Then the Head of Nefertiti swept into my head and my hands and took almost all my brain power and stitching time, and Nothing Happened.
Well, something has now happened. I’ve had the Christmas Angel sitting in the corner of the living room waiting to be noticed, and a little while ago, I got to a natural Stop and Think point with my other projects.
So I have made a start on the background. I’m using metallic machine thread, two strands for the rough, textured threads in the centre of each cell, and three strands, one of each of three shades for the framework. It’s beyond fiddly and flyaway, and I’ve even bought some Thread Heaven to see whether it helps (a bit, maybe not quite as much as I hoped).
All that said, I think it is going to look rather splendid when it is finished. The idea is that it should be somewhat reminiscent of an icon painted on gold leaf. Some of them have a sort of engraved “diaper pattern” effect, and I hope that the diamond flame bargello pattern will do the job.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
I suddenly realised that I haven’t got any representations of the Aten in the panels. Considering that Akhenaten’s new, monotheistic devotion to the Aten actually created Amarna (Aketaten in his day), that is more than a little remiss of me. So the extra details I am planning for Nefertiti – shown here, drafted on tracing paper laid over the the print I didn’t use for stitching – begin to right that wrong.
I’ve drawn the rays of the Aten ending in little hands outstretched in blessing, as seen in many wall-carvings and paintings at Amarna. For some reason (research to be done…!) the hands nearest the noses of Nefertiti and Akhenaten often hold an ankh, so that is also included.
I’ve added in Nefertiti’s cartouche, although I think I may have drawn it too large for the design as a whole, and my own, which will include my initials in Morse Code, as this is a standalone companion piece.
I want the lines to be there, and yet not there, so I found some filament silk that I bought at Texere Yarns before they closed their store, and had a go with it, using reverse herringbone stitch, as I did for the contours of The Map of Amarna.
And it completely disappeared.
So this is the next version, reverse chain stitch using a 2-into-1 twist. I’m much happier with that, although twisting the thread before I stitch with it does rather slow down the stitching part of it!
But still, here I am, stitching with hand-twisted thread, twisted by me. Never would fifteen-year-old me have believed I would be doing that!
I don’t usually join in “craftivism”, but I heard about this one just before the Bank Holiday Weekend and decided to. For those who haven’t heard of it, there is now a Facebook Group and if you search for the hashtag “AHeart4MCR” on Instagram or Twitter you will see plenty of responses. The outpouring of love and support for those injured or otherwise affected by the attack last week remains our best, and indeed only, useful response.
Let’s keep it up!
I sat happily stitching these felt hearts through all of Saturday afternoon. There’s nothing complicated about any of them, certainly not by my standards, but each is different, some stitched, some couched, and all the threads are either linen or silk. I didn’t make a pattern, thought, and I should have, because they were all a bit ragged and needed trimming!
Each heart is backed with a second layer of felt to hide any extraneous ends, and I have, as the originator suggested, attached hanging loops.
Then on Sunday, I fished out a crochet hook and thread, and rummaged on Ravelry for a simple crochet heart pattern via Ravelry and tried a trio of those too. You may believe it, but these are all the same pattern, and yet no two of them are alike.
However, they are the first crochet motifs I’ve ever made, and are full of good wishes for those who eventually receive them.
There’s a fresco of two of the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, which is quite well known, and indeed, was mentioned to me by the speaker, when I went to a lecture at the Egypt Exploration Society about the textiles in Tutankhamun’s tomb. I decided to have a go at representing this fragment using my embelllisher, to provide a companion piece for the three Amarna Geese I worked a while back.
Children in ancient Egypt – of whatever rank – appear to have run around naked much of the time, and with shaven heads. I’ll just have to get the outlines right….
I bought some more of the pre-felts I used for the Amarna Geese at “Sewing For Pleasure” in Birmingham, on the day I met up with Sue of Tortoiseloft blog.
Then I printed out the image I found online as large as I could and started planning my variation. It won’t, of course, be an exact reproduction of the fresco. It will be a sort of inlaid felt version of what I think might have been the real life inspiration for the scene.
Long-time readers may recall that I discovered with the Amarna Geese that embroidered details help to bring a scene to life, and at least if the embroidery is worked in wool, responds well to being needlefelted.
So after cutting out my two little princesses, in a single piece, I started to add details – lines to make sense of the bodies, the delicate eyes and eyebrows, the lips, and the necklaces. I’m very pleased with how they’ve turned out, because the felt doesn’t take pencil, so I was on my own – drawing with my needle.
Now I have to work out how to create the impression of the fabric backdrop and bench my two little princesses are sitting on….
So this is where we left the Head of Nefertiti. the polychrome bands and the gold edges of the headdress are done, and I have worked a section of necklace.
I keep flip-flopping between feeling that that section of necklace is just right, and feeling that it really isn’t enough at all. I like the sense of a delicate flash of colour barely surviving the years, but at the same time, there’s an inner glitter-girl that wants to see a bit more than that..
So, while I think a little more about the necklace question, I thought I’d make another attempt at the browband. This time it is simply straight stitches, in a slightly finer thread than the rest of the gold stitching. It’s not perfectly regular, but, again, the slight unevenness evokes the damage of the years.
And besides, by now, you must know that regularity of stitching is not my forte!
So, again, I find myself at a pause.
I’m happy with the browband, I think, definitely happy with the polychrome bands, and the gold trim.
However, I’m still not sure whether I’m happy with the necklace.
Since my thought is to quilt a pattern into the background, I had best be certain that I’m happy before I start attaching padding and picking patterns!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!