Friday, 5 March 2010

Stumpwork mini fabric book (preview), Lurex and Pattern for DBH blue flower

For: J :)


Well I had to show you the progress I’m making with this mini book.  But before I say any more about it, I’d like to set out what’s been happening in chronological order, so you can understand how this little thing eventually went in another direction…..


But first things, first:

A very kind goldwork supplier is helping me with the silver thread problems I discussed last time and I’m pleased to say it looks like Lurex (100% synthetic – does not  tarnish) might do the trick.  So with that problem virtually solved, I went back to the bag. 

I haven’t selected the silk that I need yet, the exact colours are a whole new chapter.  To help me with that I need to look at descriptions of the Eastern dye colours used on silk in the Levantine region back then. 

So once I recovered my eagerness, I decided to make the whole blue flower in cotton, this time missing out the silver  and just concentrating on getting the pattern sorted out. 

Well, when I came to replicate the ‘petal demo’ I got into all sorts of unplanned difficulties.  It would appear that the way I did it before, all chunky, with 4 strands of lame, may have made the thing look really nice (reminded me of jewellery) and stiff (like a white cabbage leaf – figures why the bag still looks so good – very durable construction!) but as far as a workable pattern was concerned, it was not good enough.

So I had to sit down and really work out the relationship of all the overlapping petals and the proportions much more scientifically.  So, you guessed it, I constructed a 3-d paper template:


From this I found it much easier to fiddle about with all those angles and curls, so I had a better idea of what shape the important base/foundation lines should be. 

Here you can see the only areas that need to be stitched into the background fabric.  Basically 4 lines and an oval. 


(On the subject of the oval shape flower centre, it’s actually 3-d on the image and peels back to reveal green canvas stitches beneath -  see what I mean about no voids left in the final design… )

Then, just to make doubly sure everything was in the right place, after I transferred these line drawing shapes onto the linen ground seen here:


…I rested the paper template on  top to check all the relationships again. 


From all this double-checking and constantly referring back to the original image, I was ready to start stitching the first petal in situ:


Then I realised I’d made a horrible mistake in the way I started my increases off with DBH and so that entire 20 minutes of work will have to be completely ripped out.

What I learned from that:

Starting a petal off is tricky as you’re increasing in two ways, first by making your straight stitch return quite loose, then by nipping back at the other end of each row and adding a straight buttonhole stitch to the last stitch of the previous row, because DBH worked in mid-air tends to lose height. 

But more importantly, its  how precise those first few rows of stitches have to be, because I tell you, with all that silver in there last time, it was a lot easier to ‘vaguely get there’, shall we say..

I’m going to make clear step by step directions of how to do this.  But for now, the 2 longer petals worked out at 20 stitches each for the base line and the shorter ones, 16 stitches.  I measured this by using a small piece of thread and placing it over each flower petal on the blown-up image .  When I come to scale it down for the real thing,  this scientific examination of  the sizes will help a lot.

Metallic thread

After the first petal (see previous post) and finding out that I’ll probably be using Lurex on the real thing, I was really pleased because I have lots of silver lame in my stash to get some practice in.  Lame and Lurex look really similar to me, they might even be the same thing, I don’t know yet? 

I’m  concerned now that the Lurex wont be too thin?  In which case, as I said earlier,  I shall just use 2 strands instead.  I can see that they used that very idea on the bag itself  for the square knot cord with which it was attached to the waist.  I can even see the inner silk core of the silver thread was most likely black and that the length of each tiny cylinder of metal around it appears to be of a similar size to the Lurex. 

Now the term ‘Goldwork’ seemed quite intimidating to me at first and I’m so pleased that whilst finding out more about it, I come to realise that the only ‘real’ gold that’s used these days is 2% for what they call Military and Government grade thread, and a lot of the rest of goldwork thread has a mere 1/2%, or none at all.  In fact, all metallic thread can be utilised for goldwork because the concerns are ultimately the same e.g. will it go through fabric at all, how much does the light play off it and how and what can I make or couch with it?  In a way, it perhaps ought to be renamed Metallicwork, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as good.  The main thing is, there are hundreds of metallic thread colours and that’s a very exciting thought, don’t you think?

So while I sat there tangling and untangling the first lot of silver thread I got out of my stash, which was incidentally completely inadequate machine-type stuff, I began to realise just how strong this synthetic metallised stuff is.  So that got me thinking, I realised that for the construction of the mini book, I could use metallic thread on a miniature scale as one would normally use metal in the ‘big’ world.  So with that I made tiny metallic hinges for the mini book and then threaded ribbons through them, as they’ve used to tie the front of the gorgeous Plimoth Jacket and as the Elizabethans tied some of their shoes.

So, after completing the first ‘demo' petal’ and making the cute mini hinges, that got me thinking about jewellery together with embroidery and even  juxtaposing those ideas because I’m particularly struck now by how much Elizabethan embroidery looks like jewellery or to put it another way, how it echoes the designs of earlier Saxon and Viking jewellery e.g: coils & plaits...

Then, (or a  few days later) I happened to catch a good programme by David Dimbleby about the history of Britain, specifically looking at the Elizabethan era in this episode.  Then he suddenly gets up walks off and into a huge oak-beamed hall, past vast paintings, one  of which is of Elizabeth I herself, wearing a magnificent scarlet dress  richly embroidered with lots of eyes (I love eye motifs!) and he casually walks over to an enormous long banquet table, on one end is laid an ancient casket with all those massive bolts.  He opens the lid sticks his hand in and from it pulls out a huge fist full of luscious dazzling Elizabethan jewellery - ‘This..’ he said ‘…is the Cheapside Hoard – the largest discovery of Elizabethan jewellery known to us, buried in a Tudor cellar under a house that was being demolished in 1912.  Found by a builder whose pickaxe had gone into the side of the soft rotting box...’

The quantity of jewellery, the varied designs: Byzantine, Viking, Saxon, “glyptics of classical antiquity” etc and the dazzling colours of gems collected from as far as Afghanistan, and of course the pretty enamelled flower bracelets and necklaces were really eye-popping.  Since then, quite by accident, I’ve been in touch with the author of one of the 2 books written about the find.  Most of it is housed at the Museum of London (The V&A has at least one item) but alas it’s not currently on display as they’re finally researching it thoroughly and as she said to me: “most of it is still covered in the dirt they dug it up from”.  

‘…glyptics of classical and Byzantine antiquity already 16 centuries old when the Hoard was buried…’ 

‘The house had belonged the the City of London Goldsmith Guild.’

Museum of London.

So with my head full of all this, I went back to the mini-book and gave it a fresh injection of inspiration…