As I got nearer the foreground figures, I tried to pick broader stitches, or at least stitches that were a bit more emphatic. This group was great fun to do, starting with the Gufti with his staff of office (Portuguese Knotted Stem!). The Gufti’s robe is Feather stitch, as are some of the twists of his headgear. I concentrated very hard on keeping the stitches even and close so that the “density” of the stitch would be maintained. The one in dark gold is in double interlaced back stitch, except for the top of the headgear, and the waistline – those are whipped backstitch. The other one is in one of the Elizabethan stitches from Jacquie Carey’s book.
I had fun with the supervising excavator – the brim of his solar topee is the Hungarian Braid chain, and I reversed the direction of the chain stitch for the peak of the crown. He’s also the only one with fair hair and pinkish skin, and I dressed him in a pale, tailored jacket.
The two at the front are another mixture of stranded silk, stranded cotton, and round silk thread. The golden veil is coral stitch, and the tunic below it is stranded silk chain stitch, and the dark golden tunic is stranded cotton and twisted chain stitch. I’m trying to make choices of stranded or round yarn that will suit the stitch.
I worked these two diggers on World Embroidery Day – which I hadn’t even known existed until the day before, so I was very glad I was able to sit and stitch!
I went back to my Edith John books for these two. The front one is in Shell Chain stitch, which I first used on the Circle Skirt. I won’t say it’s a favourite, but I have rather taken to it, and it creates an interesting effect.
The one behind is a very peculiar stitch, a combination of twisted chain stitch and open chain stitch. It creates a very square appearance, with the twisted chain alternating from side to side of the open chain, and it is called, rather predictably, Open Twisted Chain Stitch.
The whole idea of the sampler on the case is to have a few reminders of stitches I haven’t done before, or use only rarely…
The first row was Fishbone Stitch in navy blue pearl cotton. I wanted something definite to create the edge of the panel. It was a little tricky to stitch on the soft pre-felt, but as I soon remembered – that would be true of all of them!
Next, Mountmellick Thorn Stitch in reddish-pink cotton. I’ve only used this once before, on the Jacobean Work Panel, largely because I have not found a suitable application. I enjoyed it, though, and now the stitch will be before my eyes more regularly, maybe I will find one…
Open Chain Stitch is an awkward stitch. In Barbara Snook’s “Embroidery Stitches”, she says it is best used as the basis for further ornamentation, such as single chain stitches across the bars. and I think you can see why. I used a pale yellow pearl cotton. I like the thread, but the stitch is one that needs more work!
Next, Sorbello Stitch, worked in overdyed blue mercerised cotton. I’ve used this stitch before, to work the modern villages on the Map of Amarna, but at this larger scale the form and texture of the stitch is easier to see.
Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch has become one of my favourite stitches since I used it for the Silken Crane and the Antelope Frieze. This version uses an overdyed pink/red pearl cotton. It does show colour variations nicely!
Bonnet Stitch is a new one for me. I am absolutely sure that yellow rayon is not what the stitch was developed for, but it worked rather well, and I enjoyed it.
I chose Feathered Chain Stitch next because I wanted something fairly wide, and fairly open. The navy stranded cotton makes a strong central axis for the panel.
Petty Chain Stitch is a new one for me. I found it in one of the books by Edith John that I have. She named it after the student who created it by accident when she confused the instructions for two stitches – immortality of a sort, I suppose! I’ve used a pinkish wool slub, doubled to even out the thickness. I’ll try to remember to use this again, in a less textural thread. I think it could prove useful.
The Herringbone Stitch, I chose because I wanted something narrow. You will have noticed I’ve tried to create a rhythm of stitch widths, although it isn’t a repeating pattern as such. The golden pearl cotton has a lovely shine.
Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch is another old friend. The challenge with this blue overdyed rayon floss was not in the stitching, but in wrangling the fifty or so metres that joyously tangled themselves as soon as I untied the skein!
I’ve never used Butterfly Stitch before, either. I’m not sure that the textured pinkish cotton does it the best service, but it creates an interesting effect.
Feather Stitch is harder to stitch well than you might think. The de-twisted gold rayon cord certainly didn’t make life easy, but it helps create an emphatic stop at the end of the panel.
Here is something else I completed while I was recovering from Loading The Felucca, pictured with the two gifts from Alison that inspired my colour choices, a pincushion and a needlecase in English Paper Piecing. Considering that I selected my colours from stash, I think they have a surprisingly similar “feel”.
Some of you will recall that a couple of years ago I made a case to hold a wooden stiletto and mellor as a gift for my cousin. I’ve finally got around to making a case for three bone stilettos and a wooden mellor for myself!
I’ve included several stitches I haven’t done before, or use only rarely and I’ll write about those later.
It was a little tricky to find a suitable layout for the tools, but I finally decided I liked this one. I’ve blanket stitched the edges together, now, and I intend to needlefelt the layers together, just as I did with the other one.
When I find my needlefelting tool, which has gone Absent Without Leave!
The last time you saw the case I planned for the wooden mellor and stiletto, I’d cut the slits and described how I finished assembling it, using chain stitch down each spine, and blanket stitch around the edge.
When I put the tools in place, though, the whole thing seemed rather flimsy, somehow. I wracked my brains for a bit, and then thought that maybe if I were to needlefelt the layers together, it would give it a little more body.
I have a needlefelting tool with five needles in a single holder, so I fished it out, and stared at it pensively for a while. Fortunately it has a plastic guard around the needles, so I left the tools in place, and needlefelted around them. From both sides.
Then I took out the tools, and felted between the loops so that the fabric behind the tools would stay in place and only the loops themselves would be free of the backing.
Finally, I needlefelted around the edge of the sampler panel and across all of the back, so that the whole case would have the same sense of solidity.
Here is the finished piece. You can zoom in on the picture to get a better view of the stitches, and the needlefelting that gives the piece its body.
I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I hope my cousin will have many opportunities to use it, and will find the sampler panel inspiring and intriguing.
The final set of stitches for the sampler panel starts with Chained Feather Stitch, using very heavy plain pearl cotton
Braid Stitch (number eleven) is another stitch I’m fond of – I used it on the Frolicking Teddies Cot Blanket. It’s a stitch with a huge personality, so it needs to be used with care, but it’s a good one to have in the repertoire. The thread is another overdyed mercerised round yarn, and because braid stitch uses so much thread, it cycles beautifully through the colours and shows them off very well.
Stitch number twelve is Reverse Chain Stitch. This is a stitch I’d never used before the Goldwork Masterclass, but it is a very useful one, because for some threads it is much easier to work than conventional Chain Stitch.
Stitch number thirteen is Cretan Stitch. This is a great border stitch, but because the thread I chose – an overdyed soft cotton – was in a green that was rather close to the colour of the felt, I decided to add a row of Chain stitch in a very dark green silk to define the edge. It balances the cream Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch at the other end beautifully.
I double checked that I was happy with the layout for the tools by pinning an outline of the two wooden tools onto the felt.Since I used squared paper for the templates it was also very easy to plan where I would place the slits that would allow to tools to be held in place, and to line them up properly.
Then all I had to do was to make use of my mother’s buttonhole cutter to cut the slits – straight through the paper template – and reassemble the two layers. That was harder than I expected. I’d forgotten that felt is a very flexible material, and it bent and stretched itself, and needed to be coaxed back into shape, and then pinned firmly back into stability. Then I chain stitched down each spine, and blanket stitched around the edge….
The idea of the sampler section was to give my cousin some inspiration for her own embroidery, and the chance to see what stitches look like in real life, since however good the book or the photo, it doesn’t come close to having the stitch there in front of you in real life! So I decided that it would consist of a sequence of stitches using a variety of threads. Naturally, I included some of my own favourite stitches!
Here, the top one is Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch, using a stranded linen thread from DMC. I first used this stitch in the Persian Fantasy, and I’ve loved it ever since. In this case I’ve added to the ornamental effect by alternating long and short upright stitches.
The next is Diamond Stitch, using an over dyed pearl cotton from Stef Francis. This is a stitch I’ve never used before but often wanted to. I’ll use it again, I’m sure – it was rather fun!
The third – in standard Anchor pearl cotton – is Cable Chain Stitch, which is my favourite chain stitch variation. It isn’t always suitable, because it is a stitch with a very strong character, and sometimes something more subtle is needed, but I always enjoy stitching it.
The fourth is Ladder Stitch, which I struggled with so much on the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass course. Here I have used an overdyed soft cotton (Stef Francis again) and found it so much easier to do!
The fifth is Heavy Chain Stitch, which I have found very useful a number of times. It produces a smooth, clean line, definition without texture, which can be hard to achieve in embroidery, which after all is a very textural form of expression!
The first new stitch in this photo (sixth in the sampler panel) is Loop Stitch, this one in a round mercerised cotton. It’s another stitch I’ve not often used, but it provides a great contrast in texture with the Heavy Chain Stitch above it.
Stitch number seven is Coral Stitch (remember I used it for the little girl’s hair in the Holiday Traycloth?). I used another overdyed pearl cotton – one of my favourite threads, because it brings stitches to life.
Closed Herringbone Stitch is next, using an almost untwisted rayon thread. This produces a dense plaited effect – very glossy and dramatic.
The final row in this second photograph, number nine in the sequence, is a combination of Stem Stitch set beside Outline Stitch. I know it looks a lot like chain stitch, but the two stitches are mirror images of one another!
Since Christmas is over and the present duly received, I can at last show you the present I made for my cousin. She’s become interested in embroidery, and when I saw some hand made, beautifully-finished wooden tools (a mellor and a stiletto) at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, I decided that I would give them to her for Christmas.
That was all well and good, but I couldn’t think of a suitable way to present them, so I decided to make a case for them. I spent some time sat in the picnic area at the show, sketching different possibilities and trying to work out what other supplies I needed to buy, and when, between mid-November and Christmas Day, I would be able to make it since I was still suffering from tennis elbow (I still am, but not nearly as much!). I was beginning to threaten to put together a kit and giving her that when one of the other ladies at the table pointed out that I would still need to make one as a proof of concept (a phrase I never expected to hear at the Knitting and Stitching Show!). She was right, because it evolved considerably in the process!
In the end I decided to make a case with three panels, using two layers of felt. I drew out paper patterns for each panel, and pinned them on to the piece of felt I had decided to use. I had considered putting a panel of canvaswork stitches on the front – I even bought a piece of congress cloth to use – but then decided that since she is interested in embroidery, it should be a panel of embroidery stitches.
As you can see, I also had second thoughts about the size of the sampler panel, and made it slightly smaller. That meant that there would be a wider border around the panel – always an improvement!
I ran tacking stitches around all the design elements to make sure I knew what was where, and then started thinking about the stitches to use for the sampler panel.
There’s been a frustrating hiatus in my stitching life of late – I’ve had tennis elbow, and have had to write up old embroidery projects for you instead of making progress on any of my current ones. I’ve been going stark, staring mad with frustration, because even holding a book has been painful.
However, I’m beginning to get back to it at last. Cautiously, so there will still be older projects interspersed with the current ones!
I’ve been doing a few stitches here and there while I’ve been trying to rest the elbow, as much as anything else to gauge my recovery (or lack of it, as it sometimes seemed!). So now you can see that I’ve nearly outlined all the shadows. There’s just the shadow inside the pot to deal with and it occurs to me that I might need to find some tarnished purl to create the effect of the shadow on the metal inside!
I’ve also made a start on the sandy effect seed stitches, in a small section between the pot and the sticks. That’s going to challenge my boredom threshold, even though I don’t intend to have the seed stitches all over the background!
This close up shows that I’ve also managed to fill in the first of the sticks, using split stitch filling. I need to add some highlights later, because as it stands it’s a little flat.
Still, it’s great to be back!
When you last saw the Crock of Gold Hoard (here), it included some highly unsatisfactory shadows, and my mother and myself had pounding headaches and crossed eyes from deciphering the original photograph.
It took several hours of frustrating, painstaking unpicking, aided by tweezers, but I managed, and then started on the ground while I pondered the shadows. There are some sticks or something on the ground, and I want the ground to look sandy and speckled so I’m going to use seed stitches to create the sandy, gravelly look.
There followed still more headscratching, sketching and puzzling (including experiments with photo-editing and watermarking on my tablet computer – that’s why there are two different copyright notices in this post!),
This example isn’t quite right – the shadow of the pot isn’t long enough, but it does demonstrate quite clearly that I’ve decided to simplify the shadows very considerably.
Since I’m removing the archaelogist and his hands, as well as the confusing shadow of the post which is out of the picture, I’ve decided I might as well simplify as many of the other shapes as I can. As I’ve said before, I’m not a needlepainter, and I’m not aiming for complete realism. Still, getting the shadows right will do much to make the design seem realistic enough.
I’m sure the detail of the shadows will change, but I’ve now drawn in an outline of those simplified shadows in chalk. I’ve even remembered that the pot has shoulders and a raised rim.
I mentioned in my last post that I was somewhat troubled by the question of the shadows that I need to have in this picture to “anchor” the Crock and its lid in space. Since the silk I used for the Crock has a sheen, my original idea was to try to find a matte thread to help keep the shadows in the background.
I had three dark, “shadowy” colours in a linen thread, and tried those first. I wasn’t happy either with the colours (too dull and drab for shadows cast by an Egyptian sun) or the texture (rough and scratchy), so I tried a soft lilac-y blue stranded cotton, couched down with a darker blue. That was better, but not really dark enough.
So this on the left was my next attempt. I like the shading effect and depth of colour that I’ve managed to achieve, but I can already tell that the shape of the shadow is absolutely wrong.
So I packed it up, and took my problems to my mother, who is an artist, and has a much more practised analytical eye than I have.
At which point, we realised that the shadows were rather more difficult even than I’d thought.
A lot more difficult! The amber arrows indicate (approximately) what appear to be two conflicting light sources. Since the ground appears to be uneven, this must be a photo taken on site during the excavation. The vertical green arrow in the top left corner is pointing at a shadow which is clearly of something on top of a pole somewhere out of the picture. The other green arrow points to shadows show that the ground underneath the lid isn’t as even as a careless glance would at first suggest.
I’ve got a lot of unpicking to do!