I amass materials for the Unstitched Coif project.

First, the recommended linen has arrived. It’s very densely woven, and fabulously fine. So fine in fact that my thinnest silk is way too heavy to work the fills. It’s even fine enough to make counting the threads with my Penny Method difficult.

Squinting as hard as I can, at max magnification, I really can’t parse out the count from my photos. I need a better photo set-up, but I can say that it’s significantly finer than 40 count (above).

What thread to use? I went back and asked Ms. Buckby, the project leader what was recommended for fills. She said that on her own piece she was using a a strand of 6 thread (120 denier) silk. So I went hunting for it here in the US, to save the overseas shipping cost.

No retailer of fine embroidery supplies I was familiar with listed denier on their catalogs, so I asked the wise folk at Needle in a Haystack if they had any recommendations. They did, and I ordered two possible candidates plus some wicked tiny #10 and #12 beading blunts to manage them. More on these threads when they arrive and I can beta test them. I will probably still use the silk I have for the more prominent outlines. Thankfully there’s plenty of linen, so I will probably mount a “sidecar” for experimentation, before making major commitments on my main piece.

I also ordered more of the 2mm paillettes I used on Two Fish. That’s only on 40 count, the leftover of which is what’s shown above, and you can see that they are just a smidge larger than the 2×2 thread cross stitches in the fish’s cheek. I am not sure that I will use them, but if I do, these tiny guys are about all that will fit in the “white space” of this intricate coif design.

I also ordered and received an adjustable head-mounted magnifier, much better suited to use with bifocals than the one I had. Thanks for the lead, Callie! I would not attempt countwork on this one with un-augmented vision.

Now while I wait for the threads, the next step is prepping the linen and transferring the cartoon’s outlines onto the fabric.

I did not wash this fabric prior to stitching on it. The weave is already so tight that stitching will be a challenge. Washing tightens linen. It may be a major faux pas, but I don’t want to take that risk.

I thought about using prick and pounce (stabbing tiny holes in the paper, affixing it securely above the fabric and sifting dark powder – usually crushed artist’s charcoal through the holes, then connecting the dots with drawing or painting), but in truth I have had a dismal track record with that method. Instead I am tracing, using glass and a strong light source. I usually do this by taping the design to my big dining room window, then taping the linen on top, but this time I am afraid that the piece is so large that even if I tape it, the weight plus the pressure of tracing will stretch the cloth.

Instead I have improvised a light table, using an old storm window, a utility light, some package padding I saved for no special reason, and some fabric scraps to keep the linen clean in case some basement filth remained on the window and sawhorses after I de-spidered and washed them down.

It worked well enough, although I kept knocking into those splayed sawhorse legs.

Next up was to align the grain of the fabric with the cartoon. Since it seems to be a bit more dense in the weft than the warp, I chose to align the design perpendicular to the selvedges. I’ll have to do some cutting and hemming, but we’ll get to that another day. And once the fabric was aligned, I had to decide on my framing method. I have two Millennium scroll bar sets. I could run them along the short edges of the design or the long edges:

Obviously if I did them the short way there would be lots of stitched fabric being rolled and stressed as I worked. Not optimal. Especially not so if I go through with my impulse to incorporate metal threads and paillettes. So long way it is with the design fully splayed out using my largest set-up.

Starting in the middle, I traced out the design using a plain old mechanical pencil with a thin lead. It’s not perfect. I did my best to secure the fabric, and it sagged/stretched far less than it would have had I taped it to a window, but I admit some of my lines are a tiny bit off. And then there’s that unfortunate bit I tried to erase. I’ll attempt to spot clean or camouflage that later. But the design is now on the cloth.

Tomorrow I cut my piece, and hem, with an eye to mounting on my frame. Since the entire thing will be laid out without being eaten on the scroll, I may even try edging with twill tape and lacing the sides for additional tension. Provided I can find the twill tape.

Stay tuned!

11 responses

  1. Do you mind sharing sourcing (place and type) of the recommended linen?

    1. This is the link included in the group project literature. It’s expensive, but not beyond reason for high quality 100% linen at high count. But what makes it truly expensive is shipping to the US, which effectively doubles the price.

  2. Have you looked at #100 silk sewing thread – it’s thin as a cobweb.

    1. I will look into it, thanks! Any particular brand or US based retail source?

      1. It’s been years since I used it, think it’s YLK. Made great tatted minis for dollhouses!

        1. YLI. Found it. Ordered, and will be assessed along with the ones already inbound. Thanks again!

  3. This is so exciting!

  4. Oh my goodness, I’ll be following your journey.

  5. You answered one question I had. I ordered some hand-dyed linen in 40 count, cut it to size for the cross stitch pattern, added my counting grid and it was smaller than I expected by about 3 inches?! After re-counting my grid several times, I checked the linen itself and instead of 40 count it was coming out as 42-43 count. Not a lot of difference on a small pattern, but on one that’s several hundred stitches each direction, it added up.

    Right now, I perch reading glasses on my nose with my bifocals. Sometimes I resort to balancing a table-top magnifier on my lap in addition to all that. I may have to break down and order higher magnification lenses for my Mag-eyes.

    1. I forgot to say – I can’t imagine myself doing counted work on linen that fine! Not without a far better magnification/light/frame/chair setup than I currently have!

      1. Not uncommon! The craftsperson who dyed the linen started with 40 count. But the process of dyeing itself often involves subjecting the cloth to heat or stress that introduces shrinkage. And that shrinkage is not always uniform. Sometimes weft shrinks more than warp, and the cloth gets narrower in the selvedge to selvedge direction, sometimes the opposite, and it gets shorter in the length. And sometimes the cloth ends up with tighter and looser areas, because agitation or other processes weren’t uniform.

        It’s always a good idea to confirm counts both on unprocessed and custom dyed grounds before stitching.

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