Miscelleny

I had plans, cunning plans, to write up a nice detailed and functional blog post about dye work with food dyes, and that’s still in the pipeline, but this month has been so scattered, I thought I’d just succumb to the inevitable and make another mish mashy post about the bits and bobs I’ve been up to. Some SCAdian stuff, mostly not. Come back next week for something with meat in it. 🙂

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I did muse at the beginning of the month that it was crazy busy, and I was not wrong. I’m going to put it out here right now that in spite of the fact that there are two days left in the month of May, short of a time turner and a clone, May’s counted work is not going to get done in May. A heady mix of too much else needing my time and attention, the fact that I chose a very ambitious amount of stitching and the acceptance that the garden is rather particular about when it goes into the ground, and embroidery really doesn’t mind waiting a week. Or three. I’m still working on Autumn and have Winter left to do.. and it’ll get there. Eventually. I’m not super stressed about it, and honestly my back will appreciate doing it in shorter stretches rather than a marathon.

I made myself hand cream (adapted modern recipe) and I really rather like it, and then started researching how to make it more SCA period. (I also then promptly misplaced my adapted recipe, so I’ll share it when/if I ever find that bit of paper. Someday I will learn that recipes on bits of paper are destined to be lost and stop doing that.) I should have stirred a bit more, but beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter (unless it was cocoa butter.. hrm.. really need to find that paper) and almond oil. Greasy as all get out, but my hands are still able to work with silk even when I chronically forget to put on gloves to work in the garden.

I made another silly garland for the door, and remembered in the process how much I hate crocheting. But it’s cute and it’s done, and ideally I don’t come up with anything else that needs crocheting anytime soon. Also.. flowers really cover me ’til autumn, I do rather win on the longevity of this one. Pattern is this one, I found it relatively straight forward, but there was a time when I taught crochet (I do like it better at tiny, surprising no one.)

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I’m generally caught up on the Peppermint Purple modern blackwork stitch along. I haven’t done this week’s yet, but it’s only been out for two days so I hardly feel as if I’m behind the pack yet. That has been a lovely respite from thinking. Every Wednesday there’s a wee bit of stitching waiting for me, already patterned out and ready. I choose a colour and listen to a podcast (Currently Runelanders, getting my gamer fix on.) and just stitch. It’s been a balm in the chaos, I’m very glad I decided to do it. I heartily recommend it, and you can start anytime. There’s no deadline for finishing, if it takes you until 2030 to get it done, so be it. 

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I also participated in a reddit needlework exchange, and while Canada Post says that my giftee’s pressie is still in transit, I got a mystery package last week. Amazon decided to make it properly a mystery and include not a whit of a clue that it was a gift package, nor anything. It took Penn reminding me that I’d signed up for the exchange to make me clue in that this was probably it! For someone just going on the vaguely sketch details of my interests provided, they did really really well! The embroidery book is super weird and quirky and kinda awesome. (Embroidery pattern for a dissected frog or skinned rabbit anyone?) The metallic thread is lovely and I really adore the little needlecase. They totally won! 

Phew, I think that mostly catches you up on the bits and pieces I’ve been working on, there’s more I’m sure, but I’ll leave myself something to ramble about next week when a real post eludes me then too. 

May is for counted work

May is actually for a lot of things, woah nelly, this month is a busy one! There’s the ongoing Peppermint Purple modern blackwork stitch along that comes out every Wednesday. I decided to sign up for a band weaving workshop (mercifully only three weeks, rather than four) that started May 1 (thank goodness inkle weaving is quick!). There’s the Athena’s thimble technique a month plan that I’m still keeping up with AND May has Fool in it, now virtually! Wowsa, that’s more than enough.

(Not to mention that silly full time job thing, and the fact that the garland on my door is still Easter and apparently we need to cook and eat food, like every day. More on that later this week.)

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However! We’re here to talk about counted work, the next alphabetically in the Athena’s Thimble category list. (Also.. can we talk about how it’s May and we’re still in the C’s? Embroidery categories are not well spaced in the alphabet, just pointing that out.)

I love counted work. It’s a happy relaxing place for me, and has been since the counted cross stitch hey day in the 80s. (Which is, to be fair, where I started embroidering, so it holds a happy space in my heart. Get the snooty outta your soul now at the 80s collection of cross-stitch. Much like the knitting phase that came after it, it got a bajillion people with needle and thread to hand, and while some moved to the next trendy thing when it came up, some became devoted and brilliant embroiderers. Just because it’s popular doesn’t make it suck. Alright, rant over.)

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I went poking in some favourite and beloved model books from period. Because the late 1500s totally had printed pattern books, and they literally had charts of flowers and critters and edgings and whatever else your little heart desired to stitch (or knit, or weave, or .. that’s a different blog post!). The one I decided on was Federic Vinciolo – “Singvliers Et Novveaux Povrtraicts” . It was first printed in 1587, although this is a copy of the 1606 printing. I’ve already embroidered five of the critters in my sampler in 2016, and I solidly considered doing one of those again (I really did enjoy them!), but in scrolling through I found seasonal deities. And well, that decided it. So my counted work for the month is going to be all four, because I hate having free time.

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Nitty gritty details for those curious about such things, I’m working in a single strand of 60/2 weaving silk on 30 count evenweave linen. It’ll be a snuggly fit into my 6″ square, but I’ve measured and counted and recounted and remeasured and it should fit. Two of the silks are dyed with cochineal (different mordants? I think? I wish I’d kept notes, but any tags on these skeins got lost), one with madder and one with weld. Everything has been dyed by me at one point or another. I have learned that 4 more years into middle age now requires a magnifier, where it didn’t in 2016. Woe. If you need me, I’ll be counting somewhere.

April is for Couching

You know, there are so many layers to that title, considering so many of us have spent April quite literally on our couches. (Not everyone, I know, and kudos to those keeping society running right now!) However, April was also all about couching and laid work in my year long sampling of the East Kingdom’s embroidery guild categories. There’s a classic extant couched piece, and it seemed a no brainer to just run with it. Enter the Bayeux Tapestry.

I went digging through, really giving a good look at the tapestry for the first time in a long time, possibly ever really, and noticed the little critters along the edges. And in particular the little gryphon who was perched there, sucking on a wingtip, looking as if really he just needed a blankie and a hug, and I found my critter for April.

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And then life happened, and brains are jerks and I hemmed and hawwed and procrastinated for 3 weeks. I peered at the tab now and then. I looked at my printout, carefully manipulated to the right size. I considered the wool I’d pulled from stash to use. I put it all into a basket to have it nicely together, I got little Buddy traced onto my fabric. (And then washed my fabric because somehow it got a spot on it while sitting quietly on the table.. seriously world? Fine. Bah.) I read every tutorial online about Bayeux stitch I could find. I reconsidered my thread choices. I realized that it was too small for a hoop (I didn’t want to have hoop on the design, I really do hate hoops), so added extra fabric to the edges for the hoop to sit on. I even started plotting May’s project, telling myself that it’s okay if you skip this one and come back to it. Life really does go on. Get the easy win on May, and then come back and do bits and pieces on April’s, it’ll be fine, the embroidery world won’t hate you forever.

Then, me and myself sat down one morning over coffee for a little chat. A ‘hello brain, what’s the actual issue here’ and a significant period of navel gazing later, there was yarn in the needle and a ‘just go on, just do a couple stitches, then go get your evenweave for May’s project’. And somehow, by the time the coffee was done, there was a wing filled in. And it didn’t look awful. And apparently I still /did/ know how to choose thread and embroider, weird how I didn’t forget all that when the world got wonky.

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It was possibly the most pathetic of messages to a couple of friends that I knew would sugar coat any critique to the point of frosted flakes (but still give the critique) with that first bit. I knew full well that I was not in a brain space for anything but sugar coated frosted bombs, but there was plenty of ‘good job!’ and ‘keep going!’ and so with reassurances in brain.. the rest of the piece came together literally in a few days.

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I can see quite distinctly where I started getting the hang of things and I wouldn’t call it my best work. I really really wanted to use the red (more of my dye work although the other colours are not), even though it was half the size, but it worked up fine doubled. What it isn’t, is particularly good contrast, so it all looks very ‘the same’ in photos, and honestly is pretty subtle in real life too. Which is.. fine? It’s fine enough. It’s not spectacular, but it’s fine. I’ll take fine right now. Onwards and upwards!

Odds and sods

It feels like a great many of my posts could be titled this at the moment, although I’m grateful to be feeling a bit more like my creative self again. Apparently the whack a mole I’ve been trying to play with the brain weasels is working, for the moment. I was pretty sure I’d been doing nothing at all, because I haven’t done anything especially exciting, but it adds up. I tell others, all the time, that everything counts (sorry for the Depeche Mode earworm), and apparently I don’t listen to myself very well.

So what HAVE I been doing while trying to get myself back on some sort of new normal ish? Let’s wander through the projects littering my house. (As a note, apparently having people over is what keeps the projects from Taking Over.. the spouse is lucky I haven’t taken over his spot on the couch yet, but it’s a near thing.)

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The scrappy side, full of ends.

There’s been some plain knitting, as best as I can manage on the plague shawl. It started out using up what looked like a failed warp in an inherited stash, and now has been just using up bits and pieces of whatever else is in the stash in about the right colours. I can’t work on it much, my arms hate every second of it, and it’s going to be CRAZY warm (I started it when my house was FREEZING to sit in all day), just in time for the weather to warm up. It is literally a triangle made by knit 1, yarn over, knit to the end of the row. Continue until you run out of yarn, or patience. Wait, no.. keep going when you run out of patience, you’ll run out of that early, cause damn it’s boring and those rows get super long by the end.

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There’s been some modern textile collage, which was something I did long ago with an embroidery mentor. Basically if Sharron was teaching at our modern needlecraft guild, I took her classes. She is an amazing artist, and I wish I had a 1/10th her skills with a sewing machine. (Not enough to practice.. I happily stick to hand stitching). A modern embroidery page is doing mini challenges every week, and one of them was a collage, and I couldn’t resist the nostalgia. I’m trying not to overthink it, it’s not a stunning masterpiece, but I appreciated the distraction working on it. I’ve only done week 2’s challenge, even if they are starting week 6, but I appreciate watching everyone else’s work.

I have been baking and cooking.. basically every day. Nothing overly exciting, mostly dinner every night, and lunch every day. Granola and yogurt and candied peel and bread, so much bread, another sourdough starter, more bread, cake and curries and pottage and muffins and and.. cooking and baking has been my standby for creative work when I didn’t have brain for string. I’d say I can bake in my sleep, but I over yeasted my bread this morning when putting the dough together before coffee, but somehow it all has survived and it is perfectly tasty bread.

The mending box is.. damn near empty. Apparently global pandemics make me want to darn socks and patch holes in skirts. The clothes that need major alterations, well they might sit for quite some time to come, but that’s besides the point.

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A wee tiny bit of knitted lace, to potentially end up on another textile collage that I can see in my head, which is generally a death knell to it actually looking anything like that, and destined to be disappointing, but we’ll see. It might end up just being another random bit of lace hanging out in stash.

I’m sure there’s been more, but those are the highlights that I can remember right now. What have you been up to?

Kingdom A&S display

Kingdom A&S. One of my (unsurprising) favourite events of the year, and because the world is trying to end itself, we’re not there. It should be tomorrow, I should be madly packing and anxiously waiting for the workday to end so we can get on the road, and only one of those things is happening. (Work from home does not make the anticipation of the weekend any less, I’m discovering.)

However, I was going to show the world the current state of my embroidery sampler for the year, three months in. And then I realized that I haven’t even shown the blog the finished pieces for March, or February! Hard to believe that it’s 1/4 of the way done, although I need to get my skates on to pick something for April. Did you know that’s NEXT WEEK!? YIKES!

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Appliqué, Blackwork and Canvaswork

There we are. The first three, hanging out side by each. I have not yet decided how I want to display all twelve when they are done. I suspect one big hanging of some sort, but honestly, where would I put it? It’s why they haven’t been finished off more than this, because I don’t know what to do with them.

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Derpy deer in his final glory.

The one I’ve learned the most on was derpy deer. Appliqué is totally new to me, and it had the steepest learning curve. The next two months were techniques I’m familiar with, at least in theory, so while it was a new pattern, or a variation on a theme, it was familiar.

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Fastest by FAR was March’s canvas work. It took me a week. I can absolutely see why it’s a great choice for covering walls with, it goes so incredibly fast. Get that first pattern line in, and then it is absolutely mindless follow the yellow brick road along. It was also the one I’ve enjoyed doing the least, probably for exactly that reason. (Although in the current mental climate of uncertainty and chaos, I’d probably welcome it, so take that for what it’s worth).

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I love finished derpy deer, but there was language and freak out on the way through to get there. Blackwork was just.. blackwork. I surrendered on plaited braid stitch and just went with normal braid stitch, which I think was a good call at the size I was working at, but now I do have an embroidery stitch nemesis to reload the boss fight on.

Next month is couched work, and I think it’s going to be Bayeux stitch, named for the tapestry, and if you name the stitch after the tapestry, it would be silly for me not to pull my inspiration FROM the tapestry itself. Stay tuned for that!

March is for Canvas work!

Somehow, we have ended up in March already! Yikes! I did manage to finish up blackwork with a few days to spare, and then promptly used those days to madly start on March’s work. Blackwork reveal next week! Tromping through the alphabet, we’re on to Canvas Work!

Canvas work includes embroidery such as needlepoint and bargello where the canvas is completely covered by the design. This is often rugs, cushions, or wall hangings. Sturdy things, usually done in wool. I spent some time asking other embroiderers for their favourite canvas works from period, and there was plenty of pretty needlepointed cushions and the like, but one friend is on a crusade about SCA period bargello. 

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Parham House, West Room

Bargello is that zig zag flame pattern that we all know and love from bad 1970s textiles when it had a glorious revival. It’s also known as florentine work, or hungarian point, or flame stitch. It becomes quite popular in the 17th century but there is a single example with a firm date pre-1600. It’s located in the West Room of Parham House in Sussex, UK, an Elizabethan manor house built in 1577. The hangings are described as ‘16th century Italian wool wall hangings’. A whole lot of time with Google later, and I found a single close up shot: (in a gardening magazine of all places. Gardens Illustrated, November 2017)

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Tulip garden inspiration, apparently

With my inspiration piece decided upon, it’s time to look at how I actually want to go about doing this. I have a couple of potentially suitable canvases, and a wide selection of wool. I have both 18 count canvas (brown in the photo) and 22 count canvas (white in the photo), and experimented with various wools on each. 6” is not a lot of space to show much design, which makes every stitch count. Adding to the pros and cons of each is the choice of wool. The 18 count canvas takes tapestry wool well, which I already own in a variety of colours. The 22 count canvas takes a vintage knitting wool best, which I only have in white and would need to dye myself.

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Test wool

The next task was to manage to get something at least inspired by the extant piece charted up to have an idea on what I was going to stitch, and hopefully use how well the pattern repeat sits in the different count of fabric to decide between the two. 

I printed out the garden magazine at about the right size to get approximately one repeat to sit in my 6” square. Because the photo is so dark, it was not the best print, but sharpie to the rescue to make it visible on the light box. I then could trace the general shape onto graph paper. That general shape got translated loosely into a charted version. Considering how the pattern translates, I expect that the original fabric was not even weave (i.e., not the same number of threads per inch in the warp and weft), which is interesting. Counting out how many stitches I’d have at 22 count vs 18 count, I’m happier with the slightly more stitches. Unfortunately, that means that my next task is dyeing yarn. Plot twist!

Blackwork progress

Y’know, I was all ready to post a couple blog posts with other things I’d been working on, in some sort of delusion that I was going to have tons of time to work on things other than the 12 months of embroidery project. Hunh. Apparently I am bad at ‘quick’, and life doesn’t pause just because I have a desire to do more projects. So this might be a blog that’s got a whole helluva lot of embroidery for the next while. I promise that I do other things, but they aren’t terribly interesting (or finished enough for photos).

Alright, so February is Blackwork, and when last we chatted about it, I’d chosen my inspiration piece. After some fiddling with the photocopier to get it to a nice size on my 6″ square of linen (nothing fancy, retrieved out of the scrap bin probably from a chemise), the lightbox came into play to trace it onto my fabric. I am not a fancy tracer (and somehow I always manage to screw it up), but micron pen is my godsend here. It’s much easier to do little dots than drag the tiny tip along the fabric, but whatever works for you. (Dot tip acquired from a teacher whose name I’ve forgotten at Known World Fibre in Calontir a few years back. Shout out, thank you!) (While I’m asiding here.. y’know, it’s often the tiny offhanded comments that stick with me long after a class, not necessarily anything about the class material itself. Hanging out with other artistans who do what you do is VITAL.. but I’ve commented on that before.)

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No matter that I’m tracing from a very clear image, eternally my roses are special snowflakes, but still, time pressure is a thing, and so I press on. They are clearly just heritage breed, non GMO roses. Clearly. I decided to do the outline in backstitch, just to be different from the split stitch I did my coif in. The thread is a 60/2 weaving silk that I dyed with cochineal a while back, and after a tight race of votes at an event, the pink won. It is really nice to embroider with, tightly spun and smooth, but not stiff and unyielding. I haven’t embroidered with it before, but I will again (and again, and again I expect in this year).

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Outlines done, now it’s time to fill in some bits. There’s three main styles of fill in coif blackwork. There’s the little seed stitch highlights, there’s the dense geometric fill (The same fills that the modern world claims is the ONLY blackwork, but I rant about that a lot.), and the last fill style is to leave it blank. I decided to do my leaves in seed stitch, and my trio of roses in three different fills, and then leave my little leaves blank. Full spectrum of examples! Most coifs pick one and use it for the whole thing, rather than combining, but I’m leaning into this example thing, so we’re getting the buffet plate.

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When choosing my fills, I knew exactly where I was headed. Over to Countess Ianthé’s book of fills, mostly historical, but beautifully charted and where I knew exactly where to find them. She’s got two volumes out, and all three of mine came from Volume One. I’ve used them before, I have favourites and I got to plunk a few into this sample. I did do them as counted work, over 2 threads of linen, using my shiny new magnifier. By this point, it was only mid-February and things were going great guns, I started having visions of being done in a day or two and getting a couple week’s ahead on canvas work! Life had other plans. I’ll show you braid work next week.

February is for Blackwork

First off, what is it? It’s the name of a style of embroidery that has a few forms, historically and tends to mean just one of those forms modernly.

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Reversible edging

It is stitched with black thread, except when it is not. It’s counted work, except when it’s not. It is reversible, except when it’s not. It is only done with double running stitches, except when it is not. You get the picture here.

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Peppermint Purple SAL Week 5

The first style, and the one that is almost exclusively used modernly, is counted blackwork. This can be reversible, or not. (Modernly, usually not). It is very linear, made up of repeated motifs on evenweave fabric. It is what one thinks of in Tudor collars and cuffs. It can be stitched with backstitch, or double running stitch (also called holbein stitch). Backstitch is not generally reversible, double running stitch generally is. The best resource I’ve ever found for the nitty gritty of double running stitch can be found on Kim Brody Salazar’s blog (Countess Ianthé, d’Averoigne): String or Nothing. Blackwork (the counted fill variety) seems to be coming into a current spate of modern popularity, if some current stitch alongs are anything to go by.

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 My coif and spangles

This is not what I’m using for my February’s blackwork piece for the Athena’s thimble sampler. I’ve done blackwork before in my coif, (which apparently I never blogged about, but there’s a shot of it in progress there, and pictured above.) and I’m going with another motif from a different inspiration coif. The free stitch blackwork on coifs is generally done with your favourite outline stitch: backstitch, split stitch, stem stitch, plaited braid stitches are the usual ones, and then the centres are either filled in with either small counted motifs, or shaded with just little seed stitches. Sometimes there are pearls, sometimes spangles. Usually it’s monochrome, sometimes it’s not. 

This coif is from the V&A, it’s listed in Digby’s Elizabethan Embroidery as being plaited stitch, stem stitch and back stitch and entirely done in black silk. I’m aiming to use some bits of dye experiments, so cochineal dyed silk on a scrap of linen fabric, and the current plan is plaited braid for the outline, and then split stitch interior outlines (maybe backstitch, we’ll see how the spirit moves me), with 3 leaves getting fills and 2 leaves getting seed stitch shading. Now we’ll see how much of this cunning plan survives contact with reality of stitching!

Derpy deer

January has come to an end, and with it the first month of my Athena’s Thimble sample of the month grand plan. I wrote about the inspiration and getting started a few weeks ago here on the blog. I really had to get my skates on to get it finished by the end of the month, but Jan 30th the final stitch went in.

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Derpy deer in his final glory.

The basic details: Wool cloth (one colour dyed by me), linen thread, linen cord and silk thread. I am really pleased with how he turned out. A few modifications from the original, and some thoughts on the technique and challenges I bumped into. (aka ways I screwed it up.)

There was a lot of debate at the event I was showing it at about why on earth anyone would do this, when it’s a whole lot easier to just set the appliqué on top like a normal person. It does keep it from being overly thick, it helps maintain the hand of the fabric, both of which seem frankly irrelevant in a wall hanging. It is very fabric conservative, there’s next to no waste, but that also feels pretty irrelevant in a piece that feels gilded leather is a reasonable outlining cord. Ultimately, I think we came down to ‘someone realized they could, so they did’. If you have better reasons, although that’s a good one, feel free to share!

The most obvious change is size. This is about half the size of the original, and as such made from some extremely tiny (and fragile) spots. Everything was tiny, and while I am quite happy to work at tiny scale (Quote from the spouse: You do bonsai textiles.), this got so tiny, my cloth was losing structural integrity and I had to take off my glasses and squint to see the backstitches. (I am profoundly and outrageously nearsighted. I almost stabbed myself in the nose with the needle, it was that close.)

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Speaking of my cloth, I should have felted it even more than I did. I would have sworn that the cloth was well fulled when I started, but tiny little curves and tiny little tacking stitches to hold it to another tiny bit of wool, and I found all the places the the threads just pulled away from the rest of the fabric and I had to pray for structure and for something to grip. It was maddening. The dyed wool was better, I’d been rather <cough> aggressive in my dye work and felted it a bit more, and that was a feature.

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Green sharpie to the rescue

Accept that you are not going to cut both versions identically, and know that you are about to do some trimming. Be grateful that wool has some stretch and give to it, so the wee gaps just sort of snuggle in together. Trying to mark my template onto wool was miserable. I used a sharpie on the lighter colour (that worked fairly well), but on the dark colour? Nothing showed. I didn’t have a white gel pen (on the shopping list for next time), so I literally used the template like a stencil and rubbed chalk all over. I cut it out and hoped for the best. It worked better than I feared, but there was a lot of trimming up of details. It is for jobs like this that the Cricut was invented.

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The original used gilded leather cut in approx 1 mm strips to outline it. I considered learning how to gild leather, then I considered painting leather with gold paint, and then I remembered half scale and I was not going to cut anything to 0.5 mm reliably. I used linen cord in a bright gold colour. Perfect. A really fuzzy linen cord in the perfect colour. Alright, beeswax will fix that.. and it sure did, and was perfect. It also shed so badly, my little chunk of beeswax looks like it needs a shave. Worth it.

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Fuzzy beeswax

I would absolutely do this again, preferably at a more sane size, once I got past my ‘omg, I am gonna break it!’ brain, it was pretty fun to do.

Confident threads

Alright, I am wholly a media child of the 80s, because typing that word makes me hum a deodorant jingle.. but I digress.  It has been a long time, a very long time really, since I enveloped myself in the modern needlework world. Easily more than a decade since I was part of a mundane needlework guild (who are sadly closing this year! Hard to believe! But I digress again), and I’ve spent the last five or so years pretty solidly amongst historical embroiderers. (Amongst many other bits of handwork, but this example is embroidery atm).

I am going to also preface this by acknowledging that in any group, the folks who are happily going along, doing their thing are not the ones posting the most. They get their pattern, they stitch it up, they admire the progress, they move on with their life. There are thousands (literally!) of stitchers doing exactly that in this stitch along.

The amount of hand wringing, stress and uncertainty is heart wrenching. For context, this is a modern designer (Shout out to Peppermint Purple, who was utterly not expecting this to go viral) doing a blackwork sampler, with a small square of counted blackwork fill released every week for the year. 52 weeks, 52 fills. I will say that they are very accessible for beginner stitchers, literally you look at the chart, and you make your thread lines on the even weave fabric look like that. This is 52 weeks of backstitch. The designer gives suggested colours for each block (different one every week!), but many people are personalizing the piece by selecting their own colours. (so much rainbow variegated. So. Much.) Based on the posts, choosing those colours, and the colour of one’s base fabric, is an act of life and death. Choosing what brand of embroidery thread, or other kinds of thread, how many threads, what count of cloth.. all are decisions that cannot be made without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Phew. It’s exhausting just watching people fret.

For the record here’s my thoughts on thread. Your work does not care what the label said. Crochet thread, tatting thread, embroidery thread, sewing thread, knitting thread.. the piece does not care if you embroider with tatting thread. (Or knit with sewing thread, or sew with crochet thread.. you get the picture.) The handwork police are not going to bang on your door and take away your birthday.

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Crochet cotton, sewing thread, knitting yarn

Your work cares very deeply for the properties of that thread, and often (but not always), the name on the label gives clues about those properties. Tatting thread is, usually, very smooth and tightly twisted and quite thin, often quite similar to sewing and quilting thread. (really, all of those are same style, the names are mostly about the size, because goodness forbid this not all be hideously confusing.) Embroidery thread, at least the gloriously common DMC 6 strand embroidery floss, those strands are more loosely spun than tatting cotton, and squish a bit more, so they take up more space and cover better, and are often ever so faintly fuzzier. Perl cotton? Thicker, squishier, more loosely spun again, great coverage. Knitting yarns take that to an extreme. They are comparatively very loosely spun, and super squishy, because that makes a glorious cozy sweater. Can you embroider with them? Sure can! Just know that they are not going to hold up well to getting pulled through fabric over and over again, and you are going to have to be gentle with the twist. It will LOOK different if you embroider with knitting yarn, or weaving yarn, or DMC floss, or tatting cotton. None of them are BAD, but they are all DIFFERENT. Pick what look you want, and run with it. It’s your piece. You need to be happy with it, not the internet.

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2 squares of floss, 1 square of sewing thread.

Historical embroiderers have, largely, figured that out. We have no convenient package from the designer saying ‘use this count of evenweave cotton, and these colours of DMC floss, and here’s the pattern’. We generally have a moderately terrible photograph, sometimes a really amazing photograph and some guesses, and a lot of ‘well, I tried this, and hey look, it was a miserable failure compared to the picture, but next time…’ We stress about ‘how did they DO that!?’ rather than what colours to choose. (I have no illusions that we don’t stress, just different things.) I hope for the modern stitchers, those who are so worried about a few stitches find their zen. It’s a cute little sampler so far, and now you’ve been properly spoilered up to week 3.

P.S. Dear Modern Stitchers.. a few points. 1) messy backs are have a long and glorious historical tradition, stop telling people that the Elizabethans started the neat back obsession, we can stick that blame on the Victorians where it solidly belongs. 2) Blackwork was not ‘historically done always on sheer cloth’, and it was not ‘historically done in black because that was the most colourfast’. (Warn the natural dye folks before you say such things so we don’t have a mouthful of coffee at the time. Cause yeah.. no. Just no.) and was not ‘always reversible’. You can think it all you want, but the archaeological record disagrees. 3) When you take a strand of thread and you fold it in half and then use those TWO strands to make a stitch with, you are using 2 strands of thread. When you complain that it looks so messy, and we say ‘your thread looks thick, are you using two strands?’ You answer ‘yes’. The words ‘no, just one strand but doubled’ translates to ‘yes, I am using two strands’. Thank you.