Once I’d settled on a pattern, it fairly romped along. Ten count canvas is such a lovely rest after the forty count linen of Eve In The Garden Of Eden!
As with the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, I’m not buying extra wool for this, hence the row of light stitches which aren’t the same shade as the other two. Most of the thread is Paterna Persian Yarn, but the odd one out is Appletons. The texture and level of shine are different, but then, anything will be better than a sawn-off milk bottle!
The next stage is to turn in three of the edges. I’m going to use the canvas at the bottom to help create the bottom of the bin, so I’ve left that, but the short edges will be seamed together – somehow (I’ve not solved that puzzle yet!).
I’ve learnt, over the years, that it is better to finish the folded edge of a piece of canvaswork than it is to try to fold the edge to be completely invisible.
So what will be the top edge of the bin has now been finished with herringbone stitch. It creates a lovely piped effect, much denser and firmer than a simple overcast stitch, and that will be very useful to help the bin stand up!
I have a small plastic bin – cut down from a milk carton – on the worktable beside my chair. It’s very useful for odds and ends, but it scarcely adds to the ambience.
Since all my embroidery at the moment – “Eve in the Garden of Eden”, and something I’m planning for “Dreams of Amarna, but haven’t quite got ready for stitching yet – is fine and detailed, I’ve decided to work a cover for it in bargello work.
I’m using another of those offcuts of 10-count canvas. Ideally I would use something finer, but since I want a rest for my eyes, and in particular to use up some more of that persian yarn, I’ve been playing with various patterns in an old book. In this case, one pattern drawn on, and the other stitched, partly in wool, and partly in a fine silk, just to help me with stitch placement.
I’ve decided to use the rusty colour, which I have rather a lot of, as the main colour, and I’m trying to find a small pattern that won’t dominate the room. I don’t think the “pomegranate” pattern qualifies…, but this one might…
Rather than being stitched in time for Christmas, I found myself stitching the Christmas Angel over Christmas. About halfway through the stitching, I also coloured in the hair with brown pen. It helps keep the head distinct from the background and the wings, and somehow pulled the whole thing into focus.
My invented bargello pattern of various pearl cottons, including some with a metallic twist in them, has turned out fairly well, if redder than I expected.
As a result, I chose to stitch the shoulder cape in greens. There are two variants here – green with a gold thread and green with a bright green thread. I’ve been using the green and gold as the striped “framework” for the Cape, so I simply used the green and green for the spots. The shoulder cape will be outlined to allow for a bit more shaping, using couched gold thread, but that’s one of the last elements of the design.
The next challenge was to decide how to work the wings. I started off wanting to create some sort of strong patterning, just with the stitches, but in the end I realised that, as the background is going to be strongly patterned, and the cape is so striking, the eye will need somewhere to rest.
So, plain brick stitch it is, although in another of those glitter-twisted pearl cottons, which are quite ridiculously tender and tricksy to stitch with, at least on this canvas. Even Gilt Sylke Twist and Gold Wyre seem robust by comparison!
The last section, Section Sixteen, gave me a lot of trouble. I suppose that is partly because the end was in sight, and I wasn’t quite as focused as I could have been!
I was originally looking for a crossing stitch, but every single one I tried either looked wrong, or simply failed to cover the canvas. I sent several tweets enumerating my trials, with one or two strands being too fine, and three strands too heavy, and in the end I abandoned the crossing stitches entirely.
In fact I devised my own variation on Triangle Stitch, which I’ve called Framed Triangle Stitch. I rather like the way it has turned out. It is a bit of a trial to stitch economically, but since I am attempting to reduce my stash, that is scarcely a problem!
Although I like the pattern it creates, I’ve been somewhat concerned about the scale of the pattern, which is perhaps a little too similar to the blue pattern of Section Thirteen.
However, I now have the challenge of unrolling the whole piece, blocking it, and working out how to finish the cushion.
As they say – watch this space!
As I mentioned in Part Eight, I gave myself a framework for the patches, alternating crossed, diagonal, and straight stitches.
Looking at the photograph now, there is a slight look of Victorian floor-tiles about the combination of the blue and yellow of the previous sections, and the brown and beige of this one. The proportion of brown isn’t correct for Victorian floor-tiles, but still…
It occurs to me that we might have a lot of fun looking at this cushion when it’s done, looking for other things that it reminds us of!
I chose a Rice Stitch caged with straight stitches. I suppose this could be regarded as a combination of crossed stitches and straight stitches, which may throw my scheme slightly off-balance. I like it, though – the straight stitches look nicely padded, even though they aren’t, and the rice stitches add texture. I can imagine it looking “floral” in some colour combinations, but in this version, I think it emphasizes the “Victorian Floor Tile” feel I mentioned before.
I am getting really close to the end now – Section Fifteen is the last but one, as you can see by the square corner. Since I didn’t work on this project over the summer, I’m a bit surprised by that. I wish the project had been as good at stash busting as it has been at growing!
You might have noticed that teal is one of my favourite colours and wondered why you haven’t seen more of it, but my stash is partly inherited and I don’t have very much of some colours.
After the complexity of Caged Rice Stitch (which, while fun, is on the complex side!) I went very simple indeed for Section Fifteen – Double Twill Stitch.
So now I need to work out what colour – and what stitch – to use on the last section. And then how to finish the cushion…
I’ve made something of a principle of alternating the types of stitch as I progress along the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, so as far as possible a crossing stitch is followed by a diagonal stitch, and a diagonal stitch by a straight stitch. This is part of my strategy for making an abstract, random piece slightly less random, and more under control.
In this case I also needed a sturdy stitch that would help to confirm the “weld” of the canvas, since although it had been tight when I first worked it, the pieces of canvas moved against each other as I worked the earlier sections.
I picked Chequer Stitch because it alternates squares of tent stitch – which will control the two layers of canvas very firmly – with squares of diagonal straight stitches.
Section Thirteen is actually a fairly simple Bargello lozenge pattern. I realise – rather late – that this may be the only place in the cushion in which I have used a straight stitch pattern, with the straight stitches oriented parallel with the long sides of the cushion. I am going to have to hope that this doesn’t make the section stick out like the proverbial sore thumb when I finally unroll the whole thing!
I found the Lozenge pattern in the “Dictionary of Canvaswork Stitches”, by Mary Rhodes, which I must have picked up in a second-hand shop somewhere, and a quick look inside shows it was a library book before that. It’s marked “Copyright 1980”, but I think there is a rather 1970s feel to this pattern. Thank goodness I didn’t choose to work it in brown!
It has been ages since you saw the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion – I got stuck and fed up with it and threw it aside in a huff, but since I’ve now sorted out the frustration I can cry “Onward and forward!” and show you Section Ten, which against my original idea, mentioned in Part Six, of choosing a horizontally striped pattern, I chose a basketweave bargello pattern. This is a pattern I have been longing to use and never had a use for.
What hadn’t quite registered with me was the scale of the pattern. It’s easy to work, although getting the colour progression right is a little tricky when you’re stash-busting!
I did maintain the orientation of the dark to light in both of the colour sections, but I wonder whether the light squares are too light. One of the advantages of this project is that it will give me references in the future to help me to remember what I need to think about when I choose to use some of these stitches and patterns.
Section Eleven was the problem that caused me to make disgusted noises and set the whole thing aside. I started the section using and interlocking and crossing stitch, but it didn’t cover the canvas thoroughly enough, I didn’t enjoy working it, and it was using a lot of thread. Now, I want to use up as much of my thread as possible, but I also want the shapes and sizes to balance nicely.
All of this made me downright grumpy with the whole thing.
Finally, over Christmas (having packed everything else away so I would have to solve the problem!) I unpicked the stitch I didn’t like, and started again, leafing though my books of stitches and patterns. Finally, I chose Plaited Stitch. It creates the horizontal stripes I had first thought of for Section Ten, but it is a diagonal stitch, so it contrasts with the Section Ten I finally did, and it is a crossed stitch, which contrasts with the diagonal stitches and straight bargello stitches of sections Nine and Ten.
We interrupt our normal programming…. to bring you your first sight of the whole Cushion.
Probably your only sight until I take it off the stretchers, too. As it turned out, getting the canvas rolled up neatly again, under sufficient tension, was really quite a task, involving two people and much changing of minds, as well as many rollings and unrollings. Furthermore, since the rollers are permanently set in their sockets, it won’t be possible to show the whole thing without taking it off the stretchers. I shan’t be doing that, because I really don’t enjoy the mounting process!
However, I can report that I am really very pleased with how it is going. I think I need another set of greens for the next section, since there seems to be a rhythm of sorts going on there. I certainly need something bright, with a bit of punch and impact. I like the last two sections — they work well together – but they are beginning to look a little too well behaved. It’s not quite as riotous as I was hoping…
Section Nine of the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion is worked in Moorish Stitch, a diagonal stitch to set against the crossed stitch of the previous patch.
There is one heathered thread in this pattern – the solitary tent stitch vertically separating the short dashes. That’s turned out a bit too subtle, but it does help to maintain the difference between Moorish Stitch and Jacquard Stitch, for example.
This patch took longer to do because as the weather warms up, wool becomes a less appealing material to work in. In addition, the main, peach wool proved to be rather harder to separate that I expected. It’s labelled Paterna, and should be exactly the same as all the other threads, but it was harder to strand, and has slightly less sheen.
Now I need to pick a stitch – I think it should be a straight stitch, with pattern that runs horizontally – and then pick the colours for Section Ten…
This tree pattern is one I’ve been looking for an excuse to do for quite some time. The book in which I found it suggests using it for small pieces like spectacle cases, but I’m not sure I agree. I think it might make for a rather overpowering pattern if not contained by something else. That same book said it was easy, and I’m not sure I agree with them about that either – I had to unpick all the trees the first time I did them, because I’d repeatedly got one element of the stitch placement wrong, in a rather unfudgeable fashion!
Section Seven covers – just – the whole width of the cushion, and makes a good interruption to the rhythm I’d built up.
It occurs to me that it might be a good candidate for a single colour design, one of these days, especially a light colour that will allow the ends of the stitches to cast shadows and build up the pattern.
As though I don’t have enough plans swirling in my head!
It turned out that the next section was rather tricky to pick a colour for, until my mother suggested blues, to help reflect the pattern around Section Seven.
I decided to create a shaded effect on Section Eight. I used three strands of wool, which meant that I could create a fairly subtle graduation starting from three dark strands, and progressing through 2 dark and 1 medium, 1 dark and 2 medium, 3 medium, and then 2 medium and one light, 1 medium and 2 light, then finally 3 light.
The stitch is Dutch Stitch, found in Mary Rhodes’ Dictionary of Canvaswork Stitches. It is a condensed, closely worked crossing stitch. In fact it is so condensed as to be quite an effort when worked in three strands on this canvas!
Still, I expect it will prove a hardwearing stitch, and the texture is a good contrast with the smoother textures of the straight stitch patterns.
Section five needed to be worked in something that would help to calm down the acid green of section four.
I chose two shades of blue, and Reversed Mosaic Stitch, which at this scale is a small, neat pattern. The dark blue stitches are at ninety degrees to the light blue ones, hence the term “Reversed”. It also echoes to some degree the orientations of Brighton Stitch in the very first section. Just as in good script writing for a series, odd references may be made to incidents several episodes in the past, in designing large pieces of embroidery, references of colour, style and stitch help to give some cohesion to the overall item.
I am a little concerned, in fact, that this pattern has calmed everything down too much, that it is looking rather grey and dull – which in turn means I need to take some time and effort to pick the next section, both stitch and colours.
I have even braced myself (reluctantly!) for the possibility that when the whole thing is finished and unrolled, I may look at this section askance and rip it out!
Moving on to Section Six, I wanted to choose a warm colour again, to counterbalance the warm colours of the Jacquard stitch, and eventually picked out two shades of warm yellow for the Hungarian Grounding Stitch. This is one I have wanted to do – I haven’t the faintest idea why! – ever since I found it, but have never had the right project to put it in. It’s a particularly useful one because it’s stripy, but at the same time spotty, so it reflects and recollects several different stitches.
Seen from a distance the effect is stripy rather than spotty, but since the finished cushion is probably destined for my mother’s studio, it will be examined close up as well as from a distance!
The next pattern I choose will be much larger, and involving more colours. I am now far enough towards the centre to move on to the more multi-coloured sections, for maybe four sections before moving back to two colours. Some heathering will be involved, as well. Although my stash seems extensive it’s completely unstructured, being the leftovers of several of my own projects as well as inherited bits and pieces, and heathering will allow me to extend some of the colours to fill the elements I need them to.