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A New Year!

January 26, 2012

Yeah, I know, it’s hardly “new year” time anymore, since it’s almost the end of January, but what can I say?  Things have been busy.  I keep thinking I should post an update, but…

So, since my last post: work, New Year’s Eve, helped a friend move, work, Hubs had hernia surgery, work, event, Winter Semester begins (work), work, family get-together, work, shop for silk embroidery thread, event, crafty project-doing, work.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

I sewed together the blue wool that I had cut out over Christmas weekend.  I had to fudge the sleeves a little by adding small gores to widen the bicep opening that I apparently cut too small, but that’s ok.  Now I’m working on doing some embroidery around the neckline.  I plan to also put some embroidery around the hem if I have time to do it.  My plan is to wear this for Val Day on February 11.  I’ll certainly get the neckline done by then, but I may have to put the hem on hold, since I have other projects that need to be done by then as well.

The design I’m using is from this piece – the “Cloth of St. Ewald“, and embroidered panel from somewhere in the 9th-12th centuries.  It’s blue linen, with embroidery in red, blue, brown, and grey silk thread.  I’m using DMC Pearl cotton on my wool fabric.  I like that the white stands out so sharply against the dark blue.  The design is a slight adaptation, as you can see – I sort of unconsciously turned it into more of a fleur-de-lis than than the original, but it still looks pretty good.  I spent about 2 hours on it last night and I’m about halfway through the main neckline portion.

On the left is my chalked-in design.

On the right is some of the actual embroidery.  This is done in split stitch.  I tried stem stitch on a sample piece, but didn’t like the look.  Split stitch gives a much cleaner, more finished appearance.

The wool fabric is so nice to stitch on!  It’s fairly heavy, so it doesn’t need any reinforcement and holds up to the handling very well.

Last week, I went out to a local needlepoint shop that carries just about any kind of thread you might want, including silk AND linen threads!  Peacock Alley in Ada, MI is a nice little shop that focuses mainly on canvas needlepoint.  They have lots of different printed canvas patterns (I had to take some deep breaths when I saw the prices!) and lots and lots of different kinds of threads.  Lots of cotton, some wool, wool-silk blends, silk, and linen.  Apparently the thing in the world of embroidery and needlepoint right now are these “overdyed” threads – people take standard commercial embroidery threads and re-dye them to create a more variegated effect.  They are very pretty, but also pretty costly.

I successfully resisted buying one of each color of the silk thread I wanted for my next brickwork embroidery project.  Splendor Silk by the Rainbow Gallery company is a 12-strand silk that can be separated into separate threads or used as-is.  The nice thing is that the thread is made of 3 bundles of 4 strands each, which come apart in easy chunks when you separate it.

What I’m using this for is this year’s Arts & Sciences competition project.  I’m going to make a small pouch with an embroidered exterior.  There are several existing pouches of this type from the 14th century.  The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has a small collection.  The pattern I’m using is from a hanging done at the Wienhausen Convent in about the middle of the 14th century, showing scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.

The panel I’m working from is the scene showing the birth of Christ.  Mary gets to recline in a pretty comfy-looking bed in this one, though it does kind of look like the ox and ass are sticking their tongues out at baby Jesus in the manger!  I put together a pattern from the design of Mary’s bedspread.  This uses a lot of the common motifs seen in this style of embroidery and is a big enough pattern that it should go pretty quickly.

I started doing a little bit of stitching at the event we attended last weekend, but the light in the site was fairly poor, so I didn’t get much done.  Since then, I’ve been working on the blue dress embroidery when I’ve had time and haven’t done anything more on this.  However, the deadline for this piece isn’t until the Regional A&S Faire on April 14, so I have a little time to work yet.  I do plan on putting the work in progress into the A&S display at Val Day in two weeks, so once I finish the neckline on the blue dress, I’ll get cracking on this piece a little more reliably.

Here’s what I have done so far – just one little tic-tac-toe motif in the center of the piece!  The backing fabric is 28-count linen evenweave, which can be found at most regular craft stores with a stitchery section.  There is at least one existing example done on a fabric of about this same thread count, so I feel confident in using it and don’t have to go blind using something like a 40-count!  I bound the edges of the fabric with craft tape, just to try to keep it from unraveling dramatically, and basted a line 1/2 inch in from the edge to mark out the stitching area.  My stitches are actually running along the length of the fabric, and the piece will be folded in the center to form the bottom of the bag.

The white dot in the center of the design is done with one strand of linen thread.  The gold around it is done with 4 strands of the Splendor silk and I’m pretty pleased with the way it has worked so far.  I was a little concerned that the four strands wouldn’t be enough, since silk is a little finer than regular cotton floss, but it seems to be working all right.

Beyond that, in the next two weeks before Val Day, I also need to do some scrolls for court and I plan to make some more candied orange peel and perhaps some candied ginger for the A&S display.

I also received a commission for a silk banner from a friend that is due to be delivered at Val Day.

Oh, and ordered and received some new linen from – hedge green and emerald, both in the 3.5-ounce lightweight version.  I’m planning on doing a hedge green underdress for the blue wool.  Luckily, this is a quick and easy put-together.  The emerald will be an underdress for a teal wool bliaut I plan on making…some time…

I’ll be a busy gal for a while – I’ll try to post pictures and project updates as I can!

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