Tag Archives: embroidery

SWISH BY SWISH

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.

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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.

What’s next?

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.

SLOW PROGRESS IS STILL PROGRESS

Inching along here on my fishies.  Yes, did end up getting the Lowery stand last week:

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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.)

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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:

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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.

GOLD FISH!

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.

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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.
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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.

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UNHISTORICAL FISH

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:

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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:

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So.  Do I have a plan? Kind of.  But I still like the fun of designing on the fly.

 

ADAPTING FOR MODERN USE

Yet another post only a stitching/historical clothing geek would love.

Forehead cloths.

What were they?  Why do I care?

Forehead cloths were triangular kerchief type items, often matched with a coif (a close-fitting cloth hat) produced during the 1500s and 1600s.  Some still exist today in set with their coif, some are separate – possibly parts of sets, now orphaned over time.  They appear to have been quite popular based on survivals, and surprisingly for a popular item – how they were worn is not an entirely settled issue.

64.101.1237
Blackwork forehead cloth in collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art
British, last quarter of 16th century – roughly 14.5 x 16.5” (36.8 x 41.9cm)
Accession 64.101.1237

Some suggest forehead cloths were worn underneath the coif, tied or pinned firmly behind the head under the wearer’s bunned-up hair.  In this configuration, the cloth would keep the hair contained, and provide a firm foundation on which to pin the coif itself.  Having worn coifs and hoods of the time, this is very logical to me, and makes perfect sense.

Others suggest that the cloth may have been worn over the coif; or even instead of it, for sleeping or indoors-at-home informality. I do note that in coif-cloth sets where metallic or linen lace trims the coif, the accompanying forehead cloth is rarely adorned to match. This makes sense if the cloth was worn under the coif, but would be odd if it was worn covering the coif’s fancy trim.  Were they ever worn alone?  No one knows…

64.101.1242                                 64.101.1243

Polychrome forehead cloth and matching coif, also Metropolitan Museum of Art
British, 1600-1630, cloth roughly 7 x 17.5” (17.8 x 44.5cm)
Coif – Accession 64.101.1242   Cloth – Accession 64.101.1243

What we do know about forehead cloths is that they come in as many stitching styles as do coifs – blackwork, other monochrome, polychrome, counted, freehand stitched,  fancy with metallic threads and sequin embellishments or plainer; standard Elizabethan/Stuart era scrolling flowers and vines (with or without insects and birds); all-over repeat or geometric patterns – you name it.  Some. like the one below, even look like they are remnants of larger embroidered items, cut down and re-used.

2006BF4614_jpg_lStippled blackwork forehead cloth from the Victoria and Albert Museum
England, 1625-1650.
Accession T.42-1938

About the only thing I haven’t seen yet is one that is mostly plain ground, stitched just along hypotenuse edge rather than being entirely covered with pattering.  Some cloths (like the first two above) have small tie strings, some are just triangles, with no tabs, ribbons, or strings (although those may have become disassociated over the decades).

Now, why am I so interested?  I rarely get to SCA events these days, and don’t have an outfit (or a finished coif) to match a forehead cloth.

I want to make one for mundane day-to-day, modern wear.

I like wearing a bandanna or kerchief to keep my hair out of my eyes, especially during “down times” on weekends, or when we visit windy Cape Cod.  It strikes me that a purpose-built forehead cloth would serve well, and be a bit more distinctive than a plain old paisley bandanna.  Being small, it would not be onerous to stitch, and would be a fun thing to adorn with one of the larger all-over or infinity repeats that I’ve charted over the years.

I’m laying out the size of the piece now, basting my dimensions onto ground cloth.  More news on this as the project develops.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

And its the cold, snowy part of the Boston seasonal experience.  Which is not improving my outlook much.  But there are bright spots.  We do what we can.

Here’s a free offering (also available via my Embroidery Patterns tab, above).  This motto just cries out to be a sampler, the irony of using an art that in and of itself requires intensive perseverance to accomplish is just too sweet.  Click on the chart image to get the full JPG, formatted for 8.5 x 11 inch paper. (Finished stitching sample courtesy of long-time friend Gillian, who was the first to post a finished piece picture.  Her’s is on 14-count Aida, finished post-wash size of stitched area is about 7″ x 9″.)

nevertheless       Gillians-Finish

And here’s the finish from Edith Howe-Byrne on even weave, showing her variant treatment of the concept, using other counted stitches and beads (she’s leaving in the gridwork so she can use this piece as a reference for additional projects):

Ediths-finish Edith-3
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The alphabets used are (more or less) contemporary with the women’s suffrage movement – found on Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts site, among his collection of vintage Sajou and Alexandre booklets.  The particular one I used for all three alphabets is here. The border is adapted from one appearing in a 1915 German book of cross stitch alphabets and motifs, in the collection of the Antique Pattern Library.

We all do what we can, and I encourage anyone with heartfelt opinions to use their time and skill set in service, as they see fit.  Even if you don’t agree with me, filling the airwaves with positive messages rather than caustic imagery can’t hurt.

If anyone stitches this up and wants me to showcase their effort, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to add pix of your work to the gallery here.

On my own  end, I have been productive as well.

First finished (but not first started) – a quick shrug.  Possibly even for me.

Fuzzyshrug

This is knit from the generous bounty resettled upon me by the Nancys, for which I continue to be grateful.  The multicolor yarn is older Noro Nadeshiko, a blend with a hefty dose of angora, along with silk and wool.  It is soft and supple, and although I am generally not a fan of desert colors – is superbly hued, with just enough rose, sage, cream, and grey to be perfect.  The accent edge is done is another of their gift yarns – two balls of a merino wool variegated single, worsted weight.  I held it double for extra oomph.  One thing to note about the Nadeshiko though – it sheds.  A lot.  And the Office Dogs where I work like to sniff it (it probably smells like a bunny).

The pattern is Jennifer Miller’s Shawl Collar Vest – a Ravelry freebie.  It is a no-seam, quick knit, written for bulky weight yarn.  The thing fairly knit itself.  Four days from cast-on to wear-ready.  My only criticism is that the XL size is really more of a 12/14.  I can wear it, but it’s very tight, and tends to emphasize attributes with which I am already more than proportionally blessed.  My answer to this problem will be to unravel the green finish rounds, and add about 2 inches of stripey, then re-knit the green.

The nifty pin is an official heirloom of my house.  Long ago and far away, SCA friend Sir Aelfwine (now of blessed memory) made it for me as a cloak pin.  Obviously I still treasure it and wear it when I can.

On the needles is also yet another pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, another free pattern available from Ravelry.  I’ve done four pair of these, but never for me.  I rectify that oversight now.

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Obviously, the first one is done.  Now for the second.

The yarn is yet another denizen of the Great Nancy Box – a worsted weight handspun alpaca – chocolate brown with flecks of white and pale grey, from Sallie’s Fen Alpacas.  The photo doesn’t do the yarn justice.  It’s butter on the needles, and gloriously warm.  The only mod I make to the original pattern is using a provisional cast-on, then knitting the cast-on edge to the body on the last pre-welt row (to eliminate seaming).

My typing fingers will be toasty when #2 is done.

PERMISSION GRANTED, MORE OR LESS

Here it is, totally finished, and with a vaguely decent picture (but as yet, unsigned and un-mounted).

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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.”

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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:

Russet-scarf-1

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…

BACK TO TRIFLES

As usual, I have several projects going at once.  Right now these include the giant green sampler, the pullover I am knitting with a friend (now awaiting total rip-back and restart after An Inadvertently Destructive Incident), and the Trifles sampler I am working up for Younger Daughter.  Although I do not intend to leave my co-knitting pal in the lurch, the last one is the only one with a hard deadline.

I’ve been road-blocked on Trifles for a while.  I wasn’t sure how I would edge it, and what would define the interior space.  I knew I wanted to do inhabited blackwork cogs for the filling, but the one I hand-drew wasn’t working out very nicely; plus getting many different sizes of gears to mesh properly was proving problematic.  So I set the thing aside to ponder.

I’m now done pondering.  My solutions are:

  1. Work a narrow edging around the entire piece, in slightly heavier stitching than the infillings, in order to define the field.
  2. Cheat.  Use a commercial stencil to achieve the gear shapes.  Not only does the stencil present a nice, large field of meshing cogs, it is also calculated to tile properly.

Trifles-4 trifles-5

I found the stencil on line. It’s plastic, and much more durable than any downloaded/paper printed solution.  I  liked the clear differentiation among the shapes on this one, with very little overlap that would require hand-drawing the missing teeth.  Although it wasn’t inexpensive, it will save me an infinite amount of grief.  I will modify the individual gear shapes on the fly – stitching some with full interior detail as presented on the shapes, and some without, making more solid gears.  I also have a little packet of brass Steampunk watch gear shapes, if I decide to add them as an added embellishment.

The narrow edging is yet another design from my forthcoming book, but worked in two colors.  And I will be picking out the beginning of the filled gear underneath the letter “T.”  Once I have the outer edging finished, I will trace the field using the stencil.  Then I will stitch up the gears using fillings from Ensamplario Atlantio, with their edges defined crisply using either back stitch or chain stitch (experimentation will ensue).

On working a symmetrical counted edging without drafting up the entire thing ahead of time – it’s easy on a simple geometrical one like this.  Begin at a corner.  I improvised a corner treatment, where north/south and east/west meet.  Then at the center of the piece (conveniently marked ahead of time by a line of basting), I improvised a symmetrical join, then mirrored the completed stitching previously done.  Eighteen pattern repeats later, I mirrored the improvised corner.  I will continue my march north until I get to the basted center line.  There I will make another decision on how to treat the center and soldier on to complete that edge.  I work that same kludge on the left hand edge.  Since the centers will match top/bottom and side to side (even if they are different) – no one will notice them, and every corner will be crisp. 

As to the thread – I am using the art silk stranded floss I found in India.  I am not loving it.  It’s rayon, and very slippery.  Surprisingly, its tensile strength is less than that of cotton, no where near the mighty nature of real silk.  It shreds, and must be used in short lengths.  In addition, the plies separate and “walk” against each other. I have to use a laying tool to get even these short stitches to look nice.  I would not recommend the stuff, and am glad that I will be using up pretty much my entire stock on this project. 

SECOND HELPING OF TRIFLES

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.

Trifles-2

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.

bb-2

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.

TRIFLES, ANYONE?

When I last wrote, I was just getting underway with my Trifles sampler, a special request from Younger Daughter.  Some of you expressed surprise that I don’t plan out these larger stitched projects all at once, graphing them up in their entirety before I start.  But I don’t, although this one is shaping up to be a bit less chaotic than my usual process.

To start – here’s what I’ve done so far:

Trifles-2

First off, I hemmed all the way around the edge of the cloth.  This is something I rarely take time to do, and always regret skipping.  It was furiously frustrating – to have the ground in hand but put off stitching, but I steeled myself to it and completed. 

Second, I basted lines indicating the centers, north-south and east-west.  Long time pal Melisande will smile at this because the thread I always use for this purpose is plain old sewing cotton left over from the bridesmaid’s dress I sewed to wear at her wedding.  It’s a pale baby blue – dark enough to be seen on white ground, and light enough to show on dark; non-fuzzing, quick to pull out, and non-crocking. 

Yes, when originally stitched the two center lines intersected, but it’s my habit to pick out the guidelines as I no longer need them, so that they don’t get caught up by the embroidery stitches.  I determined my center and began from there, removing and clipping my basted guidelines prior to working the cross stitching.

Cross stitching?  Yup.  Plain old cross stitch for the alphabets on this one.  Also for the Daleks, one of which can be seen adjacent to the big “P.” 

In this case I have actually graphed up the entire center section that bears the inscription and the offspring-mandated Daleks.  Younger daughter prefers symmetry to chaos, and she specifically requested that I do everything I could to align the words neatly.

Now, what to do for the rest of the piece, once the motto is complete….  Originally I thought I’d do more strips from my upcoming book, just for the fun of trying them out.  But the late 19th century alphabets in brown and gold silks is giving the piece a particularly steampunk look.  Again welcome, since Younger Daughter is a big steampunk fan.  I suppose those bands could work, but now I have been seized upon by a Concept, one that has affixed itself to me like a tiny homesick kraken. 

Instead of strips, I will probably do this as a montage in inhabited blackwork – the style that features solid outlines, with various shapes filled in using geometric fillings. 

Off I fly to draft and cut some standard stencils for my shapes, and to play with their placement.  Stay tuned!