ONE FISH, TWO FISH. GREEN FISH, BLUE FISH.

Some progress on Fish #2, plus some more answers to questions that arrived after the last post.

2018-06-12 10.33.17

I’ve started on the main body section, using yet another fill from Ensamplario Atlantio.

How do you know where to put the patterns?

I’m not sure whether you are asking how I know which pattern to pick, or how I place them in their designated spot, so I’ll answer both.

Remember, in the last post I answered that I pick fills on the fly, and that occasionally I pick the wrong one?  Here’s an example – the first design I attempted for Fish #2’s main body section, shown just before it disappeared forever:

20180609_205049

Yes I went back and teased out this bit that I stitched on Friday night, replacing it with the intertwined Os.  I originally chose the discarded fill because I wanted something light, but I didn’t like the effect of this flat lattice as the finished bit grew.  It was too static, and in a large area, would have been very boring.  Plus, it would be difficult to achieve the visual offset that I used on the other side of the spine in Fish #1.  So I went looking for a slightly larger yet not too dense replacement.

The intertwined Os work.  But as I sat stitching over the weekend, I had an idea (warning – they are usually dangerous).  Those centers of the Os?  Think of how nifty they’d look and how blingy Fish #2 would be if each center was spotted with one tiny little 2mm gold spangle like this:

spanglethought-1

I’ve found some, but they come in a couple of different gold tones.  I am waiting for my wave lines gold thread to arrive, then I’ll try to get as close to it as I can with the spangles.  I won’t be working with that thread or the spangles until all of the blue and green bits are finished and the piece is safely mounted on my larger, flat frame.  And that can’t happen until after the coming weekend because I have promised to lead a beginners’ blackwork class in Rhode Island, and I want to have my Big Green Sampler  on display using my big scrolling frame.

How do I decide where in the spot to place a design?  It depends.  Most of the time I look at my shape and find the “meatiest” part.  In a square that’s easy – it’s the exact center of the shape, but for oddly contoured areas, it’s not always the geographic center.  Then I look at my chosen fill and find the bit of it I want to emphasize.  I center the element of the design I want to emphasize at the “meaty” point, and work from there out to the edges of my chosen shape.

Here are a few examples:

In the first red sample, I’ve more or less centered the fill in the shape, starting with the little flower in the middle  In the second, I placed the first acorn I stitched so that there would be one full, uninterrupted iteration of that motif, then completed around it according to the fill’s motif spacing.  In the gears, knowing I couldn’t get an entire dragon in the shape, I tried to place at least most of one in the upper left first, knowing that the eye starts looking there.  As a bonus, you can see that I tried to roughly center the circles-plus-flowers motif in the maroon gear to the dragon’s right.  I started that shape’s fill with the twined edges of the interlace immediately above the gear’s center hole.

How do you get such crisp lines and corners?

First, the silk I am using is longer staple and less fuzzy than cotton floss.  The red samples above are DMC cotton, and you can see the halo effect around each stitch.  Second, I   I also wax my threads rather aggressively – even silk. This compacts them and makes them more difficult to pierce.  Since each stitch is so short on 40 count linen (20 stitches = 1 inch), loss of sheen and coverage from waxing is not a problem.

I’m using double-running, with occasional short hops in “heresy stitch” to avoid getting caught in a dead-end.  Once I’m done the back of this piece will not be visible, so I am not taking pains to make it totally and completely two-sided.  However, I do use double running logic for the most part, for better thread economy and to avoid possible show-through that results from long hops across the back.

As I’ve described before, I use a blunt-point needle to avoid piercing the threads of my ground cloth, and never take an over-two stitch: one unit on my chart = one stitch, at all times.  While others do use a sharp to pierce the stitching thread, I find that I don’t like the look produced by piercing previous stitches: it’s often bumpy.  I prefer the butted-end-to-end look I achieve with a blunt.

You know this isn’t historical blackwork, right?

Yes, I know that, and I never claimed that it was.

Blackwork is a portmanteau term that covers many, many substyles of high contrast work, often but not always done in monochrome.  There are counted substyles and non-counted ones.  Some are single color or limited color range works done strip-style, counted or uncounted.   Some use abutting areas, each clearly outlined, and filled with various stitched treatments, occasionally but not always geometric, and not always done on the count.  Some use stippling as shading either inside or outside of their motifs.  Some of those rely on tonal variations to give the piece a three-dimensional feeling, and some don’t.  And there’s a whole school of modern blackwork that dispenses with outlines altogether, and uses the tonal density of the patterns – sometimes sticking to a limited number of base designs with modifications, and some using a wider range of fills to achieve a range from light to dark.  This last group draws inspiration from engravings and lithographs to make intricately shaded and modeled images.

What Fishies shares with historical styles are the use of heavy outlines, metallic accents, and geometric, counted fills.  What it doesn’t share is subject matter – this is a Japanese-inspired, quasi-traditional composition.  Also, the complexity of the fills I favor is not particularly well documented.  Historical inhabited blackwork tends to simpler fills than the wildly detailed ones I often use.  I do note that the body fill for Fish #1 WAS adapted from a historical source – from a sleeve shown in one of the late Elizabethan era men’s portraits, that – of course – I can’t lay hands on right now.

Happily I have no pressures to abide by covenants of historical accuracy for this work.  I’m having fun.  End of story.

Any other questions?  Feel free to post them here as comments, and I’ll try to answer.

fishie-1

 

6 responses

  1. Simply Amazing – I have been so curious about this “blackwork style” of stitching lately. I am a traditional cross-stitcher (some) and a quilter. When I landed on a link to Ensamplario Atlantio yesterday I thought I died and went to heaven. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS! I am wondering how on earth I am going to read back through your blog posts completely. These koi fish are exactly the type of stitching I am interested in creating. I almost feel like I can give it a try after finding this wealth of information. I am off to start a little sampler of some of your patterns so that I can learn how best to stitch them. Thank you for all you do.

    1. Delighted to be of help! (and tickled to have tempted yet another one to try this stuff out). 🙂

  2. I love this! I had never thought of transferring an outline to the fabric. It’s much easier than charting it out on graph paper. So, thanks to you, I think I will buy myself some supplies to transfer outlines to fabric. Well, after I finish my current blackwork project!

  3. I love the design. Would it be possible for you to post an outline of the main elements for us ham-fisted who can’t draw?

    1. I’ll consider it, but not until the thing is done

  4. […] per my earlier random thoughts, I sewed down one 2mm flat gold pailette in the center of each interwoven O shape in the body […]

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