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.
I’ve found a German wood print (? I think) of this image. ( http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-granger.html )
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.
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
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.
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
….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 :
I 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 :
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.
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.
After doing the butterfly, doing the stem in silver metal thread was next.
First, the padding.
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
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.
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.
My work order for the trinket box side is
- the butterfly (silk thread)
- the flower stem (silver passing)
- outlining the motif (gold twist)
- 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…..
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.
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
- a shade a bit darker than to the darkest shade used in the motif, (particularly when the outline was gimp)
- a dark brown
- less common : the drawn outline left exposed
- I’ve seen a couple of examples where a light coloured thread was used for outlining
- 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.
For my next Trinket Box panel, I’m doing a motif based on
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.
This is the line drawing I worked up
I 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 :
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.
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.
Here is Mr Fishie, finished!
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.
Two sides of the box down, three to go!!
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/
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) :
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.
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.
Then I stitched Mr Fishie
and 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
A quick check to make sure the stitching and felt were a good fit…..
Then I cut the shapes out and attached them to the felt
Yes, Mr Fishie already has a pool to swim in. More on that later.
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.
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.
Firstly, everyone has seen the rather cool animation of the Bayeux Tapestry at Youtube, haven’t they?
Here’s the kit, made up into a cushion -
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.
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.
The second layer required the most attention, needing to be laid at nice even intervals.
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.
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.