A frame, a bee, and another flower

Yes, I have finally taken the plunge – I have ordered a Millennium frame from Needle Needs. Have you heard of these frames? They are beautiful, hand-crafted examples of the tool maker’s art. But more importantly, they are said to keep the fabric taut from side to side, unlike any other scroll frame I know of. Now it’s easy to be cynical about claims made for any product, especially if they are made by the manufacturers, but several people have very convincingly reviewed these frames (most notably Mary Corbett and Nicola Parkman), and so I am convinced. Especially now that I want to get into a goldwork a bit (or perhaps a lot…) more, a frame that keeps the fabric good an tight will be a real treat!

Because they are hand-made to order the frames can take a while to arrive (several months, in some cases), but when I phoned to ask whether it would be possible for us to pick mine up as we would be practically passing their workshop on our way to the in-laws at the end of February, the kind and helpful gentleman told me it was almost certain to be ready then, and yes, as long as we reminded them by phone the day before, it would be fine to come and pick it up. Hurrah! If it all works out as planned, that means I save the postage and I get to show the frame to my mother-in-law, who has been a keen needlewoman all her life.

Knowing that I will be the proud owner of this beautiful frame within a relatively short time, I have put Orpheus II on hold for the moment; it will be my inaugural project.

Which means that my stitching time for this month (which is fairly busy, so there won’t be that much of it anyway) will probably be taken up with finishing goldwork projects, experimenting with shisha flowers, and some more charity stitching. And the first in line was, of course, The Bee. I managed to do a fair bit of chipwork at my weekly stitching group last Monday, and encouraged by this I finished it on Tuesday. Then it was time for some experimenting, as well as some very fiddly unpicking – the tarnished gold on the bee’s body was carefully removed and put to one side on my velvet board, then I started cutting the silver bright check purl I got particularly for this purpose. Fortunately the gold that was already there turned out to be the same thickness – a sigh of relief there.

There wasn’t enough of the gold to do the whole bee in alternate stripes, so I decided to give him a silver head and backside. I cut one bit of silver too long and the two tiny bits I cut off to make it fit struck me as being just the right size to go on the end of his antennae. He doesn’t have any in the original design, but that’s neither here nor there. He does now. I found some very thin gold-and-red thread I had left over from a Japanese embroidery workshop which I used for the antennae themselves. And here he is!

The 2009 RSN workshop bee, finished at last

It turned out to be very difficult to get an accurate picture – the fabric shows up in the various photographs as tinged with red, yellow and green, but it is just an ordinary natural-coloured fabric, sort of off-white/creamy. Another thing that was difficult to capture was the shine of the gold threads and wires. In the end I held the un-hooped fabric in direct sunlight and, with the camera pointed at it, moved it about until both leaf and bee sparkled. So here is an attempt at showing him in his full sparkly glory.

Showing the sparkle

With the bee finished more or less to my satisfaction I found myself with some stitching time left before going to bed, so I had a go at another shisha flower card. As I’ve decided to use the small flower motif for a workshop my plan is to stitch it in several versions to see which one will work best, producing a number of useful cards in the process. This one uses the fly stitch variation which looks rather like a daisy; I used my 12-dot pattern in order to end up with 24 petals, as my shisha mirror stand-in (a disc of shell dyed a cheerful yellow) was smaller than the one in my experimental daisy, which could easily accommodate 32 petals. The scrolled stem is worked in chain stitch using DMC floche, the leaf is done in fly stitch using two strands of Carrie’s Creations stranded silk, and outlined in stem stitch using one strand. I like the effect of the fly stitch leaf, and together with chain stitch it will offer the learners some nice traditional stitches for this type of work.

A small shisha flower using fly stitch

Now it’s a pretty motif all on its own, but you can never have too much bling in a shisha piece and I felt perhaps there wasn’t quite enough of it here, especially as I won’t be using blending filament in the workshop. Perhaps some sequins? I didn’t have any metallic sequins to hand (though I have ordered some in gold, silver and copper) so I dotted around some gilt spangles. I started out with them in little triangular groups of three but ended up with a sort of “halo” around the flower, which seems to work quite well. The spangles are not actually attached, just put on the fabric for the photograph, as they are proper gilt ones which came with the goldwork watering can kit and I am not sewing nearly a pound’s worth of spangles to a small card! When the sequins arrive, I’ll sew some of those on, either gold only or perhaps (as there are nine of them) three of each colour. We’ll see!

Adding spangles to a shisha flower

Note to self: must remember to add the sequin dots to the shisha flower patterns.

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