Not to worry, it’s not a computer or programming glitch. It’s completion of the first bug on my rendition of the Unstitched Coif project. The bugs, birds and other inhabitants of this flowery sprawl are especially fun to work.

I may add a tiny motif in his “collar,” it seems a bit bare; and I may go back and darken up the bug body to get better contrast against the wings. But I do like the opposing directionality of the coil pattern on the wings. I am also still debating the density of the paillette spangles. Thinking on their original use, to provide both sparkle in dim interiors and by candlelight, and to signal the wealth of the wearer, packing them in for max bling seems right. However I know to modern eyes the look in full artificial light is cluttered, and I’ve gotten feedback accordingly. We’ll see.

As to new bits in execution – the bug’s eyes are also the same 2mm paillettes, but instead of being affixed with three little gold color faux silk stitches, they are held on with large French knots in the center. I thought about using beads, I have a large seed bead stash that I’ve kept since the 1960s. It came to me jumbled, and my sisters helped sort some of it out. I picked out three candidate colors – black glass, clear glass with gold foil centers, and an opalescent black/metallic glass, and have been experimenting with them both with and without the spangles underneath. You can see below how much better the flat spangle and French knot looks.

I haven’t ruled out using beads yet. There are some bugs with especially tiny faces. I might use them for the eyes of those. They are ever so slightly smaller than the paillettes, but not by much. But French knots may be the solution there, too.

In other developments, my kit has expanded. Thanks to the insight and generosity of long time friend and needlework confidante Kathryn Goodwyn (who took pity on me and came to the rescue) I now have a small clip on light for supplemental illumination. Kathryn says she found it in a Dollar Store (a low price bargain outlet for my UK visitors). I will probably jury rig a thin wooden yardstick across the top edge of my frame later on, as I get closer to the center of the piece and need the extra light there.

Another materials improvement to report. I have switched threads for the fills. I had been using YLI 100, doubled. One strand was too thin, but two looked a bit muddy. I am now using Au Ver à Soie’s Soie Surfine and I like the line and angles better. I won’t tell you when/where I switched, and I don’t think you’ll be able to spot it. Although the two approaches are very close in total width, the Surfine does stitch more smoothly and works up more evenly.

In addition, I attended the first Zoom meet-up for the project yesterday. Toni Buckby, our Fearless Leader did a great thumbnail intro to blackwork in general. its stylistic evolution over time, and the coif project in specific. We were truly inspired to plunge on in, or continue depending on our start status. There were enthusiastic folk in attendance from the UK, US, Canada, and New Zealand (that individual is truly dedicated, considering that it was 1:00am there at the time). It was fun to meet up, share questions, and generally get to know each other.

As promised, I did ask about plans to make the drawing of the coif accessible at the project website. Ms. Buckby assured us that it will be, although the website is still under construction, and it isn’t there right now. But if you do pop by, you’ll see a few of the V&A’s fantastic collection of blackwork artifacts, plus her invaluable hand drawn charts for the specific geometric fills used on them.

I admit the large cushion (V&A Accession T.81-1924) at the top of the official project page brings back wonderful memories.

A blurry image of that artifact was the first bit of blackwork I stumbled across, in Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book. I was smitten, and shortly thereafter I had need of a special gift for he who would eventually become my Resident Male. Although I had already graphed up and stitched a number of sampler bands from book photos, I took the plunge into blackwork with no guidance other than Mary Thomas, and produced this. It’s now very well worn, and the needle lace around the edges is quite frayed, but for something stitched in the spring of 1975, on muslin, using mostly the wrong stitches, it’s not entirely discreditable.

After that there my fate was sealed.

My blackwork underskirt forepart (left and centers) – stitched in Fall 1976-Spring 1977. My Forever Coif, started in Spring 1990 and still unfinished.

4 responses

  1. Ooh…it is lovely to see you doing so well with your project and you are enjoying it so much too..I can feel the joy ! I have not started mine yet . I am savouring the moment ! 😊 x

  2. That spangle density looks perfect to me – a good balance for the density of the blackwork itself. Any less would look meagre.

    Congrats on finding the ideal silk for the stitching.

    I’m so glad that your vision has not been affected by the shingles. I hope the antivirals are doing their thing and your recovery is going well.

    1. Thanks! I appear to have lucked out with Shingles. I got the antiviral early, and ended up with a very mild case. Vision and hearing were not compromised, and scarring is minimal. I’ll get the vaccine as soon as I have the doc’s go – probably at the end of next month, and hope to avoid any future recurrence.

  3. I like the spangle density on the spangles. And those french knots on the bug eyes were a good choice. I think it would take some pretty tiny beads to look right. I have to wonder they even make beads that small.
    I totally understand about being smitten by blackwork. I went to an EGA show yesterday – blackwork is even more gorgeous in person. But so is the goldwork and the Russian goldwork and the Japanese embroidery and the… my list doesn’t end!
    Your first project is very cool, even better that you figured it out on your own. It seems so many want hand holding and step by step instructions now. I sort of understand that though – I’m a bit overwhelmed by the embroidery casket/cabinet I am just starting. Wiser minds would probably ask if I shouldn’t do something smaller for a first stumpwork/goldwork project!
    So glad you lighting situation has been improved, and even much more happy that your shingles is cleared up.

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