BY POPULAR REQUEST – FAUX WEAVE TOE-UP SOCKS
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.
STITCHING ON THE MUSEO DEL TESSUTO’S 16TH CENTURY CAMICA
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.
CLICK HERE OR ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO TO DOWNLOAD A LEGIBLE PDF
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.
Folk have asked me how I can redact designs from photos. I try to reply, with specific examples from a new-to-me design I just charted up this morning.
First credit where credit is due. This artifact is a work bag in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine arts, accession number 12.52. Below is their photo of the thing from the page linked in the last sentence.
The museum’s attribution is Italian or English, from around 1600. It’s part of the Denman Waldo Ross Collection, which means it was probably collected before 1900. The description further says it’s done in red silk on white plain weave linen, but does not say if it was done in double running or back stitch. No photos of the stitching’s reverse are shown, although there is a note that implies that when the piece was made up into a bag, a coarser grade of linen was used for the presumably unstitched back side.
The regularity and angles immediately signal to me that is was done on the count. Also that the ground cloth’s weave is not quite even, with a few more threads in the horizontal-appearing direction, than in the vertical. I can tell that from the large center flowers, which although they are quadrilaterally symmetrical, appear to be a bit squished side to side.
First, some base assumptions.
- Modern blackwork and its expanded vocabulary aside, historical examples employ only straight lines, right angles, and 45-degree angles.
- Stitch length units are regular, and are constrained to multiples of a single whole unit, either on edge or on the diagonal. Yes, there are some artifacts with instances of half-unit stitches, but for the most part they are extremely infrequent in foreground design. They do appear sometimes in voided work, to help the stitcher cozy up to the outlines of their previously laid down foreground design.
- Gaps between stitches in a continuously linked design will be the same multiple of the base unit. There are no “floating islands” in this piece. Every bit is straight-line attached to every other bit, and therefore must be on the same base grid.
- Not every iteration of the original is assumed to be spot on accurate. Imperfections in cloth, and stitchers who let mistakes remain or improvise their way out of a mistake can make the creation of a final normed chart a matter of adjudicated compromise, comparing as many of the iterations of the pattern as appear on the piece and deducing the most likely original pattern drafter’s intent.
It’s pretty clear that this photo, while quite good, isn’t the best. Individual stitches blur together. Angles are not always crisp, and the threads have aged over the centuries. Still the base logic and standard shapes that can be formed using the assumptions above remain. I’ve charted hundreds of these, and have a pretty good grasp of what can be done with those shapes, but even if you have fresh eyes and haven’t done this before it’s not impossible. Think Logic.
So. Where to start? That’s easy. At the center.
That big rosette must start at the center with a square of four units. We know that from the little Y units that grow out of it. Heart shape units are pretty common in this work, and it’s also easy to deduce that these must be an extra unit tall so that the center vertical of each ends up one unit above those same Ys. That makes the diagonals linking the center square to the edges of the centermost heart flower two units long.
(An aside: the distortion produced by the less than even ground is evident when you compare the original and my true-square chart.)
The next thing I added was the simple hearts that grow out of the four cardinal directions. That establishes the height and width of that motif. I decided these hearts had flat rather than pointed top corners after looking at several spots on the original, and seeing that to achieve the height as seen, pointy corners would have been too tall – the divot at the center of the heart would not be in proper proportion otherwise. After that I played with the surrounding petal shapes, noting which straight lines were preserved, and noting the parallel size of the right angle juncture where the center heart petals meet with the size of the elongated diamonds that link the center rosette to the smaller flowers. Those have to be two units at each end. And so I filled in the rest of the rosette and those connecting links.
The only thing remaining to create the flower framing motif was to graph out the little blossom. Comparing the corners of those petals it was pretty clear that they WOULD have to be pointy to make the motif congruent with its own center square, which is clearly the same size as the larger rosette. Easy. So is chaining two together to make the inter-rosette connections. The only thing I had to watch for was the direction of those little leaves sprouting on the side. Those had to mirror around the center. A simple matter of copying and pasting, with flips as needed.
The chart at right is pretty much the entire logical repeat for the floral frame (click on it if it truncates on your device). Now for the harder part. The stemmed sprig of hops? grapes? whatever? is NOT symmetrical at the bottom. For that we have to rely on alignment with the wonderfully and conveniently regular floral frame.
Yes, this part is harder, and sometimes takes quite a few trial-and-error iterations before I hit on the logic of the original. In this case it wasn’t that difficult. Although it’s not possible to count stitches in the photo, our base assumptions and our clearly defined frame made it rather easy. I look for alignments and spacing when compared with the frame. For example, if you compare the red alignment lines on the photo of the original to my chart, you see I hit all the bases. There are lots more points of alignment and extrapolation than just my few red marks. And yes, long familiarity with the shapes and curves possible does make it a bit easier.
You can also see in the original that the curlicues do not always “lay flat.” Some have fallen victim to age and loose stitching. In most cases I had to sift through multiple instances of the repeat and come up with a best guess. And in this photo is one thing I often add – a deliberate interpretation that’s a tell-tale, so that I can spot unauthorized reproductions of my charting, even when others claim to have charted the same original on their own. (Don’t laugh, this does happen. Mapmakers still do this to spot knockoffs, too.)
Thankfully the upper part of the sprig is symmetrical. I use the same alignment and spacing methods to fill in the tightly packed flower/fruit shape and the lily-like finial on the top. The best part of that is once I’ve got a good stab at half, I can cut and paste with mirroring, rather than doodling in every line segment.
And the whole thing together – click here for an easy to download, save and print PDF. Note that a full size page version of this design is also available in the permanent free embroidery patterns collection tab, scroll down to the linear patterns section.
As with all my charts, I copyright my own graphed interpretation, with no claim on the parent object that inspired it. I make this chart freely available for your own personal use. If you intend to incorporate my charting into your own design, and especially if you intend to sell that design OR if you wish to use this to produce items for sale or fundraising purposes – you are requested to contact me before doing so.
We’re now in the run-up to the holiday gift-giving season. New folk reading here may not realize that in addition to stitching I also knit. And I have dabbled in knitwear design in addition to embroidery design. I didn’t pursue knit design intensely because selling patterns to publications and yarn houses requires adherence to deadline, production of the photographic model, working up a wide range of sizes, and use of yarns/colors I did not always favor. But I have released some patterns over the years that make excellent, quickly made gifts. Many of those are here on String-or-Nothing, and are free downloads. Here’s a round-up of them.
Chanterelle is a scarf requiring just one skein of variegated or self-striping fingering weight or sock yarn (aka 4-ply). For me it’s like potato chips, hard to make just one because every ball produces a different and unexpected result.
The flag scarf was especially surprising. That one was from a stash-aged ball of Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, #1776. I gave it to a friend who wore it to cheer on her kid in an international sports competition. By contrast the glowing purples creams and blues next to it was worked up from a single ball of Schoppel Zauberball Crazy Colors.
Other notes on knitting this one up include that it uses US #5s, making it less dense than the same yarn knit into socks, and that blocking is NOT recommended. You want to preserve those gentle curves.
You can download the pattern PDF directly here, and also find it under the Knitting Patterns tab, at the top of every page here on String. It also has a Ravelry page so you can see what others have done with the thing.
Not everyone loves working with fine yarns. Here’s an alternative.
This was the original expression of the idea I adapted into Chanterelle. It’s exactly the same pattern, but designed for a heavier yarn. Noro Kureopatora was a DK, and one of the first wildly variegated yarns I ran into and this one evolved from idle play with some leftovers from another project. This pattern works well for DK, Worsted, and Aran weight (native label gauges of 22 to 18 stitches over 4 inches or 10 cm). At DK gauge on a US #6 one scarf needs about 250 yards of yarn. A bit more for the heavier gauges or for a wider scarf.
Kureopatora’s Snake can be downloaded here, or found under the knitting patterns tab I mentioned before, and a Ravelry page.
Kombu, named after the Japanese name for Kelp, also features gentle undulations, but it’s a lace patterned piece that starts with a small bit of edging. The main body is picked up from the edging and knit up from there. The same edging is used left and right – worked simultaneously with the scarf body. When the desired length is achieved, the same edging is worked across the live stitches of the top. I’ve done it several times in DK, sport, and worsted weight. It’s dreamy in luxury fibers, and just as nice in inexpensive yarns and even cotton. Pick something that’s not too fuzzy for this one though, the drama is best seen in a yarn that shows crisp stitch definition.
The blue one is in Marks and Kattens Indigo Jeansgarn, a guaranteed to shrink and mellow DK weight 100% cotton. The grey is in a cashmere blend. The red is a stash-aged nubbly worsted weight cotton/wool blend – possibly a mill end from Classic Elite circa 1997. It even looks good in a variegated, although truthfully I prefer the solids for this one.
Click here to download Kombu. Like the others it’s on the Patterns tab, although that page also has a link to a German language translation of the thing. Kombu also has its own Ravelry page.
Spring Lightning Lacy Scarf
This one is a bit more of an involved knit that the ones above. It’s more open, worked in lace weight yarn and like all lace requires savage blocking. I’ve done it in white and black. I don’t recommend the black sequin bearing mohair, but the white alpaca/wool blend from a small farm boutique producer was a delight to knit.
For this one the center panel was completed first, and then the edging was knit along the ends and sides after the center was complete.
Spring Lightning is here for direct download, and is also on the Patterns tab. It too has a Ravelry page, although so far I’ve been the only one to attempt it.
Back when the Resident Male was running every day he asked for a scarf that wouldn’t flop around. I took a really soft alpaca wool blend, a worsted weight, and using a simple Shaker rib, knit him a deeply corrugated tube to wear as a gaiter or cowl-style scarf. He named it because in black the ribbing pulled up over the nose and mouth looked vaguely Vader-like. This one is a very quick knit and uses about 300g of yarn.
Sadly, I really don’t have a good photo of it. Think of a deep, thick turtleneck, divorced from the rest of the sweater.
You can download Darth Scarf here, and on the Patterns tab. Its Ravelry page is here.
Knot A Hat Earwarmer Band
This one is still a favorite of mine. It’s my go-to for heavy outdoor labor in the winter, being warm enough on the ears, but not a sweat-inducing box for one’s head. It has however inspired quite a bit of creativity, with folk adapting it to be a dome-shaped hat or cornered toque by continuing to work a solid color crown after completing the stranded colorwork section. My own is double sided, but not double knit. After I finished the knotwork pattern, I did a couple of turning rows in purl, then did the same width in simple stripes of the two colors. When I was finished I turned the striped section inside and seamed it to the cast-on row.
The knotwork design isn’t Celtic – it’s adapted from “Opera Noua composta per dominco da Sera detto il Francoisino,” by Matteo Pagan and Guliemo da Fontaneto, a modelbook published as a resource for embroiderers, printed in Venice in 1546. The same design appears in several other similar works from that general timeframe (pattern sharing and pattern piracy are not new phenomena).
Knot a Hat is written for a 4-ply yarn. Something a bit loftier than standard hard-spun classic sock yarn would work best. It would be an excellent vehicle to show off the gorgeous hand-dyed fingering weight yarns produced by smaller, independent dyers.
Download Knot a Hat here. Or grab it from the Patterns tab, above. The range of adaptations into a true hat are on the Ravelry page. To see them go to the sidebar “About This Pattern” box, and click on the line “19 Projects in 110 queues”.
Socks, I got. Lots of socks. In everything from light fingering (3-ply) through Aran weight (12 ply). I even have a sock lapel pin knit from reinforcement thread. But I do specialize. My socks are all done the same way though – toe up with a figure-8 toe, a plain foot, and a short rowed heel. Then Something Happens for the ankle part (lace, ribbing, textured stitches, stripes, stranding, whatever tickles my fancy), and ended off with simple ribbing at the top. I usually try to use K2P2 ribbing for the cuff, but I enjoy trying to mate it organically with the texture pattern below, so it’s occasionally eccentric, with bits of K1P1 in there.
I know folk are hesitant about the figure-8 toe, but I don’t find it a burden. Use any toe you prefer. Also note that while I write for DPNs, it’s easy to do all of these patterns on two circular needles, or using the Magic Loop method. And since the heel is totally symmetrical, you COULD start and knit cuff down, and end with a traditional toe. In any case, these patterns are VERY easy to modify and adapt to use your choice of ankle treatment.
These are all representative of my production, and not all of them are drafted out in specific. They all follow the logic of the posted patterns, though. Firefighters Socks are done in heavy worsted/Aran weight yarn. Simple Toe Up Socks are in DK/light worsted. Jelly Bean, See Saw, and Pine Tree are in standard sock yarn. Impossible Socks are also in standard sock yarn in spite of the very fine gauge. And the Teeny Red Sox Sock is in reinforcement yarn. Instead of posting direct links to each of these sock patterns, I will just send you to the Sock section of the Pattern page. There are also several eyelet or texture patterns in the last section of that page that I’ve used on those socks. Most of the sock patterns also have Ravelry pages, but listing them all would also be confusing.
There are lots more things to play with on the knitting patterns tab. If you are a quicker knitter and looking for a larger gift, there’s a kid’s poncho, a child-size faux chain mail outfit, several blankets – some knit in motifs and seamed together, others knit in one piece, several hats including one for Revolutionary War era re-enactors, and a backwards-engineered Bolivian Ch’ullu, a lace blouse and a knit jacket, plus mittens, wrist warmers, and texture/lace stitches. And my full Ravelry Designer Page is here.
So happy Holiday Gift Knitting! May neither time nor yarn run out before your chosen day of gift giving.
Modern Assisi work vs. historical voided work. I know that the counted thread stitching community lumps them together, but they are not exactly the same thing. What I call “modern Assisi” is the 19th century revival of voided stitching, that draws heavily on Italian folk and church embroidery styles, which in turn trace their roots back to Renaissance era voided pieces. And that late 19th century revival was again echoed in the 20th century, with the collection and republication of many patterns, and issue of new books on the subject.
Yes, both Assisi and earlier styles include prominent outlines usually done in double running or back stitch. And both feature largely unstitched foregrounds (sometimes with additional ornamentation) that contrast strongly with a stitched background.
One of the key defining characteristics of modern Assisi is the use of cross stitch for the background. That’s “plain old cross stitch (POCS)” – not long-armed cross stitch. The Renaissance era voided styles use many different ground stitches and approaches, but so far after looking at hundreds of extant examples, I haven’t seen any in POCS.
Which is why I got very excited when I stumbled across this piece. Now before you get excited too, I did NOT find the unicorn of POCS in pre 1650-era voided work.
I made the mistake of idly browsing on my phone with its tiny screen, and jumping the gun I posted about the piece before I got back to my laptop and high resolution monitor. Obviously, once I was able to zoom in I corrected my mistake, but I did look like an idiot.
So to atone for my egregious lack of judgement, I charted the design in question, and make the chart available as a broadside, for your own personal, non-commercial use. Please do not republish my redaction or include it in other pattern collections.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF BROADSIDE OF THE CHART.
Some notes on this piece.
My redaction is not true to any one repeat of the design. Instead I averaged all of them, evening out replication errors as best I could, to arrive at a single, uniform representation of the motifs. All design elements are there, in correct proportion and placement to each other, but there will be small deviations between the chart above and any one of the artifact’s pattern iterations.
The background is not worked in POCS. It was worked squared and unlike every other example of the squared filling on historical works I’ve seen, the stitches were pulled very tightly, bundling the ground cloth’s threads together. Meshy techniques for grounds were very popular in the 1600s and 1700s, but every other example I’ve seen has completely covered the bundled threads with stitching, making a very hard-wearing totally overstitched square mesh ground. In this case the ground cloth’s weave does show through.
The squared filling was worked up to but not touching the outlines of the foreground motifs. A one-unit “halo” was left around them. I’ve tried to represent that on my chart. There was considerable “fudging” in the way the filling was carried into the nooks and crannies of the foreground design. I’ve chosen the least acrobatic of them to include in the chart. Note that there are a couple of deviation points where a diagonal stitch was used to carry the ground thread up into a narrow area of the design.
Colors. Your guess is as good as mine. The outlines and the ground fill are clearly two different colors. If I had to guess, I would probably opt for black for the outlines and madder red for the fill. But other color combos do exist – not every historical piece was done in black and red.
The outlines – double running or back stitch? It’s impossible to tell from just looking at the front. I do note however that the spots on the leopards are all connected to the outline. There are none just floating in space, which makes the piece easier to execute in double running than a piece with discontinuous bits. The only minor challenge in this one if worked in double running would be that little hunting dog. It’s a small area not connected to any of the rest of the design.
And finally, the complementing edging. Note that the squared background is terminated with little “fingers” that slant up and to the right on the top of the strip, and down and to the left at the bottom. I tried to get the whole repeat on the chart, but I ran out of room. For absolute fidelity, work the bottom fingers exactly as tall as the ones on top. Don’t truncate as I was forced to do.
The moral of the story? Check, double check, and do so on the highest resolution display device you have to hand. Never let your excitement run away with you.
EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND FOUR
The latest band! A narrow one to provide a bit rest and relaxation following on the heels of the ravaging pirates. This is a quickie and should take most folk less than the two weeks allotted for its completion.
Palm Cluster is based on a visual family of historical designs, but is my own, and does not directly replicate any single one of them. Feel free to work it in monochrome, using variegated floss, or in multicolor.
I’ve had some questions from folk who find themselves unable to make the commitment to work the entire Epic Fandom sampler, but are in love with specific strips and have asked about working them up separately.
I answer if it’s for your own personal pleasure, please go ahead. Put these on cuffs, collars, napkins, tote bags, small pouches, or add them to your own samplers. I just ask that you contact me if you are considering the distribution of any pattern that includes my strips (or any of my other charts or designs) either for free or for sale. And as always, a link back to String-or-Nothing if you post about your piece would be deeply appreciated. I derive great joy from seeing what mischief the pattern-children are up to in the company of the creative.
Full info on stitch count and thread consumption plus downloadable PDFs for the charts released to date are provided on the StitchAlong page here (also reachable via the tab at the top of every page on String). I’m stacking all of the SAL info on that page, so scroll down to the newest info at the bottom.
Band 5 was released on The Enablers group on Facebook today, and will be echoed here for posterity on 9 November. Happy stitching!
EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND THREE
I present the third band of our Epic Fandom StitchAlong. It doesn’t matter if the pirates are from Never-Never Land, Penzance or the Caribbean – it’s always good to be a Pirate King. Or Queen. Or Monarch.
Here are our finished samples, courtesy of the flashing needles of our Beta Testers, Heather, Danielle and Callie, plus my own finish. Note that the band looks equally good stitched up just in outline or voided. Working that background is totally optional.
Full info on stitch count and thread consumption, plus descriptions of some voiding methods are provided on the StitchAlong page here (also reachable via the tab at the top of every page on String). I’m stacking all of the SAL info on that page, so scroll down to the newest info at the bottom.
Band 4 will be released on The Enablers group on Facebook on 12 October, and echoed here for posterity on 26 October. Happy stitching!
VOIDED PIECES AND OUTLINES
First, thanks to Callie of NotAnotherCostumingBlog for this question, which takes me tumbling down another chasm, dragging all of you along with me. Callie asks,
“…do you have any tips for converting patterns charted for LACS to charts for double running? I seem to have a bit of a mental block about it and the best idea I’ve got is to print them out, estimate where the lines would be instead of blocks, draw those on, and then transfer them to clean graph paper. I have a lot of patterns that I would really prefer to work linearly because it is so much faster but I’m not yet at the point where I can look at a block chart and just mentally convert it.”
I break down the answer into several parts, and try to respond to each.
Outlines in historical examples of voided stitching
Were historical voided pieces worked with or without outlines? The answer is “Yes.” There are some with stitched outlines and some without, and the presence of stitched outlines does not correlate neatly to the technique used to fill in the background. In addition, there look to have been voided pieces that used drawings as their “outlines” – working the fill right up to and sometimes over those markings, which seem to have (mostly) been stitched.
The one thing about outlines in these pieces that is different from their use in modern needle-painting style cross stitch is that in the historical works, close inspection shows the dense coverage stitching (of whatever type) encroaching on the linear stitching. This says to me that the lines were worked in one of two manners:
- laid down first, and the background filled in later (the most common approach, especially for meshy or long-arm cross stitch fills; also logically on the pieces where the fill leaves a unworked “halo” around the linear stitched foreground, as in the lowermost right example of the first group below)
- Stitched at the same time as the ground behind (more usual for square fill as in the lowermost left example of the first group below)
Modern cross stitch pieces generally direct the stitcher to finish the ground areas, then go back and work the linear bits on top of them.
Historical examples of voided work with counted outlines:
Historical examples of voided work without counted outlines:
Historical examples of voided work with (probable) outlines drawn freehand, then stitched.
Another thing that can’t be determined is whether the historical embroiderers finished ALL of the outlines first, then went back and did the fills; did them section by section; or if in fact the SAME stitcher did both. I can well envision a large group project like a set of bed hangings, where someone proficient in laying down the outlines did that, copying from a chart or a previously stitched piece; with a team following on behind filling in the voiding.
Being a team of one myself, I tend to work section by section, defining my outlines, proofing them, and filling in the voiding – then leapfrogging on to the next bit.
Representing outlines in modern charting
In my own work, if I’m redacting or adapting from a piece that has evident outlines, I use a specific convention for charting. I employ the same dot-and-line method I use for plain un-voided linear work, but flood-fill a portion of the background to indicate the areas to be filled in with stitching after the outlines are completed. The sample bit I worked up for a previous discussion on charting methods (derived Kathryn Goodwyn’s redaction) illustrates this method (left). If the piece had no outlines or was charted from a graphed original or a historical piece in a medium that did not show outlines (some lacis, buratto or other darned-mesh type pieces), then I use the standard square in box technique (right) although usually without the red line 5-unit notation and count, which I tend to do mostly for use for knitting. Both my The New Carolingian Modelbook and its forthcoming sequel The Second Carolingian Modelbook include linear unit and block unit sections.
There’s one other style I use on rare occasion, mostly for linear pieces that include large, dark areas, and whose edges are defined not by prior outlines, but by half cross stitches worked at the same time as the fully covered internal areas. This spider panel from Ensamplario Atlantio II is an example – note that the ultra-dense spider is done in boxed cross stitch (aka 4-sided cross stitch), with half cross stitches to smooth out the outlines.
Conversion from voided chart to a linear chart
This is something I hadn’t considered doing before. It presupposes a finished chart in the block unit style.
First, I have to apologize. I don’t use commercial charting software, relying instead on a homegrown solution based on the freeware drafting program, GIMP. (I offer a free tutorial and templates for my method elsewhere on this blog.) You could do this with a photocopying machine and a pencil, but please bear with me.
Let’s use the bunny seen above, which I previously charted and made available for free download as a PDF.
The approach is pretty straightforward, but there are no shortcuts. Take the chart you want to convert, photocopy it, and pencil in your adaptation over the established boxes. Or regraph it as I did, then use an outlining tool manually, box by box, to smooth the edges until you get a look you like. You will want to take liberties with the diagonals, instead of outlining every 90-degree intersection (although that’s a clear alternative). You may also wish to add details, like the toes, nose, eyeball, and ear openings. That’s also a design choice and up to you.
Finally, please note that I do not use “knight’s move” stitches (two units over, one unit up, to make a 30/60-degree angle). That’s a conscious design decision on my part. They are absent from 16th and 17th century artifacts with the rare exception of when they are used to form eyelets, or in later 18th century works – solid blocks of stitching radiating from a central point. I’ve not yet found a single 16th or 17th century voided or linear work artifact that employs knight’s move angles. They are a great addition to the charter’s tool set for sure and can be used to expand the stitcher’s design vocabulary. But they are also a clear indication of modern design aesthetic, so I leave them to other modern blackwork designers, and limit myself to 90 and 45-degree angles exclusively, even in my contemporary “nerd-culture” pieces.
So there’s the long answer for Callie. She is absolutely right. The solution is as she suggested in her question. If you need to draw it out before hand rather than adapt on the fly, you will need pencil and paper (or a charting design drafting solution) and I know of no shortcuts.
CAT AND MOUSE
An odd confluence of happenstances and the resulting doodle.
Last week there was a discussion in one of the Facebook groups dedicated to 1500s costuming or blackwork that started with someone asking for a historical blackwork design that featured cats. There aren’t many examples, and the chat covered iconography, citing that cats weren’t the most auspicious of symbols at that time.
Then an unusual source came across my feed: a line-rendered group of cats, but not from the period in question. This plate flew across my Twitter feed. The source is Ernest Allen Batchelder’s Design in Theory and Practice, New York: Macmillan, 1910.
This appears on page 157. The book is a rather lively examination of design principles across history, and appears to be a transitional work, including the natural elements of the aesthetic/Art Nouveau style, but more solidly grounding the more angular principles that characterize the Art Deco/late Craftsman mood. For all I know it may be a seminal point in decorative design history, but I will leave that point to be hashed over by any readers who are schooled in design theory and lineages.
In any case, here were some linear cats just crying out to be graphed and stitched. So in response to a generalized (as opposed to Elizabethan-specific) demand for cats and to delight cat-loving friends and family, here is what the Batchelder sketch inspired:
An easy to download PDF file containing this chart is available on the Embroidery Patterns tab of this site, or by clicking HERE.
This is rather large to be used as a fill pattern in inhabited blackwork (the subtype with outlines and fancy fills), but it is in scale for use as a large all-over design. I could see it being worked as is, in double running or back stitch, in monochrome or in multiple colors (those yarn balls cry out for variegated thread). It could be done voided, with the background filled in. The cats could be solidly stitched or left as is, or customized to match the markings of favorite pets (I provide a rudimentary tabby and tuxedo but any other markings might be fudged in). A frieze of this as the leftmost third of a placemat might be fun. I leave use up to you.
Like my other designs of late, this is “good-deed-ware.” If you like it and use it, I encourage you to look around and make a donation to a local cause that is helping people hit hard by plague-related economic challenges. “Starving artist” should be a metaphor, not a life description.
MASKS AND DOODLES
I continue on with the mask project. I’ve finished two sides for the first one, and have started (and am well into) the second.
Here are the two green sides:
And here’s the red one, in process:
It’s pretty obvious that I haven’t cut them apart yet. I want to do the red mask, and possibly one in black before I do that. There’s very little room between layouts on my ground cloth, and if I were to separate the pieces it would be difficult to stitch on the remaining scraps. So I continue.
Another thing that’s obvious is that I’ve made big mistakes on both. I’ve “colored outside the lines” on both the blue and red pieces. But it doesn’t matter one bit. My work plan is to finish all my decorative stitching, then run each mask piece around several times on my sewing machine before I cut them out (oh, for a serger!). The machine stitching will help fix the embroidery in place and give some stability to the rather ravely edges of the ground cloth, and the overage will land on the literal “cutting room floor.” The nice, fixed edges in turn will make it easier to stitch the fancy bits to their linings – two or three layers of tightly woven high count 100% cotton percale. The easy-count fabric may be just right for counted work, but has almost no value as a protective layer. I’ll depend on that percale to keep me safer.
Now on the designs I used. Both are from my latest freebie book Ensamplario Atlantio II. The blue mask with the chain like interlaces is Design #195 in that book. And yes – I chose it for that design’s visual allusion to knightly mail. It’s a straightforward implementation of the design as shown, but flipped left/right for the two complementary sides of the mask.
The second is also from the same book – Design #191. But in the book it’s presented as a strip design, useful for borders. I wanted to use it slightly differently, so I played.
The design at the left below is the most obvious way to make a full repeat. Yes, we can quibble about mating up the column ends so that there’s no blank line between, but that’s inconsequential. The strong verticals and horizontals are the most prominent feature. It’s a very regimented and in spite of the embellishments quite a forbidding layout, looking a lot like a Victorian era cast iron fence, or the bars of a very fancy jail cell.
By contrast look at the one on the right. It’s the same major design element, just shifted over one-half repeat, so that the large flower lozenge aligns with smaller two-bud cross. It has a different energy. It’s exactly as dense as the bit on the left in terms of stitching, but it looks lighter, more energetic, and more open. I preferred its movement, and the greater play it gives to the diagonals.
Those red bits in both? Just ways to visually unite what are clearly strips, to make a more melded all-over look.
Never being one to let well enough alone, I note that there’s ample space to play with this. For example, take the original repeat (black), rotate it, and add a couple of design elements. Most notably that Green Man that Ann and Lois spotted lurking in the original.
I’d stitch this up in one color, or if I used two – not as shown (that’s just to illustrate the old and new parts). I’d probably use the second color for the Green Man’s face, the larger flower sprigs at the center lines, and possibly the stand-alone motif in the middle. And this bit goes into my bin for further refinement and eventual release in Ensamplario Atlantio III (why stop at two?)
Finally – this is just a long and drawn out way to say “GO DOODLE!” While this example a bit overelaborate, the core idea is to take a design element and use it as a springboard to creativity. Pull out those drawing pads, sheets of graph paper, drafting software platforms, or needlework-specialty sketchers, and have at it. It’s fun. I promise!