Some progress and some answers. First, the progress:

As usual, not as rapid as I’d like, but work limits the amount of time I have to stitch. Now on to the answers to questions in my inbox:

What stitch are you using for the dark areas in the current band?

I settled on Italian double sided stitch (aka Arrowhead stitch), as shown on page 32 of The Proper Stitch by Darlene O’Steen . (I found my copy years ago when it first came out, at the now long gone Yarn Shop in College Park, Maryland.) However, I’m finding that over 2×2 threads I can’t pull it tightly enough to emphasize the holes and make the appearance as mesh-like as I want. There’s just not enough room to compact the weave of my ground cloth sufficiently. If I do another piece using this technique, I’ll work over 3×3, or find a more loosely woven ground.

This is a squirrelly looking band. Is it original?

It’s a redaction of a 16th century artifact in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number 79.1.59 . It’s one of the many patterns that will be in The Second Carolingian Modelbook.

Which end is up?

I haven’t decided yet.

Why is the current band so big?

No particular reason. I saw it, charted it out and decided to play test it. Yes, it’s at a larger scale than the patterns I’ve worked so far, but it won’t be the largest pattern on the piece, nor will it be the least dense. When it’s done this strip will span the entire width of my stitching area. I’ll run some other patterns perpendicular to the established direction, framing the part I’ve already worked. On the other side of this current band will be several more wide bands of various types. They may also be worked horizon to horizon. I’m improvising as I go along.

Have you done any planning at all?

Yes, in a way, but not by orchestrating the entire piece beforehand. Instead I set ground rules. I established stitching bounds and guidelines. I marked the outline and centers of the total stitching area, and added some additional guidelines at 1/4 width and length intervals. I am leaving four threads bare between all stitched units. I’m trying to balance density as I go. I’m working with only one color (good old DMC 310 black), using either one or two strands, depending on the effect I want to achieve. Eventually there will be spots in the ground for which I cannot find or adapt strips or spot motifs of suitable width or height. For those places I intend to use additional fillings from the Blackwork Fillings Collection. And I’m trying to use all-new patterns – stuff I haven’t stitched before, with the goal of experimenting with as many of my new book’s patterns as possible. So you can think of this as a preview of things to come.

Why aren’t you jumbling these up instead of making reproductions? There are tons of beautiful repro samplers out there you can stitch. Why go to all this trouble?

Because stitching someone else’s repro isn’t something I’m interested in doing. I do admire those pattern drafters and stitchers who chose to do those things, but I find the concept has no appeal for me personally.

I’ve written about this before. (It’s the base stance that makes me a “rogue Laurel” in the SCA.) Exact replication is an extremely high form of craftsmanship to be sure, but it doesn’t manifest the highest level of understanding. Just as in a martial art, being able to reproduce the kata – the formal training exercises – shows extreme skill, but it’s something else entirely to be able to take the kata’s movement vocabulary, and improvise if attacked. Not everyone who can demonstrate kata in the dojo can turn that knowledge into effective fighting. Being able to go beyond kata skills is what differentiates the master from the adept. It’s the same for needlework. Reproductions are kata. Making an entirely new piece from the same vocabulary, such that were the new item to be transported back in time it would fit right in – that’s mastering true understanding. Now my current piece is NOT something that could be transported back in time that seamlessly. I do not make that claim. It’s only a training and teaching exercise. But it is one that’s stretching me in new ways – directions I could never achieve by working a stitch for stitch artifact reproduction, or from someone else’s chart or kit.

I intend to keep learning, and I invite you to learn with me. Needlework is a very safe subset of life in general. But make it exiting. Face uncertainty and possible failure. Think about taking inspiration from whatever you find, wherever you find it. Go for broke, combine old forms in new ways (or new forms in old ways). Start with a blank cloth and bungee jump with me. The ride can be scary at times, but it’s tons of fun.

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2 responses

  1. Apologies about font and color oddness, Raven is acting up tonight and I don’t have the time to tinker and repost. -k.

  2. Actually, I’m with you on the thought that the real ideal is to try to master the period "mindset" and then produce a piece that is not an exact reproduction but rather a piece in the same style. However I still don’t have a whole lot of confidence that I really have mastered the mindset yet, and reproductions are helpful in trying to get that mindset in my head and fingers.

    So you may not be as "rogue" as you think 😉

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