Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Knife Sheath - The Embroidering Part 1

 The first order of business is to outline all of the parts that are going to have silk shading. This involves a lot of flipping the frame over to make sure I'm on the lines, but it means I can ignore the back for the actual shading part.
In this picture to the right you can see that I chose the colors for the flowers to match the original piece without taking into account that the background purple is very different. I'll be making some adjustments when I move onto the shading. But in person these lines show up plenty to give me guidance.

Here you can see the back of the piece and how I tacked the linen with the pattern on it to the back of the silk. There's actually another piece of linen in between, because the linen was so thin. You can also see that in the end I changed the pattern at the point of the sheath. I was having a hard time fitting all the motifs, so I dropped the tulips from the design. I'll need to decide on something small to put there later.

Once everything was outlined it was time to start my favorite kind of embroidery - silk shading! I used a few different similarly sized silks (primarily Splendor, though) because that's what I had in the colors I needed. I closely followed the original coloring, but I think either the threads I'm using are slightly finer, or the images are larger. It's difficult to know scale from the pictures that are available, unfortunately.

Here the left flower (minus stem) and laurel leaves are finished, and the peacock is well on his way.
I was originally going to put more shading into the laurel leaves, but people seem to like them a lot as is, so I've decided not to mess with success in this instance.

Next I'll be finishing the peacock and the right flower, before moving on to birds and stems.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Knife Sheath - The Planning

When my good friend Elaina was given her write for the Laurel, I realized that I was pretty Booked Out. I still definitely wanted to make something to celebrate her accomplishments, though. I figured she would be very supportive of me using her as an excuse to start my next real A&S project. And so!

For catalogue information, see 1962-58-11-a,b.
I'd been looking at the concept of Wedding Knives for some time. Pretty embroidery and sharp objects all at the same time? Sign me up! It was an Elizabethan era tradition to give a newly married couple (or seemingly, just the new wife) a pair of table knives in a fancy case. Also during this period people had cutlery cases that were similarly decorative.
Cutlery from Queen Elizabeth

British Museum

Elaina had decreed that she wanted her vigil to be based on a 17th century Italian wedding reception. It just so happened that while I mostly have evidence of the English doing this particular tradition, I also have one knife sheath that is from Venice. And it also just so happened that is was my favorite.
Just look at the gorgeous silk shading and gold work throughout. It's like it was made for me to make.
The pictures don't have closeups of every part of the sheath, so I've done some guesswork and some adjustments, but I tried to stay true to the original.
One of the motifs on the cover is a pelican in its piety (which I'll definitely have to remember for a future pelican) so I've replaced that with a laurel wreath.

Now, the hardest part of this for me was how to go about getting a sheath to cover. And knives. 
I decided for this timeline to cheat on those particular aspects, and instead create something that might get some more day to day use. I took a large wooden needlecase and used wood epoxy to expand it into a sheath shape, and then used that as the base for the embroidery. 
 To the right you can see the original needlecase, the expanded sheath, as well as the pattern I created. The molded sheath was far from symmetrical, so I draped some cheap cotton over it to make sure everything would fit ok. (Here's hoping that actually works in the end...)

The next step was to get the actual pattern. I sketched out the base pattern without using the weird shapes made from my drape first (on the right) and then I transferred that to the correct shape. I the traced it all onto some thin linen.
And then, because that linen would be backing the silk, I flipped the linen over and traced again, in order to get the design facing the right way. Now, with the linen basted to the silk, I could use the lines on the linen to determine my stitches, and hopefully never have to mar the silk at all. Unfortunately I did the final basting backwards and things are facing the other way anyway, but oh well!
All in all, I think I drew this pattern 5 times, though. So glad it's small.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Thyra's Vigil Book

This latest book was made for Duchess Thyra as she was inducted into the Order of the Laurel. It was a lot of fun to do! After my foray into counted work, I retreated back into my love of shading and color for this book.

Thyra is a well know scribe who makes absolutely amazing scrolls, but I think many people outside of the dance community don't know about the passion and joy she brings there, as well. My goal was to make sure her book brought that aspect of her arts forward in people's minds.
I, of course, know nothing about dancing, so I looked to another expert: Philip White. He pointed me to a large variety of resources with many gorgeous images. The only downfall was that all of the images were people. Embroidering a person seemed like a lot of commitment.
(I'm sure you can guess where this goes.)

After some more searching around and back and forth with Philip, I decided that the first images he sent me were the best for my purposes. These were from Arbeau's Orchesography. The man on the right was chosen because apparently the move he's doing (a capriole) is one of Thyra's favorites. The woman on the left was because I wanted symmetry, and a woman, and there wasn't a whole lot of choice. There didn't seem to be any images women being active, which I'm sure could fuel a whole thesis.

The Felbrigge Psalter
Opus Anglicanum example, with split
stitch shading and underside couched goldwork
The arrangement of the cover is very loosely based on the Felbrigge Psalter, in that there are two figures interacting with each other with split stich shading used to embroider then. The laurel and heraldry are pretty serious deviations from the design, and are included because it's a vigil book. I chose this style of embroidery because I associate Thyra with the 14th century (for no real good reason, I admit) and split stitch shading was a very common technique in the more ornate embroideries of the day. Often it was combined with goldwork to make something truly spectacular...but I admit I didn't have that kind of time. A more focused recreation of the Psalter might be in my future...

The book that I was using was hand made by Marion. It's about 4.5 x 6 inches, and the embroidery is about 4 x 4 inches. Which, turns out, is pretty small for the detail, and I made some choices that don't align with the smooth lines of color you see in Opus Anglicanum. There are many small areas of color in an attempt to pack a little more detail into a small space. I also think I wasn't comfortable committing to the larger bits of color, and I need to experiment more with that in the future.

Completely unsurprisingly, hands and faces were very hard to get to look remotely like hands and faces.

 The fabric was a saturated blue (because it reminds me of some of the amazing dresses Thyra wore as Queen) but thankfully I was still able to trace the design onto it with a lightboard and pen.

All the embroidery was done with 2 strands of Splendor silk thread, except for some small details. One strand was used in the hands, for example. And for the faces I used Au v'Frenchname 100/3, which was still hard to get where I wanted it to go.

There are three shades each of red and green in the piece, and four neutral shades for the black, grey, and white areas of clothing. Two peach shades were used for the hands and faces, and two shades of brown for hair. In the picture to the right you can see that I spent a lot of time with a multitude of "parked" threads as I went between colors.

When I finished the figures and laurel, I realized that I had made the heraldic shield off center. And of course, the lines weren't erasable. You can see some white lines where I sketched in a slightly larger version.

And because Thyra loves scribes and embroiderers everywhere, her device was very simple to add. Hooray for geometric shapes!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tola's Vigil Book

In what seems to be a trend (I like this trend!) I was asked to create a vigil book for Tola. I really wanted to call to mind her work with German brickwork, even though I hate counted embroidery (and do not hate it less for having done this project. Oops.)
The colored parts of the project are worked in splendor silk, using two strands, and all of the white portions in linen thread. In hindsight I wish I had used 3 strands of the silk. The blue and red just don't cover as well as I'd like them to.
I used a pattern from the Hildescheim Cope, found at the most amazing repository for brick stitch patterns, wymarc.com. (Really, visit that website!)
I changed the colors to match Tola's device, and adjusted the positioning so that it could be a vertically symmetrical band on the top and bottom of the book cover.

I left the period of brick stitch in order to create the device itself. It's fairly simple heraldry, but it wouldn't have lent itself well to being worked in a counted way. I also really wanted to use some laid work for the trellis, because it just fit so well. So the yellow base is long satin stitches covered by the blue laid stitches. The outline and yellow circles are split stitches.
The red bit actually is worked in a brick stitch style, because it seemed a good way to tie the motif back in with the borders, but I wish it had covered the white better. I tried three strands, but that felt too bulky, and after I realized that the slightly uneven weave made two strands too little it was too late to really fix anything.

I had a lot of versions of this book that I was aiming for. I know that given all the time in the world I wanted the borders to wrap around to the back, and the background to be filled in, and a laurel wreath on the back. I also knew that probably wouldn't happen in the time I had.
Unfortunately I didn't even get past my first goalpost - the bands on the front and a finished device. (This was at least in part due to losing a week off my working time because of Real Life.) But it is made in such a way that I could finish it even though it's already in book cover form. I especially would love to finish the bands - I didn't think of the fact that the thinner fabric (because it's for counted work!) would show the folds I use to create the cover. It's covered by embroidery in the front, but the back has some very apparently fabric lines.

I learned a lot in working on this book. I went outside my comfort zone, which is a good thing to do. But I also think I was overambitious, which is less good. 
All pictures in the post are courtesy of Tola herself, because I failed to take some before the elevation occurred. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Remy's Vigil Book - Finished Product

The long awaited (for no good reason) end to the saga of Remy's vigil book.

 I miscalculated on the width of the velvet, and so the edges that wrap around the book covers are a little shorter than is ideal. The cover is a bit prone to falling off. If it's annoying for him then I'll add some width to those. But hey, it also means that it's easy to take the cover off so he can use it like a normal book without worrying about being delicate with it, if he so chooses.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 4

The center of the book cover! While I was working my way through all the goldwork on the main piece, I was also traveling around with this centerpiece. I did not take nearly as many progress shots of this, but it was pretty straightforward.
I started with silk backed with linen (you can see the basting stitches in the lower left corner of the pictures). Because this is white fabric, I could actually put the design directly on the fabric! I sketched the heraldry with a normal pencil, knowing that I would cover all the lines. I then used __________ silk thread in split stitches and filled everything in. The only part that was any more complicated than that was the wolf - in order to stop it from being a blog, I did a bit of silk shading. It's still mostly split stitches, but there are a few stitches that are "whatever fit and moved in the correct direction".

Once the silk portion was done I couched silver passing thread around all the shapes. I didn't want it to be the only non sparkling part of the book cover! This was easy enough to do for the straight lines, but the wolf and fleur-de-lis were rather more difficult. I used tweezers to make particularly sharp bends in the thread where it was needed. I also used a slightly less thick passing thread for those areas.

When the embroidery was done it was time to applique this piece onto the main piece. Pinning it in place didn't work very well - it was very thick - so it ended up slightly lopsided. I used white and blue thread to do the couching, so it wouldn't show. I then couched a looped wire around the outside of the shield. This was to finish covering the couching, as well as to even out the slightly off center shield. I specifically used the looped wire because it called to mind the thread used for the oval of the original piece.

You can also see the many spangles that were added to the piece now. I followed the basic positions of the original piece, but primarily used them in particularly open places in the design. I attached the spangles by used a piece of check purl as a bead to hold them on, which is how they were done on the original piece. Some of the areas around the shield ended up somewhat open, but not in a shape that would easily accept a spangle. In those places I used just a piece of the check purl to fill out the design.

A critique that I've heard of my previous goldwork pieces is that they aren't quite encrusted enough with metal to be properly period. This is a very valid comment - the goldwork that I'm trying to recreate goes far above and beyond what might be considered "tasteful" in our time. Generally I didn't go far enough in the past due to time constraints. This time I was bound and determined not to have any large open spaces! The last two bits of work I had to do before covering the book were also to fulfill that goal.

The space under the swords had been taunting me for some time. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but it certainly needed to be filled. I ended up with a basic design and some spangles there, which turned out fine, but it taught me that the parchment paper I use to transfer my design does more than give me lines to follow. It also keeps the passing thread up above the pile of the velvet, making the lines stand out much more. Now that I know that I'll try to avoid last minute line additions to future projects.

The other item I added was a border. The original piece almost completely filled the cover of the book, and had a border that was actually around the edge of the book cover. In this case the book was slightly larger than the design area, so I decided to put the border closer to the rest of the design and leave the very edge of the cover undecorated.

And now we're essentially done, but it still needs to be put on the actual book!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Remy's Vigil Book - The Embroidering Part 3

With the passing thread and eagle done, it was time to fill in all the empty spaces with bullion.
The gold is the same stuff I used to fill in the majority of the eagle, and the silver differs only in color.
In the original piece the filling was done at a variety of angles. Most often it was a 45 degree angle to the motif, but sometimes it was a straight line across. The most notable of the second type is the wide curling leaves near each corner.

There's not too much to actually say about this step in the process. I find it to be the most pleasant step, although is it repetitive: bring the thread up on one side of the shape, cut the bullion to the appropriate size (the hardest part by far), bring the thread down on the other side of the shape. Repeat ad nauseam. It's meditative, and is very good at flinging little bits of metal everywhere.

I filled in all the gold first, and then all the silver. Then it was onto spangles, which will be in the next post (but you can see they snuck unto the last picture!)