It’s done. All 80+ gears, each with a different filling pattern, worked with well-aged “Art Silk” (probably rayon) purchased for a single rupee per skein in India, on 30-count linen. The soot sprites (little black fuzzy creatures) playing the part of “Trifles” are in discontinued DMC linen floss, so that they contrast shaggy and matte against the brighter, smoother silky stuff. I’ve also attached some real, brass gears as embellishments, to add extra Steampunk flavor.
Here’s a close-up of the sprites in process, adapted from the little soot creatures in the movie Spirited Away.
To stitch them I worked totally off count. (Yes, I can do that, too). I outlined the eyes in split stitch using one strand of floss, and placed the eyes’ pupils, using French knots. Then I worked long and short stitch, encroaching on the split stitch eye frames, to get that spiky, unkempt, hairy texture. The arms and legs are close-worked chain with two strands, with the little toes and fingers (what of them there are) also in split stitch, but with two strands. The gears are filled in using (mostly) double running, with some departures into “wandering running” using two strands of the very fine art silk floss; and outlined in chain stitch using three strands of the stuff. All threads used were waxed using real beeswax, for manageability.
I am happy to say I’ve hit all of the specific design requests. And there were many:
- A good motto
- Steampunk (the gear theme)
- Something Whovian (the Daleks)
- Octopodes (dancing in one of the fills)
- Snails (ditto)
- Unicorns and/or dragons (ditto, and the winged, serpent tailed, beaky thing is good enough)
- Anime (the soot sprites)
- Interlaces (also inhabiting the gears)
- Autumn colors (brown, gold, russet, silver)
- Something from India (the thread itself)
The saying itself is particularly suitable for the target Daughter. It’s one of Mushashi’s Nine Precepts. The Daleks are from a graph by Amy Schilling, intended for knitting. The narrow border is in my forthcoming book, The Second Carolingian Modelbook. I found all of the alphabets used (there are four) in Ramzi’s Sajou collection. The gear shapes are adapted from a freehand tracing of a commercial airbrush stencil by Artool. Most of the gear fills can be found in Ensamplario Atlantio. The few that aren’t from that source are recent doodles, and will be made available in time, either as a fifth segment of that work, or perhaps as their own stand-alone sequel. Ensamplario Secundo, anyone?
Now Younger Daughter doesn’t head off to school until next fall, so I have about a year to add hanging tabs, or back the piece with contrasting fabric to make a scroll-like presentation. So while the stitching is complete, this piece may revisit String when I decide what the display treatment will be.
On to the next. I’ve got two more original stitched pieces in queue, with only a general idea of what each one will be, and what styles/designs/colors I’ll use. Free-fall stitching! Gotta love the adventure!
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:
- Work a narrow edging around the entire piece, in slightly heavier stitching than the infillings, in order to define the field.
- 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.
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.