Nefertiti Shawl – an excursion into duality

Trying To Recover The Pattern
Trying To Recover The Pattern

Having completed one green panel, I decided that I wanted the other green panel to be not quite the same, and I couldn’t work out how to approach keeping the family resemblance and maintaining some sense of balance.

So I asked The Australian, who you may remember is also a mathematician. He looked at me in some perplexity for a while. In fact, as I explained the layers of patterns I’d created, he eyed me more than a little askance, and then went very quiet for a while (you’d think he’d be used to it by now…).

Finally, he suggested I think about duality. Now, this isn’t a philosphical thing – it’s quite tightly defined, in the geometrical sense, at least – see this Wikipedia page – so after some discussion over lunch, we decided that if I were to regard the elements of the two green panels as duals of one another, it would give me a systematic way to approach the second one, rather than flailing around randomly.

Now I had to decide what was what’s dual….

For example, in the first panel, I chose between floss silk or stranded silk, and in the case of stranded, between solid colour and variegated; then in terms of stitch orientation (going clockwise), between vertical, diagonal, horizontal and the other diagonal. In this context, I’m not sticking to the idea of a binary choice, so for example with stitch orientation I will go to the next 45degree angle around the clock face, while with the thread, I’m going to pick some ordering of variegated stranded, plain stranded and variegated floss and then move along to the next in that sequence.

Jacobean Trellis
Jacobean Trellis

In terms of the stitch choice, essentially there are four: Jacobean trellis, darning stitch (rows of irregular running stitch, in effect), Bokhara couching, and Woven Stitch.

Woven Stitch
Woven Stitch

I can choose to make Bokhara Couching and darning stitch each other’s duals – that will move the heaviest stitching to different places in the panel.

The other two will be each other’s duals, with the added complication that they have each involved two different threads.

Have I simplified my life or complicated it?

Nefertiti Shawl – partial panels

Partial Red Panel
Partial Red Panel

There are partial red panels at the edges of the Shawl, and as I want the colours to run the whole way across, clearly I have to stitch them. While I was mulling over the blue panels and the green ones, I carried on with those partial panels.

Stitch placement diagram 1
Stitch placement diagram 1

The central circles in all cases are in chain stitch and stem stitch, but I wanted a variety of effects in the main circles. That wasn’t as easy to achieve as you might think, for all my extensive repertoire of stitches! I found “German Knotted Blanket Stitch” in Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, and Palestrina and Loop Stitch are old friends, but by this point I’d managed to rack my brain into remembering most of those..

Edge Panel in red
Edge Panel in red

I was beginning to be at my wits end for stitches, and spent some time rummaging in Edith John’s “Creative Stitches” and “New Stitches for Embroidery”. Many of them would be easier in a slightly stiffer thread at a slightly larger scale, so I find myself wondering what Miss John devised her stitches for.

Graphic of stitch choice
Graphic of stitch choice

The full circles here are in stitches which are old friends, but the partial circles are some of hers. Floral Feather is a feather stitch with an upside down blanket stitch beside it, and I quite fell in love with it. I’ll be looking for another opportunity to use that one!.

Centre Chain stitch alternates single chain with fly stitch, starting each chain stitch within the previous one. That might be a way to vary textures with Wheatear Stitch, while still keeping the overall pattern. And Double Chain Stitch places a chain stitch and an open chain stitch side by side, alternating the ordering to create a checked effect.

Nefertiti Shawl – the second pair of blue panels

Trialling Sorbello Stitch
Trialling Sorbello Stitch as a background

You may recall that I wasn’t entirely happy with the the first two blue panels. I’m still not entirely sure why, but I decided that I would work the second pair rather differently.

The outline of the pillar like shape, this time, was in Vandyke stitch using a Stef Francis variegated silk. Tricky, on such a mobile fabric, but I liked it enough to keep going, and moved on to a background using Sorbello Stitch. I rather like Sorbello Stitch – I used it for the villages on the Map of Amarna – and because I was working it at a tiny scale, the mobility of the fabric wasn’t a huge problem.

Second Version of the blue panel

On to the internals of the pillar like shape, and I started with a Ceylon stitch wheel. This is a needlelace stitch, and even with the fabric in a hoop, tension was an interesting challenge…

I’ve also made the background a chequerboard of Sorbello Stitches in two shades of blue. I must have really enjoyed myself!

Finally, I filled the rest of the body of the pillar with Ceylon Stitch. Tension was even more of a problem here, and I may have to come back to this and tweak it, restitch it, or even change my mind again. We’ll see!

In the meantime, however, I have to do another one on the other side of the panel.

Finished, made up and being worn!

Coat Of Many Flowers - 1
Coat Of Many Flowers – 1
Coat Of Many Flowers - 2
Coat Of Many Flowers – 2

There’s not much to say here, except that the Jacobean Coat has been re-christened The Coat of Many Flowers (thanks to Sue at Tortoise Loft for the inspiration!), and is a great success.

It’s double-breasted, slightly shorter than three-quarter length, and lined with a nice figured satin to slide over woolly jumpers if necessary.

And if it doesn’t stop the traffic when Mam next strolls into town, I shall be vastly surprised!

Coat Of Many Flowers - 3
Coat Of Many Flowers – 3
Snail In Place
Snail In Place

The Jacobean Coat – Collar design

Tacked Snail motif
Tacked Snail motif

Just when I thought I had no more to do, suddenly my mother asked, would I add a something-or-other to the back of the coat collar.

We thought about it, and decided that since I’m going to do a Morse Code signature that looks like a caterpillar, and there’s already a butterfly, I could maybe add a snail…

The tacks top and bottom show where the seam allowances and turn of the collar leave space for Something. I drew a snail on a bit of tracing paper (loosely based on the one on the Jacobean Firescreen), and tacked on the outline.

A miss-step
A miss-step

The shell itself came together easily, two rows of reverse chain stitch, then a row of half-cretan stitch which was then threaded with wool to create a slightly raised effect.

Inspiration briefly halted when I came to the critter himself. I tried several shades from among the ones on the coat, and two or three different stitches, and was underwhelmed by all of them.

Finished Snail
Finished Snail

Finally, I picked the right colour (a middling shade of teal) and the right stitch (chain), and he came together beautifully.

Two tiny antennae, a French knot for an eye, and hey presto, one cute little snail to add the final embellishment to the coat.

Now it’s over to my Mam to sew the whole thing together…


Jacobean Coat – central section

Magic Chain and Trellis Couching
Magic Chain and Trellis Couching

This central spray is just above the blue leaves.

The blue buds are outlined in Chain Stitch and decorated with Trellis Couching, and then, in a final bit of frivolity, the stems uses Magic Chain Stitch. I’ve often wanted to use it, and never really had the space before. Achievement, unlocked!

The cream leaves (from some felted gloves!) are couched with Open Cretan Stitch, and the stem – where there is one – is in Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch.

You can also see the final version of the two leaves at the bottom, which are just above the blue ones. I’m not quite sure what stitches I used in the end, because I was beginning to create odd little mash-ups of my own!

Butterfly
Butterfly

We’ve assumed that the odd element on Grandmama’s embroidery is a butterfly perching on a flower, so that’s what I’ve made it into here, tweaking and altering the pattern as I worked.

The upper wings, in felt, are ornamented with one of the knotted feather stitch variations – I think, Mountmellick Stitch – but then, I simply started to play with needlelace stitches to create more interesting and varied effects.

It’s all been rather fun…..

Jacobean Coat – Large bloom

Large Bloom
Large Bloom

You can see here that I’ve reversed the colours of felt used for the same flower shape on the sleeve, and added tiny blue stitches as highlights.

Chained blanket stitch, crested chain stitch, fern stitch, and a slightly freeform variant of feather stitch adorn the various petals. The light blue is used to tie down some trellis couching and for three tête-de-boeuf stitches to lighten the bowl of the flower.

The edges of the fawn leaves are simply caught down with an overcast stitch, but the spines are worked in Siennese Stitch, found in one of my multitude of stitch dictionaries. The circle is one of several, edged with up-&-down blanket stitch, and speckled with what Barbara Snook describes as “Knotted Stitch – Danish origin”. At the extreme right there are two small brown leaves, with reverse chain stitch stems and long straight stitches creating veins. The fabric comes from some thick walking socks which felted in the wash!

Blue and Magenta
Blue and Magenta

There were three of these three-petalled flowers (if that’s what they are!) and I worked each in the same way – blanket stitch edges, sword stitch for texture, blue central circle in buttonhole stitch, and teal leaves in fishbone stitch.

As you can see, deciding to keep some elements the same, or similar, has spread beyond the smallest leaves!


Jacobean Coat – Half-Circle Motifs

One Side Of Design
One Side Of Design

One of the exasperating elements of this project is that the lovely clear, delicate green of the fabric isn’t showing on any of the photos I am taking. This strange, rather disheartening cream fails to reflect one of the pleasures of working on it.

Here you see the side of the coat with the two lilac half-circle motifs. There are also three circle motifs, and two huge leaves, not to mention all the little teal leaves that I’ve not even applied yet.

The circles have been relatively easy, but both the fawn leaves and the two lilac motifs are giving trouble…

About to be undone..
About to be undone..

The first one of the two lilac motifs has rather lost the way home.

Somehow it is fussy, tired, and full of the wrong sort of detail. It’s also too dark. I need to reduce the dark blue and dark maroon stitching.

I’m not even sure that the felt will survive.

That said, I like the blanket stitch variation of the lilac stitches, and the green Reverse Palestrina Stitch.

A better version..
A better version..

This is a better version.

There aren’t as many colours, or as many stitches as in the version I’m not happy about. The fronds are in Cable Chain and Twisted Chain, and the purple trellis is couched with the blue.

Now I need to unpick the first one and come back to it, informed by the much better second version. I don’t want it to be entirely the same, but closer would certainly be better!

Jacobean Coat – the leaves at the base of the spray

Central Section
Central Section

This photo shows the central section, with the major felt sections in place, and the minor ones left until later. That in turn means that the colour range is not quite right, because the greeny-teal is missing.

What it does show, however, is that the disheartening spotty effect I experienced with the Piano Shawl is entirely prevented by the couched stems!

Since my blue felt was made using layers of blended wool sliver it has some slight variation of colour, which I was hoping to pull out in my stitching. That may not quite work, but at least I can try.

I also want to make the fawn leaves much more varied, so although there are several successful treatments I could choose to use in all cases, I’m going to try to be more experimental.

Interim Version
Interim Version

This photo is already out of date, because I’ve unpicked the fawn leaves once already, and I’m not entirely sure about some of the details on the large blue leaves. The light blue half-Cretan stitch may not survive to the finished garment!

There is a mid-blue knotted edging stitch on the top edge of the two outer blue leaves which I may have invented at the time, and certainly can’t reconstruct in the cold light of day. The spine of the central leaf is Square Chain, with the corners couched down with a darker thread, and the edge is closed feather stitch. There will probably be a lot of closed feather stitch – it is a useful stitch for the edges of these shapes.

Jacobean Coat – beginning on the felt

A very ornate motif in felt
A very ornate motif in felt

I haven’t put all the felt pieces all around the coat, because apart from anything else I have limited tolerance for cutting out bits of felt, but I have a good start made, and I can start playing with stitches, which is much more fun!

This is one of the most complex motifs.

The blue felt is one I made myself, because I didn’t already have a suitable one – which explains the thin patch at the top. Wet felting is not as easy in practise as it seems in theory!

The teal leaves were easy, of course, because I have already decided to use feather stitch. After that, some thought was required..

Still don't know whether this is a fruit or a flower..
Still don’t know whether this is a fruit or a flower..

A teal trellis, couched with pale yellow, provides the “lift” here, and one of my favourite stitches, cable chain, provides the fronds. I’ve reduced the number of fronds – I think there were two between each petal – because I thought it would look fussy otherwise.

The blue stitching on the blue felt is Crested Chain. The colours are close enough to create texture, rather than contrast, rather as the slightly rusty pink square chain modifies the petal colour in a different direction to the dark blue chained blanket stitch of the leaves at the base.

As with all the elements of this design, when I have the whole piece more or less finished, I will expect to add further details and tweaks to balance it all across the piece. We’ll see…