So we come to the end. I’ve skipped ahead a few steps in this post so you’ll see all the final stages.
After finishing the woven picots, all the main sections were done, and it was left to tart it up a bit. First, I couched in the cap.
I used two different colours, in groups of 4 threads, one on top, and one underneath.
Then I decided to use another of my lovely hand dyed variegated cottons in a browny, brambley colour scheme, first to couch a line to the base, tidying up the leaves and base, and then used 2 strands to do lots of french knot texture to look like soil. This worked beautifully with the varigation of the threads to give a really natural depth.
Tune in tomorrow for the final piece’s full frontal glamour shot.
When I first saw this stitch described in the RSC Stumpwork book, I got really excited. It was really the stitch that confirmed I needed to do another toadstool just so I could employ it.
Again, when I think of traditional Stumpwork I think of fancy little things like this. Some 3-pronged detached woven picots to be precise.
I used some gorgeous hand-dyed variegated dark green cotton. They were actually super simple to make. I thought I would leave them detatched but realised they would just flop to the front so put a couple of little holding stitches in there to make them undulate. Also realised my stupid mistake of transferring the (indelible) design of the outline of these to the fabric, even though it would be exposed by the detached leaves. So I coloured it in in pencil – it becomes a shadow!
At this point in the piece, I sat back and took stock. I realised that what at the start looked like a nice gradiation of colour in the initial panel of raised stem stitch making up the stalk, within the whole composition it now looked a bit crude; the colours are in fact not closely matched enough, so it looks a bit stripey. Also, the idea behind shading it in this way was that it would mimic a natural light source falling on the toadstool. But as I haven’t used darker colours anywhere else, it started to look a bit odd.
A choice was in front of me. Having read up on the history of Stumpwork I knew that originally in these kind of conversational samplers, no sense of scale or ‘natural rules’ applied; bees can be as big as houses and no need to apply the rules of perspective, light and shadow and so on.
On the other hand, this is MY composition and I intend to keep it alongside my Fly Agaric, a piece I don’t mind admitting I am very proud of, but also one that is pretty naturalistic looking in it’s composition.
As this Death Cap will accompany it, representing my first attempts at mastering new embroidery techniques, I definitely don’t want to forever look at them and think ‘Balls, I wish I didn’t shade that stem so dark’.
Time for a bit of a re – do.
Luckily, the thing about this stitch, is the thread is only attached to the fabric as a starting stitch, the bulk of the surface thread simply woven along horizontal bands. So pretty easy to pull the threads out. I still didn’t want the stem to be a flat monotone though, so instead of working bands again, I threaded up 2 tapestry needles in the 2 lightest colours and worked them alternately, to give a much subtler gradation of colour, much less jarring than previously.
According to the field guide, this is the ‘bag-like volva’ part.
Anyway. You know how when you touch a dry mushroom, parts of it feels a bit soft and velvety? I wanted to convey that kind of texture to this portion, and decided to use Crewel wool and techniques to achieve this.
Using a Crewel needle, I used one strand of Appleton Bros worsted wool in three shades of mushroomy. I used Brick stitch for this, a satisfyingly regimented kind of long and short stitch, worked in horizontal bands, lovely for trying to convey the way that the Death Cap sort of bursts forth from it’s, well, it’s bag-like volva really.
When I went to last year’s Knitting and Stitching exhibition, one of the things I was compelled to buy with no particular planned use, was a stack of small squares of gorgeously hand-dyed, knobbly, wool viscose felt from one of my faves 21st Century Yarns.
This provided the perfect base for one of the cornerstones of traditional Stumpwork, the padded slip. From my little field guide, I knew that the real-life appearance of a Death Cap, er, cap is ‘pale yellowish with a slight greenish tinge’. Lovely. Proper poison colour.
I had used my original drawing to make a cap shape template for cutting out the felt and, making it slightly larger to allow room to pad, I made a few holding stitches around the outside to keep it in place, then stitched around with my Chenille needle, small stabbing stitches. Finally I padded it with recycled cotton fibre.