Two progress status reports today!
First is the Trifles sampler, in progress as a dorm gift to Younger Daughter, who will need such a thing in a year or so. (I have given myself lots of time for completion). As you can see, the motto is finished, using four different alphabets from Ramzi’s Sajou collection. I’ve played with them somewhat, working in the gold color accents, which are not marked as a secondary color on the charts.
I have also stitched in two small Daleks, to comply with her request, stitched in gold and off white silks. I am up to the surround now. I had originally planned to stitch lots of linear strips, patterns from my upcoming book, but as I alluded to before – I have been seized by Another Idea. The small stitched area just getting underway next to the T of TRIFLES is the beginning. I am going to make an interlocking and overlying mesh of gears of various sizes and configurations, each outlined in a heavier non-counted stitch, but filled in using the geometrics found in my Ensamplario Atlantio. I’ll be using coordinating fall colors for these – a bit of the brown and gold from the alphabet, but also cranberry, silver, and possibly a deep green. The total effect should be rather Steampunk, and a lot of fun.
However as much fun as this piece is, necessity intrudes. A friend of mine is welcoming a baby come the turn of the year. She’s expressed a fondness for traditional baby colors, so I am knitting up a small baby blanket for her. It will be car-seat and basket sized, not crib or reception size, so it is going quite quickly.
I’m using Encore Colorspun worsted, an acrylic/wool mix for maximum washability, this being a baby blanket and all. I’m knitting it on US 10.5 (6.5mm), which is relatively large for worsted in order to bring out the lacy stitch pattern. The stitch pattern itself is adapted from an 18-stitch-wide strip pattern appearing in Knitted Lace Patterns of Christine Duchrow, Volume I. I’ve chosen the narrow strip so that the gradual color changes pool, rather than speckling across the rows. I’ve also chosen to work the stripes horizontally because I only have four balls of this yarn. If I had run the piece the long way I might have risked running out before I reached a useful width. By fixing my width, I can keep going until I have just enough to do an edging, or I can find a coordinating pink or off-white Encore for the edging, if there isn’t enough of the graded color yarn. And finally, being a lazy person and not wanting to sew the strips together, I am using the long-loop join method I learned while working Fania Letouchnaya’s Forest Path Stole to knit the strips together as I march along.
Oh, and yes – those are massively long DPNs – about 12 inches long. I really like extra long DPNs for hats and sleeves, and generally don’t use circulars for anything less than 20 or so inches around. As a result I’ve got a collection of these admittedly unusual needles.
I know I’ve been promising for quite a while, but serious progress is being made on The Second Carolingian Modelbook:
The thumbnail shows the first fifty or so plates, plus their write-up pages. There are seventy-five in all, well over 200 patterns, with each and every one linked to a specific historical artifact or primary source.
About two thirds of the patterns are specific for counted linear styles, or mixed linear/voided works. The rest are solid block unit patterns suitable for background or foreground stitching. They can also be used for knitting, crochet, marquetry, mosaics, or any other craft that uses charted motifs.
Right now I’m touching up a few of the pages, writing a similar number of comments, plus the intro essay, and cleaning up the bibliography. I’m torn about including indices like I did in the first book. I don’t think they were of much use, so I am thinking of omitting them in order to get this puppy finished for once and all.
So that’s where I’ve been, and what I’ve been doing. I promise to trumpet here when the book is available for sale.
O.k. I know a few of you want me to do a blow by blow travelogue of our London trip. But that’s not my forté. I’ll wander over and cover some of that material several posts, but mostly want to write about specific things we saw, this being one of the first times I’ve been able to get relatively up close and personal with historical artifacts. Besides, The Resident Male is a much better travel writer than I am.
First off, to satisfy my stitching readers, is this blackwork smock, currently on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum:
The full citation cites it as being of British make, and stitched some time during 1575 to 1585. They posit home manufacture rather than a professional house. If you read through the full description, you’ll find out that the top part (the stitched bodice) was done on fine linen, and the unseen and unstitched lower part was also linen, but of a much coarser fabric. The plain lower skirt and the needle lace around the neckline and cuffs are modern reproductions. The accession number is T.113 to 118-1997.
I tried to take pix of this artifact to show the details. It’s basically three large rectangles, with underarm gussets (each sporting a flower, and unseen here). One rectangle for each sleeve, plus a larger one with head hole for the front, back and shoulders. I wanted to see if that center strip was seamed from smaller parts, but I wasn’t able to do so based on my examination.
One thing that delighted me was the use of various techniques for the fills. Some were done on the count. It looks like the grid may be 4×4 threads. I can’t estimate the stitch per inch count, but it’s roughly comparable in look to between 20 and 25 stitches per inch. The thread does look finger spun from floss silk, with some areas more tightly twisted than others, and some variation in thickness.
Some filling placements were eyeballed, and done freehand (note the trailing vines and spot motifs that follow the flower forms rather than marching rigidly in diagonals). The solid bits look to have been done in satin stitch or a stitch in the Romanian couching family. The dark borders around the shapes look to be either outline or stem stitch in some places, and in other places possibly whipped or threaded back stitch. There may be knot stitches in there, too, (especially the knotted line stitches that sport little side stitch “legs”) but my eyes couldn’t pick them out for absolute identification.
Effort was made to use the same filling in matching areas of symmetrical designs, but some variations do occur. In fact, the occasional lapses in attention to detail on the fills, and that some are presented in a couple of variations (see below) are charming, and makes me think that my guess that the fillings were thought up on the fly, rather than being copied from canonical works may be true. (Filling inventors, take heart.)
I tried to get very close to the turned back cuffs to determine whether or not they were exactly double sided, with both front and back identical. Well, they’re close but not absolute. My pictures aren’t good enough to show it, but there are (barely) detectable knots on the inside of the cuff. The double running stitch fills and solid areas (satin stitch in this case) are certainly worked very neatly, especially compared to the relative chaos of the back sides of other contemporary work, but they are not spot on exactly the same front and back, although they are presentable and nicely done, for sure.
Here are some more pix of the thing. These shots were taken by Elder Daughter, with her superior camera skills and equipment:
And finally, to satisfy the people who pointed out that I did not include exact citations for every fill in my free-to-download Ensamplario Atlantio collection, here is a set of 10 plates with fills sourced specifically to this artifact.
So much for facts. I have to say there were several items on display that caused me to hyperventilate like a Twilight fangirl. Blackwork geek that I am, this was one. It’s in excellent condition, with the stitching, dense, the threads shiny, and minimal wear or damage. The overall effect was one of understated opulence, but not splendor. For one, there is an aspect of “loving hands at home” to this piece, especially in the composition and heaviness of the fills.
But what struck me the most was that the standard of excellence in this piece is entirely achievable today. Yes, it’s exacting, and acquiring the materials would be difficult, but it’s not miles beyond the capability and reach of modern amateur needleworkers. It’s time we stop bowing to “the ancients” and banish our temporal craftsmanship insecurities The best of us are darned good (no pun intended), and many of the contemporary projects I see on the web are just as well executed as this prime piece from the 16th century.
Where have I been? In Pune, but now home in the US for a brief visit. What have I been doing? Mostly wallowing in ennui. For whatever reason, I have not been motivated to do much, not working on projects, researching, or writing here.
I can report that aside from the transoceanic trip, we did do one major thing. We hosted a “happy hour” party for 25 of The Resident Male’s coworkers, holding it at the apartment. I did all of the prep and cooking. I made samosas, falafel, hummus, guacamole, and Chinese scallion pancakes (adding some minced hot peppers to the scallions). I also improvised a mixed olive salad, and paneer with a Thai-style peanut sauce. Everyone had a good time, and using consumption as a barometer – the snacks were well received. The scallion pancakes in particular were prime, and a do-again, for sure!
There is some minimal progress on my latest shawl. I test-knit a new MMarioKnits product, but others were far speedier than me. Most of the corrections I found were posted by others, and my finished project was not completed in time for photography for the cover of the pattern. The main reason for this was a major lace disaster. While photographing the piece, I managed to drop upwards of 90 stitches, and needed to ravel back to a solid point and re-knit. After coming in so slowly for completion, I decided to punt the official as-written, minimal bind-off treatment, and add a knit-on lace edging. I selected a simple one from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting, picked both for complimenting the lines of the shawl’s main motifs, and for being a multiple of 12 rows, and began. I’m about two-thirds of the way around my circumference, and hope to be done soon.
However, just because I’ve been a slouching, IPad/browser game playing slacker, doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still.
I’ve said before that I get an enormous kick out of seeing what people do with the patterns and designs I post. Occasionally, folk write to me to ask questions, or send me photos. Other times, I track links to my pages back to the point of origin. If I stumble across something I ask the owner if I can repost their work here, with links or attributions as they desire. Here are the products of two people who sent me pix of their stitching this month.
Elaine from Australia delighted me with these two projects that include filling motifs from Ensamplario Atlantio:
Both were presents for friends. I’m not sure which one I like more – the piece for the Kiwi audiophile, or the one for the Lovecraft aficionado.
Meanwhile, Jordana in New York used two of the Ensamplario designs for the cover of a charming two-sided needle case. Here are her photos of the work in progress, and the finished item:
Well done to Elaine and Jordana! Special thanks to both of them for making my day!