James goes bling

Some time ago someone suggested that James, the snail from my RSN Jacobean module, would make quite a nice little crewel kit. That is now on my To Do list, but as I was looking at his outline, I suddenly thought, “wouldn’t he look good in gold?” And because there’s always room for another project, I thought I’d have a go. First of all, bits of him needed padding. I wanted the shell raised in the centre, which was done with a rather pleasant-looking little comma of felt with two more layers over the top, and extra stitching to emphasise the spiral. The brick/stone he is sitting on got a single layer of felt as it would be filled in, although I didn’t yet know what with.

Several outlines, and some felt cut out A little felt comma A raised shell All the padding done

My idea was to stick as much as possible to the “layout” of the crewel version, which meant an open body with some dotted shading and a filled-in shell and brick. The best way to represent the shaded satin stitch on the original brick would be vertical cutwork, and I wanted that outlined first. Then there was a line indicating the curved ground the brick rests on, plus the outlining of James’ body. As I wanted to keep them all distinct I went with pearl purl for the sides of the brick, twist for the ground and double passing for the body. The twist was attached with stitches snuggling in between the plies so the couching is invisible.

All the outlining done

Time for the shell. I couldn’t see a way of reproducing the “spoke” effect of James’ raised backstitch crewel shell, so I chose to couch along the spiral instead. In order not to lose the spiral in one homogenous mass of circling couching I started with a double line of check thread, with the rest of the shell done in pairs of passing again. A lot more plunging than I’d like, but heigh-ho, it was needed to get the effect I wanted. (Oh, I also added a spangle eye and metallic thread feelers with little beads on the end. I know a snail doesn’t have an eye as such, but I prefer him with one.)

The spiral outlined in check thread A lot of plunging The shell complete

A few dotted bits of bright check in the body to represent the seed stitching in the crewel original, and then on to the brick! Vertical cutwork in one of the cylindrical purls and one of the angular ones, and because it seemed a good idea to have the brick relatively matte compared to James’ shiny shell I picked rough purl and wire check. As always, cutting the chips to exactly the right length was a, uhm, lengthy process – a chip is too long, so you take off a fraction of a smidgen and suddenly it’s too short. I have a fair few spare chips in a separate little bag now…

Cutting the chips

I decided to shade the chips a bit like the satin stitch in the original to add texture. And when, several hours later, I had covered about half of the brick, I realised I wasn’t sure I liked the look of it. Bother. I’m not even sure why I have second thoughts about it. I like the shading. I even like the look of that row of companionably snug vertical chips in itself. I’m just not sure it makes the brick look the way I want it.

Half a brick

So that’s where I am with Blingy James – he has been temporarily put away while I think about his brick and decide what I want to do with it. I’ll let you know when I know!

Fortunately there are two pieces of goldwork (or more accurately one piece of goldwork and one piece of silverwork) which did get finished, and indeed were finished some time ago. They were the Secret Project which can finally be revealed because the edition of Stitch magazine in which they appear is now in the shops. I present to you: Come Rain, Come Shine – two metalwork samplers in the shape of, respectively, an umbrella and a parasol. If you choose to stitch it, I’d love to see pictures of your finished projects! And as always, if you have any questions about the instructions, the materials or anything else, just drop me a line.

The two projects with the magazine they appear in Come Rain Come Shine

Goldwork for all weathers

When I completed the RSN goldwork boot some time ago, and posted pictures of it on the Cross Stitch Forum (yes, I know, it isn’t cross stitch – but they humour me and allow me to stay a member even though I do mostly other needlework now smiley), one lady remarked that it would be fun to stitch the whole outfit to go with the boot in goldwork: gloves, hat, corset, dress… I agreed it would make a lovely series, but that it was very unlikely to happen, especially to scale! But suddenly a picture of a parasol entered my mind, and refused to budge.

When that happens, resistance is futile – and so I started looking for basic umbrella/parasol shapes. Although the original idea had been for a parasol as an accessory to the never-to-be-stitched Edwardian costume, at this point I wasn’t sure whether it might not become an umbrella, and anyway they are pretty much the same shape, aren’t they? A parasol just being a lighter, more elegant version of an umbrella. But I knew quite certainly the sort of outline I wanted: what you might call a child’s version of an umbrella, with four or five panels, and tilted about 45 degrees. After a few sketches I did a first line drawing on the computer.

The first line drawing

This captured the essence of umbrella-ness I was looking for, and I did some work on the fillings and materials, but something bothered me. When I had a closer look, I realised what it was – the drawing was wonky. The left-hand panels were longer than the ones on the right-hand side, making it impossible to place any decorative motifs satisfactorily, and the angle of the shaft was slightly off. Back to the drawing board.

Changes to the line drawing The new line drawing

Once the outline had been tweaked to my satisfaction, I could work on the decoration of the panels. After a while I found myself with two versions which I liked equally. OK, so why not have two projects, a parasol and an umbrella? And to make them look more balanced when stitched as a pair, I reversed one of them.

An umbrella and a parasol Mirror images

While all this was being done on the computer, I was also still scribbling notes on the first printout, jotting down ideas for materials and stitches.

Notes about stitches and threads

Deciding which of the various ideas to use is never easy, because inevitably some have to be discarded (unless you want to end up with a whole herd of umbrellas – and how many goldwork umbrellas am I likely to want to stitch?!?) Eventually I managed to work out which ones I liked best, and in which combinations, and I could add some indication of stitches to the bare transfer drawings.

Working charts incorporating ideas for stitches and threads

The fabrics for both projects had already practically picked themselves – two of the shades of Essex linen I bought last month, Teal for the umbrella (in silver), and Orange for the parasol (in gold). Both behaved beautifully on the lightbox, and I’ve got a beautiful deep 10" hoop that’s just the right size, large enough to give the design breathing space and small enough to be manageable. And here they are (though only in unstitched outline as yet): Come Rain, Come Shine.

Come Rain on teal Essex linen Come Shine on orange Essex linen

Now for the fun part of picking the threads, wires, spangles and whatnots!