I’m well into the stitching on my Mystery Project. I’ve been forced to
abandon some of my more ambitious ideas. Working on the fulled ground
presents some problems, only some of which I anticipated.
– there’s the Fuzzy Texture problem. It’s no so easy to transfer the
design to be stitched onto a fuzzy, uneven ground. I started by drawing
my design freehand on paper, then pricking and pouncing. That’s the
time-honored technique of taking a pin, a fork, or one of those spiked
tracing wheel gizmos and piercing a paper pattern. While the modern
equivalent uses a waxy equivalent of carbon paper behind the paper
pattern, transferring its color to the substrate ground as it’s
pierced, the ancient method is slightly different. In the old way, once
the paper was pierced, it was placed on the ground and finely crushed
chalk (or charcoal, or another substance) was sprinkled on the pattern.
The theory was that the fine dust would filter through the holes and
mark the ground fabric. Once the ground fabric was marked the stitcher
could make the design less likely to blow away by over-basting the
I do something similar. I prick the paper, lay it
down on my cloth, then trace over the lines using a fat and crumbly
piece of sidewalk chalk stolen from the kids. That leaves dots. Then I
either stitch directly over the dotted lines, or baste over them so
that they don’t flutter or blot away ask I work. This works well
enough, and seemed to be the best way transfer the design to my fulled
surface. But it wasn’t really perfect. The fuzz made the lines less
than crisp, and I did a lot of eyeballing where design elements were to
be as I went along.
The other problem posed by the surface
texture was the loft of the fuzz. I did go back and re-wet my surface,
whacking it down a bit to smooth it out, but even so – tufts of fuzz
sometimes bloom between embroidery stitches. That’s not the neatest
Second, there’s the Substrate Structure problem. While the
fulling looks nice and uniform on the surface, the original stitch
construction is still very much present inside the fulled fabric. That
means that it is very difficult to get neat, smooth edges on stitches
that require them because in some cases the spot where a stitch needs
to be made isn’t dense enough to support the stitching. As a result,
edges that cross knit stitch columns or rows tend to reveal the
underlying structure as they deform around it. Satin stitch and the
flavors of ground-cover type couching I wanted to use suffer from this
ragged edge forced by fabric structure problem.
And third, there’s the Ground Thickness problem I anticipated.
The fulled fabric is thick and springy. It’s not easy to pull a needle
threaded with worsted through it (at least not in every spot).
Therefore stitches have to "nip" the ground rather than fully penetrate
it. This is annoying as the best effects and crispest edges are
often associated with plunging the needle through the cloth
perpendicular to its surface, rather than scooping up a bit on the end
of the point.
To deal with these problems, I’ve retreated a bit. I’ve greatly
simplified the design I’m attempting. I’m using a lot of stem and
outline stitch, and a little bit of Romanian couching. I’m also using
a little bit of a trellis style laid ground typical of Jacobean crewel
work. For an idea of what I’m taking about, here’s some else’s pomegranate (although I’m doing the same fruit, mine looks quite different from this kit).