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.
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.
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.
So for those of you who favor seasonal stitchery, here is a suitably spooky present:
The inspiration for Baba Yaga is courtesy of my pal and former co-worker Laura Packer. Laura is a storyteller by trade – an unusual occupation these days, but one she does splendidly. You can sign up for notification of her public tellings at the link above, or you can subscribe for all sorts of creative goodness at her Paetron link.
Laura had sent a much appreciated surprise to me, so I doodled up the main Baba Yaga chicken-leg hut motif in return. She swooned over it, and suggested further additions from the story cycle – the chest with the egg/heart; the fence of bones (I stole my bony boi’s faces for that), the moon, three keys, a cauldron, a forest of briers, wind, a raven; and keys, creepy crawlies and other things in sets of three. I put in as many as I could, adding the motto across the bottom and the dreamer frame (in silhouette, intended to be stitched very densely for added mystery).
When we were both happy, I went final with it. And gave full rights to the design in perpetuity to Laura. She returned the favor by allowing me to post it here.
Please note that this is just a chart – not a full project described in detail. I suggest work in one or two colors on even weave or one of the higher count Aida fabrics, but I do not give thread consumption estimates. Linear elements can be done in double running or back stitch. The silhouette frame can be worked in long armed cross stitch, four sided cross stitch, or plain old cross stitch – your choice. There are gaps in places between the solid dark areas of the silhouette frame and its outline. Feel free to fudge those in with partial stitches if you like. I didn’t want to add visual complication by including the partials. It’s going to be hard enough to count as it is.
I don’t even have an as-stitched example to post (yet). If you beat me to that and feel so inclined, please send a photo and I will showcase it here.
You can download Baba Yaga from my embroidery pattern page (tab above or click here). While I am not charging for the thing, I do release it as “good deed ware.” Subscribe to Laura’s channel, or make a donation/buy a thing/otherwise subsidize the creative professional of your choice.
Artists – and especially face to face performance artists, actors, and musicians – are having a very hard time of it right now. But it’s art that keeps us anchored and sane in times of stress. If you can, please be a true patron and lend a hand. After all, doing good for those touched by the the spirits of creativity can only bring good fortune in return. Often in very unexpected ways. Let me tell you a story…
UPDATE: The Dance is now available as an easy PDF download via the Embroidery Patterns tab, above.
More free patterns. My stress abatement in this time is to doodle and design in addition to working on my own stitching and knitting. The designs below will eventually be part of a future work, but for now, I am sharing it as a broadside, so others whose stress abatement is stitching have ample food.
But before I present the pattern, some discussion. The main strip in this broadside mini-collection started out as a special request for a Danse Macabre design. I did it up, with some personally significant secondary motifs also requested, and delighted the recipient. But I wanted to play with it a bit more. I’ve changed it up somewhat, removed or changed the personal bits, and added a corner and secondary framing strips. And then having a partially empty page and an abhorrence of wasted space I just kept going, adding an unrelated border pair featuring swords and dart-like shapes, and as a lagniappe, a lemon meander. All are of my own design. The inspiration for the main strip will be evident in a moment.
Back to the Danse Macabre – that’s an allegory image from the 1400s and early 1500s. It’s something that appears in both religious and secular works, and is usually interpreted as a strong caution that no matter one’s station in life, wealth, or age – life is fragile, and all should be mindful of both mortality and the transitory nature of human vanity and pleasures.
But I have to say that I reject that morbid and moribund classical framing.
Instead, and in the current context, I look around. I hear about neighbors doing what they can to help each other. I read about people with talents – musicians, actors, artists of all levels of fame and proficiency – sharing what they can of themselves to enhearten, inspire, and entertain a frightened world. I witness the bravery of front line first responders and medical personnel, and the selflessness of many people in vital industries. I see many more small acts of kindness than I do malevolent and spiteful actions (although those latter ones do affect far more people proportionally per incident).
Now I see those dancing skeletons differently. They dance in defiance of mortality. They celebrate life in the face of danger and death. Living for others, to protect the lives of others, is the ultimate act of rebellion against an implacable enemy.
So, for all reading this, don’t break discipline. Keep away from others as much as possible. Heed the calls to do your part for community health. And if you are so inclined, feel free to stitch my Dance, with the joy with which I present it.
I make this file freely available for YOUR OWN PERSONAL, NON-COMMERCIAL USE. (NOTE: CHART IMAGE UPDATED ON 22 APRIL 2020)
As with my other offerings of late, this is “good-deed-ware.” Pay this gift forward by helping out someone else in need; phoning or getting in touch with a family member, friend or neighbor who could use a cheerful contact; volunteering time or effort; or if you can afford it – donating to one of the many local relief charities or food banks that are helping those displaced from work.
Finally, some notes on the patterns. In true historical style, the lesser framing borders have absolutely NO count relationship to their larger main motifs. This means that a square or rectangle of the Dance, which will meet up neatly at the corners provided full iterations of the repeat are used, will NOT be neatly framed by the plume flower or inner band, with the corner of the plume band guaranteed to present as shown. The same thing goes for the swords and companion darts. THEREFORE, I strongly suggest working the main band first to establish the width of your project. Then starting the companion border from the corners, and working it towards the center MIRRORING the corners and the direction of the plumes (or darts). When you get to the center of the work, fudge it.
The easiest way to fudge is to stop with the last full presentation of the plume or dart, symmetrically on the left and right of the center, then place a box in the “leftover” area around the center line. You can fill that box with your signature or a date. Or you can design a little supplemental motif to fill that space. And if all else fails, write to me or comment below with your problem area’s count, and I’ll see if I can help.
Stay safe and stay busy. And above all stay well!
UPDATE: This pattern is now available as an easy-download PDF file, via the Embroidery Patterns tab, above.
I start with a gallery of finishes. Sanity saved! Smiles spread! (Think what you must about the phrasing – I’m happy that my goal of preserving both have been achieved).
My own finish. Naturally dyed claret and mustard yellow wool on linen/cotton blend. I played with the color placement and letter forms a bit, since I can’t do anything verbatim these days.
A couple of days ago I posted the design for my “Don’t Panic” piece, which has become shockingly relevant.
Friend Edith points out that harsh times call for harsh language, and that while some people might be soothed by a gentle statement, more strident expression suits many others.
Therefore for Friend Edith, and in the spirit of Dame Judy Dench, who is famed for stitching up provocative statements, I make this chart freely available for YOUR OWN PERSONAL, NON-COMMERCIAL USE.
Consider it as “good-deed-ware.” It’s tough out there right now. Pay this gift forward by helping out someone else in need; phoning or getting in touch with a family member, friend or neighbor who could use a cheerful contact; volunteering time or effort; or if you can afford it – donating to one of the many local relief charities or food banks that are helping those displaced from work right now.
Right-click on the image above to save it as a JPG.
This piece is intended to be done in cross stitch (the lettering), and double-running or back stitch (the frame). While it’s shown in black and red, use one color if you like, or substitute in as many other colors as you wish.
The source for the lettering is yet another of the offerings in Ramzi’s Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com collection. The border is from my recently released Ensamplario Atlantio II, a free collection of linear designs – mostly blackwork fills and borders.
Thank you Edith! Your inspiration and request will brighten the hearts of many, while rendering their walls cheekily NSFW.
(And there goes my PG blog rating, and any remaining shreds of reputation for gentility. But it’s worth it if someone smiles.)
Inspired in part by Hastings Sanderson over at Is That an Apres?, who is thinking of embarking on an extensive graphed needlework project, I went out web-walking to see if others were using GIMP for needlework graphs.
In addition to my own set of tutorials on using it for line unit patterns (backstitch, double running, punto scritto, Holbein stitch, etc.) I note this tutorial on using GIMP to transform photos into cross stitch graphs, and a GIMP plug in for that purpose. I’ve also adapted my method for use with square unit graphs (cross stitch, needlepoint, lacis, burato, knitting), but it’s not as elegant as the commercial programs designed in specific for needlepoint or cross stitch.
However, in all cases, I find very few folk have successfully used GIMP for needlework charting. The most prominent feedback on my method is that few people have the time or patience to establish the base templates. So, to give others a leg up on creating their own charts, I offer up my base pages. These are 8.5 x 11 (US letter size) pages, each set up with the layers needed for graphing. They are intended to be used with the grid spacings and brush sizes specified in my tutorial. They are based on the ones I’m using right now for T2CM, the sequel to my New Carolingian Modelbook.
Because of WordPress limitations I can’t post the GIMP *.XCF files, so I’ve bundled both the line unit and square unit templates into one standard Windows *.ZIP:
Remember – after opening these templates go back and change your grid spacing and brush sizes to those specified in the GIMP series here. Then have fun!