Akhenaten’s Armlets

Brass Mess, Looking Dull

You may recall that I had some trouble with the armlets the first time I was working on them. Now, as I’ve come back to Akhenaten again, I’ve decided that the gold kid I’d settled on isn’t at all right. Off it came, and after some puzzling, I attached the brass mesh instead.

Only to decide that no, that looks dull, doesn’t capture the effect I’m after, and even edged with a flattened gold spiral, doesn’t stand out enough against the silk.

Coloured Purl Armlets

My next thought was to do some patterned chipwork. I chose a rather gorgeous, very ancient-Egyptian-looking blue, and a sort of diagonal basketweave pattern which is not a million miles removed from some of the patterns I have seen on ancient pieces.

The blue did at least help the silk to show something like true colour, but when I looked at the whole piece, I found the blue too bright, and the pattern altogether too much of a good thing.

I thought that was strange. The alternating directions should have echoed the beard and helped the two sit nicely together, and there is so much personality in the silver purl loincloth that you would have thought nothing could have been too much!

Armlet Trimmed With Silk Wrapped Scallop

Then I had a thought – the kit for the Stuart Silk Purl Flower contained some bonus silk-wrapped wires and purls, and fortuitously, when slightly overstretched, there was just enough of one of the turquoise ones to do top and bottom on each armlet.

At this point I decided, somewhat tentatively, that maybe I’d got this bit right, or at least right enough to move on.

Akhenaten’s Headress Rethought – stage two

The Cobras Hood
The Cobras Hood

Having decided that all those delicious manipulations of brass mesh weren’t going to help in this case, I cut out the shape of the cobra’s hood from the brass mesh, (not getting too close, in case I cut the thread attaching it!).

At this point I realised it wasn’t quite strong enough, and attached the bent piece of pearl purl from the first attempt to the back in order to provide more support.

Bending back the brass mesh helped to conceal the supporting pearl purl – although whether anyone will be able to notice it is a moot point!

Cobra In Place
Cobra In Place

The final stage of the cobra was to attach the same piece of silver spiral with gold band to take the place of the snake himself, in front of the hood and to a new piece of gold kid. This time I looked again at some pictures of cobras, and made sure the hood was set back a little from where the mouth would be.

New Version Of Headdress
Cobra and vulture heads in place

I used the same “vulture’s head” as last time, but helped it to stand out slightly by winding some blue wire from a tiny bit of blue purl around the large gold rope I used for the vulture’s neck. You can see how small it is, but it’s surprising how much difference it makes to the final effect!

Once I’d attached the gold kid, I could cover the bottom edge with gold spiral, and then trim the upper edge to create the shape I wanted. This is the stage you see here. However, I then decided that the upper edge needed a trim, so at some point I must tie myself in knots to attach some sort of trimming to a curved shape stretched over a padded base.

Wish me luck!

Akhenaten’s Headdress, Rethought

Original Headdress
Original Headdress

Of course, I had to take off the gold headdress when I decided to make another attempt (and another, and another!) at the face. Then, when I looked at it again, with my new version of the face in place, and still more new ideas swirling around in my head, I decided that it wasn’t quite right, either in shape or in conception, and needed a little more help…

Blue Twist And Brass Mesh
Blue Twist And Brass Mesh

First of all, I think the first piece of gold kid I cut was the wrong shape, but secondly, and more interestingly, the cobra doesn’t really stand out against the gold kid, so I decided to try again.

So I began by folding a piece of brass mesh and attaching to it a loop of the same blue twist I used to emphasize the edging of the belt. I had thought that this might be rather tricky, but the brass mesh is fine enough to take stitching without too much trouble.

At this point I should probably say that from the base to the top of the loop here is no more than a centimetre. This is all very small and very fiddly indeed!

I also experimented with some pleating and crinkling of the brass mesh. I like the various effects, and I’d love to fit them in somewhere, but unfortunately I couldn’t quite work out how to make them work in this context.

The whole piece is so striking that I am finding it particularly difficult with the last little details, because they need to have enough personality not to be overwhelmed, but I don’t want the final piece to feel “spotty”. The eye needs somewhere to rest occasionally, rather than zooming frantically in all directions!

Akhenaten’s Face – Yet Again

Needlefelting A Different Way
Needlefelting A Different Way

Having found the last attempt didn’t result in quite what I was aiming for, I tried a new approach.

This time I took the outline of the face from the main piece, and needlefelted around it to get the shape to fit. Then I tried to get the features in place again, but having learnt from last time, I tried to leave the felt padding a little softer so as to be a bit easier to embroider. When I was trying the wet-felted versions to be further needlefelted, I used several different wools to see whether it made a difference, but with my level of inexperience, it didn’t, so this time I just used the first that came to hand.

Face In Progress
Face In Progress

Then I stretched silk over the top and began to stitch again.

When I tweeted this picture in a frustrated I’ve-had-enough-of-him pause, one of my friends replied “It’s Cassandra O’Brien!”. Which gave me a much-needed giggle – although I have a lowering feeling that Akhenaten and Cassandra might have got along quite well. Not necessarily the most admirable of people, either of them.

And don’t my lovely copper/rose-gold headed pins disappear beautifully against the fabric!

Face In Place
Face In Place

This looks rather better, I think.

I would have been happier if I could have made the brow heavier, and the nose more forward, but by now I feel I’m entering a world of diminishing returns, and may even start to make negative progress, which would be disheartening to say the least.

Now to see how this face copes with all the fuss of headdress and accessories…

Akhenaten’s Face – Again

Needlefelted Faces
Needlefelted Faces

As you may recall, my last attempt at a face for Akhenaten wasn’t entirely successful, so I started again… This time I needlefelted the shapes very fiercely (which I enjoyed more than I expected to!) until they were quite solid and strongly shaped, only to discover that they were far too deep and I had to saw off the back half with a penknife!

Another Face Attempt
Another Face Attempt

Then I stretched another fragment of silk over the top and worked the features.

When you consider how deep the eyesockets are in the felt, I’m a bit surprised that the eyes on this version don’t appear more deep-set, but he does have nice heavy brows, and the rest of the features aren’t too bad..

The face is also as narrow as it appears in that purple watercolour from a couple of weeks ago, so I felt quite optimistic when I turned back to the frame he sits on.

Too Narrow A Face
Too Narrow A Face

However, you can’t say that this face is much better than the apoplectic trumpeter – it has turned out by far too narrow for the space left for it, and I suspect that the detached buttonhole stitch with return used for the wig has done too much damage to the fabric to take it out.

So this is not the one to use, and I have to try again.

Again!



The Little Robin finished!

Working On The Robin
Working On The Robin

I have to admit that I have enjoyed the little Robin. Here is a halfway point, showing that while many suggest drawing direction lines for their stitches, I chose to draw with my needle instead. I found that the more helpful because it gave me a chance to gauge the overlap of each section with the next.

I’ve gathered that some tutors suggest working small sections to completion, and others in colour layers. I took the latter approach with the (I’m sure not original) refinement that sometimes I went back and did another layer in a colour I’d already done.

Stumpwork Bits
Stumpwork Bits

I also had fun with the stumpwork elements: two simple wired leaves (nothing terrifying about that, after working on the Stumpwork Violets for Dreams of Amarna!) and three berries made of beads wrapped with thread. I’ve not wrapped beads before, but as it turned out, this, too, turned out to be fairly straightforward.

And fortunately, my wandering applique scissors returned to the fold in time to be of use…

The Robin Completed
The Robin Completed

So here he is.

As you can see, even though I worked him in a hoop, and regularly made sure the fabric tension was maintained, there is a little bit of puckering. That may reflect, as much as anything else, a certain anxiety on my part.  I think I will mount him on a round card and add him to the winter decoration corner when I set it up, and I should be able to ease some of the puckering then.

And – for those enquiring minds that wish to know – while I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with silk shading, we are definitely on better terms than we were!

A Learning Opportunity

Robin Stumpwork Kit
Robin Stumpwork Kit

I’m a very lucky woman. Sometimes, as in this case, I have to say so through slightly gritted teeth…

In this case, I am expressing my good fortune in having a family that takes my embroidery as seriously as I do – and the gritted teeth are because my parents elected to give me a learning opportunity for Christmas.

Starting The Wired Leaves
Starting The Wired Leaves

Silk shading is something I know I should work at, but would be most unlikely to choose to do, because the naturalistic representation it tends to be used for is not really my forte.

All the more reason, of course, to make an attempt, at least, to get to grips with it, but I haven’t been able to convince myself to do so!

Beginning The Split Stitch
Beginning The Split Stitch

That said, Masako Newton‘s Silk Shading and Stumpwork Robin and Holly is really very sweet indeed, and I am sure I will enjoy working it.

Furthermore, unlike the Jane Rainbow kit my parents gave me for Christmas twenty years ago, there’s no chance of this one being finished quickly.

I will certainly learn a great deal from doing the Robin, and he is going to be classed as one of my New projects for 6 and 6 in 2018.

The Stumpwork Violets Finally Planted

Assembled Violets
Assembled Violets

I wouldn’t care to do much real hand embroidery on a fabric “doped” (after the fashion of early aeroplane wings!), with the mixture of inktense and aloe gel. Once it had dried, the calico had something of the texture of a cheap printed furnishing fabric, and did not recover well from having holes poked in it. I suspect it would prove rather abrasive on more delicate threads, but in this case I was simply using stranded cotton.

And there were many holes poked in it – one for each of the elements. I turned back one of the two wires at the base of each, to help to support the curves I was trying to set into them, using the wires around the edge. The other wire I poked through a hole which was in turn poked through the fabric using a stiletto. Bending that wire back on itself should have kept the elements in the place, but as with all of my embroidery adventures – it wasn’t quite that easy!

Cut And Padded
Cut And Padded

When I fished out the packet of stamens from my second Frostings Box, I found that there were three strands of each of three types, and picked the most delicate gold ones, so as not to overpower the flowers. So that worked out nicely – one strand for each flower! – and caused three more holes in the calico..

The elements were still wriggling a bit, though, so I decided to put some padding behind the clump to help to entrap the wires, and also to enhance the domed effect that I was hoping for. That meant that it made sense to trim the padding and enclose it with the calico, creating a single, “free-standing” clump of violets. The elements are held in place with minimal stitching, the curves nestling together, and the wires and threads entrapped in the padding. It wouldn’t stand up to much handling, but then it won’t get any!

Click on the pictures to see them at full size – I think they give a good sense of the dimension and “loft” I managed to achieve.

Can you tell that I’m rather pleased with my violets?

Returning to the Stumpwork Violets

Array Of Petals And Leaves
Array Of Petals And Leaves

I finally gave myself the necessary encouragement to get back to the Stumpwork Violets.

Er, that is to say, I spoke to myself very severely, and pointed out that it was looming over me and needed dealing with!

I used my new Inktense blocks to experiment with colouring the base fabric on the last few leaves, painting over the top with the aloe vera gel suggested by Deanna over at Eclectic Meanderings as a substitute for textile medium.

Background Inktense
Background Inktense

I also used the aloe gel on the spare piece of calico I painted as a background for the clump of violets. I don’t intend any of this to be visible. It will just provide some dark green depths underneath the clump, rather than leaving me worrying that the fabric underneath might grin through if the leaves move. As with the clothing on Loading The Felucca, I don’t want to stitch everything down too much, so this will relieve a certain anxiety.

In this context, the effect of painting over the marks with the aloe gel, deadening the marks and blending the colours, is not a problem. I’m not keen on the overly blended effect with ordinary pastels, as it looks a little mannered, but as all I want is that a sense of depth behind the violets, I’m content. Given how much dust those few strokes created, I certainly would not want to have an un-fixed piece of fabric anywhere near the finished Dreams of Amarna panels!

Elements Cut Out
Elements Cut Out

While the aloe-and-inktense blend was drying, I tackled cutting out the elements of the stumpwork.

In spite of all my care – and they do look lovely in the sunlight, don’t they! – I ended up with little white edges on all the pieces.

So, out came the inktense blocks and the aloe gel again, and I spent some time colouring the little white edges and then painting gel on them.

I wonder whether I might be avoiding the assembly process…?

Banafsiga – Violets

First Petals Wired
First Petals Wired

In her book, Mary Chubb describes the sort of frustrating experience that many language learners will recognise, in which a word completely useless for present practical purposes somehow sticks in the mind, while the immediately useful and necessary words just don’t. In her case, she says that while the Arabic word for “bread” required constant effort to remember, for some reason the word for “violet”, transliterated in her book as “banafsiga”, in her words “perched, fragrantly and effortlessly in my brain from the start“.

First Leaves Wired
First Leaves Wired

Naturally, I’m going to have to do some violets to represent the experience, and I’ve decided to do them in stumpwork. I’ve done a little raised embroidery – I suppose those fellows Loading The Felucca count, and there’s always the Kiwi – but wired stumpwork is new. I won’t claim to be approaching it full of trepidation, because no-one would believe me, but I certainly have no idea which bits I will find easy and which I will find hard.

First Filled Petal
First Filled Petal

Actually, as it turned out, the first difficulty lay in working out what a violet should look like. I wanted the simple, old-fashioned violets that Mary, brought up in the early twentieth century, might have known, and my image sources online kept on introducing African Violets, which apparently aren’t the same thing at all.

In the end, following a suggestion from a Twitter friend, I went rummaging on the RHS website, and found a complete rundown on viola odorata, which told me it has five petals, heart-shaped leaves, and is “mat-forming”, which I take to mean it spreads out rather than up. I don’t know how many flowers or leaves my bunch will have in it, so I’m expecting to do more than I need and pick the best.

Edge Covered
Edge Covered

I’m using ordinary stranded cotton on this occasion (“Gosh“, I hear you cry, “What happened to all the eccentric yarns you use?“, to which I reply, “There’s paper-covered wire in there – what more do you want?“), and in this first flower, I’m going to use two strands for the embroidery. If I think it looks a bit chunky, I can always move on to single strand for subsequent flowers.

Thus far, I’m rather enjoying it. I may yet move on from these violets to the wired needlelace rose I saw in a Needlecraft magazine twenty-five years ago, and never got around to…