A Jacobean vine – adding some colour

Even with the extra stitching time scheduled in before my September Certificate class, it was quite clear I wasn’t going to get all the homework done that Helen Cook had suggested at the end of the previous class. But I was determined to get the vine finished – if only because it meant stitching something that wasn’t brown!

But a little preparation was needed before actually getting some orange and turquoise stitches in; careful though I had been, the voids in the trunk didn’t quite follow the curve I had intended for the vine, so I drew some extra guidelines to make sure the voids were all completely filled while keeping the lines suitably sinuous.

The voids for the vine across the trunk Extra lines to guide the vine stitching

And so on to some colour – the central line of orange to begin with, as I wanted to make sure that it was central, something which would be more difficult to achieve if I started with one of the turquoise shades on the outside of the vine. Using the extra step I’d been taught to use doing chain stitch for these lines of stem stitch as well (that is to say, using my hand at the back of the work to pull the loop left at the front through to the back before pulling the thread completely through to the front) proved helpful in creating nice even stitches with, I hoped, less wear than when using the usual pull-through-in-one-go method.

The first bit of non-brown

Unfortunately not even this extra step could counteract the fluffiness and unevenness of some of the threads. In fact, the thread was not only fluffy and uneven, it had some stiff, lighter fibres in it as well. All this meant that I had to unpick part of the vine because the fluffiness made the stem stitches stick together, losing the definition of the stitch, and the stiff alien fibres stood out both by their colour and their texture. And finding a nicely even length of Appleton’s wasn’t easy – looking at the sample below is it any wonder that very few lengths are used in their entirety?

Fuzzy thread with bits A very uneven thread

Still, eventually the orange centre got done, and I was very pleased with the curvaceousness of it. Now for some turquoise! And then I felt a tangle of thread at the back of the work… Now I can’t quite work out why I didn’t notice this tangle while it was happening. It is true that I start and finish from the front because the slate frame isn’t easy to flip, but for one thing I would have expected to notice that suddenly the thread I pulled through was a lot shorter than it should be (this is how I usually realise that all is not well at the back of the work). True, that doesn’t always register (it obviously didn’t this time), but then normally I don’t work two-handed – whereas on this project my right hand is permanently at the back of the work, pulling the needle through to the back and feeding it back to the front. How did I miss that tangle when my hand must have brushed against it several times??? Fortunately I managed to cut the tangle and weave in the ends without the need for any more unpicking, so not too much of a setback.

The orange part of the vine completed An annoying knot at the back The knot seen to

So finally I did get around to the turquoise surrounding the orange. And then I ran into the opposite problem – the thread I was using was relatively thin, and the stem stitch didn’t fully fill the void. Unpick, find a thicker thread (both the original and the replacement can be seen in the first picture below) and restitch, and it looks much better. One shade down, one to go.

Adding turquoise, which looks a bit thin The turquoise restitched with a thicker thread

Now in the original design, the last bit of the vine had only the darker shade of turquoise, on one side of the orange. If I ever do this design again (not going to happen!) I’d probably use the lighter shade instead, but I’m not seriously unhappy with the darker shade there. What I was unhappy with, was the fact that the change from three colours to two colours seemed a bit stark, happening as it did when the vine was hidden behind the trunk. I decided to add just a little of the lighter shade at the beginning of the top part of the vine, to make the transition a bit gentler.

A second turquoise added An extra bit of medium turquoise

And there you have it: the Tree of Life as it was before my September class. Had it grown much by the end of the class? Wait and see smiley.

The Tree of Life before the September class

2 comments on “A Jacobean vine – adding some colour

  1. It’s so interesting to understand how you problem-solve when stitching this piece. As for Appleton. Well. I sometimes wonder why the RSN isn’t on their back constantly — the whole point of spinning yarn like this is to create consistency, surely?

    However! Not to get sidetracked. What a difference some colour makes, eh? Is the manner in which the chain stitch done a deep RSN secret, or would it be possible to let your readers know where they might learn to do it this way? Chain stitch, despite it’s obvious usefulness, is my least favourite stitch because I can never get it to behave!

  2. As the RSN is first and foremost a School, I doubt they’d keep any stitch instructions a secret! But it’s one of those things that’s a lot easier to show in real life than it is to describe or even to show in photographs or video, as most of the added action takes place at the back of the work. I tried to explain it a bit in my Trunk post, but I’ll see if I can describe it in a different way.

    OK. Start a chain stitch in the usual way, right up to the stage where you bring the needle up to catch the loop. When you do this, don’t pull the working thread through completely, but only just enough so that the needle is free of the fabric, inside the loop you left. Now keep gentle tension on the bit of the working thread that is at the front, making sure it is where it needs to be to give the loop its chain shape. Using your dominant hand at the back of the fabric, pull the loop through until it is the size and shape you want your chain stitch to be, i.e. it looks like a finished chain stitch. Then pull the needle to bring the working thread up through the fabric to the front completely.

    The thing is that in this way, the thread only travels through the fabric at right angles (or very nearly so), minimising friction and wear & tear. Hope that helps!

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