Laying down the double running outlines for the latest strip, with the intent of going back and filling in the Montenegrin cross stitch spines along them in a second pass:
I’ll probably do the long straight runs first, while waiting for the Montenegrin stitch book to arrive. I don’t particularly like the way I handled the bent spines and am hoping that Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch will help.
In other news, I spent the weekend knitting a hat. An outrageous black earflap cap, encrusted with a lime green crest. Bespoken, of course:
I started with Interweave Knits Army Girl Earflap cap – unisex despite its name (available in the IKE 7 Free Knitted Hats booklet). I added a bit more height just above the forehead, before the crown decreases because the recipient is a tall guy with a slightly longer head than average. I’m using Brown Sheep Lambs’ Pride Bulky. If you want to make this hat as published, one skein of it is more than enough for the whole thing. My green crest adds about half of a second skein, in that screaming color.
I’ve got some more of the ruff to add, then I have to snip it back, barbering it from floppy/sloppy to a uniform and threatening length. But all is on schedule for a hat-ETA of later this week.
Another strip well started. This one is a mixed stitch interlace, graphed out from yet another museum artifact, and another pattern that will be appearing in TNCM2:
As my dawn-lighted picture reveals, I’m working it in two passes – first setting up the double running stitch outlines, then going back and filling in the dark center stripes. After some initial experimentation, I’ve settled on using Montenegrin stitch for those stripes. Although it’s a legitimate historical stitch contemporary with this style, and is spot on in terms of raised texture and density, I’m not entirely convinced that all artifacts labeled “punto spina pesce” use it (or in fact- employ the same stitch).
Contemporary work of that name more commonly refers to plain old long-armed cross stitch (LACS) but LACS doesn’t give the raised, tightly plaited appearance of the older pieces. Plaited – yes, but the angles in LACS are more acute than those in the museum artifacts. Montenegrin is closer in terms of texture, but is also not spot on. I’ll continue to experiment, but I will finish out this band using Montenegrin, and play further on later band.
To answer Ellen, this is done on 40 count using one strand of Soie d’Alger in color 1846. As you can see from the proportions of the work however, the ground is not exactly square. The 3×8 rectangles used to “bind” the interlaces together clearly show the skew. The bottom band of pulled thread work was done over units that are 4×4 threads. The double running band above it and the one I’m working now are done over 2×2 threads – approximately 20 stitches per inch.
To answer Rachel, yes – holding large frames is a pain. I much prefer working with my small round frame. But I don’t want to compromise the silk I’m using. I use my frame stand as that extra “third hand” to hold my frame, and then stitch with one hand above and one below it. If I can get a comfortable angle, it’s actually faster than stitching using the round frame, where one hand holds the frame and the other does all the work. The round frame does provide a more even tension in all directions. I suppose I could seam on a carrying cloth edge and then lace my piece left and right to improve side to side tension on the flat frame. I’ve done that before on others. But the Millennium provides much better overall tension than my old scroll frame, and I like being able to advance work at a whim, or collapse it for transport. I would not have been able to do this type of work on my old frame without lashing the sides.
To answer Anne, I don’t as a rule endorse retail outlets, I don’t accept recompense in money or kind for anything mentioned in String, and I don’t accept “review copies” or gifts from makers/sellers hoping for positive exposure. However I will say that the source for the frame was Needle Needs in the UK. I bought my silk from Needle in a Haystack in California, and the ultimate source of my ground cloth was Hand Dyed Fibers (I bought it from the original purchaser). The needlework stand I’m using is a Grip-It, which I bought about 20 years ago at The Yarn Shop in College Park, Maryland – long out of business. I altered the Grip-It to accommodate the Millennium by replacing the original jaw bolts with longer ones. It appears that the Grip-It is no longer being made.
Marching along. As you can see, I advanced the piece on my rollers. Due to the orientation of my chair and frame stand, I’m most comfortable stitching in the lower third of the available area. Plus, being a new gizmo, I wanted to see how full slack, restacking the bars and tightening worked.
My working thread is marking the center point for the next band. That one will probably be in long armed cross stitch, worked both horizontal or vertical, and on the diagonal to create the foreground. Some museums call this “Punto Spina Pesce.” Modern stitchers probably know it better under the name Montenegrin stitch.
I’ve been having a lively discussion in another forum on useful needlework tools. In addition to the standards, I can offer up this:
Tweezers! Not just any dime store pair. I saw some specifically made for electronics assembly at work. They were so perfect, I went out and bought myself something similar. Electronics tweezers are long and pointy, with precision grip ends. The final half inch or so is nicely rounded, and is a good stand-in for a laying tool (for those who like the economy of a minimal tool set). Further up the shaft the profile switches to more of a D. On mine the 90-degree sides of the D are just sharp enough to cut through thread, so inserting the rounded end into a stitch and pushing ever so slightly will break the stitch without harming the ground cloth. Then the fine grip tweezers can be use to remove any thread detritus left over from ripping back. Electronics tweezers are available in many price ranges. Since nonmagnetic/non-conductive isn’t important for stitching, the least expensive pairs work just fine for my purposes.
I also made a blindingly obvious discovery about needles. I usually use fine tapestry style needles on ground cloth that’s 40+ threads per inch. But I often stitch those finer cloths with one strand of embroidery floss. One strand of floss has the annoying habit of falling out of the needle’s eye, something that drives me batty. But over the weekend I found these:
Ball point hand sewing needles, made for use on tricots and fine knit fabrics. You can see in the un-thumbnailed photo above that the eyes are tiny – just big enough for one strand of floss. The points are not quite as blunt as tapestry needles, but they are far less pointy than embroidery or plain-sewing sharps. They slide nicely between the threads of my ground cloth. And the small eye retains the single strand, reducing the time and annoyance of re-threading mid-work. Not orthodox perhaps, but effective.
More progress on Long Green.
You can see that I finished the mesh strip and have started on a simple double running band. The thickness of the darning on the mesh varies because I was trying out several stitching logics. I’m still working on the illustrations for the best of them, more on that to come. Also, there will be more on how these mesh styles were achieved in historical works. There look to have been several ways to do it – there is no “This is the only right way” method.
Here’s a close-up for Kathryn, who wanted to see the mesh more clearly. This photo is back-illuminated by the sun, and was taken with a piece of printer paper held behind the stitching:
Today’s double running band is yet another pattern that will be appearing in TNCM2.
It’s adapted from a drawn (rather than graphed) strip pattern appearing in Egenolff. The drawing however is clearly intended to be geometrical, and as you can see – translates easily to linear counted stitching. I will say that this gauzy linen is far better for the mesh darning and possibly solid voided work than it is for delicate double running. It’s tough to NOT distort the threads when stitching, which may be optimal for the pulled thread mesh, but is problematic for the other styles.
I’m having fun with my new frame, and playing with the mesh background voided style. As you can see, I’ve started with a very simple pattern:
This style is totally two-sided. And I can now see why so many fragments representing it are present in museum collections. It’s dense and tough as nails. Even with the mesh background, there are no loops or fragile surface to catch and no ends to fray (they’re all easily buried by overstitching). From looking at museum samples, the mesh background of mixed line stitch/voided pieces is rarely damaged. It’s usually the double running element that has breaks or skips. I’m very pleased with this and will do more with it. I’ll even try it at a smaller scale on this cloth later downstream.
I’ll also draw up some stitch diagrams on how I did it. I didn’t use standard gridded-cross-stitch (Italian two-sided cross stitch) logic. By noodling around I hit upon something that I was able to both count with greater ease, and use to achieve a more “meshy” output. But more on that when I manage to sketch up what the heck it is I’m doing.