EMBROIDERY QUESTIONS

From the inbox:

How did you draw the pattern on the cloth?

I
didn’t. I have the design drawn out on a piece of graph paper. I’m
copying that design onto the fabric, using the weave of the linen as
the equivalent of graph paper. Each unit on my ground cloth is a two
thread by two thread square. I worked from the graph to establish the
outlines in the center motif, then "colored in" the long armed cross
stitch background. I worked the first repeat of the lettuce around the
edges from the graph, but subsequent iterations of it from the piece I
embroidered (much less cumbersome than toting around a book).

Was this stuff actually done on the count in the 1600s?

A
vast amount was. There are a couple of caveats though. Some people
assert that a minority of counted thread pieces worked on very fine
linens used some other method to establish the evenly spaced graph-like
appearance. In particular, they suggest that some sort of evenly woven
but easily unraveled fabric was placed over the ground cloth, and used
as a stitching guide. The stitching was done over the placement aid,
and its threads were later removed from the work. Other people suggest
that pouncing, either over paper or another fabric was used to produce
evenly spaced dots, which were then employed as the spacing mechanism
for the ground. I’m kind of skeptical on the pounced dots thing. That’s
a ton of very smearable dots in a very small space.

Another
exception is theorized for other forms of voided foreground stitching.
(Yesterday’s piece is voided foreground). Some of the panels look more
like someone drew the foreground motifs freehand, then filled in the
background with the covering stitch. Again I can’t confirm or deny
this. Some panels (especially those with repeats) look quite precise to
me – too stitch-precise and weave-aligned to have been freehand
sketches. To my eye, the few pieces that might have been done this way
are pictorial panels that have almost a folk-art type naivety of line
and motif placement. One of these panels is pictured in Bath’s Embroidery Masterworks. While it’s not a probability that all voided foreground works were done this way, it’s not a impossibility that some were.

I’m
sure the total state of research into the origins of voided foreground
styles and Assisi embroidery has gnawed into this problem. I haven’t
kept up my reading in it of late. My long time pal and needlework buddy
Kathryn Goodwyn has an excellent article
on voided foreground stitching on line (this group of styles is her
specialty). She mentions the hand drawn outline variant as a curious
offshoot.

Are the colors accurate?

Green
wasn’t the most popular but it was used. However the natural color, brownish unbleached linen I had on hand wouldn’t have been used. A historical stitcher would have preferred a much lighter ground. The accompanying black
outlines in this piece are also open for debate. Few pre-1700 pieces
employ contrasting color outlining, although most later examples of the
style do. The original of this design clearly employs two different colors in the work. Even in the black and white photo of the original (dated
1560-1625), the background is clearly a different color from the
outlines. The original also shoed background area behind the lettuce
north and south of the main panel as being worked in long-armed cross stitch – something I don’t intend to do.
(Lettuce isn’t a technical term for the extra borders framing the main
panel, it’s just my own term of reference).

Linen thread?

It
is out there. DMC has some. There are linen threads made by other
makers, too. But sometimes expedience wins. I’m not doing this piece as
a totally accurate historical study. It really is a doodle. I’m
playing. I happened to have the Flower Thread on hand, and it worked
nicely with the weave size of my ground cloth.

I’m offended. My 11-spi stitching isn’t "coarse!"

For
me, 11 stitches per inch on 22 count linen is much less fine than the
gauges I usually pursue. I prefer the look of stitching on a really
buttery thick 50-count linen (that’s 25 stitches per inch). Compared to
that work, 11 stitches per inch is as large as logs. My doodle is a
quick study, again not intended for any purpose other than to let me do
some stitching at events, and for the fun of it.

What does the back look like?/Do you use knots?

My
backs are relatively neat, not because I’m a fanatic about making them
so and not because I believe that that’s the way they should be. My
backs are neat because that’s the way I stitch (historical pieces often
have absolutely chaotic backs that would make most modern needlework
judges recoil in horror). And yes – heresy of heresy – unless I’m
working something that’s intended to be totally two-sided, I do use
knots. No – if done carefully they don’t pull out or show through to
the front. Savage me if you must, but I reserve the right to ignore you.

What stitches did you use?

Double running (aka Spanish Stitch, Holbein Stitch, Vorstitch) for the outlines. Here’s a double running stitch mini-lesson
from the Skinner Sisters website. I could also have used back stitch, a
less represented but also historically accurate way to do them on
voided foreground works. Long armed cross stitch is less well known
than it’s X-like cousin with equal length arms, but it’s a very useful
thing. There’s a research article about it here
by Christian de Holcombe (another needlework pen pal), but a short
example of how to (along with quite a few related stitches) at this site.

Doodle?/What’s it going to be?

I
haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ll probably end up mounting this
piece for wall display. I called it a doodle because it’s an offhand
and trivial effort, a time-filler, and bit of life’s marginalia. It’s
not a Big Project, nor a planned project. It’s just… a doodle.

Your book is out of print, it’s o.k. for me to copy it, right?

No.
Absolutely not. Copyright doesn’t last until the publisher decides to
skip town, or drop the item from current inventory. US copyright lasts
75 years. Even if I get hit by a truck, that copyright is part of my
estate and would be owned by my heirs until 2070. Anyone who respects
authors, living or dead, should respect copyright.

I’m not an
ogre, hoarding rights and royalties (lord knows I’ve seen almost none
of the latter). I AM trying to get the thing back into print. One
publisher has turned me down flat in part because his research
indicated that illegal copies were being made.

So don’t do it,
as tempting as it might be. There’s more about copyright – in specific
your rights as a purchaser, as well as the author’s intellectual
property rights at Girl From Auntie and Yarnaholic Confessions.

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