The Unstitched Coif project continues.
After some experimentation, mostly documented in prior posts, I think I’ve hit on what will probably be the combo of threads and techniques I am going to use. I am still waiting for my fine beading needles and one last fine filament silk, which I may or may not work in. I like the look of mixed threads in a project, even mixed blacks, so even if that thread is late to the party, it still may be incorporated.
As usual, both US and UK pennies provided for scale.
Obviously I am going to be using counted fills for most if not all of the blackwork fields. I may do a few areas in a freehand fill, but probably not speckling. I like the look but find execution of those tiny dots very boring.
Having tried multiple times to whip the gold around silk, I finally realized that whipping silk around gold is much easier to do. I used a double strand of the Japanese Gold #5 for the stems and leaf veins, in simple couching. But I thought that the plain gold lines looked quite wimpy for the stems, and the visually dense bits of blackwork look stranded, and not unified into a design. So I will be whipping just the exposed stem areas with silk. I experimented with two different silks in the bit above, the longer stem being the Golden Schelle hand-dyed, and the shorter one being the unidentified small batch silk I had in my stash. Both use two strands. I may end up using them both, with the Golden Schelle for wider, more prominent stems, and the other for smaller offshoots. Time will tell.
The curly tendrils are single strand Japanese Gold #5, again simply couched. The half-flower center (cut off by the edge of the coif) is the same gold, double strand, again couched. I will do the full circle flower centers in spiral couching. I thought about a spiderweb, but as I found out this wrapped gold does not play well as a passing thread, so I will stick to couching.
And the paillette. I know he’s all by himself right now, but as I finish areas I will be peppering the between ground with them, just for the fun of added bling.
To answer questions and issues from my inbox:
- Are you planning or plotting out all of your fills beforehand?
No. I’m just picking them at random whim, at most considering if I want a dense or a lighter one for the spot I am about to stitch. Since picking out on this fine ground is not fun, even if I am not 100% satisfied with my choice, I will keep going with any fill started, once committed. In general if a fill has an identifiable motif in it I try to center that bit in the “meatiest” part of the area being stitched, then work from that point out to the edges, but I don’t plot out the exact placement ahead of time, and fills in adjacent units can end up skew on count to each other. Sometimes I even do that on purpose to increase visual movement in the composition.
- Where are you getting your fills?
Well, if you know me you know I have endless notebooks full, some of which I have shared for free elsewhere on this site. Plus I have been known to make them up on the fly. But I do not intend to use this project as personal advertising, and won’t be mentioning them again.
- Can you send me the pattern?
It’s not mine to share. I’ve put in feedback to the project organizer suggesting that once the official website is up and running later this month, that the design be made available there.
- How can you see to do this so small?
Waybackwhen, my 25 year old eyes could do this un-augmented – nearsightedness being a bit of a natural magnifier. But that was long ago. I am using a lighted magnifying aid which can be worn over glasses. It does take a bit of getting used to, so it’s not a perfect solution but so far it’s working for me. Again, I am uncomfortable being a product shill, but the thing made by Beileshi, is easily found on Amazon, and is reasonably priced.
- Where did you get the linen?
I’ve posted the link before, so here it is again. It’s not exorbitantly priced for linen but shipping to the US doubles the cost, which makes it a bit spendy, and there’s no real break in the shipping surcharge for buying larger amounts and sharing the bounty. As far as quality, in my piece at least there is a fair bit of slubs and really fine threads, that makes counting a bit harder. The weave is also off a bit – you can see that my motifs are stretched a bit north-south as opposed to east-west. But at this scale I doubt anyone will notice.
- Are you stitching 1×1?
No, that would be a bit much even for me. I’m doing mostly 2×2 because I find it easiest to count, but the butterfly squares fill above was done 3×3. I may mix up the counts to achieve density effects. Again time will tell.
- Where did you get the spangles? Are they handmade?
No, they are not. They are tiny 2mm center-hole gold-tone circles, flat (no cupping like a faceted sequin). These are the same ones I used on my Two Fish piece. I will share the source again because I know paillettes this small are very hard to find in the US. I ordered them from General Bead in San Francisco, California.
- Too bad, looks nice but I’m disappointed. You know you aren’t being historically accurate, right?
I don’t pretend that I am. The base pattern cartoon provided by the Unstitched Coif project certainly is. The general aesthetic is. The project leader assures me that this particular linen is the closest she has found to the linen of museum artifacts. But this is my modern interpretation of that museum original, and I do not claim it to be a fully documented representation of a specific historical style or period-limited materials/technique set. Here are my aberrations:
- My thread mix – For black, partially filament silks with modern dye, partially spun silks in a mix of modern and historically documented dyes. The gold tone thin silk I am using for couching and affixing the paillettes is “art silk” – rayon, that I found in India. I had it on hand, and it’s largely invisible in this project. I spent enough on the linen and other materials that I feel justified in economizing here.
- The gold thread. It’s got the look (more or less) and is a thin filament of metal around a silk core, but it’s not exactly what was used contemporary with the base design, and is unsuited to use as a passing thread on a ground this dense. But again, I had it on hand and it is affordable.
- The paillettes. Machine made, probably mylar painted gold. Again I plead my pocket.
- [UPDATE] The density of the paillettes. Some people have stated that my use of them is too tightly packed
- The fills. I know my fancy will run away with me (it already has), and my fills will be my own choice and largely of my own devising. I will not be able to be individually documented one by one to specific historical artifacts or blackwork depictions.
- The stitch used for outlining. I’m using reverse chain. Yes, I know that Jacqui Carey specifically points it out as a modern stitch in Elizabethan Stitches, but given its gently raised line, speed of accurate execution, ease of handling tight curves, and its vague similarity to Elizabethan Twisted Chain (also cited by Carey), I can be forgiven this time- and effort-saving sin.
- The whipped couched gold. No historical source for this I know of, but I also admit I am not posessed of encyclopedic knowledge.
I’m enjoying following you on this fascinating journey! Thanks for posting so much interesting information! Your work is (as always!) beautiful.
Your precision is so satisfying to look at, I can’t wait to see more!