This stitch was a little fucker. I’ve spoken before about my disgusting lack of patience with difficult things, and it was only out of sheer bloody mindedness that I knew this piece would be lacking with out the perfect texture for mushroom fins, that I persevered.
I had a piece of waste canvas hooped up to practice before I did them proper in the toadstool. I was using 2 strands of Anchor cotton, and a Milliners No 10 needle.
I actually have a whole book dedicated to this stitch and little embroidered motifs stitched in it, as well as the technique described in 2 of my new Royal School books. So I was trying it in several ways. In this book:
It recommends using no hoop, as it is a scooping stitch rather than a stabbing stitch, so I tried it on a piece of overhanging fabric I had on my practice hoop. Result: crappy stringy ratty mess.
Then I tried it the same way but in the hoop. Result: crappy stringy ratty mess.
Then I tried it the RSC way, in the hoop. Result: crappy stringy ratty mess.
Then I got upset and threw a tantrum.
Then I tried again and I don’t know what I did but I did it.
I created my loop across the shape, then brought my needle back almost all the way through the first point, creating a vertical pole to which to wrap my coils. Because I followed the advice about using the Milliners needle, as recommended in the Bullions book, I had a nice long surface to get these long knots on comfortably, and an eye that doesn’t widen to pull through. Initially I had a problem with too much tension and not being able to pull the needle through, and I think a needle grip would be helpful if I was using this stitch again, as you do need a firm grip.
In your FACE Bullion knot! I am your MASTER! *maniacal laughter*
This week I am taking a little break away from teeny miniatures, to stretch my skills a bit. As you know I am always looking to learn new stitches and improve on the ones I have, so a couple of weeks ago I bought these:
Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch guides. I’ve read them all cover to cover and itching to make some sort of stump-crewel-shaded-hybrid monster.
If you know my piece Fly Agaric, you know that I worked that specifically to learn and practice stitches I never did before – so in that I tried satin stitch for the first time, seeding stitch, woven spider webs, long and short stitch (badly) and mastered french knots. I always intended to create a series of Poisonous Mushrooms pieces to show my development – just like a traditional sampler – so I’m staging a revival.
Amanita phalloides – Death Cap mushroom
I started off with this fabulous old field guide I found in a book sale last year. Full of lovely hand drawn illustrations.
I used my brilliant transfer pen to transfer my drawn design based on the Death Cap but a bit more simple and graphic, to the Salmanca fabric, which I had pre-dyed in tea to make it look a bit like old parchment or something. This bit is raised band stem stitch, very simple and I like the ridges it produces, a bit like a mushroom grows I think.
I will blog my progress this week!
I have to say this one was a tricky little bugger. However, I got a lot of learns from her. She might be my favorite so far.
First off I decided to work on the sludge coloured linen I used in my Fly Agaric piece, but backed it up with some green polycotton – this helped give me better tension in my hoop as I knew was going to be adding quite dense stitches. I printed out my little ribs outline after I had modified it to the right kind of thing – enough detail but not too complex. Then I broke out my new iron on transfer pen! Hadn’t used this before, so slightly nervous but basically I traced around the shape onto baking parchment then ironed it onto the linen. The first go it was a bit blotchy so I tried it again and it worked okay (I will use more porous paper next time). It gave me enough of a guide I could stitch around in general sewing thread to give me the final outline. I did start off with stranded cotton in split stitch but quickly realised the shape was way too intricate. See?
Learning all the time.
So, the shape outlined, I then chose a nice hand-dyed pale lilac-pink sort of shell type very fine silk from 21st Century yarns. I chose it because when I initially decided to do a rib cage I thought I might try and silk-shade it, but again, the narrowness of the individual ribs made me reconsider. So this type of thread I thought would add interest and some more unusual colours, and sheen, to contrast with the matte linen.
On the one hand, because I was working through 2 layers of fabric, there was a greater level of stability and accuracy in needle placement compared to had I just used the linen. But on the other, once I got going it was quite wearing on the silk and had to use quite short pieces to minimise this. Overall I’m fairly pleased with the smoothness of the stitches – the colour varigation on the thread means that it highlights where I’ve changed direction. I also added 3 little pairs of french knots for vertebrae spiny processes.
The other tricky thing was actually seeing the guide lines – even though I had stitched them in. I think the size of it (it’s 19mm x 25mm) even under my magnifier was a challenge as the slubbiness of the linen cast a shadow. This led to a ‘spot the deliberate mistake’ situation. She’s a girl. Can you tell why?*
Finally, because the entrance point of the silk into the fabric wasn’t very clean in the end, I outlined just the rib portion in single ply Anchor cotton. I felt like it gave a bit of dimension and depth too.
Use a finer weave fabric for small freestyle work – open textures doesn’t allow for enough accuracy
I really need single stands of whatever I’m sewing with – better to build up density than wear out the fibre and make a messy finish
Use transfer pen to make intricate patterns, but use a porous paper to make the copy so it absorbs excess ink and doesn’t leave a blotchy mark on the fabric
Variegated threads are beautiful but highlight changes in stitch direction and even slightly uneven stitching.