Two Amarna Princesses – the results of thought

Layout With Cushions
Layout With Cushions

The felted cushion fragments worked rather well, surviving the cutting out procedure so that I could start to play with the layout. Prints of the images I’d used to hand, I fiddled happily for quite a while.

This isn’t quite what I ended up with, but you can see how vividly the colours play off against one another. Very promising!

Drapes Attached
Drapes Attached

The first stage was to attach the drapery assembly to the background. This is where the experimental nature of my needlefelting may come back to bite me, because there is a risk that I have taken it too far, and that I will finish with a completely destroyed background.

However, the goldeny-mustardy-yellow wall shows through a bit, which is what I want, as that helps to make the connection with the frescoes at Amarna as they are found by archaeologists – fragile and fragmentary, only a hint of their former glory. I may have to hand-needlefelt some of those little squares, as they’re not as well attached as I would like. I don’t want them falling off at some time in the future!

Two Amarna Princesses – having to think again

Spotted Cushions
Spotted Cushions

A little while ago, the Ashmolean Museum tweeted another reproduction of that fresco of the two little princesses, this one in black and white, and it brought to the fore something that had been less clear in the colour reproductions I had seen – the girls are actually sitting on cushions. Originally, I had interpreted the lowest border design as fabric covering a divan of some sort, but now I found myself developing some possible cushion fabrics..

Once again, as with the drapery, I stitched patterns with additional needlefelting in mind. I decided in the end that the satin stitch spots weren’t working very well. Sorbello stitch is the stitch I used for the villages on the Map of Amarna. It’s another stitch I rather like, as it produces a neat, square stitch, with an interesting texture – more obvious with some fabrics and threads than others, of course. The cross stitch spots are in a colour closer to that of the felt, and should produce a more subtle effect.

What I have done is to stitch the patterns on a section of felt, and then pass it under my embellisher. I hope that this will create enough fibre entanglement that when I cut out the cushion shapes, the stitches will not unstitch themselves.

I wonder whether it will work…!

Finishing the Head of Nefertiti

Unless I decide otherwise, the head of Nefertiti is now finished.

Signature Cartouche
Signature Cartouche

I’ve worked my Morse Code cartouche slightly differently this time, using cross stitch for the dots, long armed cross stitch for the dashes, and counted running stitch for the frame. This works rather well, so it’s a possibility for any eventual canvaswork projects in the future.

However, in this instance it is almost completely invisible, so I may yet unpick it and rework it twice the size, with four threads in each direction instead of two.

Finished Head Of Nefertiti
Finished Head Of Nefertiti

In the end, if you recall, I decided to work Nefertiti’s cartouche, both the hieroglyphs and the frame, in reverse chain stitch using untwisted silk.

The rays of the Aten are worked in reverse chain stitch, but using hand twisted silk.

I am a little concerned about balance and the strength of the design, but when I was playing with my photos of of the finished panel, I noticed that when I cropped the picture closely, rather than including all of the length I have stitched of the rays of the Aten, it was much improved.

That happened with the Camberwell Panel, and with Loading the Felucca, as well, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

And I really should remember to play with that sort of detail when I am mounting and finishing my embroideries!

Two Amarna Princesses – Assembling the Drapery

Detail OF Drapery
Detail OF Drapery

Having chosen my bits of drapery, I’ve stitched them together at the edges.

This means that they won’t move when I’m felting them to the background, and that I could actually cut off some of the second drapery, rather than overlapping it on the first. This will reduce the number of layers I will be felting through, which turns out to be a good idea. I don’t want any more broken needles, thank you very much!

Drapery Assembled
Drapery Assembled

The assembled drapery now makes a rather peculiar shape, but it gives me part of the background for my princesses, and a basis for any further embellishment I may feel is necessary.

However, as I was contemplating that eventual embellishment, I found another source picture and now I have to do a little more thinking.

The Cartouche for the Head of Nefertiti

Trials For Cartouche
Trials For Cartouche

There were many false starts when I came to work on the cartouche. The fabric is under such tension, in order to work the metal and silk stitches, that it’s hard not to create something that looks very fragile and wispy.

Here you see stem stitches, back stitches, straight stitches, chain stitches of different lengths, some worked using the same twisted thread I used for the rays of the Aten, and some in untwisted thread of the same thickness.

And I didn’t like any of them.

In fact, I ended up doubling the thickness of the thread, but not actually twisting it. This creates a more definite line, and using reverse chain stitch throughout maintains the sense of continuity with the rays of the Aten.

Trial Hungarian Braided
Trial Hungarian Braided

Once I had finished the hieroglyphs, I had to work the frame of the cartouche, and guess what – false starts here as well.

I was rather saddened that among the stitches tried was one of my favourites, Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch, and that, like several others, ended up being sliced out with a penknife. A rather nice penknife with a mother of pearl handle, from a vintage sewing set, but it’s frustrating to dismiss a favourite stitch, even when it’s because you don’t think it works in the context.

There was a lot of this!
There was a lot of this!

After much to-ing and fro-ing, and a good few “ouches” from my recalcitrant sub-scapularis muscle, I finally got the cartouche finished.

I’m not entirely sure I like the finished result, so it is sitting in the living room, being stared at.

The Two Amarna Princesses – Drapery, stage 3

Second Drape - First Trial
Second Drape – First Trial

For my next drapery experiment, I began by using the embellisher to add some of that divided felt onto another piece – do you see that the red is in patches, a dark pink (the background) and a rather brighter scarlet? That worked  well, I think, as it has warmed up the colour, and made it more interesting.

I had decided that I would stitch a pattern and then use the embellisher to make it blend in a little more, but once I’d worked this pattern of herringbone stitch stripes, I sat back, stared at it, and said “No”.

Second Drape - Much Better
Second Drape – Much Better

So the second pattern I tried was a little more complex. It’s still worked largely in herringbone stitch, and the colours are the same, but this time I’ve reversed the second row to create a series of lozenge shapes, which could then be filled in, after a fashion, with little upright cross stitches.

I liked this much more, so I decided to go with this pattern.

Although, of course, I was referring to the picture that was my original spacing, that red is very reminiscent of Persian carpets, and the combination with blue and yellow is one which we still find in widespread use.

Second Drape Needlfelted
Second Drape Needlfelted

The next stage was to use the embellisher again. To begin with, I covered the stitching with a layer of net, and worked an initial pass of small circling movements, up and down each stripe. Then I removed the net and kept going.

As you can see, the stitching is almost melting into the background. Certainly it’s a more convincing representation of a piece of fabric than my first piece of drapery, although I will be using both.

Another Attempt at the Dig House

Dig House Cut Out
Dig House Cut Out

I’m continuing to experiment with my embellisher, trying to learn new tricks.

I’ve found a photo of the Dig House from a different view to the previous one I tried, and cut out some pieces of felt to represent the trees and the various pieces of building. It’s not going to be a very accurate representation, because, firstly, my cutting wasn’t as accurate as it could have been, and second, I’ve found that needlefelting doesn’t always go to plan.

Dig House Preparation
Dig House Preparation

That said, a bit of stitchery helps to keep the pieces at least approximately in place.

I felt the felt of the trees looked a bit too solid, and snipped holes in it, snipped the edges, and then tugged and tweaked at it to open up the fabric.

Then I started to use my embellisher. And oh joy, a needle broke! I changed the needle plate and slowed down a bit after that. It turns out that three layers of even this fairly light felt are a bit much for the machine.

Dig House Needlefelted
Dig House Needlefelted

However, after much slow and careful embellishing, I have this.

The trees look much better now, with the edges and the holes satisfactorily destroyed and battered around the edges. The various layers of felt are melting into one another and flattening together.

This should at least provide me with an interesting basis for further stitched details!

 

The Two Princesses – Drapery, stage 2

Not Quite According To Plan
Not Quite According To Plan

The idea of using the netting is that it does not become caught up in the embellished fabric, and that it prevents bits of embellishment from becoming caught up on the needlehead and generally misbehaving.

As you can see, that sometimes doesn’t work quite as well as one might wish! Fragments can, and do, work themselves through the holes torn in the netting by the embellisher’s needles, and then jump with alacrity onto the needles, where they whizz up and down before the bemused eyes of the person operating the machine, causing no little apprehension as they do it!

Carefully Unpeeling
Carefully Unpeeling

There’s something else that doesn’t quite go to plan, as well. The netting does indeed become somewhat enmeshed with the felt.

As you can see, my little additions are by no means felted into the backing piece, but I’m already having to be very careful to peel off the netting, and if I had done much more with the embellisher, I might never have got the netting off at all!

I think it would be fair to say that I don’t really have anything like a real understanding of the effect of the embellisher on particular materials or combinations of materials. I’ve several more projects in mind so I’m sure my understanding will grow, but even by my standards, this is a venture into the unknown.

Embellishment Needlefelted
Embellishment Needlefelted

You can see that some of the pieces moved, and some never attached themselves at all. The pattern is distinctly higgledy-piggledy, and the elements aren’t equally firmly attached.

That said, I’ve managed to create something that has the warm red and the flashes of blue and gold, and although it isn’t the same pattern as the one in the fresco, it is certainly reminiscent of it.

I’m going to try another method entirely for a second section of drapery, and see whether that creates the effect I want.

Finishing the Glass Nile Tilapia Fish

Face Of Tilapia
Face Of Tilapia

There was a pause after I got the dorsal fin done. His lips and gill markings, and the pectoral fin, are all worked in blanket stitches, nesting them to outline the shapes in some cases and putting the edge where I wanted the firmer line in others.

I don’t have a dark enough linen thread for the dark of his eye, so the chain stitch spiral is of linen (the white) but then the dark is the navy silk perle I used on Nefertiti’s headdress. It works pretty well, I think. It looks as though he’s rolling a beady eye to watch someone he has his suspicions of!

I decided not to do anything too complicated for his head – simple irregular brick stitch. I didn’t want to split the threads, but I did my best to create a smooth surface.

Finished Glass Nile Tilapia
Finished Glass Nile Tilapia

When it came to the dragged stripes on the body, there was another pause. I knew what I should probably use, but I had to persuade myself that there wasn’t anything better. The last time I used stacked fly stitches (the fourth panel of the Persian Fantasy, which I did about twenty years ago and blogged about when I started blogging in 2010) the wretched things nearly drove me up the wall!

I think the fly stitches were better than other choices – although one of these days I may take the combed pattern as the inspiration for some Bargello work. That said, I’m not sure I like my Fishie as much as I expected to. His tail fin took some wrestling with, and doesn’t have the “flow” I was aiming for. It’s very possible that in a few months he’ll be fished out (sorry!) and reworked somewhat.

Starting the drapery for the Two Princesses

First Trial Layout
First Trial Layout

I’m going to build up the panel in layers, so I began by playing with bits of felt. I’ve cut small squares and triangles from other pieces of felt I have to hand, and begun to make some attempts to build up patterns with them.

The darker red shown here is actually one of the pre-felts painstaking split horizontally and then cut into bits. The idea was to produce something that gave the impression of folds in the drapery. I’ve come to the conclusion that that doesn’t work, and what’s more, I don’t think it ever will, partly because needlefelt applique turns out not to be a terribly exact science..

Second Trial Layout
Second Trial Layout

This seemed better. You’ll notice that it’s a bit haphazard, and that it runs over the whole piece, even though we know I will be covering quite a bit of it with the princesses themselves. I learnt a long time ago (with the Camberwell Panel, in fact) that when layering like this it is a false economy of time and effort to attempt to minimise the details on intermediate layers. This way I have more freedom for the exact placement, and can move the pieces around until I am happy with them.

Sandwiched In Net
Sandwiched In Net

Once I had layouts I was happy with, for both the drapery at the back and the patterned bench or divan covering the girls are sitting on, I created sandwiches of netting with my layouts- lightly hand-needlefelted – in the middle, and two layers of net back and front.

Time to get my embellisher out of its box!