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First Voluntary Project – Third Installment

Heathered Thread

Heathered Thread

Since I was working with leftover threads from other people’s projects, I was “forced to become inventive” – as Joseph Haydn said in another context!

The leaf and bud shown here use Chain Stitch, but I combined single strands of two or three colours in the needle. This is a technique that I don’t necessarily use very often, but it is always one I consider, because heathering is such a good way to create subtle variations in colour and tone. There’s a nice example of this on The Floss Box blog, where the thread for the water is blended in the needle.

The veins are marked in Thorn Stitch, although I’ve just noticed that the central vein is in Chain Stitch!

Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-Me-Nots

The forget-me-knots and attached leaves and stems are almost a sampler all by themselves. The leaves and stems are worked in Coral Stitch, which also outlines the flowers. Inside the flowers, there are tiny circles of Rosette Chain Stitches, worked around a Buttonhole Wheel in golden yellow. Rosette chain looks better worked rather bigger than this – I’ve used it since in several projects – and those who followed my posts on the Goldwork Masterclass will know by now that I have since developed a positive obsession with stitch and fabric scale!

Feather Stitch Tulip

Feather Stitch Tulip

The Tulip is filled with close rows of Feather Stitch in red and golden yellow, outlined with stem stitch. It creates a slightly odd texture that I’m not entirely unhappy with, although it would balance the other flowers better if the filling were not so closely packed, and the colours were rather paler.

The stem is worked in a single row of chain stitch with a row of stem stitch on each side. I was gaining enough of a grip on embroidery by this stage that I made an effort to keep the stitch lengths comparable, which gives a nice regular rhythm to the stem.

Did You But Hear My Lady..?

A Lovely Lady

A Lovely Lady

The Lady in the Garden, again came from a transfer, and was stitched as a companion to the Peacock, and a homage to Grandmama’s Lady. Unlike Grandmama, I made no effort to provide the lady with lovely graduated ruffles – if I am honest, because I really didn’t think I would finish them if I tried! Instead her dress is sprigged with flowers (in Sorbello stitch, which was rather fun!) and only ruffled around the hem.

Because I conceived of the Lady and the Peacock as a pair, I emphasised the flower colours around the lady, and worked some elements of her dress in one of the blues I used for the peacock.

Lady - Close Up

Lady - Close Up

The inside edge of the bonnet is ornamented with Rosette Chain stitch, while the outside is edged with closed feather stitch. This would also have been an ideal opportunity to use bonnet stitch, but I didn’t think of it in time! I also used Rosette Chain Stitch for the ruffles on the the lady’s collar. I like to use a variety of stitches – the trick is not to use so many that the eye becomes bewildered. Using a basic stitch and its variations is one way to maintain some sense of uniformity, as is keeping a small colour palette.

The bodice is in Bokhara Couching, and the sleeves outlined in coral stitch. I’m surprised at how well this works – it should look thorny, and heavy, but somehow manages to evoke an airy gauze sleeve. How does that work?

Skirt - Close Up

Skirt - Close Up

The bows above the flounce of the skirts are in satin stitch, and the impression of the flounce is given by lines of chain stitch. Almost all the visual weight of the dress is at the bottom, and the airy sprigging on the skirt allows the flowers to take some of the limelight.

Again the stitching is simple – fishbone stitch for the leaves, detached chain stitch and French knots for the flowers, and as almost all the threads were variegated, I got a lot of subtle – and not so subtle! – colour variation “for free” as it were.

I had already worked the Jacobean Fire Screen when I started work on the Peacock and the Lady, and was beginning to feel that I should do some more designing for myself. I will probably still use other designers’ work, because sometimes I want to concentrate on a particular thread or technique (as in the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass) rather than the design. Besides, who knows what else I will find in the archives to write about!

The title of this post – for those who are scrabbling around in their memory – is the first line of “Silent Worship“, written by George Frederick Handel as an aria in his opera Tolomeo, but far more popular than anything else in it. Beware if you Google it – the last time I did so the first two links were for ringtones!

The Autumn Leaves Skirt

Autumn Leaves Skirt

Autumn Leaves Skirt

I made this skirt last winter, and originally needlefelted the leaves onto the fabric. However, after a winter’s wear, and after looking at a good few blogs over the summer, I thought I could do better.

I took some  ideas from some of SharonB’s Pintangle posts on seam treatments, fished some additional inspiration from a host of other blogs (wish I’d taken notes, now – I want to find some of them again!) and then proceeded to some adventures  in embellishment.

It occurred to me that there was no need to keep within the leaf shapes, or even to add embellishment that resembled leaf characteristics in any way, so paisley shapes, spiders web wheels and trailing lines of feather stitch showed up all over the place.

I started off by sewing around the edges of all the leaf shapes in ordinary running stitch, and originally I had intended to stop there. However, when I did, it looked a little half-hearted, and I’m never that, so Something Had To Be Done!

First Skirt Detail

First Skirt Detail

There’s a trail of French knots across the largest leaf, which has a circle of Rosette Chain on it, surrounding a disc of  an interlaced filling stitch in three different colours.

I also realised (about halfway through!) that I didn’t have to keep the embellishment only on the applied fabric, so the skirt fabric acquired stem stitch lines with French knot finials, a spiders web wheel, and more French knots.

Second Skirt Detail

Second Skirt Detail

It is all worked in six strands of stranded cotton, un-separated to maintain a sort of cohesion. I chose colours that were fairly close to the colours of the felt leaf shapes, but working in the opposite direction, as it were, so dark felt was running-stitched in light stranded cotton.

All this on a skirt I originally made purely because I wanted a long winter skirt to cut the draughts in the office!

Stitching the Persian Fantasy – Four

There was so much going on that I consciously reused yarns, colours or stitches across the four panels in order to maintain some semblance of order. In fact as I moved on to each panel I would lay the completed ones side by side on the living room floor and scramble around putting piles of coloured threads on them. It must have looked highly comical, but my parents (I was still living with them when I embroidered these panels) were kind enough not to laugh. Besides, as long as it works…!

Crags

Crags worked in Caron Collection "Storm" (I think!)

I chose to use one of the Caron Collection threads for the basic outlines of the closer landscape, using Up and Down Blanket Stitch, my favourite blanket stitch variation. I’ve done a bit of hunting because it’s one of the more obscure variations and finally found it at the bottom of Sharon B’s Stitch Dictionary page on blanket stitch variations.  For the further landscape or clouds (I never did quite work out what they were), I used a different colour range but the same stitch.

Some of the Cactus Plants

Some of the Cactus Plants

The cacti were worked in a variety of stitches, partly based on the lines of the original transfer, but then extrapolated as the stitches and threads suggested themselves. Although I did use several variegated threads in the flowers and the cacti, most of them are pearl-cotton types, and there is a certain unity provided by the use of the same set of threads wherever those forms appear. There are fly stitches, feather stitches, blanket stitches and sword stitches in this small section. I’ve diagrammed Sword Stitch at the end of this post.

Large flowers with leaves worked in Chained Feather Stitch

Large flowers with leaves worked in Chained Feather Stitch

The leaves for the largest flowers were worked using chained feather stitch – I had never worked it before and thought it looked fun. I caught down the long connecting stitches with a single strand of cotton, and was delighted to realise that that gave me the effect of a shadowy vein – one of those serendipitous effects that one cannot foresee, but only rejoice in.

The large flowers had centres of Whipped Spiders Web stitch and the outlines were worked in Rosette Chain stitch. The stems were simply a very heavy rayon cord, couched in place. They may well have been the most straightforward element of the entire four panels!

Sword Edging, or Sword Stitch

Sword Edging, or Sword Stitch

I couldn’t find a diagram of Sword Stitch on the internet anywhere so I spent a bit of time with a vector drawing package and  Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, published by Batsford in 1963. I’ve redrawn the diagrams, changing them slightly where I thought the original used a strange order. When working a row, she seems to recommend working from right to left. The only other advice she gives is that the longest arm should point downwards – clearly that is the blade of the sword.