A different use

Remember those twelve or so projects I had in various stages of WIPness? Well, several have been finished – the Wedding Umbrellas, the little flower and the Sarah Homfray crewel bird. So there are fewer in the pile now? Well, no. A doodle cloth has been added for Soli Deo Gloria (I have worked out what I want to do with the flower centre; now to try different approaches for the petals), as well as a crewel project made up of bits of designs from two books, and a wool version of Hengest (using some of the Milano Heathway wools that arrived today). But at least I am finishing things as well as starting them!

Milano Heathway crewel wools - some of them for Hengest

One small project, however, was in danger of turning from a WIP (Work In Progress) into a UFO (UnFinished Object). It was a small pansy which I found on an embroidery website somewhere and which I thought would be handy to try out my Madeira Lana threads. And so it was; I got some useful long & short stitch in on one of the petals, then rather lost interest, at least partly because by then I’d used the Lana for one of my Quatrefoils as well, so the pansy’s original use had been rather overtaken by events.

Long and short stitch in Lana on a pansy petal

And I realised I didn’t really like the way the leaves were designed, divided into two halves, light and dark green. Of course I could change that to be long & short stitch as well, but by then I’d already done half a leaf in dark green split stitch. And then it dawned on me: I could use this pansy to Try Out Something Else!

The Tree of Life I’ve been designing for the past three years or so has one of those willowy trunks that you see a lot in Jacobean crewel work as well; mine is meant to be worked in stem stitch lines, and probably not solidly filled. But that, and a daffodil I did some time ago, made me wonder about using stem stitch and split stitch as a solid filling when you don’t go round and round but work in lines. If you work the two outlines and then work your way in from both sides to the middle (which is what I would instinctively do) then unless the shape is uniformly wide along its entire length you will get a sort of vein in the middle where the lines coming from left and right meet. How could you avoid that effect? Well, one way might be to work middle-to-sides instead of sides-to-middle – then the lines would get shorter on the outside of the shape. Start at the bottom in the middle to do a full-length line right to the top, then add lines on the left and right of the middle which are each a little shorter than the previous one, simply stopping when they reach the outline.

My theory, when thinking it over, was that the former method (sides-to-middle) would cause a ridge or vein in the middle but also have smoother sides, while the latter (middle-to-sides) would be smooth in the centre but perhaps a little stepped on the sides. Well, why not try this out on the four leaves of the pansy! So I set out to work the dark green halves of the leaves, side-to-middle on the left-hand leaves and middle-to-side on the right-hand ones. As you can see the bottom leaf on the left particularly shows the slightly stepped line down the centre, where the light green other half will meet it.

Split stitch leaves, side-to-middle, first half Split stitch leaves, middle-to-side, first half

The photographs below were taken before I managed to completely finish the final leaf, but I think the difference is clear enough to see, and a very useful record to keep in my doodle folder. I managed to keep the sides of the middle-to-sides leaves rather smoother than I had feared/expected, which was a pleasant surprise!

Split stitch leaves, side-to-middle, second half Split stitch leaves, middle-to-side, second half

So now I know: if I want a vein down the middle, for example because I am stitching a leaf, I’ll use sides-to-middle – and if I don’t, for example on petals or trunks, I’ll use middle-to-sides! As for the rest of the pansy, it may get finished. Or not. It depends on how loudly the wool unicorn calls…

2 comments on “A different use

  1. That is a useful bit of stitching, and an exciting discovery, at least for me as I rarely do surface embroidery mostly because I’m faced with decisions like this!

  2. It’s one of the reasons why I love little projects – you can use them to try things out, but unlike a doodle cloth they can then be used for cards and have a useful “afterlife”.

    Mind you, I do like keeping my doodle cloths because they form a good record of what I’ve tried before (and whether it worked). Sometimes an idea occurs to me but my doodle cloth informs me that I’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work then, either 🙂

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