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OFF THE SHELF TABLE LINENS AS STITCHING GROUNDS

OK.  Just before the Thanksgiving holiday we decided to get some new table linens, so we would have a nice table setting for the finished dining room’s holiday debut. Given the busy green floral wallpaper and intricate rug, I wanted something monochrome for contrast.  Also something that presented more of a hand-made  welcome rather than stark white formality was in order.

I looked around a bit and settled on these affordable cotton or cotton/linen blend washables from Wayfair:

 

On the left above is the tablecloth, showing a corner, and on the right, one of the napkins.  Although they aren’t a matching set, they are close enough in color and texture to coordinate, plus both sport a small openwork detail. For the record, the napkins are branded “Fete” and are cotton.  The tablecloth is branded “Toscana” and is a polyester/linen blend.  Both are machine wash, machine dry cool/low.  The tablecloth is no-iron.

You can see from the tape measure on the napkins, I had an ulterior motive.  I always have an ulterior motive…

Eventually I intend to do some embroidery on these.  My thought is to do a strip of a different voided or linear design on each one, in a deep, wine red, using the thread I bought at Sajou in Paris when we were there.  But there was no time to begin before the holiday, so on the table they went.  Thankfully all of the linens survived turkey, wine, cranberry sauce and the rest, and were then sent through the recommended gentle wash/low dry cycle.  And it’s a good thing that I did so.

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Blurry photo aside, you can clearly see that the four napkins I used have shrunk considerably when compared to a napkin from the other set-of-four, as yet unwashed – the bottom one in the stack.  The tablecloth did not shrink appreciably.

As far as thread count on the napkins – in the before state they were approximately 18×22 threads per inch.  The count of the most-shrunken one is now much closer to 24×24 threads per inch.  The tablecloth remains very close to 30×30 threads per inch.  I won’t guarantee that either are true even-weave, but for me, they are close enough.

In conclusion, I do recommend a hearty pre-wash and deliberate shrink prior to any counted stitching, if that’s what you want to do on these.  And I may end up touching up the napkins with an iron before I use them again – embroidered or not.

For the time being, this project is taking a far-back, back seat.  I have a ton of holiday and bespoken gift knitting to complete, first.

THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 6

At long last!  The end of the talk from 2014.  I hope it inspired you to look up some of these examples, and perhaps, start your own piece of work in one of the styles presented.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 5

In the off chance I haven’t sent folks screaming off into the woods, here is the penultimate installment of images from my chat on historical counted thread embroidery, given back in 2014.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 4

And even more.  Continuing on with the visuals from my 2014 talk on historical counted thread embroidery.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 3

More from the 2014 Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are the next ten images from my Schola talk on historical counted thread embroidery, originally given in 2014.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 1

Roughly four years ago I was invited to give a talk on historical styles of counted embroidery at an embroidery Schola (day of lectures and workshops), held under the auspices of a regional group of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I put together some talking points and visuals and gave the chat.  I think the audience was a bit overwhelmed, though because I didn’t get many questions or much feedback.

Today I was going through some old files and came upon my talk’s slide deck.  I share it here now.  Note that some things have come to light since I spoke in 2014.  Most obvious among that is the reclassification of several patterns by the holding institutions, moving them from uncertain provenance or continental/southern European 16th/17th century provenance to their proper place in Morocco.  I’ve written about this group before, but they are represented in the talk, in their “before” incarnation.

In any case, here are the images from my talk.  It’s long (no one ever accused me of being concise when it comes to discourse on my fave subject).  Therefore, I’ll break the thing up into roughly six parts over the coming days.

Enjoy!

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MORE CHANTERELLES

Well, this pattern has wound my curiosity up around itself.  The basic design of the Chanterelle scarf is quite simple, but it can look quite different depending on the yarn chosen.  I have written it for any 100g ball of fingering/sock weight yarn, and finding out what the various yarns end up looking like when knit up – that’s turning out to be tons of fun.

So let’s start.

So far I’ve used two different Schoppel Zauberball Crazy colors: the autumn/purples mix of the original, plus a lilac/cream/navy mix. The pix below the scarves are photos of the SAME color numbers of Zauberball as the ones I knit from.  There is considerable variation between balls of the stuff, but you can get an idea of how the original yarn looked, none the less.

 

 

The ends look different because for some reason although the balls were marked with identical yardage, the one on the left was significantly shorter, and yielded only ten trumpet sections, while the shades-of-purple one yielded 11.  Go figure…  In any case, it’s nice that regardless of how many full sections are knit, the ends still complement the piece.

Here’s the third try.  This one is a stash-aged Opal yarn, whose label with its color number has long since gone the way of all things.

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You can see that the color runs are pretty wide, and unlike the happy chaos of Zauberball Crazy, the repeat is very predictable.  Variation happens because the yardage required to produce one trumpet isn’t in synch with that of the yarn’s printed repeat,  so the colors wander up and down the trumpet motifs, and the faux Fair Isle spot manifests differently each time it pops up, shaped mostly by the width of the section where it appears.

I’m now trying for Chanterelle #4.  This one is from another stash-aged yarn – another ball that was a gift from the generous Nancys.  It’s Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776 – a red, white, and blue mix. This one looks to have small to medium width stripes.

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We’ll see how these stripes manifest.  I’ve obviously not gotten this out of my system yet, so I’m sure I’ll be doing some more Chanterelles.  Luckily they are a quick and mindless knit, and can be done while watching subtitled movies and shows on TV.

If you want to do up a Chanterelle and would like me to post it, you can find the free pattern under the Scarves section of the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.  I’d be grateful for pix of the skein and pix of the finished product, as done above.  That will help others decide whether or not this design would work for their beautiful but problematic yarns, too.

CHANTERELLE – EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

UPDATE:  THE DOWNLOADABLE PDF PATTERN FOR CHANTERELLE HAS BEEN ADDED TO MY KNITTING PATTERNS PAGE, AT THE TAB ABOVE.

A bit more mindless knitting this week past.  I have two balls of Zauberball Crazy, a wildly variegated (and expensive) fingering weight yarn.  Both balls had minor damages to them, and I wanted to work them up quickly.  But I didn’t want to make socks.  This stuff’s colors are so over the top that I wanted to make something that would be seen.  Scarves are ideal.  I’ve done several before using Wingspan and its variants, or other designs calculated to display the gradients to their best effect.  But I wanted to do something different.  I cast on for a couple of designs I found on Ravelry, but wasn’t particularly pleased.

What to do….

Ah.  Thinking back, my most popular pattern of all time is Kureopatora’s Snake.  That was written for a DK weight variegated, and was the result of happy experiment.  It’s basically Entrelac, but slimmed down to just the two edge triangles, and worked over a large number of stitches.  The result is a graceful interlock of trumpet shapes, with the trumpet’s spread accentuated by working a purl into (not just slipping) the K2tog join stitch at the end of each partial row before the turn.

Why not make that one up in fingering weight, and publish the pattern adaptations that make it work?

So I present the first of the two test pieces.  I’ll be starting the second tonight:

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First off, I’ve renamed the thing. Now that it’s independent of the original yarn, I re-dub this one “Chanterelle.”  Yes, there are ends (the initial cast-on, bind off, plus a couple of damages).  A personal quirk – I don’t darn in the ends until I am ready to give my knit gift to the recipient.  This will sit un-darned until then.

I will be writing up the full design again under the new name, but for now, start with the Kureopatora’s Snake pattern, available for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.

CHANTERELLE:
A FINGERING-WEIGHT VARIATION OF KUREOPATORA’S SNAKE

Grab your ball of fingering weight variegated yarn.  ONE ball of Zauberball Crazy made this scarf, with only about 3 yards of yarn left over.  It’s about 5 inches wide (a bit under 8 cm), and 66 inches long (a bit under 168 cm).  Gauge is pretty much unimportant.  I recommend a MUCH looser gauge than one would use for socks.  I used a US #5 needle (3.5mm) for this project.

Follow the Kureopatora pattern as written for the initial section, but instead of stopping when you have 30 stitches on the needle, keep going until you have 46.

Work the entire scarf as-written, until you have completed ten full trumpet sections (not counting the partial trumpet done to initiate the project).

Follow the directions for the final finishing section, EXCEPT that instead of working the final section as normal until there are 15 stitches on each needle, keep going until you have 23 stitches on each needle.  Then on every row that begins on the edge of the scarf after that, work a SSK instead of the increase you have been doing throughout the prior sections.

DO NOT STRETCH-BLOCK this piece.  If you feel it’s lumpy, moisten it and pat it flat, but do not use wires or pins to stretch it out.  You want to preserve those graceful curves.

SWISH BY SWISH

I continue to make slow progress on my Fish piece.  Again, I plead the heat, the general malaise it creates, my unwillingness to sit under a hot halogen work light, and a reticence to stitch with sweaty fingers.  But as you can see, I’m almost done with the center area gold water swirls.  Just a few “echo lines” are left to add to the group below the head of Fish #1, then I will have to advance the scroll, to get the remaining bits at the top and bottom.  (Swirly lines that currently go off the edges of my stitching area have been saved until the work area is realigned, even if they go over by just a little bit.)  And of course, sign the thing with my initials and the date.

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I do like the way the spirals of gold in the head spots turned out.

More answers to inbox questions:

Where did you get the gold and sequins?

The #5 imitation gold thread came from the Japanese Embroidery Center, in Atlanta Georgia.  The 2mm gold tone pailettes came from General Bead, in San Francisco.  Both were ordered off the ‘net sight-unseen.

How are you sewing down the gold?

Standard simple couching, of two strands held together, flat and parallel (not twisted around each other).  I’m using one strand of gold-tone silk, heavily waxed, taking little stitches across the gold.  The stitches get closer together as curves are formed, and further apart on the straight runs, but generally don’t exceed about 5mm (3/16ths of an inch) apart.

The no-hands frame is an absolute must for this type of work.  I hold the gold and bend it into a curve to match the sketched lines with my left hand, then use the right to form the affixing stitches, taking care not to pull so tightly that I deform the line.  After the length is stitched down and the end cut, leaving about 3/4 of an inch on the surface, I plunge them to the back.  I do this with a heavy, antique needle threaded with a loop of strong carpet thread, and lasso the ends, pulling the loop gently around the waving ends, then quickly yank them to the back of the work. After I finish an area I bundle the plunged gold ends as neatly as I can, mostly trying to keep the resulting bits small and camouflaged as much as possible.  Note that on shortest line segments care must be taken when plunging NOT to end up pulling out one or both of the stitched down gold strands.  Much colorful language ensues when that happens…

How will you finish this piece off?

I really don’t know.  I don’t want to do a fabric scroll or hanging style finish on this one.  Although that would be congruent with the subject matter, I feel it would be too cliche, and take up too much space on the beach place wall where we intend to hang it.  Instead I may opt for a spare non-matted/no glass modern frame.  Possibly a near-invisible thin black one.  But in any case, I suspect I’ll splurge and have this one done by pros instead of my usual dinking around above my competence.

What’s next?

Not sure.  I still have a stitch-itch, although I have a couple of projects lined up to knit once fall weather kicks in.  Possibly a return to my big green sampler, now that I have a reliable stand for it.  Possibly a smaller something-else.