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The Hittite Amulet Is Finished

Hittite Amulet - Finished

Hittite Amulet – Finished

Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen a Tweet full of rejoicings last week – I have finished the Hittite Amulet at last! He’s been quite a challenge, and required considerable stores of patience, but I’m very pleased with him. He’s looming out of the darkness very impressively!

I began working on him last July, and got rather less than halfway before I put him away in a boxfile before Christmas when I was getting ready for festive visitors. After Christmas, I decided to concentrate on the Glittering Nightcap, because I was beginning to fear that otherwise I would never finish it, and didn’t begin again on this fellow until May.

Since then I have simply persevered. I’ve not written about him, because in truth there is little to say. Or nué is a simple enough technique – in essence, satin stitch over a metal thread – it is just that there is a lot of stitching needed before any appreciable change is seen.

Detail Of The Head

Detail Of The Head

Although it is a simple technique to describe, doing it well is less so. As you can see from the close up of the head, I’ve not managed to keep the rows perfectly even in their spacing or coverage. Perhaps, although I used pre-shrunk calico as the basis, I should have used two layers to make it sturdier (I hope not, it was tricky enough already!) or perhaps the waverings are owing to stitching over two rows at a time.

Now he can doze quietly in my Dreams of Amarna box while I continue with new pieces…

I had a skein and a half left of the dark silk, after all that panic buying last year. Getting quantities right is almost impossible.

Restarting on the Hittite Amulet

Progress On The Hittite Amulet

Progress On The Hittite Amulet

It is months since you last saw the Hittite Amulet. I put him away in a boxfile before Christmas and refused to get him out again until the embroidery on the Glittering Nightcap was finished.

Of course, it takes a while to gather ones’ wits, and restore the “flow” of a piece like thisl. Since there are two alternating tasks – laying the silver thread and then covering it with silk as appropriate – it is hard to develop a sense of momentum. If I succeed, I may find he gallops away with me – which would be gratifying, because I have a lot more ideas for Dreams of Amarna pieces that I want out of my head and onto fabric!

Oblique View

Oblique View

I’ve tautened the fabric again, and I am trying hard to remember not to let the lines of couching sag in the middle. Sometimes I forget and stitch too tightly, but usually only for one row, so the situation does not get out of hand!

This close-up, oblique view, gives you a sense of the ribbed, “grosgrain” type effect of the background, and the speckling of stitches across the Amulet himself that give the light and shade.

I really think it’s working!

Making Progress on the Hittite Amulet

The Hittite Amulet Progressing

The Hittite Amulet Progressing

There was a slight, panic-stricken, pause in progress on the Hittite Amulet recently. As you can see, I’ve barely completed a third of him, and I’ve used half of my darkest silk. This is a graver situation than I anticipated, because since I bought the thread – three years ago! – the master dyer at Pearsall’s has died and they have closed the company.

I can leave to your imaginations how I felt when that realisation hit home…

Fortunately, the remaining stock was sold to Tristan Brooks Designs in America, and while it is extremely frustrating to have to have thread dyed in England shipped back to England from the States, the two skeins I bought do seem to match well enough. I’m going to alternate strands from the new skeins with strands from the old, all the same – that should help to make sure any change is gradual.

Close Up On The Amulet

Close Up On The Amulet

When I was at the Knitting And Stitching Show in Harrogate, I bought an extra skein from Laurelin Specialist Embroidery. The colour is very slightly brighter than the darkest one I am using for the background, but I am hoping that it will help to add a bit of depth and strength to some of the shadows on the Amulet himself.

You can also see in the close-up that I’ve nearly got the rows straight again after their wanderings. Now I know I have to be careful, I hope that the problem won’t arise again.

The Hittite Amulet – progress of a sort!

Progress On The Amulet

Progress On The Amulet

Now that I have started on the main design element of the Hittite Amulet, I am entering a familiar and disheartening stage. There is so much more to do, it’s very concentrated work, and at the moment, I’ve not done enough to be confident it will work at all.

In fact there is a good chance that until it is completely finished, I won’t be sure that it is working, which in turn means I need to ignore my doubts and just keep at it!

The fact that I have several needles with different shades of thread in them, all working at once, will explain why I can’t do very much at a time – I need to avoid tangling the threads, and as soon as I start to get tired, the threads tie themselves in such convoluted knots they’d make a macramé expert think twice!

Many Threads In Progress

Many Threads In Progress

This close up should give you an idea of what is involved. I decided to allow the coloured silk stitches on the Amulet to be either across the same pair of threads as the background, or across pairs which are off by one. This should allow me to be a little more precise in colour placement. It may or may not matter, but I felt that since this is such a strange piece, I wanted to have as much flexibility as possible.

I have already discovered that in some ways the straight rows are harder than the spiral that I used for Christus Natus Est. As the backing fabric sags, and the stitching became more widely spaced over the Amulet, I found that the rows were no longer straight. I’ve spent several sets of rows geting the rows more or less straight again, which was just a little scary!

The Hittite Amulet – Beginning to stitch

First Silver Row

First Silver Row

So, with the Hittite Amulet painted on my fabric, stretched, and ready to go, I have now settled down to stitch. I have decided to aim for a more strongly corded effect in the background of this piece than I used for Christus Natus Est, so each row of stitches will be worked over two rows of silver.

This in turn means that I will spend a lot of time wrangling the springy silver thread to make it lie close and straight. Even the first row was a challenge, and as I reach the core of the spool and find the thread that has been wound closely around it, I am expecting the challenge to become even more challenging!

Still, nothing easy was ever worth doing – so they say…

Covered In Silk

Covered In Silk

This second photo shows the stitching halfway along the third row of background at the base of the piece. You can see the ribbed effect is already building up, and it will create a good strong background. If I get the rest of it right, the Amulet should almost pop out of the surface at me!

I am still trying to decide how to organise my stitching of the Amulet himself, but I plan to allow the silver to show through across the entire design, spacing my silk stitches accordingly. The stitches for the design may cover two silver threads or only one, and I am going to try to space them using the original black and white photo for guidance, to create some sense of the shadows breaking up across the surface.

The Hittite Amulet – all by himself

Photo And Sketch

Photo And Sketch

Since I finished the Lotus Flower Tile Fragment, I haven’t had a piece for the Dreams of Amarna to work on. I’ve been thinking about several, of course, but in combination with the Online University projects I’m working on and my sudden idea for the Vision Of Placidus, none of them really caught fire.

Then I filled very dull, dreary afternoon – pouring with rain, with no light to embroider by (remind me, it’s summer here in the northern hemisphere, right?) – with the preparations for working the solo version of the Hittite Amulet. He’s going to be worked in or nué – actually argent nué, since I’ll be using a silver thread! – so the first thing to do was prepare the base fabric.

There were two photos from the EES to choose from, one of them rather moody, with the amulet seeming to look out from the black background, and the other, arguably better lit, and full face rather than three-quarter. Guess which I chose?

Yes, of course, the moody, dramatic one!

Ready To Stitch

Ready To Stitch

It’s very hard to trace a picture that doesn’t show everything you know is there. You will see that the lines I’ve traced produce a sketchy effect, not complete detail. That’s because I decided to paint more of the details onto the background fabric to help guide my needle, and the lines were really only there to guide my brush!

It may seem that creating this painted panel is a lot of work that will be completely hidden, but while my other or nué panel, Christus Natus Est, had simple sweeping lines, and the coloured background was merely there to prevent cream calico from grinning through any gaps, the Hittite Amulet is a very much more intricate design. Creating my painted version putting darks and lights in the right places took immense concentration and I would hate to have to concentrate that hard on the design when the execution is going to be so challenging.

Wish me luck!

Amarna Family Group

I recall from both the Hittite Amulet and Christus Natus Est that Or Nué projects are rather difficult to write about. They’re a little like those novels in which Nothing Happens, because one edges slowly forward, with the piece growing imperceptibly – until all of a sudden, it gallops to a conclusion. I am nowhere near that point as yet, but for the benefit of those who prefer reading to watching, I will attempt to provide occasional updates…

Progress So Far
Progress So Far

Here is one of the progress shots.

There are a few details I will have to come back to, as you will see if you click through to the larger image. I may have to adjust Akhenaten’s arm, for a start, and the pale blue I used to mark the creases on his kilt isn’t dark enough to do the job, so I will have to do find another thread and add some stitches.

However, the metal thread on the front of Akhenaten’s headdress shows up rather better than I feared it might. Although, as I said on one of the videos, gold thread couched with gold thread is pretty much Peak Ancient Egypt. Even Louis XIV, never an advocate of moderation in design, would take a step back, crying, “Here, I say, steady on!”

To which I reply, I am steadying on – it’s staying in!

Half-Tone Border
Half-Tone Border

This is a close up from slightly more recently. You can see that I’ve reached the designated edge of the design, and that rather than cutting and plunging my threads, I’m doubling back on myself, so all the gold remains on the surface. My intention is that this will be edged with some sort of braid when it is complete, and attaching a braid through the gold as it stands will be quite hard enough, without attaching it through plunged ends as well!

I’m also leaving the royal blue blocks in a sort of half-tone, with some of the gold showing through. I may decide, when the whole thing is finished, that the border designs need to be full strength if they are to frame the scene properly, but I felt that this might work, and would be an interesting experiment.

But, occasional reservations aside, I think this is going to be a very successful piece!

The Amarna Family Group – getting started

Making a Start
Making a Start

I’ve decided to work spiral Or Nué, as I did for Christus Natus Est, rather than the straight version I used for the Hittite Amulet. It creates more of a sense of movement, and that is very much in keeping with Amarna period art.

That, however, meant that I had to work out where to start the spiral, and as I mentioned on the first video, I had several options. The first was simply to start in the middle of the piece, but I felt that would either look very static, or, almost worse, create a rather 70s psychedelic vibe, not at all appropriate! The next three options could all be taken as emphasizing interpretations of the story of Akhenaten and Amarna. One of these was to centre the spiral in the centre of the Aten – but to be honest, for all Atenism is seen as one of the very earliest adventures in monotheism, that didn’t seem to me to reflect the stories that filter through Mary Chubb’s book.

Progress in Week 2
Progress in Week 2

So then I had a choice between centring the spiral on Akhenaten’s head, to reflect the idea that he espoused Atenism as a political ploy to break the power of the priests of Amun at Thebes, or centring it on his heart, to suggest that he believed he’d received a genuine religious revelation. You can see which I chose!

The second video is here, and will show you some of the progress to this point, as well as my musings as I stitch. I have a few more quandaries to sort out, but you’ll hear about those in the next episode, as I tackle them. As before, if you have any questions about what I’ve said in the video, or what I’ve done, please ask, and I will do my best to give you a sensible and useful response!

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!

Getting Back To The Tudor Rose

What with one thing and another – largely to do with the Hittite Amulet and the consequent overdose on metal threads – the Tudor Rose has been snoozing quietly in a boxfile for months, not drawing attention to itself.

Spot The Mistake

Spot The Mistake!

I’ve decided, however, that it’s time it got finished, so that I can move on to other things, and the first step was to complete the white and silver petals of the rose.  I was puzzled and confused when I did my first petal after the break, because it didn’t present the same appearance as the other ones. Can you see why?

I’m going to leave it like this, to remind me to pay attention next time…

Bullion Knots Done

Bullion Knots Done

The next stage was to work the bullion knots in the centre. I’ve decided (again, not quite following the order of stitching in the instructions) that I’m going to leave the cut pieces of purl until everything else is done, so having done the bullions – with varying degrees of success, I admit! – I moved back to the leaves.

So, onward and forward, as my Grandad used to say…

First Stage Leaf

First Stage Leaf

Some of the leaves are worked in Ceylon Stitch which is then woven through using the silk thread. Those of you who were reading my blog when I was working on the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass may recall that I found Ceylon Stitch something of a trial. Working it in leaf shapes really doesn’t make it any easier!

There are three more of these, two each to be woven into with different colours of green Soie Perlée. Tricia says to pack the weavings in as tightly as possible.

We’ll just have to see how that turns out, won’t we…