The information record for the 1661 sampler by Elizabeth Short that my Heart of the Thistle project is based upon states :
“The embroidery is worked with silk, linen and metal thread in back, cross, two-sided Italian cross, satin, plaited braid and detached buttonhole stitch, with cutwork.”
However, Sue Jones of the Tortoise Loft Blog said to me in a comment :
Well, it looked like trellis to me, from the close up photo on your blog. The outlines done first in cross and/or holbein, and then the spaces filled with trellis afterwards. I have seen this (in photos) used on several similar samplers, with the same sort of shading in stripes. (Sometimes it may be one of the other ‘semi-detached’ fillings, but mostly trellis.)
Have a look at a hi-resolution picture, downloaded from the V&A site. Blimey, I do believe that Sue is right!
Don’t get distracted by the border (that would be done last over the other embroidery) in herringbone stitch in orange red thread that runs along the bottom of this ‘spear’ or ‘petal’ of the Thistle.
For each separate section of the spear (light yellow, orange, darker yellow, reddish, darkest red) there’s a faint orange-red line at it’s edge. Then each section is filled with trellis stitch in the appropriate colour.
I’d been going *mad* trying to reproduce even close to the colour shifts in the piece using tent and cross stitch but the changes in hue were too abrupt so the colour changes weren’t blending At. All.
Here’s a bigger one of the picture above, if it helps at all, although I think the smaller image is actually clearer.
Those outlines are jagged, not smooth as you’d expect from a normal outline that supports a semi-detached needle lace stitch (chain stitch, reverse chain stitch, backstitch). A cross stitch outline makes sense.
Using the same colour for the outline in the differently coloured sections helps to tie the disparate colours in each spear together, and then the entire piece together.
In this particular ‘spear’ of the thistle, a purple-brownish thread is used for each outline:
It’s most easily seen at the top of the spear. The colours I’m using are purple, rather than these brownish colours (I couldn’t get them in the Renaissance Crewel Wools I’m using), and I’ll probably use the orange-red thread in all cases.
Holbein stitch outlines on the piece
Here, in the centre of the thistle – see how there are vertical stitches (vertical Holbein stitches) that overlap into the next colour layer? It’s exaggerated by an extra stitch in the outermost red layer that forms the actual heart.
In this case each section seems to use a stitch outline of the colour from the section before. I’ll have to experiment a bit to make sure that I’m getting the same effect, and check that that exaggerated effect with the darkest red is in fact an extra vertical stitch.
I tried to reproduce the ‘colour shift’ look of the original piece using tent stitch, by extending each second line by an extra stitch. It just didn’t give it the right look.
Cross stitch was even worse….I tried doing the colour for the next section as the first (under) stitch of the cross stitch. As the section (top) stitch. It just didn’t work. The colour changes were just too abrupt.
When I started the project, I was pretty wobbly health wise. It suited me to do tent stitch and cross stitch. But now I’m feeling much better. It seems like an absolute waste not to take this opportunity to master Trellis stitch. Especially since I’ve tried, and it’s defeated me before.
I’ve already frogged the purple sections above and below the red Heart. They are definitely going to be in trellis stitch hung on vertical holbein stitch outlines.
Whether I do the spears in the same way depends on whether I can do trellis stitch in such small spaces – each section of each spear. I know that the Thistle Thread Gentleman’s Cap students have had trouble doing trellis stitch in a very small area, so again, I’ll have to experiment. I’ll leave the frogging of the existing spears until after that.
I’m going to take the opportunity to learn Jacqui Carey’s version of Trellis stitch, which is different to the version that we are more familiar with. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I should show Jacqui’s stitch diagram here – I will show you my finished stitching, once I’ve done it.
I need to talk about why Sue and I think it’s trellis stitch, not detached buttonhole stitch as mentioned in the museum information on the piece. It doesn’t matter, in a way. I can already do detached buttonhole stitch quite happily. It’s a great opportunity to learn trellis stitch!
Thankyou, Sue. :-). Thankyou also to Mary, Kimberley and Louise for telling me where the original sampler was held – the V&A museum, Acc No T.131-1961.