Having spent some time in my stash, deciding that mixing even filament silks might be a bit unpredictable, I finally pulled myself together and placed an order with Devere Yarns. While I waited for them to arrive (it didn’t take long), I went back to Tanya’s book and read the early technique sections again. Homework is always more fun when you’re interested.
I do have some darks left over from the Amarna Family Group, so the outlining is sorted. I’ve got three stone colours, three shades for William’s armour, three greens for grass, three shades for the horse, the three heraldic colours for the shield, and a blue for the slate roofs on the turrets.
The blue is probably also going to be the colour I use for the border.
The Victorians remodelled Temple Church, where William is buried, found a strapping six-footer that they believed – based on what we’ve been told of him – to be William, and in due course, reburied him, and everyone else they’d moved, in the garden. So I’m planning a silk border, of blue laid-&-couched work, embellished with roses (for the garden) and common broom (for the Plantagenet kings he served so faithfully).
The grave slab is shown in a leaflet I got when we visited, which is no longer in existence, but is shown in an engraving from the 17th Century, and was thought to be associated with William. The lion looks right, anyway! I’m wondering whether to include that in my design for the border in some way, and if so, in what orientation..
I decided, when it came to it, that I would sign the Amarna Family Group on the gold, rather than on the support. I’ve been regarding the whole process of assembling the stele with something akin to terror, and signing on the velvet just seemed like bridge too far, especially since it would already be stretched on the frame at the time.
It looks a bit squiffy, I admit, but then it always does!
I’ve also painted the background calico with inktense. I’m going to try very hard to ensure that all edges are properly turned, and either concealed by the pile of the velvet or by other means, but knocking back the gleaming cream should help with the camouflage.
Both of these tasks were done while the fabric was still mounted on the frame, but I want that frame for William Marshall, so I’m going to have to get going…
Finally, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and cut the threads holding the fabric stretched at the sides, at least half expecting some sort of terrible crinkled effect. But no, everything stayed nice and flat. Sighs of relief all round!
I want to pad the goldwork before I apply it to the stele, so the next stage was to use a photocopy of the goldwork to make patterns for the buckram and wadding I intended to wrap it around.
I could see what I was doing much better than the photograph suggests, I promise – although it wasn’t an entirely straightforward process, and I ran out of oomph at that point.
One of the nice things about the double thread canvases commonly used for painted canvas designs is that you can decide to go right off-piste with them, separate the threads, and use stitches at a different scale.
I’m going to do that with the characters – the woman, the horse and his rider, and the dog – on this piece, because in that way I will be able to use stash threads, and enjoy exploring the highways and byways of ornamental canvaswork stitchery. It may well unbalance the finished piece, so I may not regard it as a success when complete, but I will have had fun along the way!
This, however, was a false start. The stitch is Kelim stitch, or something like that, and the threads are pearl cottons. I was aiming for something that would look a little like a sturdy linen twill, but this didn’t seem to me to be the right choice after all.
One of the disadvantages of going down to petit point scale is that unpicking is a real nightmare. Not fun at all. <shudders dramatically>
I’m much happier with this. I’ve used trammed Gobelins stitch for the apron, and found a use for the dreadful lifeless slubby linen thread that DMC brought out – 20 years ago now? – which I bought because it looked interesting and have found a heartbreaking material to use every time I’ve tried. In this context, it worked very much better than I expected. There’s no shine, so it looks like a heavy, sturdy fabric, and the colour variations, much subtler than if I’d used the designated wool colours, recall the appearance of a crumpled linen fabric, its crisp white knocked back by dust and grime.
The skirt is a combination of a rather gorgeous rayon filament for the lighter sections with a pearl cotton for the darker ones, and I’ve turned Parisian Stitch from vertical to horizontal to help me to create contrasts with the shawl the woman has around her shoulders.
The shawl is in Parisian Stripe Stitch (there’s an extra row of small vertical stitches, which keeps the long stitches in alignment).
I may have ended up with not quite the right shade of green for the vessel the woman is holding. Something about it reminded me of the bright green glazed fragments that used to come out of trenches on Time Team, of happy memory, so I decided to go with the colour, and maybe adjust later when I have everything else in place. I’ve done my best to add a little shape and shading, but in due course I may stitch over this in curving long-&-short stitches. It’s straightforward Madeira stranded cotton, and I know I’ve not finished the skein!
And in other news, Episode 75 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live. In which we discuss the felt “coloured sketch” of the Dig House, John Pendlebury, the obstreperousness of William Marshall, and look ahead to finishing the Amarna Family Group.
Remember this? It was an exploration of canvaswork, a very long time ago, and when I’d finished it, I hadn’t the vaguest idea what to do with it. Then my cousin said she knew exactly what to do with it, and could she have it, please?
She and her local soft furnishing people turned it into a rather fabulous cushion, and it has been sitting happily kicking welly-booted heels in the air on a chair in her conservatory ever since.
Fast forward to some recent reorganising in her house, and she has a another chair that might be interested in a companion piece. Not the same shape, and not the same canvas, fortunately, and not necessarily the same colours either, just similar. I have to find the canvas before I can get excited about this one, so it will be a while, but I do have something to think about.
My cousin found a gorgeous drone shot of a knot garden in a National Trust property, and said “Start from this!”. The central tree might even end up as a sculpted piece of one of the pile stitches – that would be fun, wouldn’t it!
I’m thinking I might choose to use a brown canvas this time, and use as many variegated greens as I can lay my hands on. But as I’m not sure where I’ll find the canvas, my ideas have plenty of time in which to change….
So in due course I had finished the coral canvaswork panel, and took it off the frame. Then I had a slight anxiety about the size, and whether there would be space to go all around the sunglasses, and went around three sides with herringbone stitch.
The herringbone stitch rather emphasised the unevenness of one of the sides, but I’m choosing not to mind that, especially as the herringbone stitch had a secondary task; that of attaching some padding fabric to the the back of the canvaswork.
The fourth side was also herringbone stitch, but in that case, it’s the herringbone edging I often use on canvaswork pieces to cover and strengthen edges.
The finished piece was just folded in half and satin stitched to join the edges together. I didn’t herringbone it in this case because it was becoming so very difficult to stitch!
Finally, I took one of those flimsy black fabric cases that you sometimes get with a pair of sunglasses, and stitched it in around the top edge. Lovely though it is to have a bright, strong case for sunglasses, it’s not remotely protective if they keep falling out, and the drawstring will ensure that they stay put.
Since I’ve always been interested in heraldry, and deeply distrust online search results, which so often depend on something unexpected in the search terms, one of my bits of research involved an email to the College of Heralds, asking about William’s coat of arms. I received a commendably prompt and completely unperturbed reply from the Officer-in-Waiting, Rouge Dragon Poursuivant, telling me that:
“The left-hand side of the shield, from the viewer’s point of view, should be Or, meaning gold (or yellow). The right-hand side should be Vert, meaning green. The lion should be Gules, meaning red, and it should be rampant, meaning it is upight and standing on its left foot with its right foot slightly raised off the ground.”
You’d think embroiderers emailed for advice every day of the week! Maybe they do, of course…
I had painted a whole series of variants on the design, and then had another thought, namely – maybe I wasn’t exploring all the variations possible. I attempted to do the exploration on my computer, but went to bed that evening with a ligament in my arm squealing. Back to the paintbox!
So I fished out one of my largest blocks of paper, and painted the chateau with a bit more wall on either side, and an actual path, and then painted a separate William, so that I could move him around on the background and experiment with cropping.
I’ve left his shield as white and green in the design for now. I intend to use underside couching for the “sky”, but I’ve not yet decided whether to use couched gold or silk thread on the shield, and making sure the colours are different in the design will help me to remember I have a decision to make.
I’m still havering, but encouraged by Tanya Bentham, who wrote the book that started me on this, I’m thinking about the third of the four options in this post. As Tanya pointed out on Instagram, in the medieval period people messed around with scale and perspective quite cheerfully, so I have no need to make sure my knight will fit through the gate!
It occurred to me recently that if I were to find somewhere to exhibit the Dreams of Amarna, I might find myself with a lot of assembly to do, rather more rapidly than is entirely comfortable. Pieces mounted for display take up a lot more space than most of us can easily spare, so I’ve been extremely reluctant to start the mounting process – until terrorised by the idea of morning, noon, and night, squinting over some hard-to-light and extremely delicate fragment!
I’m starting with the felt pieces, which aren’t going to be huge, and for which I have a scheme already in my head, and at least some of the materials to hand. Unfortunately my tools have been a bit fractious…
After a day of wrestling with my equipment, and sourcing more staples, which turned out to be what The Australian would term “non-trivial” (would you believe, one of the shops I went to sells staple guns, but not the staples?!), I have finally reached the pleasing situation of having three supports ready to have their finished pieces mounted on them. My ears rang from the ker-KLUNK of the staple gun, and my hand ached, but it is a very satisfying sight, all the same!
After a few days of recovery, I went on to get started on the attachment of one of the pieces, and given the times in which we still live, I’m going to record my witterings as I go. So, herewith the return of Slow TV Stitchery, continuing the sequence from last year with Episode 74.
In which we discuss the assembly of the “fresco” pieces, tackle the first of them, and consider the distant possibility of my embarking on mixed media textile projects, one of these days.
The next panel, I decided, needed a little more variation in colour. The thread is a 12-strand overdyed stranded cotton from Stef Francis, and I’ve had it for so long (like the canvas) that I don’t know when I got it or what I had in mind for it at the time!
The stitch is Moorish Stitch, and again it is voided, leaving unstitched the row of tent stitches that alternate with the larger stitches under normal stitches.
I went back to Jo Ippolito Christensen for the next stitch, Medieval Mosaic Stitch, and with the alterations I made it looks most unexpected. As diagrammed, it is almost a variation on Florentine stitch, with a thick-and-thin ribbon of stitches running across the piece. In choosing the section to void, I picked the two small stitches that form the “thin” part, and as a result, that element has been completely obscured, and it looks like a classical woven pattern. That effect is enhanced by the fact that I picked two shades of coral to use up, hoping that they’d last to the end if they shared the burden. They did!
At this point, I think I have nearly enough stitched to make the sunglasses case I hope for, so I have mirrored the first section with another that leaves only one crossing-point voided. This is Staggered Crosses, and under normal circumstances there would be two different sizes of cross stitch contrasting with one another. I rather like this version, though!
Now I need to work out what form the glasses case will take, and what colour I’m going to back the canvas with, since it’s going to show…
Once the walls were in place, I worked on the creepers.
As you can see here, this involved not just more of the same, but a few extra tendrils, and some mixing of the number of strands and stitches used to create the right tangled effect. Feather stitch, floral feather stitch, feathered chain stitch, all layered up in a variety of shades, to increase the tangle almost to “Sleeping Beauty” proportions.
Yes, good so far.
Then I decided that it really needed the grass at the front to pull the golden green forward, as it was in my memory.
Not like this, however. I think the choice of irregular running stitch is right, but although I chose to use six strands for the lighter colour to help pull it forward and push the building back – which is a good, rational, thought-through reason – it hasn’t worked as I envisaged. Cue some muttering and unpicking!
But I got there in the end…
In fact I’m very pleased with how this turned out. It allows me to demonstrate how to create different textural effects, even with a fairly restricted choice of thread – nothing exotic here, pearl cotton, soft cotton and stranded cotton.
I could add more details – roughen the stone further, add windows and doors to the walls in the shade – but I don’t think that the picture would be materially enhanced. And almost the whole trick with representative embroidery is the same as it is with painting: the finished piece is a new creation, not a copy of the thing it represents, so it is more important to end with a pleasing piece than an accurate report.
Being known as a stitcher leaves one heir to everything stitch related that someone, far or near, may be at a loss to deal with. Sometimes this is a thrill, sometimes it’s a chore, sometimes a bewilderment.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this, passed on to me by a friend of a friend. Almost all you can see below is already finished, and I’m certainly not going to undo it.
But what follows isn’t finished, and I don’t have the threads that came with the canvas.
First thoughts are to unpick anything of the people and animals that’s been stitched, and restitch it with stranded cottons, maybe slightly more highly coloured. Then perhaps do the ground in a mixture of soft cottons and tapestry wool, although those muted, sludgy colours may be a little hard to find in my stash.