Monday, July 6, 2015

Some changes -- and future plans

Last week was my return to this blog.  I have also combined my "Historic textiles" and "Modern textiles" (Shuttle Needle) blogs here in one place.  Across the top are links to the labels for my "main categories."  Every post will have one (or more) of those. That list may grow a little, but not by much.  Over to the right is the entire list of labels I use.

My hope is once a week posting, on Monday evenings.  Why Monday?  Well, it gives me the weekend to come up with a topic, and it's something to look forward to Monday for -- and I hope it will become something to look forward to.

While talking about plans, here's my current "on deck" list of projects, some or all of which will be discussed in future posts.  A number of these are for people, so my descriptions may be a little vague, and there won't be progress posts -- but a few are actually for me, and there may be progress posts.

Historic and SCA items

  • The Marshall Hanging.  This is the name I've given to my slowly progressing Bayeux Tapestry based piece.  Slowly progressing because it is large and requires a certain level of time available to make getting out the apparatus for working on it viable.  It does have a goal now, though, of late Spring 2016, so there may well be some progress posts on that.
  • Medallion for a queen.  No progress posts on this one with an end of summer deadline. This will be a little more portable, though not "toss in my bag and work on at lunch." level of portable.
  • Motif(s) for a friend.  A slightly earlier deadline, but more portable, this will probably be my work project once started. 
  • Fancier garb for us both.  There should be a post shortly about the over gown I recently finished, and I have some actual plans for the lovely linen and silk I own, now that I can find it (see below).
Modern Stuff
  • Work room for Kandy.  This project is almost complete -- at least for now.  Possibly next week's post will be the great unveiling.  I've been re-doing my work room gradually.  The new shelves are up, the furniture has been moved around.  All that's left is to finish putting stuff away. 
  • Salto gloves -- a pair of fingerless mitts I started on vacation which have been on hold at the very end until recently. Just received the additional yarn needed to finish binding off and do the thumb on the second glove -- this will be a post pretty soon. 
  • Vest for Joe -- This one is done but for the blocking and putting on the buttons.
  • Yellow alpaca shawl -- a knitting project that I've been looking forward to.  I bought some beautiful yellow alpaca at Rhinebeck last year and am itching to get to knit it up.  
  • Clothing for work.  Ok, this probably *won't* be blogged, but I really need to make some more skirts -- and maybe even take the info I learned on making a pattern and work on some tops, too.  Hm, maybe it will be a blog post... wait and see. 
There will also be some posts about pieces I've done in the time since this was an active blog, posts about research, teaching posts.... I have lots of ideas of posts, and several started in "draft" just waiting to be finished and scheduled to post.  If I get way ahead, maybe I'll make it a twice a week thing -- but for now, check back Monday evenings.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Better by Hand

Sometimes, hand sewing is better. Both my husband and I wear coifs with our SCA garb.  now, I can buy coifs -- there are several sources for nicely made ones -- but that can get pricey, especially for something that is basically a simple item. A number of years ago I picked up a pattern for a three piece coif -- two side panels and a middle gusset.  It's a pretty simple pattern. 

The one drawback of this pattern is that it requires a very long seam attaching a straight piece to a curved piece.  Curved sewing on the sewing machine is ... well, lets just say it is not my strong suit.  For this reason, the whole wardrobe of coifs I envisioned did not come about.  

Fast forward to late last year.  I was packing up to attend an event, and realized that I was without a portable piece of hand work.  As I stood in my work room contemplating this problem, I spied a piece of white linen just about the right size to cut into pieces for a coif (it takes 6 -- four sides and two gussets -- to make the lined coif we both prefer).  I quickly cut out the pieces and made sure that needles and linen thread were in my basket and we headed out. 

During that event, I pinned the pieces together (two sides to each gusset -- and even managed to get them all pointing in the correct direction) and started sewing.  After completing the first seam with a simple running stitch, I decided that I wanted finished seams.  With no iron at the event, I carefully finger pressed the seam I had just completed open.  I was particularly pleased at how well it opened, with almost none of the puckering such a curved seam generally has on the machine.  Since the coif was to be lined, I did not fold under the seam edges, but simply tacked them down with a running stitch.  Since the thread matches the fabric, that stitch barely shows on the right side.

Over the next few weeks whenever I wanted something to do with my hands I picked up this coif, gradually stitching and finishing all four side piece to gusset seams.  I think pinned the two pieces right sides together and sewed them all around -- remembering to leave an opening to turn.  Once I turned the coif right side out I carefully stitched closed that opening, then topstitched all around the edge. 
Top stitching resulting from seam finishing

My husband is pretty happy with this coif.  I never did put tie cords on it, and there are some changes I'll make on the next one, but this certainly proved to me that sometimes hand sewing is the better choice. 

Side view

Back view

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tiny stitches?

It was a bad week for textile work and thought.  I did a little embroidery (got the double running portion of my travel piece, discussed here, done) and nothing in the way of research or study.

Instead, I will talk about a piece seen in a museum, more or less randomly from my photos. The more-or-less random selection is Fragment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a 14th to 15th century wool applique from Islamic Egypt. The museum's info does not indicate what it is or where it was used.  The threads at the top make me thing that it was maybe inset in a larger piece. What I find really striking is the size of the couching threads.  When we do applique today, we take little bitty stitches so that they don't show.  But even in this piece they don't show much, until you get pretty close.  

From a distance it looks relatively neat.
 Then, when you get a closer look, you start to really see those couching threads.
Finally, up close, the threads are quite obvious (as are the overhead lights in the study room in the glass over the piece). 

When a piece is going to be seen only from a distance (a banner or a hanging maybe), perhaps the important thing is to get it done and have it secure. 

Something to think about... as I make my tiny stitches to keep my work neat.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not always red.

It is true, of course, that many examples of void work embroidery are red (including the two I've already discussed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, here and here).  In fact, red is such a predominant color for "Assisi" work that some manuals will specifically say that it is always red.

Not so.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display a fantastic piece in blue and yellow. Yup, blue and yellow. Blue outlines and defines the figures and yellow fills the ground.  It's a lovely large piece and I visit it every time I'm up there.   It is this piece (accession number 51.61.2).  Trust me.  The photo on their website is black and white, but the piece is in blue and yellow silk on linen

Every time I visit the piece I find something different to enjoy.  The fat little putti, the lovely leaves, the stems, the fringe on the bottom and one edge.

One visit my husband found me bouncing, just a little bit -- kind of rocking up on my toes and coming back down.  I had just realized that I could identify at least three different "hands" or embroiderers' work in the piece.  It is a large piece (53 1/2 inches long),  and this suggests that it was done in a workshop.

So, if you have a chance to go to the Met, go to Gallery 503 and visit my favorite piece.

Why, yes, I have taken many pictures.  Here are a couple:
Taken at an angle next to the case, showing some of the length
The bottom left corner, showing the lovely fringe
A section of the leaf design, look at those darling animals

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Working and teaching

Saturday was the SCA event Mudthaw.  This year I participated as part of the "Artisans' Row" -- a gathering of artisans working on projects and teaching about their arts. I was set up with my Bayeux Tapestry inspired piece.  I only had one student for learning embroidery, but many people stopped by to talk about both my piece and the Bayeux Tapestry in general.

I discussed different aspects with different people, but there were some common points:

  • My piece is the same approximate height as the original, per information in most of the descriptive books about the Bayeux Tapestry;
  • my motifs are the same approximate size as those on the original, thanks to the fact that the David Wilson book provides information about their reproduction percentage (photocopy motifs in that book at 185% for approximate actual size;
  • the woman in my design is actually larger than the woman she is taken from...all three women in the original Bayeux Tapestry are smaller than the men around them.  I am modern enough that that was not going to happen.
Here I am working on the piece.  Because of all the talk time (which was great), I didn't get a lot of stitching done, but some did get done.  (Later I also worked on my double running basket cover and did get a fair amount of that done, I expect it to be in the "done" column soon). 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The return of Medici

Several years ago, DMC disappointed us all by announcing they would no longer be producing Medici crewl weight thread.  This is the wool thread that many people (of which I am one) use for Bayeux style laid and couched work.  I quickly laid in a large supply of the colors I am using for my Bayeux inspired piece (first discussed in this post). 

Recently I learned that another company is making Medici thread.  According to the folks at Threadneedle Street, the thread comes from the same source that DMC used, is being spun at the same mill DMC used and is dyed using DMC's dye formulas. Threadneedle has a full page about the Medici, here.  Most of the original DMC colors are being made again, although some have been discontinued and some new ones have been added. The page lists all the colors and indicates which ones are no longer being made and which are new -- by color number only. Sadly, color charts are not available at this time and the photo they have up of 13 new colors is not in number order, and the colors are not necessarily accurate. 

Of course, I had to order some.  I called on Friday afternoon (for me, it was morning for them in Washington State) and spoke with Denise Davis.  I could have ordered on their secure ordering system, but I wanted to talk about the new colors a little bit.  I ordered one each of the colors I am using in my Bayeux piece, and then asked her to send me three of the new colors.  Based on the photo that is on their website I asked for the yellow, the medium blue and the lavender.

The threads arrived today.  (See, I knew there was a reason I didn't post yesterday).  Below are some comparison shots of the duplicated colors.  The three new ones are a bit different from the colors on their website, and I have not yet photographed them; they are lovely as well, though.

I think the colors are very close, with what difference there is being less than one might find in dye lot differences.  A couple are spot on and a couple are just that "little bit" different. That does not worry me, though.  As long as I don't mix skeins in one motif I don't the miniscule difference will matter.  Certainly having threads be slightly different is within the realm of possibility for period work -- I doubt that all of any one color used on the Bayeux Tapestry was dyed at the same time!

And now, for some pictures:

First, a shot of five of the colors.  The original on the left and the new on the right of each pair.

The next four shots are of each pair, in the same order, left to right.  Original on the bottom, new on the top.


Finally, some close ups.  

There are five pre cut strands in each 25 meter skein (approx. 27.3 yards)

Here, a comparison -- the new on top and the original below.

Finally, through a magnifier.  Again, new on top, original below. 

I'll do some stitching with some of the new this weekend and report back on my impressions, but so far, I think I'm going to be very happy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fingerless Mitts

I've come to really enjoy fingerless mitts.  I've made several pairs.  They're quick to knit and small enough to carry in my purse.  The rounds are short also so they're perfect for picking up while waiting in line or in a doctor's office.

Not long ago I finished these little fingerless mitts. They were from a kit I purchased last year at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber festival.  They're short, and the thumb is just an opening.  The top barely covers the knuckles.  They're just perfect for those days when I'm typing a lot which always seems to make my wrists get cold.  I was concerned that the beads would bother my wrists when typing, but they have not.  The pattern is Melody Fingerless Mittens by Kathryn Ashley-Wright and can be found on Ravelry. This pair is from brown Jojoland Melody Superwash.

Another pair recently finished is these purple and blue ones. They really should be blocked to show the lovely slightly lacy pointed design at the cuff, but I haven't done it yet. The pattern is "Short n Sweet Fingerless Mitts" by Anne Sahakian (also available through Ravelry). The yarn is Patons Kroy Socks FX in "Cameo."  It is the same yarn I used for my "Afternoon Tea" shawl -- the top part of it anyway.  When I made the shawl I had only one skein of the yarn so I finished the shawl with a coordinating solid.  Later I found more of the multi yarn so I was able to make these mitts -- and I have enough to make socks to go with the ensemble as well.  This pair comes up higher on my fingers, and more thumb to it.  I enjoyed making this pair, although if I do the pattern again I will alter the ribbing at the top of the fingers and the thumb, it was much too "fiddly."

Here's a picture of the shawl while it was still on the blocking wires.

The pictures don't make it clear, they really do work well together.

I expect I'll make more fingerless mitts.  They're quick and easy and very useful at work. I find I like having them even on the hottest days of the summer as my hands and wrists often get cold during long sessions at the keyboard.