Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram will have seen some rejoicings over the weekend. I have been working on the gold stitched background for the polychrome tent stitch for what seems like forever, but in fact it is less than a year – I began the Elizabethan Ground Stitch in October of last year. A serious shoulder problem interfered with my work at my floor frame at one stage, and then I was all taken with with my ideas for the Head of Nefertiti, so it was only recently that I got back to it. And now I have finished that laborious stage, and I can move on to the more complex and intriguing techniques which were the whole reason for taking the course.
For instance, this one. Tricia describes this as a variation on Velvet Stitch, worked in silk thread over what I presume is a fine double ended knitting needle. It makes a perfect spacer for the pile of the stitch, anyway, and arrived with all the other bits and pieces.
Tricia tells us to come up through the already occupied hole, to avoid pulling the thread through to the back and reducing the pile. I went a step further and worked it from the back, ensuring that I kept the stitch neat and the stitching going up through the right holes!
I must admit I enjoyed this, simple, and straightforward, but with just enough challenge to keep me awake and alert.
And here is the first hillock, finished and fluffy. It looks as though it would be beautifully soft underfoot, doesn’t it!
It has taken what felt like forever (although the post describing the start is less than a year old, as it happens), because firstly, I have to do counted work in short bursts or it drives me up the wall, secondly it is very fine and required a magnifier, and thirdly – there’s a lot of it!
In fact, to be strictly accurate, I haven’t quite finished, but that is because the skip tent backgrounds for the cartouches reach under the trees, and I want to decide how leafy I want to make them before I do miles of tent stitch that may all be covered. But I feel as though I’ve reached a milestone, so please don’t rain on my parade!
After all those good intentions, I’ve rather fallen behind with “Eve In The Garden Of Eden”. It’s not that it’s difficult – rather fine, requiring the use of the magnifier, but not especially difficult. Unfortunately I’ve only got as far as three of the five panels on the spine of the bookcover. There are two more little panels on the spine, and then two identical ornamental frames, back and front, showing Adam, Eve, the Tree Of Knowledge, and the Snake. And that’s before I start on the complicated bits!
Reasons/excuses for the delay? Well, I moved over to the Canvaswork Angel over Christmas (it seemed more appropriate somehow!), and then I was blindsided by the The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off. Not that I am complaining, you understand – it’s been fascinating to begin finding out about the early days of periodicals and to see the designs provided for subscribers, especially as even more are beginning to come to light!
And now I have been reminded that I really need to get on with it, because the finishing kit has arrived, including some rather lovely silk brocade, and some fancy threads I’ve not come across before.
I was even more intrigued by two of the items that came with the first kit. They look rather like double ended knitting needles, but the picture doesn’t seem to included anything knitted. The kit also includes an assortment of gimps, a gold thread, and a wonderful selection of silk floss. I’ve fallen in love with silk thread since I started following Tricia’s courses, and while I still find uses for my cotton, linen, and wool, silk is always a treat.
The first stage is all in tent stitch. The fabric is 30 count, which is fine enough to that I have been using both my goosenecked magnifier, and my magnifying glasses. This is the central panel of the spine. I’ve decided to enlarge the chart before I do any of the colour stitches, because the chart is a bit small, but I’m rather pleased with it so far.
I’m going to try to keep up with this course, because I’ve just seen that there is a Stumpwork Lion course being planned, and he looks wonderful!
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.
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.
What with one thing and another – largely to do with the Hittite Amulet and the consequent overdose on metal threads – the Tudor Rose has been snoozing quietly in a boxfile for months, not drawing attention to itself.
I’ve decided, however, that it’s time it got finished, so that I can move on to other things, and the first step was to complete the white and silver petals of the rose. I was puzzled and confused when I did my first petal after the break, because it didn’t present the same appearance as the other ones. Can you see why?
I’m going to leave it like this, to remind me to pay attention next time…
The next stage was to work the bullion knots in the centre. I’ve decided (again, not quite following the order of stitching in the instructions) that I’m going to leave the cut pieces of purl until everything else is done, so having done the bullions – with varying degrees of success, I admit! – I moved back to the leaves.
So, onward and forward, as my Grandad used to say…
Some of the leaves are worked in Ceylon Stitch which is then woven through using the silk thread. Those of you who were reading my blog when I was working on the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass may recall that I found Ceylon Stitch something of a trial. Working it in leaf shapes really doesn’t make it any easier!
There are three more of these, two each to be woven into with different colours of green Soie Perlée. Tricia says to pack the weavings in as tightly as possible.
We’ll just have to see how that turns out, won’t we…
Having attached the ultrasuede and doctor’s flannel to two of the triangles, and made a brocade pocket on the third, the fourth was given extra padding, and extra stitches created an almost upholstered effect, making a pincushion.
Once the brocade backing triangles were attached, the four triangle assemblies had buttonhole loops added at the top corners, to provide a channel for the ribbon that will hold the étui closed. Then they needed to be joined in a chain at the bottom corners, and attached to the circular brocade-covered skirtex base to create a square-based pyramid.
It turned out really well.
I’ve had lots of practice with trellis stitch and detached buttonhole stitch with return, I’ve Spangled until I’m seeing stars, and I’ve done a lot more reverse chain stitch in gold.
I can’t quite see myself using the étui in my ordinary stitching life, but I can see myself putting it in a carefully lit corner and gloating over it!
Before we move on – here is the Glittering Nightcap, being modelled by Mandy, who was given to me for my first Christmas. My grandfather made me a cradle to fit her, and I intend to make some bedding, and some clothes for Mandy, to go with the patchwork coverlet my grandmama made for the cradle. Unfortunately, I carried Mandy around by her hair for years, so the hair you can see is a wig, which in turn meant that that when I found Mandy again I didn’t think any modern little girl would welcome her. The cradle, with bedding and Mandy will end up as a sort of display piece. Eventually.
In the meantime – doesn’t she look sweet!
The étui is made of triangular sections covered with brocade and mounted on brocade covered circles to create a little pyramid. Each external face consists of skirtex with padding covered with brocade, and then has a different element – a doctor’s flannel panel for needles, an ultrasuede scissor pocket, a pincushion, and a brocade pocket for stilettos or mellors. The ultrasuede is a real trial to stitch – very, very tough to get the needle into – but it’s done now.
Each face is backed by another triangle, of card covered with brocade, and the two slip stitched together. Then there will be the interesting challenge of mounting the triangles somehow.
So now, having finished the embroidery, I need to assemble the Nightcap. In addition, Tricia has designed a stand for it, which is in the form of an étui. Consequently I have a rather distracting heap of brocaded silk, doctors flannel, ultrasuede, ribbon and gold lace. Not to mention batting and buckram…!
As I’ve said before, I am never entirely at ease finishing a piece into three dimensional form. So there was a slight hiatus while I gathered my courage to begin.
I decided to finish the Nightcap itself first, as – not least – I was rather keen to see it!
The first stage was to add the lace to the top of the brim, and then create the shape by sewing up the seams on the crown. The lace was easy enough to apply, once the folds were in place, but sewing up the seams on the crown was surprisingly fiddly!
I had wondered, in looking at the instructions, why the seams were embellished with reverse chain stitch, and I think you can see why in this photo of the Nightcap finished (externally) apart from that detail.
As this picture shows! Admittedly the orange background also helps to bring the Nightcap to life, but the reverse chain stitch in gold is another detail – like the pearl centres on the Floral Glove – that adds sparkle and polish to the piece.
The next stage was to line the Nightcap – using a lovely pale gold silk brocade. Again, simple enough to state, but slightly tricky in execution!
Lining completed, another deep breath and pause prepared me for the next stage…