The Little Robin finished!

Working On The Robin
Working On The Robin

I have to admit that I have enjoyed the little Robin. Here is a halfway point, showing that while many suggest drawing direction lines for their stitches, I chose to draw with my needle instead. I found that the more helpful because it gave me a chance to gauge the overlap of each section with the next.

I’ve gathered that some tutors suggest working small sections to completion, and others in colour layers. I took the latter approach with the (I’m sure not original) refinement that sometimes I went back and did another layer in a colour I’d already done.

Stumpwork Bits
Stumpwork Bits

I also had fun with the stumpwork elements: two simple wired leaves (nothing terrifying about that, after working on the Stumpwork Violets for Dreams of Amarna!) and three berries made of beads wrapped with thread. I’ve not wrapped beads before, but as it turned out, this, too, turned out to be fairly straightforward.

And fortunately, my wandering applique scissors returned to the fold in time to be of use…

The Robin Completed
The Robin Completed

So here he is.

As you can see, even though I worked him in a hoop, and regularly made sure the fabric tension was maintained, there is a little bit of puckering. That may reflect, as much as anything else, a certain anxiety on my part.  I think I will mount him on a round card and add him to the winter decoration corner when I set it up, and I should be able to ease some of the puckering then.

And – for those enquiring minds that wish to know – while I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with silk shading, we are definitely on better terms than we were!

Renovating Grandmama’s Footstool

Beginning Refurbishment
Beginning Refurbishment

Having been working on the Heart, I was still thinking about Grandmama, and noticing that one of the footstools she made was getting a bit shabby and buckled, I decided to renovate it…

It’s worked in tapestry wool on binca (that strange cotton matting fabric that stitching happened on at primary school – does anyone else remember it?). I think I still have, somewhere, Grandmama’s draft of the pattern on squared paper, but the best I can do for putting my hand on it is to say it is Somewhere In The House! Since I don’t have a workroom, I put the footstool in a plastic tray, which I seem to remember is sold for cleaning oven trays. I use it for wet felting and to contain messes when I’m doing things like this. The blued-steel flat-headed nails were very hard to get out, and indeed, some of them lost their heads (!) and didn’t come out. In due course they were hammered firmly back in, instead!

Repaired Stitching
Repaired Stitching

The binca around the edge was badly mauled by the nails, so I knew I would have to do something about that, but in the meantime, there were sections of the canvaswork that needed to be reinstated. First I washed and dried the whole thing (by hand) and then spent some time looking very hard at the stitching. More than fifty years of use have worn a few small sections, and the stitch took some identifying, but in the end, I decided it was Rice Stitch, and found a pale oatmeal tapestry wool that didn’t shout its’ newness too loudly.

Attached To Calico
Attached To Calico

Then I attached the binca to some calico and covered the join with one of the long-armed cross stitches. I wasn’t absolutely sure I had enough of the plain oatmeal colour so I alternated a needleful of each all the way around.

In the end, I had plenty left over, but I’ve said many a time before that when ekeing out assorted supplies, the trick is to Make It Look Deliberate!

Finished Footstool
Finished Footstool

I had to do that with the trim as well. Nothing in our local needlework shop was even remotely suitable so in the end I took some bobble fringing, a length of ribbon and some ricrac, and made my own!

There are one or two infelicities in the details, but it’s certainly got a good few years left in it now.

Thank you, Grandmama.

 

“Leaving The Tyne, 1915”

Leaving The Tyne 1915
Leaving The Tyne 1915

 

My contribution to the Embroiderers Guild 100 Hearts Project, commemorating the end of the First World War.

 

Dedicated to the memory of the men of the merchant fleet, and in particular the many immigrants and naturalised citizens who, sometimes in the face of xenophobic hostility, continued to serve their adopted country faithfully and well, and brought up their children to think of it as home. But in especial memory of my great grandfather Henry Frederick Bloom, who was Swedish, naturalised shortly after my Grandmama’s birth, and himself served throughout the War in the merchant fleet.

 

It has been allocated to the Liverpool exhibition, at Liverpool Cathedral, from September 7 until October 10.

Assembling the Heart

Gathering Backing Fabric
Gathering Backing Fabric

The assembly involved a lot of stages. I cut the backing fabric into a circle and gathered it up behind the design to provide an extra layer of protection against the hurly-burly of the stuffing.

Title Label
Title Label

Then I had to make a stitched title label (it also has my Guild membership number, but I forgot to take that photo!) to attach to the back.  I’m really not keen on lettering in stitch…

Morse Code Label
Morse Code Label

At this point, though, I thought, I simply cannot fail to have my Morse Code signature on the back too. Morse Code was a staple of communications until well after the Second World War, so it was very much in use during the First World War..

Dedication Stitched In
Dedication Stitched In

Having attached my title and signature labels to the back piece, I printed a photo of the finished roundel, the title and the dedication onto a piece of fine cotton, within a circle, to echo the circular shape of the roundel on the front. Then I attached the cotton circle to the inside of the back piece. When the piece is finished, a circle of backstitches on the back will be all that shows that this is there, but I will know.

And so will you!

Antwerp Stitch Edging
Antwerp Stitch Edging

I made assurance doubly sure of the assembly by first using running stitch to assemble the two sides of the Heart, and to close it after stuffing it. Then once the Heart was stuffed and closed, I reinforced the edge by stitching around it using Antwerp Edging Stitch, which is a knotted variation of blanket stitch.

Final reveal next week…

Final Details – I hope!

First Attempt At a Bow Wave
First Attempt At a Bow Wave

My first attempt to tackle the bow wave was to shred some white silk ribbon and try to attach it to the bow. That seemed a bit too white and a bit too solid.

What it did do, however, was give me an inkling as to how tricky the attachment of the bow wave was going to be. “Fiddly” doesn’t come close! And remember, there are a lot of delicate little details already assembled, so I couldn’t be too heavy handed with the attachment, either.

FreeForm Crochet
FreeForm Crochet

Having decided something lighter was needed, I tried another experiment: freeform crochet. In this case I started by using one strand of a stranded silk, decided that even that was too heavy, and moved on to sewing cotton. I’ve done a sort of shell pattern, but varied the sizes of the shells slightly to give a bit more unevenness to the whole thing. I’ve also crocheted fairly loosely to give the right frothy effect of seafoam.

Last Few Tweaks
Last Few Tweaks

The last few tweaks here are: the addition of the bow wave, and then the addition of railings around the deck cargo on the bow, and finally the rigging. The railings are made using a paper covered wire painted silver and dirtied with inktense for the posts, and two lines of black and silver twist for the chains. They’ve been surprisingly effective in helping everything to sit at its right plane in the sequence from foreground to background.

There maybe isn’t enough rigging for an operational vessel, but the photo wasn’t clear, and there is enough to have point and purpose

Now all I have to do (all!!!) is assemble my Heart!

More on the Wreath, and Other Details

Mast Spars and Wheelhouse
Mast Spars and Wheelhouse

In the end I covered the twisted cord (actually a bamboo and cotton blend knitting yarn) for the mast and spars with silk ribbon, which was more than slightly fiddly to achieve. There’s a collar around the mast, which, in an echo of the lifebelts, is a loop of buttonhole stitch. That was even fiddlier (is that a word? It is now!).

And Great-Grandfather’s wheelhouse has acquired a roof, made of several layers of buckram covered in silk ribbon, with buttonhole bars for the struts holding it up. That was also fiddly!

Detail Of Wreath
Detail Of Wreath

So, on to the wreath itself. That involved three different colours of silk ribbon, in two different width. I briefly considered something like the folded “leaf” shapes using wrapped parchement you sometimes see in 17th Century work, but in the end I decided I didn’t want to create anything too formal here, because it wouldn’t match the flow of the stitching. Sometimes a formal section provides a framework for everything else to clamber over, but here I felt it would create stopping-points, interrupting the eye as it moves around the piece. So the ribbons were knotted and looped and caught down in a sort of flowing chaos. White stranded silk French Knots, representing white berries, provide subtle accent and punctuation.

Wreath And Rigging
Wreath And Rigging

As you see, the wreath is now in place, with just a few white berries – white for peace.

I have quite a few more little tweaks to make, details to emphasize, maybe a bow-wave to add, but this is the original sketch brought mostly to life, and provides me with some hope that all that thinking and working will have a good result.

 

Progress on the wreath

Raised Stem Stitch Band
Raised Stem Stitch Band

The last time I used Raised Stem Stitch Band, it was for the rim of the Crock of Gold, and it went around concentrically.

This time I wanted to create the twisting appearance of a rope frame, so there was a little trial and error involved in working out how to make it work. Here you can see that there are green sections (which will be under the wreath) and yellow sections with differing shades to help create the rope effect. It’s not the classical version that runs straight along the axis of the foundation stitches, but I think it has worked rather nicely! That’s a relief…

Rope And Wreath
Rope And Wreath

It is a little lumpy, perhaps, but the shades of thread do create some shaping in the rope section, and I think the wreath itself will help to enhance that.

You can begin to see that the weight of stitchery is making the fabric sag, in spite of the backing. It’s just as well I did back it!

On The Bridge
On The Bridge

Another close-up, this time to show Great Grandfather in his place on the bridge.

He’s tiny, of course, and many onlookers won’t even notice him. But he’s there, the one human element in the piece, standing for all the hundreds of thousands of men and women involved in the war effort, military and civilian alike.

 

Details to think about

String Padding with Test Masts
String Padding with Test Masts

While I was working on the string padding and testing the placement of the vessel section, I was able to test the placement and height of the masts.

These are too high, but they are in roughly the right place, which is a step in the right direction, at least!

And, however much I may have wished to, I can’t simply use twisted cord. I’ll have to cover the masts with something…

Planning Wreath Placement
Planning Wreath Placement

Leaving that point to ponder, I finished the string padding and removed the vessel section, leaving its shadow in place.  You may note that I’ve added a funnel, and a bit of extra padding for the deck cargo!

I want to weave a wreath around the rope frame, in such a way as to set off the ship, rather than argue with it. The green tangles of thread helped me to do so…

WatchKeeper
WatchKeeper

Finally, I had another hard look at the photo and realised there was a watchkeeper on deck.

So here he is: buckram painted with inktense, a French knot for a face, and a knot of white thread for his scarf.

I’m going to say that this is Great-Grandfather, on watch as his ship leaves the Tyne.

 

Continuing to make progress

Sea Attached
Sea Attached

Once the sea was done, of course, it had to be attached. Again, a gathering thread, and tucking it around the edge of the buckram-and-padding base. That wasn’t too much of a trial,as it turned out, and once it was done, I could sit back and look at it.

I’m really quite pleased. There is a lot to come, but I think this makes a very strong start. In particular, the headland and the priory stand up well to the flags which could so easily dominate, and the sea supports both. Good!

Ship Shadow
Ship Shadow

Not that much of the sea is going to be on show, but I’d rather do the whole breadth and not have to worry about exact placement. It’s also quicker to do the whole breadth than it is to do short intermittent sections!

I want the vessel to be strongly raised, sailing out at the viewer, so before I attach the ship, I attached an underlayer, using wadding covered with printed cotton. It’s just tacked in place here, but you can see that I’ve set it to run out over the frame, when that is in place.

Padding The Wreath
Padding The Wreath

The preparation for the frame is underway in this picture. I’ve used several layers of string padding, and overlaid the ship piece to give a bit more of a hint of how it is going to look.

My idea for the wreath is to start off with raised stem stitch band, for the “rope” section, and then build on that base layer for the wreath. We’ll see how that goes…

 

Working on the vessel

Adding To The Stern
Adding To The Stern

Once I had the roundel started, I was able to finish the vessel – which, like the flags, I’d not done quite enough of !

By finish, I mean stitch the last bit of the stern that I need, and then cut out, and turn in the edges. Then go around the edges again, covering them with gimp or stitchery in suitable colours to hide the calico.

Tarpaulins
Tarpaulins

I also stitched an odd little fragment over a piece of gauze. This is going to help represent the deck cargo in the bows. The colours are quite dark, and stitched-in creases in grey helps to make it a bit more weatherbeaten.

Deck Cargo Added
Deck Cargo Added

Then there was still more padding to add, and the deck cargo to put in place.

This angle on the bows allows you to see the extra gimp running down the edge, and how much extra padding I’ve put in. You can also see the deck cargo – I cut close to the top edge, and then used the fabric below to attach it to the back of the vessel.