Shadow Play

Printed on gauze
Printed on gauze

I decided, as I stared at the printing of this blocky pattern onto gauze, that I wanted to use the transparency of the gauze as part of the finished effect.

I don’t have a destination in mind for this piece which will give me a theme, so I decided that, in order to highlight that one quality, I would use a single thread (as it happened, a variegated silk), and design a fragment that would allow me to experiment with the effect of stitch cover and openness.

Sketching
Sketching

I leafed through books about pattern, saw nothing that gave me the combination I wanted, and then evolved the fragmentary organic sketch on the far left to give me the balance of line and form I was looking for. Incidentally, this is quite possibly the swiftest and shortest progression of any sketched design I’ve ever come up with!

Finished Fragment
Finished Fragment

It’s astonishingly difficult to trace a design onto a fabric which is essentially invisible, and still harder, I might add, to follow the lines when you have finally put them there!

I used Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch for the stem, satin stitch for the solid side of the leaf, and Jacobean trellis for the flower-head. Clearly that gives me a solid coverage, and a firm line; I was hoping that the Jacobean trellis might offer a sort of half-shade.

Shadow Play
Shadow Play

 

A qualified success, I’d say. The printed pattern doesn’t create a shadow, and the Jacobean trellis shadow isn’t a sort of half-depth.

But, my goodness, the shadow of the stem and the leaf work exactly as I hoped! The gauze itself almost disappears, leaving the printed pattern floating above the surface, and the leaf and flower thrown forward by their shadows.

The Head of Nefertiti, Embellished with Silk and Gold

Screenprint of the Head of Nefertiti
Screenprint of the Head of Nefertiti

This is much the best print I’ve managed of Nefertiti, pressure, speed and amount of ink all working nicely, and very few really dark sections. What I want to do now is to highlight the coloured elements of the crown she wears – unique to her, apparently, no-one else in ancient Egypt has ever been depicted wearing it. I’ve got some gorgeous silk threads from Mulberry Silks which should do the job perfectly, but first they need a skeleton of gold. I had a lovely rummage in among the assorted wonders I’ve received from Thistle Threads (they have their own special box, of course), and after staring critically at the linen fabric, picked out the Special Tambour, and made a start.

My idea is to create a framework of Ladder Stitch, and then add colour – as in the Tudor Rose project – using silk threads. Long term readers may recall that during the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass, I had some trouble with Ladder stitch, so although I was fairly sure the idea would work, I sat down with some trepidation.

To be very pleasantly surprised. Something has happened in the intervening few years, and my ladder stitch wasn’t as trying as I expected, and moved fairly swiftly, too. I may yet decide to redo the stitches, because I re-tightened the fabric in the frame about halfway across, but that will depend upon how much better the second section looks when I have done it.

That’s a good start to a new project, isn’t it!

Finished – Tiny – Flame Stitch Pincushion

Flame Stitch Finished
Flame Stitch Finished

There are in fact several errors in the stitching here. However, since I kept losing them and finding them and losing them again, I decided to let them stand. If even I can’t keep them in sight, no-one else will find them…

I enjoyed using the silk thread for the stitching – but then I keep saying that, don’t I? Silk seems alive somehow, in a way that cotton, linen, and even wool, don’t.

Finished Flame Stitch Pincushion
Finished Flame Stitch Pincushion

What really surprised me was just how small the pincushion was when I finished it, using a spare fragment of silk fabric for the back. It was really quite astonishingly fiddly when it came to turning it inside out and especially when it came to the corners.

Still, here it is, done, and stuffed, and the final side closed up neatly..

Isn't It Tiny!
Isn’t It Tiny!

And then I put it in the palm of my hand and finally realised just how small it really is…

Another one for that eventual Winter Decoration Corner, I think – in my chaotic workspace, a pincushion this size would sink without trace!

Well, At Last!

Rejoice with me!

I have finished the polychrome tent stitch on Eve In The Garden Of Eden!

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!

Flame Stitch Pin Cushion

Pincushion Instructions
Pincushion Instructions

I hadn’t intended to do any of the Frostings Box designs, because I was intending to keep all the threads for my own purposes, but I’ve not been able to settle to anything this summer. I lost my “Dreams of Amarna” notebook (and found it again!), and although I have several pieces I want to do for it, I have no idea how I want to do them!

So I’ve been starting lots of little things to do in the intervals of the next major project.

Test Stitching
Test Stitching

I’m determined not to buy anything for these projects, so I fished out a random piece of linen, and then the next thing was to discover how many threads to use. The instructions said four strands of Soie de Paris, but since I have no idea where the linen came from or what count it was, I thought the choice was worth testing. The left section is in two strands and the right is four.

Four it is, then!

Colour Schemes
Colour Schemes

The next decision was colour scheme. As it happens, I don’t have the colours specified, so I decided to play around until I had something that looked interesting.

I’ve decided to go for green and brown.

 

Working on Nefertiti’s Cartouche – 2

Top Block
Top Block

After I’d finished the spiral trellis stitch circle, I had some doubts about it. Maybe it wasn’t strong enough, maybe the texture clouded the impression of the shape, maybe it even killed the colour. I’ve decided – with continuing reservations! – to keep it for now. I like the effect, and the knotted texture contrasts nicely with the long and short stitch beside it. If it can’t live with its companions when I’ve finished the piece, I will be in a better position to work out how to replace it.

The zigzag is about as simple as it could be – straight stitches, tightly whipped – and the half-circle, like the one in the lower section, is  detached buttonhole stitch.

Needs A Border
Needs A Border

So far, so good.

All the individual hieroglyphs have been worked, and I think the colour balance has turned out pretty well.

However, cartouches have borders, and the border is giving me a raging headache!

I had thought of working the border in Plaited Braid Stitch, in a copper or gold, or maybe couching down a knitted ribbon. Maybe a border in some other stitch, in blue-green?

So far, every thread I’ve tried has either disappeared into the background, or made itself altogether too obtrusive. I can see myself staring balefully at it for weeks, so in the meantime I am going to tack guidelines for the eventual border (in silk, what else?) and hope that inspiration dawns…

Working on Nefertiti’s Cartouche – 1

Lower Block
Lower Block

I need to learn to believe in myself more. As I was stitching this little seated figure, I was really very doubtful about it. I was twisting the sandy silk filament for every stitch, and it was being difficult, and looking rather odd and clunky.

Then I added the wig, in a variegated – and slightly slubby – silk perle, and suddenly I’m completely captivated!

The walking-stick like thing is a row of chain stitch with detached buttonhole stitch added to broaden the shaft. I think that works rather nicely, too.

Middle Block
Middle Block
False Start
False Start

There was a slight false start with the row of spoon-like things. After I did the bottom row of this pair, ending with a crossed spoon in heavy chain stitch and long and short stitch, I wondered whether perhaps I should vary the stitches in the row above. An experiment in that direction soon proved me wrong, though!

The two little blocks started out as closed herringbone stitch, but that looked scrappy and a bit twisted. I left the closed herringbone stitch in place, and covered it with satin stitch, breathing a sigh of relief when it worked.

The fabric is the same as I used for the Faience Hippopotamus, and it’s frightfully difficult to photograph. No matter what I do, the colour careers around the spectrum, and the grey, overcast days aren’t helping, either.

Nor is it especially easy to stitch on. It doesn’t look like a loose weave, but it behaves like one, even though I’ve supported it with a piece of calico. Stitches that I like using are proving unsuccessful and behaving oddly. All in all, although I’m enjoying it, it feels most peculiar!

Progress on Eve In The Garden Of Eden

Progress on the spine
Progress on the spine

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!

Another Parcel
Another Parcel

 

 

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.

Still, I need to finish that pashmina first…

 

Worked on a whim

Pincushion
Pincushion

Just before Christmas I was struggling with the “Dreams of Amarna” designs, but I still had itchy fingers from longing to stitch, and sore eyes from staring at “Eve In The Garden of Eden“, so I wanted something a bit less precise..

My Dad’s shaving cream comes in a rather nice wooden pot. There are refills, but sometimes the shop doesn’t have them, and consequently – since they’re much too nice to throw away – my parents have ended up with something of a stockpile. I’ve taken one of them off their hands, and turned it into a pincushion.

Coral Stitch
Coral Stitch

At the moment the lid is being used as a coaster, but I am open to suggestions for it!

The threads are silks, bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, worked on felt acquired at the same time. I created the shape of the pincushion itself with shaping stitches, stitching around and around the padding and the felt top layer, rather as doll and puppet makers do, and once I’d settled it into the bowl, I drew a chalk line around the waist, took the pincushion out, and started stitching.

Lucet
Lucet

Coral Stitch, Cable Chain (do I ever do anything that Cable Chain doesn’t sneak into somehow?), Semi-Closed Feather Stitch, and Scroll Stitch, all stitched into the felt, catching as little of the stuffing as I could.

Then I decided to do make a scissors-keeper for my lovely Ernest Wright and Son Ltd scissors, so I started by using one of the threads, and my lucet, to make a cord for it. I’d forgotten some of the knack of lucetting, but it came back gradually, and it’s ever so satisfying!

Finished Pair
Finished Pair

The stitches on the scissors keeper are Sorbello Stitches (another favourite of mine) and Tied Cross Stitches, and the the pieces of felt are stitched together with ordinary blanket stitch. In silk!

Don’t they look good…!

Spinning

Drop Spindle And Yarns
Drop Spindle And Yarns

I don’t usually go to workshops at the Knitting and Stitching Show, but since I’ve taken to going to the Thursday evening opening as well, I thought I would have time this year.

And I did. I went to a workshop on Spinning Silk Mawata with Ruth MacGregor, and came back with my very own drop spindle to play with.

First of all I’ve never been to any fibre related workshop at which there were tubes of handcream on the table! Secondly, although I have – literally! – written a book about spinning, I’ve never held a drop spindle in my life and I had no idea what to expect. My book is about industrial spinning, and the machines always did the difficult stuff…

It turns out that silk mawata is a web of filament that can be drafted (stretched) and spun fairly easily – it’s a forgiving material, and because silk is so strong and the filaments are so long, it’s easy to draft and create fine threads. Of course, that means that spinning heavier threads is going to take a bit more thought and care.

Spinning Supplies
Spinning Supplies

Or – since Ruth taught us how – there is always the possibility of twisting two threads together to make one. In the photo above you can see my early efforts. The two light ones are both fairly simple plied yarns, but speaking as a fancy yarn specialist, the dark one is a slubbed gimp yarn. I just wish I could claim that that was exactly as I designed it to be!

So I came home with a packet of silk mawata caps and some silk tops, so I can play and learn to make the thread I want to make.

Eventually I want to be able to spin in both wool and silk, and use some of my yarns in the Vision of Placidus panel…