Author Archive: kbsalazar

THOSE OLD LINENS…

First, progress on my Dizzy Grapes sideboard scarf. I’ve doodled up a companion border that I like, and I’ve begun working it. Now you can see what I meant when I said the field design would truncate where it intersects the border, rather than floating inside it.

The border is Italian Renaissance in feel, but with significant stylistic departures from standard borders as seen on museum artifacts. For one, there are mirrored bounces in the repeat. That’s not uncommon for main field designs, but not something I’ve encountered before in the companion borders. Usually the motifs in those repeat, all with the same directionality, as if they were all marching in precision following an unseen leader. The heavy reuse of design elements from the main field is a second departure. It’s not uncommon for borders to repeat bits of the design from the main field, and sometimes they do quote sections verbatim, but it’s relatively uncommon for those elements to be recomposed in this manner. Still, I’m not planning on entering this in any competitions where my usage and adaptation are judged.

Old Linens

I’ve gotten a couple question about the linen piece I used – where stuff like this can be found and the like. It so happens I lucked into a couple more old needlework and linen pieces yesterday. Younger Spawn was describing the treasure-hunt fun that can be had at estate sales, so we zipped off to one nearby. We both found goodies.

Among my discoveries were two darned net bridge cloths (small square table spreads). The substrate is hand knotted, in cotton, as is the darning and embroidered embellishments on top. I’m not good at dating/sourcing these pieces, but I suspect these are Sicilian Modano work, not earlier than 1920. Both are in very good condition with a couple of tiny brown “age spots” – probably the legacy of old spills. I don’t know enough to differentiate the earlier pieces of Modano from those of its 1980s revival. In the detail shot you can see the two weights of threads used for the darned fills, plus the long attached woven bullion style “picots” – not exactly sure what that stitch is called, plus a bit of straight stitch outlining.
Both are of exactly the same design, but one looks to have been savagely washed with bleach – it’s much whiter and about 20% smaller. One thing that does make me think they might be earlier is their size. By the 1980s bridge cloths were not exactly in style.

I’m not sure what I will do with these, but I couldn’t leave them there balled up, unloved and tagged at $1.00 each.

Lovely, but not actually linen. Moving on.

This is a tablecloth. The main body is twill weave linen, not suitable for counted stitching, but fantastic for surface embroidery. The hand-done withdrawn thread edgings are mostly intact, although the rondels in the corners are all slightly damaged. The main body of the cloth though is stain and damage-free. I won’t be using it at table – it’s too small for my dining room, but again the price was right, and the right person might be able to make a wonderful 16th/17th century Italian underdress/smock from it. $2.00 for about two yards of 60-inch wide linen? Not a bad price.

And at last – that upon which I will be stitching. I have some specific ideas for these twelve machine finished napkins. They are not uniform in size – some have shrunk significantly. A couple have stains that must be worked around.

The thread count on the one I’ve “penny-ed” is representative – roughly 38 x 38 threads per inch. Some variation and slubbing, and some of the napkins are a bit more worn, but 12 roughly 14″ (about 36 cm) squares of evenweave for $6.00? That’s a good deal.

So there you have it. Yard sales. Consignment stores. Estate sales. Look for the hamper of neglected household linens. Sort past the old sheets and cafe curtains, maneuver around the ladies looking for interesting souvenir tea towels, and wadded up in the bottom of the bin may be treasure to appreciate, to re-use, or to stitch upon.

LAZY CENTERING

I continue along with what has been nicknamed The Dizzy Grapes sideboard scarf. I successfully rounded the second group of main motifs, and am up to working the small one in the center of the field.

As you can see, there’s plenty more to stitch, including the border. And you can also see the slow rise problem I described earlier. The cloth is flipped from the last set of photos, but the repeat on the right is one unit skew to the one on the left – an inevitable complication of this design.

So. That center unit. Given that it doesn’t align perfectly with the previous one, how to go about placing it. The most obvious way is to pick an easy to spot point on the established stitching, and now that I’ve done one, just count over the same number of stitches to a similarly distinctive spot on the motif to be stitched, then just start in.

But I’m lazy, know that long stretches of counting blank linen are one of my weaknesses, and given the long span, extreme variation in the thickness of this linen’s threads, and frustration after several false starts, I decided to try something different.

Its easy to determine the center point of the large floral motifs. It’s the centermost stitch in the dark center “knot” around which the branches are symmetrically inverted. That aligns with the dark stripe in the grape motif that’s closest to its stem. But those centers are all offset from each other, so just using a simple ruler or single straight edge is problematic. Instead I picked the same spot on each of the four motifs that bordered the field in which I wanted the smaller X pattern to appear, and quick basted a line across that field. One basted line for each big floral produced a 3×3 area. The center unit of that 3×3 area became the center of the large dark spot in the middle of the X pattern. (Yes, if you zoom all the way in you’ll see that one of my basted lines was off by one thread, but I compensated).

You don’t see the basted lines on the full piece, above because once I did that centermost stitch, I removed them. I never stitch over my guidelines, I always snip them away from the work as I approach.

I did this for the other placement of that center X, too, but I didn’t think to document the process. I did try the count in and start method for the second one. You may be able to see the remains where I picked out my three false starts, but the basted line method turns out to be vastly quicker, less fraught, and more accurate.

I am still aiming for full coverage – not just these two repeats centered on the otherwise bare cloth. Now its time to go into hypergear and finish designing the companion border. Once I’ve got that and have my distance from repeat worked for the long sides, I can establish that line and then work my field up to it with confidence.

RISING SUN DESIGN CHALLENGE

I’m working along happily on my grapes wine-opening placemat, using the motif I redacted from the 17th century Hermitage artifact.

One big problem with my graphing of the design is that the original doesn’t stick to count on the placement of the individual large and small motifs. While each motif is worked true to count, their scattering across the piece is a series of eyeballed guesses, with no two offset by the same spacing. Here are a couple of enlarged snippets from the museum original that showcase the variance:

However, when I graph up a design I try to “regularize” it – often averaging the deviations among many repeats to create an easy to replicate canonical version of the design. In T2CM I note the degree to which I normed the repeat in each redacted design, so those who are interested in total veracity know that I’ve done a bit of tinkering, and can refer back to the original and determine if that level of deviation complies with their intent.

I played with the two main elements of this all-over repeat until I hit upon something that was regular and that accommodated the use of the smaller motif both as the “pinwheel” spinning off the larger grape/floral motif, and to occupy the center of the circle formed by the grape/florals. And I began stitching.

Now the placement I ended up using does have a flaw. The march of the grape/florals is offset one unit each iteration by the pinwheeling. That means that in the sample above, the right-most grape/floral presents one unit ABOVE the line established by the one immediately to its left. This is the problem that the original stitcher tried (with limited success) to combat by eyeballing placement rather than sticking to the count. Even with their best effort, the original artifact’s overall design does migrate a bit in the same way, like a time lapse photo of a rising sun, each pattern repeat appears ever so slightly above the one to its left.

This isn’t much of a problem for a large field design with no edges that matter, but for a smaller work the migration does become evident. Especially if an edging or hard border is used.

And I want to use a hard border. I’ve designed a companion border for this field, to be worked in the same color as the rest of the piece. Or I should say I’m still in the process of designing one because I haven’t settled on exactly the **right thing** yet. But this is getting close. I’m using the cinched rope visual trope contemporary with the field design, and incorporating elements of the grape/floral with it.

Yes, it’s blurry. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but you can squint and make out the basics – the rope, the pendant flowers borrowed from the field, and the line above running parallel to the rope. That line will save me, and whatever variant of this edging I end up using will include it. I will work the edging in strips, butting the corners instead of mitering them (a very historically accurate way of dealing with pesky corners), doing it in the neighborhood of the basted black guideline threads. Then I will work the field pattern up to and touching the edge line.

The rising sun anomaly will still be there, but the piece as a whole should be both bound and defined by the border. Or so I hope. Stay tuned! It’s going to be a while before I get to actually stitching that part. All the more time to refine my edging graph. 🙂

BOOK FIND!

I have stumbled into an unusual object – well, a set of three, actually.

This is a set of the first edition German printing of Alexander Speltz’ Colored Ornament, printed in 1914, with text in English. It’s a three portfolio collection of full color plates, with an accompanying index/survey write-up for each portfolio. The thing is divided into Antiquities – mostly Greek and Roman, with a smattering of Pre-Columbian, plus some plates showing eastern Mediterranean art and decoration; Middle Ages – mostly Romanesque through Gothic, with some from Byzantium; and Modern – not particularly modern, it appears to cover early Renaissance up to pre-Empire.

Now before you hyperventilate and begin looking the thing up on the used book market, note that it is in extremely rough shape, and plates are missing. The Antiquities and Modern folios are each missing 4 or so, and the Middle Ages folio is missing about 10. The folio covers are crumbling, and the heavy paper to which each image is affixed is well on the march to being dust. It’s clear that someone cherry-picked pages to frame separately. In fact, the person I got this from said he was doing exactly that. Still, there’s plenty of good material here, and I do have the companion about/index volumes. And it was free.

Here’s a small sample of the roughly 150 plates that remain:

This is a very “hard artisan” focused work. There are just a couple of plates featuring textiles. Only one with embroidery. It’s mostly architectural ornament, ceramics, jewelry and other metal work, calligraphy and early printing, some furniture, glass, mosaics, and interior ornamentation. Not sculpture, not weapons, not hanging paintings. Still there’s a wealth of inspiration here.

I intend to keep these survivors together and ward them as well as I can given that I’m not an archival museum. I see folk selling individual plates from the thing, but even at the prices they are asking I’m not tempted in the least to break it up further. Local pals, if you are interested, drop me a note. A gentle viewing and photography session would not be out of question.

DIZZY GRAPES

Fueled by a week at the beach; hot, dry, and windy weather; paella, sufficient wine, and other indulgences, my grape-adorned sideboard placemat grows.

First an observation on the ground cloth itself. I had intended to preserve the simple crocheted edging that this piece of well worn linen came with. But as you can see – “loving hands at home” were at work when this remnant was rescued from a larger prior incarnation, and the edges of the cloth are far from parallel. The thin black lines are my basted guidelines, done on the weave to mark the absolute center, and also about 1.5 inches in from the edges. Obviously they are not parallel to the edges. The short sides are especially skew:

Eventually I will have to trim off the edges and hem. Then possibly finish with a bit of simple needle lace. I haven’t done that in a while, so it should be an interesting adventure. But for now, I will stick to the inside of the designated rectangle. I’m still contemplating designing a companion edge pattern to the field of the original artifact, so I won’t get too close to those basted lines, just to make sure I have ample room for both the edging and the field.

So, that being said, I started in the center. Note that I don’t stitch over my basted guidelines – I snip them out as I come close.

You can really see the even/uneven nature of the ancient linen in the shot above. Yes, I am working it in a hand-held hoop (although I’ll probably switch to my sit-upon later tonight). I’m using plain old DMC six-strand floss, color #615. This piece will become a placemat on my sideboard, where wines are generally opened. The grape motif is fitting, but there is ample chance for spills, and washability is my prime concern. The linen itself is already far from pristine, so a few more stains won’t make much difference, but I didn’t want to use silk or faux silk (rayon), to make care less complicated.

According to the updated notes on the museum photo, the stitches used are double running and an Italian double sided cross stitch. The original has a design that’s truncated around the outer edge, and might have been cut down from a larger work. I do believe that The Ancients were just as practical as we are today. If something wasn’t going to be seen flipped over, it didn’t merit the additional work of making it perfect on both front and back. A bold leap of surmise on my part, but since I have no earlier larger work to repurpose into this sideboard mat, I’m comfortable with not extending the extra effort. Plus, I am doing this entirely for me. I have no intention on documenting it and entering it in any historical needlework exhibit or arts competition.

The variant of the two-sided cross stitch I’m using produces a boxed cross stitch on the front and a square grid on the back. If you zoom in on the original the scrum of stitches does look like a cross in a box. I could have used meshy, either pulled tight or relaxed to go double-sided, or long armed cross stitch (another historically congruent approach), or even satin stitch, but I wanted to try something new. Here’s the back. You can see the little grids where on the front the presentation is solid color.

And of course, since nothing can be perfect, especially after all the wine referenced above – this particular iteration of the secondary motif was in the wrong place. I haven’t done it yet, but the whole square has to be picked out. But I made progress none the less. The offending misplaced robot-headed square is mostly unseen over my knee in the general progress shot below. The other two secondary motifs are correctly placed.

I will continue on with this cloth, filling in the additional iterations of the main and companion motifs. Still thinking of doing a companion edging, but treating it as they most often did contemporary with the design, by using butted rather than mitered corners. We’ll see what I come up with…

I’m “off paper” now, mentally rotating/flipping as needed, hence the dizzy title of this post. I like that extra challenge, too.

This design may end up being in The Third Carolingian Modelbook, a project I’ve already begun. But frankly there has been very little uptake of either of my two earlier citation rich for-sale books, and only marginally more from my free releases of mostly original material or from the free pattern broadsides or the SAL on this website. Sales and downloads, yes – but very little actual stitching from any them. It’s disappointing, and I am not sure I want to take the time if folk are just looking for shelf fodder and not actual stitching inspiration.

Have you done something from my pages? Please let me see it. If you give permission I would be happy to post your work here on String under a gallery tag, either with your name or anonymously as you prefer.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 17

JURASSIC JUMBLE

Oh, heavens. More dinosaurs. I couldn’t help it. I love dinos. This set is for the fans of the bumpy and finned back beasts. There are attempts at a pair each of a Stegosaurus and Spinosaurus variant hiding in the foliage.

Although we only see the center bit of the long repeat on the Epic sampler, if you are interested in working this design as a longer piece I do provide the entire long repeat and It’s a VERY long meandering repeat.

Time Factor 4, for needless and wanton complexity, a very long repeat that’s not easy to remember; and for having to do more dinos.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 17 debuted on he Facebook Enablers group on 5 July. Band 18 will appear there on 2 August, and will be echoed here on 16 August.

#EpicFandomSAL

END OF DON’T, BEGINNING OF THE NEXT

Just finishing up Don’t. I think the Mystery Neice will be happy with it. We worked together to pick out the colors, typefaces, and border design used, so there was ample recipient-input on this one.

I’m happy with it, too. Although I have to confess a bit of a mistake at the outset, which has necessitated a somewhat rueful kludge.

The original did not include “Remember.” Why is it there?

Because when I started stitching the border at the left center line, instead of starting it at the center of one of the sprigged spirals, I started with one of the spirals that grows a leaf. That de-centered the inscription north/south. I walked happily down the left edge, across the bottom, and up the right side. When I got to the top I noticed that (horrors!) to make my corner fit there would be larger space between it and the words than there is at the bottom. Nine units more, to be exact. So I thought about what I could put there. More flowers? Possibly. Another ornament? Again possible. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to NOT add mass on top which would draw attention to the lack of space at the bottom. So a word was the way to go.

I decided on adding “Remember” and went pawing through alphabet resources to find something thin, elegant, and nine units tall – something that would fill space without adding too much bulk. The initial script R is from an antique Sajou booklet at the Patternmaker Charts site. The lower case letters needed to be smaller, and I found a good candidate in Creating Historic Samplers by Grow and McGrail – the same source I used for the lower case letters in the main area. It’s not a profoundly useful book, but it does have a section of beginners’ advice, plus some sample US Colonial era motifs, alphabets, and borders. Best of all for those just starting out, it’s very inexpensive on the used market.

Now on to the next – Grape Sideboard Scarf.

For the next project I’ve decided to use a well washed linen piece I picked up at a yard sale in Silver Spring, Maryland easily 42 years ago. It’s a dresser scarf, trimmed with a hand-turned hem secured by a simple crochet, with a crochet picot edge on the short sides. Based on the materials and back story I suspect it was cut down from a larger cloth and trimmed out sometime in the late 1930s or 1940s. I got it the same time as I got the larger finished linen piece that became my Everything is Worth Doing Well sampler, although they were not cut from the same source. Yes, it’s worn and a bit discolored from storage even before I got it, but it’s sound.

The stitchable area is about 16.5 inches x 28.5 inches (about 49.9 cm x 72.4 cm), and the thread count is roughly 32 threads per inch. That’s about16 units per inch using a 2×2 thread grid, with a total design area of 264 units x 456 units. That varies a bit across the piece, so I’m averaging measurements taken at several spots (penny method for easy thread counting here).

I’m going to stitch it in red, using a pattern I’ve recently redacted from a 17th century Italian cushion cover held in the Hermitage Museum (Accession T-2736 in case the link breaks). A thumbnail of the original is below. It’s about 40 x 48 cm, roughly 15.75 x 19 inches. No info on the thread count of the artifact.

Obviously I am going to maintain the dresser scarf’s edging. Also depending on the scale the design works up to I may only stitch to within 1.5 inches of the existing hems, then devise a coordinating sprouting edge to encircle the center field.

As far as the charted redaction went – this one was tricksy. There’s a major sub-sub-element that is off-grid; meaning that when I get to it (and write this here so I remember) I will have to “split the difference” on my evenweave, and shunt that bit over one thread.

Since this will be used as a protective placemat on my sideboard largely for opening the evening wine, the grape motif is appropriate. And I’ll use a DMC 6 ply floss, one of the garnets – 615 or 616, I haven’t decided yet on which one yet. I go for cotton instead of silk on this for washability because spills WILL happen.

The next step is to baste in my horizontal and vertical center lines, plus that 1.5 inch margin inside the hems. Then I begin, working center out.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 16

MERCY

After the last band, everyone who is still sticking with this project deserves something simple.  Very simple. This would also be a useful learning exercise for someone wanting to try a first strip in double running or back stitch.  There are no surprises here at all.

Time Factor 1 for a nice, quiet, symmetrical repeat that returns us to alignment with the indicated project center line.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 17 debuted on he Facebook Enablers group today and will be echoed here on 19 July.

#EpicFandomSAL

MINOR ADVENTURE

Off tomorrow to assist Younger Offspring’s migration to a new apartment. After graduation comes employment – in this case, done remote from home. And the current place (above a bar on a main street) was not quite as conducive to quiet productivity as might be desired.

The spawn is past the years when Mom-rescue is needed. I’ll not be schlepping furniture, but trusty company and someone with a van plus tons of laundry baskets in which to transport house plants will be appreciated. As a result I’ll be mostly off line until late in the holiday weekend.

Oh. And while Mom-rescue isn’t on the performance list, Mom-pride is. I gotta show off. The artwork here is Younger Offspring’s – a few quick pieces dashed off to frame the perfect moving mindset.

AND ON THE WALL IT HANGS!

At long last, the tambour embroidered cotton rug we bought in India is on display! I have always wanted to put it someplace, but was loathe to use it on the floor. We did so in our apartment in Pune, and being fragile, keeping it clear of the sacred dust of the subcontinent was a bit of a challenge. I’ve been plotting and planning to hang it instead. But where? At one time I considered the stairwell or either the upstairs or downstairs hall, but when I began thinking about transforming the former bedroom of our now-independent Eldest into my office, greed overcame my desire to post it in a more public area of the house.

But how to do so? I asked the Interwebs, and got answers from a number of people including folk who have staged hanging textile exhibits for museums, private collections, and adjudicated fairs. Consensus was to back the top edge of the piece with 4-inch (10cm) Velcro, with the fuzzy side sewn to the rug. Then mount a board on the wall, staple the hook side of the Velcro to that, and suspend the piece that way.

So we did. It took a lot of effort to stitch the heavy mounting strip to the back of the rug. I had to go through the folded selvedge edge of the rug, the canvas the front was backed by (with its own folded down seam allowance), while avoiding piercing through to the front. I used a curved upholstery needle, abetted by the firm grip of a pair of pliers. I averaged about 6-10 inches per day, and the piece is just under 9 feet wide.

Affixing the mounting board to the wall went rather quickly. The Resident Male identified stud locations, leveled the thing, and used long screws for the install.

I then used a staple gun to affix the hook side of the Velcro to the board, and smoothed the two sides of the hook and loop tape together. No pix of that though, my hands were full of Velcro roll and the staple gun.

And the finished result!

It’s in a corner that’s well protected from direct sunlight, nestled between bookcases holding my needlework and knitting library. The Berber rug on the floor is something we’ve had for many years. I will need to empty the two small bookcases so I can unroll it fully, then replace the bookcases on top and re-fill them. But that’s another day.

In the mean time, a tale of experience.

This is what the rug looked like when we bought it, and what it looks like today.

The colors of both are true. The bright crayon reds, intense blue, and the near neon orange and yellow have darkened and muddied considerably. What happened?

Remember I said that when we brought it home it was thick with dust? We brought it to a respected rug merchant and cleaning service to have it cleaned. It came back to us rolled for storage and sat that way for about 9 years. My dye-wise apprentice thinks that the cleaning reagents used worked on the cottons, and the blue especially migrated. The very uniform way that this happened (no “hot spots” or streaks) indicates that this probably happened when the rug was washed and dried, and indigo dyed yarns do sometimes shed pigment. I wish that the rug people had “come clean” and told me about the dye migration when we picked the thing up, but on the whole, the difference isn’t fatal. I’ll just try to avoid ever having to wash it again.

Verdict? Project success. Next steps? Obviously letting the floor rug relax and tucking it under the bookcase. Then having an antique barrel chair recovered in deep indigo denim, to sit on that rug, perhaps with a small side table and reading lamp, so I have another cozy place to read and stitch.

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