Author Archive: kbsalazar


I’ve started in trying out various approaches and threads for the Unstitched Coif project. Here’s last night’s progress on my sidecar companion piece. It’s the same ground and threads I will use on the main project, but done to keep mistakes off “center stage.”

This isn’t final work, just doodles. I am not proud of it, there are lots of things that are sub-optimal. Let’s go through the bits.

First, the couched double strand of Japanese Gold #5. Still getting my mojo back with metal thread couching, I did cross my strands at the beginning of the bit up near the sad little flower, but by and large it worked. And it’s much easier on the flat frame where I can use two hands to stitch, rather than on this little round, where one hand is used to hold the frame itself. If the other hand manipulates the couching thread, I still need a third to tension and bend the metal thread around curves. Sadly, I am only equipped with two hands.

I used a gold color “art silk” for the couching threads, and was able to plunge the ends neatly using a loop of polyester sewing thread to capture them. That thread does not remain in the project. I thread a folded strand into a needle that’s slightly larger than what I would use to stitch, and with the loop trailing, pass it from top to bottom through my ground, then use that loop to nab the metal threads’ ends and pull them through to the reverse.

As far as appearance, not bad. I’ve managed tight curves using this stuff before, and I am confident that I could do it again. But the contrast between the blackwork and the many gold stems might be too great. We will see….

The 2mm paillette sewn just south of the gold stem. It works. It’s the right size for the uninhabited spaces between motifs. I will probably use them to spangle the piece once the majority of the stitching is done. And yes, I used the same faux gold tone silk to affix it, with three stitches.

The thicker gold sprig at the top. Again, that’s the Japanese Gold #5, but used as a passing thread. Only partial success with this bit. I used a reverse chain stitch, and passed the chain loop underneath the legs of the previous stitch, but did not pierce the fabric. While I like the sparkle it adds, it was not easy to do. The wrapped thread denatures, and the #28 needle was impossible to thread. I most definitely need a different needle if I want to use this stuff as a passing thread. Still even though it’s not a heavy plaited stitch and may not be exactly documented as a specific stitch used on historical coifs, the texture sings to me, as an echo of Elizabethan/Stuart era aesthetic. If I can figure out a better needle size, I may use it for some of the logically thicker stem sections. But like the plain couched bit, I am afraid of overwhelming the blackwork. Even more so with with sparkle.

The black and gold stem. Two strands of one of my thicker, stash-aged filament silks. Very fuzzy and prone to catching. I tried out both regular chain stitch and reverse chain (top and bottom of the stem respectively), then I whipped the entire stem with a single strand of the Japanese Gold. Again I had problems with the gold thread unraveling, even though the only place I pierced the ground was at the beginning and end of the stem. Different needle, for sure. And possibly doing it in the other spiral direction. Perhaps I was unknowingly adding to the metal thread’s twist by working in the established direction. But if I can make it work, I do like the look. Perhaps as shown here, I could vary stem treatments, twining full gold with black/gold. Or I could try out a line of double running, back or outline stitch done off count, and whip that, or work another threaded-behind surface treatment with the gold. More thought (and a better needle) is required.

The sad little flower. Been over this one before. My initial stab at counting on this ground. Working over 3×3 threads with one strand of Golden Schelle thread. Not pleased. Nothing wrong with the thread but it but a touch too heavy for the effect I want. That plus my own eyes, the needle size and unfamiliarity with working so fine a count make this bit suboptimal. I also tried using two strands of my slightly thicker stash silk for the outlines, in reverse chain. Too thick. Good for stems at that thickness. Have to experiment with using only one. Or perhaps using two of the Schelle strands for the outlines. More work is needed before I settle on “just right.”

The bit of fill at the very top. This is the debut try-out of one of the finer, newly purchased threads. This one is the one I got off Amazon – YLI 100 weight silk. The tiny spool holds 200 meters.

It has a very smooth finish compared to the others I have, and is quite ethereal. I waxed it with beeswax (as I do all of my threads used for countwork), and that helped give it more body. It was difficult to keep my needle threaded though, because being that fine it could have held a state banquet for fifty more threads of its diameter in the ample eye space of my #28 tapestry needle.

On the effect achieved – yes, I made a mistake in the fill design I was playing with (Ensamplario Atlantio II, #29). I chose that one because it would magnify differences in warp and weft stitch length, both straight and on the diagonal. I am getting more used to working with the magnifier three inches from my nose, and although I have some stitches wrong, they are all in the right spots. The effect though is rather leggy and spider like. This thread may be too tightly spun and smooth for best effect. I will try it out with a double strand next.

So there is my first round-up of experiments. Nothing done yet on the main project. Some food for thought. Some nope. And I am on tenterhooks waiting for the other two threads and the finer needles. But until they arrive, back to the lab for more bench tests!


… Just waiting for my thread to arrive.

As I planned, after tracing the Unstitched Coif pattern onto my linen, I cut the cloth and hemmed the top and bottom of the piece (left below). Then I trimmed the left and right edges with a folded and ironed piece of wide cotton twill tape offset a bit from the linen itself, so that any side lacing would have something to bite into that would not distort the ground. That’s sewn on with simple running stitch.

Once the ground was prepped, I mounted it on my largest scrolling frame. Because the entire coif fits in the frame’s center, I don’t need to employ any scrolling functionality. That’s why I made advance accommodation for side lacing. I used plain old heavy cotton crochet string for the lacing. The ball of it lost its label long ago, but I think it’s Coats & Clark’s Speed-Cro-Sheen. Here’s the entire thing, set up on my stand using the large frame extender (the wooden arm with the metal tabs grasping the work), and laced tighter than most costume-drama heroines.

Note the brick just barely visible at the bottom right corner of the photo. Because I swing my frame out like a barn door to exit my knitting chair, two bricks of extra weight on the paddle foot of my stand are necessary to counterbalance the mass of this large frame when it is positioned perpendicular to the foot. Someday I’ll knit or crochet neat little covers for them as yet another household whimsey, but for now they’re kept tidy with plastic wrap.

Because so much of this is a trip into the unknown, I took the side slice of linen left over after I cut my project piece, and traced a couple of motifs onto it. That’s going to be my “sidecar” – an as-I-work sampler used to try out ideas before I trust them to the main project. I didn’t bother hemming this bit. You can see it on the arm of my stitching corner chair.

I’ve begun playtesting countwork on this linen on the sidecar, but I haven’t received my ultra-fine thread or needles yet. One ply of the Golden Schelle thread is almost fine enough for fills, but I want to see the others in comparison because my first efforts with it are wobbly enough to be unacceptable. Plus stitching on this stuff with a #28 tapestry needle is like passing a log through a window screen, and I am still adapting to the magnifier; both of which complicate matters somewhat.

I know one of the threads I ordered will be here later today, and hope the other two plus the blunt beading needles will arrive some time this week. For the record none are the Piper 30/2 that others are using – the cost of overseas sourcing plus the time to ship made me look for a domestic equivalent. More on all three when they arrive.

For journalistic veracity, I present the shameful and discreditably woebegone initial counted bits, and threaded #28 needle, plus a US penny (at 7:00), and UK penny (at 12:00) – both for scale. Be kind, I hope to work out the kinks before attacking the project, proper.

I will be testing out the Schelle silk, plus the Tied to History Allori and my other unnamed stash-aged silk in the mean time, trying out various treatments for the outlines and possibly the stems. I am still hoping to incorporate metal threads in the stems, but plain couched doubles of the #5 may be too stark.

Obviously for me at least having the sidecar is a total necessity on this one.


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!


Those of you who are tuned into various historical embroidery info feeds may have seen a call go out a few weeks ago. Toni Buckby, a serious embroidery researcher and PhD candidate was looking for volunteer embroiderers to join a blackwork project that will lead to an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, plus provide fuel for her dissertation. I’ve long been a fan of Ms. Buckby, having first seen her work on the animated Wet Nuns music video “Why You So Cold?”. Her piece was one of the inspirations for my own static Memento Mori strip of dancing skeletons.

I am delighted to report that I raised my hand and was accepted. Obviously being a US resident, I’m not at liberty to attend the in-person workshops, but I hope to attend the project’s Zoom meetings.

Now for the specifics.

The project’s title is “An Unstitched Coif…There will be an official website, but at the time of this post, it is still under construction. Ms. Buckby’s goal is to collect experiences, plus process info and images from the army of 140 volunteers. There will be both in-person workshops for folk resident in the UK who can attend face to face, and remote sessions for we further flung folk. At the conclusion of the effort the completed pieces will be displayed for a time at the Victoria & Albert. Those that are not kept by the museum will be returned to the stitchers.

What are we making?

Our own renditions of this coif (V&A accession number T.844-1974 in case the link breaks, image quoted from their website). The original shows evidence that someone indeed did begin working on it, but the threads of the stitching have been lost. I am really looking forward to Ms. Buckby’s forensic observations on the holes left behind.

The dimensions of the stitched area are approximately 44 x 25 cm (17 1/3 x 9 5/6 inch), and the project is to be completed by September. I will be working like a demon, for sure.

The instruction packet with a full size cartoon of the stitching design landed today. The workshops and zoom meetings begin in late April. I have ordered the linen recommended for folk interested in doing historically-inspired stitching. With luck it should be here next week. It’s moderately pricey, and shipping from Italy doubles the cost. Still, if I’m in for this, I’m gonna do it full on, although if the shipment is delayed I’ll have to find some other ultra-fine ground. Fingers are crossed. Still, I’ve always wanted an excuse to work on 70 count. Now I have a very good one.

As far as techniques and materials go, guidance is “use of historic Blackwork techniques is encouraged…but final choice of technique, colours, stitches in-fills and other embellishments are up entirely to you.”

I’m not sure exactly what I will do. Yet.

I need to see the ground and figure out whether or not countwork over 3 or 4 threads is feasible for me. I have experience working over 2×2 on muslin at that gauge (below), and based on that that I can say the effect of the fills is lost any further away than about six inches – they blur into indistinct gray scale notes. Three or 4 should be much more visually appealing. Plus, my eyes are no longer 25 years old.

If countwork is precluded, I will use freehand fills and/or stippling: the other popular historical modalities for working blackwork foregrounds.

If I do go with black thread (highly likely), I will be experimenting with my stash of finer silks. They are thinner than cotton floss strands, and probably better suited for the finer ground, whether they are worked counted or freehand. I have two lots of black filament silk I have been saving for The Mythical Perfect Future Project. I think it’s their time. One lot is Allori Silk (from Tied to History). The other looks very similar but its provenance has been lost to the erosion of time. I also have a small quantity of the historical recipe spun silk hand dyed by my no-longer-stealthy stealth apprentice. It’s fine enough for this, and I would want to honor those efforts by including it in the piece. (Note that being small batch produced and very popular, it flicks in and out of availability, please don’t be disappointed if you hit the website and it’s not there. It’s worth waiting for.)

Depending on scale and stitch experimentation, I might also include passing gold stitch work on the stems. Possibly a narrower one like Elizabethan Twisted Chain from Carey’s Elizabethan Stitches. I have some Japanese #5 gold in my stash. It plus a few 2mm paillettes are left over from my Fishies piece. That one was done over 2×2 on 40 count, so over 4 x 4 on 70 count should visually present just a smidge larger. The paillettes are AWOL right now, but I think I can lay hands on them with a bit of searching.

And to round it out, I have a pair of magnifying goggles. Not optimal since I like to stitch and watch TV at the same time, but if visual acuity stands between me and completion, they WILL be deployed. I don’t remember where I got these though. Possibly a gift or hand-me-down from a pal. They’ve been sitting unused in my gear boxes for several years at least.

So there you have it. New project. I am bound by word and honor to complete. And I will.


At long last it’s done! My Eyeball Bolster Cushion is fully assembled, with zipper installed, and pulled up around the custom cushion form I built for it.

Obviously this isn’t the sofa for which it is destined. That’s a mid-century modern low-back piece, in black, resident in Younger Offspring’s apartment. But you can get the scale of it on my rather more traditional living room couch.

I’m very glad that I was not recorded during the shimmy dance required to get the thing into final configuration. But it’s done. I am especially happy that the modesty panels work so well in keeping everything flat and level. I don’t expect the cover to rotate around the inner bolster because the outer shape is so well corseted. The corners are crisp, and the I-Cord piping join around the two large face edges pops nicely.

To be fair, there were a couple of hiatus weeks on this piece, especially in the past month. I savaged my fingers hand stitching the zipper onto the short side flap, and had to wait for a bit of healing before I could finish. All told, I began this on Halloween 2022, and finished yesterday. That’s a week shy of five months to crochet all 128 motifs, join them into sides with slip stitch, hand stitch the cover onto the inner foam slab, hem the modesty panels and stitch them to the assembled sides, join the sides with knit I-Cord, install the zipper, and stuff the cushion inside the assembled cover.

Not the longest tenure project I’ve done so far, but certainly the longest duration crochet piece I’ve ever attempted.

Now on to other things, with a pair of mindless socks in between for decompression and to allow time to contemplate what that next thing will be…

Oh, and I almost forgot. Motif designed by Christine Anne Melvin, Granny’s Eye Granny Square!


It’s been a long time since I added a sock knitting pattern. But I had so many requests for this one after I posted about it on FaceBook, that I had to write it up and add it to the collection. Like all the rest it’s toe-up, with a short row heel. It’s written for DPNs, but it’s very easy to adapt to work on a circular needle, or use with the two-circular method.

So to that end, my pattern for the Faux Weave Toe-Up Socks can now be found on the sock section of my knitting patterns page.

As for the ongoing work on the eyeball bolster cushion, I’m up to hand-sewing on the second side of the zipper on the end flap. Inside out the thing looks quite menacing. Like an gigantic and omnivorous sea cucumber. It’s slow going but I’m getting there. I hope to post final pix of the thing stuffed with its interior cushion quite soon.


The multi-month eyeball square bolster project continues to roll along. I began this project around 25 September 2022, and first posted about it back at the beginning of October. The end may be in sight (pun intended) but it’s not imminent. Yet.

When last we visited this effort, I had just finished constructing the base pillow form to be covered by the (then) recently completed crocheted squares. I also in the final stages of joining the squares together to make the six sides of the cushion cover.

Now crochet in this style is not as opaque as knitting. There are holes, most notably in the points of the squares, and at the two sharp corners of the eyeball itself. These are large enough to see whatever is behind the crocheted layer. Obviously I didn’t want the Pepto-Bismol pink of the blanket covered foam slab to show, so I needed an inner cover. I tossed around the idea of making an entire second zippered cover out of black cotton duck – a canvas-like fabric, for durability and washability (after pre-shrinking). But then I thought about other pillows I’ve covered in knitting and crochet. The yarn layer on them was stretchy, and sometimes wandered around the inner pillow as it was used. Given that this piece is so big – the entire back of a low mid-century sofa – wandering could be expected. So I decided to cut panels of prewashed fabric, hem them, and then tack them to the assembled crocheted sides prior to joining those sides into the final pillow cover.

The first step was to measure the enrobed foam slab. Sure enough, a small bit was added to my final dimensions. Since I had the foam cut to size for my blocked but relaxed crochet assemblages, I am reasonably confident that stitching the crochet to panels in the newly measured dimensions would yield a good, close fit – stretching the crochet out a bit, providing inner stability against shifting and bagging. Note that I did subtract a quarter inch all the way around to leave the edge stitch of the crocheted squares revealed since I need to use those in fastening the sides together, and added a hem allowance.

First I machine-hemmed all of the sides of each modesty panel EXCEPT for the edges on which I expect to mount the zipper. Not up to that yet, so I’m still thinking that out. In any case, here’s a mid-tack photo showing the machine hemmed panel being affixed to the back, leaving the edge row of crochet (green) free for later attachment.

After all six pieces were prepped with their backings, I was ready to begin assembly.

That’s all 128 eyeballs. There are four more – two worked while achieving gauge, and two unknowingly worked in excess of need. One of the side strips is flipped over on top to show the backing. A loose edge which will be employed in zipper installation is at the bottom of that strip. Right after this I sewed three of the four narrow strips together to make one continuous band that wraps around the edges of my foam block. I left the last one free. It’s going to be the “drop seat” around which that zipper wraps, and needs special treatment.

Now to join with I-Cord. It’s simple once the right needle size is determined. I experimented on those spare squares until I found the needle size that produced an I-Cord that was stitch for stitch even in height to the width of my edge crochet chains.

To attach, I took those DPNs, and cast on four. Then holding my designated pieces back to back, I picked up another stitch through the outermost loop of the first chain on both edges to be joined. That makes five stitches on my DPN. I knit off three, then did a SSK, and picked up a stitch through the next chain stitch on both edges to be joined. And I kept going, making sure that each square was neatly butted to its neighbor, with an additional row of joining I-Cord worked into the columns of slip stitch that attach the squares together. For that my DPN needle tip wasn’t enough to tease a loop through, I had to pull out a smaller crochet hook to grab a loop, pull it up and mount it at the end of my DPN.

The image above shows four stitches on the DPN, ending with the SSK, just before I picked up the next stitch through the crocheted edge chains of the squares to be joined.

Now it was time for the corner. For that I needed a bit of ease, but I didn’t want to make a big loop like I had done before. I experimented a bit and decided to work up to the corner stitch on the squares, then make ONE round of free I-Cord, work the corner stitch in attached I-Cord, work another round of free I-Cord, and then continue on in my new direction as usual. That made a tight but non-distorting 90-degree turn:

Here’s the piece so far. First long side seam done, first short side seam done, along with the two corner transitions between them. I’m quite pleased with the way the raised “piped” seam looks. Now to continue on to finish this side, and begin the Special Treatment for the zippered end. Wish me luck!


Of late there’s been considerable chatter in historical clothing and embroidery circles about the late 16th century Italian camica (underdress/smock) displayed by the Museo del Tessuto as part of their current exhibit on the life and times of Eleanor of Toledo. The piece is magnificently stitched and in extraordinarily good condition.

The piece’s citation (autotranslated) is listed on their Facebook feed page as Women’s Shirt, Italy, Sec. XVI second half, Prato, Textile Museum, inv. n. 76.01.15.

There has been extensive discussion of how it was made, with Dani Zembi of The Vorpal Rabbit blog contributing an insightful deep dive into construction, and others elaborating on her observations. Seeing so much enthusiasm for this artifact, I decided to contribute to the store of general knowledge as best I could. So I redacted the stitched patterns for the main yoke motif and the seam/hem bands.


The thing is also available via the Embroidery Patterns tab at the top of every page here on String.

Notes on the redaction:

  • There were lots of variations in the pattern repeats on the artifact. I’ve normed my version by relying on the most represented version of each of the motifs. So this is an ideal rather than an as-stitched, include-every-original-mistake replication.
  • I have tried to show use of long armed cross stitch on this piece. I do not know what variant of LACS is employed, but I have used solid blocks to show its presence. As anyone who has worked that stitch family knows, working it over only one unit is problematic. The historical stitcher solved this by using plain old cross stitches for one-unit blocks. My chart shows those, and along with the solid areas gives a good indication of the directionality of the LACS variant where it was employed.
  • I did not include the pendant tab center of the yoke. That’s a two-repeat crib of the main motif, with fudged ends. Since folk using this design will do so at different ground cloth thread counts, they will have to do something similar themselves, centering a slab of the main design on their yoke and improvising the join. After all, there’s historical precedent.
  • I only charted one corner because the photos I was working from didn’t show the others well enough for charting, although they may in fact be more or less symmetrical. And that corner is best guess – especially for the curlicues, which were difficult to parse due to encroachment and possibly some small damages.
  • Note the difference in the companion border above and below the yoke motif.
  • The spacing of the seam ornament varies a bit in use on the sleeves, gores, and hem. Again I’ve normed it, and although in the original it does NOT align with its “beaded” spine, I’ve done so here to make it easier to stitch.
  • From examination of the angled parts (sleeve and gore edges) where the seam treatment was not worked along a straight grain edge, it looks like the sprigs were spaced by eye, and stitched first, normal to the weave’s direction. Then the spine was stitched freehand in close approximation of the size of how it looks when worked on grain.

As to materials, there’s a healthy discussion about the museum’s description. The ground is linen, but some translations claim the stitching is cotton. That’s not impossible. Although a rare luxury material cotton was used and was sumptuary law legal in Italy at that time, but I’d say that claim is met with skepticism by many in the historical stitching community. In any case, even if it were, it’s not the smooth, shiny, hard mercerized and gassed cotton we find in today’s off the shelf embroidery threads. It’s something softer and less tightly twisted. Possibly finger spun (although I’m no fiber expert). I’d love to see it zoom magnified so we could learn about twist and ply.


Nothing purient here, other than a disturbingly pink sofa cushion at the end of this post.

As folk who follow here know, I am in the middle of making a large bolster cushion for Younger Spawn’s low-back mid-century style sofa. The thing will have a unique cover of crocheted squares that look like eyeballs, and will span the back of said sofa. That’s a lot of crochet, now all done and assembled into the six requisite sides.

But how to find a cushion of the exact dimensions needed? It’s not an off-the-shelf item. In retrospect I suppose I could have gone looking for one, and then modified my gauge and motif count to make a cover that fit, but that’s not how I think. Yarn first. Then pillow. So having established my size (within stretch tolerance of the crochet), I had to make my own bolster to fit.

My original thought was to buy a piece of foam and wrap it with quilt batting. I’ve done that before for a bench seat cushion that has a sewn fabric cover. But that was thinner and smaller. I went on line looking for foam and found some, but it came in large sheets. I couldn’t feel it to gauge its loftiness or give, and I’d have to buy the tools with which to cut hard straight edges, then rely on my novice foam cutting skills to get it right. I weighed that against buying it in person from a shop that would cut to order. Although the on line cost was lower, when all was toted up (including angst) I decided to splurge on the custom cut foam. For the record, I got it at the re-opened Fabric Place in Natick, MA.

My 62″ x 20″ x 4″ (approximately 157 x 51 x 10 cm) acquisition, with our fridge for scale.

Massive foam slab acquired, it’s obvious that it has to be covered in some way. Since I blew my budget on this part already, I looked around to see what I had on hand.

Aha! The kids’ old summer camp blanket!

It’s acrylic and won’t fray, lofty, and detested both for its color, odd size, and affinity for scratchy bits of hay. It won’t be missed if it were to be cut up. So I carefully de-splintered it, washed it, and laid out the six pieces I would need (plus seam allowance). I had a lot left over, so I cut two additional panels for the front and the back, but slightly smaller. I zig-zagged them to the existing pieces, to sit inside the final assembly and provide extra cushiness.

I began assembling the six sides to make my cushion cover, but discovered that my initial concept of making a big pillow slip and sliding the foam inside would not work. The grabby nature of both the foam and the pink fabric preclude that. Instead I assembled it “coffin style” – with the three edges of one of the long sides to be sewn by hand, instead of with the smaller end piece being stitched last. Here you see assembly and the final product. The pink stuff turned out to be very stretchy and unruly, and I ended up having to use more tension than I thought to get the cover fitted as closely as I could. The curved upholsterer’s needle helped a lot.

Now that the thing is (rather lumpily) assembled, I have final measurements of foam plus pink padding. I will use those to cut a “modesty panel” of black fabric for each of the sides. Then I will hand-sew those to the back of each of the cushion faces. I hope that the fabric will provide a bit of stability for the stretchy crochet and help keep it from rotating around the inner bolster, as well as keeping the egregious pepto-bismol pink from showing through the natural gaps in the crochet.

After that is assembling those six crocheted sides into the final outer cover using knit-on I-Cord to simulate piping, inserting a zipper in one end of the thing so the cover can be taken off for laundering, and finally clothing my massive but naked cushion with its eyeball-festooned sweater. We’ve come a long way since Eyeball Day 1, back in early October.


Progress and some potentials to report. First the progress:

I’m closer to finishing the initial seaming of the eyeball squares for the bolster cushion. Here are all of them. The group indicated by the yellow brackets on top is the front. It’s 12×4 units, all sewn together. The group in the yellow brackets at the bottom of the page is the back. I’ve just begun sewing the last course of 12 onto the other three.

Then there are the loose piles between the front and back, and to the right of the back. Those are the squares that will make up the sides. That’s another two strips of 12, and two strips of four. After I finish the seams on the back I will assemble those strips. After that will come an orgy of darning in ends. Once all six pieces are neatly finished off I will begin final assembly. I intend to sew the side strips in sequence – long-short-long (leaving one short side out briefly) with the same slip stitch method I used for the front and back. But when I unite the side strips to the front and back I will use a knit-based method rather than a crocheted one. I intend to use knit-on I-Cord edging as my seaming method, to make what will look like a piped edge, to make a green “frame” for the front and back. Somewhere along the way I will introduce a hand-stitched zipper into one short end, which is the reason for reserving that last short side.

I’ve done the I-Cord edging before to excellent effect on pillows. The one in front uses it. (I won’t be doing the free-loop corners though on this piece.)

This is the general look I’m aiming for. This is a bench-type cushion I built and covered for a storage settee that’s now on our enclosed front porch. This piece was sewn, and that corded piping was introduced with it was seamed together.

For the record, this cushion was built in the same way I intend to build the eyeball bolster – a slab of foam, wrapped in quilt batting, seamed into a permanent cover. But the eyeball bolster will have an additional removeable inside cover between the crochet and the permanent cushion. Crochet by its nature is rather see-through, with lots of small holes. The inner, removeable cover will be a heavy black cotton duck or canvas. Removeable just in case something is spilled on the bolster. It along with the decorative crochet cover will both be washable.

So even though I am almost done with eyeball assembly there’s still a lot of work to go on this piece.

Now on to other possibilities.

Thanks to the generosity of a long time friend, I find myself in possession of a set of twelve magnificent linen napkins. Never used. I had lucked into a similar but well-loved set of twelve at an estate sale this summer. I now have double the possibilities. First, both are eminently stitch-able:

The unused napkins are on the left, and the well worn ones are on the right. Counting threads and doing the math for the Penny Method the approximate thread count for the new set is roughly 40×40, and the old set is about 38×38 threads. Small, yes, but not impossibly so.

Now what to make….

I have many thoughts on this. First is the obvious, just embellishing one of the sets for obvious use as napkins. I’ve thought about doing a set with a big initial S in one corner, but each done in a different antique alphabet. This is a prime source for alphabets as magnificently ornate and over the top as anyone could desire.

The second possibility is a pieced tablecloth. There are all sorts of Renaissance examples of tablecloths and devotional pieces pieced together, some probably re-using earlier stitched fragments, others purpose-done. Some unite countwork pieces with darned net strips, others combine cutwork and other contemporary embroidery forms. Much to think about here and a lot of potential learning.

A third possibility also looms, for the well-used napkin pile. I have wanted to stitch a peasant style blouse for myself, using some of the more outre strip designs in my personal collection. Like dinos, for example. I am not quite sure how I would go about it, but I think with cleverness I could get a square yoke out of one or two napkins, a gathered body below that, and full 3/4 sleeves, also gathered. I have to mock this idea up with tissue paper to see if I have enough yardage, but I should.

I guess the moral of the story is that retirement is not idleness!

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