When I’d finished the stitching of the canvaswork for the Form Cushion, it was a little puffy and warped, and badly in need of blocking, but being long and thin I had nothing suitable for blocking it on. Until I had an inspiration – use the form itself!
We covered the form with an old towel, and then worked on alternate sides of the form. I’ve put an old length of cotton curtain header over the canvas, so that when I come to remove the staples, it will be fairly easy to do.
It took quite a lot of heaving and tweaking, and the combined efforts of my mother and myself (for a client, she’s having to put a lot of effort in here, isn’t she! – she’s started on renovating the form too.), but in due course we managed to get the canvas firmly attached, and stood back to look at it.
It didn’t look nice and smooth as it does here. It was bumpy and lumpy, and not very happy at all.
So I steamed it gently, using a steam iron but not letting it touch the wool. Very, very carefully, and slowly..
It started looking a great deal better (even upside-down), but then we set it aside, still stapled in place, for a few weeks. We wanted to be sure that it was very thoroughly dry before we moved on to actually making the cushion.
And besides, I’m not entirely clear on the type of cushion it will be!
There is always more “engineering” involved in these projects than you expect. Once I’d turned in the edges and done the herringbone stitch “piping”, I realised that the top of the bin was probably going to be on show on the inside. I found some felt to line it with, but since it was a spare offcut, I decided to run a line of straight stitches on the inside, just in case there wasn’t enough of it!
I attached the felt with small stitches, not too tightly, but just enough to make sure that it doesn’t move unless I want it too. It’s almost a pre-felt, not too dense, so it showed some adventurous tendencies. Some firm treatment, a tug or two, and it settled down nicely.
Which allowed me to consider tackling the seam turning it from a flat piece to a tube. After some of my usual thoughtful staring, it finally occurred to me that I already had the answer: Herringbone stitch, just like the edge finish at the top.
Obvious, really, isn’t it! It makes a sturdy seam which won’t permit much lateral movement, and since I’ve used it on the top edge, it doesn’t introduce yet another texture.
When it came to sorting out the base, I put the sawn-off milk bottle inside to make sure I made everything fit, and folded in the canvas, holding it with a few rough stitches.
Finally I attached a piece of very dense felt to the bottom to hide all the canvas edges and make sure they don’t scratch any of the furniture. It is already in use, and you have to admit it’s very much better than an unclad sawn-off milk bottle would be!
Once I’d settled on a pattern, it fairly romped along. Ten count canvas is such a lovely rest after the forty count linen of Eve In The Garden Of Eden!
As with the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, I’m not buying extra wool for this, hence the row of light stitches which aren’t the same shade as the other two. Most of the thread is Paterna Persian Yarn, but the odd one out is Appletons. The texture and level of shine are different, but then, anything will be better than a sawn-off milk bottle!
The next stage is to turn in three of the edges. I’m going to use the canvas at the bottom to help create the bottom of the bin, so I’ve left that, but the short edges will be seamed together – somehow (I’ve not solved that puzzle yet!).
I’ve learnt, over the years, that it is better to finish the folded edge of a piece of canvaswork than it is to try to fold the edge to be completely invisible.
So what will be the top edge of the bin has now been finished with herringbone stitch. It creates a lovely piped effect, much denser and firmer than a simple overcast stitch, and that will be very useful to help the bin stand up!
I have a small plastic bin – cut down from a milk carton – on the worktable beside my chair. It’s very useful for odds and ends, but it scarcely adds to the ambience.
Since all my embroidery at the moment – “Eve in the Garden of Eden”, and something I’m planning for “Dreams of Amarna, but haven’t quite got ready for stitching yet – is fine and detailed, I’ve decided to work a cover for it in bargello work.
I’m using another of those offcuts of 10-count canvas. Ideally I would use something finer, but since I want a rest for my eyes, and in particular to use up some more of that persian yarn, I’ve been playing with various patterns in an old book. In this case, one pattern drawn on, and the other stitched, partly in wool, and partly in a fine silk, just to help me with stitch placement.
I’ve decided to use the rusty colour, which I have rather a lot of, as the main colour, and I’m trying to find a small pattern that won’t dominate the room. I don’t think the “pomegranate” pattern qualifies…, but this one might…
Rather than being stitched in time for Christmas, I found myself stitching the Christmas Angel over Christmas. About halfway through the stitching, I also coloured in the hair with brown pen. It helps keep the head distinct from the background and the wings, and somehow pulled the whole thing into focus.
My invented bargello pattern of various pearl cottons, including some with a metallic twist in them, has turned out fairly well, if redder than I expected.
As a result, I chose to stitch the shoulder cape in greens. There are two variants here – green with a gold thread and green with a bright green thread. I’ve been using the green and gold as the striped “framework” for the Cape, so I simply used the green and green for the spots. The shoulder cape will be outlined to allow for a bit more shaping, using couched gold thread, but that’s one of the last elements of the design.
The next challenge was to decide how to work the wings. I started off wanting to create some sort of strong patterning, just with the stitches, but in the end I realised that, as the background is going to be strongly patterned, and the cape is so striking, the eye will need somewhere to rest.
So, plain brick stitch it is, although in another of those glitter-twisted pearl cottons, which are quite ridiculously tender and tricksy to stitch with, at least on this canvas. Even Gilt Sylke Twist and Gold Wyre seem robust by comparison!
While I am still trying to work out how to do the Chorus of Angels, I’ve decided to work a single Angel from the Chorus in an entirely different medium – needlepoint. The original idea was to have it done by Christmas, but I’m becoming aware that that isn’t very likely now.
Once I’d made that decision I had a lot of fun playing with bargello patterns and trying to choose something suitable. I’m using a fine canvas – 18 count, I think, although as it came, unlabeled, in among that collection of supplies that included several frames, I’m not sure. It’s full of size and is going to be rather a trial to stitch, I fear.
I’ve decided to use the gold pattern on the far left (slightly altered) for the background, to give an effect a little like the patterned gold background of an icon. The lines of this panel are so simple that I can afford to use some quite complicated patterns, I think.
In the end I settled on the green and red spots in the upper middle for the cape, although choosing the colours hasn’t been quite straightforward. The wings are still puzzling me.
Since I have decided on a gold background for the angel, I decided to paint the background canvas gold as well. That will help to boost any thin coverage.
I’ve worked the gown underneath the cape very simply, in cream brick stitch, and the face and hands using gold tent stitch. None of the variants of flesh colour seemed right, and the gold does at least belong in the design.
I keep on finding things that I’ve not quite finished, don’t I – and in some cases I had completely forgotten about them.
Like this one. I know it was a kit – stranded cotton worked in half-cross stitch on canvas, – but I don’t know why I bought it.
And I clearly had something in mind for it, because I have attached it to a cotton furnishing fabric. Equally clearly, it wasn’t going to be a cushion centre, or I would have centred it on the fabric. It is only about three inches square, so I suspect I had in mind making it into a needlecase.
But before I do anything else with it, I have to find some way of covering those raw edges of canvas with something that looks deliberate!
In other news, though – I’ve finished the second Crane!
Actually, you may recall that it was the first, but I decided it looked too overheated in the pot it was destined for, and set it aside for another version.
I found in when I was looking for something else, and finished it. At least, the embroidery…
I will probably mount it on a circle of card, and put in that famed Winter Decoration corner.
At least I know what I’m going to do with this one!
The last section, Section Sixteen, gave me a lot of trouble. I suppose that is partly because the end was in sight, and I wasn’t quite as focused as I could have been!
I was originally looking for a crossing stitch, but every single one I tried either looked wrong, or simply failed to cover the canvas. I sent several tweets enumerating my trials, with one or two strands being too fine, and three strands too heavy, and in the end I abandoned the crossing stitches entirely.
In fact I devised my own variation on Triangle Stitch, which I’ve called Framed Triangle Stitch. I rather like the way it has turned out. It is a bit of a trial to stitch economically, but since I am attempting to reduce my stash, that is scarcely a problem!
Although I like the pattern it creates, I’ve been somewhat concerned about the scale of the pattern, which is perhaps a little too similar to the blue pattern of Section Thirteen.
However, I now have the challenge of unrolling the whole piece, blocking it, and working out how to finish the cushion.
As they say – watch this space!
As I mentioned in Part Eight, I gave myself a framework for the patches, alternating crossed, diagonal, and straight stitches.
Looking at the photograph now, there is a slight look of Victorian floor-tiles about the combination of the blue and yellow of the previous sections, and the brown and beige of this one. The proportion of brown isn’t correct for Victorian floor-tiles, but still…
It occurs to me that we might have a lot of fun looking at this cushion when it’s done, looking for other things that it reminds us of!
I chose a Rice Stitch caged with straight stitches. I suppose this could be regarded as a combination of crossed stitches and straight stitches, which may throw my scheme slightly off-balance. I like it, though – the straight stitches look nicely padded, even though they aren’t, and the rice stitches add texture. I can imagine it looking “floral” in some colour combinations, but in this version, I think it emphasizes the “Victorian Floor Tile” feel I mentioned before.
I am getting really close to the end now – Section Fifteen is the last but one, as you can see by the square corner. Since I didn’t work on this project over the summer, I’m a bit surprised by that. I wish the project had been as good at stash busting as it has been at growing!
You might have noticed that teal is one of my favourite colours and wondered why you haven’t seen more of it, but my stash is partly inherited and I don’t have very much of some colours.
After the complexity of Caged Rice Stitch (which, while fun, is on the complex side!) I went very simple indeed for Section Fifteen – Double Twill Stitch.
So now I need to work out what colour – and what stitch – to use on the last section. And then how to finish the cushion…
I’ve made something of a principle of alternating the types of stitch as I progress along the Crazy Canvaswork Cushion, so as far as possible a crossing stitch is followed by a diagonal stitch, and a diagonal stitch by a straight stitch. This is part of my strategy for making an abstract, random piece slightly less random, and more under control.
In this case I also needed a sturdy stitch that would help to confirm the “weld” of the canvas, since although it had been tight when I first worked it, the pieces of canvas moved against each other as I worked the earlier sections.
I picked Chequer Stitch because it alternates squares of tent stitch – which will control the two layers of canvas very firmly – with squares of diagonal straight stitches.
Section Thirteen is actually a fairly simple Bargello lozenge pattern. I realise – rather late – that this may be the only place in the cushion in which I have used a straight stitch pattern, with the straight stitches oriented parallel with the long sides of the cushion. I am going to have to hope that this doesn’t make the section stick out like the proverbial sore thumb when I finally unroll the whole thing!
I found the Lozenge pattern in the “Dictionary of Canvaswork Stitches”, by Mary Rhodes, which I must have picked up in a second-hand shop somewhere, and a quick look inside shows it was a library book before that. It’s marked “Copyright 1980”, but I think there is a rather 1970s feel to this pattern. Thank goodness I didn’t choose to work it in brown!