Tag: online university
At this point, the challenges abruptly increased… The petals are to be filled with Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch With Return (which is one of the stitches from the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass), but in a combination of metal and silk threads. The outer petals will be red and gold and the inner petals white and silver, and we are explicitly instructed to finish the back stitching (both white and red) before tackling the filling.
The red silk is used for the return – the straight bar stitch – and the gold for the up and down buttonhole stitch. This means, of course, that there are long stitches on the back of the fabric, but it also creates a rather lovely chequerboard effect of gold and red. Up and down buttonhole stitch is one of my favourites, but as a detached stitch it offers a few challenges, especially in the gold thread. I was very glad to be working this in a frame resting on a stand, as there were times when both hands, and one of my bone stilettos, were needed to bring the gold thread under control.
I’ve noticed that in the metal thread, the stitch is squarer than in the silk, which compressed itself into a much denser fabric. I suppose this adds to the contrast in textures, but it will be interesting to see whether it becomes more even as I become more experienced with it!
I’m rather pleased with it so far. In a couple of the petals, the rows somehow are not as straight as they should be – I’m not quite sure how that happened – but, if you click on the image you will see the larger version, and I think it shows evidence of improvement in technique. Which, after all, is the whole point of my following these courses…!
Having finished the embroidery on the Glittering Nightcap – even if I haven’t assembled it yet – I decided that I would allow myself to begin on the Tudor Rose. The goal of this course is to introduce stitches and effects that combine silk and metal thread – in the same stitch, not in the same thread – and I am hoping that it will give me ideas for tackling representations of ancient Egyptian jewellery for the Dreams of Amarna.
The first element is a fairly simple one, in effect a version of Pekinese Stitch, but with three rows of back stitch for the base, and a metal thread used for the interlacing. The challenge here is in making sure that the silk thread is sufficiently loosely stitched to make the interlacing possible, without being so loosely stitched that nothing stays in its’ place. Since the metal thread structure is of a core wrapped around with a fine film, when the thread is bent, the film sometimes stands away from the core, catching on the silk. Another key for Tricia in this course – as in fact in all her courses – is learning to be aware of the use to which a particular thread was intended to be put. We need not restrict ourselves to that use, but we do need to be aware of it!
I rather suspect Tricia of letting us in gently, here, because the next element she describes is also fairly simple. The leaves are outlined in reverse chain stitch, in silk, and then filled using alternating rows of reverse chain in gold and in silk.
I hasten to add I have no objection to being let in gently – I’ve looked at the instructions for some of the later elements and rather expect a deal of unpicking to happen, so I’ve been able to enjoy handling the silk threads, which are quite heavy, but soft and “lofty” so they don’t punish the fabric unduly. If you look closely at this photo you will see that the olive green used for the stem is slightly thinner than the more emerald green thread used for the leaves. The weight matches nicely with the gold thread, so the more complicated elements that are coming up should look well balanced.
The pictures in this post link to some close-ups I find positively terrifying. It’s astonishing to think that not so long ago I could never have taken a shot like these without buying some pretty serious equipment. I spent some time picking my digicam, but there is absolutely nothing special about it, and yet…!
Even looking at the real thing it is hard to see details. The eye tends to be overwhelmed by the glitter – which is very useful if there are elements one would prefer others not noticed, but positively counter productive if the aim is to analyse the techniques.
I am trying to compare and assess the differences between the Detached Buttonhole Stitch with Return worked into Chain Stitch, which is what I did on the Crown of the Nightcap with the Bordered Detached Buttonhole Stitch with Return, which is what I used on the Brim.
In the case of the silk used for the leaves, one of the reasons the stitching on the crown appears loose and floppy compared with the stitching on the brim is that in the latter case I decided not to heather my threads.
I had the impression while I was stitching that the stitching on the Brim was ending up neater and tighter than the stitching on the Crown. Looking at these photos I still can’t decide whether I was right or not!
Maybe in some cases it is. Maybe when the whole thing is made up and I can get the Crown and the Brim in a single photograph, I might be able to come to a decision!
It has been a very long haul, but at long last the silkwork on the brim of the Glittering Gentleman’s Nightcap was finished. That in turn meant that I could get going on the goldwork, of which there isn’t really very much – only the stems, and the centres of the pansies.
In fact, it took rather longer than I expected, because the gold thread was rather more tender than I remembered, ravelling and fraying if I so much as looked at it. It’s the same thread as I used on the crown, so I can only imagine that either I have forgotten how it behaved last time, or that the tail end of the spool has loosened slightly in the time I’ve not used it. I can quite believe that would happen, since it’s over a cotton core, and natural fibres can be rather sensitive to atmospheric conditions.
Once the goldwork was done, I could put the spangles on. Continuing my slight alterations to the instructions, I’ve used rather fewer spangles than on the crown. I’m hoping that that, too, will help to provide contrasts of light reflectance and texture.
Of course, now I need to gather both courage and wits to put the thing together!
All these pictures are clickable so you can look at them in more detail, but I will take some more close-up pictures to compare the brim and the crown. In particular, I want to see whether there are obvious differences between the Detached Buttonhole Stitch with Return that I worked on the crown, and the Bordered Detached Buttonhole Stitch with Return that I worked on the brim, and if so what they are!
Continuing my idea of using different stitches on the brim, I spent a little more time experimenting with stitches mentioned in Jacquie Carey’s book “Elizabethan Stitches”.
As I have mentioned before, the difference in mental models between a braidmaker and an embroiderer are clearly considerable, since although the diagrams are very clear, I spent much longer than I would have expected in puzzling them out, especially the Holly Braid Stitch. Eventually I decided that it needed a much stiffer thread than pearl cotton, and indeed, the silver thread version came together much more easily than I expected.
The Double Twisted Chain Stitch was much more straightforward to tackle, although wrangling the thread was quite a challenge at times – as you can see from the uneven stitch size and tension.
The Holly Braid Stitch is a little like a plaited braid stitch in that almost all the thread is on the surface in a neatly interlocked, textural pattern. It also uses up a lot of thread – maybe three or four times as much as the ordinary Reverse Chain Stitch that Tricia suggests for the stems. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have enough of the gold #381 in the kit to embark on stitch choices that are so profligate of thread, although if I find a spare tube in my stash, I may change my mind.
Nomenclature is a constant source of puzzlement. What Jacquie Carey refers to as Trellis Stitch – and offers an Elizabethan version for – I think of as Single Brussels Stitch. Jacquie’s is worked upward from the base cord, while Single Brussels I have always worked downward. I think I need to try again with these stitches, using something other than a metallic thread, because neither of these patches looks quite right!
Elizabethan Twisted Braid Stitch was rather more fun. Most of the thread is at the front of the fabric, making it a good choice for a metallic, or other expensive thread. The appearance – when the eye isn’t completely dazzled by sparkle! – is of an alternating twisted bar and straight bar. I clearly need to work the stitch for longer to learn to keep it consistent in width and to learn to alter the stitch length for differing effects, but I was pleased to find that the structure of this one made sense to me quite quickly.
Elizabeth Twisted Chain differs from the modern version in that both of the ends of the stitch are inside the loop, instead of one in and one out as in the modern version. It’s also worked in reverse – although that, I find, is no longer a challenge for me. The reverse versions on Chain Stitch are so much easier to work in metallic threads than the ordinary version that it is becoming second nature, and faced with a thread that is difficult for other reasons, it is also becoming second nature to consider whether working in reverse might help.
It is a constant source of delight to me to find that the things I learn, and the things I thought I would learn, are not always the same. The Online University courses, and my own experiments have given me more, and different, strings to my bow…
Just as it does every winter, my work on my current Thistle Threads project has slowed to a crawl. The bay window where I have a decent light to work by is too cold to be inviting, and the grey, overcast, and rainy days result in very poor light even at the best of times. Given the effects of this past winter on other parts of the UK, the lack of light to embroider by is a very minor matter – but it does explain why canvaswork became so very appealing to me!
However – trumpets, please! – I have now finished all of the Gilt Sylke Twist on the brim of the Glittering Nightcap! The photograph above does enlarge if you click on it, but I’ve noticed that it is slightly blurred at the edges. That isn’t surprising, as it is quite a long piece, and it was quite hard to get all of it in the frame at once.
So – to make it easier to look at – here is one half of the design as I have stitched it up. You will remember that I decided to work the brim slightly differently to the main section of the cap, so that when it was finished it would be even more of a sampler of techniques than it is already.
All the detached buttonhole with return was worked in the style I found in Jacquie Carey‘s book Elizabethan Stitches, in which the border of the stitch is integral to it. This in fact makes it rather easier to stitch – once you have a grip on how it works! – because you aren’t trying to stitch into a chain stitch border, so the thread isn’t quite so mauled about and the gilt wire doesn’t break quite as often.
I also substituted satin stitch for the sepals to create a change of reflectance. I’m now wondering whether the little scarlet buds should be taken out and worked in double padded satin stitch, too, maybe even in the silk thread used in the trellis stitch pomegranate centres, rather than the gilt sylke twist.
There was another clatter of the letterbox and a gentle thunk on the carpet recently. It was soon followed by some excited squeaks and a dash upstairs to print out Month 1 of the History and Instructions.
This time, instead of a clear distinction between metal thread stitching and silkwork, as in the Floral Glove Needlecase, the Tudor and Stuart Goldwork Masterclass, or the Glittering Gentleman’s Nightcap, the aim of the course is to show how the metal and silk threads were combined within stitches and motifs.
I’m hoping that this will give me some new ideas and techniques to apply to my Dreams of Amarna panels. However, I intend to be a good girl. I won’t actually start this until I’ve done the Glittering Gentleman’s Nightcap, which is still “going slow” owing to a combination of end-of-year exhaustion and fugitive winter light. With a bit of luck, I may be able to get started in the spring.
It’s been very difficult to get back to the Glittering Nightcap, but I must, because in December the Tudor Rose course is starting. There are, I think, four pomegranates, two carnations, and two pansies to do, as well as all the leaves.
The pomegranates are going to be quite a trial. The central section is worked in Trellis Stitch, using the Soie Perlee. I seem to have begun with the one section that was easy to work, because the central section of the next pomegranate – still unfinished – took me several sessions to do, purely because of the angles at which I was attempting to work.
Of course, fugitive winter light isn’t helping, either. Sometimes I finish the other stuff I need to do, sit down at my frame, decide after about three stitches that there isn’t enough light to see what I’m doing, and get up again, muttering discontentedly!
I’ve continued to make changes in the working, as well. I’ve used the Bordered Corded Brussels stitch for both the white and pink sections of the pomegranate, and rather than working the white in a “vertical” alignment, I’ve worked it all “horizontally” – relative to the body of the motif, not to the weave of the fabric, of course.
If you look at the top right hand corner of this carnation, you will see one of the hazards of working with Gilt Sylke Twist. The gold wire has scrunched itself up into a single length that looks almost like a bullion knot. What must have happened was that the wire snapped, and then for one reason or another caught on the right side of the fabric instead of continuing through with the needle to make the stitch.
I’ve decided that I definitely prefer Bordered Corded Brussels Stitch to working Corded Brussels stitch into a Chain Stitch border. It is much easier to work, because there’s no fighting through the stitching of the border, and it looks very clean and crisp – at least when I get it right.
I’ve done the buds, the pansies, and one carnation, so now I have three pomegranates and one carnation to do before I move on to the leaves.
Although I have already commented that I usually regard Online University pieces as tutorial pieces to be worked according to the instructions, I’ve decided to make a few changes on the brim. This will mean I will be able to compare directly some of the working methods I’ve learned about since I began on the Nightcap, so I should learn even more!
The first change was to use Bordered Corded Brussels Stitch for much of the detached buttonhole stitch. I can’t say that I am finding the Gilt Sylke Twist markedly easier to use now than it was when I started. However, I do find that the Bordered Corded Brussels stitch is easier than working Detached Buttonhole with return into a border of chain stitch, and less prone to breakages of the gilt wire.
In the case of the strawberries I have also chosen to use satin stitch in place of trellis stitch for the sepals. I’ve padded the satin stitch, to give it a little more life.
There are changes to the Pansy too. Again, the petals are worked in Bordered Corded Brussels stitch, but the curled edges I worked in satin stitch. The outer edge is padded with a line of back stitch to lift it a little. Possibly not enough, so when I work the second pansy I might choose to pad the edge with chain stitch, or whipped back stitch to see whether it makes a difference.
The straw-coloured sepals are unpadded satin stitch this time, rather than the trellis stitch suggested in the instructions. It’s much less fiddly to do, but I wonder whether these changes rather undermine the style, looking a little too modern, too simple, too plain.
And if there is one thing I have learnt from the exhibition “In Fine Style“, and from its fabulous book, it is that the Tudors believed very much that more is more – more texture, more glitter, more colour, more everything.
Before I move on to work on the brim, here are close ups of two of the panels of the Nightcap. You will see, when you zoom in, the French Knots at the centre of the rose, contrasted with the Spiders Web stitch at the centre of the pansy.
You can also see that the spangles aren’t evenly spaced – there are some areas more densely spangled than others. I do think I have achieved a reasonably random placement, but humans are pattern-making animals, and it is really extraordinarily difficult to combine relatively even spacings with random placement! However, I am absolutely sure that attempting an even regular spacing would have had me stark mad if I had tried it!
In ordinary light, the spangles don’t really shine as I am sure they would in the flickering light of a candle. When I have the piece finished and on display somewhere, I will probably have to spend a lot of time getting the lighting right – without using real candles…
Once I had taken the photographs, I tacked a calico cover over the completed crown of the nightcap, back and front, and turned the fabric over in the frame in order to start on the brim. Covering the finished work will stop me catching my threads on it, or knocking spangles off as I work.