attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

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).

Tags: embroidered jacket, embroidery, history, research, sewing
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