More wools – Renaissance Dyeing

Serinde very kindly sent me some Renaissance Dyeing crewel wools so now I’ve got two types to try out! You may recognise the design I chose for my comparison – yes, it’s the goldwork pincushion design from Samplers & Antique Needlework. It’s nicely Jacobean looking, so why shouldn’t it work in wools as well as gold? A brief aside – judging the colour of threads by what they look like on websites is very unsatisfactory; the Pale Apple (far right in the picture) is clearly green on the RD website but in real life it is more like a slightly green-tinged pale yellow.

A selection of Renaissance Dyeing wools

The RD wool is quite fine, and some threads have very occasional thinnish patches. To some extent this may be caused by part of the thread untwisting as I’m using it – as you can see, the thicker part of the thread looks much more loosely twined. However, even straight off the skein there seems to be some unevenness here and there. Still, it is very infrequent and otherwise the thread is beautifully even, and lovely to work with. As for the stitches used in this project, although I’d scribbled a few ideas on the design I’ve been changing things as I go along; one line of stem stitch looked far too spindly for the stem (perhaps I should have used a smaller version of the design) so I added another line, plus a line in yellow – good practice for my Tree of Life trunk! The leaf is outlined in Palestrina stitch (I told you I was going to play with that). I added two-coloured French and colonial knots roughly where spangles were in the original, and a thin yellow stem stitch line to one side of the satin stitch leaves. As for the decoration inside the blue Portuguese knotted stem stitch petals, fairly last-minute (just before starting the lazy daisies specified by the design, in fact) I substituted bullion knots in two colours so I could include the dark navy blue. The red outline on the flower is heavy chain stitch, and the wool behaved very well on that.

Unevenness in Renaissance Dyeing wool

Stems and leaves in a variety of stitches

Last-minute change to the petals

The orange inner line is Hungarian braided chain stitch, and with hindsight I don’t think wool is particularly suited to it. Its slight fuzziness makes it difficult to pick up the inner stitches without catching the outer ones. It doesn’t look too bad but the braided appearance isn’t as distinct as it would be with a smoother thread. Long & short stitch isn’t my forte but it did create the flame-like look I was aiming for. The three yellow French knots on the tip of the flower were added because there was a little dot of ink there which hadn’t been covered by the chain stitch…

The Renaissance Dyeing experiment, finished

A close-up of the leaf

A close-up of the stem and petal

A close-up of the flower

I like this type of project – I can do pretty much whatever I like, change my mind half-way through, and add things and change things as the fancy takes me. It’s as close to anarchy as I am ever likely to get; very liberating smiley.

Pearsall’s, and disappearing silks

Some years ago I picked up a small collection of vintage silks made by Pearsall’s Embroidery, called Filofloss. They were stranded, flattish silks with a lovely sheen, made during the 1920s and 30s as far as I can remember. Lovely, and unfortunately discontinued. But Pearsall’s continued with a different stranded silk, Filoselle, which I used for the stems and the blue flower in Mary Corbett’s small cross design. It has more twist than Filofloss, and is a little more springy, but it has the same lovely sheen. Unfortunately, despite the label shown on Pearsall’s home page, Filoselle is no more. When I spoke to Carol at Pearsall’s to ask whether they would be at the Knitting & Stitching Show she explained that the silks had been very much the domain of her business partner John, who sadly died in 2012. Since then, all their silks apart from surgical silks have been phased out.

What they do still do is crewel wool. After my recent re-acquaintance with Appleton’s (about which more when I post about my twill experiments) I felt I would really like to try a crewel wool that doesn’t have thin bits which make one’s stitching look more irregular than it needs to, that doesn’t pill, or fluff, or untwist. Serinde over at the Cross Stitch Forum suggested either Renaissance Dyeing or Pearsall’s Heathway Milano crewel wool.

There is a lot to be said for Renaissance Dyeing’s wool. For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper than Pearsall’s. But Pearsall’s has a wider range of colours, and these are much more conveniently laid out on their website. I’m finding it almost impossible to work out from RD’s page of wools how to put together a set of three or four matching shades of any one colour. For example, presumably Light Orange #0302 goes with Pale Orange #0301, but they are several rows apart, their pictures separated by seven completely unrelated colours; in some cases shades that are probably related are so far apart that you need to scroll from one to the other so you can’t see them together. Another thing, do you go by name or by proximity of number? Does Dark Apricot #1205 go with Light Peach #1203? I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and this confuses me. I will try and work it out because anything Serinde recommends is likely to be lovely to work with, but for now I decided to concentrate on Pearsall’s.

Because Pearsall’s have a Crewel Starter Pack – 30 skeins of wool plus two good-sized pieces of twill at a considerable discount to what it would cost to buy all the bits separately. True, you don’t get to choose the colours, but the picture seemed to indicate that there would be four shades of seven different colour families, plus black and white, which is a useful start to a collection but also varied enough to be useful without having to add to it. I decided to ring them and spoke to Carol, who was incredibly helpful. She actually went through several of the packs she had in stock to tell me what combinations they contained! Determined not to impulse-buy I said I’d go away and think about it. I did. For at least 10 minutes. Then I called back and ordered one of the starter packs. This was about three o’ clock on Friday afternoon; on Saturday the postwoman delivered this:

Wool from Pearsall's starter pack

Aren’t they gorgeous? And the picture can’t tell you how beautifully soft they are – I was fondling them for at least five minutes before putting them away for the moment. When the Wedding Elephant is done, I’ll do a Kelly Fletcher flower with some of them to see how they are to work with.

Talking of KF, I finished Bloomin’ Marvellous 7 (yes, it was on hold; but for various reasons I didn’t get round to setting up the Elephant on Saturday, so I finished this while watching the VE Day concert). Besides some Chameleon Shades of Africa silks (the two yellows) it uses some of Vikki Clayton’s Hand-Dyed Fibers premium stranded silk. A little chunkier than standard strands, and lovely to work with, but it seems Hand-Dyed Fibers is yet another brand that has ceased to exist – the website is down and although I can find references to Vikki Clayton online, I can’t find anything to indicate that she is still producing these silks. I hope not too many silks go the same route or we won’t have anything to stitch with but DMC and Anchor! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen beautiful projects created with stranded cotton, but there is just something about working with silks that is a little bit special, not to mention their place in the long history of embroidery – it would be a shame if they all went.

Bloomin' Marvellous 7 finished