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.
An old lady of my acquaintance once said to me, “Getting older is no fun, dear, but it’s better than the alternative”. Well, one of the effects of getting older – for me – is that I now need reading glasses. If I try to move while wearing my reading glasses, the results are sometimes disconcerting, sometimes positively disorientating.
I’d been wondering about what to do about this, until at the end of 2019, it occurred to me to channel my inner Lady Bracknell, and start wielding a pair of lorgnettes. I duly acquired some, with my usual impeccable timing (Ha!) at the beginning of March 2020.
Since then, of course, museums and menus have alike been out of reach, and I stowed the lorgnettes in my “Eve In The Garden of Eden” box in hopes of happier times to come. I’ve decided to get started on a case now, so as to be prepared for those happier times.
As I’m now dealing with the exhaustion consequent upon getting within sight of the finish on The Amarna Family Group (which has been going for nearly a year) and the Christmas Angel (begun around Christmas 2015!), I’ve been looking for small quick projects to reset myself, and this should be a good one.
This is a piece of 22 count cotton canvas I found lurking in my stash, and so far I think it will be very simple. I think six repetitions of the scroll will allow me to wrap the lorgnettes with a closing flap, and the light yellow (pearl cotton) and cream (stranded cotton) should make it eay to find in the depths of my handbag.
Episode 59 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which we have almost recovered from the unpicking following last week’s stitching, and consider the particular delight of a fully-stitched fabric.
It has been a very long time since you saw the Hunting Cat, partly because I got distracted, and partlyly because I had such a disheartening time with the bird’s wings. Once I’d got the Amarna Family completed, at least to the point of wondering how to display it, the Cat started to haunt my off-duty moments, mewing imperatively that he wanted to be Finished.
It is extraordinarily difficult to concentrate on anything with a felt cat howling in the background. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
I took the bits and pieces to my mother, the artist, and we wrestled with several versions of the bird, orientations of the butterfly, and my additions of the lotus flowers and stems.
As with the Two Little Princesses and the Frolicking Calf, I want to balance my source material with my invention, and the purity of a single technique (needlefelting) with the variation available through stitchery. Cutting between the pinions of the wings helped to lighten the effect, and the wispiness of the front wing and the lotus flowers begin to balance one another.
The blue body of the bird, and the stems and flowers, begin to move away from the original inspiration, but begin to reintroduce the lightness of the original, which I lost when I tried to reproduce it. So I think you could say there is hope!
Episode 58 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live In which we begin to finish Tynemouth Priory, and I am pleased to find myself still content with how I started it. I begin also to consider another jacket embellishment.
So, having learnt enough to be encouraged by the First Fishy Experiment, I embarked upon my Second Fishy Experiment.
Again, I drew out the borders, tacked the edges of the fish, and drafted the line of the bargello pattern using coloured sewing cotton. You can see how many times I thought and rethought what I was going to do in pencil beforehand!
I’m using the same bit of leftover canvas, so again my threads will be blended using nine strands of stranded cotton, although I’ve added a bit to the fish by using a variegated metallic machine embroidery thread as one of the strands.
This time the experiment is to see whether I can create something of the effect of looking through the surface of water at the fish. That means making the edges of the fish uneven, rather than crisp, so rather than an entirely different set of stitch choices for the fish, and compensation stitches everywhere, I will use the same stitch pattern throughout.
That in turn means that as I approach the edge of the fish on each row, I have a decision to make about whether to use the water colour or the fish colour for the stitch that straddles the edge. Fortunately, this isn’t the sort of decision I find unnerving or difficult to make, and even here, I think you can see that this idea is rather likely to work!
I realise that the post about starting the Second Fishy Experiment somehow managed to end up well behind the videos. Episode 57 of Slow TV Stitchery is now live, in which we muse on the effects of blending colours in the needle, the demise of Scottish pearling, and the final “It depends!” moment.
I have a rather nice circular wall mirror that my uncle passed on to me, which was his mother’s. That makes it close to a hundred years old, more than likely, and it occurred to me one day that it might enjoy having a stumpwork oak leaf frame.
Then one of the other embroiderers who joins in Hand Embroidery Hour on Twitter, the textile artist Caroline Hack, mentioned a new toy – a pen which allowed her to draw and create plastic outlines. Now, I know that there is perfectly ordinary cake-decorators wire to do the job, but I wondered whether this new material would add anything to the experiment. Like the star she is, Caroline drew a few oak leaf variations for me to play with, some with veins, some not, some using more passes of the pen, and some not, and posted them.
My first experiment plays with gauze. I’m thinking that the oak leaf frame might include some fabric leaves, as well as needlelace. After all, the mirror is a foot across – a wreath would involve a LOT of leaves!
So in this case, I have entrapped my leaf shape between two layers, tacking roughly around the edges to control the second piece of gauze, and very carefully down the central vein so that the leaf shape would stay where I wanted it to. Even by my standards, this is an odd proceeding…
I thought that while I was throwing experimental ideas together I would see whether the slight “spreading” qualities of floss silk help to cover the plastic outline, because gauze tends to ladder if you stitch it too closely. I don’t mind that if it’s part of the plan, but it’s better to know how to avoid it if you want to!
It was certainly an interesting experience. I didn’t quite get the floss silk to spread as much as I might have hoped, and there were some rather tense negotiations between the needle and the few points where there were two separate lines in the leaf shape.
I haven’t yet had the nerve to cut it out!
Episode 56 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live. In which I continue to make progress, almost silenced by the unnerving freedom offered by a Year of Experiments..
Of course, as I was unpicking the seat, I had to unpick more than just the seat so that I could get to the stitches I needed to unpick (are you keeping up?!). I suppose I should have seen it coming, but the result was some rather uncontrolled gold thread flapping loose. I found myself becoming very afraid that I would end up crossing the gold thread, and that would never do!
So I found a nice, slippy machine thread and used it to tack down the thread in the middle of the unstitched area. I didn’t want to be too thorough, in case I ended up leaving gaps that weren’t there originally, but at the same time I had to control all the threads..
Reinstating the seat was actually rather less troubling than Akhenaten’s kilt, which required some extra thinking about, because of course pleats falling close together, and pleats opened a little as they curve around the body look rather different.
But this is now at the stage where I need to start considering how to mount it, which in turn means, I think, deciding how to assemble a velvet-covered stela. I may need some help…
Episode 55 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which I declare a Year of Experiments, muse on lessons from The Camberwell, and consider the need to develop thread-wrangling techniques.
The background of freeform Bargello was rather entertaining to do. Working using nine strands of stranded cotton allowed for some subtlety in the colours, combining various blues and greens in different proportions and shading them into one another, sometimes gradually, sometimes stongly. I was surprised, sometimes, when progressively adding a particular colour, to find that it didn’t make as much difference as I expected – but this is why we experiment!
Once I came to the Fishie himself, there was a bit of puzzlement. I wanted to have a different pattern for the head, the fins and tail, and the body. I wanted a vaguely “scale-like” pattern, and I wanted to make sure that the stitches were at a different orientation to the water.
I settled on Moorish Stitch for the body, Mosaic Stitch for the head, and Encroaching Gobelins Stitch for the fins and tail. And I left in the tacked outlines. They only show in a few places, and I think they give the impression of sketched lines, which is quite suitable for an exploratory piece. I’ve also left out the eyes, since I’m looking from above.
Looking at it now, I’m pleased with the sense of flowing water that the bargello nearly creates, and the fish is interesting, but maybe not entirely successful. Some of the edges and joining points are a little clumsy – but that may be because this is an experiment, thrown together to see what I learn.
I’ve had at least one idea for another fishy experiment, so you will be seeing more of this sort of thing…
And indeed, Episode 54 of SlowTV Stitchery describes the beginning of the Second Fishy Experiment, in which I begin a second fishy experiment, this one attempting to give the impression of the fish seen through water, making some slight changes to the form of the freeform bargello, and anticipating tussles with my very leftoverish leftover thread.
One of the joys of this past year has been the “Georgette Heyer ReadAlong” on Twitter, founded by @MissElvey. In fact, do read her account of why and how she started it. It spun off quizzes via Zoom on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (I think I’m right), and so far two Zoom sessions of book recommendations, which have both added substantially to my list of Authors I Enjoy.
“The Rose of Sebastopol” was recommended during one of those, and quite apart from the fact that it’s the quiet, conventional cousin that goes off and adventures, the striking thing about the book is the very prominent part that needlework plays in it. The main protagonist is a highly skilled needlewoman, and needlework becomes both her refuge and her superpower as she uses it to transform herself and those around her to meet challenges she never expected to face.
Reading it, I realised that in over forty years of voracious reading, I’d encountered very few books in which needlework of any description played a prominent role. I thought a bit harder, and came up with Tracy Chevalier’s “A Single Thread”, in which the main character joins the Winchester Broderers, learning needlework almost from scratch.
So I have started asking for suggestions on various social media, and on SlowTV Stitchery and putting together a list. There have been more suggestions than I expected to find. In a few days, I will put the list on a separate page you’ll be able to find across the top of the page, and I’ll add to it any that are suggested to me, but bear in mind that I won’t have read them all yet, so I can’t offer personal recommendations!
The eagle eyed will have noted that my Ko-fi button has a specific aim now.
With the exception of one last piece to finish (and you will be seeing that, I promise) I believe “Dreams of Amarna” is now finished and just (just!, she says, whimpering quietly) needs to be assembled for display.
I’ve put so much effort into it that I would like other people to see the various pieces, but in order to hold an exhibition, as well as the excitement of preparing things for display, there will be supporting materials required. I don’t even know what those are yet, and I would be grateful for any support in arriving at the start of that adventure..
Advice also welcome!
In the meantime, please enjoy Episode 53 of SlowTV Stitchery, in which we continue to search for needlework in fiction, accompanied by the string quartets of Maddelena Lombardini Sirmen.
Remember this? Remember how suprised I was at just how much I was enjoying canvaswork?
I found the last pattern in “Victorian Needlepoint” by Freda Parker, another one inherited in a bundle. I keep meaning to have a good rummage in that bookshelf, and work out what I want to keep, but as it is, it makes a good resouce when I’m looking for “something, I don’t know what, but I will know it when I see it”.
Since I’m stash busting, I used several different skein remnants for each colour on the chart, so the pattern has more variety than drawn. There are three shades in the very darkest sections, and I was surprised by how little difference two of them showed once they were stitched. You learn things at the oddest times.
That panel is the last, by the way, because at this point I ran out of canvas!
It does, however, make a squarish, ornamental panel. If I can find some suitable fabric, I can give it a backing and turn it into a cushion.
Episode 52 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which I challenge you all to name some works of fiction in which needlework has a prominent and positive role…
At the moment, the idea for The Vision of Placidus is that the main picture – the encounter between Placidus and the Christ/Stag – will be framed with a depiction of denizens of the natural world – underwater creatures in the lower section, bulrushes and dragonflies in the upright sections, and birds in the upper section. I’ve been thinking of putting the symbols of the Evangelists in the corners, to obviate the necessity of dealing with getting the design around those corners.
However, what I’ve not yet sorted out is the technique I might choose to use. This is going to be an experiment to see whether using canvaswork – a sort of freeform Bargello with embellishments – will create a pleasing effect.
I was really very pleased with how quickly this came together when I began thinking about it. The red line is a guide for the freeform Bargello, representing the current in a stream, and the fish is simply there to help me test how to deal with the boarders between the flowing background and the motifs.
That might be easiest to achieve if I worked the fish, and then added in the background, but if I do that, I think it will be nearly impossible to place the background correctly on the far side of the fish. So this time, I’m doing the background first, putting in the stitches across the fish in sewing cotton, as a sort of “draft”.
I’m using stranded cotton, separated and combined to create blended shades. As it turns out, six strands are not quite enough for full coverage, so here I am using nine.
Episode 51 of Slow TV Stitcery is now live, including a comparision of bone and steel laying tools, consideration of two possibilities to experiment with for Placidus, and thoughts about taking sagas seriously.