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:
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.
So for those of you who favor seasonal stitchery, here is a suitably spooky present:
The inspiration for Baba Yaga is courtesy of my pal and former co-worker Laura Packer. Laura is a storyteller by trade – an unusual occupation these days, but one she does splendidly. You can sign up for notification of her public tellings at the link above, or you can subscribe for all sorts of creative goodness at her Paetron link.
Laura had sent a much appreciated surprise to me, so I doodled up the main Baba Yaga chicken-leg hut motif in return. She swooned over it, and suggested further additions from the story cycle – the chest with the egg/heart; the fence of bones (I stole my bony boi’s faces for that), the moon, three keys, a cauldron, a forest of briers, wind, a raven; and keys, creepy crawlies and other things in sets of three. I put in as many as I could, adding the motto across the bottom and the dreamer frame (in silhouette, intended to be stitched very densely for added mystery).
When we were both happy, I went final with it. And gave full rights to the design in perpetuity to Laura. She returned the favor by allowing me to post it here.
Please note that this is just a chart – not a full project described in detail. I suggest work in one or two colors on even weave or one of the higher count Aida fabrics, but I do not give thread consumption estimates. Linear elements can be done in double running or back stitch. The silhouette frame can be worked in long armed cross stitch, four sided cross stitch, or plain old cross stitch – your choice. There are gaps in places between the solid dark areas of the silhouette frame and its outline. Feel free to fudge those in with partial stitches if you like. I didn’t want to add visual complication by including the partials. It’s going to be hard enough to count as it is.
I don’t even have an as-stitched example to post (yet). If you beat me to that and feel so inclined, please send a photo and I will showcase it here.
You can download Baba Yaga from my embroidery pattern page (tab above or click here). While I am not charging for the thing, I do release it as “good deed ware.” Subscribe to Laura’s channel, or make a donation/buy a thing/otherwise subsidize the creative professional of your choice.
Artists – and especially face to face performance artists, actors, and musicians – are having a very hard time of it right now. But it’s art that keeps us anchored and sane in times of stress. If you can, please be a true patron and lend a hand. After all, doing good for those touched by the the spirits of creativity can only bring good fortune in return. Often in very unexpected ways. Let me tell you a story…
Having gone on and on about straight repeats as my bony bois march across the top of my piece, we have now come to the first corner.
Thankfully, my count is spot-on and everything is in place.
But why did I start with the strip of skeletons doomed to dance upside down? Because I knew that I would probably make some tiny adjustments to the design as I went along. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the closest point of the work, and the most logical part – that’s always the strip across the bottom, where the motifs are all right-side-up.
It’s unlikely that any small tweaks would be noticeable in the upside-down part at the top. So being too lazy (and waaay too short of thread I can’t replenish) I started there, knowing that I would not be ripping back vast regions to norm those tweaks.
Closer up, in a more normal orientation:
My last post discussed the non-historical use of the same framing element on either side of a mirrored repeat with horizontal directionality. Here’s another feature of this strip that’s not often seen in museum artifacts – the mitered corner.
The majority of corner treatments in surviving historical fragments have butted-up or improvised corners. Carefully plotted mirror images across a diagonal (mitering) are quite hard to find. But I decided to do one anyway. You can spot the diagonal running through the center line of the rightmost internal knot, down through some leafy bits, and into a flower-like shape. I’ve also established the beginning of the 90-degree flipped border, with the upper part of that skeleton plus the first pomegranate underway.
I’ve also rounded the outside corner. In a serendipitous happenstance (I can’t claim I planned it ahead of time), the width and height counts of my marching plumes are equal, so I was able to fudge the corner with one last plume on a long stem.
Side note: At this point I really don’t need to refer to my printed pattern any more, I am mostly working off prior stitching, with occasional glances back at my chart to make sure all is aligned and true.
But that inside edging – it’s different. I’ve introduced another element, playing with the eternity knots and tying them into the plume strip. I did this because the thread count of the warp (the threads that stretch up-down in the detail photo) is denser than the thread count of the weft (those that go across in the detail photo). The closer together the threads are, the more compressed the design will be in that direction. My skeletons marching up/down the sides of my piece will end up looking ever so slightly shorter and chunkier compared to their more lanky brothers that tumble across the top and bottom. BUT I can draw the eye away from that difference by adding the additional knotwork strip.
So it turns out that my design is all about insouciance, breaking historical composition precepts, and visual deception. Still for all of that I think that its look is more closely aligned to the aesthetic of historical blackwork rather than more modern pieces. Just my opinion, feel free to differ.
Class Handout Page
And for having the patience to read down this far, here’s another present. I was going through some older files and came across this class handout page. I’ve taught several workshops using it. The last one I came equipped to do was for a public SCA demo in Rhode Island, although the circumstances and attendees made just sitting and chatting about the stitching a better option. Still, I did update the handout, and it may as well be of use to someone.
The patterns are (more or less) ordered in level of complexity, and are intended to be a self-tutorial in double running stitch. When I teach I provide the page below, a strip of Monk’s cloth and length of standard embroidery floss and needle, plus an inexpensive hand hoop (if I have some to spare). Depending on prior experience, stitching proficiency, confidence level I encourage the participant to select one of the designs from the leftmost two columns, to try out face-to-face in the workshop. Then I encourage everyone to use the rest for self-study at home.
For self study, what I suggest is to just grab a piece of cloth and begin – no need to plan an intense, composed sampler. Pick a point anywhere on your chosen ground, then starting at the spot in the upper left column where you feel comfortable, continue down that column to the simple acorns. Then keep going. The next design in the complexity sequence is the flower spring at the top of the next column. Go down that column to the folded ribbons.
After that, I’d suggest attempting the birds at the bottom left. From there the vertical star flowers, then the knots, four-petal flower meander, and the design immediately above the title. Once you’ve done all that the remaining four intermediate patterns on the page should be well within your grasp (the heart flower all-over, fancy acorns, geometric strip, and oddly sprouting peppermint-stick squash blossoms).
Of course you can be totally random and just use these designs as you will. No need to march in lock step with the protocol, above.
Download this handout in PDF format from my Embroidery Patterns page. It’s the last one listed (click on the thumbnail there to get it, then save it locally).
As ever, if you stitch up something from any of my designs, please feel free to send pix. I always get a big smile out of seeing you having fun with the pattern children. And if you specifically say so and give permission to re-use your photo, I will be happy to post it here and index it under “Gallery”.
UPDATE: This pattern is now available as an easy-download PDF file, via the Embroidery Patterns tab, above.
I start with a gallery of finishes. Sanity saved! Smiles spread! (Think what you must about the phrasing – I’m happy that my goal of preserving both have been achieved).
My own finish. Naturally dyed claret and mustard yellow wool on linen/cotton blend. I played with the color placement and letter forms a bit, since I can’t do anything verbatim these days.
A couple of days ago I posted the design for my “Don’t Panic” piece, which has become shockingly relevant.
Friend Edith points out that harsh times call for harsh language, and that while some people might be soothed by a gentle statement, more strident expression suits many others.
Therefore for Friend Edith, and in the spirit of Dame Judy Dench, who is famed for stitching up provocative statements, I make this chart freely available for YOUR OWN PERSONAL, NON-COMMERCIAL USE.
Consider it as “good-deed-ware.” It’s tough out there right now. Pay this gift forward by helping out someone else in need; phoning or getting in touch with a family member, friend or neighbor who could use a cheerful contact; volunteering time or effort; or if you can afford it – donating to one of the many local relief charities or food banks that are helping those displaced from work right now.
Right-click on the image above to save it as a JPG.
This piece is intended to be done in cross stitch (the lettering), and double-running or back stitch (the frame). While it’s shown in black and red, use one color if you like, or substitute in as many other colors as you wish.
The source for the lettering is yet another of the offerings in Ramzi’s Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com collection. The border is from my recently released Ensamplario Atlantio II, a free collection of linear designs – mostly blackwork fills and borders.
Thank you Edith! Your inspiration and request will brighten the hearts of many, while rendering their walls cheekily NSFW.
(And there goes my PG blog rating, and any remaining shreds of reputation for gentility. But it’s worth it if someone smiles.)
A while back I stitched up this piece, both as a tribute to Hitchhiker’s Guide, and as a bit of inspiration for my office. I’m a proposal specialist – managing short deadlines and general panic are my stock in trade.
When I posted this on Facebook last Friday, I got several requests for the chart. So, tweaking memory dormant since 2009, I drafted one up.
I make this chart freely available for YOUR OWN PERSONAL, NON-COMMERCIAL USE. Consider it as “good-deed-ware.” It’s tough out there right now. Pay this gift forward by helping out someone else in need; phoning or getting in touch with a family member, friend or neighbor who could use a cheerful contact; volunteering time or effort; or if you can afford it – donating to one of the many local relief charities or food banks that are helping those displaced from work right now.
Eventually I will add this to the Embroidery Patterns page tabbed above. But for the time being – be safe, stay well, and care for those whom you love.
Lately I’ve seen a couple of resources for embroiderers who wish to make samplers or other stitchings to honor friends or family who are differently-abled. I post them here for general reference.
First is this alphabet from type designer Kosuke Takahashi. It takes a linear construction alphabet, and overlays Braille dots on it, to form a construction that can be read by those familiar with both type forms.
A full description, and downloadable files for the font can be found here. Note that it is free for personal use. If you want to compose an item or design for sale, you would need to contact the designer to license the font.
Second is a linear stitch interpretation of the sign language alphabet.
The source is Deviant Art board poster and cross stitch designer lpanne, and is under her copyright. Again, if you create anything from this for sale, please take the time to contact the artist and ask for permission.
Although this last item presents text in a non-standard way, for most of us it makes it less rather than more comprehensible. But it’s a nifty idea for the nerdy-minded among us. Artst Sam Meech knits up scarves using ASCII coding, represented by two colors (one for 1 and the other for 0). He’s able to include entire quotations and text passages in his Binary Scarves. He sells them at his site below.
(photo shamelessly lifted from Sam’s site)
If you want to create your own binary string, tons of text-encoders abound. I used this one to translate
01010011 01110100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01100111 00101101 01101111 01110010 00101101 01001110 01101111 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00001101 00001010
If this is new to you – each eight digit “word” is in fact a letter. “N” for example is 01101110. The binary scarves work like early paper punch tape, stacking each octet one above another. So the word “STRING” would come out like this:
01010011 = S
01110100 = T
01110010 = R
01101001 = I
01101110 = N
01100111 = G
There was a time in my distant past that I used paper tape, and could recognize and read the octet patterns by sight. But that was long ago, in a technology forgotten by time…
Progress on several fronts here. Slow, for sure – but progress.
First, my MMarioKKnits Dragon Stole continues to grow:
Both Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn and I were convinced we’d seen this beastie before.
Sure enough, blessed by the local resource fairy, and well versed in Siebmacher’s oeuvre, Kathryn managed to dig up the original, from the 1603 edition of Siebmacher’s Shon Neues Modelbuch. I got in touch with MMarioKKnits himself to ask if he used the Siebmacher when he drew up his pattern, or if he remembered some other secondary source that was his inspiration. Many of these designs were re-collected in the mid 1800s, when counted work went through a major renaissance, some of which was inspired by actual Renaissance pattern books. I suspected that one of these mid 1800s collections was the source in question.
MMario confirmed that he indeed started with a mid 1800s work, but he didn’t remember which one. He pointed me at the Antique Pattern Library (more on this below). I’m pretty familiar with their inventory, but wasn’t able to find his secondary source either.
There are some differences between the MMario version and the one from 1603 – as one would expect in a multi-century game of garbled pattern transmission telephone – but the main motif, a hippocampus (not a dragon) is spot on count for count the same. Why do I think it’s a hippocampus? Because these designs were highly thematic, and a mermaid would be more likely to keep company with a mythical sea-steed than a dragon.
I’ve got official permission from MMario to post some quotes from his graph in order to put the changes in context. The black squares are the same in his rendition and the 1603 Siebmacher version. The red squares are from 1603, and are different from his design. The majority of the beastie is the same in both.
This center panel – a dual tailed undine similar to the one used by Starbucks in its logo – can be used as a drop in, inserted right into the MMario piece to make a wider stole.
The other modification is in the tail. MMario’s beast has an elongated tail swirl with a nifty trifoliate tail. But in the original we see instead a smaller, tighter spiral sweep, a large quaternary flower, and the implication of a bridged mirroring putting two hippocampi tail to tail, centered around a second “bounce line.” Please note that I’ve not included the whole dragon repeat in order to keep from stepping on MMario’s pattern toes. You’ll have to visit his design to get the rest of it.
I’m going to attempt to introduce the center mermaid into my Dragon Stole. Wish me luck!
Aside on Antique Pattern Library – this is a non-profit, volunteer effort to scan and preserve out of print documents and ephemera related to needle and domestic arts. They have a huge collection of public domain embroidery, knitting, crochet, tatting, sewing and crafts books and leaflets dating from before 1920. A large proportion are from 1860 through 1910 or so. They even have a couple of early Modelbooks thrown in! As a reference, its invaluable. As an archive of women’s history, even more so. I strongly urge everyone to visit, to sample some of the freely available resources there, and most important – to donate to sustain the collection. It’s no secret that they live hand to mouth. I’d truly love to see them do so a bit longer.
UPDATE: THE UNICORN PATTERN BELOW IS NOW AVAILABLE AS AN EASY DOWNLOAD PDF AT THE EMBROIDERY PATTERNS LINK, ABOVE.
Holiday over, we slowly revert to standard routine here at String Central. However, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to show off.
First, Smaller Daughter – her class built models of castles, manor farms, and cathedrals as part of their Middle Ages history unit. You can’t see the details she lavished on hers – the working drawbridge, the flower garden, the well (with working bucket), the stables, or the forces manning the towers, but now you know they’re there:
Slytherin? Well, we are Salazars, after all… And there’s the inevitable Castle Uprising Aftermath:
Too bad the teachers don’t grade them on general post-project carnage.
Not less for being presented second, Elder Daughter has been taken with double sided double knitting. She has been adding double knit squares bearing mythical creatures to her Barbara Walker Learn to Knit sampler afghan. Here’s a graph for her next square, an original unicorn, based loosely on a Siebmacher yale (heraldic goat):
Apple. Tree. Lack of distance between the two is noted. With considerable pride, I might add.
And finally in spite of the welcome and happy chaos of a house crammed full of family, turkey, and way too many pies – I did manage to move a bit forward on the great blackwork sampler:
The dark band with the frilly edging will be in TNCM2. The one just below it was in my first 1974 booklet. I recently rediscovered that I had graphed it from my all time favorite source. It’s the pattern I used for my double sided double running stitch logic lesson back in August, 2010. You can find the lesson (and the pattern) here.
While my current work languishes, here’s a picture of another past sampler. This one I stitched in 1996. It hangs in my husband’s office:
Again most of the patterns are from The New Carolingian Modelbook, and the piece is a mix of plain old cross stitch, long armed cross stitch, and double running stitch, worked in DMC embroidery floss on 36 threads per inch linen (18 stitches per inch). The center twist is the same one I used on the knitted Knot a Hat earwarmer band. (It’s also pictured on Ravelry.) You can see the difference in proportion between square unit based long-armed cross stitch, and the not quite square knitting stitch units. More rows to the inch than stitches across to the inch gives the knit version the slightly squashed appearance.
UPDATES: THE CHARTED PATTERN BELOW IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN AN EASY-TO-PRINT PDF DOWNLOAD ON MY EMBROIDERY PATTERNS PAGE, LINK ABOVE. AND THE KNOT-A-HAT KNIT EARWARMER PATTERN IS AVAILABLE ON THE KNITTING PATTERNS PAGE, ALSO LINK ABOVE.
The quotation on this sampler is “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for the are subtle and quick to anger.” From JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and totally appropriate for a software developer.
UPDATE: THE OLD CASTLE GRAPH IS NOW AVAILABLE AS AN EASY TO PRINT PDF AT THE EMBROIDERY PATTERNS LINK, ABOVE.
Wandering around looking for designs to add to my growing Clarke’s Law sampler I stumbled across the needlework photo collection oft the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
They have all sorts of fabulous things there including several items that may provide fodder for more bands on my current work.
But as I leafed through the collection one item in particular struck me. It’s no secret that I’ve had a long association with the Society for Creative Anachronism. Among my long time and dear friends I count many members of Clan Oldcastle. Their device (shamelessly borrowed from their website) is:
I was amazed to find a historical embroidery oh-so similar to that device. The original is a fragment of a larger piece, done in drawn thread embroidery. The museum’s accession info dates it to the late 16th/early 17th century, and gives it an Italian provenance. There’s a companion piece, too, with a boat, some rather blocky lions.
But it was the castle that excited me. Here’s a graph adapted from the museum artifact. Click on the thumbnail below to print a useful size.
I’ve made some minor changes but kept most of the imperfections of the original. My count is the same. The original looks a bit taller because its constituent units are not square. I’ve kept the not-quite symmetrical center tower, with the ornaments below the tower’s embattled top offered up skew to the rest of the count. I’ve substituted stars for the crosses on the original flags, and added two more of them for good measure. (Estoiles being of special heraldic importance in conjunction with the Oldcastle edifice). I’ve left the one at the top of the left hand tower closer to the original in shape for those who prefer them accurate, but added a bit of twinkle to the others. I also took the liberty of mentally fixing a bit of wear on the original on the open portcullis. But the rest is spot on.
I’d love to see anything made up from this pattern. It would be especially nifty in any of a dozen styles of counted thread embroidery, in Lacis, Burrato, or Filet Crochet; or in knit or tapestry crochet. Other non-textile applications include mosaic work and marquetry. And if you do use this pattern, please consider visiting the Clan Oldcastle link above, and using the address there to make a donation to the American Diabetes Association.
This one is going into Ensamplio Atlantaea (my growing sequel to The New Carolingian Modelbook) for sure, but I share it here first.
UPDATE, 6 APRIL 2020:
Spotted in the wild, another example of the Old Castle. This one is on a piece in the collection of the St. Gallen Textilmuseum, Accession 00671. Their listing cites it as being from Sicily, dated 1590-1610.