The Itch to Stitch

Carnaby Pigeon head miniMy stitching project over Christmas was a bit of a novelty for me. My friend Serena designed a kit to make felt pigeons as decorations for the World Science Fiction Convention in London this coming August. I have trouble working with wool and most of the felt had wool content. While I was working with Serena on the art show at Novacon in November, she got me to help her make a Robin Hood hat for one of her felt pigeons. I found I could stitch the felt for a little while before I had to stop with itching fingers, so I took a pigeon pack away with me and kept it to do over Christmas. (The pack makes a basic felt pigeon, leaving it up to the maker to add decoration to taste. I cut my own tail shape as I wanted it spread. I added embroidery in simple stitches using some of the multi-coloured spun rayon pearl thread that I bought from eBay last year.)

Carnaby Pigeon side view

Meet Carnaby Pigeon. He’s now with Serena awaiting Loncon 3. I found that the white felt in the pack had no wool in it at all, at least it didn’t make my fingers tingle, so I put most of the wing decoration on that. All the rest of the work had to be done in short bursts of about twenty minute to half an hour, with a couple of hours in-between sessions to let my skin settle down. I won’t be taking on any more projects with wool in the near future, but it was good to find that feltwork was possible with care, and it was great fun to watch my pigeon take shape and acquire his own character.

I’ve also been itching to stitch with silk – in the metaphorical sense this time, fortunately. My Christmas present from my father was several reels of Devere Yarns flat silk in lots of useful colours. I so, so wanted to play with them! But the weather has been poor and the short days too dark for starting a silk project. Last weekend the sun came out and I did finally get going on a small project.

Primrose in silk, 1 - a start

The design is an old Briggs transfer pattern from a book in the Antique Pattern Library. I traced it at approximately 8cm wide and 12cm high. This is design 535 Primrose. The background fabric is some pure silk dupion I found in Watson and Thornton here in Shrewsbury- it’s a ‘dirty cream’ colour and not as slubby as most dupions. As with many of my projects, I am learning a technique as I go along here: I’ve not done this sort of needlepainting in silk before, and very little of it in cotton. I’m working in a hoop as it is such a small design.

Primrose in Silk 2 - petals

I want to give the picture a ‘Victorian’ feel, so I am not exactly copying the natural colours of the flowers. I hope that it will come out the way I see it in my mind. Most of the silk is Devere’s flat silk, the finest of their six embroidery silk sizes. I am using it three strands at a time, mostly. Along with that, I am using some old Gütermann buttonhole silk subdivided and straightened, with one strand of that counting as two strands of the Devere. These are the same threads as I used for Curis Tabescimus Omnes, except that now I have more colours to play with. (Thanks, Dad!) I also have some Stef Francis Superfine Silk in random greens which I may use on the stems and leaves – or maybe not. I’ll see how I feel when I get to that stage. Right now I am very busy with little yellow petals.

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7 Responses to “The Itch to Stitch”

  1. Carnaby Pigeon is a great success, especially given how “bitty” your work time had to be. It can be so hard to maintain any sense of “flow” when you’re wondering when an itch or an ache will start. I’m not at all you turned straight to silk for relief!

    • suetortoise Says:

      It divided up nicely. I pretty-much knew what I wanted to do from the start, so there wasn’t any ‘flow’ to lose. My sessions were quite long enough to get around a wing piece or do the coloured stitches on one half of the chest. Sewing-up and stuffing was the hardest stage, as I had to grip the felt firmly.

  2. I really like the silk-shaded primroses. This is a technique I keep promising myself to make time for … eventually! Those yellow silks are just perfect for the primroses. I was not familiar with the Devere yarns, so thank you for introducing them to us. I look forward to seeing the progress of this project.

    • suetortoise Says:

      I like their fine silk – very shiny and smooth. It’s a little difficult to tell the actual thread colours from their website, but Devere give a fast and reliable service and the prices are very reasonable.

  3. The Editors of Garden Variety Says:

    The pigeon is so fetching. Outstanding job!

  4. Oh, hello Carnaby!
    Good on you, Sue, for going ahead with working with wool to explore it as a medium even tho you know it doesn’t agree with you :-)

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