Tag Archives: blackwork; embroidery; counted thread

ALMOST THERE

As you can see, progress on the first blackwork forehead cloth has been quite swift:

Forehead-02

I have just two corners left.  Although I have been using my sit-upon tambour (round) frame for this project, I will now switch to a hand-held hoop.  That’s because it’s significantly smaller, and better able to get close to the edge of the cloth.

On thread consumption – I started out with a 100-yard skein of the hand-dyed filament silk.  What you see here is the entire thing.  Every inch.  Luckily, I have another and will use a bit of it to complete.

Here are some more answers to questions posted here and other places where I’ve shown this piece.

What does the back look like?

Pretty much the same as the front:

Forehead-01

That’s because I’m primarily working this in double running stitch, which the assiduous can make entirely double sided.  I am not bothering (note the presence of Evil Knots) because this cloth will be lined.

How do you keep your knots from pulling through?

I never just make a knot, then push my needle up through the ground cloth, trusting entirely on the bulk of the knot to keep the stitch in place.  I either knot around a bit of established work, or if no previous stitch is handy, I make a knot at the end of my thread, stitch up, then down again leaving about an inch not pulled through to the front.  Then I use my needle to pierce the working thread.  I gently pull the thread into place, snicking up that inch of extra, and manipulating the just-made noose-join so that the knot isn’t in peril of being pulled forward.  Yes, I could make a waste knot on the front, then trim the thread back in a more traditional method, but in this case at least, the thread is prone to shedding color, and I prefer not to make a mark “outside the lines.”

On the terminal knots, I run the thread under an established stitch and do what amounts to a double hitch knot, then use my needle to pierce the newly made knot, pulling the thread tight.  This acts as a second lock and prevents unraveling or pop-through.

How do you determine your double-running baseline in a complex design like this?

I know I’ve written extensively about finding the baseline, but in this case, there isn’t just one stitching logic.  There are many, and they are all situational.  Do I want to go “out and back again” so that the active end of my line of stitching ends up near the point of origin?  Do I want to just head out in one direction until I run out of thread, then follow up with a second strand, filling in my every-other-stitch?  Do I want to establish the location of a design element, then go back and fill in detail later; or do I want to do every detour and departure on the first pass, leaving only a minimal amount of work for the second pass?  How much thread is left in my working strand?  Lots?  Just a little?  All of these thoughts combine and influence my path planning.  I can say that the stitching logic in no two of these repeats was identical – it was all done to optimize the remaining thread, cover the design without omissions, and to make counting and alignment as easy as possible; and the mix of those factors at any one time varied wildly.

However there is one thing that ended up being of great help in keeping everything properly lined up and accurately on-count. When I have a T-intersection, on the first pass I include the “attachment stitch,” so that when I come back and link up to that segment, the exact spot is easy to find.  Otherwise, if I continued straight along the top of the T, when I came back later and had to add the vertical, it would be harder to know if my alignment was correct; if the new addition had synched up correctly to the prior work.

Forehead-04

You can see this in several places on the snippet above.  Look at the heavy stacked diagonal at 1:00. On its base, where it joins the circular plume-flower medallion, I’ve left a little vertical hanging off the foundation 1×3 rectangle.  That’s an attachment point.  As I near it on my next stitching pass, I can cue off it to proof my work as I go, and know that I am on target for an absolutely aligned attachment point.  That’s also why I have those little barbs sticking out on the base of the as-yet-to-be-stitched diagonal at 5:00.

What are you going to do with the rest of the cloth?

It would be a shame to cut out my completed triangle, leaving a difficult to handle remnant.  So I am going to stitch a second, smaller triangle opposite this one, leaving cutting room between them. After I’ve finished #2, I’ll assemble both forehead cloths.  Not sure what motif to use on the second one, but likely it will be less dense, because I have less thread.

What are you using for the ground?  Do you like it?

I’ve had this piece of MCG Textiles even weave in my stash for at least a year, maybe two.  It was the last bit of 32-count linen ground on the shelf at a local JoAnn’s big-box crafts store.  I do not recommend it.

I have to say that I’m spoiled by higher quality linens at this point.  I am finding too many irregularities – thick/thin threads, slubs, surface matting, and the like, that are affecting the look of the finished project.  There’s one area in particular that drove me crazy – a segment of a few inches in which every other thread was super narrow.  Countwork there was not fun at all.  In addition, it’s not really an even weave.  There’s a distortion if you compare north-south to east-west.  (I can’t tell which is warp and which is woof because the bagged segment had no selvedge on it).  I grabbed it off the top of the stash when I started this because it was a nice coarse count, the size of the piece was suitable (minimal waste), and I wanted to begin quickly, without ordering or hunting for materials.

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.  🙂

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.

FINISHED!

It’s done.  All 80+ gears, each with a different filling pattern, worked with well-aged “Art Silk” (probably rayon) purchased for a single rupee per skein in India, on 30-count linen.  The soot sprites (little black fuzzy creatures) playing the part of “Trifles” are in discontinued DMC linen floss, so that they contrast shaggy and matte against the brighter, smoother silky stuff.  I’ve also attached some real, brass gears as embellishments, to add extra Steampunk flavor.

Trifles-018

Here’s a close-up of the sprites in process, adapted from the little soot creatures in the movie Spirited Away.

11887110_421093394768561_970997964_n

To stitch them I worked totally off count. (Yes, I can do that, too). I outlined the eyes in split stitch using one strand of floss, and placed the eyes’ pupils, using French knots.  Then I worked long and short stitch, encroaching on the split stitch eye frames, to get that spiky, unkempt, hairy texture.  The arms and legs are close-worked chain with two strands, with the little toes and fingers (what of them there are) also in split stitch, but with two strands.  The gears are filled in using (mostly) double running, with some departures into “wandering running” using two strands of the very fine art silk floss; and outlined in chain stitch using three strands of the stuff.  All threads used were waxed using real beeswax, for manageability.

I am happy to say I’ve hit all of the specific design requests.  And there were many:

  • A good motto
  • Steampunk (the gear theme)
  • Something Whovian (the Daleks)
  • Octopodes (dancing in one of the fills)
  • Snails (ditto)
  • Unicorns and/or dragons (ditto, and the winged, serpent tailed, beaky thing is good enough)
  • Anime (the soot sprites)
  • Interlaces (also inhabiting the gears)
  • Autumn colors (brown, gold, russet, silver)
  • Something from India (the thread itself)

The saying itself is particularly suitable for the target Daughter.  It’s one of Mushashi’s Nine Precepts.  The Daleks are from a graph by Amy Schilling, intended for knitting. The narrow border is in my forthcoming book, The Second Carolingian Modelbook. I found all of the alphabets used (there are four) in Ramzi’s Sajou collection. The gear shapes are adapted from a freehand tracing of a commercial airbrush stencil by Artool.  Most of the gear fills can be found in Ensamplario AtlantioThe few that aren’t from that source are recent doodles, and will be made available in time, either as a fifth segment of that work, or perhaps as their own stand-alone sequel.  Ensamplario Secundo, anyone?

Now Younger Daughter doesn’t head off to school until next fall, so I have about a year to add hanging tabs, or back the piece with contrasting fabric to make a scroll-like presentation.  So while the stitching is complete, this piece may revisit String when I decide what the display treatment will be.

On to the next.  I’ve got two more original stitched pieces in queue, with only a general idea of what each one will be, and what styles/designs/colors I’ll use.  Free-fall stitching!  Gotta love the adventure!

THAT SAD POINT AS A PROJECT WINDS DOWN

After lots of happy chugging along, as you can see Trifles is nearing completion.

trifles-17

I’ve got only eight more gears to finish up, including the two in process now.  Then come a couple of “Trifles,” modeled on the little soot demons from Spirited Awayanother special request from the target recipient.  The hapless little things will be prisoners in the mechanism.

thesootballs

Finally, if there’s room and it looks good, I plan to add some brass watch gears for extra Steampunk flavor.

To answer questions, no – I am not planning this in advance.  I choose the fill and color as each new gear presents itself.  I chose to use four colors as a nod to the (rarely used) four color theorem, which states that any contiguous plane map can be colored in using only four colors, and have no two regions of the same color touching each other.  In my case as a non-mathematician, this was done on a lark, and adds geeky joy. 

I do admit that a little logical thinking has been used to select the optimal color for each gear, in a “If I make this one brown, then this one will have to be gold, and that one must be maroon,” sort of way.  But again I haven’t sat down and plotted my plan of attack, other than to make the juncture point where I finish adding gears around the motto be the narrowest point of the sampler, to simplify any color meet-up issues.

On fills, I’ve tried to mix up densities and shapes, to achieve as much contrast as possible.  So fills based on interlaces abut fills with isolated spot motifs, which bump up against all-over small geometrics, which in turn are next to line-based fills with few or no closed shapes.  I’ve had a lot of fun paging through Ensamplario Atlantio looking for the best choice for each gear.  And I’ve ended up doodling a few more, just for fun.  Here are a couple:

fillings-235-a fillings-236-a

The rather annoyed unicorn is an adaptation of a motif from the open source pattern group exercise I hosted here back in 2010/2011.  I have to say that doodling these is addictive.  Just playing around, I’ve put together twenty more design squares, including those I collected from the Victoria and Albert Museum smock, item T.113-188-1997.  I could easily do dozens more.  Now comes a question, with T2CM now finished and awaiting only resolution of logistical and publication issues prior to general availability,  do I release the new group as a fifth section of Ensamplario Atlantio, or do I go on and start on Ensamplario Secundo?