The Second Worktop Bin

Stage Four
Stage Four

I did indeed find myself mixing and blending a lot of different browns to fill in all those brown sections.

Remember what I said about stash busting being “an inexact science”? Well, the trick about dealing with that (in this context) is to make the various infills and changes look deliberate. I scattered the different shades in a random looking pattern across all the different diamonds. There are four or five different blends, and outside the central section there are only two of each shade in any one row.

Stage Five
Stage Five

The central section has brown diamonds all the same colour because I was using the central section to help me lay out the trellis pattern, and I simply kept going. In fact as I look at the canvaswork while I write this post, the central section blends beautifully into the outer sections. It really does look deliberate.

The tiny diamonds that lift the whole effect are in a very light cream. Fortunately I didn’t need much of this one, and I had enough!

Inside Top In Place
Inside Top In Place

I profited from the experience of making the first little worktop bin, and instead of stitching the inside section after I’d folded back the top and stitched the rim, I worked it while the canvas was still flat, which was altogether easier to do!

Although I confess, I was wondering whether I would have enough of this beige to complete it, or whether I would have to take it out and use a different colour entirely…

More progress on The Head of Nefertiti

The polychrome band is finished
The polychrome band is finished

Once I had finished the polychrome bands, I sat back and looked at them. Using the darker shades of the colours in the darker part of the print helps to tie it all together and wrap the bands around the headdress.

I had a moment or two of concern, then decided that I would not, after all, ruin everything if I continued to add the other elements of the design that I had planned. There is always a moment or two of fear, especially when an early section has gone well!

Trialling Leather
Trialling Leather

The original bust shows something that looks like a browband of gold, fairly plain and flat. I fished out a piece of gold kid, but although the photograph doesn’t show it very well, the kid is the wrong colour (too pale, and not yellow enough) for the gold thread, so I have to think of something else.

*Thinks hard*.

Necklace Trial
Necklace Trial

Meanwhile, I thought I would experiment with the necklace, or collar. My thought was that, rather than do the whole thing, I would do a small section of it, to make sure that I maintain the feeling of an embroidery, and not a portrait of a portrait.

What I have done here is to make radiating stitches of the gold thread, and then use the same whipped filling stitch I used on the polychrome bands, but alternating them so there is a hint of a gold net underlying the collar.

I like this, but maybe I do need to do an entire collar’s worth.

*Thinks hard*. Again.

Nile Tilapia Fish

Glass vessel in the form of a Nile Tilapia fish
Glass vessel in the form of a Nile Tilapia fish

There is a glass vessel which frequently shows up in image searches relating to Amarna, a representation of a Nile tilapia fish. I saw it reconstructed by a modern glassworker in a recent programme about the art of Ancient Egypt presented by the British art critic Alistair Sooke. The glassworker said it was a somewhat unnerving technique to do, and with all his experience, and all his practice, he was never entirely confident of his results until a fish was finished,

That being the case, it seemed to me that as an example of the skill of the artisans of Amarna, the glass fish deserved to be included. I’ve found a public domain image to act as my source – and to show you what I’m talking about. I’m thinking of padding it slightly and attaching it to one of the background panels as a fish-shaped slip, rather than a rectangular patch, but we will have to wait and see what seems the right thing to do when I’ve finished.

Getting Started on the Nile Tilapia
Getting Started on the Nile Tilapia

I’m using some rather lovely vintage linen thread, bought at the recent “Sewing For Pleasure”, on a fine but sturdy cotton. I wanted something that would not require a backing, but I’m not sure that the fabric will be left to show, so I could have used some plain calico. The thread is wonderful to work with, strong, lustrous, and resilient. Much better than any linen thread I’ve ever worked with before – they’ve tended to be stiff, and a little “dead” in feel. This stuff is a delight!

So far, the stitches are blanket stitch, seed stitches, chain, stem, and feather stitch. I’m rather enjoying this!

The Head of Nefertiti – working with Silk

Trial Weaving
Trial Weaving

You will recall that I was rather underwhelmed by the effect of my first attempt at weaving the silk into the gold. Leaving the threads loosely packed to allow the gold to show through allows them to look untidy, and the colour is somehow a little flattened, not the rich, strong colour I wanted.

Different silk threads whipped in
Different silk threads whipped in

So I decided to work the whipped style of filling stitch instead. It creates a strong colour, something like a grosgrain ribbon, in fact.

I’m using primarily colours from the Mulberry Silks “Nefertiti” colour range (appropriate, don’t you think!), and I’m happy with the rusty red. The navy is actually a heavy perle type and I’m not sure where it came from. That works too.

The lightest colour, however, on the far right, is too fine. It produces too retiring an effect, and weakens the whole effect. So I tried one of the stranded silks from Thistle Threads (lower example, left), and wasn’t convinced by that, either.

Third trial
Third trial

This looks better. In fact the two light blue-greens are different, although that isn’t as clear in this photo as I might have liked. They aren’t as green as I would have liked, but I’m reasonably happy. If I decide to redo them, I may have to redo the whole thing, as the unpicking earlier on has left the Ladder Stitch a bit floppy.

The Head of Nefertiti – Goldwork Completed

Primary Goldwork
Primary Goldwork

There are small elements of goldwork which I am planning to work last, but most of it, I wanted to put in place first, so that I can be sure that the whole thing remains in balance.

As I’ve mentioned, the framework for the silk is in Ladder Stitch – the whole of the first section redone, as I threatened.

The narrow line around the base is in reverse chain stitch (much easier to work in a frame than the ordinary chain stitch). The coloured bust suggests a gilded inner section for the headdress, and I have yet to decide how to represent that. Maybe gold kid?

The ornament on the front of the headdress looks rather heavier and thicker than the other lines, so I’ve worked it in Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch. I’m a little disappointed with it at present, and wondering whether I need to pick a still heavier stitch – such as the dreaded (not any more!) Plaited Braid Stitch. I’ll decide, I think, when I’ve completed the rest of it.

Trial Weaving
Trial Weaving

So, on to the silkwork. I had a previous, failed print to experiment with, and I’m just as glad I did.

I’m rather underwhelmed by this effect, with the silk woven through the gold. I thought it would allow a subtle glint of gold, but in the end it has simply undermined the effect of the silk. Hmm…

Some early (very early!) experiments for the Vision Of Placidus – Part Two

First wet felted tree
First wet felted tree

Once everything had dried, I could sit back and look at my trees.

This is the first one I did. It used some multicoloured merino in the trunk, and two greens from the beginners felting kit I bought on eBay a while back. They’re not very nice greens, but all I’m doing is investigating the technique.

There are only two or three layers of wool in this one, which means there are gaps in the felt, and the junction of the trunk and the canopy is a bit flimsy. Gaps in the felt for the canopy are no problem at all – they would help to add depth to the finished piece. Since everything will be caught down (somehow – I don’t yet know how!), strong, dense felt isn’t really the aim here.

Second experimental tree
Second experimental tree

The second experiment had the addition of some short staple (that is, short fibre length), very crinkly wool. I was hoping it would result in greater shrinkage, which it has a little. It also produced a greater variety of shades in the canopy, lightening and interrupting that rather dull green. This may have promise, and the felt itself seems a little more stable and would be easier to stitch into.

Since the fibres are rubbed and soaped and rolled, and generally beaten up, it’s not surprising that the effects of trying to place the fibre colours to create a particular appearance is, to put it mildly, an inexact science. I wonder whether I could combine needle-felting with wet-felting to make the results more controllable?

Third experiment, with yarn
Third experiment, with yarn

In the final experiment, I added crocheted chains and some tangles of yarn as well. Some parts of the chain didn’t felt in quite as well as I might have hoped, but with more crocheted chain and a better understanding of how to felt it in more thoroughly, it might produce a very good effect.

My semi-spun yarn on the trunk has worked, though, and looks even better in real life, although, again, what it needs is the courage of my convictions and rather more of the same.

So, not a completely unsuccessful experiment, and certainly a good basis for further experiments, perhaps with added stitching…

Some early (very early!) experiments for the Vision Of Placidus – Part One

Experiment One
Experiment One

I’ve been struggling with a sore and stiff shoulder for some months now. It’s made me reluctant to go back to Eve In The Garden of Eden because at this stage she demands perseverance in a single, small stitch for the gold groundwork. The Head of Nefertiti has involved more variety, and earlier signs of progress, while the canvaswork is perfect for evenings.

However, my shoulder is beginning to ease and I’m feeling more willing to experiment. So I had a very entertaining morning last week (it was on Instagram and Twitter) having a go at something I saw on someone’s blog a few months ago and thought might have possibilities for the underlayer of my planned Vision of Placidus panel. If what you see looks familiar, please let me know and I will gladly edit the post to give credit!

Wetted Out
Wetted Out

Now, the Placidus panel is going to be about five foot by four foot, so even using some of the chunky threads I am happy to use (… and may even spin for the purpose!), it will take quite some effort to cover it. So I thought maybe I could wet felt some rough elements – trees, rocks, clouds, the stream, which could then be applied and tweaked, improved and generally titivated with stitchery.

In the absence of a real – waterproofed! – studio, therefore, I was to be found squatting on the kitchen floor, using a Lakeland Limited tray for cleaning oven shelves to contain the splashes and soap. I must have looked distinctly odd, but I’m accustomed to that!

Experiment 3 - First Layer
Experiment 3 – First Layer

In the case of the final experiment ( I did three), I rummaged for some fine crewel wool and made a crochet chain, with some very slapdash and freeform loops added in, and laid that down first, with a tangle of leftover yarn.

I also fished out my spindle and had a go at spinning and doubling some wool to create a different effect on the trunk. That didn’t work too well – the yarn kept unspinning itself. My shoulder isn’t up to a concerted attempt to crack spinning, so I made do with what I’d got, and backed it with various other wools to hold it together.

At this point – creaking slightly in the lower back – I decided to stop, rinse everything off, and let my trees dry before going any further. .

Another Worktop Bin

Diamond Framework
Diamond Framework

The first worktop bin was such a success that I decided to do another one.

This time the bin itself is a cardboard drum that used to contain chocolates. It’s rather bigger than my sawn-off milk bottle, and furthermore, the canvas is finer (I’m only using two strands of Paterna in the needle, not three), so the canvas is going to take a little longer to do.

Stage Two
Stage Two

I’m staying with browns, and with diamond patterns, and starting with this diamond lattice pattern. I’ve had enough of the creamy beige wool to work the framework, and since it is only two strands, I should have enough of it to work the edging and seam as well.

But there is a lot more dark brown to come and I may very well find myself combining threads to stretch my varieties of dark brown to fit the pattern. Never mind, I will then have made some Stashbusting Progress!

Stage Three
Stage Three

Has anyone else noticed what a very inexact science stashbusting is? You embark on a project, full of hope that it will consume vast stores, only to find that the Stash in question has shrunk not at all…

Right up until the project when you rely on that happening….

Shadow Play

Printed on gauze
Printed on gauze

I decided, as I stared at the printing of this blocky pattern onto gauze, that I wanted to use the transparency of the gauze as part of the finished effect.

I don’t have a destination in mind for this piece which will give me a theme, so I decided that, in order to highlight that one quality, I would use a single thread (as it happened, a variegated silk), and design a fragment that would allow me to experiment with the effect of stitch cover and openness.

Sketching
Sketching

I leafed through books about pattern, saw nothing that gave me the combination I wanted, and then evolved the fragmentary organic sketch on the far left to give me the balance of line and form I was looking for. Incidentally, this is quite possibly the swiftest and shortest progression of any sketched design I’ve ever come up with!

Finished Fragment
Finished Fragment

It’s astonishingly difficult to trace a design onto a fabric which is essentially invisible, and still harder, I might add, to follow the lines when you have finally put them there!

I used Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch for the stem, satin stitch for the solid side of the leaf, and Jacobean trellis for the flower-head. Clearly that gives me a solid coverage, and a firm line; I was hoping that the Jacobean trellis might offer a sort of half-shade.

Shadow Play
Shadow Play

 

A qualified success, I’d say. The printed pattern doesn’t create a shadow, and the Jacobean trellis shadow isn’t a sort of half-depth.

But, my goodness, the shadow of the stem and the leaf work exactly as I hoped! The gauze itself almost disappears, leaving the printed pattern floating above the surface, and the leaf and flower thrown forward by their shadows.

The Head of Nefertiti, Embellished with Silk and Gold

Screenprint of the Head of Nefertiti
Screenprint of the Head of Nefertiti

This is much the best print I’ve managed of Nefertiti, pressure, speed and amount of ink all working nicely, and very few really dark sections. What I want to do now is to highlight the coloured elements of the crown she wears – unique to her, apparently, no-one else in ancient Egypt has ever been depicted wearing it. I’ve got some gorgeous silk threads from Mulberry Silks which should do the job perfectly, but first they need a skeleton of gold. I had a lovely rummage in among the assorted wonders I’ve received from Thistle Threads (they have their own special box, of course), and after staring critically at the linen fabric, picked out the Special Tambour, and made a start.

My idea is to create a framework of Ladder Stitch, and then add colour – as in the Tudor Rose project – using silk threads. Long term readers may recall that during the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass, I had some trouble with Ladder stitch, so although I was fairly sure the idea would work, I sat down with some trepidation.

To be very pleasantly surprised. Something has happened in the intervening few years, and my ladder stitch wasn’t as trying as I expected, and moved fairly swiftly, too. I may yet decide to redo the stitches, because I re-tightened the fabric in the frame about halfway across, but that will depend upon how much better the second section looks when I have done it.

That’s a good start to a new project, isn’t it!