Finishing Tynemouth Priory

I’m a little behind with posting this, but there were a few details to finish off-video…

I didn’t want to overdo the water, but I wanted to break up the pattern a little, to create the sense of foam on the surface. I’ve used French Knots, in white silk and very very pale blue single strands of cotton. There were more, but having put them in, I took them straight out again!

Finally, I got to add in the two needlelace slips. I hope you can see that I’ve added a few green French knots to help one section to bed in nicely.

The other one, I’ve twisted and pulled a little, and I’ve tried not to stitch it down too firmly or in too many places. I want the shadow of the slip to help create the sense of distance and disintegration, and I think it’s turned out rather well. I did jam it up hard against the rows of raised satin stitch, and again, I had to be a bit careful, to make sure I didn’t pull those stitches through to the back.

Finally, the first attempt at Tynemouth Priory for “Leaving the Tyme 1915”, finished in its own right. I suspect that when I frame it, I will crop at least some of the water out, but for sure, as I said in the video, adding it in if you didn’t do enough the first time becomes really, really trying.

As you know, I don’t feel comfortable planning to the last detail before I stitch. I like to have space to explore and experiment. That in turn means I have to be comfortable tweaking how I work and how I display what I’ve done, and it is often the case that embroidery responds to close mounting in a way that watercolours, for instance, do not. I would far rather do more stitching than I really needed to – even with an exasperating stitch like this! – than have to go back to it when I thought I was finished and my mind has moved on to something else!

Little Jacket Again

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You might recall that this shape gave me some trouble when I was working the Coat of Many Flowers. Somehow, that wasn’t the case this time. It appears twice, and while this one is very different to the other, I think it works.

I like the contrast between the Mountmellick stitch facing inwards on one leaf and outwards on the other, the Bonnet stitch edging over the central red section.

I do wonder whether there should be more of the single twisted chain stitches, but I think I’m happy to leave them as is. You might also note, just behind the copyright notice, a tiny Fishbone Stitch leaf. There are a few blemishes on the fabric – to be expected with a jacket that’s probably at least thirty years old – and I’m covering them with these little leaves. I can add more if I find more snags or blemishes, and they will add a bit more fragmentation and frivolity.

The whole theme of this design (if you can call it a Design, when it “just growed” like Topsy!) seems to be counterchange.

This one shows variegated thread and plain thread against plain felt and variegated felt. I’ve kept greens with greens and pinkish reds with pinkish reds, but the whole idea still lies in the layering of detail.

I’m pleased that I found a place for coral stitch as the stem supporting the brown shape, although the rayon yarn is an absolute monster to use. It tangles if you so much as look at it sharply, and while I would normally use a hoop to hold the fabric, giving me two hands for the thread, I’m reluctant to use a hoop on this fabric, so there was instead much muttering ..

There was much muttering, also, as I took the toggle loops off. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to finish the edges of the jacket, when I get there, but I’m already sure I won’t use the toggles and toggle loops which were already there.

They were attached by multiple overlapping lines of machine stitching, and since I wanted to avoid damage to the edging braid in case that remains the finished edge, I had to be very careful. Two evenings of fiddling and muttering produced this rather sad little heap of redundant loops.

But at least they are now off the jacket!

Watermill Stitchery – Trees at the Convento del Carmine

Very wisely, Bill and Lois, who run The Watermill At Posara, organise a variety of places to visit and paint, and in particular, the peace and quiet of the Convento del Carmine came the day after Excursion Day, which has people everywhere!!

I painted this watercolour when I was there, and in fact it shows something other than what I remember when I don’t look at it. What I mostly remember is dark foliage setting off the building in front, so for the embroidered version, that is what I intend to emphasize..

Now, remember, each of my Watermill Stitcheries is a sampler of experiments and ideas. I may or may not like all of them, but they should give my students points to ponder and places to start.

With that in mind, each of the trees is going to be in a different stitch. In each case I have worked vertical rows of the stitch, overlapping and interlocking them as best as I can to evoke the texture of the leaves.

I started, on the left, with Feathered Zigzag Chain Stitch. I’m quite pleased with this – you entirely lose the pattern of the stitch, but it evokes the movement of leaves in a breeze rather successfully.

I can’t say the same of Kerman Stitch, on the right. The breeze has stopped here, even if the impression of texture remains!

Working inward from the left, the first of these is Rabbit Eared Chain Stitch, found in Edith John’s “Creative Stitches”. This stitch is based on twisted chain stitches, which encouraged me to hope for a sense of movement again. I don’t think I quite hit the mark with it – maybe I never got quite comfortable enough with it – but I think it has possibilities.

The next one is Zigzag Crested Chain, again from Edith John. Crested chain is a stitch I enjoy but always find it moves under my needle. This time it ended up longer and thinner than I intended it to be – but maybe that was right for the purpose…

The final one is the slightly less peculiar Twisted Feather Stitch, and here, perhaps because it felt a little more familiar, more akin to the feathered zigzag chain I started with, I have my sense of movement and breeze back again.

I’ve begun the building in Burden Stitch, and now need to finish that, add more of the roof, and finally the creeper falling over the top of the wall. So watch this space!

Little Jacket – still more foliage

Adding the large leaves involved some thinking, because I wanted to keep the variations going. Some of them are edged, some of them emphasise “veins”, and some, like these two, are asymetrical.

The darkest green felt helps the pale yellow (alternating twisted chain, I think) to shine, and the three lines of darker yellow just add another variation which ties in with some of the colours in the yarn I used for the stem.

I found the middle shade of felt a little harder, always. I wanted to ensure there were contrasts and changes of texture, but middling shades are just trickier to balance. The different textures here help a bit – mercerised cotton as against a fine crewel wool.

Wheatsheaf stitch down the centre of the lower leaf turns into chain stitch as the leaf narrows, and the Cretan Stitch in the upper leaf presents a nice contrast, dark red-browns in a finer yarn opposed to the fluffy wool of the lower leaf.

All of these leaves also run over one or other of the seams I had to release to do most of the stitching, so they were a bit trickier for that reason as well. I will have to steam-press these when I’ve finished, to settle the seams back the way they should be.

This picture also shows that I am adding chain stitch tendrils. One of the things I learnt from all the Online University courses with Thistle Threads is that sometimes More Really Is More. As most of the stitching came together, the jacket still didn’t look quite luxuriant enough or joyful enough, so again, my Mam modelled it for me, and I drew in tendrils in chalk to stitch over later. That way I could be sure they made some sort of sense when the garment was on..

Some of the leaves over seams were to cover patches of wear, and as I looked over the jacket, I found more wear, on the top of one of the pockets and down the pocket edges.

Taking the pockets off wasn’t a good choice, as the fabric would look different underneath them, so I had to think of something else to do, and this is it. Grouped blanket stitches down the edges of both of the pockets, and a sneaky little butterfly to cover the bit of wear on the top of one of them.

You can see that the butterfly is one case where I’ve added lots of little details, including tiny little stitches on the body to break up the fragment of dark felt that I needlefelted in place as the starting point.

Who would think the top of the pocket was worn right through the top layer of fabric?

Watermill Stitchery – Finishing Stones of Verrucola

You may recall that I was planning to use this design as a way to explore stonework in various forms, and to demonstrate stitches that might be chosen in each case.

So here we have padded satin stitch for the cut and dressed stone of the arch, and seed stitch for the boulder beside it. The seat and the blocks of the wall around the arch are both in Cretan Stitch, the one spaced out and turned into a filling stitch of sorts, and the other compressed and set at a slight angle to represent the slightly dished stone seat.

This view shows the height of the padding on the keystone and the line of dark stitching under the tiles, which is a line of chain stitch feathered on one side only to get one crisp edge and one which suggests the darkness of the arch. You can also see from the shadows just how strongly raised the blanket stitched herringbone stitch appears.

The Cretan Stitch rows are carefully varied in length and depth to show how the rows of cut stone are not all the same height or length. This was a stitch much more easily worked in a hoop, where you can see the layout, than in the hand – even though I prefer working in the hand where I can.

And here is the finished “Stones of Verrucola”.

There are some elements which work much better than others. The outlines through the arch and the chain stitch edges of the flagstones may not be necessary, and the shadow under the seat is a little too small.

The seed stitches could have been bigger, maybe even grouped, and maybe emphasizing one of the lighter colours more, but I am very happy that all of the different textures are truly differentiated.

Besides, all that I am seeking to do is to demonstrate ideas that the students can take on or not as they choose. If at the end of the week I have a classful of mini-mes, I will have failed. What I want is a group who’ve tried, experimented, and each of them produced, maybe even only a fragment, but still something that makes me think, “Goodness, I wish I’d thought of that!”

Little Jacket – dealing with a difficulty

Remember this one?

All the stitches came from Edith John, I think. Crested chain edging on the brown petals, and an odd combination of rosette chain and blanket stitch in the yellow-green pearl cotton. The stitch running in a spine down the lower brown petal is called “Wing Stitch”, and looks to me like a cross between fly stitch and twisted chain stitch.

I liked the stitches, but not the effect, and one way and another, I couldn’t work out what to do with them all. So I unpicked it and stitched other things along the way, playing with textures and threads and hoping that inspiration would return…

I took out all the pale variegated pearl cotton, and decied that what I need to do was to simplify the shape, and make it less frilly. So I’ve left the crested chain in brown bordering the top petals, but pulled everything else in and calmed it down. Blanket stitch edging the pale circles, and a spiral of twisted chain stitch to pull them together.

It still doesn’t really look like any flower that grew, but I think it makes a better pattern, and a better contribution to the whole thing.

And that is what matters, after all!

Christmas Angel Finished

3 Revisions

The Christmas Angel is finished. A background of different shades of gold, the Angel in red and green outlined in heavily textured gold thread

So here we are. All the gold canvaswork completed, the Angel outlined in different weights of thread, given tightly curled hair in French Knots, and now ready for however I work out how to mount her and turn her into something pleasing, and useful to decorate the house next Christmas.

I haven’t given the Angel a face, and I don’t think I will. It’s distressingly easy for “sweet” or “joyful” to become “disturbingly weird” with faces, especially when there is so little space, and relatively few stitches to manoevre with. If I experience an inspiration, I’ll reconsider, at least until I’ve mounted her. At the moment I’m looking for a sufficiently tall and wide cardboard tube that I can cut in half. Alternatively, I need to be very clever indeed about my card engineering…

It really only took as long as it did – it was begun in 2015 – largely because there was a lot of background, and it was remarkably tricky to find a rhythm to the pattern. Once I did so, it became much easier, and fairly romped away. Before that time, it spent a considerable period hidden away because – not having found the rhythm – it just made me grumpy to look at it!

Still more on the Little Jacket

The two stitches here are both chain stitch variants – wavy chain (top) and shell chain (bottom). Wavy chain is a tricky one to use, because it is very difficult to curve, which rather limits the applications it might have. It does a good imitation of ric-rac or braid, but so far that is the best I’ve managed with it. Suggestions on a postcard, please!

Shell chain does take curves nicely, and can be used in most places you might think of using closed feather stitch or heavy chain stitch.

There are three of these buds, or berries, and they seemed a perfect place for trellis couching, which has been a favourite stitch ever since the first embroidered cushion cover I ever did. I’ve edged them, rather conventionally, I’m afraid, with ordinary blanket stitch, and the leaves use Cretan stitch, another of those odd variants, which alternates feather stitch with twisted chain stitch, and then open chain stitch, which one of my books describes as “an ugly stitch, fit only to be the basis for ornamentation”. Which seems a bit harsh.

This final flower took a bit of jockeying with, because I didn’t quite place the original green elements as I might have done if I’d left them until later. Be warned by me, and when you start to get tired, STOP! Otherwise it takes ten times as long to sort out afterwards

However, I got there in the end, I think, with some chained blanket stitch, some French knots, and some needlelace stitches on the calyx.

Footstool finished and set up

There was something of a pause once I’d finished the cavaswork and we had removed the old cover from the little footstool. We reinstated all the padding (leaving my Grandad’s old pyjamas just where Grandmama had left them!) and stapled the cavaswork over the top.

However, that left a border of bare canvas, which was definitely not what I wanted on show, so there was some thought expended. There wasn’t enough of the assorted tapestry wools left over to make a border, and this was in progress during one of our lockdowns, so I couldn’t go frolicking off to a haberdashery to hunt for a braid. Very well, we would have to find a way of ensuring that our border matched, while trusting someone else to pick the material.

Fortunately, the threads I used were most of them current colours, and in particular the grey is a familiar Anchor colour. So it occurred to me that if I could find a shop that sold both embroidery supplies and knitting supplies, we could ask for a knitting wool to match the grey thread, and crochet a border.

That would have the advantage that we could be sure it would be wide enough to do the job, and in any case it could be slightly stretched to fit. I do like it when absolute millimetre precision isn’t necessary. This was a stash-busting, domestic area-improving project, not a major epic (although, you know, subject to my usual feature-creep!).

In the end, we picked a Tunisian Crochet stitch, and my Mam solemnly crocheted the necessary metre and a half of border, ten stitches wide, and then attached it.

No canvas showing now, and the knitting wool is such a perfect match you could be forgiven for thinking that we’d been intending this from the start!

And still more on the Little Jacket

I spent quite some time solemnly Holly Braiding my way all around the jacket, over seams, over itself, even in a couple of cases over the felt. There will also be tendrils in the same yarn, which will pull out the colour variation and reduce the slightly spotty look – which is much less evident in real life, oddly.

The two different stranded silks I used on these leaves help, too, of course. Up and down buttonhole stitch on the top leaf, with the paired uprights worked in a V-shape, and in the lower leaf, closed feather stitch. I do wonder whether a bit more contrast may be needed, but I think that can wait until the whole thing is finished, and I can see what, if anything, wants more help.

The frilly flower (heaven knows what it was intended to be!) provided a good deal of scope, too. The green stitch over the yellow felt came from Edith John – she calls it Tied Cretan Stitch. The yellow stitching is another one of hers, a pattern of feather stitches, but it doesn’t respond well to the curve and looks so unlike the drawing I now can’t find which it is. The inner edge is tied down with coral stitch in an extremely lively rayon yarn that nearly drove me mad, and I’ve reused one of the variegated yarns from the leaf above to help pull things together.

I’m enjoying myself enormously, but I am not always coming up with something you could call a “textbook example”!

This one shows some of the stitching over stitching that’s been going on as well. I put the stem in first, and then worked the alternating feather stitch and cable chain stitch spikes over the top. I’ve also used rosette chain stitch again. It’s a usefully intricate and intriguing stitch which has some of the practical characteristics of blanket stitch.