Tag Archives: blackwork

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 12

We continue, this week’s offering is rest and relaxation again after the last band.  Think of the fabled treasures sought in so many books, movies, and series:  the sparkling gems, items of destiny, and priceless bric-a-brac.  You don’t need to be a dragon to have your own hoard.  Just stitch this up.

Time Factor 1 – it’s very simple.  The only big challenge here would be all those ends if you succumb to my temptation to do this in multicolor In plan monochrome it would make fabulous trim, and would be even more special if worked in several jewel tones.

134 stitches wide x 8 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 28 units. However, if you want to work just one unit of graduated stones, starting and ending on either side with one complete smallest gem element, the count would be 32 units.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 13 debuted on the Facebook Enablers group today, and be echoed here on 26 April 2022.

#epicfandomSAL

AMENDS

Modern Assisi work vs. historical voided work. I know that the counted thread stitching community lumps them together, but they are not exactly the same thing. What I call “modern Assisi” is the 19th century revival of voided stitching, that draws heavily on Italian folk and church embroidery styles, which in turn trace their roots back to Renaissance era voided pieces. And that late 19th century revival was again echoed in the 20th century, with the collection and republication of many patterns, and issue of new books on the subject.

Yes, both Assisi and earlier styles include prominent outlines usually done in double running or back stitch. And both feature largely unstitched foregrounds (sometimes with additional ornamentation) that contrast strongly with a stitched background.

One of the key defining characteristics of modern Assisi is the use of cross stitch for the background. That’s “plain old cross stitch (POCS)” – not long-armed cross stitch. The Renaissance era voided styles use many different ground stitches and approaches, but so far after looking at hundreds of extant examples, I haven’t seen any in POCS.

Which is why I got very excited when I stumbled across this piece. Now before you get excited too, I did NOT find the unicorn of POCS in pre 1650-era voided work.


“End of a Tablecloth” 15th-16th century. Italian, Sicilian or Spanish. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 08.48.132

I made the mistake of idly browsing on my phone with its tiny screen, and jumping the gun I posted about the piece before I got back to my laptop and high resolution monitor. Obviously, once I was able to zoom in I corrected my mistake, but I did look like an idiot.

So to atone for my egregious lack of judgement, I charted the design in question, and make the chart available as a broadside, for your own personal, non-commercial use. Please do not republish my redaction or include it in other pattern collections.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF BROADSIDE OF THE CHART.

Some notes on this piece.

My redaction is not true to any one repeat of the design. Instead I averaged all of them, evening out replication errors as best I could, to arrive at a single, uniform representation of the motifs. All design elements are there, in correct proportion and placement to each other, but there will be small deviations between the chart above and any one of the artifact’s pattern iterations.

The background is not worked in POCS. It was worked squared and unlike every other example of the squared filling on historical works I’ve seen, the stitches were pulled very tightly, bundling the ground cloth’s threads together. Meshy techniques for grounds were very popular in the 1600s and 1700s, but every other example I’ve seen has completely covered the bundled threads with stitching, making a very hard-wearing totally overstitched square mesh ground. In this case the ground cloth’s weave does show through.

The squared filling was worked up to but not touching the outlines of the foreground motifs. A one-unit “halo” was left around them. I’ve tried to represent that on my chart. There was considerable “fudging” in the way the filling was carried into the nooks and crannies of the foreground design. I’ve chosen the least acrobatic of them to include in the chart. Note that there are a couple of deviation points where a diagonal stitch was used to carry the ground thread up into a narrow area of the design.

Colors. Your guess is as good as mine. The outlines and the ground fill are clearly two different colors. If I had to guess, I would probably opt for black for the outlines and madder red for the fill. But other color combos do exist – not every historical piece was done in black and red.

The outlines – double running or back stitch? It’s impossible to tell from just looking at the front. I do note however that the spots on the leopards are all connected to the outline. There are none just floating in space, which makes the piece easier to execute in double running than a piece with discontinuous bits. The only minor challenge in this one if worked in double running would be that little hunting dog. It’s a small area not connected to any of the rest of the design.

And finally, the complementing edging. Note that the squared background is terminated with little “fingers” that slant up and to the right on the top of the strip, and down and to the left at the bottom. I tried to get the whole repeat on the chart, but I ran out of room. For absolute fidelity, work the bottom fingers exactly as tall as the ones on top. Don’t truncate as I was forced to do.

The moral of the story? Check, double check, and do so on the highest resolution display device you have to hand. Never let your excitement run away with you.

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 9

Bug eyed monsters waving ray guns in their tentacles!  Mid-century era finned spaceships!  Coming and going! Run!  Hide!  It’s an invasion, for sure and cheesy peril abounds.  Or capture them for all time, frozen in your stitching.  I recommend the latter. It’s far more relaxing to sit and embroider than it is to bolt away in terror.

Time Factor 2 – not particularly complex nor wide as the featured odd number strips go, but there is one small tricky bit.  Note that the rockets flip and are symmetrical.  BUT the little monsters mirror, alternating orientations where they are firing ray guns to the left or right.    

134 stitches wide x 16 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 23 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 2 yards
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1 yard of red,
1 yard of green,
.75 yard of blue,
remnants of yellow
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 10 debuts on the Facebook Enablers group on Tuesday, 15 February and will be echoed here on 1 March 2022. Happy zapping until then!

EPIC FANDOM STITCHALONG – BAND 7

We roar back with Band 7 – So Sue Me! What can possibly be more anachronistic than this?

Every movie with a ravenous T-Rex in it looms in front of us now.  Let’s see, aside from the obvious, there’s the original King Kong, Lost World, Fantasia, Prehistoric Beast, Land Before Time, Night at the Museum, Land Before Time, Dino Riders, several Dr. Who episodes, and many, many more.  How could we continue without including an iconic dinosaur?

And the title?  Named after Sue, a very famous Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

If desired this band, like the Pirates band can be worked voided – with the background filled in using long-armed cross stitch or plain old cross stitch, squared or stepped filling, diagonal filling, or another fill as desired.  This is highly optional – no pressure here because the T-Rex strip would look good either way. 

If voiding is chosen I think the design would show to best advantage if the background fill was done in a different color than the outlining, because if both were worked in the same thread the slender stems of the flowers curled in the tail would disappear. Remember – voiding eats both time and floss in direct proportion.

Time Factor 3 for height and flip/mirror complexity if only the outline is worked, but Time Factor 4 if voiding is chosen.
134 stitches wide x 30 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip.  If worked as a continuous band, one full repeat in 57 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 8 yards
for outlines,
6.5 yards for voiding
26 count evenweaveDouble running,
1 ply
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
1.5 yards blue,
1 yard, green,
0.25 yard red,
2 yards of
light red
for voiding
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, Callie, and Guest Beta Tester, Robert; plus Kim

The second from the bottom, by guest Beta Tester Robert (known to some of you as Master Geoffrey d’Ayr of Montalban) is actually part of a strip of the design he worked as cuff and collar trim for a shirt – proving the point that many of these designs can be worked as long band repeats.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people.

Band 8 will be released here on or about 18 January 2022, giving you ample time to romp with this one.

EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND 6

A breather after the last rather involved and challenging to count Gameroom panel!

Grape Balloons is another original, loosely based on a historical pattern family. Bands or horizontal columns with lozenges and/or striations are pretty common in strapwork of the late 1500s to 1600s, as are grape clusters. But sprigging them together this way is something I doodled up.
This one should be comparatively easy to stitch, especially after the last no-repeat panel. All you need to do is remember that the slanting bands on the center rod mirror – everything else is a simple flip, either up/down or left/right – no tricky half-drops, or meanders.

134 stitches wide x 16 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 17 units.

SamplesFabric UsedStitchThread Consumption/
Notes
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 2 yards
of floss
18 count AidaBack stitch, 1 plyAbout 3 yards of variegated thread
(not floss)
28 count evenweaveBack stitch, 1 ply
28 count evenweaveDouble running,
2 plies
About 1.25 yards
of light blue,
0.5 yards of light
red, scraps of red.
Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie; plus Kim

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people.

Band 7 was released today in the Enablers Facebook group feed, and will be echoed here on or about 21 December.

#epicfandomsal

EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND FOUR

The latest band! A narrow one to provide a bit rest and relaxation following on the heels of the ravaging pirates. This is a quickie and should take most folk less than the two weeks allotted for its completion.

Palm Cluster is based on a visual family of historical designs, but is my own, and does not directly replicate any single one of them. Feel free to work it in monochrome, using variegated floss, or in multicolor.

Top to bottom: Renditions by Beta Testers Heather, Danielle, and Callie. Plus Kim.

I’ve had some questions from folk who find themselves unable to make the commitment to work the entire Epic Fandom sampler, but are in love with specific strips and have asked about working them up separately.

I answer if it’s for your own personal pleasure, please go ahead. Put these on cuffs, collars, napkins, tote bags, small pouches, or add them to your own samplers. I just ask that you contact me if you are considering the distribution of any pattern that includes my strips (or any of my other charts or designs) either for free or for sale. And as always, a link back to String-or-Nothing if you post about your piece would be deeply appreciated. I derive great joy from seeing what mischief the pattern-children are up to in the company of the creative.

Full info on stitch count and thread consumption plus downloadable PDFs for the charts released to date are provided on the StitchAlong page here (also reachable via the tab at the top of every page on String). I’m stacking all of the SAL info on that page, so scroll down to the newest info at the bottom.

Band 5 was released on The Enablers group on Facebook today, and will be echoed here for posterity on 9 November. Happy stitching!

EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND THREE

I present the third band of our Epic Fandom StitchAlong. It doesn’t matter if the pirates are from Never-Never Land, Penzance or the Caribbean – it’s always good to be a Pirate King. Or Queen.  Or Monarch.

Here are our finished samples, courtesy of the flashing needles of our Beta Testers, Heather, Danielle and Callie, plus my own finish. Note that the band looks equally good stitched up just in outline or voided. Working that background is totally optional.

Full info on stitch count and thread consumption, plus descriptions of some voiding methods are provided on the StitchAlong page here (also reachable via the tab at the top of every page on String). I’m stacking all of the SAL info on that page, so scroll down to the newest info at the bottom.

Band 4 will be released on The Enablers group on Facebook on 12 October, and echoed here for posterity on 26 October. Happy stitching!

EPIC STITCHALONG – BAND TWO

As promised, we proceed with the second band of the Epic Fandom Stitch Along.

Although the overall theme of this piece is fandom unification in a time when face to face interactions among those who celebrate the nerdier side of life can be difficult, every other band will be more traditional in style. I’ve drawn inspiration from historical pieces for the even-numbered pattern strips, but they are my originals, with no one specific source.

This week’s release is Tulips and Raspberries. Here are four finishes.

Above bits, top to bottom, stitched by beta testers Heather, Danielle, Callie and me.

Full info for the Stitch Along is at the SAL tab at the top of this page, or click here to hop direct. Scroll down to the big yellow BAND TWO subhead to find a downloadable PDF containing Tulips and Raspberries. Background info for the project as a whole can be found in the downloadable for BAND ONE

Feel free to post questions – I’d suggest doing it on the SAL page rather than here, so that any info helpful to future stitchers is easy to find. Feel free to send along progress pix or tag them with ##EpicFandomSAL on social media. With your permission (and proper credit), I’d love to post them in a gallery, so we can fulfill our mission goal of community celebration.


MORE COUSINS

Just because I’ve taken a departure from classic stitching and am issuing heretical blackwork patterns for spaceships, robots, and dinosaurs doesn’t mean I haven’t abandoned research. I am also inching The Second Carolingian Modelbook (T2CM) closer to the goal posts.

I continue to find multiple instances of design duplicates scattered across various museums. Here’s a trio. Clearly stitched from the same inspiring pattern. Whether it’s from an as yet unidentified modelbook or broadside sheet, an atelier’s cloth reference sample, or just copied among stitchers hand to hand is impossible to determine. However, this design will be included in T2CM so stitchers of the future can keep this historical “chain letter” going..

First, my own stab at the thing, as worked on my big blackwork sampler. I call it “Leafy-Bricks” for obvious reasons.

The first instance of Leafy-Bricks I stumbled across is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Accession #07.816. It’s a small fragment, but it’s the one on which I based my redaction. They tentatively identify it as likely to be Italian, but do not date it. This snippet was collected in the very late 1800s/first decade of the 1900s during the “Indiana Jones” era of embroidery and lace sample acquisition – the time in which monied families took a season touring Europe, vying with each other to bring back the most exquisite samples of whatever struck their fancy. These collections were eventually donated to major museums to form the backbone of their historical embroidery holdings. The time/place provenances furnished by dealers or middlemen and conveyed with these pieces upon donation are not necessarily to be trusted. Many museums are now revisiting these pieces to correct annotations that haven’t changed in 75+ years.

One interesting thing to note is that the count of the historical ground above is not as square as the count of my modern linen. The design is somewhat squashed left to right and elongated north-south compared to mine, although the unit counts are the same.

The second one is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 09.50.55. Unlike many duplications among museums it’s not an instance of one original artifact having been cut apart for sale to multiple buyers. Not only is the center panel duplicated here, there are also subtle differences in the design, especially in the border. The Met only shows this in black and white and does not provide information on the color used. They date it to the 1600s, and attribute it to Italy.

And third, which I only stumbled upon today. This one appears to be a photo only recently released by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Accession 645-1896. Be still my heart, it shows the design on fragments that were pieced into a wearable apron, providing a use case beyond what can be known from a simple fragment. The V&A also notes that the apron was composed from previously stitched fragments. They label the assembled wearable as 1630-1660, Italian, but it’s unknown what life the embroidered strips had before that usage. Best of all, among their images is one that shows the back. Yup. Double running stitch. And yes, I know they see vases in the composition, but my mind is stuck on describing the center bits as bricks.

Note the stretch across the bottom, seamed together from two distinct fragments. And the butted corner formed by a third, although butted corner treatments are more commonly represented in survivals than are pieces with carefully planned mitered or otherwise customized corners. As far as the design’s manifestation on the apron, it’s very, very close to that on the MFA’s fragment. But it’s not identical. There are small differences in the veining pattern of the main repeat’s leaves which lead me to believe it’s a fragment of another original, and not a leftover from whatever item was repurposed into the apron.

If you’ve spotted other instances of Leafy-Bricks out in the wild or have seen it in a modelbook of the 1500s to 1600s, please let me know.

Oh. And if you are interested in obtaining a copy of The New Carolingian Modelbook (my first and now out of print book), I know it’s hard to find. I don’t have any to sell myself, but on rare occasion someone finds a copy and sends it to me. Just such a copy recently came into my hands. I have sent it on to a charitable auction to benefit the SCA Barony Concordia of the Snows, which recently lost all of its communally held equipment in a devastating fire. That auction will be held on 28 August at East Kingdom Coronation. I do not know if the auction will be web-accessible. If I find out I will update this post accordingly.

THE EPIC FANDOM BLACKWORK SAMPLER STITCH-ALONG INVADES!

Well, having been encouraged and enabled by The Enablers group on Facebook, I’ve finally released the secret project I’ve been working on, and can now post my progress to date.

The Epic Fandom Blackwork Sampler is a very large piece, intended to be stitched by and/or for Epic Fans. It includes strips close to the hearts of many niche interest groups, and will please those who love giant robots, dinosaurs, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, retrofuturism, classic bug-eyed monster invasion flicks, snakes, and much more. These theme bands alternate (more or less) with bands that are more traditional in composition, although everything in this project is original.

I have NOT made this a mystery stitch-along because it’s a bit more complex than most, and folk should know what they’re getting into before they commit time and resources. I’ve established a page here on String just for this stitch-along (SAL). Project components will be posted to The Enablers, and will be echoed here on time delay, at intervals over the coming year. Four weeks will be allotted for the larger, more complex strips, and two weeks for the narrower/less complex ones. I am also posting intro material on estimating fabric sizes and thread requirements, so folks can prepare. The first half of that information is on the SAL page, too as of today. More will join it tomorrow. The first pattern band (Giant Robots and Kaiju) will debut on 3 August on The Enablers, and on 18 august will appear on my SAL page, here on String-or-Nothing. The entire project will continue well into 2022.

Not only is this NOT a mystery stitch-along, I want to foster creativity, and am SO looking forward to what mischief can be accomplished based on this offering.

  • There are panels that are designed to accommodate voiding – filling in the background behind the motifs, although those panels can stand alone and read well without it. The optional voiding can be done after the foreground stitching is complete, so no decisions to commit to it need be made when the stitcher starts a band with the voiding option. More info on voiding and the many ways to do it will be provided before those strips break.
  • There’s no requirement to do the entire thing in a single color, even though monochrome is far more common in traditional blackwork than polychrome. Color choice and placement are entirely up to the individual stitcher. Some options include but are not limited to:
    • Each strip in its own color
    • Alternating colors between strips
    • Using variegated (with back stitch) for one or more strips
    • Picking out design features for color highlights (like I did below).
    • Working one repeat of a multi-repeat in a contrasting color, so it stands out.
  • There’s also a strip intended for customization, to allow signing, dedication, dates, a motto, or inclusion of optional motifs. A design worksheet with alphabets and measured areas will be provided when we get to that one.
  • If side borders are desired, go for it, but I am not furnishing those (top and bottom borders would be more difficult to add because my composition isn’t a clean rectangle).
  • And last of all, if someone wants to skip a particular panel, or wait until their favorite arrives and work only that one – that’s ok, too. But I won’t be releasing anything ahead of schedule or to special request. If you want a future band, you’ll have to wait breathlessly along with everyone else.

Here’s my own rendition of the thing, to date. This is just the first nine out of the total nineteen strips and some of those are partial. I went for polychrome because I rarely get a chance to do that. I’m using six colors, although you are seeing only five right now. There are light and dark shades of red, green, blue, and yellow. The light yellow will be used in the future for voiding and detail, but I haven’t stitched those parts in yet. You can also see partial voiding in the Pirates strip (#3). I will go back and finish that for the entire band, and eventually fill in the dice on the gaming band and add their pips, but I wanted to lay down as much of the rest of the piece as quickly as possible because I got a late start on it.

Depending on the reception of this piece, there may be follow-ons. So if your favorite fandom isn’t included, there’s always hope.

Oh, and if you are worried that you’ll make mistakes because it looks complicated – don’t worry. I have left mine in, including a quite massive one on the pirate strip. I bet that unless you hunt for it, you’d never notice.

Joining in? Please do. I so adore leading folk astray. 🙂

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