Canvaswork again – The Lady By The Lake

The Lady By The Lake
The Lady By The Lake

This is my second post of canvaswork for Catherine of Hillview Embroidery.

The Lady By The Lake has a much wider range of stitches and threads in it, including blends of stranded cottons, ribbons, and a variety of wools. The canvas is a double thread canvas which makes it possible to separate the threads and work some of the design in petit point.

I wrote a post about the Lady when I first started blogging, but I have a very much better camera now, and an incentive to take the picture down from the wall. Considering the canvas is still under glass I am very pleased with how the photographs turned out. There are enough different materials and textures in the scene to provide a good workout for thread and stitch selection muscles…

Sky And Mountains
Sky And Mountains

The sky and clouds are all Milanese Stitch, worked in blended Persian yarns with three strands in the needle.

The mountains are in Gobelins Stitch in tapestry wool, and the lakeside hills with their forest and villages are a whole tangle of interesting variations of stitch and thread.

Hat, Face And Blouse
Hat, Face And Blouse

The face and arms were worked in petit point, separating the double threads to create single thread canvas, and worked in stranded cottons (blended). The hair (she didn’t have quite such glorious chestnut hair on the painted canvas itself) is also blended stranded cottons, worked in a sort of long and short stitch. The hat has spider’s web stitch roses on it, and she’s wearing large pearl bead earrings.

Skirt And Bench
Skirt And Bench

It was the idea of experimenting with the skirt that attracted me. I used a bordered Hungarian Stitch, worked in three shades of pearl cotton and combining them to create the impression of five shades in the skirt. It worked!

The blouse is also pearl cotton, this time Linen Stitch, which is effectively the back of Basketweave Tent stitch put on the front.

I changed the wooden, slatted backed bench of the canvas into a padded one so that I could do the upholstery in Reversed Mosaic Stitch.

Lake And Town
Lake And Town

The lake itself took ages to do – row after row of darning stitch using all sorts of ribbons and threads, including some truly ghastly double knitting acrylic yarn which would have made a dreadfully uncomfortable jumper, but made a very good lake surface, with that slight sparkle you get when there’s just enough breeze to move the water.

Balustrade And Lake
Balustrade And Lake

The balustrade was worked in Soft Embroidery Cotton. I assumed it was something like limestone, and not marble with a polished surface, so the thread needed to be dull to let other elements shine.

Again, click on the pictures to see more and have fun thinking about what I should have done differently!

Canvaswork – Sunset Study

Sunset Canvaswork
Sunset Canvaswork

Catherine, of Hillview Embroidery, is doing an RSN canvaswork course at the moment, and commented in a recent post that the folder of photographs of the work of past students at the back of the studio has been really useful, partly for ideas, and partly just to practice analysing designs and stitches.

I have two canvaswork pieces that use ornamental stitches to represent the textures and colours they depict, both worked when I was a teenager. It’s much easier to analyse someone else’s work than your own, so Catherine, this post (and another, as yet unwritten) is for you!

Sunset Sky
Sunset Sky

It was actually the sky that made me buy this particular painted canvas (this was long before I’d tried designing my own!). I think the stitch is Hungarian Point, and since the canvas had such a graphic feel, rather than being painterly, I was quite happy to leave the sky with those sharp colour changes. The pattern in fact runs clean through from bottom to top, but that those same colour changes mask the fact. The heather clad hills are in Plaited Stitch, worked small to help them recede. And the foliage of the tree is Ray Stitch. I do wonder whether I should have done the ray stitch facing downwards, but some of the pines have a slight upward curve, so they are staying as they are.

Lady In Punt
Lady In Punt

Almost all the threads in this piece were wool. It’s a fairly large gauge canvas, and again, there’s so much flat colour that blends wouldn’t really be suitable.

The lady in the the punt is Soft Embroidery Cotton for her skin and hair, and tubular synthetic for her gown and hat, and the punt is straight stitches in assorted browns. The tree trunk is effectively in stem stitch, and the bushes at the front are interlocking elongated cross stitches. They look surprisingly bushy, don’t they!

Trees And Bark
Trees And Bark

The trees in the distance are in Upright Cross Stitch, which makes a good intermediate texture between the bushes at the front and the distant hillside.

And that near tree? That’s one of the reasons I didn’t finish. I found that not only was I not enjoying the combination of stitches, I was running out of the threads and colours I was using. I threw it in the loft in frustration and disgust and only fished it out again after I’d read Catherine’s post.

The sea is another reason. I still haven’t worked out how to do it, and at the moment, I am still not at all sure I want to.

You can click on all the pictures to see them more closely, so Catherine, your homework is to look at them all, think about what you like and what you’d have done differently.

And if any of you have any suggestions for the sea – let me know!

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…

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.

Finishing the Form Cushion – Stage One

Corner of the Form
Corner of the Form

When I’d finished the stitching of the canvaswork for the Form Cushion, it was a little puffy and warped, and badly in need of blocking, but being long and thin I had nothing suitable for blocking it on. Until I had an inspiration – use the form itself!

We covered the form with an old towel, and then worked on alternate sides of the form. I’ve put an old length of cotton curtain header over the canvas, so that when I come to remove the staples, it will be fairly easy to do.

In theory…

It took quite a lot of heaving and tweaking, and the combined efforts of my mother and myself (for a client, she’s having to put a lot of effort in here, isn’t she! – she’s started on renovating the form too.), but in due course we managed to get the canvas firmly attached, and stood back to look at it.

Taking The Long View
Taking The Long View

 

It didn’t look nice and smooth as it does here. It was bumpy and lumpy, and not very happy at all.

So I steamed it gently, using a steam iron but not letting it touch the wool. Very, very carefully, and slowly..

It started looking a great deal better (even upside-down), but then we set it aside, still stapled in place, for a few weeks. We wanted to be sure that it was very thoroughly dry before we moved on to actually making the cushion.

And besides, I’m not entirely clear on the type of cushion it will be!

Three Rabbits – or are they Hares?

Three Rabbits Bag
Three Rabbits (or Hares) Bag

Rummaging around as I try to reorganise the house, I’ve rediscovered a bag I made some time ago.

The Three Rabbits (or Hares) design is an ancient one, found all along the Silk Route and in many different cultures. I’ve seen it in textiles and ceramics, carved as mere outlines, polychrome with a wealth of fabulous detail. I’ve also seen variants with animals other than hares, and even variants with more animals in the circuit.

Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David's bag
Close up of the rather travel weary hares on David’s bag

I think I first encountered it when I first met David Singmaster, the mathematician and metagrobologist – it’s one of his many interests, and he has a drawstring bag decorated with the design that he takes everywhere, stocked with mathematical puzzles and games to entertain anyone who comes near. I saw it recently when David and his wife were at a conference my husband and I attended, and his wife remembered that her mother had had to remind her of how to do the French Knots for the eyes. I took delight in noting the puzzled brows that ensued whenever David took anything out of the bag!

My version is one of the simplest, I suspect. I designed a very simple circuit of hares (or rabbits!), and embroidered it using chain stitch on a russet coloured furnishing fabric. The bag is padded with wadding and lined with the same fabric.

Bunny Buckle
Bunny Buckle

Finally I designed a small buckle-type ornament made of a strip of fabric embroidered with a very definite bunny  embroidered in stem stitch, and put one on each end of the strap.

I’m intending to do a much more complicated version one of these days, maybe with a mille-fleurs background like the tapestries in the Musée de Cluny.

Watch this space, as they say!

The Worktop bin – finished

Edges turned in
Edges turned in

There is always more “engineering” involved in these projects than you expect. Once I’d turned in the edges and done the herringbone stitch “piping”, I realised that the top of the bin was probably going to be on show on the inside. I found some felt to line it with, but since it was a spare offcut, I decided to run a line of straight stitches on the inside, just in case there wasn’t enough of it!

Felt lining attached
Felt lining attached

I attached the felt with small stitches, not too tightly, but just enough to make sure that it doesn’t move unless I want it too. It’s almost a pre-felt, not too dense, so it showed some adventurous tendencies. Some firm treatment, a tug or two, and it settled down nicely.

Vertical Seam
Vertical Seam

Which allowed me to consider tackling the seam turning it from a flat piece to a tube. After some of my usual thoughtful staring, it finally occurred to me that I already had the answer: Herringbone stitch, just like the edge finish at the top.

Obvious, really, isn’t it! It makes a sturdy seam which won’t permit much lateral movement, and since I’ve used it on the top edge, it doesn’t introduce yet another texture.

Finished and in service
Finished and in service

When it came to sorting out the base, I put the sawn-off milk bottle inside to make sure I made everything fit, and folded in the canvas, holding it with a few rough stitches.

Finally I attached a piece of very dense felt to the bottom to hide all the canvas edges and make sure they don’t scratch any of the furniture. It is already in use, and you have to admit it’s very much better than an unclad sawn-off milk bottle would be!

 

Coalbrookdale in Cross Stitch

Coalbrookdale - Detail
Coalbrookdale – Detail

Many years ago I used to design counted cross stitch kits, and did some for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. I did think of turning a certain very famous picture into a kit, but since we never finished the test stitch, it is just as well they decided not to go with it.

This is something else we’ve found in a fit of tidying up, and thought,”hmm, we should finish that – it will look good!”

"Coalbrookdale By Night" by Philip James de Loutherberg. Copyright The Science Museum
“Coalbrookdale By Night” by Philip James de Loutherberg. Copyright The Science Museum

It was done in the early days of computer-aided cross stitch design. I scanned a postcard of “Coalbrookdale By Night”, in the somewhat apocalyptic vision of Philip James de Loutherberg, and then spent some time tweaking the number of colours the computer used to render the design as a cross stitch piece. One of the problems with this form of computer design was that, no matter how much human intervention was involved, the design tended to end up being a bit spotty.

Coalbrookdale Cross Stitch
Coalbrookdale Cross Stitch

You can see that spotty effect in the detail picture above.

The human intervention did at least result in the removal of the entirely superfluous lime green stitches that the computer package used to scatter across every design it was involved in. I never did understand why that happened, but the first change I always had to make was to change the lime green into something more suitable.

What I have to do now is think of something useful to turn it into when it’s finished….

17 UFOs in 2017

Still More Circles
Still More Circles

Meredithe (Pomegranate and Chintz) and Anne (Frayed At The Edge) are running a challenge for the year – 17 UFOs in 2017. The idea is not necessarily to finish, but to make substantial progress, on 17 UFOs.

wp-1476468286469.jpg
Now, I’m not sure I have that many UFOs, and I have many new projects I want to work on (more on those soon), but I do have a good few that are stalled, or that I’m not sure whether I’ve finished or not, so although I’m not going to join in regularly, I will try to use the impetus of the challenge to remind myself to assess progress.

Blanket Stitch Fans
Blanket Stitch Fans

1 Eve in the Garden of Eden – I really want to finish this so I can sign up for the Stumpwork Lion!
2 Nefertiti Shawl – well, clearly, I want to be able to wear this!
3 Queen Anne style teacloth – this is a travelling project, so it depends on where I go and whether I have light or time to work on it.

From The Back
From The Back

4 The Modern Stitch-Off – I’m not sure whether this is finished or not, so if I can at least decide that by the end of the year, I’ll be pleased.
5 The Christmas Angel – I was going to work on the Christmas Angel last year between Christmas and Epiphany, and never set a stitch on it.

Shoulder Cape
Shoulder Cape

6 The Faience Necklace – this has been a real trial to me, as I can’t bring the design into focus. I’ve got some lovely silk thread so maybe that will help me to get started.
7 The Swan – I got the first layer of Laid and Couched work done, and have had trouble working out the detail layer…

Swan - First Layer
Swan – First Layer

8 The Unicorn – again, first layer done, details escaping me.

Unicorn - the first layer
Unicorn – the first layer

I have a lot of other things I want to do, which are barely begun, never mind finished, and as I have said, in the case of several of these projects it is not a matter of simply stitching, so much as deciding what to stitch, and then stitching it.

My real target for the year with these eight is to have finished the Nefertiti Shawl and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Anything else is a bonus!