My quick project gets off to a flying start. I’m about 20% done already. I started out with my hand-held 6 inch hoop to get close to the irregular corner of my linen scrap, but now have moved back to the larger 8 inch sit-upon.
The pattern itself is an original doodle destined for the next volume of Ensamplario Atlantio (as usual, no ETA on its release yet, but I’ve got the first 8 pages done). It requires a bit of attention, the diagonal columns connecting the saltire flowers carry twists in various directions, depending on where in the design they are, but overall the pattern itself is more repetitive than difficult. So to up the interest factor, I’ve transformed my original strip/border/edging layout into large, interlocking hashmark-shaped motifs, and am working each one in a different color. The final will have a patchwork meets jigsaw puzzle effect, kind of like a kid’s puzzle mat.
The other item of interest in this one is the thread. After reading about how others were using Sulky, a single ply hard twist thread intended for both hand and machine embroidery, I decided to give it a try. The ground is roughly 32 threads per inch linen, give or take. I am using a double strand of Sulky 30 weight.
First impressions are quite good. The 500 yard spool put-up is very convenient, as is not having to separate plies as with floss. It works up very quickly in linear stitching – the hard twist, firm nature of the thread eliminating the occasional snags and catches that can slow down softer, more friable floss and silk, when stitching with one hand above and one below. It also is amenable to being used in much longer lengths than regular embroidery floss. Longer thread length means fewer stops to end and begin new threads, so that speeds up stitching a bit. And it makes very crisp lines and corners. The hard twist paired with a blunt point needle makes the junctions where stitches cohabit easier to keep clean. There’s far less chance of a split stitch when stitching back up or down through a hole that is already used by a previous stitch, even when using (near) evenweave linen. I also like the way the dense, round thread keeps its “height,” with the stitches standing proud of the surface, rather than splaying out like floss strands do. Of course that means that floss strands provide better coverage for other types of stitches, but for linear work, clean lines and sharp corners take precedence. I try to capture the “depth” of the stitches below.
On the down side, I do note that colors do crock a bit onto the ground cloth even though the thread is not fuzzy. This is mostly evident when mistakes are picked out. Hints of the previously stitched color remain. To be fair, floss does this too, with the added annoyance of more stray fibers. My Silly Putty kludge works well enough on the color halo left when picking out Sulky, though.
So in my opinion Sulky 30 (double stranded) on 32 count linen is a good pairing. I will continue to explore its use, and report back on wash properties and durability. I would even go so far as to recommend it for folk who are interested in trying double running stitch on medium to high count evenweave. I think the properties outlined above would make it easier for those just starting out on their own blackwork journeys to achieve superior results.
Please note that I pay full retail for the materials I use. I do not accept freebies in exchange for reviews, nor does String participate in product placement schemes. Opinions here are entirely my own.
A finish. I began at our Cape place around 14 July, and finished last night at the Cape place on 25 September, about 73 days of stitching, working an average of about 2 hours per day.
To recap, this was a vintage dresser scarf, clearly cut down and re-edged from some older piece of linen. It was very well washed, and although it had no broken warp or weft threads, there was a lot of blooming, where the linen breaks down a bit, with threads fused together and some slubs. The count wasn’t consistent, with some threads being much thicker than others, but spot measurements ranged from 28 to 34 threads per inch, mostly averaging out to between 30 and 32. It was ever so slightly skewed, but no where near as badly as other non-evenweave grounds I’ve worked lately.
The pattern has two parts – the main field which I redacted from a 17th century Italian cushion cover held in the Hermitage Museum, shown below (Accession T-2736 in case the link breaks). The companion border I doodled up myself.
Amusingly the skew count of the ground used in the original is greater than the skew of my vintage linen. You can see that clearly in the smaller motifs which chart out as squares, but appear taller than they are wide. Also my redaction norms the spacing of the motifs, which in the original does vary by quite a bit. But I preserve the “creep”. Look at the partials around the edge of my piece. They rise from/sink into the static edge line, each iteration of the swirl being offset from the previous one by a stitch or two in each direction. You can see the same thing on the original.
I stitched the design in garnet cotton (DMC #815). It took almost all of seven skeins. I worked the linear bits in double running, and the solid bits in a variant of Italian four sided cross stitch (basically cross stitch, but in a box). The version I chose is NOT double sided, instead it produces a grid on the reverse. The only reason why I chose that version is that I hadn’t attempted it before. I have no historical reason to pick it over the more usually done fully two-sided version. The full double sided version is more or less the same stitch that forms meshy totally overstitched grounds, but done “gently” as surface stitching, and not pulled to the max to both totally encase the ground threads and produce the characteristic mesh ground found in so many museum artifacts. Here’s my back showing the grid structure of my single-sided interpretation.
On the whole I am quite pleased. My goal of making a splendid runner for our sideboard has been achieved, and I can retire the old, ratty placemat that’s there now. It’s The Resident Male’s favorite spot for opening bottles of wine, and now he can do so in a style appropriate for a Renaissance princeling.
Things I would do differently. Hmmm…. I now wish I HAD done the solids in the reversible variant. Not because I want to have a true double-sided piece, but because I want to play with the challenge of that stitch some more. (Additional future experiments are warranted.) I’m also not entirely pleased with leaving the original dresser scarf edging on this. For one, the non-rectangular nature of the cloth is more evident with my on-grain, symmetrically sized stitched area. It bothers me. But consensus seems to be to leave it alone. So I will. For now at least.
And so I move on to an interim project. I have a wild departure queued up for my next big thing, but the materials to do it aren’t here yet, so I digress.
I want to make another forehead cloth. I really enjoy wearing the two I did a few years back. They are more fun than bandannas or scarves, and do a good job of keeping the hair out of my eyes. I have a piece of linen scrap I am considering. It’s very densely woven though at about 32 threads per inch, and I am not sure that it will show off my chosen design to good effect. (I do have an airier alternative, but I prefer the look of the scrap.) I don’t remember whose leftover this is, but send thanks again to The Anonymous Donor. As you can see I’ve plotted out the corner of my triangle.
There is plenty of real estate on this piece of spill, left over from Anonymous Donor’s sewing project. I’m aiming to make something midway in size between the two forehead cloths I already have. Something in the range of 14 inches for the non-hypotenuse sides.
Shameless plug department: These two pieces have been worn heavily and washed without mercy for the past three years, as can be seen by the frayed ties. But look at the stitching, it’s as good as the day I finished. I did it in the stranded silk thread hand dyed by my apprentice using a historical recipe. NO fading, no breakage in spite of the ground’s distortion from being stretched in wear. No harm to the ground beneath the stitches from the dye used. It’s a small batch item, and not always available, but when it is, it’s worth it. Highly recommended.
Back to the project at hand. I will be stitching a rather dense design I recently doodled up. I’m working on Ensamplario Atlantio III, and that pattern will be part of it. And I will be trying out Sulky thread, a spooled mercerized single strand cotton sold for hand and machine stitching. Possibly in polychrome. I have black, red, blue, and green, so I have scope to play.
More on this one as it develops, of course…