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.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Post of Things to Come

There hasn't been much fiber work in the past couple of weeks as I prepared an event that I ran yesterday, so this is pretty much a promise post.   However, over the next few weeks there should be plenty to post about, since I'm really itching to get back to some stitching.

This week, I expect that my Bayeux inspired piece will be set up for work in the evenings, and I'll have it at Mudthaw (SCA East Kingdom event, March 22).  There are also a few more pieces from my trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to talk about, and some work inspired thereby to be planned.

Meanwhile, please accept this random photo of past work, which may or may not be a hint to something currently in the stew pot of ideas for future mischief I always have simmering.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Travel work

The Bayeux inspired piece is wonderful and a piece that I'm enjoying greatly -- but it is not very portable.  Sometimes my "toss it in the tote bag" project is something modern (like the baby blanket I recently finished), but I tend to also have something historically inspired as well.

My current travel piece is a double running square.  I haven't yet decided whether to call it a handkerchief, or simply a basket cover, which is what it will probably ultimately be used for.

This project started as an exercise in not dithering over the design stage.  Facing a day running errands, with big gaps between, I grabbed my copy of the reprint of Peter Quentel's Modelbuch brought out by Lynne Skinner a number of years ago, some graph paper, linen, black thread and needles.  (Sadly, I'm not sure this is still available.  It is a facsimile of Hiersemann's 1882 reprint of Quentel's 1527/1529 modelbuch).  By the end of the day's stops I had chosen a band from Plate number 56, charted it out and began stitching.

The project became my travel piece and has been worked on in an on and off manner for just over a year -- being put down often in favor of other projects not for lack of interest, but because I keep taking on projects with deadlines. 

Some shots of the current status.  I've done all the way around on the first pass (and it came out counted correctly), and am about half way back.  Yes, I have left all my ends for after the piece is done.  With double running, particularly, I prefer to do the weaving in after the work has all been done, I find it makes it easier to avoid weaving in too much in one location.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Void work with an extra

One of the pieces I saw during my visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art was this one, Accession Number 1894-30-116.  This piece includes some lovely drawn thread open work.

The current text for this piece (revised during my visit based on our discussions) place the piece as late 16th Century Italian. The ground is linen plain weave.  As seen in the photos below, it is a relatively rough fabric.  The red void work embroidery appears to be four sided stitch which has not been drawn up tightly.  The outline of the design is in back or straight stitches.  The open work is drawn thread work with the stitching done with either silk or linen thread.  The museum's listing sets it as silk, but I lean towards linen because of the difference in the appearance from the red silk, which appears to be made of numerous plies of very fine flat or filament silk, creating a thread slightly thicker than the ground fabric threads. Stitches are worked roughly "over 4."

The filling stitches in the open work bear a strong resemblance to the birds eye filling used in modern Hardanger, although the bars look wrapped rather than woven.  For comparison, see this two page guide on the Nordic Needle website.

During my visit the curator and I had a lively discussion regarding this piece as well as the others.  I was pleased that some of my input was used to revise and expand the description they originally had.  These pieces are now being labeled as having "void-work embroidery."

As I sit to examine my notes and photos, I am developing a list of questions on each piece.  A return visit may need to be made for a more complete study of these pieces to be offered.

A picture of a large portion of the piece

Some repair has been done

Through the magnifier. Some of the cutwork wrapping has fallen or broken away