Once I had finished the polychrome bands, I sat back and looked at them. Using the darker shades of the colours in the darker part of the print helps to tie it all together and wrap the bands around the headdress.
I had a moment or two of concern, then decided that I would not, after all, ruin everything if I continued to add the other elements of the design that I had planned. There is always a moment or two of fear, especially when an early section has gone well!
The original bust shows something that looks like a browband of gold, fairly plain and flat. I fished out a piece of gold kid, but although the photograph doesn’t show it very well, the kid is the wrong colour (too pale, and not yellow enough) for the gold thread, so I have to think of something else.
Meanwhile, I thought I would experiment with the necklace, or collar. My thought was that, rather than do the whole thing, I would do a small section of it, to make sure that I maintain the feeling of an embroidery, and not a portrait of a portrait.
What I have done here is to make radiating stitches of the gold thread, and then use the same whipped filling stitch I used on the polychrome bands, but alternating them so there is a hint of a gold net underlying the collar.
I like this, but maybe I do need to do an entire collar’s worth.
You will recall that I was rather underwhelmed by the effect of my first attempt at weaving the silk into the gold. Leaving the threads loosely packed to allow the gold to show through allows them to look untidy, and the colour is somehow a little flattened, not the rich, strong colour I wanted.
So I decided to work the whipped style of filling stitch instead. It creates a strong colour, something like a grosgrain ribbon, in fact.
I’m using primarily colours from the Mulberry Silks “Nefertiti” colour range (appropriate, don’t you think!), and I’m happy with the rusty red. The navy is actually a heavy perle type and I’m not sure where it came from. That works too.
The lightest colour, however, on the far right, is too fine. It produces too retiring an effect, and weakens the whole effect. So I tried one of the stranded silks from Thistle Threads (lower example, left), and wasn’t convinced by that, either.
This looks better. In fact the two light blue-greens are different, although that isn’t as clear in this photo as I might have liked. They aren’t as green as I would have liked, but I’m reasonably happy. If I decide to redo them, I may have to redo the whole thing, as the unpicking earlier on has left the Ladder Stitch a bit floppy.
There are small elements of goldwork which I am planning to work last, but most of it, I wanted to put in place first, so that I can be sure that the whole thing remains in balance.
As I’ve mentioned, the framework for the silk is in Ladder Stitch – the whole of the first section redone, as I threatened.
The narrow line around the base is in reverse chain stitch (much easier to work in a frame than the ordinary chain stitch). The coloured bust suggests a gilded inner section for the headdress, and I have yet to decide how to represent that. Maybe gold kid?
The ornament on the front of the headdress looks rather heavier and thicker than the other lines, so I’ve worked it in Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch. I’m a little disappointed with it at present, and wondering whether I need to pick a still heavier stitch – such as the dreaded (not any more!) Plaited Braid Stitch. I’ll decide, I think, when I’ve completed the rest of it.
So, on to the silkwork. I had a previous, failed print to experiment with, and I’m just as glad I did.
I’m rather underwhelmed by this effect, with the silk woven through the gold. I thought it would allow a subtle glint of gold, but in the end it has simply undermined the effect of the silk. Hmm…
My mother and I have been planning a backdrop for some crib figures I inherited some years ago from a great aunt.
We started off by thinking about a stylised landscape (I might still do that one of these days), and then we thought about some sort of embroidered “stable” (likewise!), but none of the ideas really came together.
The crib figures are simple, and carved in wood, and we think they were bought in Germany after the war. We think that simplicity might be best set off by something really gorgeous and colourful, so then my mother designed a chorus of angels inspired by the “May Queen” design by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. She substantially simplified the basic design, added wings and then created two ranks of singing angels.
She’s also created a wonderful top panel of graduated blues and superimposed the text “Gloria in excelsis Deo” over the top. At the moment we are thinking about creating an ombré dyed section for the graduated panel, and couching gold and silver threads to make the framework. Then maybe using golden gauze for the lower panel, using a second layer for the capes.
As for the wings – well, detached buttonhole stitch, perhaps? Maybe in Gilt Sylke Twist, if I can get the right colours. I’m torn between a rainbow of colours, as my mother has painted them, or some other selection. Really, it will depend on what takes my eye when I get to that stage!
We want to work it on silk, and I want to be a bit clearer about what I’m doing before I get started. So it won’t be done in time for this Christmas.
At long last I got a chance to finish up and turn the Tudor Rose into a little mounted panel. I got a local framing shop to cut me two pieces of acid free mount board, and mounted it over one of them, with a little padding to bring it to life. Then I covered the other (also with wadding) with some upholstery fabric that happened to be to hand, and overstitched the two boards together.
I covered the overstitching with a ribbon trim left over from when I finally mounted Christus Natus Est (whoo-hoo, some stash busting achieved!) and then, at some length and not without difficulty, attached a fine kumihimo cord around the front edge of the panel to frame it nicely.
It will go in that famed (and so far, still mythological) Winter Decoration Corner that I keep on talking about – when I finally create it.
Last month, I had made several unsatisfactory trials with silver thread, and took my headaches to the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show to ask advice on the Golden Hinde stand.
I got to the show with about 40 minutes to go of the Thursday evening late opening, which meant that the aisles were relatively clear and I could actually talk to Sarah. After some discussion, we came up with a very bright and blingy silver Jap. In fact it’s so bright and blingy as to be verging on mirrored, and I was surprised at quite how calm it looked when I finished it.
The reason it is so bright is that the metallic wrapping film is much broader than it was on any of the other silver threads I tried. That carries its’ own penalty, because turning corners becomes trickier – and indeed, in a few cases, rather untidier (click on the picture to enlarge it and look at a few of the corners!). I found that I had to devise new pathways for the couching, and use more short lengths. This panel is markedly more fluffy on the back than the gold one was!
I just have miles of that cloud filling stitch variation to do now (and, of course, choose and apply the braided edging!). The background stitching will help to throw the silver crest into relief. I have laid the completed gold over the silver so that you can see. With decent lighting, it should have enough personality to hold its corner.
If it doesn’t, I will frame it up as a separate panel, and show people just how difficult it was!
Now, you may recall from when I began the first one that there are to be two Crests, one for each panel, balancing each other. Furthermore, since there will be a gauze overlay, everything has to have the visual strength to show through it.
I don’t think that this silver thread has enough force or shine. Even with a fairly strong background using my Cloud Filling variation, to throw it into relief, it will simply disappear.
So I have been experimenting. The edge of the shield, the top of the scroll, and the bottom of the scroll, all use different threads.
All of them are equally insipid in comparison with the gold. I’m afraid that if I use any of these threads for the panel, I will end up with an unbalanced overall appearance with one corner panel seeming very faded in comparison with the other.
The Cloud Filling Stitch variation that creates the ripple effect is fairly easy to do, and once I had decided to get working on it, finishing the first panel really ripped along.
As you see, I’ve not been too pernickety about spacing. It would have been possible, but it wouldn’t have been in keeping with the original inspiration, besides being utterly maddening to achieve.
I began by working each row individually, first the short stitches and then threading the pearl cotton, but I soon found that it was much quicker to do several rows of the holding stitches, and then threading the pearl cotton through them.
So here it is, done. The other crest panel, when I get to it, will be in silver, with the same background. I need to get the other piece of fabric onto the frame and get ready, because it is good to have at least one project in which I know exactly what I want to do.
There is one question that remains to be solved – how will I edge each panel? I’ve been thinking about lucetting, crochet, or kumihimo. I have a feeling that a lot of experimentation lies in my future.
The goldwork on the Crest for the Dig went rather quickly, and I found myself running straight into a brick wall. I narrowed my background choices down to two, and then stopped. I’ve even extended the patches of trial background, and propped the frame up to stare at.
The arrowhead stitches create a subtle effect; patchy ripples, almost here-and-then-gone-again. Rather like Amarna, in fact – it’s thought the city was inhabited for less than thirty years.
On the other hand, the pearl cotton cloud stitch variation is more reminiscent of the rippling paint pattern that originally inspired me. The variegated thread helps to stop the background pattern from being too solid and monolithic.
In fact I took the frame to my parents’ house, last time I visited, and said plaintively “Help!”
We stared at it, talked about it, and finally decided that the pearl cotton variation on Cloud Filling Stitch is the way to go. It’s more in keeping with the idea of the doodle that inspired this design, the thread is closer in scale to the scale of the gold thread, and it’s also a better reflection of the ripple pattern I want to bring to mind.
I’m also considering how I’m going to edge the panel of stitching. At the moment, my ideas include lucetted cord or a flat kumihimo braid. The lucetted braid might be too narrow, but on the other hand I’ve only ever done one piece of kumihimo braid, so that would be rather a leap into the unknown!
The work on the Tudor Rose continues.. The stitches used for the leaves are what I really wanted from this course, as I am hoping that they will help me to create elements in the Dreams of Amarna – the ancient Egyptians were as keen on bling as the Tudors!
Zoom in on the picture to the right and you will see that there are four different combinations of metal and silk threads.
The stem – whipped back stitch
Alternating silk and metal chain stitches
Ceylon stitch with silk thread woven through it
Up and down buttonhole stitch with silk threads overcast through it
It was very hard to weave through the Ceylon Stitch – I didn’t pack the threads as tightly as Tricia’s instructions show, even after four leaves (two on each side). I think it would be easier in some of the applications I intend, though, because I am expecting at least some of them to have straight edges!
The overcasting through the Up and Down Buttonhole stitch was tricky to start, but once I’d got it started it was fairly straightforward – and a lot of fun.
The final element of the piece was the pearl purl and check purl in the centre. That was quite fiddly, and I am not sure that I worked the initial layer of bullion knots in silk in such a way as to make the layer using metal threads easy to do. I have much more practice to do to get my metal thread work to the level I saw at the Eye of the Needle Exhibition in the Ashmolean Museum a few weeks ago.