Tag: design elements

The Excavation – Further Dilemmas

Close up of three letters, "T", "E", "L" worked in a mystery stitch, in an olive-brown colour on sandy fabric.

You may recall I was wrestling somewhat with the large title, still trying to work out what the stitch was. Since I had jumped the gun a little, and already have the Map stretched and stapled to the frame, I can’t look at the back, and I wanted to maintain consistency across the two panels, so I had to find out.

I did a little more rummaging on my blog, and finally found a reference to it!

Text from another post of my blog, reading:
I’ve already used the Reverse Chain Stitch with Buttonhole Edging since I learnt it on this course, when I was working the Title of the Map for the Amarna Panels. Now I look at the photograph I see that my tension wasn’t entirely consistent across the whole width of this spot, and the thread stripped and clogged in a couple of places. But then, samplers are for practising on… I may choose to re-work this later, using the finer thread, since I think that if worked fine and delicately this stitch could find a host of new uses.

So now I know what to do there, I can move on to my next dilemma..

A close up of lots of random stitching. There are different stitches in the section, but from a distance they don't show up as much as I hoped!

You can see, I think, that the uppermost strand of this section is in Seed Stitch, and the next is Twisted Chain Stitch. All single strand (honestly, what’s happened to me, I used to be all about chunky stitching with six strands in the needle!!) and random as far as I can make them. I felt that the lowest area of this section needed to be more emphatic, and tried a variant on Danish Knotted Cross, followed by single chain, followed by both of those in a slightly thicker thread, and then stood back and looked at them.

Even with my glasses, I was struggling to see any difference.

Now, I find myself wondering, does this matter, or does it not? How emphatic do I need to be, how much do I need to emphasise this mid-ground area?

The Excavation – dust in the air

Close up of a section of the middle/far distance. The figures are in slightly more emphatic stitches and colours than was the case for the more distant figures. There is dense background stitching in seed stitches, which then transition into single chain stitches.

There’s a great deal of stitching still to do on the Excavation. I’ve not tackled the large title because my hoops are in the loft and I’ve not got them down yet, but in any case, adding texture across the piece to help the figures to pop out a little more is taking quite a lot of work. The seed stitches in the distance and around head height help to create the impression of dust in the air – much more effectively, in fact, than I could ever have hoped. Adding the very lightest cream stitches has made quite a difference, in a subtle sort of way.

Close up of a section of the slightly closer middle distance. The figures have more contrast and stronger stitches, and there is beginning to be a band of random twisted chain stitch around their feet.

The difficulties come as I bring the stitching forward, the figures being closer, but the air still dusty. There are relatively few singleton stitches, and many of them are quite square and “manufactured” in appearance, making the dusty, earthy effect harder to produce.

Here you can see that as I’ve moved closer to the viewer, I’ve moved from seed stitch, to single chain stitches, and now to twisted chain stitches. They are well spaced because I’m intending to flow other stitches around them – seed stitches and single chain stitches, to start with.

Extreme close up of some random stitching, seed stitch, chain stitch, twisted chain stitch, and a variation on Danish Knotted Cross Stitch

You might just be able to see one of my experiments here, although it must be said, good as phone cameras are these days, this picture is rather pushing beyond the limit.

I’ve added at the bottom of the section, in among the twisted single chain stitches, a variation on Danish Knotted Cross Stitch. In the original version, the cross is worked first, and the knot on top of it. That helps in working a regular shape, but I want something more tangled here, so I work one stitch of the cross, and work the knot as part of the second stitch. I’ve found that as I tighten the stitch, I can move the knot a little, and where I place the end of the last leg helps to make the stitch look more ragged.

Whether I like the result or not, I’m not yet sure!

Beginning The Border

Split stitch outlining over the laid and couched border. There are bits of the tissue paper still tangled in the stitches

Once I took the tissue paper away, I discovered that in fact my running stitch transfer wasn’t very clear. So I’m going to start by split stitch outlining each element before I fill it in.

You can see in this photo that I still hadn’t quite got all the tissue paper that had the design on it out from under the stitches, and I’m only part of the way through outlining this corner.

I did think I might try to outline everything first, and then I thought about what happens when I have something like that to do, and decided that each corner would be worked to a finish separately!

Partially stitched corner sprigs showing the rose leaves partly stitched on the vertical sprig and the broom partially stitched on the horizontal one.

It is probably at this point that I start to wander from the path of classical Opus Anglicanum. I’m using fishbone stitch for the rose leaves and satin stitch for the broom. But after all, this is a modern work, by a modern embroiderer, not a reconstruction of an existing, or imagined, medieval work.

Dog rose, rose leaves, and some of the broom completed

The wanderings continue with the dog roses – long and short stitch in the petals, over two rows of split stitch outline to help define the edges, and a tiny French knot for the dark centre.

I’m using two differnt dark greens for the rose leaves and the broom, to help the design make sense, and I worked the rose stem in split stitch using two shades of brown. I am not entirely sure about that, so I think the next corner around I will use one, maybe the darker one, and see whether that is an improvement. If it is, bringing this one into line might be a bit hair raising, considering how small all of this is!

The Excavation – more progress

Close up of the lower left quadrant of the Map embroidery. The surtitle is in place, and there are tete de boeuf stitch plants all over the excavation.

I was clear that the surtitle would be in split stitch, so I got started on that. It’s in a dark, plain colour, to be clear and readable and add weight to the bottom of the design.

I definitely like the tête de boeuf stitches. They add visual weight, a good variation in colour, and although the colours in the thread are similar, the small seed stitch spoil heaps at the front look completely different.

Close of a small section of the View of the Excavation. The small figures of the middle distance are surrounded by seed stitches, with some darker single chain stitches to add weight to the ground.

I may yet find I need to add more stitches at the base, above the text, but of course, by now, you are all accustomed to the way I tend to build up these pieces as the elements occur to me!

The middle ground is, so far, not quite so successful. I am using small sandy coloured seed stitches, and they work at some distances, but not quite so well in others. It certainly doesn’t photograph well at present. I want to make sure that the colours aren’t too dark, because I want it to remain dusty, but developing this section will involve a good few extra layers!

Close up of another mid section of the Excavation. The pale distant figures are surrounded by pale seed stitches, emulating the dust cloud of the title. There are slightly darker stitches surrounding the darker figures of the middle ground, but they may not be quite dark enough, or numerous enough, as yet.

The distant section, I think, has worked. It does all look very dusty, and the distant figures are pushed out of the stitching and don’t vanish into the fabric as much as they did.

Adding the random single chain stitches in the mid ground has also helped. They may need some seed stitches scattered through them the meld the areas together, but I am hoping that each part of this scene will make more and more sense as I continue to work on it.

Close up of the word "Tell" on the top of the Map of Amarna. I'm still not sure what stitch I used...

I haven’t quite worked out which stitch I used for the title on the Map of Amarna. Quaker Stitch? Whipped or Interlaced Reverse Chain Stitch? I even checked the early blog posts, where I read a somewhat elliptical:

For the main title I picked up one of the stitches from the Tudor and Stuart Masterclass – it’s lovely to find myself using a stitch I’ve learnt recently in a project I first started thinking about over fifteen years ago

Me, in 2012

Be warned by me – better recordkeeping reduces frustration!

Border Transfer

It may not be very obvious in the line drawing, but although the two sides of the corner sprig are very similar, they aren’t quite identical. I wanted to keep a sense of movement and flow, without the chaos of having every little bit different, so in the end I chose to create my corner sprigs based on two slightly different straight sprigs. In this photo you can see that the rose leaves are pointing in different directions, and the broom flowers are arranged differently.

Line drawing of the border for William Marshall

When I did the line drawing, I took my guiding sprig and turned it through ninety degrees for each corner. By doing that, there’s a sense of continuity, whereas I think if I had reflected the design in a mirror line through either the vertical or horizontal crosses, it would have created a rather stop-start effect. I was much impressed, years ago, by a programme about the carver and sculptor Grinling Gibbons, which said that he always aimed for balance rather than symmetry. I like that, it feels more human somehow, so that’s what I try to do too.

Begining to transfer the design by stitching through a drawing on tissue paper.

Now, however, I have to transfer the design to the border. Clearly that’s not going to be possible using prick and pounce or a drawing method, so I have chosen to create a drawing on tissue paper of the main elements, and running stitch along the design lines. I am hoping that this will be sufficient!

In any case, it allows time for the extra thread I had to order from Devere Yarns to arrive..

Finally, two Announcements:

  1. The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that the Ko-fi link went away and is now back (plug-ins not playing nicely!). I’m still hoping to put together an exhibition and a book about Dreams of Amarna, and any support, whether financial, moral, or material (suggesting venues, publishers, copy-editors) would be gratefully received!
  2. You may also noticed the lack of a link to Twitter. I’m mostly on Mastodon now, as @virtuosew@mathstodon.xyz, for reasons that anyone else who’s been on Twitter lately will probably understand very well!

Border Design Finally Nailed!

William Marshall in Opus Anglicanum, Blue border in couched trellis stitch now has both internal and external borders in place

Once I had the border trim in place, I felt I really had to get the details sorted out – but having that trim in place seemed to help. The dark green, red, and yellow on the inside, mirrored by the yellow, red, and dark green on the outside seem to bracket the blue just exactly as I planned, and I began to feel that all that painting and puzzling might have been worthwhile.

So I tried photocopying the full piece to see whether playing with my cut out sprigs on a flat surface I wasn’t worried about snagging might be useful.

Photocopy of the William Marshall design overlaid with an acetate that has blobs of coloured paint in the main areas of the design

In actual fact, the photocopying wasn’t a great success, but it was close enough that when I overlaid an old acetate and experimented with the border sprig I’d finally, tentatively, settled on, I suddenly became a lot happier. The paint is gouache, and it really doesn’t get along well with the acetate, but I felt that it gave me just enough of the sense of the design that I could be confident it would evoke an illuminated manuscript – which is what I was hoping it would do.

It’s always so pleasing when a plan comes together!

Line drawing of the combined dog rose and broom sprigs for William Marshall.

The next stage was to produce a line drawing of the planned design, and use that to transfer the final design to the piece itself.

And this was the point at which all that painting and drawing and redrawing began to show real benefits, because even though the photocopied sprig design I was using as a guide was distinctly muddy, I found myself drawing the lines I needed with a freedom from care I rarely experience with pencil in hand.

Well now, who’d ha’ thunk – more practice does produce better effects!

Still working on that border!

I continue to wrestle with the arrangement of broom and dog roses – my goodness, am I ever glad I’ve been working on planning with paint over the last two years or so! I do some exploration with digital images, but as it often results in a sore arm from mouse and trackpad manipulation, painting is a much better option. This selection of straight sprigs could be assembled into corner decorations, and potentially tweaked in size to fill a side or leave space for the Templar crosses.

Indeed, I have painted so many straight sprigs and corner designs – so large, to make it easier to paint – that I’ve become quite blind and jaded with them, and can’t decide which I like. I did realise that I needed to put them against William and the chateau de Tancaville, so I photographed them and printed them out. And then told the printer to try something smaller and go again.

The embroidery of William Marshall, with paper cutouts of various sprig designs. Decisions are not proving easy!

And that showed that those sprigs would have to be, if anything, even smaller than I had anticipated.

This tells me that I will have to be very much more careful about the colours I use, and the number of strands. I can’t afford to produce a border that looks muddy or confused, but equally, it mustn’t fight with William or his underside couched golden sky.

Tricky. Very tricky.

Exhibition – For Worship and Glory II

A few weeks ago I went to see the Royal School of Needlework Exhibition “For Worship and Glory”, in its second incarnation, in the Lady Chapel in Ely. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a series of embroideries inspired by the Litany of Loreto, donated to the RSN when Mayfield Convent in Surrey was closed during the 1970s. Since I saw the first version of the exhibition a few years ago, it has been discovered that the designs were created by an Italian graphic designer, Ezio Anichini, at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The panels are in a very restricted palette using silk floss and filoselle – browns and golds, some black, and a very tiny amount of blue, and although the stitches are described as “mostly long and short”, with the addition of stem stitch, split stitch and straight stitches, the panels didn’t have the heaviness I associate with long and short stitch. On the contrary, my primary impression was to be astonished and impressed by the manner in which the works were clearly embroideries and yet maintained a kinship with the drawn design. Look at the bark on this picture, the sketchy and textural feel to it, contrasting with the almost naturalistic rendering of the briars.

Even more strikingly – and my phone camera, in spite of the wonderful light in Ely’s Lady Chapel, really wasn’t up to the task – look at the rendering of the folds of fabric here. The stitches are just straight stitches, using carefully chosen shades and thicknesses of thread, at carefully judged spacings and angles, and yet the impression of flowing folds in fabric is beautifully realized.

I was very glad I’d thought to take my lorgnettes, because there were so many enchantingly embodied ideas that I wanted to examine!

Ready to Start on William Marshall…

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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..

More on William Marshall

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!

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