Category Archives: Project – Embroidery

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

And its the cold, snowy part of the Boston seasonal experience.  Which is not improving my outlook much.  But there are bright spots.  We do what we can.

Here’s a free offering (also available via my Embroidery Patterns tab, above).  This motto just cries out to be a sampler, the irony of using an art that in and of itself requires intensive perseverance to accomplish is just too sweet.  Click on the chart image to get the full JPG, formatted for 8.5 x 11 inch paper. (Finished stitching sample courtesy of long-time friend Gillian, who was the first to post a finished piece picture.  Her’s is on 14-count Aida, finished post-wash size of stitched area is about 7″ x 9″.)

nevertheless       Gillians-Finish

The alphabets used are (more or less) contemporary with the women’s suffrage movement – found on Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts site, among his collection of vintage Sajou and Alexandre booklets.  The particular one I used for all three alphabets is here. The border is adapted from one appearing in a 1915 German book of cross stitch alphabets and motifs, in the collection of the Antique Pattern Library.

We all do what we can, and I encourage anyone with heartfelt opinions to use their time and skill set in service, as they see fit.  Even if you don’t agree with me, filling the airwaves with positive messages rather than caustic imagery can’t hurt.

If anyone stitches this up and wants me to showcase their effort, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to add pix of your work to the gallery here.

On my own  end, I have been productive as well.

First finished (but not first started) – a quick shrug.  Possibly even for me.

Fuzzyshrug

This is knit from the generous bounty resettled upon me by the Nancys, for which I continue to be grateful.  The multicolor yarn is older Noro Nadeshiko, a blend with a hefty dose of angora, along with silk and wool.  It is soft and supple, and although I am generally not a fan of desert colors – is superbly hued, with just enough rose, sage, cream, and grey to be perfect.  The accent edge is done is another of their gift yarns – two balls of a merino wool variegated single, worsted weight.  I held it double for extra oomph.  One thing to note about the Nadeshiko though – it sheds.  A lot.  And the Office Dogs where I work like to sniff it (it probably smells like a bunny).

The pattern is Jennifer Miller’s Shawl Collar Vest – a Ravelry freebie.  It is a no-seam, quick knit, written for bulky weight yarn.  The thing fairly knit itself.  Four days from cast-on to wear-ready.  My only criticism is that the XL size is really more of a 12/14.  I can wear it, but it’s very tight, and tends to emphasize attributes with which I am already more than proportionally blessed.  My answer to this problem will be to unravel the green finish rounds, and add about 2 inches of stripey, then re-knit the green.

The nifty pin is an official heirloom of my house.  Long ago and far away, SCA friend Sir Aelfwine (now of blessed memory) made it for me as a cloak pin.  Obviously I still treasure it and wear it when I can.

On the needles is also yet another pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, another free pattern available from Ravelry.  I’ve done four pair of these, but never for me.  I rectify that oversight now.

mymitts-1

Obviously, the first one is done.  Now for the second.

The yarn is yet another denizen of the Great Nancy Box – a worsted weight handspun alpaca – chocolate brown with flecks of white and pale grey, from Sallie’s Fen Alpacas.  The photo doesn’t do the yarn justice.  It’s butter on the needles, and gloriously warm.  The only mod I make to the original pattern is using a provisional cast-on, then knitting the cast-on edge to the body on the last pre-welt row (to eliminate seaming).

My typing fingers will be toasty when #2 is done.

FINISHING OFF A HANGING SAMPLER

OK, I promised I’d write this up, and it has taken me a while, but here it is.

My thought here was to create a quick and easy way to finish off a hanging sampler, using a method that did no harm to the stitched piece, that was inexpensive to do, and required no special equipment or components that can’t be found in most crafts stores.

Why “no harm?”  Because many inexpensive framing solutions do exactly that.  They place fabric under stress, encase it in moisture-trapping glass, matt it or line it with acidic materials that over time discolor or eat away at the ground cloth, or place the fabric up against wood or metal that can corrode or mark the cloth.

This solution is far from ideal, but it manages tension to avoid stretch or strain in hanging, isolates the stitched piece from any wooden or metal framing elements, can be quickly picked out without harm to the original work, and is very inexpensive.

Here are several examples (the center one is mid-process):

wizard-sampler (2) triflesalmostdone permission-complete

In all cases, a larger piece of backing fabric has been used to encapsulate the stitched item.  The hanging bar (wood or metal) and bottom-weighting only touches the backing fabric.  All are totally sewn by hand – no machine stitching.

Note that you don’t need to have actually stitched a sampler to do this.  It would be useful to finish off a decorative tea-towel, heirloom doily, cloth map, or small pieced patchwork as a hanging, or (for my SCA pals) to mount a painted or printed banner for display. 

To do this you need:

  • Your display piece.
  • Backing fabric.  I used plain old quilting cotton.  Any fabric will do, although for the “no harm” bit, I suggest washed cotton or linen rather than polyester or other synthetic.  Size needed calcs below.
  • Plain old cotton sewing thread that matches the backing fabric.
  • A hand-sewing needle – a sharp with a small eye is recommended.
  • A metal bar or wooden dowel for a top support (fancy finials are optional, but can be handy for fixing hanging strings or chains in place so that the hanging mechanism doesn’t compress the top edge of the hanging).
  • The aforementioned hanging string or chain.
  • An iron and ironing surface.
  • A pair of scissors
  • Straight pins
  • A ruler and a tape measure
  • Standard office stapler
  • Optional weights for the bottom edge.  I have used a length of brass chain, threaded onto an old ribbon, and small zinc drapery weights (small bars of zinc enclosed in a synthetic fabric envelope).  These are sold in packs of two or six, in the curtain-notions department.  Avoid the lead ones just on principle – the world does not need more free-range lead.  In a pinch, coins sewn into little fabric pockets will do.  If you are using drapery weights or coins, you only need two.

I found the backing fabric, dowel, wooden finials, the drapery weights, and the chain all in my local JoAnne’s fabric/crafts store.

First, decide how you want to frame your piece.  A large area top and bottom, with narrower areas on the sides?  Equal frame all the way around? The general size will inform your fabric purchase, although one yard of most quilting fabrics will be MORE than enough for all but the very largest samplers.

For the Permissions sampler, I decided I wanted a blue frame about 3.5 inches all the way around, and to preserve about 1 inch of unworked ground between the stitching and the edging  I put pins in my sampler to mark that distance from my stitching, and measured the “to be shown” dimensions of my piece.  About a half inch of my sampler, all the way around, will be hidden inside the backing.

Let’s call my display width 20 inches, and my display height 16 inches (to be truthful, I didn’t write down the real numbers).  I know I want 3.5 inches of framing edge to show on all sides.  Plus I need a hem allowance, let’s call that 0.5 inch.  Here’s the logic:

  Hem

Edge

Display Area

Edge

Hem

Width

0.5”

3.5” x 2
(for fold)

20”

3.5” x 2
(for fold)

0.5”

Height

0.5”

3.5” x 2
(for fold)

16”

3.5” x 2
(for fold)

0.5”

So, by doing the addition, I need to cut my backing cloth to be 35” wide, and 31” high, which is what you see is half-way done here (I’ve cut the width but not the height yet):

backing-1

The next thing to do is iron in the 0.5” hem all the way around.  Note that the “right side” of the backing fabric (such as it is, is DOWN).  I chose to iron in mitered corners for tasty neatness, but that’s optional, and there are a ton of video tutorials on doing that.

backing-2 backing-3

Then I positioned my stitched piece on top of my backing fabric, making sure that it was correctly placed (the edge of my stitching was 8 inches from the now-folded edge of the backing – I should have left in my dimension measurement pins but I forgot, and took them out.)

Once the stitched piece was correctly positioned. I folded the left and right edges in, carefully aligning them (measuring the distance from my embroidery), and finger pressing them down and pinning.  Because I stitched on even weave, I was able to use the count of my ground fabric for **perfect** alignment without having to mark the fold-to line on my sampler.

backing-4

Those two little white tabs?  Those are the drapery weights – note that they have little tab ends that are handy for stitching.  That’s where they will go, encapsulated in the edging/backing, far away from the stitching.  Next I folded in the top and bottom and pinned them, too.  Once all edges were pinned, I lightly touched up the folds with my iron, to make them slightly crisper.  Then I slid those drapery weights in and pinned them into place. 

Here’s the thing, ready for hand stitching.

backing-5

You’ll notice that there are simple lapped corners – I didn’t miter them.  By doing this I can use the flap-over on the top as my hanging pocket.  I do not need to engineer a separate hanging method for attaching the bar or dowel. 

Now for the hand-sewing.  Yes, I could have done this by machine, but hand stitching is easier to pick out in the future, and easier for me anyway to keep neat and aligned.  There’s no real reason (other than speed) to do this by machine.  And yes – I probably should have basted, but hey, what’s the fun without a tiny bit of risk. 🙂

Starting at the lower corner where the bottom and side flaps meet, and working first completely around the stitched sampler part, ignoring the flapped areas at the corners, I worked a simple hand appliqué stitch, catching a tiny bit of the edging, passing through the ground cloth but not the ultimate backing – at a diagonal, ready to make my next stitch.  Here’s a tutorial on the appliqué stitch.

backing-6

Note that I used the even weave’s threads to keep my hem nice and straight.

After I had worked the appliqué stitch around the entire visible area of my sampler, I used the same stitch to affix the two lower corners – the places where the bottom folded edge lapped up and over the folded-in sides.  As I did each of these two corners, I worked from the visible sampler area back out to the edge.  When I got to the side, I turned the corner and used a tiny whip stitch to seam together the front and back edges.  When I got to the place where the weight was pinned, I wiggled it up so that I could just nip its flapped edge in as I was whip stitching:

backing-7

I worked the top two corners similarly, but instead of working all the way down to the tip of the corner as I whipped the front to the back, I stopped about 0.5” from the top on both the left and the right.  This left an opening through which I could pass my dowel.  A small bit of finesse was needed to thread it through (I used another scrap of dowel to nose the hem allowance out of the way on the inside).

To make the hanging stick, I used a 1/4 inch dowel.  I probably should have used a metal rod or a thicker dowel, but that’s what they had in the store.  I bought a little pack of finials, and ended up having to shave down the ends of my dowel just a tiny bit so that they fit into the holes on the finials.  I also bought a length of inexpensive craft chain, intended for chunky necklaces, with links large enough to fit around the dowel.

I cut the dowel to the width of my finished piece, plus about 0.5”.  Using a regular office stapler, I stapled the chain to my dowel, about a quarter of an inch from the end.  I dotted the inside of the first finial with wood glue and forced it onto the dowel and over a bit of the staple, so that the chain was butted up against it.  Then I threaded the dowel through the top of the hanging, squishing up the hanging a bit to keep it away from my working end, I stapled the other end of the chain to the dowel, then forced on the second finial. 

Taa daah! 

permission-complete

CATCHING UP

It’s been a while since I posted last.  Hectic doesn’t begin to describe it.  Kitchen finish, work-related deadlines, college graduations, and last – a blissful vacation week on Cape Cod in our new beachside condo, full of kayaking, golf, good food, and the active pursuit of doing absolutely nothing.  All in all too many things to accomplish, with too little time to document any of it.

But through it all, a modicum of sanity-preserving handwork has happened: three pairs of hand-knit socks (my default no-thinking project of choice); plus some others.

First, thanks to the generosity of Certain Enablers who shall remain unnamed – a vintage shrug.  I began working on this just before the vacation break.  On US #9 (5.5mm) needles, this one was a quick knit.  At left is the photo from the pattern.  At right is my piece.

coats140_b350 Shrug-2

Those projections on the side are the sleeves.  Obviously, I haven’t seamed the thing up yet.  A bit of pretzel-type manipulation is slated to happen that will result in a T-shaped seam in the back, and the graceful drape of the simple drop-stitch rib pattern curving in the front.  Or so we hope.  I have the piece left on the needle because I haven’t decided yet on whether or not I will be doing some sort of live-stitch seam.  It’s hot and sticky right now – too hot to sit with this tub of alpaca boucle on my lap.  I’ll go back and finish this piece off when it cools off a bit.  I’ll have to rush though, so Target Recipient can take the completed garment off to university with her next month.

Second is also a time-linked project.  The first of two, in fact.  I am edging off the two inspirational samplers I did for the girls, backing them and readying them for simple rod type hanging.  Here’s the first.  I’m hand’ hemming the backing/edging cloth to the stitching ground.  The backing cloth is in one piece, strategically folded to be a self frame.  I’ll baste a length of chain threaded on some thin woven tape in the bottom fold to provide weight, and leave small gaps in the two top corners for insertion of the hanging rod:

Trifles-almostdone

The second one will be close behind – the other sampler I did this fall/winter past.  Also finished out for hanging from a rod.  More on that after I’ve laid it out.  In fact, if folk are interested, I’ll use the second one to illustrate the folding and stitching logic required to do this.

And finally, just for fun with no deadline attached (so you know what I’ll be working on tomorrow evening), an Autumn Lace shawl out of some unknown Noro fingering weight yarn, augmented by some Noro Taiyo Sock.  The unknown Noro was also from the same Enabling Anonymous Donor, and was perfect for a project I’d been planning on working up for a long time:

Leaves-01

Here you see the first course of leaves (worked bottom half, then top half).  This is not a particularly difficult pattern, but it is an exacting one, with a pattern that has to be closely followed, and that is not within my capability to memorize.  More on this one as it develops.

STILL BARE AND BARREN

OK.  The kitchen rehab enters the beginning of the “we’ve taken it all away – now we put it back” phase.

As I reported on FaceBook, those remaining walls and ceiling bits had to go.  The previous homeowner, in a typical fit of doing things in the cheapest, and most stupid way, used a low grade of plain old wallboard underneath the skim coat plaster when he ripped out the original lath and plaster during his redo of the room in the early ‘80s.  That means that they were not salvageable.  We had not planned on taking down the parts that were not going to be modded, but we were forced to because the walls were crumbling.  Oh well… There’s no such thing as a renovation of a vintage house that does not involve an Unexpected Surprise.

What’s there right now looks more or less like it did when this picture was taken on Friday.

kitchen-rehab-7 Kitchen-rehab-6

All the way back to the studs that used to support the lath and plaster, everywhere (with the previous stage picture provided for comparison.

Monday the crews came back, and removed the last bit of flooring underneath the radiant heater where the sink used to be, the room radiator and washing machine/dryer – disconnecting the water lines to do so.

They also roughed in the main plumbing lines.  We are moving the sink from underneath the window to the other side of the room.  While it’s nice to have the window view, moving the sink gives us a large span of prep counter adjacent to the rangetop, and allows us to put the dishwasher on the right hand side – much more convenient for us right-handed folk.  But to do this, they had to relocate the main water and waste lines, and remove the unused components from the old location.

So progress towards reconstruction has officially started.  From now on in, things should start to appear, rather than disappear.

 

Aside from the continuing drama of living in a construction zone, I did get to peel off this weekend and have some fun.  I went to an SCA event – the Hrim Schola held in Barony Beyond the Mountain, on Saturday.  For my non SCAdian friends, the day was a roster of classes in technique and history, focused on needlework, weaving, knotting, knitting, and allied techniques and tools.  It was held in southern Connecticut.

First of all, I have to thank Needlework Pal Mistress Kathryn Goodwyn (she of “too many centuries, too little time”) for providing me with a suitable dress.  I have been an SCA recluse for many years, and really and truly had nothing to wear.  Since the day is done in historical dress, I could not have gone without her assistance.  Sad to say, although I promised to take a photo of her Anne of Brittany dress and hood, I forgot…  Still, many people admired it and gave me compliments on it, and were delighted to find out that it came from her hand, so many years ago.

Second I want to thank Lady Eadgyth for prodding me to attend, and to Aaradyn, Lady Ysane, and the rest of the Occasional Weekend Sewing Circle for helping me mend the gown and dress me in it (it takes a committee to do this).

I had a ton of fun, learning how to do Elizabethan-era plaited braid stitch in metal thread, seven or eight variants of lucet cord (I lost track of how many we covered), and swinging a hammer to dish out a small copper thimble from a disc of copper.  While I can’t swear to the efficiency of metalworking while wearing a corset, I did produce a result.  The teachers of these classes also deserve copious thanks for making the day worthwhile – respectively, the talented Elaine Howys, Lady Eadgyth, and the very patient Anton Leflamme.  (Apologies if honors or names are mangled).

And one thing made the day even more special.  I finally met my Stealth Apprentice.  This green belt, when finished, will be for her:

Shh

Yes, it’s  more conventional to give an actual green belt rather than a representation of one, but I’ve always been unconventional.  And this way she can choose the style of her belt herself, to match whatever period garb she prefers.

Her name?  Well, she is a Stealth Apprentice, after all.  I’ll let her chime in if she so desires. 🙂

PERMISSION GRANTED, MORE OR LESS

Here it is, totally finished, and with a vaguely decent picture (but as yet, unsigned and un-mounted).

Permissions-06

The recipient is thrilled, which is always gratifying.

UPDATE:  People want the specs on this piece so they don’t have to hunt through previous posts.  30 count evenweave linen ground, stitched over two threads (15 spi).  The 6-strand floss is man-made “silk”, rayon actually; a vintage find brought back from India, slightly thinner than standard DMC floss.  I stitched all of the foreground using two strands.  Some of the background I did in single strand for contrast.  Pattern strips with one exception are all from my forthcoming book The Second Carolingian Modelbook.  The alphabet is from a vintage Sajou booklet #104 reproduced at Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com.  I hemmed my linen by hand before starting.

The reason I haven’t done the last teeny bits is that I’m trying to finish off some end-of-year gifts for the spawn.

First up and already done was the new pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, done in a sparkly yarn for Younger Daughter.  She’s a fan of the surreal Welcome to Night Vale podcasts.  One of their taglines is “Mostly void, partially stars.”

void-stars-1

To get the partially-stars look, I used Loops and Threads Payette – an acrylic with a running lurex thread and small paillettes (flat sequins).  Both inspiration and enablement are courtesy of  Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn, who sent this stuff to me.  Just seeing it sparkling at me kicked off this project.  Kathryn’s  initial intent was to knit socks from the Payette, but that effort was a no-go.  And rightly so.  The stuff is not fun to work with, and would make supremely uncomfortable socks.  The base black yarn is waxy feeling. The lurex thread breaks easily and is scratchy, and the paillettes can make stitch formation difficult – especially on decreases. Oh, and forget about ripping this stuff back. The lurex snaps.  But the look can’t be beat, especially for a big-box-store available yarn.

Yarn aside, this project is a great quick-knit.  Both mitts together took two evenings.  I used the Payette doubled, and knit the smallest size, which fits perfectly. The only change I made to the original design is eliminating the bulk of cast-on and cast-off. To begin, I work a figure-8 or provisional cast-on. When I get to the last row before the cuff welt, I reactivate the bottom stitches and fold them up, knitting one bottom edge stitch along with its live pre-cuff counterpart. This melds the bottom into the work, and eliminates the final bit of sewing up, and cuts down on pre-cuff bulk.

To cast-off, instead of making a finished edge and then sewing it down, I leave a long tail and fold the live edge inside the work. Then I use that to secure each last-row stitch to its counterpart in the first row after the fancy welting on the upper edge.

Final verdict – the kid loves these. The original design’s pretty welt and eyelet detail is lost in the sequined look and it’s over the top sparkly. But it fits in perfectly with the Nightvale-inspired theme.

Next on the needles is a new scarf for Elder Daughter.  As I mentioned in the last post, I’m enchanted by Sybil R’s designs and was determined to make one or another of them.  At first we contemplated a different scarf, but rummaging through my stash, we came up with yarn better suited to her Mixed Wave Cowl, an exercise in nested short row enhanced stripes.  Here you see the bare beginnings of mine:

Russet-scarf-1

I’m using an eclectic mix of well-aged stash denizens, plus a more recent variegated yarn seen here in a rather blue-shifted photo.  The black and russet are both Lang Jawoll bought who-knows-when.  The claret (again not as purple as it looks here) is Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband, which I’m pretty sure I had when we moved back to Boston in ‘95.  The variegated scarf thingy is Regia Creativ one of the unravel-me-and-knit dyed strips, in a mix of autumn colors including chocolate, russet, claret, and burnt orange.  The pattern is written for DK, on rather small 3.5mm needles.  I’m using  fingering-weight sock yarn on 3.0mm needles, which is making a slightly looser fabric.

More on this one as it grows…

SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE IT

Alllmmoooosssstttt there….

almost-done

This is the last quadrant.  I’m using yet another non-historical fill behind the scrolling flowers.  This one is just cross stitches, arranged on the diagonal so they form on-point squares.  I also worked this filling (and for that matter – all of the other fillings) using only one strand of my floss, so the shading is quite light.  By contrast, all of the foreground stitching is done with two strands.  You can see this quite clearly in the red lozenge twist, about five strips down.  The foreground is two strands of red, and the simple box treatment background is only one strand of red. I’ll post a whole-sampler shot when that last stitch is complete.

So what’s next?

A couple of things.  First, I have another sampler promised to a pal.  This one will be heavy on the words, with far fewer accompaniments.  I haven’t composed it yet, but I’ve been playing with concepts in my mind.  One idea that keeps popping up is to work the thing more or less like a manuscript page, with a very demonstrative single large capital letter in the upper left; the phrasing flowing down from there; possibly with a single figural strip across the bottom, but a foliate edging of some type all the way around.  Oh, and it will probably be monochrome or nearly so – a darker, unbleached natural linen ground, with deep forest green stitching.  I’m not ruling out accents in another color yet, but the predominating color will be the green. 

I also have promised some knitstuff to the spawn.  It’s cold-hands time here in Massachusetts, so Younger Daughter has requested a replacement for her pair of fingerless mittens (muffatees).  Long time needlework pal Kathryn has sent me some sequined black yarn that just cries out to become a pair of Suzie’s Reading Mitts.  I’ve made this design before, and I know it knits up quickly and looks great, especially in black.  Here’s one from the last iteration, knit as a gift for my niece:

mitts-1

And Elder Daughter has loved her angel-variant Wingspan scarf to pieces.  It was the first one I did, and she’s been seasonally-inseparable from it since 2012.  Here it is in less frayed times:

wingspan-2

  I’m considering several candidates for this project, but right now the leader is the Stripes, Stripes & Stripes Scarf from Knitting-and-so-on.blogspot.ch.  I think Sybil Ra’s stuff is pretzel-clever, and with some screaming orange fingering weight, plus some wild but coordinating variegated, I think I can make an eye popper for sure.  After this I’d probably attempt one of her even more dramatic pieces, for myself.  🙂

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. 

snails

permission-5

THREAD THREAD

Based on questions from Elaine and others, here’s a bit more on the thread I’ve been using on both the Permissions and Trifles samplers.

As I’ve said before, my stash came from a small needlework/beading supply shop in Pune, India.  It wasn’t current stock.  The head clerk sent a boy scampering up into the storage attic for a VERY dusty box of odds and ends.  I picked out the best colors left, avoiding pastels, and looking for what high impact/high contrast hues that still remained in quantities of 10+ skeins.  I bought them all.  They were very inexpensive – just a few rupees per skein.  At the then-current exchange rate of 60 rupees per dollar, I think I spent less than $20.00 translated, and came away with a huge bag full, well over 200 skeins divided up among about 15 colors.  Here’s just a sample:

floss more-floss

The name brand is Cifonda Art Silk.  It’s not a spooled rayon intended for machine embroidery.  As you can see, the put-up is more like cotton embroidery floss.  And it turns out that the stuff is still being made, and is available in Australia, and even in the US – although mostly by special order.

The websites that offer this thread vary a bit in description.  Some say it is a 35% silk/65% rayon blend.  Others say it is all rayon.  Contemporary put-ups specify 8 meter skeins.  My vintage stash skeins are a bit longer, possibly 10 meters (I’ll measure tonight).  The large bundles above are actually “super-packages” of ten individual skeins.  You can see the bright red one at the left is broken open, with the single skein labels showing.  On mine, color numbers are written on each skein by hand, not printed.  There can be hue variances between the super-packages of the same color number, so I suspect that special care should be taken to buy all that’s needed at once, so that all is from the same dye lot.

Cifonda’s structure is that of standard floss – six strands of two-ply relatively loose twist.  The individual strands are quite fine, two of them are roughly the equivalent of one ply of standard DMC cotton embroidery floss.  The colors – especially deeper ones like red and indigo – do run when wet, although they do not crock (shed color on hands, ground cloth, or wax when stitching dry).  I would not advise using this thread on clothing, table linen or other things likely to need laundering.  It may be possible to set the colors before stitching using a mordant bath or long water soak, but I don’t have the experience, time, or materials quantity for experimentation.

I am pleased with the way the Cifonda looks in my work.  It’s a bit shinier and finer textured than cotton floss, although it does not have the coverage of the true silk floss I’ve used (Soie d’Alger).  My Cifonda is quite slippery.  Two or more plies held together tend to disassociate and slide past each other for differential consumption, even when using short lengths in a small-hole needle.  I tamed this by aggressive waxing – running the entire length of my threads over a block of beeswax before use.  Since I’m doing linear counted work, any change in color or texture is not noticeable.  Someone using this for satin stitch, long-and-short, or other surface stitches that maximize thread sheen would probably want to wax only the inch or so that threads through the needle.

Like all lightly twisted rayons, this thread does catch and shred a bit on rough skin.  Care must be taken to use needles with very smooth eyes, and to hold the unworked length out of the way when taking stitches, because the stuff snags extremely easily.  My own stash, well aged as it is, contains some colors that are a bit brittle.  The bright yellow I’m using now, and the silver-grey I used on the last sampler are both prone to breaking under stress, and must be used in shorter lengths than the other colors.

I will continue to use up my India-souvenir thread stash, working smaller and smaller projects until it is gone.  But in all probability, I will not seek out the Cifonda to replace that inventory as it is consumed.

Anyone else have experience or hints on using this rather unruly stuff?

IT ALL FALLS INTO PLACE

With an extended time sitting in one place and thinking yesterday, I’ve come to design decisions on the direction for the Permission sampler.

permission-03

  I’ve decided to do another bank of two solid columns of multicolor narrow strip bands above the motto, and finish out the top with either the same pomegranate border used at the bottom edge, or a coordinating one with pine cones, of the same size and visual density – also in the blue. 

Progress is obvious since the last post.  I finished the red voided buds with the grid-background at lower left, and marched the pomegranates across the entire width of the piece.  I also did a quick strip of acorns over the words (aligning with the strips below), and I’ve begun on a yellow and red interlace and quaternary rose strip above that one.  I’ll do a monochrome design above the red/yellow, probably green and relatively narrow. 

permission-04permission-05

As you can see, I am just ripping along.  The large stitches on this one (it’s only 30-count stitched over 2×2), plus the sit-on frame that frees the second hand to pass the needle underneath the work are helping me to set local house records for sampler production.

Am I liking the thread?  Yes and no.  It’s “man made silk” and at least 20 years old before I bought it. Possibly even older.  It’s thin and unruly, and needs extreme waxing to make it behave.  My little beeswax block is being whittled down, slowly but surely on this one.  I do like the sheen of the faux silk – even waxed.  What I like less is the damage of age – brittleness, and a tendency to shred.  Some colors have aged better than others.  For example, the yellow I am using now is very prone to breakage, and must be treated gently, stitching with very short lengths.  By contrast the red and blue are horse-strong, and far less likely to snap or denature.  Perhaps my yellow is “elderly” compared to the other colors.  In any case, I do notice that working with it does take longer and is more fiddly due to the short lengths and stops/restarts after an inopportune Thread Damage Event.

Questions answered:

These are from my inbox, about this project or stitching in general.  Feel free to post questions here or write to me – kbsalazar (at) gmail (dot) com.

1.  Do you decide on your patterns before you begin?

Not really.  I pick them on the fly.  On some pieces I stick to a style or unified theme, but often I just thumb through looking for something that has a pleasing contrast with the designs around it; like layering a geometric next to a floral, or using something with a lot of curves next to something that’s strongly angled.

2.  Do you prepare your cloth?

I do now.  I’ve had some projects that might have been better composed, but because I didn’t clearly mark my margins or centers, I lost track of where I was.  Now I outline my stitching area, plus it’s center and quarter-center marks both horizontally and vertically.  I use a single strand of Plain Old Sewing Thread, in a light color (in this case – pastel blue), basting it in to indicate those lines.  The basting itself is rather haphazard.  For example, I do not bother to make my basting stitches over the same number of threads as an aid to counting later.  Others do.

I also hem my cloth.  I used to use other methods of fray prevention (deliberately raveling out a half inch or so, a line or two of machine stitching, serging, or in a moment of poor judgment – tape), or not bother at all.  However I find that I now prefer the finished edges and mitered corners of a nice, even hand-done finger-folded hem.

3.  Will you be issuing a kit for this or any of your other projects?

Probably not.  Definitely not for a composed kit, complete with thread.  There are too many things I want to stitch myself to sit down and figure out thread consumption, buy fabric and thread in bulk, compose the kits, and do inventory management and fulfillment.  That would suck the fun out of the thing, for sure.  I might consider releasing full, drafted charts for some of the smaller projects like bookcovers for small standard-size notebooks or needle case/biscornu sets, but that also would eat up time I’d rather spend on my own work, or researching and drafting up new designs.  I see myself sticking mostly to reference books of patterns and designs, and leaving employment of those designs to the readers.

4.  Where are the snails?

One of the folk who visit here has noticed that I put snails in almost every sampler I do.  Not every single one, but I do use a variant of this design from my first book on most, especially those for family:

Clarke-snails do-right-snails  trifle-snail

I haven’t gotten to the snails yet, but they are on the list for this project, too.  Possibly next – the green strip I’m thinking of doing just above the current bit.

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:

Permission-2

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:

Permission-3

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:

Permission-4

And here’s the source:

tafel-49

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.