Category: General Embroidery
I decided that I was going to work all the major stems in one of the Braid Stitches, so I spent quite a bit of time revisiting Plaited Braid Stitch, the ordinary Braid Stitch, and others. For a while that was a little painful.
First of all, I was reminded that these stitches don’t stay in your hands the way (say) Feather Stitch does, and then secondly I was reminded that they are very thread-hungry. It’s (almost) all on the front, where you get the benefit of it, but metres get swallowed up in short order. And I knew there would be metres of whatever-stitch-I-chose. My stash doesn’t run to that sort of length, but having performed a few experiments, I realised that sock yarn would be perfectly useable, given the fabric I’m working on.
I finally chose to work Holly Braid Stitch, which I experimented with in 2014 when I was working on the Glittering Nightcap. I’d found it in Jacqui Carey’s book “Elizabethan Stitches”, and after some struggles it had worked pretty well. This time I tied myself in so many knots with it that I asked for help in the Historic Hand Embroidery group on fb, only to find that very few people had attempted it. However, those who did were very helpful, and several very intrigued people asked me could I video it if I got it to work…
So I have. What you see here is probably not enough to learn the stitch from without also following Jacqui’s diagrams and instructions, but I think it helps with the “workflow” of the stitch, which is not well represented in those diagrams, I suspect purely because, as a braidmaker, she thinks differently about the way a stitch works.
Once I had the stitch down pat, I bought a rather gorgeous sock yarn (Woodland Fire from The Yarn Gallery), and whenever I wasn’t sure about the details I wanted to add to a flower or leaf, I just kept on with the stems..
And on. And on!
And now, Episode 72 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live, in which we encounter difficulties in working a pattern backwards, experiment with French Knots, and recall “Leaving the Tyne”.
I’m continuing to explore ideas for the course at The Watermill in Posara, and this one is inspired by the first outing of the painting course I went on. Verrucola is a medieval village and fortress not far from Fivizzano, with a deep stream valley, some very impressive buildings – and a delightful trattoria just inside the walls.
I want to explore the different ways an embroiderer might choose to explore the textures of stone that a site like this afford – the living rock of the hillside, cut stone used for building, and the shaped and smoothed stone used for architectural features.
You can see in the first picture that I have just “drawn in” the street beyond the gate with back stitch and used darning stitch to suggest the shadow beneath the arch.
I’m using padded satin stitch for the cut and smoothed stone of the arch, but since I find that an exasperating stitch, I’ve alternated working on the arch with the tiles which cap the wall which is pierced by the arch.
I found buttonholed herringbone stitch in one of Sharon Boggan’s books, but as you can see, my first attempt didn’t really produce the effect of the curved roof tiles that are so much part of the scenery in Tuscany. The linen herringbone stitch is too stretched out, and the two strands of stranded cotton just look straggly.
I am going to have to emphasise experimentation in the course, aren’t I!
This version is much better – the shorter, higher herringbone stitch, just peering through at the base of the arches, three or even four strands of stranded cotton for the buttonhole stitch, and the stacked stitches create a good recollection of the tiled roofs I saw. I’m pleased with the way the variegation suggests the weathering on the tiles.
You will see that I have added a Page to the site which will make it easier to find and download details of the course if you are interested.
And also, Episode 71 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which I experiment with the shore, and talk of plans for overland travel for Times To Come..
I’m varying the stitching as much as possible, but certain stitches rather lend themselves to certain roles, so there is a certain amount of reoccurrance. Here there are Half Cretan Stitch, Closed Feather Stitch, Feathered ZigZag Chain Stitch (more than once), and Wheatear Stitch.
I’m mostly putting green on green with the leaves, so that although there is variation, it isn’t too striking, and there will be moments of quiet in among all the proliferation of colour and form.
That said, some of the leaf groups demand a bit of counterchange – the dark and light green above, and the dark green and yellow in the next picture. In that case I’ve enhanced the counterchange with close blanket stitch on the yellow inner edge, to make it a bit crisper, yellow Spanish Knotted Feather Stitch on the dark green (I love that combination, it just sings!) and a dark green Mountmellick stitch on the outer edge of the yellow.
I don’t feel obliged to stitch down the felt to the same degree in all cases, but the needlefelting doesn’t have the same effect on the slightly closer, marbled felt, so I’ve often been holding it down with small stitches at the edge. Feather stitch is a conventional stitch for leaves, recalling vein patterns, but equally, I can choose to recall the vein pattern in one half of the leaf and not in others, as here (Chained Blanket Stitch, since you ask!).
I’m planning to do all the stems in some form of braid stitch, so you also see some rather unsatisfactory experiments here!
In other news, I am up to Episode 70 in SlowTV Stitchery, which discusses George Augustus Palgreen Blacktower, Tanya Bentham’s book on Opus Anglicanum, and offers some thoughts about framing..
So now, having finished my two fishie experiments (there may have been a third in the pipeline, but I’ve forgotten what it was!), what can I say I’ve learnt?
First, canvaswork stitches against the freeform bargello. There’s a sort of stillness, almost a static quality to this fish, in spite of the flowing bargello.
The bargello works well, although now I look at it, I’ve not managed to keep it flowing from top to bottom. And it was remarkably difficult to keep track of the pattern across the fish.
The second fish was an attempt to suggest the broken outline of an object seen through the interface between air and water. So this time, the pattern of the bargello ran through the fish, and I had to decide at each edge whether to stitch in the fish colour or the water colour. The pattern runs more successfully from top to bottom of the piece, but the whole thing looks a lot more active, maybe too active.
I think the colours are a bit too bright and swimming pool-like, but as these are experiments, using stash, I’m not too concerned about that. What does concern me is that even after these two, fairly substantial pieces, the appearance of a particular blend of threads as it was stitched was sometimes a surprise. It will be hard to pick the right colours to use if I can’t rely on my imagination of how the thread will stitch up.
So, I don’t know whether I will use this idea for the borders of Placidus, but I’ve got plenty to think about, haven’t I!
Episode 69 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live, on talking projects, the development of musical taste, and the challenges of suggesting wind over the water.
I’m using a lot of variagated threads, of course, and leaving stranded threads un-separated. Furthermore, since all washability is clearly lost here, I’m picking thread for colour and texture, rathere than paying attention to the fibre or considering colourfastness. I can, after all, replace the stitching with something else if I need to!
Basque Stitch edges the brown petals here, and triple chain stitch forms the spine of the yellow one. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that the green calyx is held around the edge with coral stitch and then a blanket stitch which is highlighted with detached buttonhole in a pearl cotton.
I’m really very pleased with how this element has turned out, although I may choose to lighten the stems on the leaves at the top, once I have everything in place and know what I have to balance of the overall impression.
I’ve looked quickly through the posts for the Coat of Many Flowers, and I was much more definite about stitching all around almost every shape for that, except the small teal leaves. For this one, I seem to be stitching a lot more veins and spines, or edging only one side of a piece. If I become anxious about pieces coming away, I can always add some stitches!
This element was more floral in previous incarnations, but here, I think it has drifted more in the direction of a seedhead. The “seeds” are isolated oyster stitches in sock yarn!
I unified the brown petals by using the same thread to embellish each, but made them more interesting by using different sitches. I’m particularly taken with the feathered zigzag chain on the middle one. The other change, compared with the Coat of Many Flowers, is to have turned some of the edging stitches around: last time, when I used rosette chain stitch, it was more like blanket stitch, with the “vertical” stitches pointing in to the centre of the shape.
And now, Episode 68 of SlowTV Stitchery is live. In which I discuss the alarming adventure of a Watermill Stitchery, remind myself to include the slips when I finally assess the success of Swirl Stitch (not yet, alas), and note that the skill of choosing the order in which to experiment is unheralded and undervalued.
I mentioned that I had more experiments to perform on the leaves, and several people hastened to tell me that I should be sure to Test To Destruction. They are right, of course, and having plenty of samples in the pack that Caroline Hack sent me to play with, I was able to do just that.
One of them, I pulled and twisted, trying to snap the plastic. That turned out to be much harder than I had expected it to be, considering how flimsy it felt when I was nervously working needlelace over the leaf shapes.
Then I fished out the heat gun that I still have left over from some experiments with paper crafting, covered a drinking glass with a bit of greaseproof paper, and tried to soften the plastic so it would match the curve of the glass. The plastic certainly moved, but not in a very controlled fashion, so I tried again, this time using one of my needlelace experiments. It was still an undercontrolled shift, but it did produce the sort of twisted look of a drying leaf. I tried hard to photograph it so that the curves really showed!
I worked a series of experimental needlelace sections in some of the other pieces. Knotted stitches in slubby linen (really don’t do this – friction becomes a real problem!), cloth stitch in silk (the yellow that in due course was melted and twisted) and a variety of others.
I think, in the end, the difficulty of covering the borders, and the slippy plastic which makes it hard to keep the threads in place, mean that this won’t be the best way to do the oak leaf wreath. I may still have thoughts about this as I begin to plan, and in particular, I need first of all to work out how big my oak leaves need to be in order to be in proportion with the mirror.
You can now watch Episode 67 of SlowTV Stitchery, which is entirely concerned with my battles with Swirl Stitch!
The basic technique I’m using for the Little Jacket is the same as I used for the Coat of Many Flowers, so the block colour comes from pieces of felt cut to shape. Most of them are the light and lofty felts I use with my embellisher, but this dark brown is slightly denser and more variable in colour. The variations aren’t as clear in photos as they are in real life, and I have a faint hope that if I wear it enough some of the lighter colours will fade a little more than the dark ones, and pull out the contrast a bit more.
This is the first of the motifs I worked on. A long-legged variation on chain stitch on the central petal is set off by neat paired blanket stitch edgings on the outer petals. I’ve decided that the yellow is to be an accent colour, and I’ve ensured that I have small bits of it it scattered across the whole jacket. In this case I’ve not used contrast colours to stitch it down. I’m not sure about the whipped blanket stitch on the lower half, but I needed something to contrast with the single twisted chain stitches on the uper half, and I don’t think I will continue unhappy with it once the whole jacket is finished.
By contrast, I’m not at all happy with this one, and I don’t know what to do with it.
I like the crested chain edging on the brown petals, and I like the odd combination of rosette chain and blanket stitch in the yellow-green pearl cotton, but not how I’ve placed it or the effect it is creating. The stitch running in a spine down the lower brown petal is called “Wing Stitch” in the book I found it in, and again, I like it, but not what it is doing here.
I can see some unpicking in my future!
However, episode 66 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which we consider the state of progress on Tynemouth Priory and plans for the sea, learn from Granny Weatherwax, and start planning more Watermill Stitcheries.
This little edge-to-edge woollen jacket was inherited from a great aunt. She was much smaller than me (I’m not tall, but my great aunts were all tiny!) so, among other things, she’d turned up the sleeves to create cuffs, which has resulted in rather unattractive, and potential life-limiting (for the garment) wear patterns. Naturally, I’m not in favour of that. Nor do I especially cherish the look of me in unadorned beige, especially since the arrival of my “corona wings”, which otherwise I rather like. So the jacket is going to be jazzed up.
In fact, it probably won’t know what’s hit it, by the time I’ve finished!
I am returning to the motifs from Grandmama’s tablecloth, which I also used on the Coat of Many Colours and the Jacobean Firescreen, so at least some of what you see over the next few posts will be familiar, but whereas the design for the Coat of Many Colours stretched across the skirt of the coat, the design here trails over the shoulders and down the arms.
And whereas the design for the Coat of Many Flowers was planned in advance, with some care, the design for this one was put together in a series of adventures. First, my mother put the jacket on and I drew trailing stems around and over the jacket. Then I tacked them in with a single strand of Appletons Crewel Wool (then I won’t need to take them out!) and pinned cut out paper patterns of the motifs in their place.
Then the paper cutouts were replaced with felt cut outs. You can see from this picture of the back that I missed out some necessary stems here..
I wonder whether it’s luxuriant enough?
Meanwhile, in other news – Episode 64 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live, in which we discuss Impressionism in stitches and an Announcement is made..
I wasn’t at all sure how to tackle the Oak Leaf Wreath Experiments, but as always, charging in head over heels is the most enlivening strategy!
Having toyed with the idea of these drawn plastic oak leaves as the support for fabric leaves, I thought the next thing to play with would be needlelace, using different types of thread and different stitches. I want to get some sense of how to tackle a very difficult shape, and I think that even if I choose not to use the plastic pen, I will have learnt a great deal from the different combinations I’ve experimented with.
The first one uses a fairly heavy silk thread, not quite a perlé, but definitely not stranded. The stitch is the classic Corded Brussels Stitch.
I don’t think that this combination of thread and stitch leaves space to cover the plastic easily or neatly, and I can’t think of another way to tidy up all the ends I needed to use because of the uneven shape.
Also, my goodness, the plastic is slippery. Placement of rows might prove to be a bit of a challenge.
The next one is a rather finer linen thread, and I started from the extra line of plastic down the middle, which may have slightly simplified the stitching. There is probably enough space for a buttonhole stitch covering for the edge, but it was very hard to fit the needle around the more confined areas. Maybe I could devise some way to cover the edges once the leaf was off the backing?
The linen is a hard thread to work with, because the friction of the thread against itself it quite high, and since I chose a knotted stitch for this experiment, there was a lot of friction!
The final experiment for this week used a single strand of stranded silk. Caroline added veins to this one, and I tried to fit two different stitches around the veins and over the edges. Definitely not straightforward!
I found myself wondering about finding shorter needles for this project, maybe more like my Japanese needles, but blunt (the Japanese needles are super-sharp!). I’ve found the balance of the Japanese needles a bit challenging in the past, but fitting around the edges and corners of these shapes has also been a bit challenging.
What’s that saying about picking your battles?
And in the meantime, Episode 62 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live. In which we discuss Why The British Talk About The Weather, consider discoveries in the loft, and contemplate the placement of the needlelace slips.
Now then, this is an old friend, and everyone who’s been following my SlowTV Stitchery will be aware that since this is the Year of Finishes, I’ve decided to finish it. This is the first “Tynemouth Priory”, which I started, only to decide that the colours were all wrong against the Flag Sunrise, and I had to start again. I’m glad I did, because the second version fitted into the complete “Leaving The Tyne, 1915” very much better than this one would have done.
However, when I came back to it and started stitching again, I realised that the variegated thread I was using in the cloud may have looked right in the skein, but it wasn’t right when it was stitched.
Time to channel my inner Penelope, and unravel at night everything I had worked during the day.
I picked out two slightly different pale cream stranded cottons to take the place of the variegated thread, and a stranded cotton in a slightly lighter blue than the coton a broder, to go near the horizon, and I’m now reinstating it, with interesting diversions to create cloud-like effects.
At this point I was still feeling very tentative, but I think the sky is improving as I progress across it!
Episode 60 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live. In which is considered making a virtue out of a necessity, arguments with the ghost of Miss Hunter, and a plea is made for an Introduction to the Picts, all supplemented with some meditations on literary sources for future projects.