Tag Archives: counted thread

BOOKMAKING 102

This is the second piece in the series on making an embroidered book jacket, based on the general instructions I presented earlier this month. The first piece dealt with drafting up a simple pattern to construct the book cover, preparing the piece of cloth I am using, and transferring the guide lines from the pattern to the ground cloth.

In this session I discuss laying out the design for the embroidery itself. While I encourage folks to play along at home, starting their own book project and working with me, I will not be presenting a “Stitch-Along.” There will be no full project graphs presented here. Instead I encourage people to pick their own designs, and I hope that by describing my own thought processes, I will enable others to think outside the box.

Let’s start where we left off. We have our ground cloth prepared and ready to stitch:

The stitching areas – the front, the spine and the back – are all defined by basting lines at their edges. There are also basting lines marking the horizontal center (spanning all three areas), and the vertical center of the front and back. The spine is so narrow that it’s easy to count to determine its exact vertical center.

Step 5. Stitch Design Layout

I chose a medium count even weave fabric for this. It’s is about 30-32 threads per inch, which means I’ll get 15 to 16 stitches per inch. There’s no reason why Aida or other purpose-woven grounds intended for cross stitch cannot be used. However the fineness of the cloth will influence what counted patterns are used.

As a “bungee-jump” stitcher, at this point I am just starting to think about my layout. Possibilities abound, and I try not to close any out until I am absolutely sure. For example, even before I get to the choice of the fill pattern(s) these general layout options exist:

  • Work a single design to cover the entire piece, ignoring the divisions between the spine, front and back covers.
  • Work the front and back covers separately, each with its own design, with or without some sort of stripe or divider running up the spine.
  • I could work a border around the front and back cover, either meeting along the spine, or leaving space between for yet another fill.
  • I could divide the front and back into subsections, and work each of them in a different fill (again, with our without borders)
  • I could draw a freehand shape or other motif on the piece, then fill it with one or more fills (a la the inhabited blackwork style).

Here are general representations of some of the possibilities above:

Decisions, decisions. Best not to back myself up a tree. Not just yet. But right now I’m leaning to the version in the lower right. Front and back covers, each a single field pattern, but different; some sort of border around the edges of the front and back cover (same border front and back to unify the design). Something on the spine, possibly a third design, Possibly words. No clue.

Step 6. Stitch Design Selection

Since I am planning for 15 or so stitches per inch, my cover is about 3.5″ wide and 5.5″ tall. If I do a single repeat on each cover I will have room for play. My total field is about 52 stitches across x 82 stitches tall. Even if I subtract some for a border, there’s room for one of the larger repeats from Ensamplario Atlantio, or Ensamplario Atlantio II.

While I’ve stitched up some of these before, I haven’t play tested them all. This is a fun opportunity to do some I haven’t worked up yet. Plus I rarely do multiple colors, so maybe I’ll think of that, too. Paging through the books I come up with a few possibilities. Number 110 from Ens Atl II hits me for one of the covers, but just about every design in both books is a good candidate:

This is an intermediate complexity 16-stitch square repeat (the count from the center of one flower to the next is 16 stitches). A simple square repeat with a half-drop, I should be able to get at least 2.5 repeats across – that would be about 40 stitches across out of my available 52. That would leave 12 stitches (6 per side) for a border. And there’s nothing to say I can’t just truncate the design anywhere I like – there’s no reason to worry about completing the edge repeats across.

Now, if I had selected a coarser ground – say 11 count Aida, my stitching field would be smaller because there are fewer stitches per inch available. In that case my field would be about 38 stitches across. Two repeats would be all I could fit. I could still use this design to good advantage, but designs with a wider repeat, like this more complex panel of pears (28 stitch square), would be harder to squeeze in Just one full repeat would fit across, with a bit extra for a partial, or for a border. (Come to think of it, pears may be in order for the other cover… Hmmm. Not decided yet, but maybe…)

Why do I say “other cover” and not front or back. Simple. Both of these designs are totally symmetrical and at this point either one could serve as front or back, depending on which way the book is held.

Now on to placement. I have a couple of options. I could deliberately center my design at the centerpoints I established by basting, or I could skew them left/right/up/down, to produce an asymmetrical composition. Both are valid, and asymmetry can be quite dramatic. But I think I’ll stick to the easiest way out here. Instead of skewing the repeat, I will place the center of one flower exactly at the center of my cover area, and I will begin stitching there.

By beginning in the center I get to establish my design. I will work out left and right, and when I get close to the edge, I’ll stop and decide whether or not I still want a border, and if I do – I’ll pick it or design it to fit the available space. My guess is that I’ll probably work to within 6 – 8 stitches of the basted edge line. We’ll see…

Step 7. Thread/Color Selection

OK. I’ve got my lattice-and-rose picked out. What threads and colors to use… Again this is just my thoughts and preferences. For your project pick whatever you enjoy using that’s suitable for your chosen ground.

First, this is a removable book cover. It will get dirty. It may end up on another book after the target one is filled up. Chances are that it will need to be washed at some point in its life. Therefore I am opting for plain old cotton thread over silk or rayon. DMC will serve quite nicely.

I do a lot of monochrome, much of it modeled on historical pieces. I don’t get to play with multiple colors very often. I’m not a big fan of variegated threads for this type of work. I think the color gradations unless very carefully handled distract from the delicate structure of the stitching, so I’ll stick to solids. And nice, deep, contrasting solids. Two, possibly three colors.

Pawing through my stash I come up with the first two. If I use a third color, I will employ it on the border – not in the field patterns. I’ve chosen two regal colors – DMC 814, a deep red, and more burgundy/less crimson than the red I usually stitch with; plus DMC 3820, a goldenrod yellow – a color I rarely use.

Step 8. Start Stitching

Now for the fun part. Finally. After all of this planning and prep, I get to start stitching. I reserve the right at any time to decide I don’t like the result and pick everything out, but off I go, none the less.

On the piece above you can see the remnants of my light blue basting threads that marked my centerpoint. The center of one of the first flower I worked is exactly where those two lines intersected. Note that I clip back the basted centering threads to keep them out of my way as I go along. I find it’s better to remove them bit by bit, rather than stitch over them and try to pull them out later.

I am using one strand of floss, doubled. I cut a length twice as long as I need, extract one strand, and fold it in half, taking care to match the cut ends. Then I wax it lightly EXCEPT FOR the last inch, leaving the loop open. I thread the now adhered-together cut ends through my needle. Without making any knots, I make my first stitch, pulling my thread up from underneath and plunging back down from the top. I take care not to pull my thread all the way through and on the plunge back down, I catch the loop at the end of the thread with my needle. Then I gently draw up tension until the loop on the back looks like a normal running stitch. In effect, I’ve started off my double running with a noose instead of a knot.

I continue along in double running, plotting out my course to keep “leapfrogging” on. A lot of people trip up by thinking they have to stitch in one direction until half of their thread is used, then turn around and retrace their steps.  For something like this, it’s better to head off in one direction until your strand is used up, taking detours as they arise but always returning back to your main path (if you don’t have enough thread to complete a detour and return, end off before you start the branch). 

Then you take a second strand and fill in the every-other stitch on that main path.  Any thread that remains after that second pass on established stitching is complete is used to go on further in the design.  It’s kind of like a game of hop-scotch, one thread advancing, the other filling in then continuing the design, and the thread after that starting at the point the first one ended, but filling in the skipped stitches left behind by the second. Black is the first thread, red is the second, and blue is the third in this example.  Each dangling leaf is a detour that’s started and finished on the baseline:

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On my stitching you can see around the edges of the red flowers where I have left attachment points for future journeys, and in a couple of spots, the partially worked lines of departure for those branchings. I find the path planning to avoid painting myself into a corner to be mildly challenging, and quite relaxing. And yes – sometimes I do trap myself. So it goes. Sometimes I can use unidirectional heresy stitch to get myself out of a bind, sometimes I just have to knot off and go on. (I do knot unless there is a compelling reason to work entirely double-sided, but it’s got to be a darn good reason because I hate working in the ends.)

You’ve also noticed how I’ve employed my colors. The red for the connected flowers, and the gold for the background lattice. It’s just one way of doing it. I do end off each gold lattice segment separately, opting not to leave long connector stitches on the back.

I’ll be working on this for a bit longer before I make decisions about the border. If for nothing else, just to keep everyone in suspense.

In the mean time, if I’ve been a Bad Influence and led you astray, please feel free to comment, critique, send pix of your book cover in progress, or otherwise kibbitz. All input/feedback is welcome.

ENSAMPLARIO ATLANTIO II

While I am still struggling with the release of The Second Carolingian Modelbook at an affordable price point, other doodling has not ceased. I took a look at my notebooks and decided that enough had piled up to make a sequel to my free book of linear designs. And so I present Ensamplario Atlantio II.

This one contains over 225 designs. Most are for the filling patterns used for inhabited blackwork (the outlines plus fillings style pictured on the cover), or for all-over patterning:

Some sport small motifs that can be scattered either at the represented or wider spacing:

Others can be repeated to make strips or borders:

And some are just silly:

There are also longer repeats specifically meant to be borders

Finally, there are two yokes meant for collar openings, but if I tease everything here there will be nothing left.

Click to download –> Ensamplario-Atlantio-II  <–
in PDF format (9 MB)

Although Ensamplario Atlantio II is free, I beg you to respect my author’s rights. These designs are intended for individual, non-commercial use. Please do not repost the book or its constituent pages elsewhere. If you want to use its designs in a piece or a pattern you intend to sell, please contact me for licensing. Other than that, please have fun with them.

And (hint, hint) I ALWAYS like to see the mischief the pattern children attempt out there in the wild world. Feel free to send a photo of anything you make from any of my designs. If you give permission, I’ll post it here, too.

UPDATE:

For those who want more and wonder where the first volume of this series is, no worries. Pop over here to download the constituent parts of the original Ensamplario Atlantio. Why four parts then, but one big download now? When EnsAtl first came out downloading a doc that big was more of a problem for some, so I snipped it into pieces for ease of retrieval. I don’t need to do that anymore.

FLOCK OF STUPID CUPIDS

All that’s left to do is to tweak the corners. They don’t match, which is fine, but they should at least be of similar density. It’s also interesting to note that my so-called even-weave linen isn’t quite even. There’s a distinct difference in proportion between the plume flowers done horizontally and those done differently. The verticals are a bit elongated, north south. The same slight distortion also shows up in the proportions of the bottom cupid strip.

And along the way, I found yet another Separated at Birth example – possibly not siblings cut from the very same artifact strip, but close cousins at the very least.

Here’s an example of the derpy cupid and cockatrice panel from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Accession # 1907.665a (in case the link breaks).

And here’s the same design, in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, Accession # 1971-50-96. This is the one I graphed up for eventual inclusion in the forthcoming Second Carolingian Modelbook, from which I stitched my rendition. Note that although the stitch counts in the bit below and my rendition are identical, my sample is distorted by the proportions of my ground cloth’s weave compared to the original, which is distorted a bit in the other direction.

Band fragment showing Cupid and griffon in red silk on linen.

AIC dates theirs to 1601 to 1700, and it came to them as part of a Rogers Fund donation in 1907. CH’s sample came from one of my personal heroines – Madeline Hague, collector, curator and historical stitching researcher, and was donated to the museum with other items of her personal collection as a bequest. CH dates this from the 16th-17th century. Both agree on an Italian provenance.

There are some subtle differences between them that I didn’t notice until I had actually stitched up a length of the design. The birds on the narrow companion border on the top edge, although of the same design, do not face in the same direction on both strips. The bow in the AIC example is a bit more detailed, as are the sprouting separators between the cupids and cockatrices, but the CH’s sample has more detail on the cupid’s chest.

Still, the similarities do convince me that the two strips might have been worked from the same broadside sheet or modelbook illustration, or copied from a prior stitchery (or each other). They might have been worked by two people for use on the same original artifact or set of artifacts – cuffs, matching towels, bed hangings or sheets. One intriguing clue is the fact that each one sports a cut end, where the embroidered length is clearly snipped right through the stitching, and a “selvedge edge” where the embroidery deliberately stops before the cloth is cut (on the right on the CH sample, and on the left on the AIC snippet).

So. Were these used in tandem? Are they contemporary? Were they copied from the same source? Were they copied one from the other? We have no way of knowing. But as goofy as this cupid looks, he clearly has a mysterious and secret past.

PROBLEM AREAS? NOT SO MUCH.

Vacation week was quite relaxing, and I managed to get more stitching done than I thought I might. There’s something idyllic about sitting on warm sand under an umbrella, peeping over the top of the embroidery frame at the ebb and flow of the tide.

I squared off some of the missing bits along the right hand edge, and worked on the plume-flowers that march around the outside, rounding two more corners.

Now that I’m back at home and working from a graph is easier than on the windy beach, I will eke out the rightmost edge of the top cupid/lion strip. BUT the empty area to the right of the center strip is too narrow to subdivide with the established strapped frame. I’ll probably use it to sign the piece with my initials and the date. I’ll draft that space up in GIMP and if necessary, add a couple of small motifs to fill out the area.

That will leave just the corners. Once I have all four I’ll decide on how to play them. I might go back and pick out the cornermost plume-flower at the upper right, then introduce some sort of sprout-off-the-corner-point motif for all four corners, mostly similar, but with slight adaptations to local conditions.

Yes, my bungie jump style of stitching did lead to an unbalanced piece, but I like it. The cupid-cockatrice count problem described in the last post actually did me a favor by introducing a bit of movement and unconventionality into the thing.

Now to just finish my Stupid Cupid Sampler, all the while dreaming up the next piece. Planned or improvised? Your guess at this point is as good as mine. But either way, my plans are rudimentary at best, and you won’t see me drafting out the entire thing stitch-by-stitch.

CORNERED AGAIN

I’m still doodling on the Stupid Cupid sampler, having fun with some of the larger strip designs that will be in The Second Carolingian Modelbook.

As usual, I’ve leapt off into the deep end with no particular plan.  I know that some people hyperventilate unless they have drafted out every stitch of a piece or are working from a fully graphed kit, but I have more fun improvising as I go.  I have learned to leave myself as many options as possible as I work, so that I don’t “paint myself into a corner.”  I’ll try to explain…

Ground Prep

The first thing I did was standard prep.  I like to hand-hem all four sides of my ground cloth, cutting off any skew-to-weave edges before I hem.  I also lay down minimal guidance lines.  At the minimum I will use a light color/barely visible standard sewing thread to baste a line of demarcation across both the horizontal and vertical center lines of the piece.  Sometimes I also add a perimeter line, measured from the cloth’s edge, to mark the edge of the area to be worked.  I don’t count the threads I go over as a baste (the basting stitches are not uniform in length), but they do follow the weave exactly.  This gives me a nice, stable piece to work on, with pre-defined center points and stitching boundaries.

Thread Selection

I pick a thread color (or colors) that work well with my ground.  If multiples, I try to pick colors from stash that are in quantities that would allow me to make my selection on the fly, rather than limiting what can be done to fit what’s on hand.  Depending on the size of my piece, the fragility of the threads to be used and whim, I drag out either my flat scrolling frame or my sit-upon round frame.  In this case, I picked the green DMC floss (#890) I had left over from my tablecloth, to coordinate with the natural light brown of my linen.

Design Selection and Placement

Then I begin thumbing through my design notebooks and collections.  Sometimes as I prep my ground, an idea of what to do is already forming.  If it does, I may add some additional guidance lines to help reserve areas for words, or to further subdivide the available area – but to date I have never laid down a grid over the entire piece, nor have I ever outlined specific counted-out areas in which to place particular strips/fills/motifs.  Others may wish to do those things, but I don’t find it necessary.

Once I find my first pattern, I decide where on the cloth I want it to go (top, bottom, centered, offset from the center a bit), find that design’s calculated or motif-visual center, and start.  I always begin at one of my center lines and work from there.

Here’s the current piece at this stage of work.

You can barely see the pale blue threads that mark my centers and my margins.  That “tail” hanging off the bottom of the piece is part of one.  They don’t live long. I never stitch over them.  As I encroach upon my marking lines, I pick them out and snip the about-to-be-crossed bits out.

At the point above, I hadn’t decided on what to put north and south of this bit.  I hadn’t even decided up and down because this design is north/south symmetrical.  And I wasn’t thinking yet of any framing mechanism.  But that didn’t last long.

As you can see in the bit above, I decided on a second strip, and decided to separate them with a narrow barred border, stolen from the stems of the first pattern.  I began adding the bars north and south, but not knowing what was coming next, or in fact where the roly-poly cupid/cockatrice bar would end relative to the first strip, held off adding them to the left and right.

And here I found my first problem.  I had aligned the center of the vase between the first cupid and the cockatrice with the center of the symmetrical strip, above.  But I didn’t notice that the areas bearing the figure and the creature were not of equal width.  Because the cupid’s alcove is wider than the cockatrice’s, the left and right ends of that strip did not end neatly aligned to the area already worked.

What to do?

Ignore it and keep going.

So I did.  I added the third major strip, the cupid/lion/fleeing boxer/dolphin panel.  It’s a VERY wide repeat, with no exact center, but I aligned the visual center of the featured cupid with the already established center line.

Again, the design repeats, but the counts are not exact, so worked my piece left and right to a “good stopping point.”  As I did so, I noted that the bottom strip would probably be the widest, so I added the bars left and right to finish out the frame around that section.

I then continued the bar north from the surround of the bottom strip.  And encountered the second challenge.  How to deal with the empty area to the left of the center strip?

I thought about several possibilities including finding a one-word motto to stitch vertically; continuing with the center strip design to fill out the area; or making this bug into a design feature. I chose the lattermost.

At the bottom left of the photo below you can see it.  I continued my outer bar north, but added a second one, that defined a narrow strip.  Then I improvised a standard acorn meander.  I didn’t even bother to draw it out. I just found my center point, replicated an acorn from the top strip, and stitch-doodled up the linkage.

Then I took a stand-back look and decided that I didn’t want to add more strips to this piece.  But a deeper, coordinating yet frilly outer companion border would work.  So I flipped through my to-be T2CM collection and picked one out.  I started in the north/south center of the left edge and stitched it until I got to the corner, then rounded the corner and continued on, spacing the edge of the first plume on the top roughly equally far away from the exact corner point as the bulk of the foliage on the left.

This time to fill in the empty space between my top stitched band and the newly established border(s), I decided to eke out the existing design.  That’s what I have on-the-needle in the photo above.

Purists will note that I am using Heresy Stitch for the baseline of my frilly plumed border, rather than sticking to strict double running.  I’m going back and adding a narrow border, using Heresy I can move along faster with minimal re-setting of my hoop.

Challenges yet to come….

  1. How will the plume border butt up against the three corners to come?  Will I be able to round them as gracefully as this one?
  2. Will I go back and engineer some sort of corner treatment for the point of the plume border after I get all four done?  Will I be able to use the same one for all four?
  3. The center strip is short on the right-hand edge, too – but not as short as on the left. Will I have room to add another supplemental bar and narrow border there?  Will I do something else?
  4. Where will I sign and date this thing?

Now these burning issues may not seem like the epitome of suspense in your world.  But in mine, they are fraught with danger and excitement.

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:

redbit-3

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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red-end

 

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):

MMoA-79.1.14

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.

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.

THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 6

At long last!  The end of the talk from 2014.  I hope it inspired you to look up some of these examples, and perhaps, start your own piece of work in one of the styles presented.

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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 4

And even more.  Continuing on with the visuals from my 2014 talk on historical counted thread embroidery.

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