Hurrah! Oh dear…

Sounds of rejoicing throughout the Figworthy home: I’ve finished Orpheus II! It is essentially a re-arranged and elongated Orpheus I, which is why I’m treating them as two variations of one design. Doesn’t the choice of colour make a difference though! And I love the subtle variegations in the Sparklies fabrics – they bring out the best in the standard DMC perles. Orpheus will go on sale tomorrow, both on its own and as part of the Ukrainian Collection together with Odessa and Lviv.

Orpheus I finished Orpheus II finished

Finishing Orpheus meant that I was now allowed to start a new project. Or perhaps even projectS – one on the Millennium frame and a few tiddly ones in hoops. The choice of project for the Millennium frame was easy: the Benton & Johnson goldwork balloon. My first step there was to attach the blue silk to a calico backing, and this proved to be more challenging than expected.

I’d done my research, studying both in books and online how various experienced stitchers attached smaller pieces of fabric to larger pieces of backing before mounting the sandwich on a frame. There were some individual variations, but on the whole it seemed to amount to this: Pin fabric to calico. Sew fabric to calico using either herringbone stitch or long and short stitches, starting from the centre of each side. Mount calico on frame. Start stitching.

Having remembered just in time first to transfer the design on to the silk, I began with step one (I’m a traditionalist at heart) and pinned the silk to the calico, making sure that the grain of both fabrics lined up. Not easy as the calico appeared to be a little crooked, and the silk hadn’t been cut straight on all sides, but I did the best I could manage. That was my first mistake – I should have straightened up the fabric before starting.

The pins make the fabrics look very bumpy

It looked terribly bumpy even before I got all the pins in, so I removed quite a few of them and made do with about four a side, equally spaced. That was very likely my second mistake. (Can you see a pattern emerging here?) Third mistake: I made my herringbones far too large, especially when I changed from the stabbing method to the sewing method halfway through.

Herringbones that are far too large

Perhaps if I just put it on the Millennium frame and tighten it up, it’ll miraculously go flat and taut? Alas, no.

Even the Millennium frame can't put the tension right on that

At that point I decided to give up and unpick the whole thing. My husband reminded me that there were daffodils to be dead-headed in the front garden, and that I had declared an intention to attack the virulent ground elder that threatens to smother everything else in the back garden, so I went out into the sunshine and got myself some virtuously aching muscles. Then I came back in and did what I should have done in the first place, tidied up the edges of my fabrics. You do this by pulling out threads until you’ve got a straight edge, then trimming the superfluous fringe. And boy, was there a lot of superfluous fringe!

Some very wonky fabric

So now that I’ve got two straightened pieces of fabric my troubles are over, right? Well, not quite – the calico really is rather crooked; I mean that the warp and weft threads are not at right angles to each other, so even with neatened edges it is not a true rectangle. And the silk, though by no means as wonky as the calico, is half a centimetre longer on one vertical side than on the other, even though all four sides have been straightened. So I’m taking a while to think this through. I can get the vertical grain of the two fabrics to line up quite well. Perhaps if I attach the silk along the top and bottom only, it’ll work better. I might try this out with a spare piece of satin dupion first.

For now I’ll relax with some of the Kelly Fletcher flowers, trying out my two twills and some other fabric and thread combinations. But I’ll get back to that balloon in time – promise!

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