Continuing the Primrose in Silk
It’s a little hard to concentrate on writing a post for Tortoise Loft when the roof sounds as though it is about to blow away at any moment, but here goes. (I doubt the roof will actually blow away – it’s been here a long time. But I am up under the eaves and there’s a howling gale outside.) Before I get onto the silk work, I am happy to report that my father is continuing to make a steady recovery from his stroke. He had a medical problem last week and had to return to the acute ward for treatment, but he has got over that now and is back at the rehabilitation unit for physio and occupational therapy, one step nearer to going home.
Where were we? The primrose flowers were still in progress last time I wrote about this piece. As you can see, I have now worked all the calyxes and flower stalks. I wanted a little more texture than on the petals, so I thought hard about stitches, made some sketches and did some try-outs and finally decided on working the stalks in two layers. The under layer is simply diagonal satin stitch filling, between the drawn lines. Over that is a very skinny feather stitch, to give an idea of the slight hairiness of the stalks, with a row of stem stitch down each side to add definition to the edge. I worked each of the calyxes with three columns of close-packed fly stitch, in a vertical direction, with stem stitch as an edging and also added on top of the fly stitch where I wanted more shading. The colours are all blends of various greens and greys and olive colours.
If you compare the pictures of the part-finished and the finished stems, you might notice that some sections have changed – I was unhappy with some of my colour choices, and reworked them. I also reworked the centre of the middle flower, which was too clumsy. A couple of other things I learnt in the progress of the flowers: firstly Megan of Emsley Rose blog passed on some useful tips about angling the needle to avoid dark spots in the long and short stitch where the needle comes in and out – ‘pepper holes’ she calls them, which is a delightful name. I learnt that tip a bit too late for this piece, but I will be taking heed for my next attempt at long and short filling. Thanks, Megan. My other discovery was how surprisingly stretchy this silk dupion is – I had a struggle to keep it from puckering quite badly. (The amount of puckering that remains shouldn’t prevent it going flat when the finished piece is laced over a board.) Some of the problem is probably from using a hoop instead of a frame. I have had less trouble since I changed to a larger hoop, with both parts taped to help stop slipping. The small hoop I started with only had the outer hoop taped – and silk is slippery!
I’m still not entirely sure that my flower stalks are not too thick, but I am hoping that they will look thinner when the leaves are in place as a contrast. I’m currently considering how to tackle the leaves, what stitches to use and how to get their bubbly texture and veining right. A cue for more sketches and thinking and experiments. (‘Right’, in this case, doesn’t mean working with 100% botanical accuracy, and does mean in working in keeping with the feel of the stitching in the rest of the piece, but the leaves will need to be sufficiently primrose-y to satisfy me.) Fortunately, I have a very patient model to study for my leaves: a little primula that I bought from Pomona Grocery down the road a few weeks ago, and which is currently making a cheerful spot of green and yellow on my windowsill while the wind howls like a banshee and throws rain at the other side of the glass.