Category Archives: Books

EIGHT IS ENOUGH. ALMOST.

My doodle napkins.  All eight complete.

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Overall, I’m quite pleased.  They were each individually fun and quick to stitch.  I did not agonize over them (although there are no mistakes).  Napkins are transient goods, destined for hard use, gravy stains, and wine spills.  Therefore I did them “quick and dirty.”  I used knots, rather than agonizing about ending off my double running stitch invisibly.  I used launder-me DMC and Sajou cotton threads, not silk.  And the napkins themselves after shrinking in the machine, sometimes through multiple washes, are all slightly different sizes, with almost a full inch of width/length difference between the smallest and the largest.  Frankly, I don’t care – they will all serve their purpose quite well.

This shot is for Anne, who asked to see how I was wrapping the borders around the corners of the main motifs:

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I’m not going back and adding a secondary border to the first one I did.  Or at least today I’m not thinking about doing it.  The others were exercises in educated fudging. I was thrilled that the border on the last one (lowest green one on the right) worked out perfectly, both horizontally and vertically, to make four neat and symmetrical corners.  That was serendipity, not planning.

Now on to the tablecloth.  This one is going to be a challenge.  I’m using my sit-on hoop, with the bulk of the cloth gathered up and stuffed into a pillowcase that sits on my lap behind the hoop while I stitch. Not optimally comfortable, but necessary to keep the thing quasi-clean while I work.  The cloth itself as a ground is not as easy to count or as forgiving as were the napkins.  The threads are quite spindly and rather slubby, but I’m managing.

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The design, like those on the napkins, is from my ever-forthcoming Second Carolingian Modelbook.  This one in particular is a challenge.  What you see here is less than an EIGHTH of the total repeat.  This pattern is the largest all-over I have encountered.  The artifact I charted it from (below) showed it in voided form, with the background filled by a heavily overstitched and meshy effect ground.  I am only working the foreground in double running.  Time is too short and tablecloth-hazard too likely for me to invest months in the very labor-intense original treatment of the background.

Special thanks to Christine Lee Callaghan (SCA – Lady Cristina Volpina), who unearthed the artifact from the collections of the University of Rhode Island, and provided spectacular photos of it to me, a byproduct of her own academic research.  The image below is hers, appearing here by permission

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© 2014, Christine Lee Callaghan, of University of Rhode Island Accession Number 2003.12.286

 

 

THE DOODLE NAPKIN PROJECT

A few of you have asked about the doodle napkins – a set of eight, all coordinating, but each one different.  With six now stitched and number seven on my frame, I attempt to answer.

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A while back I wrote about the pre-finished napkins and tablecloth I bought from Wayfair.  While I note that neither the KAF Fete napkin set nor the Toscana tablecloth is still in their inventory,  there are several similar products available from them and from Target, Overstock, Amazon and other sources.

Be warned!  Prewashing these is an absolute necessity.  They are linen-look cotton, or linen/cotton blends, and can be expected to shrink appreciably.  So toss them in a nice, abusive load – like a hot wash with some other light color towels or sheets, and have at it.  Compare them when they emerge, and if some are not quite as shrunken as the others (as happened to me) run them through again just to be sure.

My almost even weave napkins firmed up quite a bit, becoming even closer to a true even weave count, which was a surprise.  But I didn’t change my plans for all of that.  I always intended to work my stitching along one edge only, eliminating the need to turn corners, or worry about skew counts.  I’d present them at table as shown, folded in quarters.

Now.  How to begin…

First, I had to have designs.  Simple for me.  I am drawing mostly from my forever forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook, playtesting more of the designs, and using the experience to flog myself towards getting over the hurdle of publication.  I’m working directly from those pages, and am not bothering to rechart anything specifically for this use.  Not even the narrow companion borders (more on this below).

I am also being quite cavalier with layout on the napkins.  They are pre-hemmed.  I am trying to use the same north/south orientation for all of them, keying off the placement of the brand tag on the back, but I am examining the two candidate ends closely, to pick the one that is the most “true”.  By that I mean the one whose hemming runs closest to being true on the count.  There are a couple of napkins that are hemmed slightly skew, and I wanted to make the stitching on them look to run as parallel as possible to the edges.

OK.  With my chosen side to embellish identified, I folded the napkin carefully in half, and used a pin to mark the center point.  Then I measured in from the inner edge of the machine-stitched hemming detail, and placed another pin perpendicular to the first.  I admit I eyeballed the first one, then just used it as the paradigm for placing the second pin on the subsequent napkins (no actual measuring tape was involved).  Pin placement is shown below, with the napkin mounted on my sit-on hoop.

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Once the center point and work boundary are established I begin.  That’s it.  No basting guide lines, no other prep.  Just grabbing my threads and going.  I admit that others may enjoy working with basted guidelines, but for something this small, where the only point of reference is the center, I don’t bother.  Feel free to castigate me for lazy prep.

Threads…  Hmm.  Which did I use?

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The red was easy.  When we were in Paris, I bought a box of Sajou four-strand cotton embroidery floss in red.  I had always intended on using it for a set of napkins.  I had bought linen there, too, but decided that I wanted to use that linen for other pieces that would be less “endangered” by gravy than dinner napkins.

The Sajou Retors du Nord cotton floss is put up on cards of 20 meters.  I am using a red, #2409.  I started with a box of five cards, and have used about half of my yardage on just the four napkins.  For the green napkins, I’m using plain old DMC cotton six-strand floss in #890, in standard pull skeins of 8.7 yards (just shy of 8 meters).  I am stitching with three plies of each thread, even though the Sajou is a tiny bit thinner than the DMC.  I am enjoying using the Sajou because it is finer, shinier, and smoother, but I am simultaneously disappointed in the maker’s quality control.  Each of the three Sajou cards I have used so far has had component plies with knots, shredded sections, or snags – where the individual plies are kinked and not all of the same length in a given span of thread.  While the DMC thread is more matte and a bit rougher in finish, in over 50 years of using it, I have never run into a less-than-perfect skein.  It’s possible that I bought a box of Sajou made on a bad day, but three out of three cards with faults is not what I expected.

OK. The thread is ready, I’ve got my main design in hand, I’ve got the napkin mounted on my frame, with the center point and top limit of my design marked.  Now what?

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Starting at the center (red arrow above on Napkin #7, showing the point indicated by the now removed pins), I begin playing with one of the narrow edgings – usually something less than four units tall.  I pick one from the book, or I make on up on the spur of the moment.  In this case, I’m using a pretzel edging of my own devising, also in T2CM.

Using a separate thread for the companion edging, I work three or four repeats off in one direction – usually to the left (for no reason in particular), then I move the working thread out of the way (sometimes winding the excess on a temporary pin), and using another thread, begin my main motif strip – also working out from the center, stitching over a 2×2 thread grid.  In the example above, the weird double leaf meander.  The threads trail off at the upper left because I don’t want to re-position my hoop until I absolutely have to.  Once I move it over, I’ll take each of those stragglers up in turn, and use it to completion.

After I’ve gotten a bit laid down, I re-evaluate the narrow companion border.  If I don’t like it, I pick it out and work another of the same width. Once I’m happy with it I also work it below the main motif.  It’s obvious in the photo above, that I tried out the pretzels, liked them, and went on to stitch up my first length of thread in the strip of it above the main motif, and am now working on its sibling, below.

After I’ve gotten my design established continue on, happily, working my main motif, and eking out the companion borders as I go along but lagging a bit behind, until I’ve stitched the main motif close enough to the end. Once a full repeat of my main motif is on the fabric, I rarely refer to the printed pattern again, working instead from the already-stitched bit.

When I get to the leftmost edge, I take up the companion borders again and improvise a corner turn for them.  If I’ve kept count true the upper left and lower right corners should be matches, as should the lower left and upper right.  Or if I’m very lucky, all four will match.  Or if my improvised corner is looking awkward, I’ll just butt the ends.  In any case, I am not agonizing about the corner treatment.  I’ve seen enough period artifacts where it’s clear that the historical stitcher didn’t invest much agony in them either. (When I’m done with all eight napkins, I’ll post on improvising the corners, because this note is getting too long.)

As to which patterns to do on the next napkin, or what to use on the coordinating tablecloth – it’s all whim.  For the tablecloth, I will probably pick one or more of the largest all-over designs from my books, either to work as a large rectangular medallion in the center or three evenly spaced smaller areas, but I won’t be working strips around the entire perimeter, nor will I be working stripes across the whole width of the table.  And that’s the only advance planning I’ve done so far.

Stay tuned!

IT’S FEBRUARY, AND I HAVE A CURE

It’s February.  That means that the weather is still dreary. We are all looking forward to some sort of escape, so it’s time for my annual Shameless Self Promotion post.

First Beach.  Glorious beach.

Sitting warm on the sand, or on a deck with a grand view, sipping a favorite beverage, and watching the tide march in and out.  Yes, the shoulder seasons and summer seem far off now, but bookings for the best places are already picking up.

Our beachside condo in North Truro, Cape Cod, right on the bay side, close to the Provincetown line is now available for booking for the summer 2019 season.

Above left is the view from the deck looking back towards Wellfleet, and sunset over Provincetown is in the opposite direction (arrow on the map below is back towards Wellfleet).

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We are at Beach Point, with parking for two cars, right at a bus stop for the local shuttle to Provincetown – a quick trip to restaurants, galleries, theater, and night life, with or without your car.

The condo is on the second floor, with a covered deck (the one with the red deck chairs, below).  The Shoreline development has its own private beach, and offers picnic tables, lounge chairs, kayak and bike racks, and grills to all who stay.

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The apartment itself is two bedroom, with a full kitchen (full size stove with oven, fridge and microwave, sink, coffee maker, toaster, blender, lobster pot).  It is air conditioned, and also has a washer and dryer, and a full bath with shower and whirlpool tub.

There is TV in the living room and each bedroom, cable, and WiFi.  The bedrooms each have a queen-size bed, and the living room sofa also converts to a queen size bed.smallfloorplan.jpg

Pricing and availability are listed at the agent’s website.  Prices vary by week, with significant savings in the shoulder seasons.

So, come and pull up a chair.  Put your feet up, pull out your knitting or a good book, and feel the relaxation!

A good book?

Even for those who need more immediate escape, and can’t wait until warm weather, I always suggest a good book.

It’s no secret that The Resident Male writes books and short stories.  Here’s his lead offering – the first of what we hope will be a science fiction/mystery series.  Of course, I’m biased, but I do recommend it highly.  It’s a good read, full of compelling characters, alien cultures, heroics, and intrepid investigations – with a dash of sarcasm thrown in.FS

It’s available on Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback editions.

Meet Blair.  Meet Terendurr. While you can’t quite share that favorite beverage with them, after getting to know them I’m betting that you will wish you could.

 

CASTLES AND CARAVELS

Ok. I have no idea of there are Real Professional Researchers out there who are noting similarities of pieces held among far flung collections, but as you can see – the subject continues to fascinate me as an dilettante.  Trust me – if readers here are willing to sit still for them, I’ve got a ton more examples to share.

This set is is more difficult to show, in part because the Hermitage Museum has taken down one of the two artifact pages dedicated to two associated cutwork pieces, accession numbers T-8043 and T-8045.  The second depicted the castle that I graphed, below.  The last time I saw the source artifact at the museum’s website was in November 2014, but the castle can no longer be found from my saved links, or via searches on its name or accession number.
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You can find a full-size version of the chart above under the Embroidery Patterns tab at the top of this page.

There were small fragments of partial designs underneath the castle in T-8045 that associated it with this this other Hermitage artifact (T-8043).  This one shows a boat with passengers, several happy fish, and a pair of rather blocky lions.  The photo below is credited to their official artifact page for T-8043, where it is attributed to Italy, from the late 16th-17th century.  They call it “Embroidery over drawn thread”.

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And here’s the cousin of the Hermitage artifacts:  a VERY similar – that’s similar, not “same” – fragment from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession #1939-9-1.  PMA calls out the piece as being 16th century, Italian, done in linen cutwork and drawnwork.

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As far as acquisition time frames, the Hermitage samples come from the same Stieglitz Museum source as the other Hermitage embroidery sample I discussed last week.   The Philadelphia Museum of Art came by its piece in 1939, as a gift from Mrs. Frank Thorne Patterson (a noted collector of the time).

Now, the Philadelphia example is a truncated photo of a fragment, and has borders that the Hermitage samples lacked (you’ll have to take my word on the castle original), but in technique, composition and subject matter it’s very, very close.  It has the bottom edge of what is clearly almost the same castle as the one I graphed, plus a boat, manned by curious, full skirted figures, and some similar birds.  Yes, there are small differences in detail in the boat’s ornaments and passengers, plus motifs on each piece that do not appear on the other, but I believe these artifacts do like they might be from the same workshop.

Obviously, to prove this assertion we’d need some sort of detailed fiber analysis – much more than my casual observations.  Any grad students out there need a project?

Keep tuned for more episodes of Embroidery Family Reunion!

ONE DESIGN’S MIGRATION

Early stitching modelbooks.  They so often look the same, page after page. Where did I see that design before?  Why is it oh, so familiar?

And so we launch again into a post that only a stitching geek would love.

Early European modelbooks produced by sixteenth century printers in Italy, Germany and France often include similar patterns.  Often the same patterns.  Sometimes patterns SO much alike that one would think they were printed from the same blocks.  In some cases, especially if one printer did successive editions of work, that’s entirely likely.  In other cases, where the same block appears in works from different shops – that’s not entirely clear.  Especially if the workshops of the various printers were separated by geography and/or time.  However it happened – trade in blocks, plagiarism from printed copy, whatever – it is clear that considerable cross-pollination did occur.

Here is just one example.

This is from Niccolo d’Aristotile’s (called Zoppino) Venice-published Ensamplairo di Lavoiri, 1530/1531, as redacted as Volume I of Kathryn Goodwyn’s Flowers of the Needle collection (left).  At right I show the same page from an original (unredacted) copy of the same book in the Gallica BNF20 collection, to remove doubt about any assertions I made below being artifacts of cleaning up for reprint.  Watch those two center designs:

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1530/31, Italy is pretty early, right?

Well, there’s this.  Johann Schonsperger the Younger, from 1529, published in Augsberg, Germany  This is from Ein new getruckt model Buchli auf außnehen, vnnd bortten wircken..., in the collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1473-kl, as presented via Bildindex.

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Not surprisingly, Johann Schonsperger’s earlier work, Ein new Modelbuch auff auaußnehen vnd bortern wircken.. from 1526 (also from Augsberg) has the exact same page.  Also from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1472, as presented via Bildindex.

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So we’ve traced this panel back to a 1526 edition, published in Germany.   But were all of these printed from the same blocks?

I’d say that the two Schonsperger pages were certainly produced from the same blocks.  They have the same curious features and mistakes.

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By contrast, here are the same sections from the Zoppino work, with the same areas highlighted:

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Yup.  The little crescent is missing, and the lower arm of the fleur-de-lis type detail with the clumsy header is gone entirely – the design is truncated, leaving it on the cutting room floor.  There are other differences – mistakes made in one version of the design but not in the other, that you would only notice if you were trying to redraft or stitch from each pattern.

So in this one case,  I’d posit that a copy of a printed page from Schonsperger in Augsberg – either as part of a book, or as a broadside – made its way to Venice, where it was seized upon and re-rendered for inclusion in Zoppino’s collections.   Which is pretty much counter to the intuitive argument that I’ve seen many make – that these counted patterns all originated in Italy and then spread north.  Of course there may be another printed copy even earlier than Schonsperger…

Oh, and this design in particular?  I’ve always been fascinated by the narrow border with its strong directionality. I posited in The New Carolingian Modelbook, that based on similarities to examples of Tiraz band calligraphy done on the count, as appearing in Richard Rutt’s book A History of Hand Knitting, 1989, that this motif may have been copied (possibly without knowing what it represented) from an extant piece of stitching, rug, or other textile from an Islamic workshop.  If that’s true, it would make the design’s peregrinations even more impressive.  Somewhere in the Islamic world, to Germany, then to Italy.  And on from there…

UPDATE

And the Schonsperger plate makes another appearance!  This time in Anton Woensam’s Ein new kunstlich Modelbůch, published in 1536, in Köln.

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FRACTURED SYMMETRY and TEMPLE OF BEAUTY

Today I brag not about my own products, but about those of the Resident Male.

Friends and family who know Fernando know that he has been writing for as long as I have known him.  His first letters to me were filled with tales of his own devising.  Over the years he’s continued, writing short stories, novellas, and longer works. 

I have had the joy of being his Audience of One – he reads them to me as they develop, and I hear his voice on every page.

Now you can read them, too.

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In his own words, from the book’s blurb:

Blair MacAlister is an expert at Judo, a credible AI hacker, and a certified pilot of craft atmospheric and interstellar. Her favorite weapon is sarcasm, or failing that, her ever-present blaster. Her boss is Terendurr the Black Stone: technical wizard, expert in the ethnography of myriad races, fancier of rare foods and wines, and even rarer fractalites. An Entharion Quadromorph, exiled from his homeworld and under constant threat of assassination, he is also somewhat irritable.
Together they investigate mysteries based on science, in a setting that brings them into contact with all the main races of Civspace: The mysterious Junn, the affable but biologically intense Raylics, the chaotic and powerful Oro-Ka, the commercial minded Keret, and the cynical Phair. At the center of their cases are transformative genetic therapies, unlikely fossils, the linked neurology of symbiotes, and more.

I am biased of course, but Fractured Symmetry is a strong collection of short stories and novellas about the same investigative team; mysteries that turn on both points of science, and insight into individuals and cultures.  It’s got action, adventure, aliens both threatening and endearing, devious antagonists, and a kick-ass heroine.  Plus a goodly dash of sarcasm and wit. 

It’s available from Amazon for download for Kindle readers on all devices (including KindleUnlimited); and in hard-copy paperback.

He’s also got another collection of short stories on Amazon, also available for Kindle readers and on KindleUnlimited:

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The Temple of Beauty is a bit more of an eclectic story collection. Its stories are retro-inspired, and include both SF and fantasy, ranging across a wide variety of tones and subjects.  More aliens, stealthy killers, high camp wandering heroes, and the clash of class and ideals.  Some played for ironic amusement, some less flippant. 

So, if you are planning an Icelandic style book-Christmas, looking for something to entertain and amuse, or planning a mobile book-hoard to get you through holiday travel and visits, please consider adding these.  I guarantee you’ll have a great ride, even if it isn’t on a giant saber-toothed rabbit.

THE DOODLES CONTINUE

The idle moments bit that’s taking place on the ground cloth area NOT used up by my two forehead cloths has taken on a life of its own.  Frankly, it started out as a delaying tactic – stitching was too much fun to stop and tend to finishing the two now-completed kerchiefs.  But it has become more than that.

I started out with another large-fill design, of the scale that rarely gets used in inhabited blackwork work.  The motifs are just too big to fit into any but the absolute largest areas in a standard dark outline, fancy fill project.  But they are on the scale of the regular fills shown in rectangular areas at the bottom of the famous Jane Bostocke sampler.  So why not?

This top fill (for the time being) is quasi-original.  I drafted it up, based on this linear design, appearing on another oft-cited sampler, the V&A’s T.14-1931

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I’ve used that design as a teaching piece for years.  It’s in TNCM, and a tutorial on double running stitch logic featuring this design, complete with a chart for it is here.  For this piece I used the center motif, rotating it fourfold, and elongating the “stems” into a grid with a secondary motif.  I stitched it using two plies of the four-ply hand-dyed silk floss I am using.

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The next bit was the motto, described in the last post, so I won’t reiterate here.

Just below the motto is another motif that will be featured in the sequels to TNCM – a scrolling grapevine, with very angular, striated branches sprouting off more organic and woody trunks.  I wrote about it here before.  The space for it was too small to show the entire repeat, so I focused on the center bit, which left the gnarled fat branches off.  Again, this is stitched using two strands of the silk.

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Below the grapes is a curious design, also from the TNCM sequels.  Although it’s shown in the book without a fill, I chose to execute it with one here.  The design is entirely mine (one of the few totally unsourced pieces in the collection).  On this one I experimented with thread thickness.  All of the stitching is double-running, but the heavy outlines are worked with the full four-strand thickness of the floss.  The flowers are done in two strands, and the radial symmetry stepped fill is done in one strand.

After this comes another narrow strip pattern across the top (I can’t abide wasted space); plus a narrow border to frame the entire area.  The border and possibly the narrow top strip will be done with thread from a second batch of black silk, also hand-dyed with a historically appropriate dye by my Stealth Apprentice.  The goal is for me to “beta test” her output, and report back on the stitching qualities of each of the slightly different recipes. 

As for the sequel(s) to TNCM – yes.  I am working on them.  Yes, it’s going slowly.  It’s intensive, and having finished the whole book, having to rip it apart and remake it as two or three smaller volumes is proving more problematic than I thought.  Some pattern pages need to be re-composed, patterns with cross-references in their historical profiles have to be sorted and kept together to avoid jumping between volumes; the intro material needs to be re-written so that it appears in balanced (and relevant) quantities across the volumes.  Indices and referenced bibliographies entries have to be properly assigned to appear in the same volume as the patterns to which they are linked. This is taking time, and frankly, after a whole day of heavy editing for my professional job, sitting down and doing the same thing at night is slow going.

Why am I re-editing and cutting the thing apart?  Affordability.  Right now at a heavily illustrated 184 pages, including historical essays, how-to material, 75 plates with over 200 individual designs, research discussions, the bibliographies and indexes, for electronic publication, the break even point would put the per-copy cost in the neighborhood of $175, and even more for on-demand paper copy printing.  That’s flat out too much.  I am hoping to offer smaller books at a more accessible price point.

So apologies.  They are coming.  Slowly. 

THOSE SNAILS

Another question from the inbox:  “So, what’s up with those snails?”

No mystery – just a bit of silly that’s been codified into semi-tradition.

The original strip of snails was one of the first patterns I doodled up – inspired by the non-counted snails in Scholehouse for the Needle (1624)That was way long back ago, when I was still in college.  They’ve wandered in and out of my notes over the years, first appearing as a spot motif, and eventually ending up in my first and second hand drawn pattern collections (published in ‘76 and in the early ‘80s) and eventually my own New Carolingian Modelbook.  I dedicated that form of the pattern to Mistress Peridot of the Quaking Hand – a local resident of the SCA Barony of Carolingia (Eastern Massachusetts/greater Boston area), famed for her calligraphy and her unselfish sharing of the same. The artist behind so many excellent awards scrolls. Peridot’s own device features a sleepy snail.

Maybe it’s a subliminal comment on slow, steady perseverance inherent in needlework, but for whatever reason, I have used that snail on the majority of my samplers.  Not all, but most.  Here are charts for some of the ways my little creeping friends have shown up.  The original row is at the top left.  The all-over of snails circling little gardens with ominous intent is from the Trifles sampler.  The ribbon strip at the lower left is the bit I’m currently stitching in blue and red. 

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THE WHOLE THING

The permission sampler is rolling right along.  At 30 threads per inch (15 stitches per inch) it’s fairly zooming.  Here you see the whole cloth. I’m already mostly done with 25% of the patterned area:

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That small bit of solid blue cross stitch at the bottom?  I hate it and will be picking it out, presently.  Originally I wanted to frame the piece top and bottom with a denser border, done in cross stitch.  But I don’t like the look.  The bottom border will still be blue, and will still span the entire width of the piece, but will be something directional in double-running, instead.

Now for the two newest strips:

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Both are patterns from my forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook.  The top one is done in two weights of thread – double strand for the red and green sections of the motif, and single strand for the yellow half-cross stitch ground.  There’s no historical precedent that I can find for treating the background of a voided piece this way, but I do like the look of the more delicate field against the heavier outlines.  It’s something I’ve used a couple of times now.  Since there’s no requirement for this piece to be historically accurate, why not play?  The pattern itself does have a source – a stitched sample book of designs in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a posted provenance of Spain or Italy, early 1600s.

As for the lower bit, in blue – that one is interesting, too.

Here’s a close-up:

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And here’s the source:

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This is an excerpt from “Tafel 47” in Egenolff’s Modelbook of 1527.  Note that the original is clearly a freehand piece – not graphed.  But it translates very neatly to work as a counted pattern.  If you look closely at some of the freehand drawings in Egenolff and his contemporaries, you’ll see that (to my eye at least) they were intended to be congruent with counted execution.  That’s not to say they couldn’t be done off the count, but with constrained angles, no fine detail, and geometric execution, working them that way is a cinch.

Back to my modern piece.  It’s pretty clear that the area below the words will be two columns of strip patterns.  I am still thinking of what to do in the top part.  I could do more strips of similar proportion.  I could do one moderately wide strip  (the area there is too narrow north-south for any of the really big patterns in T2CM, believe it or not).  Or I might do a collection of spot motifs, or one large all-over.  I haven’t decided.  More bungee jump stitching ahead, as I continue to design on the fly.

FINISHED!

It’s done.  All 80+ gears, each with a different filling pattern, worked with well-aged “Art Silk” (probably rayon) purchased for a single rupee per skein in India, on 30-count linen.  The soot sprites (little black fuzzy creatures) playing the part of “Trifles” are in discontinued DMC linen floss, so that they contrast shaggy and matte against the brighter, smoother silky stuff.  I’ve also attached some real, brass gears as embellishments, to add extra Steampunk flavor.

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Here’s a close-up of the sprites in process, adapted from the little soot creatures in the movie Spirited Away.

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To stitch them I worked totally off count. (Yes, I can do that, too). I outlined the eyes in split stitch using one strand of floss, and placed the eyes’ pupils, using French knots.  Then I worked long and short stitch, encroaching on the split stitch eye frames, to get that spiky, unkempt, hairy texture.  The arms and legs are close-worked chain with two strands, with the little toes and fingers (what of them there are) also in split stitch, but with two strands.  The gears are filled in using (mostly) double running, with some departures into “wandering running” using two strands of the very fine art silk floss; and outlined in chain stitch using three strands of the stuff.  All threads used were waxed using real beeswax, for manageability.

I am happy to say I’ve hit all of the specific design requests.  And there were many:

  • A good motto
  • Steampunk (the gear theme)
  • Something Whovian (the Daleks)
  • Octopodes (dancing in one of the fills)
  • Snails (ditto)
  • Unicorns and/or dragons (ditto, and the winged, serpent tailed, beaky thing is good enough)
  • Anime (the soot sprites)
  • Interlaces (also inhabiting the gears)
  • Autumn colors (brown, gold, russet, silver)
  • Something from India (the thread itself)

The saying itself is particularly suitable for the target Daughter.  It’s one of Mushashi’s Nine Precepts.  The Daleks are from a graph by Amy Schilling, intended for knitting. The narrow border is in my forthcoming book, The Second Carolingian Modelbook. I found all of the alphabets used (there are four) in Ramzi’s Sajou collection. The gear shapes are adapted from a freehand tracing of a commercial airbrush stencil by Artool.  Most of the gear fills can be found in Ensamplario AtlantioThe few that aren’t from that source are recent doodles, and will be made available in time, either as a fifth segment of that work, or perhaps as their own stand-alone sequel.  Ensamplario Secundo, anyone?

Now Younger Daughter doesn’t head off to school until next fall, so I have about a year to add hanging tabs, or back the piece with contrasting fabric to make a scroll-like presentation.  So while the stitching is complete, this piece may revisit String when I decide what the display treatment will be.

On to the next.  I’ve got two more original stitched pieces in queue, with only a general idea of what each one will be, and what styles/designs/colors I’ll use.  Free-fall stitching!  Gotta love the adventure!