While I was attaching the hull, I was also looking at my references on Stumpwork, or Raised Work. The headache that had been looming all the way through to this point was, How Shall I Do The Mast?
I tried to cover straws with thread or find narrow pieces of plastic or wood, and all of the attempts looked clunky and un-seaman-like. I thought about trying to use stitching – either satin stitch or lines of stem stitching, but in the end decided that these elements needed to be smooth and relatively featureless, whereas the stitching in the piece is entirely to create detail. When I thought a bit harder, it seemed to me that the mast and spar weren’t mere “details” and that there would be a rather jarring effect if I created them using a “detail” technique, rather as though they’d been magnified, or something like that.
In the end I decided to continue using only fabric in the piece. This meant a slightly more difficult process, as the mast and spar are narrow and need to be rounded, but it also maintains the integrity of the design as a purely fabric appliqué.
So: the mast and spar were padded with slivers of felt and covered with narrow cotton tape. This made the ends slightly tricky (the tape kept trying to fray), but provided a clean edge on either side of the spars.
I also attached the padding for the funnel to the background. Both of these needed to be attached before the entire slip for the hull and superstructure were entirely caught down, but at the same time I couldn’t be sure of the placements (wretched shrinkage!) until I had the slip in place.
Obviously, the scene to do is the one where Medea takes Jason into the grove where the Fleece is kept.. Lots of twisted branches and tree trunks, the sun sinking low in the west, and the Fleece glimmering in the light of the torches.
The first design challenge that occurs to me is that the Fleece will over dominate the picture if I am not careful with all that textured, gleaming gold. On the other hand, gold looks better with a dark, rich coloured background, so I can’t just settle for a daytime scene.
I can ease the problem slightly by dressing Jason and Medea in their best clothes, with rich colours and gold details, and perhaps rather than sunset, have it in moonlight (cue a silver kid moon!), with a line of torches to indicate the approach to the grove.
If I make sure that the Fleece has several shades of gold in it, that may also settle it more happily into place as only part of the panel..
There are several books I can use for reference – Tim Severin built a replica of the Argo and sailed and rowed from Greece to Georgia, which is where Colchis is thought to have been. Robert Graves wrote on the subject. I’ll have little trouble finding other references, either. We’re back to myths, legends, and archaeology…
As I’ve already mentioned, almost every embroidery technique I have done has been learnt from a book, or just developed by guesswork based upon something I have read.
In this case, I had been reading about 17th Century stumpwork, and had just returned from a half-business trip, half-holiday in New Zealand. And I had some rather gorgeous overdyed silk threads and wanted to experiment with them!
The body is worked in layers of straight stitches, using several different colours of the overdyed silks. I worked a slip, slightly smaller than the body, on a separate piece of fabric, then applied that piece over some padding, and used more straight stitches to cover the join – very thoroughly!
The legs and the beak are both worked by stitching very closely over a trailing thread of soft cotton. The background fabric is a sturdy cotton damask upholstery fabric, so the close stitchery did no harm. The ground is worked using still more straight stitches, with scroll stitch, coral stitch and fern stitch to create the fragmentary undergrowth.
This was intended just as a piece of fun, but I was happy enough with the outcome to mount it in a flexihoop frame. I’ve bought a couple of books on Stumpwork since I stitched this, but I don’t know that I would have thought of doing the Kiwi this way if I had read the books first.