Archive for silk

To Talk of Many Things

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, out and about, science fiction, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 29, 2018 by suetortoise

So what has happened since my last post in March.

I went to the annual Sewing for Pleasure event at the NEC in Birmingham in March was well worth visiting, and an excuse to meet up with Rachel of Virtuosew Adventures. We enjoyed looking at the trade stands and the exhibits. Perhaps nothing as impressive as last year’s court costumes, but there were some fine old kimonos on show, and a display of embroidered panels that were a collaboration between European textile artists and Afghani embroiderers. Both of these displays were worth seeing – as was Rachel’s crochet bag on its first outing.

I managed to restrain myself fairly well. Here is my loot from the day:
The strange brown plastic thing is a lucet – an impulse purchase thanks to a very persuasive ‘luceteer’, Ziggy. My own attempts at making cord have not been very successful yet, and I suspect that this gadget will end up in the back of a drawer. I don’t seem to have the knack.

Easter was spent at the British National Science Fiction Convention, Follycon, in Harrogate. Appalling weather, endless rain, cold winds and even some snow, but I had a fine time. Some good talks, including Kim Stanley Robinson on Galileo and Nick Jackson on some female mathematicians. And we had an Easter bonnet parade at a splendid Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A fairly successful art show for me, and my stitching workshop on ‘Darned Planets’ went surprisingly well. A dozen people learnt how to do some simple pattern darning to create a textured area on a card (one of my samples is at the start of this post), and I learnt how few people know how to thread a needle easily. (I could do a post on that if anyone is interested.) Here’s the group busy making their planets, in an unsettlingly-mirrored room in the Majestic Hotel.

Another highlight of that weekend was a concert by Jon Boden and two of his Remnant Kings, just for us. About a month later, I saw him on stage at Theatre Severn with the whole group. A fine noise they make, too! At the end of May I saw the excellent Celtic band Breabach there. Last weekend it was Ralph McTell and Wiz Jones getting amazingly complex sounds out of a couple of guitars. (The usual album stall outside in the interval seemed to be selling as many guitar-tab books as CDs.)

Sometime last year, I was looking at some illuminated manuscript illustrations online, and found one that I very much want to do as a piece of embroidery. It’s from the Aberdeen Bestiary and is the illustration to The Wolf. The photo on Wikipedia is HERE. It’s going to be a long-term project, preceded by several practice pieces. The first one is just the small wolf standing on the sheepfold roof. I started it before Easter but struggled with it. I could not get the shading on the wolf to look right. In the end, after a lot of unpicking, I left it for a month and came back to it fresh. This time it went much better. I was happy.

Until I took it off the hoop, that is. I used lemon-cream coloured silk dupion for the base fabric, tacked over Egyptian-cotton sheeting – the double layer was very easy to stitch through. The thread is all silk – a mixture of Chinese silk and Devere Yarns 06 silk. Despite having a heavy build-up of silk thread in the shaded areas, it had stayed very flat in the hoop. No puckering. I was very pleased. But as soon as I got the damp cloth and warm iron on it, ready to mount it – disaster. Between the legs, under the tail and head and below the roof – horrible puckers in the unstitched silk fabric. Pinning it out damp did not solve the problem. I was nearly in tears by this time. The next day I very slowly and carefully cut away the cotton backing outside the stitching area. (Trying to separate the layers between the legs was fraught, but I did manage to get my scissor-points through the cotton without damaging the silk – eventually.) Then I blocked the silk and got rid of most of the puckers. A second firm pinning out, pulled tight over the foamcore mount board, and it looks okay. Well, okay-ish. (I resorted to gluing the fabric down on the back of the board before removing the pins, just to be extra sure it woud stay put.) I am very glad that this was only a sample, not the whole piece. I guess I’ve learnt a lot in the process!

Now I am looking forward to starting a new small project. I think it will be counted thread for a change, before I go back to another silk piece. I found some light grey 32 count Zweigart linen in a charity shop last month, and it keeps waving at me and asking to be used. I shall consult my books and resources and ponder….

One final thing: the WordPress stats tell me that I get a lot of visitors to this site, but very few visitors leave comments or ask questions. I do like to get some feedback on my blog posts. Otherwise it feels like I am just talking to myself and the one or two (very welcome) regular comment writers, and I get discouraged. And, as always, if there is something you would like me to write about – embroidery techniques in particular – let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Silk from China

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , on June 20, 2017 by suetortoise

As regular readers will know… (Hello, Regular Readers of Tortoise Loft – The Blog. Thanks for sticking around!) My usual go-to silk thread is DeVere Yarns lovely 06 silk. Fine, smooth, filament silk with a very slight single twist to make it manageable. It comes on neat cardboard bobbins and in a good (and slowly increasing) range of colours. I can highly recommend it.

I’ve recently got hold of some Chinese filament silk through eBay. I thought you might like to have a look at it.  Thread purchases from eBay can be somewhat of a lucky dip – I’ve bought ‘pearl cotton’ that was actually spun rayon (very nice rayon – I use the thread a lot) and ‘real silk’ that was just filament rayon. I didn’t want to pay a high price for the Chinese ‘silk’ without knowing what it would be like. I’ve been hankering after some for a year or more. Fortunately I got a pack for the minimum bid price recently. (This was on my third attempt – previously I’d been thoroughly outbid.) Continue reading

Meetings

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, Needlework, out and about with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by suetortoise

Several pleasant, embroidery-related things to talk about this month, including a trip to the NEC in Birmingham: blogger meets blogger.

I haven’t yet mentioned the Saturday-morning stitching group that is run by Shrewsbury Textiles and Creative Stitch (STACS) – the group that formed from the local EG group, when we voted to go independent last September. I joined the Saturday stitching group in January. It’s a friendly and welcoming bunch. There are usually about half a dozen or so adult stitchers, as well as a small but thriving junior group (who make interesting things on the other table). We meet at Bayston Hill Methodist Centre on the first Saturday of the month, where we have a well-lit room to work in. I am enjoying the chance to stitch in company again. Continue reading

Spring, Inktense pencils and Silk

Posted in Drawing and Painting, Embroidery with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by suetortoise

Almost March already. Sorry, folks! I kept holding off writing a new post, waiting for the sale of my Father’s house to happen – or fail to happen (which was seeming increasingly likely as the sales-chain continued to have endless hold-ups). Well, the week before last the sale did finally happen as planned, after we exchanged contracts in January. The new owners (who have been waiting surprisingly patiently since September) have moved in, and my sister and I can take a deep breath and move on.

daffodil-bud-mini

I have been playing with silk again. (It doesn’t take very much to tempt me to play with silk.) This half-open daffodil was really just done for practice, but it seems appropriate to put at the top of the post as it will be St David’s Day on Wednesday. The thread is mostly Devere Yarns 06 filament silk, although there’s a tiny bit of Stef Francis Superfine Silk in the papery spathe at the base of the flower along with a little pale greenish-brown rope silk that is at least 40 years old. The background fabric is Egyptian cotton sheeting. Continue reading

Annetje Band Sampler

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2016 by suetortoise

Annetje on light background

As promised, more about the band sampler. In March last year, I bought a bundle of charts for old samplers, from someone selling up stock. One of them was a reproduction of a Dutch sampler from 1663

Permin chart cover

The original sampler was charted by Permin of Copenhagen – it’s a massive chart on two huge sheets of paper. Worked over two threads on 30 count fabric, the size of the whole sampler would be 61 x 57 cm! Their reference number for the kit version is 39-8406 “Sampler ‘Antique'”. (Stocked in the UK by Sew and Sew, if you fancy such a mammoth undertaking.) Back in 1663, it was stitched by 11 year old Annetje Muusdochter, who lived in Broek in Waterland, near Amsterdam.

I can’t do better than point you at this blog page from Ex Antiques, who specialise in old samplers and have researched the Broek samplers – sixteen surviving examples known so far. They have a picture of the original. Not the clearest of photos, but close enough to show that the Permin chart is very accurate. The Ex Antiques blog is a treasure trove if you are interested in old samplers, particularly Dutch samplers. There are other posts about the Broek samplers, and photos of many of them.

When I saw the sampler, two things caught my eye. The first thing was the long strip of voided patterns on the left of the sampler: oh, how I wanted to work those bands! (More about the practicalities of working them in a momannetje church and housemarksent.) I definitely wasn’t interested in producing a copy of the whole sampler, although one or two of the motifs might be quite fun to adapt, and the lettering style is quaint, if not particularly easy to read. The other thing that caught my eye was the curious way Annetje had filled the gaps between the motifs and patterns – little shapes and signs made of straight lines. What were they? Some sort of code?

 

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Finished!

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2016 by suetortoise

annetje band sampler

I’ve been working on this band sampler as a carry-around project for well over a year. I promised myself that I’d finally finish it this month – and I did – just! (Better photos and some more information about it will follow in my next post.)

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

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.

It’s been quite a while!

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, Family and Friends with tags , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2015 by suetortoise

30 sitches to the inchI didn’t mean to stay silent for so long, but life has had other plans. Let me start with a quick update on my father’s health. Dad came home from hospital in March. He’s not so mobile now – he can’t walk – but he’s recently got an oxygen machine, which helps with his breathing, and he’s started working on his computer programming again, and showing some interest in life. My sister has been staying with him to help him. I took over for ten days at Easter, to give her a brief break, and I am usually there on Saturdays, so she can go out, but Frances has done the lion’s share of the caring and I don’t know how I’d have coped without her.

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