Developing confidence in satin stitch
It may not seem as though much has been going on with the Lotus Fragment, apart from satin stitch, but I have in fact been learning a lot, and experimenting rather a lot too.
To begin with, I was intending to use a couching stitch for the blue background of the image. This is partly because I keep forgetting that the final Dreams of Amarna panels are not intended to be worn or leaned upon. The stitches would need to be quite long, which is contrary to my ingrained instinct to keep stitches short in order to make the finished article reasonably hard-wearing. But then, stitched on silk, using silk, it was never going to land in the washing machine!
After my short class with Midori Matsushima, I had a little more confidence in my satin stitch, and so I worked one side of the fragment in satin stitch and the other in Bokhara Couching, and then sat back and looked at them. Satin Stitch won, hands down. The flat silk spreads beautifully to help blend the stitches, and the reflectance of the silk filaments creates an almost radiant effect. So that small section of couching has been unpicked, and replaced in short order! In fact, the satin stitch fairly galloped away once I got settled and gained some facility with my mellor.
The lotus flowers themselves are giving me a little more trouble. As you can see in the second photograph, I have been trying various ways of stitching them. My challenge is that Mary Chubb describes the originals as “faintly lilac-tipped”, and so my experiments have two goals, not just one: I want to find the most effective way to use the silk to represent the lotus flowers, but at the same time it has to be a way that lets me tip the petals in the lilac without creating a clumsy effect.
The earlier petals use stitches that come to a point at the tips of the petals, crossing under a central stitch that seeks to smooth those tips. I am not happy with this – it looks clumsy and heavy, even though it makes adding in the lilac stitches fairly easy.
The later stitches use a more classical satin stitch, with the longest stitch on one long side of the petal, and shortening stitches creating the other side. This is better, and I think will be improved if I take all of the experiments out and then begin again, with the long stitch on the central axis of the petal and shorter ones to the side.
However, the challenge of creating the effect of the lilac tips remains. I want to blend the lilac and white stitches into one another, and for the life of me I can’t see how to achieve it, or even whether to stitch the lilac first or the white!