I’ve not finished the Dig House panel yet, but I’m working on it!
I’ve tried to add detail and shading to the walls of the house by running threads underneath the top layer of felt, and then running the embellisher over the top to help that added layer to show through a little more.
I’m also adding a lot of detached chain stitch leaves to the trees. This is overbalancing the detail on the whole piece, pulling the eye out to the side, so although I still need to do more of this, I need to sharpen up the details on the central section a bit more as well.
It’s easy to make this sort of mistake when you’re making something up as you go along – they don’t always arrive in your head fully formed! – but fortunately, a bit of my favourite thoughtful staring helped me to work out what I need to do.
Now it is just a matter of actually doing it right….
Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will have noticed that the embroidery you mostly see has been supplemented by the occasional piece of crochet over the past few months. I’ve found my crochet projects easier to travel with than embroidery, and it’s a different sort of puzzle to solve.
I’ve done a few shawls or scarves, and a pair of socks, and while I try to work out whether crocheted lacy socks are really “me”, I thought I would try something else that isn’t flat. Issue fifty five of Simply Crochet contained a backpack project designed by Ilaria Caliri. The colours didn’t really appeal to me, but the idea of the structure, and the tapestry crochet band across the middle, definitely did.
I started playing around with ideas for colours and designs, and it took me really quite some time to settle on something simple and repetitive enough that it might actually work. The dreadful picture of a picture at the beginning of this post is one of the pictures I took when the EES let me spend a day in their library, and I think that the fact it was so poor really helped me to cut out frills.
The backpack will be navy blue, and the tapestry crochet band is a series of petal shapes in turquoise and lapis, with a background of gold, and bordered with carnelian (approximately!). I had a lovely half hour in SMD Knitting while we found the right shades of acrylic aran-weight yarn, and now all I have to do (all!) is decide whether my petals will be broad end up or broad end down and then get to work…
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!
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!
I really should pay more attention to myself. I have said before that trying to work around edges is work for fools, and that often it is worth doing more stitching than is going to show. In the end I decided to listen to myself and do the whole sky.
If I’d done that before putting the trees in, however, the stitching would have been less fiddly and the experience, less frustrating!
The next stage is to add the foliage, more silk gimp couched with Soie Ovale, but this time couched in little curls.
I had been looking forward to this, as it looked rather entertaining in the photos, but thus far I haven’t enjoyed it at all. I’ve got myself tied in some terrible knots, and I’ve ended up cutting the gimp more often than I like.
I need to rethink how I tackle this, look again at the photos and instructions, and try to work out why I’ve ended up with something that looks congested and floppy, both at the same time. I also need to work out, if possible, how to hop from section to section, rather than cutting the gimp.
You may recall that I started on a tablecloth using a Briggs Transfer, as my “travelling project“. I’ve not travelled much, so progress has been somewhat spotty, but when the weather turned very warm while I was playing with my embellisher, I set the wool aside to pick up the tablecloth.
I suppose these might be harebells or bluebells or something similar?
I’ve worked them in Vandyke Stitch, which creates a strong central rib on each petal. It can be a tricky stitch to get just right, because tension makes a huge difference, and I may have worked them a little too tightly.
I’ve also changed each of the four appearances of this figure – there are two colours, and the disposition of those two colours isn’t quite the same in any two. It made it more interesting to stitch!
The next set of sprigs was this design element, and for this I went very old school and traditional – buttonhole wheels!
Furthermore, I used the same idea as with the harebells (if that’s what they are). This time, three colours. The one nearest the stem always dark, the furthest from the stem always light, the other two different on each of the sides of the tablecloth.
These two sprigs went swiftly. One heatwave, and they were done.
This blueish-purple flower won’t be so quick. The inner petals are in closed herringbone stitch. I’m getting better at that, but it is a time consuming stitch and I sometimes tie myself in knots still.
The outer petals are in Basque Stitch, another one that I sometimes tangle. It’s pretty, and creates an intriguing effect. I’ve worked both petals from the base to the time, which produced a few odd contortions. But when it works, I think it’s lovely!
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.
Unless I decide otherwise, the head of Nefertiti is now finished.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now I’ve got Eve out again, it’s fairly romping away, which means I genuinely have progress to show for Meredithe’s “17 UFOs in 2017“. At least, it is romping away when you consider that everything has to be done twice…! The second hillock took a couple of afternoons (I try not to work at the frame for too long at a time, in case it makes the shoulder worse again!), and then I got started on the trees and their branches.
The trunk and branches are of couched silk gimp. The kit included four different colours of gimp, with the accompanying Soie Ovale, for couching, and each colour is couched as a single length. It’s expensive stuff, and you end up using three or four inches at each end for plunging and finishing off. Most of the branches will be covered by the foliage, also in couched gimp, but I’m pausing for a moment to consider whether I want to fill in more of the sky.