Saturday, 19 November 2011

Halo update – between the spikes

Short, just got shorter !!!

Between the Crown’s Spikes

St Katherines gold halo

I decided I really had to face my fears and throw myself into the myriad of tiny decisions involved with filling the halo, between the spikes.

This time, only three rows needed to be pulled out and re-done.  In contrast to what I decided last time, for these ‘in-betweeners’, I did need to turn the work with each new row, in order to maintain control.  

While laying down the two fine strands of Lurex each time, (although from the pictures it looks like only one strand) I came to realise that to avoid them becoming twisted, the length of gold should never be too long. 

St Katherine's gold halp - 2Some interesting things happened along the way.  First of all, the direction of the couching is sometimes very wavy.  However, when the rows of metallic thread join their neighbouring sections, all these smaller curves join up and flatten out.  This means that some gaps are unavoidable.

The other observation is the appearance of interesting shadows that form between elements.  This results in the figure appearing to be brought forward.  I might  exaggerate that later on by adding some more brown outlining? 

Some off-topic stuff

On a completely different subject, when I do finally put together all the bits and pieces to make up these pdf patterns that I keep mentioning, I plan to add this one to the list.

miniature cupcake pincushion

Its a miniature cupcake pin cushion that incorporates a Viking Knit cake case.


I’ll let everyone know when these things are available – hopefully New Year…

gotta go ppl !


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Laid Work Halo – first stage

You know, short(er) posts really keep me working!
This post is one third on topic, the rest is given over to general sewing!
As you can see from this picture..
Or Nue Halo
the halo is coming along.
Well, its certainly a relief to have worked out a good use for the piles of Lurex I seem to have accumulated. 
Or Nue 2
As you can no doubt spot on the picture above, I’ve run into a little difficulty at the outermost edge of her hair.  There is a most annoying gap declaring itself.  I plan to fill it, hopefully, but failing that surreptitious act, I would need to extend her hair a little further.
I used a fine ‘antique gold’ coloured silk thread to couch the strands of Lurex. 
I was aiming to couch a neat Brick pattern but things went a little haywire, as there were too many things to consider simultaneously, such as:
  • Turning the gold at the end of the row and preventing it from twisting
  • Making sure there were no gaps
  • curving the eventual shape
  • Then joining the two curved areas into a larger arc.
So with all of that, the Brick pattern kind of disappeared.
I can see on the original, that the direction the gold strands take are not that smooth to begin with, but end up as a smooth overall shape.  I will have to adopt those methods when I come to fill the (dreaded) internal spaces between the crown’s spikes. 
What have a learnt so far about Laid Work?
1.  Work towards you when couching, by coming out at the top edge of the gold and coming down into the gap between two rows, to finish the couch stitch. 
2.  Couch using Stab method, because the distance between the stitches is too small. 
3.  Don’t worry too much about the appearance of gaps as you work, because its only when you complete the couching stitch - towards you - that the gold ingeniously nestles into its correct position, directly above the previous row.

Off Topic – Cath Kidston Knitting Needle Case
Laid Work is quite tiring for the eyes, so to rest them a bit I decided to get on with a  much-needed Knitting Needle Case, using some fabulous Rosie printed cotton duck fabric by Cath Kidston.
I’m a big CK fan and happened to notice just this weekend that she’s published 2 new, mouth-watering books, this time on the subjects of knitting and crochet!   
The pattern for this Knitting Needle case, incidentally, is from her book called Sew.
Cath Kidston Lined Knitting Needle Case 1
The case if fully lined but I must admit, I did alter the pattern slightly for that section.
Cath Kidston Lined Knitting Needle Case
We’re directed to sew the whole thing together inside out, as one, then bind all the seams. 
I decided at that point to divide the task into two.  Then, by missing out one of the side seams of the outer case, I could pull all the layers through the right way.
This meant I needed to Blind stitch the final seam closed, taking care not to make the hand stitches too tight as that would cause it to pucker.
Sew is a neat little book and tucked inside its front cover is a huge sheet of actual size patterns to trace over.
Oh dear, between Country Bumpkin, Search Press and now, Cath Kidston, I may eventually have to move into the shed and transplant the bulging book collection into the house…lol!

Gotta go ppl !
P.S.  I really must get on with all these Pdf patterns I keep mentioning.  I would like to complete them in one job-lot.  With a little luck, that will be before the holidays…

P.P.S.  I amended this post 2 days later as I made a mistake with naming the Goldwork technique.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

St Katherine’s crown is complete

I think short posts suit my constitution…

Split Stitching with Silk
Well its certainly infinitely easier to Split Stitch with silk than cotton thread, any day!
As you can see, even though the variety I’m using is a bit too thin for my purposes, its great the way it ‘splits’ by itself, each time you go to take a new stitch.
easy Split Stitching with silk
With this technical advantage, I filled the crown quite quickly.
This is the essential design of the crown:
Crown pattern
It incorporates 4 main medieval Fleur de Lys on spikes.  Each of those spikes further multiplies the design into a quatrefoil.  Between the main spikes are smaller spikes, with a single Fleur de Lys.  There are  2 sizes of pearl bead used.  3 large pronged gems (funny, I thought prongs arrived much later?).  The motif is filled with gold coloured silk and outlined in gold passing.
One would think all of that was quite straightforward.  Then of course you come to make it, and you realise the fun is only just beginning!
Decisions, decisions…  I can see that the area I am studying on the original artefact, is in fact a ‘slip’.  It is encircled in Laid Work and finished off with a row of tiny pearls and after that you can see the tiny couching stitches holding a fine cord edging in place. 
However, the crown also appears on one side to be a slip, within the slip.  On the other side, strangely, it does not (?).  So with that ambiguity, I decided to make this repro crown as a little slip.
I didn’t want to change the design more than I absolutely had to but by this stage I realised I needed to save a bit of time.  Hence each spike is dealt with as a large filled area that will later be outlined in gold. 
Close up, this idea is not exactly to my liking, but as you will see further down this post, at a certain distance, it kind of works.   
I started this piece because I was drawn to the problem of the facial features.  I had read recently that the main difference between Opus Anglicanum and its European counterpart, was that the English used a circular formation for split stitching facial features. 
On reading that I immediately thought of Lucien Freud’s way of painting facial planes and married that up with what I had read in Jourdain’s book recently:
“the same crafts people that illuminated their books, also did embroidery”.
Once I thought of it like that, I decided I wanted to ‘draw’ Katherine’s face with thread.  I can see now that I may have used too many colours with her face but something unexpected happened.  That was that, the glossy golden silk of the crown was contrasting well, with the cotton split stitched face.  This was serendipitous indeed but its important to remember that the original would have been made entirely of silk. 
Beaded crown
Well, here is the finished crown.
Crown complete
Now onto the Laid Work halo!
I found the link to the black & white image of St Katherine that I’m working from, posted by Lady Christian de Holacombe at  The SCA, here.  Its about halfway down the page.
Furthermore, if you would like to see a huge close-up of an Opus Anglicanum male figure, published by the Metropolitan Museum (pdf download file), click here.  He appears on the second page of the documentNotice the intricate detail lavished on his nose.
DeVere Silk Suppliers
I’ll talk more about the silk I’ve been using next time.  As I’m expecting another shipment.

gotta go ppl !

Thursday, 3 November 2011

St Katherine’s Hair is Complete

I think I could grow to like short posts after all…


Religious Embroidery Influencing Standards of  Domestic Embroidery

I forgot to mention last time that the reason I am taking a ‘little’ wander into the concerns of Opus Anglicamum work is that during the dissolution of the monasteries, most religious embroideries were in fact cut up and distributed amongst the nobility of the land. 

This meant that as girls thereafter, were no longer sent to convents to learn, mainly needlework – most wealthy households had access to extremely elaborate examples of fine needlework that they could examine and learn from.  These chopped up items were often made into cushions. 

The pieces that were not distributed in this way were hidden by the nuns, often for centuries, until they felt it safe to bring them out again.  


Hollie Point Hair Complete

I finished her Hollie Point hair and smoothed out her face a bit more.  The chin still needs some work but I shall leave that for now as I could go too far in trying to reintroduce that essential shape.

The face and neck are one inch in length and less than that in width.

Hollie Stitch hair complete

Hollie Stitch is extremely similar to Trellis Stitch when worked over a cord row.  Maybe this is how Trellis Stitch progressed into the vocabulary?


This is how you do Hollie Stitch


Left Handers would work it from Right to Left and visa versa for Right Handers. 

The thread is wound round the thumb and the needle is taken in a  downwards direction, first through the previous row of silk, then under the gold cord row, then finally into the loop that is round the thumb.

In this way it is like DBH but with an extra twist.

Descriptions of the stitch make it seem really fiddly but once you get your head round the orientation of all the interconnecting bits, it is actually a very smooth stitch to work. 

Working this small meant I had to use a Crewel Needle and of course the hazard with that is that when you go under the final, thumb loop of working thread, you can end up splitting it.  This seemed to happen once every 10 stitches or so.  The only solution for that is to carefully pull it out.  Also, you end up scratching your nail unless you slow right down for the last part.

Things like that don’t bother me, as long as the end result is what I am after and scale wise, I think I was right to use this stitch.

Hollie Stitch hair close up

I tried to use standard Detached Buttonhole for the hair, but the stitches became too compact, and in so doing the visibility of the gold was lost. 

I’m now ready to start the crown, so naturally I am a bit nervous.

I will practice it first, not for too long though, as then I will be in danger of growing bored about making the final version. 

Stylistic References

Because the picture I am working from is quite blurred, I’m looking at images of Celtic jewellery in this book to help me.

The Celts by Frank Delaney

The origins of the Saxon Hiberno style begin with the influence of the master Celtic Goldworkers and the absorption of this aesthetic in to the Germanic style.  All of this is quite strange really when you think that the Celts were originally a Germanic people as well.  But the really important thing to remember about ancient Celts is that we are discovering more and more now about how closely linked they were to the ancient Greeks, who of course were  supremo master goldworkers and in fact did regular trade with the Celts before they settled in Britain.

Neil Oliver made the point recently in A History of Ancient Britain that the standard of work that was achieved by Celtic goldworkers in England at the time the Snettisham Hoard was made, exceeded anything else that was being produced anywhere in the world. 

The emphasis of Frank Delaney’s book however, is primarily Irish and the pages dedicated to the Book of Kells particularly, are the reason I bought the book.  He does not spend any time on the Snettisham Hoard.

My main fascination with Celtic jewellery is obviously The Snettisham Hoard, which was only discovered in around 1946, not far from where I live. 

I also learned only recently that the really unique thing the Celts did with their Goldworking was that they altered the chemical structure of their artefacts. 

This sounds so strange when you first hear it and kind of mind-boggling really, but what that simply means is that they melted their gold together with silver and copper, then beat the living daylights out of it, until all the silver and copper particles ended up in the core of the structure and the gold rose to the surface.  Hence they could make whopping great torcs that were not solid gold or gilded, but consequently immensely strong and remained forever bright gold. 

Yum yum !


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Opus Anglicanum Stitch Study of St Katherine’s Head

This is a truly short post !!

“To Copy, is to Understand”

Opus Anglicanum Stitch Study of St Katherines head

As you can see, I just started another project.  This time its a 1 inch stitch study of St Katherine’s head.  The original artefact is c.14th Century, I think.

I’m working from a very small and not very clear, black & white image, and now I’m up to the really fun stuff: her hair.

In the picture above you can see I decided to make the hair out of Hollie Stitch over a gold passing No.5 thread.  The lovely rich brown, Silk Mill, single thread that I’m using, is truly luscious.  The image is not clear enough for me to be certain how they made the hair, but I can see features like ‘bumps’ in the pattern, so my interpretation is Hollie Stitch.   


I used 2 strands to Split Stitch most of the face and neck.  I only found out afterwards that I should have used only one strand for the skin and two for the clothes, but this was something I had to find out the hard way on the long and windy road of learning.

I couched the eyebrows, eyes, chin, outline etc, as I can see they did in those days.

Needless to say, its incredibly close work, with no shortcuts.

Since completing the face I have found a really good close- up of an Opus Anglicanum face that I will link to next time.  I was pleased to note that it confirms a lot that I had worked out for myself, but peeved that I had made some pretty big mistakes, like the treatment of skin.

She will be wearing a delectable old English crown very soon though, with lots of cute beads.  

As I said a while back, all my stitch studies from now on are going to be of complete motifs, not just miles and miles of doodle-cloth work!

I have learnt an awful lot from stitching this tiny face.  Mostly importantly, rather like applying stage paint in miniature, you need to depict an image that takes into consideration that it will be viewed from a certain distance…



The Bag

I am extremely pleased to be able to link to the image of the actual  sweetbag that is on public display on one of  the Metropolitan museum website pages. 

Believe it or not, this is the image I paid for that I have been telling everyone about for such a long time. 

Its High Definition, which means you can magnify it a whole 11 times by pulsing your computer mouse.

From it you will see the oodles of metal thread that went into its construction, and hopefully you will also understand why it is so difficult to re-create and has taken me such a long time to get even this far.

The link is here.

In the bottom right of the first image you see, it will say ‘Full Screen’.  Click on that and wait for the image to have a very wide black border. 

Then on the left hand side you will see a Plus and a Minus sign, representing magnification buttons.  Click the Plus sign 13 times for a Windows Interface and 11 times for a Macintosh.

Then just drool !!


Gotta go ppl !