The Faience Necklace – still thinking…

Necklace Photo (Copyright The Egypt Exploration Society)
Faience Necklace (Copyright The Egypt Exploration Society)

After her discovery of the piece of tile that started it all, the first find that Mary Chubb describes is a faience necklace, discovered by the team then in Egypt, and written up in the Director’s Report which she has to disentangle and re-type legibly (remember, in the 1920s, typing wasn’t a skill that everyone had had to develop). It sounds completely enchanting, and yet I’m struggling to bring it to life.

In fact I last wrote about it in 2015, and I’m still wrestling with ways to represent it! I’ve already abandoned any idea of working a portrait of it (as it were). As you can see from the black and white photo, it’s crammed with faience beads, and it’s hard to imagine making a good stitchable design of it. So I’ve cut out some watercoloured beads, and pushed them around, taking photos as I go. Back to primary school!

Then another suggestion came in (thank you @IndiaGraceDsgns ), to think about mandalas…

And now I’m thinking about “samplers” of beads which still recall the way these broad collars and necklaces are sometimes displayed in museums.

I’m planning on using flat silks, when I finally pick one (comments, anyone?), and of course, the next question will be: what colour fabric I will be stitching it on?

Crewelwork Designs

Herne The Hunter
Herne The Hunter

I can’t remember where I found the basic outline of this heron. There’s something a bit late-medieval about him, and I found the various shapes a good way of playing with interesting stitches. He’s worked in crewel wool, apart from the orange-gold fish in his beak – that’s silk!

The main, flat colour sections of his body are worked in split stitch filling. This isn’t a technique I’m especially fond of, but it does fit in well with the style of the drawing, and it provides a plain filling that allows the trellis couching over his wing, and the half-chevron stitch in his tail to be the stars of the show.

Flutterby
Flutterby

The butterfly settling on the huge leaf in this second panel also makes use of split stitch filling, with the roundels on the wings working in spider’s web stitch, and the antennae in a single fly stitch. However, the whole reason for creating this design was to have a large space to fill with the ornamented version of trellis couching. I believe that classically, this stitch is worked much smaller and more densely, but what I was trying to do here was to marry the old style with more modern sensibilities, and opening it out creates a crisper, lighter effect.

I’ve not been able to work out what to do with these, either. They’re mounted over board, and waiting for inspiration!

 

From Watercolour to Embroidery

Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville
Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville

This vase of flowers was on the table in a motel room we stayed in, many years ago. For some reason they caught my eye, and for our whole stay – which was full of activity and outings – I wanted to paint them. But we were never in the room for long enough during the daytime.

Finally, on the morning we were going to leave, I got out my paints, sat down, stared very hard, and painted this. I’ve noticed that if I really want to paint something, it often works much better than paintings I’ve done because I want to practise painting.

I don’t think I even bothered to take a photograph. Everything I wanted to remember about the vase is in the painting.

When we got home, however, it seemed to me that the painting offered possibilities as the basis for a simple embroidery.

Embroidery based on the watercolour
Embroidery based on the watercolour

A very simple embroidery, but, as you see, making use of a variety of stitches.

The vase was textured glass, not clear, and I represented that using lines of coral stitch among the stem stitch. I didn’t work it more densely, because I wanted it to have a certain lightness of touch.

The twigs were very rough and twiggy, so I used scroll stitch.

Finally, the simple shapes of the flowers were best represented using my neatest and most careful satin stitch. All I really wanted from them was the colour.

I haven’t the vaguest idea what to do with the embroidery, so I’ve laced it over a board to keep it tidy. But I thought you might be interested to see one of my very rarest stories – I know other designers often do detailed watercolours of their designs, but it’s not how I work. More often, I have a rough idea in my head, and work on each element while I’m planning the details of the next, waiting for the piece to tell me what it wants.

This has turned out well, but I’m still slightly bewildered that it happened at all!

More thoughts on the Jacobean Coat

Coat Design
Coat Design

The design wraps around the back of the coat, leaving the front mostly unadorned. There are sprigs placed on the sleeves, too, one of them above the elbow, and the one on the opposite side below it. Remember the comments I’ve made in the past, about taking inspiration from Grinling Gibbons, and aiming for balance rather than symmetry? That goes for the placement of design elements in apparel as well as anything decorative.

Starting Stems
Starting Stems

My mother has commissioned the coat with various other garments and accessories in mind, and one of the ways we thought would help to tie the coat in with them would be to use a knitting wool which is involved in those accessories. Now, as it happens, I have experience with this sort of trailing design (remember the Piano Shawl?), and I remember that it can feel very disjointed and dispiriting as you work individual motifs, and however confident you are of the whole, it’s hard to be motivated when it keeps looking spotty and halfhearted.

However, the stems pull it together, so I thought this time I would start with the stems. It’s a big, chunky, variegated knitting yarn, so I will end up with the skeleton of the design, and all sorts of colours within it. I’m catching it in place with a fine woollen yarn, using small oblique stitches buried within the twist. They should be almost invisible.

Trialling Colours
Trialling Colours

However, that too is going to take a while, so I can trial colour placement for the motifs themselves! As you can see, we aren’t aiming for a naturalistic colour scheme. This may not be the final arrangement, and there will be tweaks along the way, but I’m happy with this as a starting point.

The Jacobean Coat – getting started

Coat Designing
Coat Designing

This is going to be a truly multi-generational project. The design elements are stolen from a tablecloth my Grandmama did during the war, and I’m going to embroider it on a coat for my Mam (her daughter). I will write a post about Grandmama’s tablecloth one of these days, because it’s an absolute cracker, full of wonderful needlelace patterns I’ve never seen anywhere else. However, as it is stitched in white on white fabric, I will have to become a better photographer first!

Stage One of Design Transfer
Stage One of Design Transfer

You may recall that during the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch-Off, I wrote a post about the different methods for transferring designs, particularly concentrating on their advantages and disadvantages in different circumstances. The fabric of the coat (this will be the second incarnation of this fabric!) is a pale green boiled wool. It’s dense enough to have some structure and weight, light enough to be easy to stitch (I think). You might have thought it would accept gracefully any method I chose.

Stage Two of Design Transfer
Stage Two of Design Transfer

However, when I thought about transferring the design, I found myself ending up with the most time consuming of the lot! Since the garment is unlikely to be washed, and rubbing may damage the surface, my options are somewhat limited. Transfer pencils spread, sometimes, if the ironing temperature is wrong, the chalks have a nasty habit of not always rubbing off when they’re wrong, and my quilter’s pencil doesn’t work on strongly textured fabrics.

So, running stitch through tissue it is, then. This will take a while…..

“Leaving The Tyne, 1915”

Leaving The Tyne 1915
Leaving The Tyne 1915

 

My contribution to the Embroiderers Guild 100 Hearts Project, commemorating the end of the First World War.

 

Dedicated to the memory of the men of the merchant fleet, and in particular the many immigrants and naturalised citizens who, sometimes in the face of xenophobic hostility, continued to serve their adopted country faithfully and well, and brought up their children to think of it as home. But in especial memory of my great grandfather Henry Frederick Bloom, who was Swedish, naturalised shortly after my Grandmama’s birth, and himself served throughout the War in the merchant fleet.

 

It has been allocated to the Liverpool exhibition, at Liverpool Cathedral, from September 7 until October 10.

Assembling the Heart

Gathering Backing Fabric
Gathering Backing Fabric

The assembly involved a lot of stages. I cut the backing fabric into a circle and gathered it up behind the design to provide an extra layer of protection against the hurly-burly of the stuffing.

Title Label
Title Label

Then I had to make a stitched title label (it also has my Guild membership number, but I forgot to take that photo!) to attach to the back.  I’m really not keen on lettering in stitch…

Morse Code Label
Morse Code Label

At this point, though, I thought, I simply cannot fail to have my Morse Code signature on the back too. Morse Code was a staple of communications until well after the Second World War, so it was very much in use during the First World War..

Dedication Stitched In
Dedication Stitched In

Having attached my title and signature labels to the back piece, I printed a photo of the finished roundel, the title and the dedication onto a piece of fine cotton, within a circle, to echo the circular shape of the roundel on the front. Then I attached the cotton circle to the inside of the back piece. When the piece is finished, a circle of backstitches on the back will be all that shows that this is there, but I will know.

And so will you!

Antwerp Stitch Edging
Antwerp Stitch Edging

I made assurance doubly sure of the assembly by first using running stitch to assemble the two sides of the Heart, and to close it after stuffing it. Then once the Heart was stuffed and closed, I reinforced the edge by stitching around it using Antwerp Edging Stitch, which is a knotted variation of blanket stitch.

Final reveal next week…

Final Details – I hope!

First Attempt At a Bow Wave
First Attempt At a Bow Wave

My first attempt to tackle the bow wave was to shred some white silk ribbon and try to attach it to the bow. That seemed a bit too white and a bit too solid.

What it did do, however, was give me an inkling as to how tricky the attachment of the bow wave was going to be. “Fiddly” doesn’t come close! And remember, there are a lot of delicate little details already assembled, so I couldn’t be too heavy handed with the attachment, either.

FreeForm Crochet
FreeForm Crochet

Having decided something lighter was needed, I tried another experiment: freeform crochet. In this case I started by using one strand of a stranded silk, decided that even that was too heavy, and moved on to sewing cotton. I’ve done a sort of shell pattern, but varied the sizes of the shells slightly to give a bit more unevenness to the whole thing. I’ve also crocheted fairly loosely to give the right frothy effect of seafoam.

Last Few Tweaks
Last Few Tweaks

The last few tweaks here are: the addition of the bow wave, and then the addition of railings around the deck cargo on the bow, and finally the rigging. The railings are made using a paper covered wire painted silver and dirtied with inktense for the posts, and two lines of black and silver twist for the chains. They’ve been surprisingly effective in helping everything to sit at its right plane in the sequence from foreground to background.

There maybe isn’t enough rigging for an operational vessel, but the photo wasn’t clear, and there is enough to have point and purpose

Now all I have to do (all!!!) is assemble my Heart!

More on the Wreath, and Other Details

Mast Spars and Wheelhouse
Mast Spars and Wheelhouse

In the end I covered the twisted cord (actually a bamboo and cotton blend knitting yarn) for the mast and spars with silk ribbon, which was more than slightly fiddly to achieve. There’s a collar around the mast, which, in an echo of the lifebelts, is a loop of buttonhole stitch. That was even fiddlier (is that a word? It is now!).

And Great-Grandfather’s wheelhouse has acquired a roof, made of several layers of buckram covered in silk ribbon, with buttonhole bars for the struts holding it up. That was also fiddly!

Detail Of Wreath
Detail Of Wreath

So, on to the wreath itself. That involved three different colours of silk ribbon, in two different width. I briefly considered something like the folded “leaf” shapes using wrapped parchement you sometimes see in 17th Century work, but in the end I decided I didn’t want to create anything too formal here, because it wouldn’t match the flow of the stitching. Sometimes a formal section provides a framework for everything else to clamber over, but here I felt it would create stopping-points, interrupting the eye as it moves around the piece. So the ribbons were knotted and looped and caught down in a sort of flowing chaos. White stranded silk French Knots, representing white berries, provide subtle accent and punctuation.

Wreath And Rigging
Wreath And Rigging

As you see, the wreath is now in place, with just a few white berries – white for peace.

I have quite a few more little tweaks to make, details to emphasize, maybe a bow-wave to add, but this is the original sketch brought mostly to life, and provides me with some hope that all that thinking and working will have a good result.

 

Progress on the wreath

Raised Stem Stitch Band
Raised Stem Stitch Band

The last time I used Raised Stem Stitch Band, it was for the rim of the Crock of Gold, and it went around concentrically.

This time I wanted to create the twisting appearance of a rope frame, so there was a little trial and error involved in working out how to make it work. Here you can see that there are green sections (which will be under the wreath) and yellow sections with differing shades to help create the rope effect. It’s not the classical version that runs straight along the axis of the foundation stitches, but I think it has worked rather nicely! That’s a relief…

Rope And Wreath
Rope And Wreath

It is a little lumpy, perhaps, but the shades of thread do create some shaping in the rope section, and I think the wreath itself will help to enhance that.

You can begin to see that the weight of stitchery is making the fabric sag, in spite of the backing. It’s just as well I did back it!

On The Bridge
On The Bridge

Another close-up, this time to show Great Grandfather in his place on the bridge.

He’s tiny, of course, and many onlookers won’t even notice him. But he’s there, the one human element in the piece, standing for all the hundreds of thousands of men and women involved in the war effort, military and civilian alike.