A few of you have asked about the doodle napkins – a set of eight, all coordinating, but each one different. With six now stitched and number seven on my frame, I attempt to answer.
A while back I wrote about the pre-finished napkins and tablecloth I bought from Wayfair. While I note that neither the KAF Fete napkin set nor the Toscana tablecloth is still in their inventory, there are several similar products available from them and from Target, Overstock, Amazon and other sources.
Be warned! Prewashing these is an absolute necessity. They are linen-look cotton, or linen/cotton blends, and can be expected to shrink appreciably. So toss them in a nice, abusive load – like a hot wash with some other light color towels or sheets, and have at it. Compare them when they emerge, and if some are not quite as shrunken as the others (as happened to me) run them through again just to be sure.
My almost even weave napkins firmed up quite a bit, becoming even closer to a true even weave count, which was a surprise. But I didn’t change my plans for all of that. I always intended to work my stitching along one edge only, eliminating the need to turn corners, or worry about skew counts. I’d present them at table as shown, folded in quarters.
Now. How to begin…
First, I had to have designs. Simple for me. I am drawing mostly from my forever forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook, playtesting more of the designs, and using the experience to flog myself towards getting over the hurdle of publication. I’m working directly from those pages, and am not bothering to rechart anything specifically for this use. Not even the narrow companion borders (more on this below).
I am also being quite cavalier with layout on the napkins. They are pre-hemmed. I am trying to use the same north/south orientation for all of them, keying off the placement of the brand tag on the back, but I am examining the two candidate ends closely, to pick the one that is the most “true”. By that I mean the one whose hemming runs closest to being true on the count. There are a couple of napkins that are hemmed slightly skew, and I wanted to make the stitching on them look to run as parallel as possible to the edges.
OK. With my chosen side to embellish identified, I folded the napkin carefully in half, and used a pin to mark the center point. Then I measured in from the inner edge of the machine-stitched hemming detail, and placed another pin perpendicular to the first. I admit I eyeballed the first one, then just used it as the paradigm for placing the second pin on the subsequent napkins (no actual measuring tape was involved). Pin placement is shown below, with the napkin mounted on my sit-on hoop.
Once the center point and work boundary are established I begin. That’s it. No basting guide lines, no other prep. Just grabbing my threads and going. I admit that others may enjoy working with basted guidelines, but for something this small, where the only point of reference is the center, I don’t bother. Feel free to castigate me for lazy prep.
Threads… Hmm. Which did I use?
The red was easy. When we were in Paris, I bought a box of Sajou four-strand cotton embroidery floss in red. I had always intended on using it for a set of napkins. I had bought linen there, too, but decided that I wanted to use that linen for other pieces that would be less “endangered” by gravy than dinner napkins.
The Sajou Retors du Nord cotton floss is put up on cards of 20 meters. I am using a red, #2409. I started with a box of five cards, and have used about half of my yardage on just the four napkins. For the green napkins, I’m using plain old DMC cotton six-strand floss in #890, in standard pull skeins of 8.7 yards (just shy of 8 meters). I am stitching with three plies of each thread, even though the Sajou is a tiny bit thinner than the DMC. I am enjoying using the Sajou because it is finer, shinier, and smoother, but I am simultaneously disappointed in the maker’s quality control. Each of the three Sajou cards I have used so far has had component plies with knots, shredded sections, or snags – where the individual plies are kinked and not all of the same length in a given span of thread. While the DMC thread is more matte and a bit rougher in finish, in over 50 years of using it, I have never run into a less-than-perfect skein. It’s possible that I bought a box of Sajou made on a bad day, but three out of three cards with faults is not what I expected.
OK. The thread is ready, I’ve got my main design in hand, I’ve got the napkin mounted on my frame, with the center point and top limit of my design marked. Now what?
Starting at the center (red arrow above on Napkin #7, showing the point indicated by the now removed pins), I begin playing with one of the narrow edgings – usually something less than four units tall. I pick one from the book, or I make on up on the spur of the moment. In this case, I’m using a pretzel edging of my own devising, also in T2CM.
Using a separate thread for the companion edging, I work three or four repeats off in one direction – usually to the left (for no reason in particular), then I move the working thread out of the way (sometimes winding the excess on a temporary pin), and using another thread, begin my main motif strip – also working out from the center, stitching over a 2×2 thread grid. In the example above, the weird double leaf meander. The threads trail off at the upper left because I don’t want to re-position my hoop until I absolutely have to. Once I move it over, I’ll take each of those stragglers up in turn, and use it to completion.
After I’ve gotten a bit laid down, I re-evaluate the narrow companion border. If I don’t like it, I pick it out and work another of the same width. Once I’m happy with it I also work it below the main motif. It’s obvious in the photo above, that I tried out the pretzels, liked them, and went on to stitch up my first length of thread in the strip of it above the main motif, and am now working on its sibling, below.
After I’ve gotten my design established continue on, happily, working my main motif, and eking out the companion borders as I go along but lagging a bit behind, until I’ve stitched the main motif close enough to the end. Once a full repeat of my main motif is on the fabric, I rarely refer to the printed pattern again, working instead from the already-stitched bit.
When I get to the leftmost edge, I take up the companion borders again and improvise a corner turn for them. If I’ve kept count true the upper left and lower right corners should be matches, as should the lower left and upper right. Or if I’m very lucky, all four will match. Or if my improvised corner is looking awkward, I’ll just butt the ends. In any case, I am not agonizing about the corner treatment. I’ve seen enough period artifacts where it’s clear that the historical stitcher didn’t invest much agony in them either. (When I’m done with all eight napkins, I’ll post on improvising the corners, because this note is getting too long.)
As to which patterns to do on the next napkin, or what to use on the coordinating tablecloth – it’s all whim. For the tablecloth, I will probably pick one or more of the largest all-over designs from my books, either to work as a large rectangular medallion in the center or three evenly spaced smaller areas, but I won’t be working strips around the entire perimeter, nor will I be working stripes across the whole width of the table. And that’s the only advance planning I’ve done so far.
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.
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.
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.
Inching along here on my fishies. Yes, did end up getting the Lowery stand last week:
I really like it and am glad I splurged when I did. For those looking at the photo, trying to parse it out, the stand itself is the grey metal armature – from the heavy base plate, up to the gripper jaw holding on to the wooden cross piece, to which my stitching frame is attached.
The wooden piece with its grasping flanges that engage my frame is a supplemental purchase – the “Long Frame Extension.” I strongly recommend it if you have a Millennium or other scrolling frame, especially if it’s large/heavy, or has wide bars. Because the stand clamps down on the solid wood of the extension, I do not have to worry about overtensioning the jaws and harming the delicate stretcher arm, with its reamed out internal screw threads.
Now, as to actual progress, it’s been hot, and since I sit under a halogen work lamp, and we are not air-conditioning-enabled – I admit slacking off on most hot evenings. In response to questions about my comfy chair, I post this photo, complete with orb-of-the-sun heat-source mini floor-lamp, Morris style recliner, and frame (supported by its new stand.)
No, that’s not a real cat in the chair. It’s a conveniently sized stuffed-toy cat, liberated from the kids’ collection. It serves as a nice, soft supplemental elbow rest. You can also see the embarrassing midden of supplies and in-progress projects, heaped into baskets between the chair and the bookcase, and the ever-encroaching box of on-deck items that is slowly taking over the small table.
The floor stand’s foot is tucked underneath my chair, with a couple of bricks on it for good measure. The extra weight allows me to swing the frame out of my way like a door, so I can exit the chair without having to move the entire set-up, or shimmy under it.
Finally, here’s the paltry progress itself:
I’ve added sequins to the previously un-sequined Fish #1, who was feeling very jealous of Fish #2’s bling. The light is angled to make some of them sparkle, but there is a sequin in the center of each grid area in the body. I’ve also made progress on the gold whorls. Next are finishing the couched gold lines above Fish #1, doing the spot on his head, and starting on the whorls below him. Eventually I will have to scroll up and down a tiny bit to access the remaining swirly bits at the very top and bottom of the piece.
And then I’ll be done.
Next project? Not sure yet. I have a couple in mind. Possibly return to Big Green. Possibly another smaller sampler. Possibly a cushion to replace the stuffed cat. Maybe playing with tambour and wool… There’s no need to rush, I’ll be working finishing up my koi probably until September.
After an annoying lapse of personal preparedness, I am now back from vacation – at home where I left my gold thread. Sadly, no fish-stitching happened during my break because I was without it.
Goldwork is temperamental, exacting, and oh so rewarding. I don’t pretend to be very good at it, especially compared to The Masters. I bumble around at best.
I did play with metal thread embroidery decades ago, when I first encounted the SCA and began looking into historical styles. I did couched work, direct embroidery with passing threads, and or nuée – a style that involves laying the gold threads across the entire width of the image-to-be, then overstitching it with colored threads to create pictures, almost in raster style, that glimmer as the gold peeks through. But I had a goal back then – to advance embroidery in that organization, and all of these styles have a high learning curve. Happily, I stumbled across blackwork – something that’s easy to learn and easy to teach. I haven’t climbed back out of that hole in the years since.
Back to the project at hand – it’s clear that hooping over gold would destroy it, so for this phase of the work I have moved Two Fish to my flat frame.
The rather unusual scrolling flat frame is a Millennium from Needle Needs in the UK. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but worth every penny. Although the design isn’t centered in this early fit, I do not think that the minor bit of scrolling I may have to do will damage the work – for example, there’s no point where I would have to lap stitched fabric entirely around the top and bottom bars.
It became evident very quickly that an extra hand would be needed to do this part of the project. Or two. So I hauled out my ancient Grip-It floor stand. I prefer a side stand rather than a trestle or tilt-top support that sits in front of the worker, and but side-supports are hard to find.
Ancient Grip-It works ok, but its main two drawbacks are that is easily overbalanced by a large frame like this, even when front mounted; and that the jaw is wimpy and doesn’t hold very well – and at the same time, I am concerned about pressure it puts on the finely turned wood sidebars of the Millennium. Here’s my sadly overmatched Grip-It in action on an earlier piece on this same frame. You can almost hear the joints squeaking as it strains to keep itself upright. To be fair, since I sit in a Morris style chair as I work, the off side of the frame does get extra support from my left side chair arm.
I’m on the hunt for a replacement floor stand, so if you have a candidate to recommend, feel free to post a comment.
As far as the stitching itself goes, I’ve begun. Even with the floor stand, I find I need additional hands.
I want hand one to manage the stitch-down thread (one strand of gold-color silk floss, well waxed) poised on top of the work; one hand to receive the stitch-down thread’s needle below the work; one hand to provide gentle tension on the gold threads to keep them flat and even as I go along; and one hand to manage a laying tool to keep the two strands being couched in flat alignment to each other, and not crossing over each other. That’s two more hands than I currently have…
I can double up the stitch-down needle hand, stabbing the thing into the work on each stitch, then re-positioning the hand above or below and drawing the thread through the ground; but I haven’t found a graceful way to tension and direct the gold yet. Since I haven’t worked this way in over 20 years, extensive re-training/re-familiarization is needed, and the going is slow but steady.
Just to vex my new readership, I start a totally unhistorical stitching project. Well, not to vex anyone actually. This piece was bespoken by The Resident Male a while back. I’ve thought about it for several years, and decided to finally do it. The ultimate purpose is a piece to hang on the wall of our Cape Cod place, as part of a large collage of sea life art.
The design is based on a double-koi motif, where the fish are circling each other. I began with a clip art of a single fish, and simplified it, changing proportions and angles, and removing detail that would be obscured by my chosen stitching style. Then I mirror imaged and flipped a duplicate of my first fish, placing it opposite it’s sibling, and trying to get them more or less balanced and centered as a composition.
For the last bit – the “water lines” in the background, I thank the Public Domain Review, for posting a link to a book of traditional Japanese wave and ripple designs – Ha Bun Shu, by Yusan Mori (circa 1919). My chosen ripple was taken from page 22.
So, with my inspired-by fish, and borrowed water lines (with some of my own extensions to eke out the composition’s dimensions), I end up with this – already shown window-traced onto my prepared ground:
The ground chosen is an almost-white 40 count linen, hemmed on all four sides. I’ve marked the center with basting lines of old, non-crocking plain old sewing thread. I will be picking them out as I encroach upon them because there is no central guide purpose they serve after aligning the initial tracing. I will be using silks, mostly. Originally I thought I’d be stitching only in a hand-dyed natural indigo, colored by (and occasionally available from) my Stealth Apprentice, but last night I changed gears and have added some commercial Au Ver a Soie Soie d’Alger, in a deep green.
I will be working my two fishies in a combo of styles. The fish themselves will be done in inhabited blackwork, with fills inside strong outlines. I’ll pick the fills on whim as I go along, and possibly come up with some new ones along the way. The fish will not be direct opposites of each other – the inner detail will vary, but one will definitely be lighter (using less dense fillings) than the other, and placement of the blue and green may swap.
Right now I’m toying with doing something different for the outlines, instead of my usual plain old chain stitch. Not sure yet what, but I do want to vary the width of some of them analogous to heavier brush strokes.
The water lines will probably be done in gold or silver (maybe both), possibly simple couched strands, possibly something else. I bought some heavier metallic threads at the Sajou store in Paris, and have been hoarding them for the right project. They may well come into play here.
And the first little bit – a filling from Ensamplario Atlantio, the fourth part:
So. Do I have a plan? Kind of. But I still like the fun of designing on the fly.
Continuing on with boring embroidery posts.
A good many people will recognize this pattern.
I stitched this snippet from a chart I did in TNCM (Plate 64:1). A simplified chart for the same design also exists in Pesel’s Historical Designs for Embroidery, Linen, and Cross Stitch.
The original for my graph is a handkerchief in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Accession T.133-1956. It’s current attribution is circa-1600, England, although that designation has changed over time. It used to be called out as 1580-1600. I’m delighted that museums are revisiting the dates, stitch descriptions, and materials info for their smaller textile holdings. These listings are bound to improve as the methods and technologies (and available funds) to assess them improve. I do not think that Pesel used the same artifact as her base. There are some departures in her graphing from the V&A example, and her marginal notes cite a sampler source, from 1658.
Another reason that this design is so familiar, is that the V&A handkerchief is near iconic, and shows up in several influential stitching history books, including Digby’s Elizabethan Embroidery, and King and Levy’s The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750. But in all of the secondary source representations, it is rarely shown with all four corners. In fact, it used to drive me nuts that I couldn’t see them all. But thanks to the V&A’s site archival image updates, we can enjoy completion. Here is their own photo of the entire artifact:
and a color snippet, quoted from the V&A images, for good measure, since repros in the stitching history books often show the original reds:
But look at the corners!
I’ve had many people ask me about how to create corners for strapwork, to go around the perimeter of linens, or to anchor a dress yoke. Much fretting over exact matches happens. Even the choice of mitering or bending the work around the angle (as opposed to butting the design up without mating the two directions) causes anxiety. In truth all of these methods appear, although the exact mitering thing is the least commonly seen.
This is one way to treat those corners. Four ways, to be exact, because no two of these corners are exact matches. And it doesn’t matter that they are not.
Numbering clockwise from the upper left, we have 1,2, then 3 and 4, respectively. I’ve taken the liberty of rotating (but not flipping) these so that they are easier to visually compare:
Upper corners, #1 and #2:
and lower corners #3 and #4:
There are three rough treatment styles. 1 and 3 are distinct, and #2 and #4 are similar but not the same. #4 has a fat twig interlace to the left of the flower, to fill in space. In #2 there was less space to fill, so that twig is smaller. The area at roughly noon above the flower is different between #2 and #4 as well. On the others, #3’s flower is squished up against the border, with no surround to its left, and all manner of arabesques fill up the extra space below the flower in #1.
It’s always a matter of personal opinion and borderline heresy to use these cues to try to deduce working method, but it’s clear while our anonymous stitcher may have had a visual guide to the strip parts of her or his design, the corners were fudged in, ad hoc. The narrow companion border’s corners – both inner and outer – are improvised, too.
If I were to be so bold as to speculate, I’d pick the lower left edge as the starting point, with the work starting at the indicated line, and progressing around the piece in the direction indicated (note that the V&A says that the monogram is EM, so that we’re actually looking at the reverse):
The stitcher worked to a convenient point to form a corner, keeping it as much in pattern as possible, turned direction, worked across the top edge, turned, and so on, until the starting point was achieved – at which point the “terminal fudge” was needed to finish the work. It’s also vaguely possible that the finished size of the piece was determined in an attempt to make the the repeats (mostly) work out, rather than the square being laid out first, and the repeats being fitted into it. At least that’s the way I – an improvisational and slightly lazy stitcher – would do it.
So. If you are making a historically inspired piece, do you need to meticulously draft out exact corners first, then follow your chart with fanatical purpose?
Just go for it. Much as they did roughly 460 years ago.
PS: Eye training: Bonus applause to the person who spots my departure from the original in the companion border. 🙂
Here it is, totally finished, and with a vaguely decent picture (but as yet, unsigned and un-mounted).
The recipient is thrilled, which is always gratifying.
UPDATE: People want the specs on this piece so they don’t have to hunt through previous posts. 30 count evenweave linen ground, stitched over two threads (15 spi). The 6-strand floss is man-made “silk”, rayon actually; a vintage find brought back from India, slightly thinner than standard DMC floss. I stitched all of the foreground using two strands. Some of the background I did in single strand for contrast. Pattern strips with one exception are all from my forthcoming book The Second Carolingian Modelbook. The alphabet is from a vintage Sajou booklet #104 reproduced at Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com. I hemmed my linen by hand before starting.
The reason I haven’t done the last teeny bits is that I’m trying to finish off some end-of-year gifts for the spawn.
First up and already done was the new pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, done in a sparkly yarn for Younger Daughter. She’s a fan of the surreal Welcome to Night Vale podcasts. One of their taglines is “Mostly void, partially stars.”
To get the partially-stars look, I used Loops and Threads Payette – an acrylic with a running lurex thread and small paillettes (flat sequins). Both inspiration and enablement are courtesy of Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn, who sent this stuff to me. Just seeing it sparkling at me kicked off this project. Kathryn’s initial intent was to knit socks from the Payette, but that effort was a no-go. And rightly so. The stuff is not fun to work with, and would make supremely uncomfortable socks. The base black yarn is waxy feeling. The lurex thread breaks easily and is scratchy, and the paillettes can make stitch formation difficult – especially on decreases. Oh, and forget about ripping this stuff back. The lurex snaps. But the look can’t be beat, especially for a big-box-store available yarn.
Yarn aside, this project is a great quick-knit. Both mitts together took two evenings. I used the Payette doubled, and knit the smallest size, which fits perfectly. The only change I made to the original design is eliminating the bulk of cast-on and cast-off. To begin, I work a figure-8 or provisional cast-on. When I get to the last row before the cuff welt, I reactivate the bottom stitches and fold them up, knitting one bottom edge stitch along with its live pre-cuff counterpart. This melds the bottom into the work, and eliminates the final bit of sewing up, and cuts down on pre-cuff bulk.
To cast-off, instead of making a finished edge and then sewing it down, I leave a long tail and fold the live edge inside the work. Then I use that to secure each last-row stitch to its counterpart in the first row after the fancy welting on the upper edge.
Final verdict – the kid loves these. The original design’s pretty welt and eyelet detail is lost in the sequined look and it’s over the top sparkly. But it fits in perfectly with the Nightvale-inspired theme.
Next on the needles is a new scarf for Elder Daughter. As I mentioned in the last post, I’m enchanted by Sybil R’s designs and was determined to make one or another of them. At first we contemplated a different scarf, but rummaging through my stash, we came up with yarn better suited to her Mixed Wave Cowl, an exercise in nested short row enhanced stripes. Here you see the bare beginnings of mine:
I’m using an eclectic mix of well-aged stash denizens, plus a more recent variegated yarn seen here in a rather blue-shifted photo. The black and russet are both Lang Jawoll bought who-knows-when. The claret (again not as purple as it looks here) is Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband, which I’m pretty sure I had when we moved back to Boston in ‘95. The variegated scarf thingy is Regia Creativ one of the unravel-me-and-knit dyed strips, in a mix of autumn colors including chocolate, russet, claret, and burnt orange. The pattern is written for DK, on rather small 3.5mm needles. I’m using fingering-weight sock yarn on 3.0mm needles, which is making a slightly looser fabric.
More on this one as it grows…
With an extended time sitting in one place and thinking yesterday, I’ve come to design decisions on the direction for the Permission sampler.
I’ve decided to do another bank of two solid columns of multicolor narrow strip bands above the motto, and finish out the top with either the same pomegranate border used at the bottom edge, or a coordinating one with pine cones, of the same size and visual density – also in the blue.
Progress is obvious since the last post. I finished the red voided buds with the grid-background at lower left, and marched the pomegranates across the entire width of the piece. I also did a quick strip of acorns over the words (aligning with the strips below), and I’ve begun on a yellow and red interlace and quaternary rose strip above that one. I’ll do a monochrome design above the red/yellow, probably green and relatively narrow.
As you can see, I am just ripping along. The large stitches on this one (it’s only 30-count stitched over 2×2), plus the sit-on frame that frees the second hand to pass the needle underneath the work are helping me to set local house records for sampler production.
Am I liking the thread? Yes and no. It’s “man made silk” and at least 20 years old before I bought it. Possibly even older. It’s thin and unruly, and needs extreme waxing to make it behave. My little beeswax block is being whittled down, slowly but surely on this one. I do like the sheen of the faux silk – even waxed. What I like less is the damage of age – brittleness, and a tendency to shred. Some colors have aged better than others. For example, the yellow I am using now is very prone to breakage, and must be treated gently, stitching with very short lengths. By contrast the red and blue are horse-strong, and far less likely to snap or denature. Perhaps my yellow is “elderly” compared to the other colors. In any case, I do notice that working with it does take longer and is more fiddly due to the short lengths and stops/restarts after an inopportune Thread Damage Event.
These are from my inbox, about this project or stitching in general. Feel free to post questions here or write to me – kbsalazar (at) gmail (dot) com.
1. Do you decide on your patterns before you begin?
Not really. I pick them on the fly. On some pieces I stick to a style or unified theme, but often I just thumb through looking for something that has a pleasing contrast with the designs around it; like layering a geometric next to a floral, or using something with a lot of curves next to something that’s strongly angled.
2. Do you prepare your cloth?
I do now. I’ve had some projects that might have been better composed, but because I didn’t clearly mark my margins or centers, I lost track of where I was. Now I outline my stitching area, plus it’s center and quarter-center marks both horizontally and vertically. I use a single strand of Plain Old Sewing Thread, in a light color (in this case – pastel blue), basting it in to indicate those lines. The basting itself is rather haphazard. For example, I do not bother to make my basting stitches over the same number of threads as an aid to counting later. Others do.
I also hem my cloth. I used to use other methods of fray prevention (deliberately raveling out a half inch or so, a line or two of machine stitching, serging, or in a moment of poor judgment – tape), or not bother at all. However I find that I now prefer the finished edges and mitered corners of a nice, even hand-done finger-folded hem.
3. Will you be issuing a kit for this or any of your other projects?
Probably not. Definitely not for a composed kit, complete with thread. There are too many things I want to stitch myself to sit down and figure out thread consumption, buy fabric and thread in bulk, compose the kits, and do inventory management and fulfillment. That would suck the fun out of the thing, for sure. I might consider releasing full, drafted charts for some of the smaller projects like bookcovers for small standard-size notebooks or needle case/biscornu sets, but that also would eat up time I’d rather spend on my own work, or researching and drafting up new designs. I see myself sticking mostly to reference books of patterns and designs, and leaving employment of those designs to the readers.
4. Where are the snails?
One of the folk who visit here has noticed that I put snails in almost every sampler I do. Not every single one, but I do use a variant of this design from my first book on most, especially those for family:
I haven’t gotten to the snails yet, but they are on the list for this project, too. Possibly next – the green strip I’m thinking of doing just above the current bit.
As you can see, Trifles is coming along. I’ve just about finished the first set of gears:
The next bit to do will be the two sides, proceeding left and right of the established bit, growing up to frame the motto. I’ll use the same stencil for my basic layout, rotating and flipping it to make the repetition less evident.
A couple of you have written to me to say that you find the gears rather disappointing – that they are not sharp and mechanical enough. In fact, the edges of some of them are more gentle, cam shaped rather than toothed, and the teeth do not mesh exactly.
Frankly, I don’t find this a problem, and I don’t care. The thing will be more representational than mechanistic. I’m going for the idea of gears here, not a CADD drawing.
I am having fun flipping through Ensamplario Atlantio looking for which fill to do next. Everything you see here has been done ad-hoc, one gear at a time, with no pre-planning on what design/color to use next. I’ve used four-color placement principles to avoid having two gears of the same color right next to each other. I’ve also tried to achieve a nice mix of densities and shapes, with contrast between horizontal/vertical and diagonal elements, all-overs/spaced spot motifs, and between straight lines/curvy patterns. On the whole I’m pleased. I’ll add more dark and density to the lower left, next. Also more gold there in that corner.
Stay tuned for further developments!
Back from our annual escape to North Truro, and reporting progress on the recently dormant Trifles sampler, being stitched for Younger Daughter to take with her off to college next fall. I decided that for my no-longer-little Steampunk (and Dr. Who) fan, instead of working lots of bands, the design for this one would feature gears. But I had a lot of problems hand-drafting up a nice set of them. It took a while, but eventually I hit on the idea of using a commercial stencil intended for airbrush work, then filling in the traced gear shapes with blackwork counted fills.
Here’s where I am now:
I’ve finished the main motto and the frame around the to-be-worked area. Minor brag: Note that having marched all the way around the piece without drafting first and using only counts of the border repeat to stay on target, I ended up even, perfectly aligned.
All of the fillings I will use on this will be from my free eBook, Ensamplario Atlantio. The ground patterns are stitched using two plies, mostly in double running, with lots of departures to accommodate the non-continuous nature of many of the fills. The outlines are plain old chain stitch, done in three plies of the same color as the gear filling. I am not taking any special pains to make the cam teeth totally square, or to make them mesh. I am liking the rounding and imprecision. Right now I’m thinking of covering the entire piece with gears in burgundy, brown, gold, and silver, relying on classic Four Color Theory to avoid making any two contiguous gears the same hue. Choosing fills for color in addition to density and form is adding a new dimension to this decidedly un-traditional yet somewhat traditional blackwork piece. And I may insert a surprise Trifle or two, just to emphasize the point.
On execution, I can report that I’ve managed to tame the extremely unruly Indian “silk” (in reality, man-made rayon) thread.
I occasionally wax the last inch or so of my silk threads to make threading easier and to help ward off “ply creep” – when one ply of a multi-ply threading is consumed faster than the others. But I usually don’t wax the entire length unless I’m working with linen thread. However this stuff is hellaciously difficult, shredding and sliding, breaking and fraying, and catching. Using shorter lengths wasn’t the answer – no usable length was short enough to use comfortably. So I moved up to waxing the entire strand, and when I did so, most of my problems disappeared.
I am very pleased with the results using the fully waxed threads. They don’t break. They don’t escape from the needle’s eye. They don’t shred. Both plies are consumed at the same rate. Double running is nice and crisp. A major improvement that’s increased the enjoyment factor of a project that might have been truly tedious.
And I’ve wanted an excuse to stitch up those griffon-drakes since I drafted them up for the book.