Topsell

An image I’ve been familiar with and wanting to do for awhile (given my adoration of cats) is  from Edward Topsell’s “History of Four Legged Beasts and Serpents and Insects” (1657). Multiple eyebrows,  giant weird thing above his nose and all, it’s a very distinctive sort of cat.

topsell_originalI’ve found a German wood print (? I think) of this image. ( http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-granger.html )

German_Topsell_original

I’ve been stitching my version of Topsell’s cat for “easy” work. Tent stitch on 32 count linen using the AVAS D’Alger threads I won from the 12 Days of Christmas competition Tricia/Thistle Threads held last year. I call the piece (and hence the cat I’m creating) “Topsell” for short.

topsell 001

He’s 17cm (6.7″) high – a fair bit of stitching but in this winter cold, my Fibromyalgia plays up so I’m quite happy to curl up and do some straight forward stitching.

Funny to think that I was completely intimidated by tent stitch when I started it, but now it’s an ‘easy’ stitch for me. I’ve found that the far the best way to get each stitch looking plump (and if in flat silk, jewel like) is the “L” stitch approach. That is, to form an “L” on the back of the ground between each stitch. This approach does use a lot of thread. Jacqui Carey has a wonderful diagram of where to move for each new stitch, as if the needle were a pawn on a chess board, in her book “Elizabethan Stitches”. Tension is also all important – I find pulling firm at the end of each needle stab is working for me. It’s all about getting a rhythm, because inconsistent tensioning of the stitches really stands out because the stitch is so simple. I’ve also found that the completion of the first part of a stitch, pulling firm, cements the tension of stitch before.

I particularly how his legs have turned out

topsell 003And his face

topsell 002

He’s a startle-eye cat, rather than a sleepier looking one, like the original. And yes, that is a (real) cat hair sitting over his top of his nose. There is approximately half a cat stitched into this piece, due to the proximity of my cats in this cold weather.

I feel there is a disconnect between his chest colour and the rest of him at the moment, but it should all come together when I do his (circular) thigh and his tail. I’m using colour changes for the colour of his fur, his anatomy (such as to make his chin and cheeks stand out, and the difference between his chest and his body), and to reproduce the flavour of the original etching – all of which has been a bit of a balancing act. Getting his thigh looking right will be a bit tough – the lines I drew are not quite right and definitely far too numerous – but I’ll figure it out.

I’m saving doing his whiskers for last. I’m thinking a fine, highly twisted thread for those.

Silver Thread and Silk Wrapped Purl

s-w purl silver stem 006

Having covered the stem in silver passing, I found out that there was a problem, pointed out by friends.  The passing was too thick. The loops formed on the side of the stem sat out such that the gold twist (or any other thread) could not sit comfortably up against the stem but was pushed out by, and left the loops (complete with all of the grey thread stitches couching down the passing) exposed.

I tried another silver thread in my stash – tambour thread. This was too thin in the coverage of the felt – the felt was sitting up inbetween the couched tambour strands.  I then ordered a variety of silver threads from Alison Cole, and settled on a 3 ply twist, laid length wise along the stem with no felt padding – how the original motif was done.

While I was waiting on the post, I thought I’d have a go at a silk wrapped purl motif. I did basket stitch (trellis work) of s-w purl over s-w purl

trellis s-w purl trial 001….and decided that I didn’t like it. You have to pick a colour for the horizontal lines of s-w purl, and between that and using several shades of s-w purl to colour the flower, and the texture and height of s-w purl in general, it was just too visually messy for me.

I decided that I wanted to basket s-w purl over a gold thread.

Late one night, I threw down the already used purl over a couple of gilt threads.

Some medium rococco :

trellis s-w purl trial 002I wanted to try the rococco because I wanted an organic feel. However, the dips in the rococco thread dictate where the s-w purl can be laid – or if you ignore the dips, it makes it sit funny. Maybe some fine rococco would work better (I don’t have any)  Ok….next…..

Some 3 ply gilt twist :

trellis s-w purl trial 003I liked this as soon as I tried it, and went no further in my trials. The particular colour of this twist worked really nicely with the s-w purl as well.

So, going on to do it properly, with some fine microsurgery to secure the unwrapping ends of the s-w purl chips…..I’m happy with the effect – I like it a lot better than the s-w purl basketed over s-w purl, which I showed at the beginning of this post.

s-w purl over s-w purl trials 001

I’ve been given direction to do the gilt twist outline before laying down the s-w purl, and to do it after. I was told to do it after to help pack the s-w purl together and to avoid having any of the outline hidden by the s-w purl. However, I found that in doing the outline second, my laying of the twist was dictated by the shapes formed by the purl, resulting in a rather round bulgy flower top. Not the pointy fleur-de-lys/acanthus type tips that I was after. So I’m going to do the next bits outline first to compare.

At the size of the motif I’m doing, there wasn’t room to do basket stitch in that left hand spur, so I did “humping”, a method Tricia taught us.

Silvering the Stem

After doing the butterfly, doing the stem in silver metal thread was next.

First, the padding.

s-w purl silver stem 001

 

I had done the attachment stitches at about 1/2 cm apart. (er, 0.2 of an inch). When I showed this to Leslie at her EGV Guidance Group, she said to go over my stitches with a lot more stitches than were much closer together – about 1mm apart. This would help the felt sit nicely flat, so the metal thread would sit properly in turn. She mentioned that this was where artificial felt acted differently to proper wool woven felt.  The only grey felt I had was artificial. It got all tufty as the fibres broke up, and wasn’t completely flat.  This  didn’t end up being a problem for this piece, but I think investment in proper felt for padding is worth it in the future.

The original piece used silver twist. I didn’t have any so I used B&J (Benton and Johnson) #4 silver gilt passing. Chris from Lesley’s Guidance Group suggested I’d be making life very painful for myself if I attempting to lay the passing in a pattern in any way similar manner to the original twist and thought laying it at an angle across the stem would be a better idea,  couching it down at each side

Partially done. I started in the middle to help get the angle of the thread correct.

Partially done. I started in the middle to help get the angle of the thread correct.

I finally realised why one would want a mellor. I spent a lot of time pushing the threads together with my fingernail and you’re not supposed to touch the stuff anymore than necessary or it’ll tarnish. Tweezers bruised the thread, exposing the cotton core.

Felt Padding

Felt Padding

I’m pleased with this – I got a bit of a pattern going as I went backwards and forwards over the thread and covered the felt well. Lesley had advised me to trim the felt so it’s edges ended just inside my drawn line. Then I did my couching stitches on the drawn outline – so the stem ended up at the size I drew it.

The last piece of silver was the vein of the leaf. I did this in #16 B&J silver gilt passing. I thought using the thicker passing thread would look better than using more passes of a finer passing thread for a leaf vein.

s-w purl silver stem 005Next, gold twist!

 

Butterfly

My work order for the trinket box side is

  1. the butterfly (silk thread)
  2. the flower stem (silver passing)
  3. outlining the motif (gold twist)
  4. silk wrapped purl

Silk thread always goes down before the metal thread because otherwise it can catch on the metal thread stitched onto the ground and be damaged. The s-w purl goes down last, using the same principle, and also because it can be accidentally crushed.

I’ve done the butterfly…..

 

Satin Stitching

Satin Stitching

I tore up a few suga of a thread at the chinline with a single swipe of the point of my laying tool, so pulled them down to the side and secured them using just a few suga from the matching thread. Those are secure stitches for a waste knot over on the wing.

Long and short stitching

Long and short stitching

 

Outlining and an eye

Outlining and an eye

I’ve found darkest brown works better than black for outlining – it’s not as stark, but still shows up well. A personal choice. From my observations, outlining of motifs in the original period embroidery could be

  1. a shade a bit darker than to the darkest shade used in the motif,  (particularly when the outline was gimp)
  2. a dark brown
  3. less common : the drawn outline left exposed
  4. I’ve seen a couple of examples where a light coloured thread was used for outlining
  5. You can tell when black thread was used, because the thread has broken/come away/stained the ground because of the black’s acidic properties.

but whichever approach was used, it remained consistent throughout the piece.

Silk Wrapped Purl Motif for Trinket Box Side

For my next Trinket Box panel, I’m doing a motif based on

S-w purl flower original

Even tho I saved down the image from the Met Museum, I think that the photo above is about as clear as mud. You can see it much better if you go to the original, if you care to, and check it out here : http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/229027?rpp=20&pg=1&rndkey=20130128&ft=*&what=Textiles%7cSatin%7cCase+furniture&pos=3#fullscreen

Click on  http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/229027 to see the details about the piece.

I’m going for the motif in the lower right corner. The motif is edged in a couched gold twist thread. The stem of the flower slip is edged in the same way but filled with a silver twist thread.

This is the line drawing I worked up

s-w purl line drawingThe top middle really needed a space filler. The original has a little bug. I’m not into bugs and decided to use a butterfly instead.

Coloured :

s-w purl motif coloursI recognise the flower as being a daffodil, but the original wasn’t in yellow and I want to keep to the colour scheme used on my trinket box panels so far – russet and blues. (Even if the flower looks a bit pink on your monitor, it’s actually 2 shades of russet and a cream)

Here are the s-w purls supplied for the Trinket Box that I’ve selected to use on this motif :

s-w purl colours 001

The twist (well, it’s a gimp) I show was a present from Fran. It’s marked “Vintage Russian Silk Gimp on Silk”.  It’s quite stiff and a lovely old gold colour. It should hold the sharp shapes required by the motif well. I’m thinking of filling the stem with a silver purl, mostly because I don’t have any silver twist in my stash.

The techniques used with applying the s-w purl are looping and basket stitch. These have been taught in the TT Stumpwork course.

s-w purl techniques

 

The long and short stitch butterfly will be done in silk thread.

And that’s pretty much it! I’m currently setting up a slate frame to stitch it on – I want really good tension so all of that s-w purl doesn’t do anything evil like bow after it comes after the frame. I’m adding a calico/muslin backing, to support the weight of all that purl.

 

 

 

Mr Fishie Finished

 

Here is Mr Fishie, finished!

Mr_Fishie 018

I added the zig zag plate – this is an unusual plate available from the Thistle Thread website. It’s much finer than the ‘usual’ flat plate. I don’t have any flat plate in my stash at the moment, or I’d do a comparison photo for you. The total zig-zag width is a bit narrower than flat plate from memory. http://www.thistle-threads.com/shop/sundries/metaltrims.html tho it’s sold out at the moment.

Adding the moss really added life and dimensionality to the piece.

Mr_Fishie 019

 

Two sides of the box down, three to go!!

Mr_Fishie 020

Mr Fishie Himself

The top of my stumpwork trinket box isn’t to the (Thistle Thread stumpwork class) design – it’s my own. I’ve designed it to tie in with the front of the box, a grotto, which I was posted about at http://www.elmsleyrose.com/embroidery/tree-top-right/

Mr Fishie design drawingThe writing is unreadable, but never mind. It gives you the overall idea. I’ll explain as I go along.

Today I’m going to talk about the construction of Mr Fishie Himself. He’s based on http://images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages/es/original/DP158570.jpg, which shows the whole piece. The relevant bit is (from the centre bottom) :

Mr_Fishie_Himself

Lesley U, my EGV (Embroidery Guild of Victoria) Guidance Group mentor, advised me to do a ‘slip in hand’. That is, the padding and linen top are all of one piece before it is attached to the ground rather than attaching the padding to the ground and the top over that. You can do tiny stitches to attach this 3 dimensional object, rather than having to use an outline (such as a gimp) to hide the attachment stitches. The original Mr Fishie doesn’t have an outline so I went for this technique.

Working from the paper design, I made the felt padding – 2 layers of wool felt backed by interfacing. The interfacing, I learnt from Mary Corbet, makes the wool much neater in the cutting. I also found that the extra strength was useful when making up the in hand slip. There is a second layer underneath the layer shown, smaller than the top layer.

Felt padding

Felt padding

Then I worked with calico (muslin) to find the right size for the actual fish while leaving enough unstitched linen on the borders to be able to be stitched around the felt.

Mr_Fishie 008

 

Then I stitched Mr Fishie

Mr_Fishie 011and added an eye. The eye was from http://www.glasseyesonline.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=21_24_26&products_id=112 (thanks, Fran!)

…coloured the unstitched border with a felt pen, rather than having white edges show up against the ground Mr Fish was going to be attached to

Mr_Fishie 012I used a little fray check so the linen wouldn’t fray itself into oblivion and got a little colour run onto the silk stitches. Lord knows what is in Fray Check.

A quick check to make sure the stitching and felt were a good fit…..

Mr_Fishie 013

 

Then I cut the shapes out and attached them to the felt

Mr_Fishie 016

Mr_Fishie 015

Yes, Mr Fishie already has a pool to swim in. More on that later.

 

 

 

 

 

R for Rohan … Monogrammed Hankies

Cotton Men’s Handkerchiefs, single strands of AVAS Soie Paris in double running stitch and a little split stitch for the second one. I used the Paris silk instead of a cotton thread because Rohan loves very bright complementary colours and I couldn’t go past the colours I had in the Paris in the box right next to me – just perfect.

The letters are from “Fantastic Letters” from Dover.

LicenseOrMonogram 003

 

Reverse

Reverse

Monogram 001

 

Reverse

Reverse

I began and ended the threads with 3 or 4 secure stitches – stupidly tiny given the double running stitches were so small themselves.

I had a pencil mark still showing on one of the hankies after I’d finished but Sard Wonder Soap brought it out beautifully. I think Sard is purely an Australian brand.

I’ve finished the Lattice piece and onto the Trinket Box top panel. If you remember, I’ve already done the front panel for the Trinket Box, which is part of the Thistle Thread Casket course – that grotto surrounded by rocks in different threads.  So the last blog post on the lattice piece is next, and meanwhile I’m tent stitching on that panel.

Category: Embroidery  7 Comments

A Tree from Bayeux Broiderie

Firstly, everyone has seen the rather cool animation of the Bayeux Tapestry at Youtube, haven’t they?

Chris B visited the Bayeux Broderie shop in France (described by Kathy of the Unbroken Thread blog) earlier this year.  She brought this kit home for me as a rather lovely gift……Tree with Three Curves

Here’s the kit, made up into a cushion -

JumblerOrBayeaux 001

I really enjoyed doing it. I did it a few months ago, in the depths of the Australian winter when I had a horrible chest infection, wasn’t blogging much, and didn’t feel like challenging myself with my stitching. I found Bayeux stitch to be very relaxing and forgiving, especially being used to working with high count linen and flat silk thread as I have been doing for ages.  Rather like using crayons rather than fine tip pens.

What I couldn’t believe was that so much colour interest was obtained with only the 3 colours (blue, maroon, yellow) supplied with the kit. There was just a little navy blue supplied for a couple of curls on each side at the top and bottom and a line running through the tree. Those designers of the original Bayeaux Tapestry knew what they were doing!

I’ve got a good bit of wool left – about 1/4 of the total amount supplied. It’s about half the diameter of the Renaissance Wool that I’m using at the moment (so, really thin compared to Appletons), also single ply, but much more tightly woven.  Ren Wools do have a lot more light and movement due to tiny variations in the threads, due to the particular dyeing process used for them, I assume.

First Layer of Stitching

First Layer of Stitching

This image is from Regia Anglorum which provides some explanation of how to do Bayeux stitch. There is a more complete stitch explanation to be found in Madame Chantel/Bayeux Broderie’s kit instructions.

What I found in addition to the instructions I’ve seen is, while not getting silly about it, the laid stitches for this step needed to be packed in rather thoroughly to cover the ground. More than the side by side stitches shown in the diagram above (which is a pretty standard Bayeux stitch diagram) would imply,  to ensure the ground isn’t exposed when the additional layers of stitching are added and pull the mass of threads back and forth.

Second Layer of stitching, image also from Regia Anglorum

Second Layer of stitching, image also from Regia Anglorum

The second layer required the most attention, needing to be laid at nice even intervals.

Third and final layer of stitching, image also from Regina Anglorum

Third and final layer of stitching, image also from Regina Anglorum

 

These little stitches that couch down the laid stitches of the second layer force the laid stitches of the first layer apart a little, so again generosity in laying that first layer of laid stitches counts.

I did the curves by dividing each into segments of the longest straight lines possible to fit within the curve, to use for that first layer of stitch.

I did notice that on the sheet provided to indicate where the various colours were to be used, there were a few mistakes compared to the colour picture provided and in terms of fitting in with the rest of the design.

I backed the cushion in some green cotton fabric that toned well with the wools, and trimmed it in some navy blue cord to bring out that little bit of navy blue wool.

Bayeaux 002

I like Bayeaux Stitch. I’d like to do some of the creatures that run along the edge of the piece sometime in the future.

Thankyou Chris!

Lattice Jumble Sampler #4

JumblerOrBayeaux 004

I said at the end of the last post that I was going to outline the motif in the middle (the hook with the blue outline) in twisted chain stitch.  Twisted chain didn’t work too well – going around the motif was way too 4 wheel drive. Over the battlement couching motif edge,  then edging up alongside the border stitches on each side. Twisted chain stitch goes to the side just a little, so it didn’t provide the stitch density that I wanted and fit into the available space.

I went with ordinary chain stitch, and interlaced the top side to make it thicker. This gives the hook a bit of an illusion that it’s emerging from behind the wibbly-wobbly motif on the left. I then did the wibbly-wobbly in chain stitch in brown – I needed something basic to avoid having those almost-touching points end up touching each other and blurring the lovely shape.

Woven Wheel

Woven Wheel

Here, the woven wheel in shown in the distance. I had tried doing this circle in turkey stitch (which didn’t work at all) and as a woven wheel in other colours. I like this version.  I packed in the woven stitches to make the outer edges of the wheel pile up to add dimensionality. I ‘d already done the whipped wheel (which loops the thread over each spoke of the wheel) in purple and yellow. I thought doing a woven wheel (either over or under each alternating spoke) on the same piece would be a handy study example.

There’s a new lattice.  It’s “Squared Lattice #3″ according to Erica Wilson (I certainly have gotten value from that book for this exercise) but I like to call it “the scribble lattice”. She suggests to fill each square entirely in satin stitch – I did just 3 stitches, medium, long, medium, so each fill looks like a little pen scribble.

Jumbler 001

 

4 tiny stitches over each lattice intersection resulted in an eyelet sort of effect.

Here are the long ribbons interior to the design – the first in double herringbone stitch :

Jumbler 003

 

And the second in bokhara couching, with just one couching stitch in order to contrast with the centipede stitch on the nearby border :Jumbler 002

 

So here’s the complete piece as it stands at the moment -

JumblerOrBayeaux 007

I’ve taken out the griffin lattice to the top right – it was in a pale grey-tan which I ended up using for only that lattice. I’m going to re-do it in brown.

Chris B presented me with some purple Appleton wool to help me with my cat-couch-purple related problem.  I’ve used the dark purple to outline the design to add depth to the entire piece. The Appleton may come in a million shades and be *The* Crewel Wool, but it’s a bit annoying with how it goes thick and thin (it broke a couple of times and I had to go back over a few stitches because they hardly showed the wool was so thin) compared to the Rennaissance Wool I’ve used in the majority of the piece.  On the other hand, Ren Wools, while wonderfully consistent in diameter, (1 ply in contrast to Appleton 2 ply) are limited in shades.  I’ve also found that some of the shades from different colour families  (eg the browns and the non-woad blues I’m using in this piece) are so similar as to be really hard to tell apart. There is plenty of differentiation in the woad blue sets, which I just love and in general the vegetable dyed colours of Ren Wools are just incredible. I imagine getting a consist range of shades through vegetable dyeing would be a nightmare, if not outright impossible.

Meanwhile, my Ren purples should arrive from France in a week, and then I’ll have a heap of outlining motifs to do and I’ll be  picking off the few remaining lattice motifs to fill…..I’ve decided to do that hook in the middle of the piece in purple battlement couching. I do love battlement couching.