After my first Canvaswork class back in November I was feeling more optimistic about the endeavour, but I’m afraid my doubts returned as I was getting closer to my second class. To say that I am outside my comfort zone with this module is putting it mildly, and whether or not that was the reason I didn’t do much homework, the fact is that with less than one week to go I was feeling woefully underprepared. I managed to change my booking from 22nd to 29th January and solemnly undertook to do some serious sampling in that extra week.
By the way, just so that you don’t think I’d been completely useless over Christmas – I did do some work. I sampled some herringbone stitch in two different ways to see if I could work out a method which didn’t involve coming up underneath previous stitches, but which would still look the same (I could, the only visible difference being at the back of the work; the blue arrow points to the “by the book” version, the green arrow to my alternative). I also made a start on my colour plan, but as I wasn’t absolutely sure what the colour plan was meant to look like and how shaded the shading needed to be, I abandoned that halfway through. And I also… er, no. That was it.
In order not to feel immediately overwhelmed I started my new regime by sampling a very small roof. From the start I had envisaged it in slanted buttonhole stitch, and as it was orange and I have oodles of orange wool left from the Jacobean module, I used that. First I transferred the exact outline to my sample canvas, so I could see if the wool gave enough coverage. It did, and I really like the effect of the stitch. I later sampled it again in a slightly darker orange – I’ll decide further down the line which one to go with. (The picture also shows some outlines of bushes for later samplings.)
Next was the sky. There were two things to decide there: threads and stitch transitions. Because the sky is what we call in Dutch “strakblauw” (literally “taut” or “stretched” blue) I wanted a thread with a smooth texture, not rough or matt but not overly shiny either. And it so happens that in my stash there are two rather lovely series of blue silks, one in Caron Soie Cristale and one in Soie Alger. But there was possibly a snag – when the surface has to be fully covered, canvaswork takes a lot of thread (demonstration to follow), and I wasn’t sure whether my stash of silk would be enough. Buying more, especially of the Soie Cristale, would be difficult and would in any case mean different dye lots. But I do have a lot of DMC perle #8, and some of the blues looked quite suitable. They are more textured than silk, and a bit shinier (the silks I picked are both spun silks), but it was worth a sample.
Did I mention canvaswork takes a lot of thread? In any other embroidery that I do, perle #8 would count as a relatively chunky thread. Here it took a triple thread to get sufficient coverage. As for the texture, I wasn’t convinced, but I was going to wait and see how the silk behaved before deciding.
Soie Cristale is a 12-stranded silk, and I started out sampling with six strands. I got to use my beautiful laying tool, as getting the strands to lie parallel not only looks nicer, but also spreads the thread more. Even then six strands didn’t quite cover the canvas, so I tried again with nine, and worked a larger area to see the effect. Then I did a similar area in blended perle #8 to compare. I can tell you now that there is simply no comparison – silk it has to be! So smooth, so pretty, so lovely to work with *swoon* … Soie Cristale is on the Definite list.
One of the required items in the brief is a stitch transition, where at least two different stitches (and bear in mind that in canvaswork a “stitch” is often a particular arrangement of several stitches) have to gradually blend into each other. This means they must have some similarities to begin with, otherwise the join will be far too visible. I decided on Parisian stitch (underlined in blue), Hungarian Grounding (green) and Victorian Step (red). In spite of the interesting names, these are all arrangements of parallel straight stitches. The first two are usually worked with the stitches running vertically, so I turned them 90 degrees as I think the sky will look better with a horizontal sweep. It took a bit of pencil-and-squared-paper work to get the second transition to blend, but in the end I had something that I could present to the tutor as a feasible option.
By the way, a lot of sampling is done in just any old thread, unless you are actually trying out coverage or the way colours work together; the above transition was done using a spare ball of perle #5, and gave me the additional information that even that thickness does not cover the canvas when used horizontally (it may work diagonally, where the lines are closer together).
What else did I do before class? Ah yes, Turkey rug stitch. I want to use it for some bushes, with blended threads. I first tried it out with two (not very blendy) shades of Appleton’s, only to find that I’d forgotten how to do Turkey rug (which I first used on the bodies of two stumpwork butterflies) and was making the securing stitch too long (green arrow; the red arrow shows the correct length). Having refreshed my memory on this count, I decided to try it out in the proper threads, a blend of three shades of green Heathway Milano wool (the blend to change as a darker or lighter look is needed). As it turns out, a triple thread may be a bit too thick – after a few rows it gets difficult to see the canvas for the next one – so I’ll try one of the bushes with a double thread. I haven’t cut the loops yet, that’s another thing on the To Do list.
Finally, I transferred the two big tulips to the sample canvas and made a start on the red one. One possible stitch for this tulip is web stitch, which has diagonal stitches couched down to create a woven look. My thought is to leave out some of the rather dense couching and use the remaining couching stitches to create shading, partly by working them in a different colour from the diagonals, and partly by spacing them further apart when the shading needs to be lighter. Because I’d been working on Bartram the Bayeux ram, almost without thinking I stitched the diagonals as laid work (bringing the needle up right next to where you’ve taken it down so that there is hardly any thread at the back of the work) rather than satin stitch – but the Canvaswork brief, in its Tips section, advises stitchers to always take the thread the longest way round to help with tension. However, that really takes an awful lot of thread, and with all the couching stitches would make the back quite bulky. I put it down as something to ask the tutor.
And that’s the point I’d got to when it was time to gather all my frames and hoops and bits and bobs to go to class! But more about that in another FoF.