt used for the same flower shape on the sleeve, and added tiny blue stitches as highlights.

Chained blanket stitch, crested chain stitch, fern stitch, and a slightly freeform variant of feather stitch adorn the various petals. The light blue is used to tie down some trellis couching and for three tête-de-boeuf stitches to lighten the bowl of the flower.

The edges of the fawn leaves are simply caught down with an overcast stitch, but the spines are worked in Siennese Stitch, found in one of my multitude of stitch dictionaries. The circle is one of several, edged with up-&-down blanket stitch, and speckled with what Barbara Snook describes as “Knotted Stitch – Danish origin”. At the extreme right there are two small brown leaves, with reverse chain stitch stems and long straight stitches creating veins. The fabric comes from some thick walking socks which felted in the wash!

Blue and Magenta
Blue and Magenta

There were three of these three-petalled flowers (if that’s what they are!) and I worked each in the same way – blanket stitch edges, sword stitch for texture, blue central circle in buttonhole stitch, and teal leaves in fishbone stitch.

As you can see, deciding to keep some elements the same, or similar, has spread beyond the smallest leaves!


Akhenaten’s Face – Again

Needlefelted Faces
Needlefelted Faces

As you may recall, my last attempt at a face for Akhenaten wasn’t entirely successful, so I started again… This time I needlefelted the shapes very fiercely (which I enjoyed more than I expected to!) until they were quite solid and strongly shaped, only to discover that they were far too deep and I had to saw off the back half with a penknife!

Another Face Attempt
Another Face Attempt

Then I stretched another fragment of silk over the top and worked the features.

When you consider how deep the eyesockets are in the felt, I’m a bit surprised that the eyes on this version don’t appear more deep-set, but he does have nice heavy brows, and the rest of the features aren’t too bad..

The face is also as narrow as it appears in that purple watercolour from a couple of weeks ago, so I felt quite optimistic when I turned back to the frame he sits on.

Too Narrow A Face
Too Narrow A Face

However, you can’t say that this face is much better than the apoplectic trumpeter – it has turned out by far too narrow for the space left for it, and I suspect that the detached buttonhole stitch with return used for the wig has done too much damage to the fabric to take it out.

So this is not the one to use, and I have to try again.

Again!



Stuart Silk Purl Flower – Month 2

Couched Loops and Chipwork
Couched Loops and Chipwork

There was quite a lot to do in the second month, learning new ways to wrangle silk-wrapped purl.

The first element was composed of the loops of purple, short lengths bent in two and controlled by an extra small couching stitch to hold them in place.

This is a technique I’m sure I’ve seen before, and I must say I rather like the effect, although I found it rather worrying to do. The purl is small and fragile, and I think that at the moment I still don’t quite have the headspace to do as well as I would like.

Shaded Loops
Shaded Loops

I do think, however, that the time for just not doing it is passed. If I want my skill to come back to me, I will have to use it! Who was it who said, “the more I practise, the luckier I get”? I would like my embroidery to be good because I have worked at it, not because I “just got lucky”!

The next was chipwork, which is just like chipwork in ordinary purl except for the added terror in case the silk wrapping comes off..

And then I got more practice with those nested loops, with the added adventure of adding shading as I went along.

Couched humps and chipwork
Couched humps and chipwork

Finally, there was more chipwork, and some little raised humps. These are made of purls stitched on like beads, but with a stitch slightly shorter than the length of purl chosen.

Again, these are not quite as consistent as I would like them to be, although I carefully used the ruler provided in the instructions to cut the lengths.

More practice needed!

Watercolour investigations

AkhenatenCollage
Akhenaten

There’s more than one way of thinking about a project. I’m still trying to feel my way to an understanding of Akhenaten’s face, and this is one way of doing so. The purple one in the middle is the most recent, and most clearly shows the strong shape of the face. So I might be making progress.

People
People

But the watercolours also give me a chance to show things that I’m not at all sure I want to attempt in embroidery. Of course, I’ve already done “Loading The Felucca”, which shows people, and the background of the second panel does too, but in all honesty, I think that difficult as they are, the watercolours were actually easier than the stitching!

Artefacts
Artefacts

The felucca, and the Hittite Amulet have both appeared in stitch already. I’d like to do more of the jewellery (I’ve got an assortment of goldwork supples to play with, after all!). I’m planning to do some more fresco fragments, and I’m sure another idea or two will occur to me soon!

Jacobean Coat – Half-Circle Motifs

One Side Of Design
One Side Of Design

One of the exasperating elements of this project is that the lovely clear, delicate green of the fabric isn’t showing on any of the photos I am taking. This strange, rather disheartening cream fails to reflect one of the pleasures of working on it.

Here you see the side of the coat with the two lilac half-circle motifs. There are also three circle motifs, and two huge leaves, not to mention all the little teal leaves that I’ve not even applied yet.

The circles have been relatively easy, but both the fawn leaves and the two lilac motifs are giving trouble…

About to be undone..
About to be undone..

The first one of the two lilac motifs has rather lost the way home.

Somehow it is fussy, tired, and full of the wrong sort of detail. It’s also too dark. I need to reduce the dark blue and dark maroon stitching.

I’m not even sure that the felt will survive.

That said, I like the blanket stitch variation of the lilac stitches, and the green Reverse Palestrina Stitch.

A better version..
A better version..

This is a better version.

There aren’t as many colours, or as many stitches as in the version I’m not happy about. The fronds are in Cable Chain and Twisted Chain, and the purple trellis is couched with the blue.

Now I need to unpick the first one and come back to it, informed by the much better second version. I don’t want it to be entirely the same, but closer would certainly be better!