FIRST BUGS, NOW BIRDS
I’m edging into a new neighborhood on the Unstitched Coif Project. This one is inhabited by birds. The first one is stitched and I’m thinking on the fills for the second. You can see him at the center bottom of the piece, now presented in the correct orientation.
I think he looks a bit like a tiny raven, A slightly confused one at that. I could not resist the visual pun of using the feather fill from the collection presented at the official website for his body. You can make out another oddly shaped bird sketched in below and to the right of the pansy/viola flower.
All in all, I’m pleased with the way this is turning out, although like all participants, I wish my project was proceeding faster. Working so tiny is taxing. Mr. Raven for instance took about four hours to complete, counting the fills, outlining, sequin eye, and couched gold feet.
My game of not repeating fills between units is still afoot, although I am finding it harder and harder to find or devise fills for the particularly tiny areas, like the sepal-leaves on the pansy. And I have to go back and add lighter gold banding the the wings of the big bug.
One more challenge is that of adding the overstitched elements – the couched vein leaves and feather markings on Mr. Raven. I do the fills first, then neaten up their edges with the heavier outlines. But the fills obscure the placement of the overstitching. I do that by eye, referring to a printout of the master design. I’ve mentioned before that others do the outlines first, but with the heavy, embossed reverse chain stitch, working inside tiny spaces would be extremely difficult. I leave that to those who are using outline stitch, freehand fills, and speckling.
Today’s agenda will be filling out the spray of leaves at the (now) right edge, adding the gold stems to it, and flooding the few newly surrounded white space areas with spangles.
In other news, last weekend I visited Younger Spawn and surrendered the bespoken Eyeball Bolster Cushion, seen here in its forever home, on the target low back mid-century modern sofa for which it was designed. A perfect fit. The recipient was totally thrilled.
The sharp-eyed will spot my stitching set up near the sunny window. I added a hex wrench to my stitching kit, and can take the thing including the disassembled stand with me when I am on walkabout.
While I was out in Spawn’s neighborhood we went to a garden center/plant nursery. Spawn added to the resident collection of exotic houseplants that make the apartment a livable and calming oasis. I noticed that the prices for large, healthy outdoor plants were much lower there in the suburban Albany/Troy New York area than they are here in the outskirts of Boston, so I bought some plants to augment my growing perennial collection. Here they are, just before I plonked them into their spots.
The big blue pot in back is a Chocolate Eupatorium (aka Joe Pye Weed). It’s a fall bloomer, with white flowers. The white pot in the middle is a red-leafed Astilbe variant, with purple/red flowers in mid to late summer. And the little guy over near the hose is a low-growing creeping sedum, that blooms purple in the fall. They join the transplanted peony, curly leafed Hosta, lemon Hosta, pink Astilbe, and two types of Brunnera (one red leaf, one green) that survived last year’s drought and fierce heat that doomed my Aconitum (wolfbane), and Hellebore. A less poisonous garden this year, but one I hope will outlive my ungentle care.
One last thing – if you are interested in buying my pattern collection The Second Carolingian Modelbook, you may want to do so before 30 June. Amazon Kindle is raising print fees, and because the thing is on a razor thin margin, I will be forced to raise the price. I am sorry for this. I tried hard to keep it under $30.00 US per copy, and it will remain so until the end of June, but after than the price will be going up.
UNSTITCHED COIF PROJECT – THE DESIGN
Our Fearless Leader, Toni Buckby, has given permission for participants to share the original image and the design from it she has derived and provided for the Unstitched Coif project. I am doing this as an echo for convenience of the project itself, since the we have been requested NOT to share links to the in-group project repository. Since this design is not my own and is totally subject to project rules, I will remove this post when and if requested.
First – the project’s photo of V&A accession number T.844-1974, Click here or on the image below.
Now the print-me files that make up Ms. Buckby’s rendition of the coif’s pattern. Click on the links below to open these PDF files, then save them locally. Note that they are formatted for A4 size paper. That’s a bit longer than standard US letter size. For best results, print on A4 at the presented size (don’t shrink in the print process), then tile the pieces together. There’s enough overlap to make this quite easy.
The official project website is here.
As for my own progress, there’s a tiny bit since the last post. But what’s always striking to me is how the designs bloom once the outlines are added. Compare!
Yes, I am working the design upside down right now. That little bug on the right is not supposed to be seen doing handstands.
I apologize for frequent posts on the Unstitched Coif, but if there’s something to say it’s usually very hard to keep me from saying it.
I want to thank everyone on the outpouring of support and appreciation, hints, and suggestions. I’m delighted that you are enjoying these notes, and that magnifies my own enjoyment of the process. Many of your recommendations and hints have been quite valuable. I have gotten some suggestions though pointing out that in the writers’ opinions, I am going about this all wrong. My sequence of attack on the piece – the order and manner in which I am working the components doesn’t synch with those folks’ opinions.
I attempt to explain myself.
First, I am a self-taught stitcher. I’ve never taken a class or workshop in this or any embroidery style. I fumble along aided by books and personal observation of artifact photos (and actual artifacts on rare occasion when I’ve been lucky enough to see them). It’s very possible I’ve missed lots of clues on working methods. I don’t claim how I go about my stitching is the one canonical and correct way to do it, it’s just the way that works best for me.
On lack of advance planning and charting – In general on an inhabited blackwork project (the type with outlined shapes and fills), I do very little planning ahead. Each flower or other motif is considered when I get to it, I pause, look at the new bit, decide if I want a dense/dark fill or something lighter; consider contrasts for any sub-components; and try to balance the types of fills used. Do I want the turned underside of a leaf to contrast with the rest of it? Should I put two fills that are angular and spiky next to each other, or should I try to maximize texture contrast in addition to density? Is the current space big enough to give play to one of the larger, more complex fills, or is it so small that a simple one would work better there; or should I abstract the “main motif” of a more complex fill to complete that space? Is a particular fill so stand-out that it will influence the choice of those around it? On that last one, the bead-like fill in the leaf just under the US penny is so striking that I would not want to use another rondel-based design nearby.
As you can see I’m still recalibrating for the tiny gauge. I have underestimated the display potential of these small spaces, and with judicious choice can begin using the larger, more dramatic fills both from my collection and from the ones provided by Ms. Buckby on the official project website.
Then there’s working order. One person who wrote a private note to me swears that the only way to work this type of piece is to complete all of the outlines first, then fill them in. Someone else says that I should be doing all of the fills for the entire piece first, and adding the outlines only after they are finished. Another person writes that I am a know-nothing for working the gold couching (and even worse the spangles) before finishing all of the black silk bits. And someone else chastises me for starting in a corner rather than the center of the work.
I reply that there are no Embroidery Police. I do what I do because it works for me, and because I have reasons for it – both as production procedure and as a bow to my personal temperament.
Here are yesterday’s additions – the finish of the little ruffled flower on the coif border, plus most but not all of the blackworked bits for the daffodil/narcissus like flower immediately to its right. I’ve used some medium-size fills from my notebooks for these bits, plus one of the fills cited on the website.
In general, I like to do the fills first, then go back and add the outlines. Note that along the edges of the fill areas there are half-stitches, eking the fill out up to the projected placement point of those outlines. Although they are a pain to do, they help avoid small gaps, and are much easier to stitch if you aren’t trying to bump up against heavier stitching. And when the outline stitching is finally done it neatly camouflages the ragged edges of the filled areas. Those little halfies barely peek out but do add to design completion (as seen in the “bone and cross” leaf in the lower left of the photo).
BUT there is a caveat. My traced pencil lines, especially in this area, are quite light and hard to see. I do my best to follow them, aided by an ever-present printout of the design for ready reference. I want to do the frill that marks the interior of the flower’s trumpet in a darker, denser stitch, but the edge of the frill separating the interior and the exterior of the trumpet is very hard to see. So before it was lost, I chose to do just that bit of outline, while I could still see it. I’ll go back and complete the rest of the outline on the flower as a whole once the interior dark part is worked.
Once the black silk is all laid down not only for this flower but for any other components touching its stems and sprigs, I will add the double line of gold couching for all of the leaf veins and stems in the group, and whip just the stem parts with black silk. Then I will work the single line couched gold curls, tendrils, and antennae (if any). And when most of the work surrounding a bit of “white space” is complete, I will add the spangles. Mr. Big Bug is missing the gold stripe embellishments on his body. I am still deciding on whether to do them in double or single thickness gold. Double stands out better, but there are so many that done heavily they might take over his look. I’ll get there, but not yet.
I am working each section to completion rather than doing all of the black silk work for the entire piece first, then adding the gold and adornments (or for that matter, working all of the fills or outlines first, then completing) because I need the variety to keep fresh. Each different component requires a different type of concentration and moves at a different pace. Mixing them up both gives me a better guide for the look I am trying to achieve, and keeps me mentally nimble as I go. This project would be stultifying for me if I were to break it down by type of stitching and work them singly to completion in sequence.
There are downsides to my mix-it-up approach. Those spangles and bits of bling catch threads, and can be abraded or otherwise damaged by clumsy fingers or needle tips as I go along. I will probably deploy pieces of well washed muslin or old, freshly washed handkerchiefs to cover previously stitched areas as the piece grows, taking them off only for progress photos.
And as for why I started in a corner – I point to visual focus and prominence. The center of a piece is the most scrutinized. By easing into the thing at one of the corners I commit my experiments in scale, pattern complexity, and density to the less ogled outer edge. Ripping out bits I don’t find totally successful is not an option at this gauge. Once I commit, that’s it. By the time I get to the center I should be better in command of the fill vocabulary on 70+ count, and the best of my work should mate up with the eventual viewers’ most exacting gaze. Note that if I had been stitching this coif with an eye to making it up into a hat and wearing it, I would have started at the center bit at the nape of the neck where the cap would have tucked under the wearer’s bun-bundled hair, that being the least viewed part.
The one thing I haven’t been doing reliably though is whipping down all of those plunged ends of the gold thread on the reverse, which already looks like a nightmare. I detest doing that and should be, but haven’t. For this sin I will go sit in a corner and contemplate my life choices, preferably while tending to those little monsters…
So that’s my working cadence, and my reasons for it. Should yours differ, that’s fine. What works best in the long run is what works best for each of us as individuals who understand the strengths and weaknesses of our materials and our own proclivities, instead of dogmatic compliance to an arbitrary set of rules.
AND WE HAVE THE FIRST BUG!
Not to worry, it’s not a computer or programming glitch. It’s completion of the first bug on my rendition of the Unstitched Coif project. The bugs, birds and other inhabitants of this flowery sprawl are especially fun to work.
I may add a tiny motif in his “collar,” it seems a bit bare; and I may go back and darken up the bug body to get better contrast against the wings. But I do like the opposing directionality of the coil pattern on the wings. I am also still debating the density of the paillette spangles. Thinking on their original use, to provide both sparkle in dim interiors and by candlelight, and to signal the wealth of the wearer, packing them in for max bling seems right. However I know to modern eyes the look in full artificial light is cluttered, and I’ve gotten feedback accordingly. We’ll see.
As to new bits in execution – the bug’s eyes are also the same 2mm paillettes, but instead of being affixed with three little gold color faux silk stitches, they are held on with large French knots in the center. I thought about using beads, I have a large seed bead stash that I’ve kept since the 1960s. It came to me jumbled, and my sisters helped sort some of it out. I picked out three candidate colors – black glass, clear glass with gold foil centers, and an opalescent black/metallic glass, and have been experimenting with them both with and without the spangles underneath. You can see below how much better the flat spangle and French knot looks.
I haven’t ruled out using beads yet. There are some bugs with especially tiny faces. I might use them for the eyes of those. They are ever so slightly smaller than the paillettes, but not by much. But French knots may be the solution there, too.
In other developments, my kit has expanded. Thanks to the insight and generosity of long time friend and needlework confidante Kathryn Goodwyn (who took pity on me and came to the rescue) I now have a small clip on light for supplemental illumination. Kathryn says she found it in a Dollar Store (a low price bargain outlet for my UK visitors). I will probably jury rig a thin wooden yardstick across the top edge of my frame later on, as I get closer to the center of the piece and need the extra light there.
Another materials improvement to report. I have switched threads for the fills. I had been using YLI 100, doubled. One strand was too thin, but two looked a bit muddy. I am now using Au Ver à Soie’s Soie Surfine and I like the line and angles better. I won’t tell you when/where I switched, and I don’t think you’ll be able to spot it. Although the two approaches are very close in total width, the Surfine does stitch more smoothly and works up more evenly.
In addition, I attended the first Zoom meet-up for the project yesterday. Toni Buckby, our Fearless Leader did a great thumbnail intro to blackwork in general. its stylistic evolution over time, and the coif project in specific. We were truly inspired to plunge on in, or continue depending on our start status. There were enthusiastic folk in attendance from the UK, US, Canada, and New Zealand (that individual is truly dedicated, considering that it was 1:00am there at the time). It was fun to meet up, share questions, and generally get to know each other.
As promised, I did ask about plans to make the drawing of the coif accessible at the project website. Ms. Buckby assured us that it will be, although the website is still under construction, and it isn’t there right now. But if you do pop by, you’ll see a few of the V&A’s fantastic collection of blackwork artifacts, plus her invaluable hand drawn charts for the specific geometric fills used on them.
I admit the large cushion (V&A Accession T.81-1924) at the top of the official project page brings back wonderful memories.
A blurry image of that artifact was the first bit of blackwork I stumbled across, in Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book. I was smitten, and shortly thereafter I had need of a special gift for he who would eventually become my Resident Male. Although I had already graphed up and stitched a number of sampler bands from book photos, I took the plunge into blackwork with no guidance other than Mary Thomas, and produced this. It’s now very well worn, and the needle lace around the edges is quite frayed, but for something stitched in the spring of 1975, on muslin, using mostly the wrong stitches, it’s not entirely discreditable.
After that there my fate was sealed.
My blackwork underskirt forepart (left and centers) – stitched in Fall 1976-Spring 1977. My Forever Coif, started in Spring 1990 and still unfinished.
UNSTITCHED COIF PROJECT DEVELOPMENTS – NEEDLES AND OFFICIAL SITE
Your periodic Unstitched Coif project update post!
First some progress on my own rendition. Having established my vocabulary, I’m gaining momentum, aided in part by The Right Tool.
The Right Tool? My size #12 rounded point beading needles finally arrived! What’s the difference? In the photo below, a standard John James brand size #28 gold finish tapestry needle is above, and a #12 blunt point beading needle from the same maker is below.
The beading needle is less than half the thickness of the tapestry needle, and it has a much smaller eye and more pronounced end taper. While that does make it harder to thread, it also makes the thread less likely to fall out of the eye while stitching. And that thin shaft and point are small enough to slip between the threads of the 70+ count linen I am using without distorting them. I said before that shoving the (comparatively) large point of the #28 through this weave was like passing a pencil through the mesh of a screen window, and I wasn’t kidding. The very rounded point and larger diameter made it hard to “stay on target” and hit the exact between-thread spot that needs to be pierced, and the thicker shaft, especially at the eye distorts the weave as it moves through, making subsequent counts close by all the more difficult.
So if you are working this project, or in fact any project on an extremely fine count ground, spare yourself, your eyes, and your fingers grief, and grab a #12. You will be happier, and more speedy for it.
Now the big news here isn’t my new needles or my minor progress. It’s that the official website for the group, blackworkembroidery.org has gone live! Right now it’s still pretty sparse, with a lovely selection of artifact links to blackwork pieces in the V&A’s collection, and some graphed fill stitches. I suspect that the content will blossom over time. But the best part is that it includes a link to a Discord chat group, dedicated to the Unstitched Coif project! I’ll be taking advantage of that under the user name Rotangus (the name I use on Discord for gaming forums), but I will wait to post until Toni Buckby, our Fearless Leader, posts. But I hope to be part of the conversations there.
I THINK I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK
The Unstitched Coif project continues.
After some experimentation, mostly documented in prior posts, I think I’ve hit on what will probably be the combo of threads and techniques I am going to use. I am still waiting for my fine beading needles and one last fine filament silk, which I may or may not work in. I like the look of mixed threads in a project, even mixed blacks, so even if that thread is late to the party, it still may be incorporated.
As usual, both US and UK pennies provided for scale.
Obviously I am going to be using counted fills for most if not all of the blackwork fields. I may do a few areas in a freehand fill, but probably not speckling. I like the look but find execution of those tiny dots very boring.
Having tried multiple times to whip the gold around silk, I finally realized that whipping silk around gold is much easier to do. I used a double strand of the Japanese Gold #5 for the stems and leaf veins, in simple couching. But I thought that the plain gold lines looked quite wimpy for the stems, and the visually dense bits of blackwork look stranded, and not unified into a design. So I will be whipping just the exposed stem areas with silk. I experimented with two different silks in the bit above, the longer stem being the Golden Schelle hand-dyed, and the shorter one being the unidentified small batch silk I had in my stash. Both use two strands. I may end up using them both, with the Golden Schelle for wider, more prominent stems, and the other for smaller offshoots. Time will tell.
The curly tendrils are single strand Japanese Gold #5, again simply couched. The half-flower center (cut off by the edge of the coif) is the same gold, double strand, again couched. I will do the full circle flower centers in spiral couching. I thought about a spiderweb, but as I found out this wrapped gold does not play well as a passing thread, so I will stick to couching.
And the paillette. I know he’s all by himself right now, but as I finish areas I will be peppering the between ground with them, just for the fun of added bling.
To answer questions and issues from my inbox:
- Are you planning or plotting out all of your fills beforehand?
No. I’m just picking them at random whim, at most considering if I want a dense or a lighter one for the spot I am about to stitch. Since picking out on this fine ground is not fun, even if I am not 100% satisfied with my choice, I will keep going with any fill started, once committed. In general if a fill has an identifiable motif in it I try to center that bit in the “meatiest” part of the area being stitched, then work from that point out to the edges, but I don’t plot out the exact placement ahead of time, and fills in adjacent units can end up skew on count to each other. Sometimes I even do that on purpose to increase visual movement in the composition.
- Where are you getting your fills?
Well, if you know me you know I have endless notebooks full, some of which I have shared for free elsewhere on this site. Plus I have been known to make them up on the fly. But I do not intend to use this project as personal advertising, and won’t be mentioning them again.
- Can you send me the pattern?
It’s not mine to share. I’ve put in feedback to the project organizer suggesting that once the official website is up and running later this month, that the design be made available there.
- How can you see to do this so small?
Waybackwhen, my 25 year old eyes could do this un-augmented – nearsightedness being a bit of a natural magnifier. But that was long ago. I am using a lighted magnifying aid which can be worn over glasses. It does take a bit of getting used to, so it’s not a perfect solution but so far it’s working for me. Again, I am uncomfortable being a product shill, but the thing made by Beileshi, is easily found on Amazon, and is reasonably priced.
- Where did you get the linen?
I’ve posted the link before, so here it is again. It’s not exorbitantly priced for linen but shipping to the US doubles the cost, which makes it a bit spendy, and there’s no real break in the shipping surcharge for buying larger amounts and sharing the bounty. As far as quality, in my piece at least there is a fair bit of slubs and really fine threads, that makes counting a bit harder. The weave is also off a bit – you can see that my motifs are stretched a bit north-south as opposed to east-west. But at this scale I doubt anyone will notice.
- Are you stitching 1×1?
No, that would be a bit much even for me. I’m doing mostly 2×2 because I find it easiest to count, but the butterfly squares fill above was done 3×3. I may mix up the counts to achieve density effects. Again time will tell.
- Where did you get the spangles? Are they handmade?
No, they are not. They are tiny 2mm center-hole gold-tone circles, flat (no cupping like a faceted sequin). These are the same ones I used on my Two Fish piece. I will share the source again because I know paillettes this small are very hard to find in the US. I ordered them from General Bead in San Francisco, California.
- Too bad, looks nice but I’m disappointed. You know you aren’t being historically accurate, right?
I don’t pretend that I am. The base pattern cartoon provided by the Unstitched Coif project certainly is. The general aesthetic is. The project leader assures me that this particular linen is the closest she has found to the linen of museum artifacts. But this is my modern interpretation of that museum original, and I do not claim it to be a fully documented representation of a specific historical style or period-limited materials/technique set. Here are my aberrations:
- My thread mix – For black, partially filament silks with modern dye, partially spun silks in a mix of modern and historically documented dyes. The gold tone thin silk I am using for couching and affixing the paillettes is “art silk” – rayon, that I found in India. I had it on hand, and it’s largely invisible in this project. I spent enough on the linen and other materials that I feel justified in economizing here.
- The gold thread. It’s got the look (more or less) and is a thin filament of metal around a silk core, but it’s not exactly what was used contemporary with the base design, and is unsuited to use as a passing thread on a ground this dense. But again, I had it on hand and it is affordable.
- The paillettes. Machine made, probably mylar painted gold. Again I plead my pocket.
- [UPDATE] The density of the paillettes. Some people have stated that my use of them is too tightly packed
- The fills. I know my fancy will run away with me (it already has), and my fills will be my own choice and largely of my own devising. I will not be able to be individually documented one by one to specific historical artifacts or blackwork depictions.
- The stitch used for outlining. I’m using reverse chain. Yes, I know that Jacqui Carey specifically points it out as a modern stitch in Elizabethan Stitches, but given its gently raised line, speed of accurate execution, ease of handling tight curves, and its vague similarity to Elizabethan Twisted Chain (also cited by Carey), I can be forgiven this time- and effort-saving sin.
- The whipped couched gold. No historical source for this I know of, but I also admit I am not posessed of encyclopedic knowledge.
ALL DRESSED AND READY TO GO
… Just waiting for my thread to arrive.
As I planned, after tracing the Unstitched Coif pattern onto my linen, I cut the cloth and hemmed the top and bottom of the piece (left below). Then I trimmed the left and right edges with a folded and ironed piece of wide cotton twill tape offset a bit from the linen itself, so that any side lacing would have something to bite into that would not distort the ground. That’s sewn on with simple running stitch.
Once the ground was prepped, I mounted it on my largest scrolling frame. Because the entire coif fits in the frame’s center, I don’t need to employ any scrolling functionality. That’s why I made advance accommodation for side lacing. I used plain old heavy cotton crochet string for the lacing. The ball of it lost its label long ago, but I think it’s Coats & Clark’s Speed-Cro-Sheen. Here’s the entire thing, set up on my stand using the large frame extender (the wooden arm with the metal tabs grasping the work), and laced tighter than most costume-drama heroines.
Note the brick just barely visible at the bottom right corner of the photo. Because I swing my frame out like a barn door to exit my knitting chair, two bricks of extra weight on the paddle foot of my stand are necessary to counterbalance the mass of this large frame when it is positioned perpendicular to the foot. Someday I’ll knit or crochet neat little covers for them as yet another household whimsey, but for now they’re kept tidy with plastic wrap.
Because so much of this is a trip into the unknown, I took the side slice of linen left over after I cut my project piece, and traced a couple of motifs onto it. That’s going to be my “sidecar” – an as-I-work sampler used to try out ideas before I trust them to the main project. I didn’t bother hemming this bit. You can see it on the arm of my stitching corner chair.
I’ve begun playtesting countwork on this linen on the sidecar, but I haven’t received my ultra-fine thread or needles yet. One ply of the Golden Schelle thread is almost fine enough for fills, but I want to see the others in comparison because my first efforts with it are wobbly enough to be unacceptable. Plus stitching on this stuff with a #28 tapestry needle is like passing a log through a window screen, and I am still adapting to the magnifier; both of which complicate matters somewhat.
I know one of the threads I ordered will be here later today, and hope the other two plus the blunt beading needles will arrive some time this week. For the record none are the Piper 30/2 that others are using – the cost of overseas sourcing plus the time to ship made me look for a domestic equivalent. More on all three when they arrive.
For journalistic veracity, I present the shameful and discreditably woebegone initial counted bits, and threaded #28 needle, plus a US penny (at 7:00), and UK penny (at 12:00) – both for scale. Be kind, I hope to work out the kinks before attacking the project, proper.
I will be testing out the Schelle silk, plus the Tied to History Allori and my other unnamed stash-aged silk in the mean time, trying out various treatments for the outlines and possibly the stems. I am still hoping to incorporate metal threads in the stems, but plain couched doubles of the #5 may be too stark.
Obviously for me at least having the sidecar is a total necessity on this one.
INCHING TOWARD THE GATE
I amass materials for the Unstitched Coif project.
First, the recommended linen has arrived. It’s very densely woven, and fabulously fine. So fine in fact that my thinnest silk is way too heavy to work the fills. It’s even fine enough to make counting the threads with my Penny Method difficult.
Squinting as hard as I can, at max magnification, I really can’t parse out the count from my photos. I need a better photo set-up, but I can say that it’s significantly finer than 40 count (above).
What thread to use? I went back and asked Ms. Buckby, the project leader what was recommended for fills. She said that on her own piece she was using a a strand of 6 thread (120 denier) silk. So I went hunting for it here in the US, to save the overseas shipping cost.
No retailer of fine embroidery supplies I was familiar with listed denier on their catalogs, so I asked the wise folk at Needle in a Haystack if they had any recommendations. They did, and I ordered two possible candidates plus some wicked tiny #10 and #12 beading blunts to manage them. More on these threads when they arrive and I can beta test them. I will probably still use the silk I have for the more prominent outlines. Thankfully there’s plenty of linen, so I will probably mount a “sidecar” for experimentation, before making major commitments on my main piece.
I also ordered more of the 2mm paillettes I used on Two Fish. That’s only on 40 count, the leftover of which is what’s shown above, and you can see that they are just a smidge larger than the 2×2 thread cross stitches in the fish’s cheek. I am not sure that I will use them, but if I do, these tiny guys are about all that will fit in the “white space” of this intricate coif design.
I also ordered and received an adjustable head-mounted magnifier, much better suited to use with bifocals than the one I had. Thanks for the lead, Callie! I would not attempt countwork on this one with un-augmented vision.
Now while I wait for the threads, the next step is prepping the linen and transferring the cartoon’s outlines onto the fabric.
I did not wash this fabric prior to stitching on it. The weave is already so tight that stitching will be a challenge. Washing tightens linen. It may be a major faux pas, but I don’t want to take that risk.
I thought about using prick and pounce (stabbing tiny holes in the paper, affixing it securely above the fabric and sifting dark powder – usually crushed artist’s charcoal through the holes, then connecting the dots with drawing or painting), but in truth I have had a dismal track record with that method. Instead I am tracing, using glass and a strong light source. I usually do this by taping the design to my big dining room window, then taping the linen on top, but this time I am afraid that the piece is so large that even if I tape it, the weight plus the pressure of tracing will stretch the cloth.
Instead I have improvised a light table, using an old storm window, a utility light, some package padding I saved for no special reason, and some fabric scraps to keep the linen clean in case some basement filth remained on the window and sawhorses after I de-spidered and washed them down.
It worked well enough, although I kept knocking into those splayed sawhorse legs.
Next up was to align the grain of the fabric with the cartoon. Since it seems to be a bit more dense in the weft than the warp, I chose to align the design perpendicular to the selvedges. I’ll have to do some cutting and hemming, but we’ll get to that another day. And once the fabric was aligned, I had to decide on my framing method. I have two Millennium scroll bar sets. I could run them along the short edges of the design or the long edges:
Obviously if I did them the short way there would be lots of stitched fabric being rolled and stressed as I worked. Not optimal. Especially not so if I go through with my impulse to incorporate metal threads and paillettes. So long way it is with the design fully splayed out using my largest set-up.
Starting in the middle, I traced out the design using a plain old mechanical pencil with a thin lead. It’s not perfect. I did my best to secure the fabric, and it sagged/stretched far less than it would have had I taped it to a window, but I admit some of my lines are a tiny bit off. And then there’s that unfortunate bit I tried to erase. I’ll attempt to spot clean or camouflage that later. But the design is now on the cloth.
Tomorrow I cut my piece, and hem, with an eye to mounting on my frame. Since the entire thing will be laid out without being eaten on the scroll, I may even try edging with twill tape and lacing the sides for additional tension. Provided I can find the twill tape.