A couple of people have written to me saying that they’d like to do an original inhabited blackwork piece, but don’t want to do the traditional Elizabethan scrolling flowers, or yet another chessboard. They are hesitant to draft up their own main design, and are unsure where to start. They have asked for some leads on places where they can find drawings particularly suitable for or adaptable to use with counted fills.
I present some suggestions. Mind you – none of these are endorsements or product placements, and are intended as a first step for gathering inspiration.
1. Coloring Books. They come in all flavors from very simple line drawings aimed at kiddies, to complex pieces targeted at over-stressed adults. What you want are ones with large enough spaces for the patterns to play. A mix of large and small areas to fill is ideal because it will allow use of fills of various complexities and densities. Given the vast diversity of what’s available now, a coloring book project can be anything: a kid’s cartoon character, a historical vignette, a Alhambra-style geometric, a complex mandala, something relevant to your faith, a detailed bit of nature drawing, or a cheeky paisley. Dover has a particularly lush collection of coloring books, many of which contain designs that would appeal to an adult.
2. Stained Glass Patterns. These are especially easy to use for blackwork because of the limits that handling tiny bits of glass impose. The drawings tend to have bold outlines and large, flat fill areas.
3. Maps. Proud of your country, home state, county or city? All of those nifty borders outline areas just waiting to be stitched. Collections of clip art for classrooms and teachers contain some of the simplest, most clearly defined examples.
4. Wallpaper Samples. The all-over designs of some wallpapers present excellent opportunities for the use of fills. There are hundreds of collections on-line that can be combed for inspiration.
5. Antique Ironwork. Grills, meshes, fences, and guards are like iron lace. With lots of “white space” between the bars, just waiting for embellishment. I took some photos of ironwork at the V&A that show what I’m thinking of.
6. Architectural Drawings and Plans. There are tons of illustrations of houses and other buildings (also lots of photos). For example, I’m drawn to pix of Craftsman era bungalows.
7. Patchwork Quilting Patterns. There are thousands, some appliqué, some pieced (both geometric and crazy-work), all perfect for this type of stitching. Again, there are thousands of these available on-line both paid and free.
8. Stenciling Designs. These are produced in several scales. There are large ones intended for use in interior decoration, often as borders or furniture accents. There are also smaller ones intended for finer airbrush work, like the one I’m using for my Trifles sampler. In any case, a quick Google search turns up plenty.
9. Mosaic and Tile Patterns. Like stained glass, these often need little or no resizing because the tesserae (mosaic tiles) are just big enough to use as stitching blocks. Here’s a pile of regular layouts.
10. Lace Samples. Many designs intended for lace can be adapted as blackwork outlines. For example, the looping patterns intended for traditional Battenberg could be in-filled using counted geometrics, with the outlines themselves either being stitched, or applied over using soutache cord or a narrow tape or braid. Here’s what I mean.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head.
I just got back from a quick business trip. Sadly, I came back with a hitchhiker – a bad cold. But to cheer me up upon arrival was my package from Hedgehog Handworks, with my new Hardwicke Manor sitting hoop frame:
As you can see, I was so excited, I had to try it out right away, even before wrapping the inner hoop in twill tape. I’ll do that this weekend.
First the specs of my long-coveted indulgence. There are two joints providing freedom of movement. Looking at the back of the thing, the first is a slider that regulates height. The turned barrel at the base of the main vertical has a wooden screw tightener, allowing the vertical arm to be raised and lowered. Minimum height (pushed all the way in, with the frame positioned parallel to the ground) is 13.5 inches measured from table top to BOTTOM edge of the frame. Max height on which the tightening screw can be brought to bear is about 18.5 inches. The vertical stick also allows the frame to be rotated left and right, provided the wood screw is loosened to avoid damage.
The second degree of freedom is the y-shaped joint at the top of the vertical stem. The fixed attachment piece from the round frame fits into the slit of the y-shape, and is tightened by a bolt with a metal wing nut. (I will probably replace the wing nut with something a bit more finger-friendly in the future). This allows the frame head to swivel up and down, allowing access to the reverse of the work.
“Orthodox” use position and all of the pix I can find on line show the large paddle piece at the bottom being slid under the left hip, so that both legs sit upon it, and the frame is presented across the user’s lap. Users are also shown sitting bolt-upright on a chair or a sofa.
I’m a bit more relaxed. My favorite stitching chair is a Morris chair, with wide wooden arms, like mini-shelves left and right. It reclines. Instead of sitting upright, I tend to stitch in the reclined position. I also don’t want to bark the chair’s woodwork with the frame, so instead I straddle the base, with the paddle-bottom underneath my right thigh. I can adjust the position of the hoop so that it’s perfectly comfortable and accessible in that position.
All in all, I am VERY pleased, although I may need to stitch myself a small bolster on which to rest my left elbow when working with that hand beneath the frame. The chair arms are too high for comfort, and some support would be useful for extended sessions. Oh heavens. A quick project to make something useful that I can cover with MORE stitching. However will I cope? 🙂
In the same order, I also received some tambour embroidery hooks. I won’t show them here, but will save them for a future piece. Hmm…. that elbow cushion… What do you think?
And finally as a cheer-me-up, Younger Daughter, Needle Felting Maven and all around good kid, saw that I was in need of a small, weighted pin cushion that was presentable to leave here in the library next to my chair. Although she usually does far more intricate shapes (dragons, tigers, airplanes), she made me a little sea-urchin, weighted in the bottom center with a couple of big rupee coins, for extra sentimental value. It’s adorable, simple, in colors that match the rug in the library, and at about 1.5 inches across, with the coins giving it a low center of gravity, so it doesn’t go skittering off – the perfect size and weight.
Finally, I have been making progress on Trifles. As you can see, I’ve got less than a quarter of the surround left to go. And every single gear uses a different filling.
Trifles is moving right along. Waxing the thread has greatly speeded up production. You can see my working method: filling first, then outline to cover up any edge fill irregularities.
Here’s the gear set now:
I’m having fun picking out the fillings on the fly, trying to vary density, color, and form, so that abutters contrast nicely. For those who have asked – yes, every filling used so far appears in Ensamplario Atlantio. I have it downloaded to my iPad. My favorite sewing/knitting chair is a Mission-style recliner with very wide, flat wooden arms. I am able to stand the iPad up on one and zoom in on the chosen designs as needed. Very convenient.
Progress will get a bit less exciting from here on in. I plan to totally fill the ground around the motto with gears, each worked in a different filling design. No other colors will be used. I’m sticking to the deep russet red, chocolate, gold, and silver. I may or may not add some real brass gears as embellishment. I may add some small large-eyed tiny critters stuck in the gearwork, sort of like the soot sprites from the movie, Spirted Away. That’s another of the target recipient’s favorite fandoms.