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.
Bear with me, please!
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.
Having been working on the Heart, I was still thinking about Grandmama, and noticing that one of the footstools she made was getting a bit shabby and buckled, I decided to renovate it…
It’s worked in tapestry wool on binca (that strange cotton matting fabric that stitching happened on at primary school – does anyone else remember it?). I think I still have, somewhere, Grandmama’s draft of the pattern on squared paper, but the best I can do for putting my hand on it is to say it is Somewhere In The House! Since I don’t have a workroom, I put the footstool in a plastic tray, which I seem to remember is sold for cleaning oven trays. I use it for wet felting and to contain messes when I’m doing things like this. The blued-steel flat-headed nails were very hard to get out, and indeed, some of them lost their heads (!) and didn’t come out. In due course they were hammered firmly back in, instead!
The binca around the edge was badly mauled by the nails, so I knew I would have to do something about that, but in the meantime, there were sections of the canvaswork that needed to be reinstated. First I washed and dried the whole thing (by hand) and then spent some time looking very hard at the stitching. More than fifty years of use have worn a few small sections, and the stitch took some identifying, but in the end, I decided it was Rice Stitch, and found a pale oatmeal tapestry wool that didn’t shout its’ newness too loudly.
Then I attached the binca to some calico and covered the join with one of the long-armed cross stitches. I wasn’t absolutely sure I had enough of the plain oatmeal colour so I alternated a needleful of each all the way around.
In the end, I had plenty left over, but I’ve said many a time before that when ekeing out assorted supplies, the trick is to Make It Look Deliberate!
I had to do that with the trim as well. Nothing in our local needlework shop was even remotely suitable so in the end I took some bobble fringing, a length of ribbon and some ricrac, and made my own!
There are one or two infelicities in the details, but it’s certainly got a good few years left in it now.
Thank you, Grandmama.
I did indeed find myself mixing and blending a lot of different browns to fill in all those brown sections.
Remember what I said about stash busting being “an inexact science”? Well, the trick about dealing with that (in this context) is to make the various infills and changes look deliberate. I scattered the different shades in a random looking pattern across all the different diamonds. There are four or five different blends, and outside the central section there are only two of each shade in any one row.
The central section has brown diamonds all the same colour because I was using the central section to help me lay out the trellis pattern, and I simply kept going. In fact as I look at the canvaswork while I write this post, the central section blends beautifully into the outer sections. It really does look deliberate.
The tiny diamonds that lift the whole effect are in a very light cream. Fortunately I didn’t need much of this one, and I had enough!
I profited from the experience of making the first little worktop bin, and instead of stitching the inside section after I’d folded back the top and stitched the rim, I worked it while the canvas was still flat, which was altogether easier to do!
Although I confess, I was wondering whether I would have enough of this beige to complete it, or whether I would have to take it out and use a different colour entirely…
The first worktop bin was such a success that I decided to do another one.
This time the bin itself is a cardboard drum that used to contain chocolates. It’s rather bigger than my sawn-off milk bottle, and furthermore, the canvas is finer (I’m only using two strands of Paterna in the needle, not three), so the canvas is going to take a little longer to do.
I’m staying with browns, and with diamond patterns, and starting with this diamond lattice pattern. I’ve had enough of the creamy beige wool to work the framework, and since it is only two strands, I should have enough of it to work the edging and seam as well.
But there is a lot more dark brown to come and I may very well find myself combining threads to stretch my varieties of dark brown to fit the pattern. Never mind, I will then have made some Stashbusting Progress!
Has anyone else noticed what a very inexact science stashbusting is? You embark on a project, full of hope that it will consume vast stores, only to find that the Stash in question has shrunk not at all…
Right up until the project when you rely on that happening….
When I’d finished the stitching of the canvaswork for the Form Cushion, it was a little puffy and warped, and badly in need of blocking, but being long and thin I had nothing suitable for blocking it on. Until I had an inspiration – use the form itself!
We covered the form with an old towel, and then worked on alternate sides of the form. I’ve put an old length of cotton curtain header over the canvas, so that when I come to remove the staples, it will be fairly easy to do.
It took quite a lot of heaving and tweaking, and the combined efforts of my mother and myself (for a client, she’s having to put a lot of effort in here, isn’t she! – she’s started on renovating the form too.), but in due course we managed to get the canvas firmly attached, and stood back to look at it.
It didn’t look nice and smooth as it does here. It was bumpy and lumpy, and not very happy at all.
So I steamed it gently, using a steam iron but not letting it touch the wool. Very, very carefully, and slowly..
It started looking a great deal better (even upside-down), but then we set it aside, still stapled in place, for a few weeks. We wanted to be sure that it was very thoroughly dry before we moved on to actually making the cushion.
And besides, I’m not entirely clear on the type of cushion it will be!
While I am still trying to work out how to do the Chorus of Angels, I’ve decided to work a single Angel from the Chorus in an entirely different medium – needlepoint. The original idea was to have it done by Christmas, but I’m becoming aware that that isn’t very likely now.
Once I’d made that decision I had a lot of fun playing with bargello patterns and trying to choose something suitable. I’m using a fine canvas – 18 count, I think, although as it came, unlabeled, in among that collection of supplies that included several frames, I’m not sure. It’s full of size and is going to be rather a trial to stitch, I fear.
I’ve decided to use the gold pattern on the far left (slightly altered) for the background, to give an effect a little like the patterned gold background of an icon. The lines of this panel are so simple that I can afford to use some quite complicated patterns, I think.
In the end I settled on the green and red spots in the upper middle for the cape, although choosing the colours hasn’t been quite straightforward. The wings are still puzzling me.
Since I have decided on a gold background for the angel, I decided to paint the background canvas gold as well. That will help to boost any thin coverage.
I’ve worked the gown underneath the cape very simply, in cream brick stitch, and the face and hands using gold tent stitch. None of the variants of flesh colour seemed right, and the gold does at least belong in the design.
I keep on finding things that I’ve not quite finished, don’t I – and in some cases I had completely forgotten about them.
Like this one. I know it was a kit – stranded cotton worked in half-cross stitch on canvas, – but I don’t know why I bought it.
And I clearly had something in mind for it, because I have attached it to a cotton furnishing fabric. Equally clearly, it wasn’t going to be a cushion centre, or I would have centred it on the fabric. It is only about three inches square, so I suspect I had in mind making it into a needlecase.
But before I do anything else with it, I have to find some way of covering those raw edges of canvas with something that looks deliberate!
In other news, though – I’ve finished the second Crane!
Actually, you may recall that it was the first, but I decided it looked too overheated in the pot it was destined for, and set it aside for another version.
I found in when I was looking for something else, and finished it. At least, the embroidery…
I will probably mount it on a circle of card, and put in that famed Winter Decoration corner.
At least I know what I’m going to do with this one!
The last section, Section Sixteen, gave me a lot of trouble. I suppose that is partly because the end was in sight, and I wasn’t quite as focused as I could have been!
I was originally looking for a crossing stitch, but every single one I tried either looked wrong, or simply failed to cover the canvas. I sent several tweets enumerating my trials, with one or two strands being too fine, and three strands too heavy, and in the end I abandoned the crossing stitches entirely.
In fact I devised my own variation on Triangle Stitch, which I’ve called Framed Triangle Stitch. I rather like the way it has turned out. It is a bit of a trial to stitch economically, but since I am attempting to reduce my stash, that is scarcely a problem!
Although I like the pattern it creates, I’ve been somewhat concerned about the scale of the pattern, which is perhaps a little too similar to the blue pattern of Section Thirteen.
However, I now have the challenge of unrolling the whole piece, blocking it, and working out how to finish the cushion.
As they say – watch this space!
As I mentioned in Part Eight, I gave myself a framework for the patches, alternating crossed, diagonal, and straight stitches.
Looking at the photograph now, there is a slight look of Victorian floor-tiles about the combination of the blue and yellow of the previous sections, and the brown and beige of this one. The proportion of brown isn’t correct for Victorian floor-tiles, but still…
It occurs to me that we might have a lot of fun looking at this cushion when it’s done, looking for other things that it reminds us of!
I chose a Rice Stitch caged with straight stitches. I suppose this could be regarded as a combination of crossed stitches and straight stitches, which may throw my scheme slightly off-balance. I like it, though – the straight stitches look nicely padded, even though they aren’t, and the rice stitches add texture. I can imagine it looking “floral” in some colour combinations, but in this version, I think it emphasizes the “Victorian Floor Tile” feel I mentioned before.
I am getting really close to the end now – Section Fifteen is the last but one, as you can see by the square corner. Since I didn’t work on this project over the summer, I’m a bit surprised by that. I wish the project had been as good at stash busting as it has been at growing!
You might have noticed that teal is one of my favourite colours and wondered why you haven’t seen more of it, but my stash is partly inherited and I don’t have very much of some colours.
After the complexity of Caged Rice Stitch (which, while fun, is on the complex side!) I went very simple indeed for Section Fifteen – Double Twill Stitch.
So now I need to work out what colour – and what stitch – to use on the last section. And then how to finish the cushion…