Tag Archives: blackwork embroidery

FRAMED!

At long last.  Framed and hung up in the bedroom.

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Obviously I now have to paint the bedroom walls…

I’m quite happy with the way this turned out.  The frame is simple enameled steel, in deep navy.  I ended up going to Walden Framer in Lexington, MA.  Mr. Ed Pioli, the owner and artisan in chief, did an excellent job at a reasonable price.  I will be bringing my other as-yet unframed pieces there, too.

To answer more questions on the piece’s composition, mostly from other people outside the framing shop when I was there.  No, neither of us is a follower of astrology, and it’s not a panel depicting anyone’s sign.  It’s just two koi, in a traditional arrangement.  And no – there isn’t a boy-koi, and a girl-koi (or any other manifestation of yin/yang) intended.  It’s just two koi swimming in a circle.  And no, that’s not real gold thread.  It’s high quality imitation gold sold for Japanese embroidery.   And no, I didn’t sew it on a machine, I did it by hand.  Really and truly. (People are curious about the strangest things.)

What am I working on now?  Well, the Great Tablecloth/Napkins project is  done, but I still itch to stitch.  So I’m just doodling.  Filling up a small piece of linen, waiting for the Inspiration Fairy to chuck a brick through my mental window.

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I’ve written about this design before.  I think this time I’ll circle the center panel with other, narrower bands.  Again, no set plan, I’ll just pick them as I go along, with no composition agenda in particular in mind.  Eventually I’ll figure out what to stitch next.

UPDATE

It’s taken me a week or so to get this post up and out.  In the mean time my doodle has grown, but still has no plan.

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The lower design is a curious one.  Although it’s a clear repeat with the rather bulbous naked cherub alternating with the cockatrice, there is little symmetrical inside the repeat.  Close attention has to be paid to this one because even the internal framing mechanism (the bar and beads below the feet of each) has a different counts in each of its two instances, and the usual urn or leafy unit between the creatures also exists in two incarnations.  It’s a curious one, for sure, but fun, and is keeping me on my toes.

Both of these designs will be in T2CM, which is moving again towards release.  No date yet, but watch this space.

 

ANOTHER ENDING

Within a general miasma of the-project-is-over-what’s-next blues I present the tablecloth and napkins set:

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Yes, I will iron the thing before I set a formal table with it, but there’s no point in doing it right now.

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I left the areas close to the place settings bare so that in the absolute eventual occurrence of gravy spills, it will be easier to treat the stains.

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Special thanks to Elder Daughter for these shots.  She’s much better at general camera, even cellphone camera than I am.

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Now.

What’s next…

I feel the need to keep stitching.  If I can find my stash of green silk I may go back to my Long Green Sampler.  But I put it away in a Safe Place; that classic Safe Place that is now out of memory.   While I keep hunting for it I might do a quickie, improvised project, then turn it into something useful, like a carry bag or zippered pouches.  So many patterns to try out, and so little wall space at this point.

Now in summary and project post-mortem.

I started by buying a plain pre-finished cloth and separate set of napkins from Wayfair.com.  I wanted a “rustic linen look” and intended to use them as-is.  But when they arrived I noted that the thread counts on both were close enough to even weave to be usefully stitched, slubs and all.  I used a mix of threads – a red Sajou embroidery floss #2409, and DMC 890 green floss for the napkins; and (having run out of my souvenir Sajou) DMC 815 on the tablecloth.  For the various flosses, I used three plies of both kinds, even though the Sajou was marginally thinner than the DMC.

I started with the napkins, doing one at a time, half red and half green, for no other reason than I thought it would be fun:

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The designs are primarily from my ever-forthcoming Second Carolingian Modelbook.  After the napkins were done, I wanted to make a coordinating cloth, similarly mismatched in the same two colors.

I started with the center panel design which I graphed up, also for T2CM, from an artifact in the collection of the University of Rhode Island. While it is voided here in the photo provided to me by Christine Lee Callaghan (SCA – Lady Cristina Volpina), I chose to work it outline-only for this piece.

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Riffing on the motifs in the historical artifact, I designed a companion edging and end-triangles to complement. Those designs aren’t in T2CM, but as soon as it is released, I will post them here.

All in all, I am quite pleased with the result.  Now to figure out what to stitch next, because I find stitching more relaxing than knitting, and the need to stitch is still upon me.

TABLECLOTH MILESTONE!

I have finished the center panel of my mismatched-napkin-accompanying tablecloth.

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And on the table with the doodle napkins:

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Now comes the hard part.  I want to add some red to the cloth, to coordinate better with the napkins.  I don’t want to stitch on the pre-hemmed “skirt” part of the cloth that hangs down from the table.  Not only is the fake Italian hem quite deep and double thickness, but also I want the embellishments to show on the table top, and not be obscured by place settings.  There are a couple of possibilities here.

  1. Subsidiary motifs “north and south” of the main panel:

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2. Subsidiary motifs in the corners:

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3. Another border, concentric to the main panel:

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Not sure yet, but itching to design it and stitch it up, whatever it might be.

UPDATE:

Why stick to original thoughts?  This is what I’ve settled on for now.  At least until I get enough done to let me see whether I like it or not.

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FINAL FUDGING

I’m pretty far along with the tablecloth now, having completed the center panels, and most of the edging top and bottom.  Now time to plan out the edging on the two narrow ends, left and right.

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Being a bungee-jump stitcher, when I improvised the companion edging I did not bother to consider how wide it would have to be to repeat evenly across.  I just went for it, figuring that because I started at the center, each corner would end more or less in the same place.

And when I got to the corners, lo and behold!  They are spot on.  Here are the three that are done, the other one is still in the frame.

Perfect alignment.

So I’ve taken my border, looked at what’s been stitched, aligned the center of the border with the center of the main motif (and adjusted because the center in this case is a block unit, not a single stitch), and doodled up a juncture.

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I’ve taken some liberties, joining the main motif to the side border – not a historically accurate practice – but since I am not making a historically accurate reproduction, why not?  Also note the center.  I’ve elongated the wrapped scepter motif used elsewhere in both the main and companion designs.  We will see if I like it when it’s stitched up.

What’s after this?

I’m still thinking of adding secondary smaller medallions at either end of the cloth, in red.  Another design, probably, but I have to either find or think one up that plays well with the established stitching.

TRY, TRY AGAIN

Back from the drawing board.  I plan to try this version out tonight.  (Quick and dirty plot, not neatened up for general consumption).

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You can see how it is wider, more open, and looser than the last version, below

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Both are original compositions, incorporating and adapting motif bits from the main design, but they have very different movement and feeling.

My fellow bungee-jump stitchers, note that I also decided that aside from centering the companion border’s repeat on the midpoint of the established work, I am totally unconcerned with how the longitudinal counts of the two interact.  This border will not end “neatly” at a corner.  I will have to improvise something on the fly when I get there, so Off-the-Cuff Design Fun hasn’t officially ended yet.

I can sense the rising collective gasps of horror from the mass of people who prefer the entire project to be complete and neatly charted  prior to being worked on a basted, gridded ground.  I understand you and respect your ways, but I enjoy the frisson of danger inherent in my method, and accept that picking out is always a a looming possibility.

And for those of you who want to know what I’m using to create these, here’s a link to my tutorial series for using the free drafting program GIMP to set up and work charted designs.  I’m afraid that due to the vagaries of blogging software indexing, the lessons are in reverse order.  Go all the way to the bottom of the page, and start with the entry,
“Squares!”

Stay tuned for results of this experiment.  At the worst, it’s picking out, and back to the drawing board.  Again.

UPDATE

Its a keeper!

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Now on to finish out the leftmost repeat, add the one on the right, and add the now-established edging.  Also to noodle out how to treat the corners…  Adventures in needlework, for sure!

TABLECLOTH PROGRESS, FORWARD AND BACK

On to the tablecloth!

Here’s one full repeat of the pattern I am using for the main lozenge in the center.  It’s one of the largest I’ve found.  Not the longest – several of the narrower strips beat it there, but certainly with length and width taken together the one with the largest area north/south plus east/west.

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I am in the process of adding another panel of the main design (the section between the “ice cream cones”) left and right of what you see here.  Possibly two.  We’ll see how I feel about proportions after I’ve finished the initial center set.

And I decided to draft my own companion border for this panel, after looking through and discarding others in my collections.  While coordinating borders are less common compared to ones that have absolutely no relation to the design elements in the main panel accompanied, they do exist.  Here’s an example (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 79.1.14):

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I doodled up a couple of possibilities.  One didn’t make it off the drawing board.  The second I was more pleased with, and began trying it out:

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But once it began to make the transition from paper to stitching, I decided I didn’t like the way it was turning out.  It’s too tight, dark, and linear.  Plus I don’t like the proportions against the main pattern.

So I will pick out this little bit of companion border, and go back to the drawing board.  The goal is something lighter, looser, with more white space.  And wider – probably twice the width of what I had doodled up before.

EIGHT IS ENOUGH. ALMOST.

My doodle napkins.  All eight complete.

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Overall, I’m quite pleased.  They were each individually fun and quick to stitch.  I did not agonize over them (although there are no mistakes).  Napkins are transient goods, destined for hard use, gravy stains, and wine spills.  Therefore I did them “quick and dirty.”  I used knots, rather than agonizing about ending off my double running stitch invisibly.  I used launder-me DMC and Sajou cotton threads, not silk.  And the napkins themselves after shrinking in the machine, sometimes through multiple washes, are all slightly different sizes, with almost a full inch of width/length difference between the smallest and the largest.  Frankly, I don’t care – they will all serve their purpose quite well.

This shot is for Anne, who asked to see how I was wrapping the borders around the corners of the main motifs:

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I’m not going back and adding a secondary border to the first one I did.  Or at least today I’m not thinking about doing it.  The others were exercises in educated fudging. I was thrilled that the border on the last one (lowest green one on the right) worked out perfectly, both horizontally and vertically, to make four neat and symmetrical corners.  That was serendipity, not planning.

Now on to the tablecloth.  This one is going to be a challenge.  I’m using my sit-on hoop, with the bulk of the cloth gathered up and stuffed into a pillowcase that sits on my lap behind the hoop while I stitch. Not optimally comfortable, but necessary to keep the thing quasi-clean while I work.  The cloth itself as a ground is not as easy to count or as forgiving as were the napkins.  The threads are quite spindly and rather slubby, but I’m managing.

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The design, like those on the napkins, is from my ever-forthcoming Second Carolingian Modelbook.  This one in particular is a challenge.  What you see here is less than an EIGHTH of the total repeat.  This pattern is the largest all-over I have encountered.  The artifact I charted it from (below) showed it in voided form, with the background filled by a heavily overstitched and meshy effect ground.  I am only working the foreground in double running.  Time is too short and tablecloth-hazard too likely for me to invest months in the very labor-intense original treatment of the background.

Special thanks to Christine Lee Callaghan (SCA – Lady Cristina Volpina), who unearthed the artifact from the collections of the University of Rhode Island, and provided spectacular photos of it to me, a byproduct of her own academic research.  The image below is hers, appearing here by permission

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© 2014, Christine Lee Callaghan, of University of Rhode Island Accession Number 2003.12.286

 

 

MUDDLING THROUGH MIDWINTER

It’s doldrums here at String Central.  Younger Daughter is back to university.  Others are back to work.  I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.

First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies).  I can show a modicum of progress.  I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins.  The first of my mismatched set is complete.  The second in process.

The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy.  That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground.  But it’s still rather quick work.  The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown).  The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.

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On to knitting.  I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo.  They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments.  Since I ALWAYS  have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting.  This pair however is special.  Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it.  I comply.

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And my project of long suffering guilt.  I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter.  It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected.  I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.

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I MUST finish these.  I promised.

How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project?  All suggestions gratefully accepted.

Oh,  And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.

FINISHED!

The stitching on my Two Fish piece is now complete.  The only things left to do are to iron out the pleats from mounting on the stretcher bars, and having it framed.  20180826_131157

And a close-up:

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For those who wanted something to better illustrate the scale of the stitching, here’s a standard US penny on the work:

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For the record, the recipient is so pleased with the thing that we’ve decided to keep it here in the house, rather than consigning it to the beach place.  Eventually, after framing, it will end up in our bedroom.

 

SHINY!

I know there are people who want updates on the Two Fish project.  Here’s progress as of last night:

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Just two more count-filled areas to go – the cheek between the eye and the gills, and the far fin.  The cheek fill will be relatively light, and the fin, much darker than the rest of the fish, but I haven’t picked out either one yet.

Most obviously – I couldn’t wait. Since I don’t plan to relocate the hoop before I end up taking it off altogether and moving to my flat frame, I decided to add the sequins.

As per my earlier random thoughts, I sewed down one 2mm flat gold pailette in the center of each interwoven O shape in the body fill.  I attached them using one strand of well-waxed gold tone silk – three stitches per pailette.  I’m very happy with the look, and only lost a few that refused to cooperate, skittering away under my chair.  If I were to do this again, I’d probably make a muslin cover for a squishy rectangular sponge, and scatter the sequins on it, then use my needle tip to pierce the center hole and pick up each little circle as I needed it.  Putting a bunch in a dish, then trying to fish them out one by one with large, clumsy fingers was not efficient.

For reference, the extra-tiny pailettes aren’t a big-box-crafts-store item.  I found them on-line, from General Bead in San Francisco.  Their 2mm stock is very limited – a vintage assortment of various sizes and colors, made in the 1980s.

I’ve also gotten a start on the heavier outlines.  I’ll add the overstitched details to the fins and tail after that.  For a while I thought I might render those details in ecru silk, to match the ground fabric color, but I decided that it would be jarring to do that for one fish but not the other.  The pailettes are enough of a differentiator between the two.  I’ll use blue for those lines, to match the fin/tail color of Fish #2.

Unusual Stitching Gadget/Tool Report

The other bit to report is a rather unorthodox method of remediating crocking – the unwanted transfer of color from the thread to the ground fabric (or the stitcher’s hands).

The deep blue floss silk I am using is an experimental item, an early try at hand-dyed indigo by my Stealth Apprentice.  She shared a sample from her initial trial run with me, to see how it worked, and to get feedback to improve her product.  But even though we determined that she needed to improve color-set on subsequent batches (which she has done, with excellent results), I am too frugal to let anything go to waste.  So I began this project with the beta-test silk.

For the most part, I don’t mind a small amount of crocking on this project.  I think it adds to the watery look of the fish.  But there have been a couple of mistakes and false starts on my part, where I have had to pick out stitches done in indigo.  Those corrections left substantial residue on the cloth.  So… How to get rid of the deep blue smudges without harming the already-stitched work?  It’s obvious that water-based solutions aren’t going to help. They’ll just float more dye off the threads.

So I hit on an improvised solution.

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Yes, that’s Silly Putty.  Thinking back, I remember spending lots of time pressing Silly Putty onto newspaper comics pages, to lift images that could be stretched in laughable ways.  If it could attract and hold ink from newsprint, might it be able to lift the surface dusting of indigo color from my ground cloth? Maybe…

Looking over the specs for chemical composition and the on-line Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the components, it looked like the worst I’d be risking was potential deposit of oil.  So I tried it on a scrap of fabric, and saw no oily residue.

I decided to go for it. Using the plastic eggshell underneath to support the fabric, I pressed the Silly Putty onto the smudged area, then quickly lifted it straight up (no scrubbing or “erasing” movements).  The goal was not to let it linger on the cloth any longer than it needed to.

While this didn’t work perfectly, three or four quick blots did remove enough of the smudges to even out their tone with the rest of the surrounding area.  The blotted area is the part of the back fin, the center of the back fin section closest to the tail.

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Under magnification I can see no bits of Putty left in the cloth or in adjacent stitching, nor can I see any oily discoloration.  Now that’s not to say that in 100 years (if this piece lasts that long) the blotted areas might not appear extra dirty or otherwise affected, but I won’t be around to do that bit of textile restoration, so for me at least, it’s a win.

Would I try the Silly Putty Solution again under similar circumstances?  Probably.

Do I recommend it unconditionally?  No.  I caution that you carefully weigh possible risks prior to using it on a valuable piece of your own work.