Tag: Canvaswork Parterre


Borders in the Knot Garden

A corner of the Parterre design showing the early stitching of a pattern callled "squared daisies"

There’s still a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing on the Knot Garden/ Parterre. There’s a lot of border elements to do, and I’m quite certain that I’m going to have to find a way of making sense of a middle section on the short sides: the “Princess Stitch” border I’ve chosen for the outside border is symmetrical around a stitch, and the circular border in the centre is centred around a thread, so something may well look a bit too “off” to be fudged, if I’m not careful!

This pattern is called “Squared Daisies” in my copy of Jo Ippolito Christensen’s book on needlepoint. It looked like a very big pattern in the book, full of interest and personality, but while it has personality , it looks a bit small here, and I’m having Doubts about it.

The same Squared Daisies pattern, twice the size

So, in the spirit of exploration and investigation that I usually apply to needlecrafts, I found another corner and tried again, twice the size.

Yikes, that’s big. And Yikes, again, for the number of threads going through the central hole.

But I think I might rather like it.

Squared Daisies Stitch worked in two shades of burgundy

In fact, I’ve carried on, and decided I do rather like it. I’m varying the colours to maintain the variation shown in the original inspiration, and now I’m thinking that – again in the spirit of variation – I will also finish the smaller stitch size version.

The other two corners can be the same stitches but in the other order, so that the similar corners are set diagonally to one another. And the only trouble with that is that these stitches are remarkably trying to do, and after a day wrestling with goldwork or Amarna, all I want to do is curl up with a good book!

Knot Garden progressing

A small section of canvas. Part of it has been painted brown, and there are tacking stitches to divide up the square and plan a circular outline.

One of the original stars of the inspiration picture was a circular bed with something exuberant in it, at the centre of the garden. As you can see, I put some effort into planning where it would go, and how I would get something close enough to circular, using the gauge of canvas I’m using.

The intention is to create a sculpted Turkey Work boss, but now I have the outline in place, I think that should wait until the last moment, when everything else is done, and I’m not scrolling backwards and forwards across the frame all the time.

View of one corner of the canvas. All the borders are in the same stitch, and it all looks a bit samey and dull.

So I went back to the borders representing the outlines of the beds, trying to keep the design crisp and balanced, so that whatever I put in the borders can be suitably displayed. And therein lies a problem. When I sat back and looked at what I’d done, I thought it didn’t look nearly strong enough for what I was going to create.

Why, I wonder?

A corner of the Knot Garden, with a new, broader border in place, consisting f dark and light interlocking triangles.

Well, I think it relates to a certain sameness. All the borders are the same stitch, and it makes it look less like something inspired by a garden, and more like something inspired by a drawing of a garden.

So I’ve changed the outer border to something chunkier and with a slightly different shape, and so far I think it may be working!

Beginning The Knot Garden

An oblique view of a canvas painted to resemble the pattern of beds in a parterre or knot garden

A “Site Visit” recently gave me the chance to look at my wools in the room for which the cushion is destined, and to talk to my cousin about the whole thing. It also provided a reminder of the truism that, no matter how extensive the stash, for any particular project, the stash will prove inadequate!

I had my experimental panel with me, and one of the things my cousin said was that she was not particularly taken with the effect of the tent stitches or straight stitches infilling between the pattern stitches. I agreed that it looked a bit clunky and congested, so when I got home again, I got out my acrylic paints and painted the canvas, just the area of the borders.

What I have done is to use three different shades of brown, solo and in mixtures. And I’ve painted both sides of the canvas, to make the coverage a bit more thorough. This way, I’m not trying to produce an absolutely flat colour, as though the canvas were dyed or coloured from the start.

Close up of a small section of the border of one of the beds.

You can also see in this picture that the “pathways” spill out into the surrounding canvas. I was intending the stitching to do so as well, but there’s an old saying in military circles, that “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. I would adapt that for stitchers – I don’t regard the canvas as my enemy, but no plan survives the first stitching session unchanged!

I started to work the Parisian Stitch border around the beds, using two different colours of crewel wool in the needle, and soon decided that although I want to have a couple of rows of tent stitch around the outside, to help with adding the back to the cushion, I also want the pattern area properly delimited. So the line between the beds will be filled with a line of Parisian stitch as well.

Testing, Testing (phase 3)

There is still much to play with, with regards to the the stitching for the Knot Garden Parterre.

At this point, I’m trying to balance accurate impressions – and therefore useful testing – with not tearing my thread to pieces or wasting any of it. At present I am still thinking of doing this out of stash, if possible, which is why I’m using an impossibly bright shade of green here – I’m unlikely to want it in the real thing!

Now, you see here that the short Parisian Stitch enticed me into a broader strap than I was intending, and it has unbalanced the Mosaic Stitch of the border, which in turn became Scotch Stitch as it turned into the diagonal, and lost the pattern it had.

Here, by contrast, I have demonstrated one of the other hazards of canvaswork, especially for my astigmatic eyes – I’ve suddenly managed to turn a Diagonal Rhodes Stitch into a slightly oblong and twisted diagonal Rhodes stitch. I didn’t see it happening, so I am going to have to guard against it with some care.

I think I need to make my stitches and straps bigger, too: the shape drawn on the canvas is the size of one of the ones on the finished piece, and I started the outer border on the centreline, and turned onto the diagonal at the appropriate point. The first horizontal row of diamonds should have two in it. Two properly square diamonds, that is!

And here you see the challenge I need to address: the diagonal Rhodes Stitches start with a horizontal or vertical stitch, so what I need in the angle between the straps is a gap (as you see top and bottom of this intersection) and not a thread (as you see left and right)

At this point I’ve been stitching and unstitching so often that I have lost count of myself, and keep on losing track of the stitch lengths I intend, so there will be a pause to regroup!

Testing, Testing (phase 2)

I’ve been playing around with possible stitches for the pathway in the Knot Garden. In the source picture, it looks to be made of bricks laid in a pattern, rather like a parquet floor.

I don’t feel I’m obliged to replicate that pattern, but this one on the left is altogether too square, and won’t help the sense of movement I’m going to need to counterbalance the borders, which I rather expect to be rather static, given all the Diagonal Rhodes Stitch that’s going to be happening.

The one on the right is the same Medieval Mosaic Stitch from Jo Ippolito Christensen that I used, voided, in the sunglasses case, but this time worked exactly as diagrammed. I like it, and it’s easy enough to work, but I don’t think it does the job I will be asking it to. I’m sure I will work it for real one day, but not for this project!

When I replaced the stitches that were voided in the sunglasses case with stitches in a different colour and thread, to point up the woven pattern, I got something a lot more hopeful…

I like this one a lot. Although I must admit it does rather recall the diaperwork you sometimes see on Tudor buildings, so maybe not very floor-like!

And then I found another, one that actually looks a lot like herringbone brickwork without any adaptation.

I like this one a lot, too.

I will have to see which of these presents itself most strongly when I’ve got more of the ideas crystallised.

Testing, Testing… (phase one)

Remember this, the Knot Garden parterre?

It’s going to require a little more precision and therefore a little more planning than I usually indulge in. So there’s also going to be a bit more experimentation than usual. I might not go to the length of actually charting the finished piece, but I’m certainly intending to have a very clear idea of what is going where, and what thread or threads I’m going to use.

I’ve been intrigued to note that, from pulling out a huge variety of threads to use, an assortment of fibres and an assortment of colours, I’m beginning to restrict my ideas to a much smaller palette of threads and stitches.

As I looked at the picture more closely, it became clear that the squares within the beds were topiary pyramids. Maybe some are suffering from box blight, hence the colour variations, but this gave me a good place to start experimenting. I’ve gone to the trouble of framing up a piece of the canvas I’m going to use, so as to experiment properly, and my first observation is that I am going to need to be on top form when I work this, because it’s dreadfully easy to go adrift!

However, I think it’s fair to say that Diagonal Rhodes Stitch makes a fine pyramid in topiary! The straight stitches are in the same colour, which they won’t be, but I think the stitch length, compared with the Rhodes Stitch, looks about right for the width of the little hedges that create the strapwork effect.

I’ve also been testing out other threads and stitches – tapestry wool, soft embroidery cotton, stranded cotton. I want to have varying textures and patterns within the strapwork, creating a nice harmonious whole – but a stitched harmonious whole. I could easily chart – or even freehand – a tent stitch reproduction of the picture, but it wouldn’t have the personality needed for the place it’s going to live. Textured stitches will help to create that personality.

A Site Visit

The next canvaswork project, commissioned by my cousin, has had a slight change of direction. It is still based upon this drone shot, but it is to be full coverage rather than voided stitches, and it’s going to sit on her bed, worked in colours from the curtains, to pull those colours onto the bed.

So when I went to visit a few weeks ago, I did a site visit – as shown here, including the Hound of the Doleful Countenance, for scale. We’ve decide that the final cushion is to be a rather Biblical cubit in length (that is, forearm from elbow to fingertips), which will go from the middle of one black cushion to the middle of the other, and at least a handspan high.

I’ve also brought home the cover for the doorstop, in the fabric I need to reflect in my thread choices – which means, not only did I not have such a weight to bring home, but my cousin also still has her doorstop!

My next job is to draft out the pattern to transfer to the canvas. Once upon a time, I had canvaswork design software, and I might have tried to chart a design first, but it didn’t include some of the stitches I might want to use, and with so many of the more unusual threads in my view, I will be doing a lot of experimenting along the way!