Glimpse: a coloured openwork bookmark – PART ONE

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, Stitches with tags , , , , , , , on January 24, 2016 by suetortoise

Glimpse - a bookmark

I’ve chosen this project as a way of explaining the coloured, counted openwork I have been working on recently, based on the examples in this old book from the Internet Archive. This is my own ‘take’ on the stitching, and is not necessarily the way it was originally done.

I am splitting the bookmark project into two posts. This one covers the materials and tools, and explains marking out, edging and cutting the threads to make an area of mesh. (The same technique works for similar types of embroidery on mesh, so it’s worth learning.) In the next post on this project we’ll do the fun bit – filling the grid with stitches.

Glimpse and threads

Continue reading

A Glimpse Into The Future…

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, Stitches with tags , , , , , on December 29, 2015 by suetortoise

I promised to do a teaching piece about the coloured openwork I’ve been playing with. This morning I finished the stitching on the bookmark which I’ll be using for the photos and explanations.

just a glimpse

Don’t expect the finished blog article for a while. There are photos to edit, charts and diagrams to conjure up. And then I have to write the words to go with them – it could be some weeks away. But I thought I’d show you a picture to whet your appetites!

Wishes

Posted in Christmas, Digital Art and Fractals, Family and Friends on December 23, 2015 by suetortoise

christmas2015tree

Time to send my readers and friends, new and old, my good wishes for the coming year. But wishes, thoughts, prayers, dreams are only the start, however heartfelt. Let’s make sure that we act on our annual wishes, and work towards bringing more peace and happiness into the world in 2016.

News and stuff

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, out and about, shrewsbury with tags , , , , on November 28, 2015 by suetortoise

A mixed bag of things to talk about, so I’ll start by catching up on more general topics, then those with no interest in embroidery can wander off without reading on.

Smolensk square completed

My father’s house is still up for sale in Bucknell – the property market there seems dead at the moment. Which is a shame, as it’s a good, practical house in a pleasant South Shropshire village, near Ludlow, and it wants to find someone who will love it. My sister and I are hoping that the spring brings some new viewings.

I had my annual trip to Novacon science fiction convention in Nottingham a couple of weekends ago – my only chance for a trip away this year. It was a pleasant weekend with a chance to meet up with old friends. The art show went well – plenty of variety from a fair few artists, and plenty of sales. Most of my work on show was previously unsold pictures, as I haven’t been in the mood for making much artwork this year. I did quite well in the art auction, considering, and now have a little more space in my portfolio for when I get going with new pictures.

The Christmas lights are up in Castle Street, where I live, and the shop windows below are trying to out-glitter each other. I’m not feeling sparkly yet. I think I’d rather just let this Christmas go by with the minimum of fuss and look forward to next year, when life is going to be a lot more interesting. I’ve got my plane ticket booked for a trip to Melbourne in the autumn, I’ve booked my hotel room for Mancunicon the Easter science fiction convention, which is in Manchester this year, and I’ll be back in Nottingham for another Novacon in November. Plus I’ll make sure I have plenty of days out, do things, go places, spend time with friends… Continue reading

Experiments inspired by (yet another) old book

Posted in books, Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2015 by suetortoise

Firstly, a big hello to some new readers, who have found Tortoise Loft thanks to the amazing Mary Corbet of Needle’N’Thread blog. You are very welcome. Please feel free to join in the comments.

Blue openwork chart

The Internet Archive has been busy putting illustrations from its collection of books onto Flickr, where the picture quality often better than on the book version on its own site. (This is great news if you’ve been straining your eyes trying to resolve unclear illustrations – although the original print quality is often poor, so there’s always a limit to what can be seen.) That was how I came across a book called Broderies des paysannes de Smolensk from 1913, showing some interesting counted cutwork done in several colours rather than just white. Here’s a link to the Flickr pages, and to the book on Internet Archive.

A quick aside: in case you haven’t already noticed, the British Library has recently started doing the same thing – another little goldmine of book illustrations, diagrams, decorative initials, chapter headings and printers flourishes on Flickr. Some of the initials and chapter headings in particular seem to be just crying out to be rendered in embroidery…

At the top of the page is a chart I made based on this illustration from Broideries des paysannes… I have played with the colours as I wanted them to suit some light blue fabric.

Anyway, show me a counted-thread technique which I haven’t met before and I’m just dying to figure out how to do it, and eager to have a go for myself. Which is what is going on in this picture.

Smolensk square in progress

I’m getting the hang of it, I think. From what I can make out of the French text, the original embroideries were worked in linen thread on homespun linen, both home-dyed. I’ve made things a bit difficult for myself by using silk thread on linen. It would be easier to work with something a bit less slippery, but I do love silk. This is 32-count evenweave fabric. (The illustrations show fabric that is not evenweave, and I do think these old geometrical designs look more interesting with a bit of distortion.) This square is an experiment, a chance to find my own way of working and learn how to plan the routes for the stitching: quite a lot of zig-zagging around is required.  I’m not claiming to be doing the technique the ‘right’ way – I just tried things until I got an effect that seemed close to the original. It’s not quick. I’ll be very glad when the brown section is finished, I seem to have been stitching with brown for years!

Another aside: you can also see my personal solution for managing spools of silk. One spool, one little grip-top bag (these bags came from a craft shop). The spools can’t rub on each other in their storage box or in my workbag, won’t roll off the table and don’t usually need to come out of the bags while I’m working – unless I lose the end of the thread. I’ve been cursing silk a lot less since I began using these little bags.

I’ll let you see a picture of the final result when I have completed the square. (Reading this back, I suspect that a certain friend of mine will try to turn that last remark into a mathematical joke. Please ignore him, as usual.)

The Blue Bird of Moderate Satisfaction

Posted in Embroidery with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2015 by suetortoise

As soon as I brought home the Chinese panels I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to have a go at the bird on the green panel. (Despite the colour, it looks like a blackbird to me.)

embroidery of a bird in shades of blue on green silk fabric

I’ve been itching to do some silk shading, and I had a piece of rich green dupion silk (grass green weft on a fine black warp), just asking to be used for it.
I decided to limit myself to materials from my stash, as this was very much a learning piece. I backed the silk dupion with some lightweight cotton interfacing which I had happened to spot as a remnant in Watson and Thornton’s fabric shop  that very morning. I used two strands of Devere Yarns silk thread, their size 06 flat silk, for the main embroidery. There are four colours on the bird: Ebony 644 (pure black), Dark Slate 643 (a blueish slate), Saxe 639 (a medium shade of cobalt blue) and Shimmer 6128 (a very pale duck-egg blue). I got three intermediate shades by blending two colours together in the needle.

The metallic thread that I used was not ideal for the task – unlike the thread used on the original Chinese work, it was a rather springy synthetic and would not take tight bends. It was DMC Metallic Thread Art282 in Light Gold, a three-strand thread. The couching was mostly done with half a strand of Devere 06 Vermillion 6125. (Splitting the flat strand was a challenge, to say the least – I think I wasted more lengths than I divided!) I waxed this divided thread for extra strength. One the original Chinese embroidery, the couching of the gold thread is all done in red except for some leaves which are couched in green thread. So I used divided green thread to couch the branch, which I wanted to keep sketchy. (This was done with Devere 06 Green 645 – a very good match for the background fabric.) My couching is not as good as I would like. I need more practice, not just a more sympathetic thread!

This is not a perfect copy of the original, I wasn’t trying for that. It’s about 10% larger, and my feathers had a bit of a mind of their own although I followed the direction of stitching and the outlining as closely as I could. (I also gave the bird a second foot, as it seemed to need one for balance, and a tiny highlight in its eye.)
While I can’t call it a blue bird of total happiness, the finished result looks very much better than I expected, so it is definitely a blue bird of moderate satisfaction.

Chinese Bird Panels

Posted in Embroidery with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2015 by suetortoise

Bird on Green Bird on Blue

I saw these two framed panels for sale at Jean Jones Antiques & Collectables in Shrewsbury Market today and couldn’t resist them. Chinese silk and metal thread embroidery, on silk fabric. Each roundel is about 27 cm in diameter: one on green silk, one on blue. I suspect that they date from the late 1960s or 1970s – I’d be glad to find out more about them. I didn’t want to remove them from their frames (they’ve been framed here in Shropshire), so I have had to take these photos through the glass. Aren’t they lovely panels?

Bird closeup 1 Bird closeup 2

The stitching is very neat. The metal threads are laid in pairs in the traditional Chinese manner.

Bird closeup 3 Bird closeup 4

The silkwork is all satin stitch or long and short stitch except for four tiny circular motifs on the blue panel.

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