Last Monday I showed you the smallest of the three projects in my sketch, the little freebie peacock. There wasn’t an awful lot to say about it, as it was a fairly straightforward "conversion" from line drawing to cross stitch. But some ideas take a bit more thought and experimentation.
Most of the bottom half of the page concerns a daffodil. You may remember that I’ve been keeping an idea in the back of my mind for a daffodil-or-leek-themed piece to go with Scotland the Brave, Tudor Rose and Luck of the Irish, and when my husband and I were on our Welsh weekend, where the daffodils were outnumbered only by the woolly spring lambs and the vintage cars (it was that sort of weekend …), I suddenly saw how the piece might work, and that led to the sketchbook doodles.
One of the ideas was to use pulled work for some of the petals. In pulled work no threads are cut, but the stitches are pulled very tightly so that an open, lacy structure is created, and I thought that might make an interesting contrast with the cutwork of Hardanger. Then I remembered a stitch I’d found on the internet, for which I had rather tantalisingly not got very precise instructions but which looked interesting. It came from a technique called Schwalm, and was called Rosenstich. In fact it did have some cutting, but not nearly so much as Hardanger, and the stitch itself looked rather like a tightly pulled version of a dove’s eye, which would add a neat touch of similarity to the contrast. I drew the stitch very sketchily, with next to it an impression of what it might look like pulled, and a note to "check how to connect" the individual stitches, that it to say, how to get from one to the next!
As I was looking for more information online, and trying to work out how I might connect the stitches (lots of pencil sketches and even more rubbing out!), I couldn’t help feeling that I’d seen that stitch somewhere else, under a different name. Now that in itself is not unusual – there are only so many different things you can do with a needle and thread, and it is not uncommon for people in different parts of the world to come up with the same thing (or something very similar) and to give it their own, local name. I seemed to remember it was pulled work without any cutting, so I looked through several of my books and eventually found it in a fascinating book I bought in a second-hand shop some time ago, Carolyn Ambuter’s The Open Canvas. It describes a great variety of pulled and cut work, all done (as the title suggests) on canvas rather than fabric. And in it I found what she calls (rather confusingly to a Hardanger enthusiast) "Greek cross filling".
It came with quite a clear diagram which was not unlike my final pencil-on-squared-paper version, except that I started each stitch in a slightly different way. Having compared the two, I decided to go with my own version as it would feel more natural to stitch it like that. Time to put it to the test!
I’ve always got off-cuts of 25ct fabric lying around, as well as some #5 and #8 perle (the latter a superfluous ball of DMC 319 which I had bought without referring to my stock list), so I used those. I found in time that using an off-cut was not a good idea, as it was too small to sit in a hoop properly, which made it difficult to pull my stitches evenly. Oh well. I had decided on some cutting (as in the Rosenstich version) but only very minimally – 1 thread every other 3. The cutting meant I needed some sort of satin stitch border, which I unfortunately miscounted so that on two sides there is a single group of 2 threads rather than 3. Never mind, it would still work. Incidentally, in any "proper" project I would have tucked the cut ends in!
The next part was the actual pulled work, which was quite relaxing to do once I got into a rhythm. I was surprised to see that what was stitched pretty much like a dove’s eye turned into a little + when pulled tightly. Of course in traditional pulled work it would be white-on-white and nearly invisible, and if it ever made it into the daffodil project it would be yellow-on-white so visible but not very prominent; whereas here the dark green clamours for attention. But for practising and experimenting purposes that suited me very well.
It did end up very puckered – at least partly because the fabric hadn’t been stretched tautly enough, no doubt – and even some very vigorous ironing didn’t restore it to the square it should have been; even so, I liked the effect of the bunched fabric threads and the holes.
Nevertheless, I don’t think this one will be used in any of my projects; although it would make a really nice contrast with Hardanger, my idea of "echoing" the Rosenstich with dove’s eyes in the Hardanger part wouldn’t really work because the Rosenstich doesn’t look like a dove’s eye anymore. I’d also worry that the pulled stitches would distort the rest of the design. Unless, perhaps, it was done on a very loosely-woven linen, where the pulled stitches would be less likely to distort the fabric beyond their immediate area; but unfortunately I don’t like doing Hardanger on loosely-woven linen!
So still no daffodil design. On the other hand, I’ve learnt more about a stitch I hadn’t used before, found out what I can and can’t use it for, and had an enjoyable time doing so. The daffodil will come. Some day.