Buds and pieces

All right, it’s still not stitching on the actual canvas, but at least I have sampled the large green bud as it will eventually look. I changed the single strand of red from a burgundy cotton to a slightly more orangy silk, threaded five needles with various combinations of green perles, and Had A Go. And I must say I like the effect! The only slightly mysterious thing is that my charted version, whose shape was taken from an earlier sample which used the proper design outline, now doesn’t seem to completely fill the design outline (blue arrow). Still, inexplicable though it is, if it turns out to show this behaviour on the real project as well I can easily fill in the missing bit with the darkest shade. I will find this out at my fourth class tomorrow, where I hope to put in this bud and perhaps the pink tulip. Even so, I fear this module may take rather more than the usual eight classes…

Getting ready to sample the bud Lots of needles at the ready The finished bud may need a few more stitches

By the way, earlier this month we finally made it to the Netherlands for the first time in two and a half years and saw lots of family and friends, and slightly more relevant to this blog, the Keukenhof – that incredible garden where growers show off their flower bulbs for two months every year, and which was the inspiration for my Canvaswork design. The flowers change every year, I mean they don’t plant the same ones in the same places, and the photograph I’m working from must have been taken while the park was closed as there are no people in it, but I managed to find pretty nearly the right spot!

My canvaswork spot

In my usual spirit of optimism I took three embroidery projects with me, but only one of them was ever taken out of my stitching bag, and even then I didn’t do an awful lot. Still, Do-Pea now has the stem stitch part of his wing done, plus all the laid-and-couched work in his tail circle.

Progress on Do-Pea

The blue I needed to outline his tail and fill in the rest of the wing was waiting for me when I got home, together with some other shades. I’m beginning to get quite a collection of Renaissance Dyeing wool! And today a parcel arrived from America with some lovely Splendor silks, some to add to my collection and some (the ones at the bottom) specifically for the Quatrefoil kit. The beads were on offer so I stocked up on some of my favourite shades to make the most of the postage smiley.

The new wools My Renaissance Dyeing collection Splendid Splendor silks Bonus beads

Going back to the blue wool needed for outlining, on the Bayeux tapestry this is done using outline stitch rather than its mirror twin stem stitch (it is also done before the laid work, which has the advantage of not covering up internal design lines but which does add a degree of fiddliness I am not prepared to subject myself to). As the wool they used was a normal S-twist, this means the stitches blend into each other more and the resulting line has a less rope-like look than with stem stitch.

Outlines in outline stitch

Having read about this while I was on holiday the outline/stem issue was obviously still lingering in my mind when I was deciding on stitches for a small project earlier this week. I wanted to stitch the small Hope rainbow but didn’t want to use the three different textures of stem stitch, chain stitch and French knots. On the other hand, stem stitch only seemed a little dull. So I opted for alternating stem and outline stitch, with their subtly different looks, and I’m quite pleased with how that turned out.

Hope using stem stitch and outline stitch

Small embroidery projects like these are great for making cards and ornaments for special occasions. Any embroidery project is also a guaranteed method for Finding A Cat. Just place the embroidery in the brightest spot of the house to photograph it, and a cat will magically appear…

Embroidery, with cat.

A colourful dodo

The peacock I picked from the Bayeux tapestry as inspiration for a crewel project that will be part of a course later this year has been dignified, or rather undignified, with various monikers. Tanya Bentham refers to him in her latest book as an oven-ready chicken, and in a recent talk as a bit of a turkey. Mr Figworthy thinks he looks more like a dodo than a peacock. Now I’m rather partial to dodos – I love Dick King-Smith’s delightful book Dodos Are Forever, there is a Dutch series of comic books in which a resourceful dodo accompanies the hero, and Jasper Fforde, in his Tuesday Next series, created the unforgettable Pickwick (catchword: “Plock”). So I have decided to consider my Bayeux creature a dodo-peacock hybrid, who will henceforth be known as Do-Pea.

The Bayeux tapestry is about 50cm high, from which I calculated that the original peacock stands at a little under 8cm tall. Helpfully having worked this out after picking two sizes in which to transfer my modified outline, I was rather pleased that they happen to be about half a centimetre either side of the original size.

Do-Pea in two sizes

After getting Do-Pea transformed into a usable outline, the next thing was to decide on where to use what stitch (the original uses stem stitch filling as well as the more predictable Bayeux stitch) and in what direction; and the tail needed some work as even with the Bayeux Museum’s excellent high-resolution photographs it wasn’t very clear what the original treatment was – the stitching looks a little the worse for wear, and as I’m not trying to create a perfect copy I thought I might as well do whatever I liked the look of. I went for stripes inside a circle of dots. As I was undecided about whether to use circular stem stitch or satin stitch/Bayeux stitch on those dots and his head feathers I’m trying both (one of the reasons for stitching two models).

Stitch type and direction

Incidentally, I picked two different fabrics for these two dodos: for the larger one a soft woollen fabric (the same that I used for Bartram the Rainbow Ram) and for the smaller some of the vintage Irish linen I inherited from my mother-in-law. It is the latter I’ve started with, in a rather pastel palette (bigger Do-Pea will be much brighter). Unfortunately the blue in this selection is rather too light for the outlining I had in mind, and the next blue I’ve got is the much darker one used on the other version, so I’ve ordered the shade in between (and one or two other colours, just to make the most of the postage you understand).

A pastel palette The brighter larger version

Until that turns up I’m working on the tail, which doesn’t use blue for any of the filling in. So far I’ve done the pale turquoise and the mid violet parts. What I particularly like about the Renaissance Dyeing wools for this sort of project is that they are not completely uniform in colour – there is some subtle shading along the skein, which which makes for a pleasantly medieval look. No purple or lilac is used in the Bayeux tapestry, but I think it works rather well; perhaps the Bayeux stitchers’ local needlework shop had run out smiley.

Starting on a tail A close-up of the wool

By the way, I know some of the dots aren’t particularly regular, but outlining hides a multitude of sins and I want this to be a fairly relaxed project so I’m not trying to be super precise. And wonky dots may make him live up to his name more…