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Silver Bells and Cockle Shells...

Wow - I really haven't felt like writing recently.

Don't worry, for those of you that have friended me recently, I will be picking up the pace soon. Today, for instance.

We had a lovely weekend down at the farm - and we'll be going down next weekend to do more drywall in the garage, mow, and do sundry bits and pieces as needed. If anyone wants to join us, let me know.

I spent a fair bit of last weekend on the jacket - I now have the right sleeve completely outlined, and I'm starting on the two left arm pieces. I took a little time off from outlining to complete one motif, as it's my plan to document each motif design for future reference in a binder/notebook. This helps me keep the recurring motifs consistent, and I can take a rest from outlining to wrestle with neat things like gold thread.

Don't let anyone fool you. The stuff is gorgeous, but it's a freaking pain to play with. It's not difficult, just tedious - you have to make sure you pay attention to it so it doesn't fray, and it likes to kink when you're not looking. It likes to pull itself out of the needle at inconvenient moments, and gets cranky when the stitches get dense. It's still worth it, as you'll see below.

Because I got the pomegranate motif done, and you get to see!

Pictures (natch):

I started with the fill stitches - and was immediately reminded why I don't normally do fill, except for speckles: It's boring! The little dark bobble (upper left in the picture; you can see it better in the final picture below) in the larger fill is where I started doing single thread stitching (going over one thread on the ground fabric; it's the foundation of fill - like working on really tiny aida cloth), realized it was too dense, and switched to going over two threads. Then, for the smaller "slice" on the pomegranate fill, I reduced the same design down to one stitch, to make it look darker. This is in the style of a cushion cover from about 1610, that uses variations in size and density to create shading in the filled motifs.

I'll be using a different fill design on each motif (including the smaller leaves and such), but repeating the design for all the identical ones (i.e., all the pomegranates will use this particular fill design). I should note that I don't bother to make the back look perfect - it's going to be lined, and no-one will ever see the back. I find fill tedious enough without trying to make the back look perfect - I'll worry about that when I'm doing a shirt or something.

Then, I moved on to the Gilt Sylke Twist (GST) to fill the last "slice" of the fruit body, and the round bit on the top:

I tried to show how the gilt sparkles so you can see it in the photograph, but it's tough, since the effect is best when it's moving. I used detached buttonhole stitch, and as we can all see, I need a bit of practice again. The GST doesn't fluff up to fill the gaps in the sticthing, so it needs to be denser, but it requires practice to work it to the point where you aren't just stabbing into the previous stitches at random because you can't see where you're supposed to go.

This is why I'm working all the first motifs on the underside of the arm - it's the least likely place to be seen. Once I've gotten a bit more smooth, I'll work on the larger body pieces. Anyway, you can see how the darker GST completes the graded look of the pomegranate body.

On to the gold!

I filled the top and stem of the pomegranate with Special Tambour Gilt, which is small enough that I can do a reasonable detached buttonhole stitch with it without too much trouble:

The thread showing is the gilt passing, not the Tambour - I started the seeds in the gilt before I remembered to take a photograph of the completed Tambour. But it is a bit helpful, because I can show you that I'm working all the gilt threads with a japanese handmade needle, since the eye is much smoother and takes longer to shred the end of the thread (a constant thing to be aware of). You can see the small amount I pull through the needle (professionals and people more skilled than me pull even less through) - any thread you pull through the needle will be shredded sooner or later, so you want to waste as little as possible, while minimizing the number of times the thread pulls out of the needle and leaves you cursing.

(Remember: Not complicated, nor difficult - it just requires patience to deal with the fiddly annoyances. Don't be afraid of gilt thread, it's a gorgeous addition to a project.)

I really like the way this turned out - it provides a shot of gold without being overwhelming (That will have to wait for when I get all the spangles sewn on and proceed to blind people with the sparkly).

(I am mad with the sparkly!  Hee!)

And finally, the seeds in the center of the pomegranate that you saw being started in the last photograph.

Passing gilt is thicker than the Special Tambour, and is really good for surface stitching, like round stitches:

I won't be using too much of this - only on the major motifs, not on the smaller leaves and "berries" you can see around the edge of the pomegranate - they'll be filled with the Tambour, in the same round stitch. It's actually a super-easy stitch - five stitches from the center of the circle to the edge (see previous photograph - I was working the five stitches), then weave the thread around, going over and under in turn until the space is filled.

Hopefully, you can also see why I outlined the circles - it creates a formal edge and shading for the gilt, which makes it stand out more. It makes a really fabulous centerpiece for the pomegranate, don't you think?

And that's my first motif - 10 hours from outline to finish (the passing gilt was the fastest - 10 circles in about an hour). I'll be completing other motifs over the next few months, and I'll upload them as they happen.

When I was working on my first jacket, I kept it very secret, since no-one else had done one, so far as I knew (and, so far as I know still, I am the first person in the 20th century to complete an entirely hand-embroidered one - if anyone knows different, do let me know), and I didn't want someone copying me before I was ready to unveil it. I don't mind copying - it's how a lot of people learn, and not everyone is able to work without an example. I am actually flattered when I'm the example, but for my first jacket, I wanted to surprise everyone (and hopefully expand the perception of what's possible, without making it too intimidating). Perhaps y'all can forgive me for wanting to be first. :)

But I thought it would be fun this time to take all of you along with me so you can suffer enjoy it with me. And I like showing off the bits as they're done - the goldwork is a really new thing for me, so I'm happy to show my learning curve to all of you, mistakes and all. Including the ones I'm too lazy to unpick (see: fill stitches, too dense).



( 42 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:12 am (UTC)
Those seeds are so neat looking! Can you do a step by step tutorial on them? or post a descriptive sentence on how they are made?

I have a crazy idea....
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
The bird's eye on the Plimoth Jacket is done the same way, using three stitches instead of five, and you can see step-by-step instructions in the Thistle Threads blog. Scroll down to July 30, 2009.
Aug. 11th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
This reminds me a lot of the technique used to make covered buttons...Spokes on a wheel, weave through the spokes. Right?
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
That's right. You can cover buttons in silk that way, or if you start with a ring you can make a button with a woven center (with a lot of different patterns).
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
I was under the impression that Dorset Wheels (and other ring buttons) were later period - say at least early 17th C. Is that accurate?
Aug. 12th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC)
Flat buttons, yes - but the passementerie technique that leads to the flat wheel is period - it's just done on a round base - reproducible with a wooden bead. :)
Aug. 12th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
*chuckle* Sorry, I just realized how unclear my first posting was. When I said "covered button" I was thinking "wooden bead button"...16th C mind-set for da winz!

Of course, now that I think about it, "covered button" could mean *any* button covered in thread. *gah!*
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
I am in awe.
My mother is the only other person I know to work successfully in gold. I've tried and the pain of the thread just convinced me that I'm a crewel worker at the core. The one thing mom suggested to me when I was wrestling and losing was very short lengths of the gold passing, no more than my forearm.
And, I now know 'why' Japanese needles. I'll be adding a couple to my work basket. Thank you.

Edited at 2009-08-11 12:08 pm (UTC)
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC)
I've been lurking around your journal for a while, and finally decided to comment. I think this project is turning out beautifully! Now, I just need to pluck up the courage to start the jacket that's been floating around in my head for months.
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC)
It's gorgeous!
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
It doesn't explain how I feel to say "Wow, that's beautiful!", but that's all I have! Amazing.
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, that's gorgeous. Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope I never get smitten with this time period, because then I might be inspired to try something similar, in which case it might dominate the rest of my life as the Unfinished Object of DOOM. I greatly admire your perseverance for such a large project.
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
I'm heartened by your comments on gilt thread. I picked up a load of it at Pennsic (for pasomano work, not embroidery), and I've been eyeing it nervously.

You do such gorgeous work. Marvelous.
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
It's just patience - don't be afraid of the gilt!

(har, har,har.)

Seriously, though - it just requires a gentle hand (and kiss your manicure goodbye, if you have one - the metal scratches polish up something wicked). It's stiff and likes to bend, but it's not impossible by any means.
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
It's lovely, and so different then I thought you were going to do (i.e. the fill stitches.) I am excited to see your updates!

Paul and I will be around next weekend, we are doing the flooring in the sewing room this week, and we will probably be ready for a change by the weekend if you don't mind having us come help and visit.
Aug. 11th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Are you kidding?! We'd love for you guys to come!

(and not just because you're good at drywall.)

We'll be there from Thursday night through to Monday, so give us a call, or e-mail, or something. :)

We'd love to see you guys.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 11th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
That's so beautiful. Your patience is inspiring and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Don't want to rain on your parade but there are hand-embroidered jackets pre-dating your 1st. In the UK I've seen or know of 2 coloured ones, 3 one-colour jackets (1 very coarse so maybe it doesn't count!), 1 in black silk with gold and 2 metallic (1 silver, 1 amazing silver-gilt by a Scots embroiderer). There's a couple more but I don't know if they pre-date you and I don't know if they're all hand-worked. All the ones above are from 80s to 2000 though. They don't tend to wear them much outdoors and most events are outdoors so there aren't many photos online. And some were worked by embroiderers not re-enactors so they're never worn just exhibited.

The only pictures I found is this one (scroll down) from the 90s.
Aug. 11th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
It's very beautiful - I'd argue that it's a bodice, not a jacket, but that would be nit-picking, wouldn't it? :)

My claim was that mine was entirely hand-done. I wish there were more pictures, though, since I looked and looked while I was working on mine.
Oh, and no parade to be rained on - mine is my first, and that's all that really matters to me. :)

Edited at 2009-08-11 03:39 pm (UTC)
Aug. 11th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
She's tucked it in like the Laton portrait I think. It's all hand-sewn, unboned and has the hem with insets too.

Like you say it's the personal achievement that's important. And yours is a real achievement worth celebrating. First time I reproduced a tablet-woven braid I felt like Janet Arnold! Then-boyfriend just said "Hmm. Eight inches of woolly luggage tape. Great."

Aug. 11th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Hee! No matter what it is, making something yourself, for yourself, is a life-affirming experience. :)
Aug. 11th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
I so agree about pictures. So many people look at the jackets, write about them, even publish patterns. And how difficult it is to work using only their published info alone! Wish they'd share a little more of their expertise.
Aug. 11th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
It's not just the viewers that benefit, either - I can definitively say that certain things have come my way because of putting my work out on the 'web.

...I badly wanted to know what other people were doing when I started, because it actually helps to know other people are out there. :)

Aug. 11th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Ohh.. Shiney!

I attempted more Plimoth Jacket proselytizing at the Pennsic A&S Display. :) I hope sales from Thistle Threads goes up soon.
Aug. 11th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Well, I just ordered more stuff from them... :)
Aug. 11th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, you did, and thank you!
Aug. 11th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
No problem! It was fun to chat with so many folks. Many came up to say they had worked on it too a couple of times, and some had never heard of it and were true new converts.
Aug. 11th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Mmm, pomegranates ...

I'm trying to get up the nerve to attempt this because gold passing thread has been effectively kicking my ass for years. Thanks very much for the info.
Aug. 11th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
Get ye a Japanese Needle and be not afraid of the gold. Try a small pin cushion first! :)
Aug. 11th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Was hoping you would see this Lizzie :).

Thanks for the inspiration with the new jacket, just the extra kick-in-the-butt I needed to get my blackwork coif off the ground. I'll probably stick with the gold tambor for the goldwork but need to get the Japanese needle. GST is being accumulated for the nightcap that is next on the list :)!
Aug. 11th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
I love it! This is amazing!
Aug. 11th, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC)
When I did my coif, I did the diaper work first and then outlined the flowers. I don't know why. But the outlining went so fast, that is was kind of the icing, after I had done all the years of work on the diaper fills and it was an almost an instant gratification thing to see the flowers suddenly become crisply outlined. I keep wanting to do a jacket, but am still losing weight and don't want to cut off hours of work to make it fit. I've thought about drawing it out and working from the centers of each piece outward, but I just don't know. What you are doing is beautiful. It took me 7 years to do my coif, but that was mainly because I didn't know what the heck I was doing and had to invent as I went along and would wad it up in a bag a lot and not touch it.
Aug. 11th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Ya going?
CG and I are considering fun plans that involve Emmie bossing around the guys while we embroidery geek out on the trip...
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
Hells yeah. It's going to be my birthday present to myself. :)
Aug. 11th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)

I love the gold seeds. I've got to see how you did that. It looks like bullion stitch, but I can't see doing that in gold!
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about doing some goldwork, and one question occurs. If you're going to simulate high-gold-content materials, is it better to use Admiralty bullion (low gold content, turns brown) or mylar (no gold content, but like fine gold remains bright)?
Aug. 12th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
I think using the bullion is better - the mylar is so cheap, it doesn't act at all like real gold thread. But I think the best way to decide for yourself is to do a test piece with both, and see how they look to you.

Personally, I can pick mylar out a mile away (hyperbole, but unowatimean) because it has a very distinctive bright look, and won't ever lay properly flat.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 12th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
I love to follow your projects. Your work is amazing and you ARE insane.

Oct. 1st, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)
gold work making stitching easier and more enjoyable
gorgeous work. Maybe you could use thread heaven on the gilt to make stitching smoother and decrease problems. I've been using it on silk no knots or fraying its a dream to stitch with. Cost is less than 3.00 for a container recommended for metals and specialty threads. Its hypo-allergenic, acid-free, doesn't melt, prevents tangling and fraying, and reduces hand fatigue. I think it works better than wax. Let Me know if you try it and if it works. Any question e-mail me at angelwingsw502@yahoo.com. Happy stitching Stacey
( 42 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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