Category: Tudor and Stuart Gold Master Class
You last saw the Golden Acorn in July, when I was thoroughly fed up with it.
Since I’d got so engrossed in stitching that I’d neglected to pay attention to the details and had to unpick the lot, when I came to re-stitch I decided to put in the braid stitch in silver first.
I found the silver to be a more temperamental thread than the gold, although structurally it was exactly the same. However, these threads are all made more or less by hand, and must be hugely susceptible to temperature and humidity.
I know from my textile technology studies that natural fibres – such as cotton, wool, and silk – are susceptible to environmental conditions, because the basis for the success of the Lancashire cotton industry was due in no small part to the fact that ideal conditions for growing cotton are far from ideal for turning the cotton into cloth. In fact, nowadays, textile factories are built with climate control, because the speed of modern production demands that all possible variables be thoroughly ironed out.
In the same way, if you visit a woollen mill, you will see piles of wool at various stages of production, just sitting there. If you are a time-and-motion person you’ll get very uptight about this, and talk about “Just In Time” manufacturing – only to be told, in no uncertain terms, that if you want to pay for all the failed batches that will result from not allowing the wool to relax (technical term – yes, honestly) between processes, you’re welcome, but the manager won’t let it out of the factory with their name on it.
The silver and gold threads we are using have natural fibre cores, so sensitivity to climate is only to be expected!
I found both of the two main stitches in the strapwork, Ceylon stitch and Braid Stitch, rather troublesome in metal thread, although Braid Stitch in pearl cotton is one of my favourites. There’s no denying that they produce a rich and exotic effect once they are in place, though!
I became slightly fed up with tent stitch – there was such a lot of it! – while I was working this, so I’ve been giving myself some time away from it. I’ll get started on the next one of these when I feel ready for fine tent stitch again.
I’m also waiting until all three are stitched before I decide which to finish to create which stitching accessory. If I recall correctly, there’s a scissors keep, a needlecase, and a pincushion. I suspect they’ll end up in that famous Winter Decoration Corner I keep threatening to do!
I need to learn to pay attention to the instructions.
Still, before we get to that – I’ve finished the tent stitch on the Golden Acorn!
Here you see it, first with the outlining for the strapwork still in place, and then in close-up with the outlining removed. That was exciting at times – the gold thread had been caught in a few places by the green.
Next, there was a pattern of bullion knots to create an interesting effect on the cup of the acorn. Several different lengths interlock here. I’m not particularly keen on Bullion Knots, but I’m glad I included them – I think they look really good.
The beginning of the strapwork was a row of Broad Chain Stitch in each of the narrow channels left in the green background.
All is still well in the first of these pictures, where I’ve put in the Ceylon Stitch strapwork in gold.
Then, concentrating painfully on my Braid Stitch I went on to add the second lot of straps, and didn’t stop to think until I had finished all four corners. At which point I looked at it and thought it looked rather clunky and that it really didn’t have the delicacy or charm I’ve come to expect from Tricia’s designs.
So then (not soon enough!) I went to have a look at the instructions.
The Braid Stitch should be in silver.
Out it all came.
That’ll larn me!
(“Larn” is a dialect word, so what I mean is “That’ll teach me!”)
The Acorn itself was finished rapidly, and looks pretty good. For some reason I found it easier, with the second leaf, to work by reference to the first leaf, rather than the chart. You would expect that that would lead to the result being asymmetrical, but I think removing the extra step of checking with the chart was a good idea!
The next stage is to work the background, leaving space for the goldwork stitches that will embellish it. I really do not want to have to refer to the chart with every line of tent stitch, so I’ve taken some time to outline the placement of the goldwork stitches in back stitch. Doing this has nearly driven me absolutely mad, but it will means that I will be able to count the background from the edge of the goldwork rather than from the acorn, which will be ever so much easier.
The background is dark green tent stitch, and I will next post about this when I’ve finished it, and started the goldwork stitches. It will take a while. There is only so much dark green I can cope with at any one time!
The Golden Accessories is a set of bonus instructions for three needlework accessories which was supplied with the Tudor and Stuart Masterclass, and now that the Petite Pincushion is finished, I’m starting on the first of them.
The silk work seems to be entirely in tent stitch, so, although the fabric is very fine, it will be simple enough to work. The cold snap at the beginning of the year has roughened my hands, so the silk sometimes catches a little – but in fact, surprisingly little, and at least the wristwarmers make stitching possible at all!
I’ve been fortunate, since the weather has been kind, giving me good light to stitch by. So good, in fact, that the first two colours seemed to be stitched in no time at all, leaving me positively flabberghasted by my progress. Strange to say, although tent stitch has never been a favourite of mine, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed starting work on the Acorn – I think it is something to do with the silk thread, which is just gorgeous to work with!
Well, at last!
My first post on the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass was dated 7 May 2010, so the course has taken me about 22 months, rather than the eighteen that Tricia planned it for. That’s not too bad – I thought it would have been much longer.
I’ve finished the spots and stitches as designed and laid down in the course, with a few small additions. I’ve done several sections of Plaited Braid using different metal threads, as well as having another go at Diagonal Half Guilloche stitch, down at the bottom. The picture is quite high resolution, if you want to zoom in and have a closer look..
I don’t usually practice stitches very much, but some of these stitches look and feel so different in the various different threads that it’s become clear to me that on future projects, I will have to test all my metal stitches with the thread and fabric I intend to use.
I also realised – at the last moment – that I hadn’t done possibly the hardest bit in the whole thing, that is, the curved stems of Plaited Braid Stitch for this flower. That was difficult for several reasons, but partly because I spent a lot of time trying to get the frame in the right position to allow me to work the stitch as I had practised it. I chose the very finest of the metal threads in the kit, and in the end I discovered that I could work the stitch quite effectively not only as I’ve practised (horizontally), but also at an angle, working away from me. It’s worked quite well, and I enjoyed wrestling it into some sort of sense, but I don’t yet feel that I can work Plaited Braid stitch with ease or grace. Maybe that will come in time. In truth, I think being able to work it at all is a considerable achievement!
I said the Petite Pincushion had accelerated – it’s finished!
First here is a view of the finished embroidery, still stretched on the frame. You can see the zig zags of the the Hem Stitch on Ladder Stitch, the spirals of the Spider’s Webs, the intricate patterns of the Eight Sided Interlacing and the Figure Eight Interlacing, and the regular background texture of the Queen Stitches. Looks good, doesn’t it!
Making up the pincushion was relatively easy, especially after the Tulip Slip Pincushion and the Tudor Pincushion. The kit included a lovely piece of jacquard woven silk for the back, and Fine Grecian Twist to trim the pincushion. I backed the embroidered section with calico to keep the stuffing in – I couldn’t find silk in the right sort of colour (stash not big enough!) and the calico is unobtrusive. All the sewing was done by hand – I find it easier to do that than to get the sewing machine out!
Somehow, progress on the Petite Pincushion accelerated hugely once the silkwork was finished. Each separate metal element (except the border!) proved to be fairly quick to do, and as I’ve already said, I enjoyed them immensely.
The next elements of the Petite Pincushion were the four spots of Eight Sided Interlacing in silver – so, yet another different metal thread to sample. Putting in the foundation stitches was made much easier because the foundation of tent stitches was square, and neatly segmented along each side by the Queen Stitches. Working these fairly zipped along, and I really enjoyed them.
The final section was a border of hemstitch on Ladder Stitch, with Eight legged Spider’s Web stitch in each corner.
The Eight Legged Spiders Web stitches were easy and fun, filling in the otherwise blank corners beautifully. They’re more stable than the Four Legged variation, so if I were to be mad enough to use this as a pincushion when it’s finished, the spider’s webs would continue to look good under the strain!
I’ve been struggling with ladder stitch throughout the course – if you recall, when I first started working it on the Spot Sampler, I had serious problems with tension and with the thread breaking up. Practice makes perfect, I’m glad to say. By the time I’d worked Ladder Stitch all around the edge of the Petite Pincushion, it was going swimmingly – much to my relief.
The Hemstitches on either side of the Ladder Stitches increase the thickness of the edges, and create a zig zag effect with the horizontals, subtly altering the overall effect.
The diagram in the instructions listed the goldwork stitches from the centre outwards, so that is the order in which I decided to work them.
The detached buttonhole stitch at the centre was worked in a very fine silver thread. It was terrifyingly lively and had a will of its own, which made it hard to be sure of what I was doing. Yes, I had the magnifier, but looking at the closeup, the stitches are not especially consistent in size or shape.
I also caught down the detached fabric in the middle of the long side – not a step listed in the instructions, but one which seemed sensible at the time.
The Figure Eight Interlacing stitch filled in the strapwork in the middle of each side of the panel. I really enjoyed working this stitch, and this element of the Petite Pincushion seemed to be finished in no time at all! And believe me, I’m very glad I worked the detached buttonhole stitch first. I shudder to think how that whippy silver thread would have caught around edges of these panels, which stand proud of the surface to a considerable degree!
Born teacher that she is, Tricia provided two additional projects with the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass. After all, practice makes perfect, and practice is much more palatable when it produces something pretty at the end.
The silkwork of the Petite Pincushion is primarily worked in queen stitches. As you may have gathered, I’m not especially keen on counted work, regarding it as a salutary discipline rather than a pleasant pastime. I’ve been rather pleased that I’ve persisted with it in these cases, which is testament to the enjoyment I’ve been getting from learning the new stitches, and my desire to play with them even more.
Not that it has been entirely straightforward. The tent stitch corner panels were quite a strain – it’s astonishing how, even with a magnifier, I’ve managed to miss the odd stitch or set it crooked and have to unpick it and try again.
I never thought I would say this, but the queen stitches were easier! They interlock nicely, creating a textured, almost brocade-like surface which will make a good background for all the goldwork stitches that fill in the strapwork.
The central veins of the leaves here are in Guilloche Stitch, and in one case I have have used the “imitation silver” thread and in the other case, one of the other, very fine silver threads. This shows – if we needed it pointed out, at this stage – that all metal threads are not created equal. We tend to think of silver and gold as being unchanging colours, but in fact you’ve only to look at jewellery to realise that there are many colours of gold (or in this case, silver). The threads are slightly different weights, as well, but one is clearly a brighter colour than the other.
I loved the diagonal cross shaped interlacing stitch. I can’t for the life of me think what I would do with it (something with a Celtic theme, perhaps?), but I loved working it, and like all these interlacing stitches, it looks harder than it is. That’s the right way around. Satin Stitch looks easy, but neat, smooth satin stitch is really only possible to the experienced embroiderer!
Once the foundation is correct, it is obvious where the interlacing threads need to go over and where under, and then hey presto! one fabulous, dazzling, interlaced spot.
You may recall that the plaited braid stitch was one of the reasons I wanted to do the course. My post about tackling it mentioned that I felt I was beginning to get to grips with it, and would be able to pick it up in future if or when I wanted to. So this was my first test of that confidence.
And yes, nailed it! I did have to unpick my first attempt, and I decided that the backstitch was rather hindering my efforts, but I really think that I can count this as a stitch I can take on whenever I want to!
The circle interlacing stitch is another of those wonderful, easier-than-it-looks stitches, and would make a great oversized “sequin” if one wanted to play with scales of stitches and design elements.