Waaayyy behind on my blogging, I’m now not only finished with the stitching on the first Forehead Cloth, I’m finished with the second one, too.
Because I have only a limited supply of the excellent hand-dyed thread, and the first triangle had a voracious appetite, I decided to work the second both smaller in size, and with only two plies of the four-ply silk floss. I am not sure that the thread maker intended it to be used stripped into plies, but with patience and gentle encouragement, I was able to do so with minimal tangling and no losses. Gentle finger spinning counter to the direction that the plies were assembled helped, as did tension on the strand while separating. And it worked! I have more than enough to finish, as you will see below.
On the design – I went through a couple of iterations. I started with one from my forthcoming book:
I liked the larger motif, but not the smaller one. It has a very prominent cross, and while it might not have been so apparent when a large area was worked, I noticed it. I am not comfortable wearing crosses, so I drafted up a new companion motif to use in its place. You can see the old one just peeking out at the top of the photo below, for comparison.
I liked the visual balance of this one better. While I lost some of the light/dark checkerboard effect of the original, I gained an interesting play of curves and frames. Considering that this pattern conforms to the 45-deg/90-deg/180-deg composition rule found in just about every historical piece of linear stitch count-work (“Knight’s Move” two-over-one up stitches are exceedingly rare), seeing curves at all is almost an optical illusion.
Here is the final, plus a bonus doodle on top, which I’ll discuss in a bit:
After I finish the bonus bit on top, I will remove the basted guidelines, gently clean my stitching, and draft out the lining and strings. I’ve got some pre-shrunk muslin I’ll use as the lining. I may use a length of this even weave, folded or rolled into a quarter-inch strip for the ties. That appears to be the treatment most like the extant historical pieces. The other option is using some purchased woven tape, which I think would look clunky and mismatched, by comparison. In any case, there is no needle lace trim, adornments on the tie strands, or other embellishments for these. I suppose I could add paillettes to this one, but I’ll save that bit of effort for a future matched coif-cloth set.
On to questions from my inboxes:
You said you proof against established work. What do you mean by that?
I cue my work off established, stitched areas. Unless there’s no way around it, I rarely establish a very long outline or outlying branch teetering off into as yet unstitched territory. I tend to bend my working logic so that I am usually stitching relatively close to finished bits. That way I can easily confirm that I am still on-count and parallel to the rest of the piece. If I am off, it’s almost invariably because I missed count on a diagonal, going over or up an extra thread (sometimes both). I can reduce the chance of error if I do that diagonal by eyeballing a one-stitch horizontal or vertical displacement from an established grid point, rather than making the diagonal with no point of nearby reference. In this way I am constantly checking my work for “true.”
Another way to proof off established work is to work attachment point stitches when they are encountered, if I intend on finishing up that divergent design segment and making that meeting later on from another direction. It’s much easier to see and meet up with a little “twig,” and to spot potential deviations early on, than it is to meet up with a solid line of stitching, where identifying the individual stitches can be tricky, later on.
What thread are you using/Where did you get it?
I got it at Birka – four ply filament silk hand dyed using iron and tannin (full disclaimer here) by my Stealth Apprentice. She is launching a small venture producing historically inspired Roman jewelry, plus embroidery threads and ribbons dyed with historically accurate materials and methods. I am helping by being an early customer, sponsor, and “beta tester” for the threads.
Now on to the doodle.
That little lump in the hand-held frame above the two triangle-shaped forehead cloths… What the heck is that?
It’s a doodle. I had thread and ground fabric left over after I finished the two cloths, so I decided to just aimlessly stitch away, trying out some of the larger fills or smaller all-overs that rarely have scope to come out and play (like those on the forehead cloths themselves). This particular design is from my free collection of fills, Ensamplario Atlantio. No plan here, just idle stitching while the ground is still in one easy-to-handle piece. Along the way over the past week or so, my doodle has decided it wanted to bear a motto and become a mini-sampler. So here is progress to date:
I’m not sure what will be below the motto, but whatever it is will keep me doodling for another week or two. For those who want more info, the alphabet I used is here.
Greetings ! Mouth watering black work patterns, oh ye gods I need a fix, more, more, more! Any news on your forthcoming book at all ? I can’t contain my excitement much longer………….. will keep taking deep breaths……..phew ! And thank you for such interesting and inspirational posts x
I noticed you’ve added a link to Ensamplario to Antique Pattern Library. Very generous.
These forehead cloths and the sampler-in-progress are lovely.
Like you, I am uncomfortable using designs with prominent cross patterns, although I could see myself using them for friends with strong Christian beliefs. And I avoid fylfots. Ugh. Completely unusable under any circumstances, but such a waste of a design element.
I am happy to help APL. It’s one of my fave places on the ‘net. And I agree with you about the cultural significance of arbitrary geometric designs. I cannot participate in the rehabilitation of a symbol so strongly linked to hate.
I am in awe of your abilities! Thank you for these posts, infrequent though they be.
Can you give us hope and let us know when your second book on The New Carolingian Modelbook: Counted Embroidery Patterns from Before 1600 is coming out Please?
Still working on it. Please indulge me in that stripping it back down to re-issue in affordable format as two (possibly three) separate volumes is a lot of work, that has to take place in between the demands of a deadline-intensive career and home responsibilities. Apologies for the delay!
[…] next bit was the motto, described in the last post, so I won’t reiterate […]
I enjoy visiting your site once in a while and read updates. I love your Blackwork and have been using the Carolingian Modelbook for many samples.
I am delighted that you are having fun with the “pattern children.” Feel free to send along photos of the mischief they attempt while in your care. If you like, I’ll post or link to them. Seeing what others do with the designs always makes my day. 🙂