I very much enjoyed working the Stones of Venice footstool last year. It was really lovely to have something that I could pick up as a relief from the fine silk and metallic threads in the Hittite Amulet, and my various Thistle Threads courses. Furthermore, at this time of year, something I can enjoy in the evening without switching on my daylight lamp is a good choice for those days when I haven’t managed to stitch during the day but have been longing to.
Naturally, I’ve been casting around various family homes, looking for a destination for the canvaswork once completed. And I’ve found it – in her studio, my mother has an old form (a bench) which she remembers from her childhood home in Westmorland. It’s shabby and tired now, but giving it a good sand down and a fresh coat of paint will work wonders, and a long cushion will make it altogether more comfortable to sit on.
We’ve decided that this, too, will be a stash-buster, insofar as that is possible, so I’m going to have to weld my canvas together (bear with me!) and the inspiration for the canvaswork itself is to be Crazy Patchwork. I’ve been told to make it look Cheerful.
It is fairly simple, but a little time-consuming to “weld” canvas together. Create an overlap, lining the canvas up to match the holes, then stitch together by making several lines of whip stitching along the length of the join. Trim off any superfluous selvedges, and you should find you have a secure join that is almost unnoticeable once the decorative stitching is applied.
Since I am trying to use up a rather peculiar collection of wools, the leftovers of an assortment of projects that were never intended to live together, the theme of Crazy Patchwork seemed the most promising.
What it wasn’t, was Easy To Plan. You can see that in the top variation I ended up trying something very much more formal, a sort of paisley pattern layout. I like it, but not for the purpose of this particular cushion. It might work better for a piano stool or something in a similarly formal setting.
Then I tried a layout with straight edges, and was less than happy with it – there’s not enough sense of rhythm or flow in the design. The layout with wiggly lines works rather better, and I’ve settled on that, drawn it onto the canvas, and attached my canvas to a frame.
The form is nearly a metre and a half long, and about 20 centimetres wide. I’m now wondering whether I have a stash big enough for the task!
Once I had finished the sides of the footstool, I cut out the sides and the top and turned in the edges, leaving one thread of canvas all round, to help sew them together.
The next task was to assemble the pieces to create the box shape for the top of the footstool. I used a herringbone stitch which creates a fairly strong edge, and nicely echoes the stitch I used for the sides.
I covered the foam (freshly cut – the old foam was disintegrating as fast the old cover!) with an old teacloth, and then unpicked the lower edge of each side, and covered the combination with the canvaswork.
Next came the challenge of fastening it all down. Fortunately I had help! We turned the whole assembly upside down and leant on it, and then my mother held everything in place while I wielded the staple gun. As I’ve said before, staples don’t damage the wood as much as tacks or nails, and I think they also do a better job of holding everything in place. They are also much easier to take out !
Finally, I decided to hide the edge of the canvas with fringe. I found in the end that the best way was to sit cross-legged on the floor, like a tailor, because then the legs of the footstool brought the edge I was concentrating on to a convenient distance from my eyes, so I didn’t have to bend over it and strain my back. It’s very important to find the right angle to work at, because there is no point enjoying the stitching only to find you can’t sleep for backache!
So here is the finished footstool.. It was really very lucky that I found fringing to go with the wool, and what’s more, in the little needlecrafts and notions shop in our local indoor market. The fringing isn’t long or luxuriant, but it’s just enough to hide the canvas – unless you want to lie on your tummy and examine the whole thing at close quarters, and who would do that?
Er – apart from everyone who reads this blog, and anyone I’ve taught to look at handiwork when I’ve shown it to them…
Well, not quite Triumph and Disaster (apologies to Kipling!), but when I was sitting hibernating with my canvaswork at the weekend, coughing violently but still somewhat exhilarated after a great Bloggers Meet Up in Bath (arranged and blogged by Jules of Adventures In Thread), I made a Dreadful Discovery.
This is the good bit. The top and the long sides of the footstool cushion are finished, and I am very pleased with the way it is looking. Before I assemble the finished piece, I will need to block the canvaswork, and straighten it up a bit, but that’s a minor matter.
I’ve inadvertently made the short sides too deep, which means I have to unpick them and put them back the right size. Since I’ve already had to buy some more thread for this supposedly stash-busting project, so I was distinctly disgruntled by the prospect!
As it turns out, I think it won’t be too dreadful an experience. The unpicking I’ve done so far has gone fairly quickly, and I suppose I can at least regard it as a good thing that the project will take a little longer to complete. It will give me more time to think out the next stage!
When last you saw the Stones of Venice Footstool, I was lamenting the speed with which I had finished the top panel, which had brought me face to face, far too soon for comfort, with the challenge of deciding what to put on the side panels.
I had originally thought to devise a smaller pattern, of some sort, borrowing from some of the ideas in the comments on the last post and from any convenient pictures of the Doge’s Palace that I could find online, but when it came to it, I felt that it might prove both difficult and unrewarding to create repeating patterns which worked well beside the larger pattern on the top.
My first step, therefore, was to bring the blue more to the fore by creating a blue border for each panel. It seemed to me that this would help the side panels to stand away from the top and set it off nicely. After much poring over my needlepoint stitch books I settled on Greek Stitch, which is a sort of long armed cross stitch. Again, this solved the question of having the stitches running with the top on some of the sides and against on others, which had been worrying me quite a bit.
I worked out a way to turn the corners so that each side panel could be a self-contained unit, and decided to to work all four borders while I considered my next move. Which floated swiftly to the top as I stitched. The blue on the top panel was the central motif, and on the sides was forming the edge – so the obvious continuation was to reverse the order of the colours. Challenge met, I think!
Oh dear, that didn’t take very long!
I’ve completed the top part of the footstool cushion using the Bargello pattern “Stones of Venice”. It grew very quickly, and although in the book it was described as an Advanced pattern, I found it fairly straightforward.
Each stitch goes across three, six, or nine threads, the stitches are grouped in threes, and the step between groups of three stitches is three threads. The most time consuming element, I think, was separating my wool and recombining one thread of each shade to create the heathered effect. Some of the other patterns mix up length of stitch, step between stitches, and groupings a great deal more, and must be much harder to keep track of!
However, now I need to stop and think. I need to stitch the vertical sides of the footstool cushion, and since I believe that wrapping the design around the sides will look awkward, I have decided to work each side panel separately. Now I just need a suitably Venetian border design that will work well with “Stones of Venice”.
It needs to be slightly smaller scale, I think, and I also need to allow for the fact that my stash of these colours is almost entirely depleted, and they may need to be supplemented, either by purchase or by using different shades in the borders.
This rather sad specimen of a footstool – covered in now very moth-eaten Welsh tapestry fabric – was a constant part of my childhood. I can’t remember where it lived or what we used it for, but it’s always been somewhere around. When I realised that all my current stitching projects are very detailed and started casting around for something a bit chunkier, I thought that working a new cover for it would do nicely. Furthermore, if I chose threads I already had, it would make a good stash-buster.
Easier said than done. It took the combined efforts of my mother, my father, and myself to find a colour scheme. Even though I have a drawer full of wools, finding enough to meet the needs of the patterns we liked the look of required a great deal of swapping and changing. In the end, however, we picked a Bargello pattern shown in one of the craft books I inherited from my grandmother, “The Book of Creative Crafts”. The book was published in 1978, so the colour choices in the examples are sometimes a little unappealing to modern eyes, and there is also the fact that the top of the footstool is quite small – only 10 inches by 7.5. A couple of patterns that we liked, we felt were on rather too large a scale for the footstool.
In the end, we chose a pattern called “Stones of Venice”, which is inspired by the brickwork of the Doge’s Palace. One of these days I must go to Venice, and see what I think of their version of it! Only three colours are involved, but as they are heathered, that allows me to extend my bundes of yarn, by using one strand each of two shades of each colour in my needle.
I’m using a roller frame with plastic extending sides which came to me in a bundle of stuff from a lady who was emptying her late mother’s house, and finding it a bit tricky to use. It seems to sag quite easily, and I’m unwilling to tighten the nuts any more in case they break the struts. It is the right size for the project, but other than that it is proving less than straightforward to use. Fortunately I suspect it won’t take long too work this piece!
You may recall that I decided to finish off the canvaswork seat covers for the dining room. That entailed, removing the existing corded velvet covers, so I decided to increase the padding on the seats while I was at it. So I added a couple of thick layers of cotton linterfelt, and covered it with calico.
I’ve had some real upholstery done recently, and the upholsterer told me that staple guns cause less damage to the wood than nails (obvious, when you think about it), so that’s what I used.
The staplegun has a kick like a mule, so the job had to be spread out over a couple of days. Getting the tacks out of the last set of covers took a day all by itself, so I have stapled it through some cotton tape, to prevent whatever I may use in the future catching on the threads of the canvas.
I believe I have mentioned before that our house is rather Arts & Crafts flavoured. I’ve been working on our dining room almost since we moved in. It’s north-facing, and our predecessors had painted it pale blue and papered the ceiling turquoise with gold stars. We felt we were dining inside an iceberg!
That may explain why when I repainted it, the ceiling turned white and the walls sunshine yellow. Above the picture rail, I stencilled a eucalyptus leaf frieze (in deference to my husband The Australian). When in due course I inherited my Grandmama’s dining room table and chairs, I decided to work needlepoint covers for the seats.
Fortunately there are only four of them, but even so, I had to ask my mother to work on them as well, or they’d never have been finished. She helped with the stencilling as well – also an exciting challenge!
Unfortunately when they were finished I discovered some marks on some of the background. I was so dispirited that I couldn’t face unpicking them and so I stowed them away for several years. Now, however, I have fished them out, and I am tackling the replacement of some of the rows of stitching, one row at a time.
I would be nice to think I could get the chairs recovered for Easter…
In fact this is worked on linen, but using canvaswork stitches. I was playing with some needlepoint charting software, in particular to find out how the stitches appeared on the chart and how easy it was to follow. I can’t remember where the Koala came from, whether he was originally in counted cross stitch or whether he was imported from a drawing. It is quite a simple design with relatively little modelling, and I’ve always been rather fond of it.
I used waste canvas to give me the stitch placement, and then simply worked the design according to the chart. The Koala himself is worked in straight stitches using stranded cotton, all six strands separated and made to lie side by side; the tree branch he is clinging to is worked in two shades of pearl cotton, using upright cross stitch (one of my favourites, as you know by now!), and the green frame of Algerian Eye stitches is worked in one of the Wildflowers threads from Caron Collection.
The embroidery has survived much better than the fabric it was stitched on. Originally I made a cushion cover, but the linen was already old before I started and now has holes in it. I’m going to do something with the Koala (suggestions please!) and then the rest will probably go into a rag rug…
Strictly speaking, this isn’t one of mine. My mother stitched this, but she asked me to design it for her after she saw the stripy sampler.
It uses the same principle of plain soft embroidery cotton and matching Wildflowers and Watercolours threads. This time, though, instead of straight stripes, the stripes were V-shaped.
It was rather more complicated and time-consuming, but it must have been a success because it is still in use and I had to sneak it from her handbag for the photograph!
It did teach me, however, that designs should be planned with their final use in mind. This looked much better as a flat panel than it does as a spectacle case!