Red Tansy Plays With Fabric…

I’m taking a SHORT break from that Big Embroidery Project (which is more than half finished, and I WILL get it done by the deadline as long as the rest of my silk floss arrives in the mail in time) to update my Spoonflower stuff now that I have the first batch of test swatches.

*happy dance*

Some of the colors didn’t come out as expected, but I like most of those anyway. The “Renaissance wyverns,” for example, are more of a dark duck-egg blue than the light indigo I wanted (to imitate the borders on those Italian Renaissance towels) but I decided to keep the duck-egg color and make a new version of the design in the other blue.

Wanna see what the wyverns look like…? Here they are: (If you like that one, check out my Assisi-style goats in red.)

About that embroidery project… I have learned that I don’t like doing long-arm cross stitch, and I don’t like stitching over two threads (I already knew that, actually — when I use linen, I normally stitch over one thread, so 28-count is 28-count instead of 14), and I’m not crazy about filling in the void spaces between the motifs instead of stitching the motifs themselves. But I had to do it this way for this project, because I DO NOT want to get myself into trouble by disagreeing (with solid evidence to back me up!) with some laurel-wearing Creative Anachronist who insists that They Didn’t Have That Back Then. (“Even-arm cross stitch isn’t period!” Really? I’m sure Bess of Hardwick and her involuntary houseguest Mary would’ve been surprised to hear that. Or even, “No one ever used cotton for fabric before the invention of the cotton gin!” Then why did Renaissance-era Italy have laws about who could weave cotton-linen blends and who couldn’t? *sigh*) The next time I stitch this design, it’ll be over one thread and not “voidwork” style. And probably in even-arm cross stitch. Silk on linen again, though, because I like that aspect of this project.

Big embroidery project — wish me luck!

The red silk floss I’d ordered arrived in the mail today, and I got the 32-count linen a couple of days ago… so now I’m starting on my Big Assisi-Style Embroidery Project. 🙂

This is what (half of) the design looks like:

That picture is my “redraw” of a pattern published in 1530. I know it looks a lot like the one by Bernhard Jobin, published in 1600, but it isn’t — the “newer” dragon has more scales and spots, for example:

Stitched over two threads on 32-count linen, the finished design will be 6.25 inches high and 18.25 inches wide.

As it turns out, I’ve never actually done long-arm cross stitch before. What I THOUGHT was that stitch is actually a form of herringbone stitch. (They look the same on the front, but the back threads go vertical for the cross stitch but horizontal for the herringbone.) So not only is this a HUGE embroidery piece but also the very first time I’ve ever done this particular stitch. I’ve already started and had to take out a few stitches SEVERAL times because if I don’t pay close attention, I revert to doing herringbone stitch again… I guess the herringbone just feels more natural since it’s more like the even-arm cross stitch I’m used to.

I HOPE I can get this project finished before the end of September and based on how long it took me to stitch just one dragon (regular cross stitch on 32-count over one thread), I can do it. If I don’t though, there’s always next year to enter it in an A&S competition.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Stack Hippocampi…

I mean the mythological sea-horse creatures, of course.

I’ve been playing with fabric design (“spoiler”: I’ll be offering many of these designs on Spoonflower soon — sooooooo many fabric designs) and the latest is one where I started with “hippocampi all around” and then… stacked them. In sets of four. The way ya do.

Just to be different, I made them copper-brown on light “cornsilk” gold instead of “ocean” colors like blue or green. I do have “ocean” colors for the all-around-only version but not the “stacked” design. Yet.

Yesterday after a lot of fighting with the repeats, I finally managed to make a fairly good imitation of an Italian brocade pattern from 1546. (Cotton/linen canvas printed with a brocade pattern is a practical way to get the look of the fancy fabric in something that can stand up to mock-combat and also not cost a hundred dollars a yard. Plus, they actually had printed fabrics to imitate brocade back then, so it’s “period” anyway.) So far, the colors I have for this one are all tone-on-tone: dark red, bright red, dark gold/light brown, and cobalt. I’m thinking of trying some color variations with more contrast, but I haven’t decided yet.

Nothing goes “live” for my Spoonflower shop until I get their color codes (the dyes they print with makes them not necessarily match what you think they’ll be, so checking against color codes before finalizing a design is highly recommended) and can make sure the colors I’ve chosen will print the way I want, but after that… Sooooooo many fabric designs. 🙂

I think I’m about to start a scary-big embroidery project.

I want to do a real Arts-and-Sciences project this year, and I have all those patterns from the 1500s — there’s one from 1530 that I REALLY like.

Problems: The embroidery I do best and am most interested in is counted-thread work, especially cross stitch. The problem with that is a lot of people in the Society for Creative Anachronism INSIST, “Cross stitch isn’t period.” Then you point to all those Assisi-work pieces from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and they say, “Okay, but even-arm cross stitch isn’t period, only long-arm.” And you want to say, “Tell that to Bess of Hardwick!” (She and Mary, Queen of Scots, did a lot of even-arm cross stitch pieces with pictures of plants and animals.) But it doesn’t matter because someone who’s a Laurel for cooking says cross stitch isn’t period, and that’s that. (What do all those museums know anyway?)

I want to do something with counted-thread embroidery and those patterns from the 1500s. Assisi work, maybe? (That’s when the background is filled in with stitches instead of the “real” part of the design.) Even though some people insist that “fill in th ebackground” long-arm cross stitch is the only kind ever done “Back Then,” I know that’s not true — I even saw museum photographs of fragments based on patterns I have in my “period patterns” stash. (And a piece of embroidered net with THAT wyvern! Definitely that wyvern and not the one like it from 1600 because the later one has different scales and different tail shape.)

I tested my favorite pattern and it would look good in white on a red background, and there are no areas that would get “lost” by the stitches around it pushing in from the sides. That’s what happened the time I tried to do long-arm cross stitch over 1 thread on 28-count linen. Based on small test bits I stitched recently, 25-count is the smallest I can go and not lose parts of the design from “thread pressure.” If I use 28 or 32-count linen, I have to stitch over 2 threads. I don’t like doing that because I don’t like stitches that big and I have trouble keeping two strands of floss neat anyway. See, I’m actually “cheating” by usually doing really small stitches that let me use only one strand of floss because it’s easier for me to make the stitches neat that way!

According to all those museum photos of counted-thread embroidery from this period, the stitches were done over more than one thread of the fabric.(I can’t tell how many — 2 or more than 2? — because the photographs aren’t high-resolution enough for me to count fabric threads. I can count embroidery stitches though and that helps with other things.) The size of the stitches compared to the size of the fabric seems to indicate about 18 count, maybe 16 or 14. (This is smaller than the stitches in those even-arm cross stitch pieces by Bess and Mary — those look like 13-count or maybe 12.)

I’ve done small test swatches of stitches with 2 strands of silk floss — that’s what I’ll be using — on 28 and 32 count linen over 2 threads. The “14-count” looks too coarse and doesn’t have good coverage but the “16-count” looks right. I also tested 25-count with one strand of floss and that looks even better (I didn’t lose any gaps from “thread pressure”) but it’s too small for an A&S project.

The pattern I want to use would be 6 1/4 inches high and AT LEAST 18 inches long in 16-count. (It would be longer if I do more than one repeat of the pattern.) That’s big enough for a cushion cover or something. (I’m using bright red silk but maybe that would look good with “garnet” red around it if I do make this embroidery into a cushion afterward — I have some leftover silk from my husband’s fancy red “Herjolfnes 63” coat.)

I need to order some 32-count white linen before it’s out of stock again. And lots of red silk floss.

(IF I do this for for an A&S project, I have until the end of September to finish it. It took me 1 week to stitch the single wyvern — that’s the dark blue one from a previous blog post — that’s one of the major elements in the pattern I’ll be using. 2 of those plus the “trees” between them — I can do that in a month. I hope.)

many tiny stitches…

Sometimes I deal with stress by stabbing fabric… A LOT.

The first one is stitched on a linen/cotton blend evenweave, 28-count; the other is on 32-count linen. (Yeah, I know I’m “supposed” to stitch over TWO threads when using linen because blahblahblah stitches get pulled under fabric threads and lost blahblah wrong stitching tension blahblah, but I’ve NEVER had that problem and I don’t like large stitches.)

I THINK I’m going to make the deer-and-flowers piece into a purse — I have linen fabric to match both the dark red and the deeper yellow (and maybe the blue, too, which would be good because I have about five yards of pretty cornflower-blue linen — good linen — that I bought many years ago just because it was linen for three dollars a yard, but it’s NOT my color). The wyvern… I don’t know. I was just testing part of a design to see how it would look on 32-count linen. The verdict on THAT: nope, better use 28-count instead.

I was playing around with redraws of Renaissance-era embroidery patterns, and my husband saw the one the wyvern is from and commented that it would look good stitched in black on white linen as the edging on fancy garb for him. And yes it would. (I make fancy garb for him a lot, but most of my own garb is rather plain. I don’t think either one of us has garb with embroidery on it, aside from the bit on my dark blue gown. Weird, for someone who obsesses about hand embroidery and other needlework.) But of course it’s not currently possible for me to get a piece of evenweave linen in the size I need — the one place I found online that sells it has VERY mixed reviews on whether or not they even fill orders. (I need to send them an email and ASK about getting a “long half-yard” of white Cashel linen… and five cards of Splendour silk floss in black. The band of embroidery I want to stitch for my husband’s garb will be about 30 inches wide and three high, and on 28-count… LOTS of stitching! It will either be done in a month or take me years to finish.)

But now that I’ve gotten the latest “embroider all the things!” out of my system, I’m back to working on that yellow underdress to go with my dark-red sideless gown. (The intention was to have that to wear to my shire’s event in April, but as soon as I knew we wouldn’t be having the event — or any other SCA activities, such as the demos we’d planned for this summer and early autumn — I just stopped working on it.)

Maybe the next time I post something here I’ll write about some of the interesting things I’ve read about “Perugia towels” (and why the oft-repeated SCAdian-ism of “They didn’t use cotton Back Then” is so much BS — as with “Duppioni silk isn’t period,” why would they have laws about the manufacturing and sale of such if they didn’t even HAVE it?), or embroidered book covers, or the way embroidery pattern makers all copied from each other.

Chart for a belt inspired by a Renaissance portrait

A while ago I saw a photograph of a Renaissance painting: angry-looking woman wearing a pretty dress and a VERY pretty embroidered belt.

This is what the belt looks like:

If you’re like me, you look at this picture and think, “Ooooohhhh, polychrome!” And then you start wishing you could have a belt like that for yourself.

Well, I’m not ready to tackle embroidering with gold, but I did think of a (relatively) easy way to sort of imitate that belt.

So I made a chart that’s a “redraw” combination of a couple of embroidery/wearing patterns published in 1611.

Here’s the first stage of that:

And then I strung several repeats together to make something longer…

(Sorry that picture is blurry, but it’s there mostly to show the layout anyway.)

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, I live in the Kingdom of the Outlands, so of course I made a version with a white stag on a green backgound…

If you make something based on any version of this chart, please send me a picture and tell me about it, especially if you’re in the SCA. (#SCAatHome, right?)




New garb to make before April

My SCA group (the Shire of Blackwater Keep) is hosting an event in mid-April (Defender Tourney and Arts& Sciences Collegium).

We’re also doing a demo at a local community college in early April.

So I need new garb.

This is what I have planned (unless I just wear the orange houppelande to the demo):

I already have the red sideless gown, which is lined in medium grey, which will make the whole outfit ALMOST the shire’s colors (red, yellow, and black). The sideless is made of not-too-shiny satin.

I’ve also been making a lot of bookmarks, embroidered buttons, etc. And a pincushion-in-a-box for my husband so he has a cat-proof place to keep the extra-long pins he uses for his sewing projects. Which reminds me, I should share a photo of the fencing coat he made for himself. (Drew the pattern for it and everything. 🙂 ) And his fancy dagged-hem tunic that he wears under his armor.

I am easily distracted by new sewing projects.

I typed this back in September and then forgot to actually post it… *sigh* Too busy SEWING, right? 🙂 Anyway, I wrote about my (then) most recent garb projects (including the orange houppelande):

One of the other fighters in the shire (Blackwater Keep — you’ve probably never heard of us even if you are a SCAdian because we’re a small group and until two or three years ago the group didn’t do much of anything) decided he wanted to start fencing, so of course the knight marshal for the shire (my husband) had to do it too, which meant he needed a fencing jacket… except he didn’t want an Elizabethan doublet like most fencers wear…

So since the last time I blogged about making SCA garb, one of the items I’ve made is a fencing coat: dark emerald fustian (the nice stuff, 100% cotton and so soft) lined in black broadcloth, with three layers of canvas in between for reinforcement. (I’ll post photos as soon as I have some.)

I’ve also made a lot of progress on my saffron-orange houppelande — did I even mention that I’m making one? It’s the same style as the pink velvet one, but light yellowish orange lined in white. BAG SLEEVES — I finally decided that this is the style I want, so I made a pattern for ’em before I could second-guess myself again. I LOVE HOW THESE SLEEVES LOOK! I’ll probably have to make deeper cartridge pleats at the wrist with the velvet houppelande because that fabric is thicker and there’s only so much that the fabric can be drawn up to fit a wristband — I almost couldn’t get 3/8th inch pleats to fit with the two layers of broadcloth.

I used the same flat-lining method for this that I used for the red silk cote I’m making for my husband. (I haven’t done any more work on it but I did at least figure out how to fix the problem with the shoulder width, so I’ll get back to it as soon as the immediate projects are done.) Also, I divided the four panels like the velvet into eight so I could make more efficient use of the fabric although it still took 10 YARDS of each 42-inch wide fabric to make this thing. I decided when I first started that I would face the hem instead of trying to fold it under and sew it as a regular hem because there’s just too much fabric there, plus the finished seams are a bit bulky for folding over twice. But then I remembered something I’d read onlline about stiffened/padded hems… so I sewed cotton quilt batting to the lower half of the 4-inch facing.

The houppelande is not quite 6 yards around the hem, so it’s not as full as some patterns/methods for this style of garment. That’s a good thing! If I’d made it a full circle I’d STILL be sewing the hem.

Also today… I cut out and basted the layers together for a green silk cote for my husband. (He says his SCA personna likes red, but the guy sure ends up with a lot more green. Including the fencing coat, this will be number 4.) It’s to go under a half-sleeved cote of a silvery- taupe velvet. (I should find out 15th-century German for “Don’t pet the Grendel” and embroider it on something my husband can wear… Seriously.)

Edit for February 26, 2020: I AM working on the red silk cote again, doing the facings on the sleeves today. The GREEN silk cote is complete except for the buttonholes. My husband intends to wear the red one at our shire’s Defender/Colleguim event in April, so I’m going to put the green one in the A&S display. Or maybe it will be the other way around since he may be wearing the green fustian fencing coat for part of the day, and the green silk one is made in the same style. Who knows? I’ll probably be wearing my dark red sideless gown with pale yellow under it — close enough to the shire’s colors without being TOO close — and if he wears red too we’ll sort of match. I’d wear the orange houppelande but it’s too long and full to run/walk quickly in, and I’m going to be VERY busy at that event…

(And sometime during all of this, I need to get back to my OTHER needlework projects, the ones that have nothing to do with the Society for Creative Anachronism.)

It’s the Great Houppelande, Charlie Brown!

I’ve been looking forward to using that title for a blog post… 🙂 After all, this thing is rather pumpkin-colored.

A few months ago I decided I needed a “lightweight” houppelande, something I could wear and be comfortable in after having surgery (which happened last week). So I got several yards of fabric in a sort of saffron-orange color (I don’t actually like orange, but my SCA personna Gwenllian loves it *shrug*) and made this enormous-yet-comfy gown…

I’ll have better photos and more info about how I made it, the accessories that go with it, etc., later (I mentioned that I had surgery last week, right? still too tired for sewing, much less blogging about it), but for now, here’s a picture of… the Great Houppelande!

T is for Tutorial: How to enlarge a cross stitch chart without changing fabric thread count.

Here’s a little tutorial I wrote on how to enlarge a cross stitch CHART to double the finished size of the design without having to change the thread count of the fabric.

The basic concept is easy. You just redraw the original chart so that every square in that is four squares in the new, bigger version:

Let’s try this with something simple like a fancy letter T:

This letter is 20 stitches high. You can change the finished size somewhat by using a lower thread count fabric (14 instead of 18, for example), but that may not be enough bigger, and it may not have the look you want.

So redraw the chart with each square from the original now four squares (in a 2 by 2 block), like this:

It’s bigger, all right! Twice as high, and 4 times as many stitches. But it looks really blocky, compared to the original. So the next step is to fill in some of those too-obvious angles. I’m showing the extra squares in a different (darker) red so you can see where I’ve added them:

And here it is again with the extra squares (plus a few more – I decided there were still a few places that could use some smoothing out) the same color as the rest:

Now it’s done: the letter T, when stitched, will be twice as big without having to change the thread count for the fabric.

If you want something other than exactly twice as big, you’ll need to change the fabric count anyway. Say the original chart is for use on 14-count Aida. At 20 stitches tall, that would be almost an inch and a half. The new chart is 40 stitches tall, which is almost 3 inches on 14-count, but on 18-count it’s closer to 2 and 1/4, and on 28-count (my favorite) it’s the same size as the original could be on 14-count, but with a more smooth shape.

It gets more complicated when you’re working with more than one color, but the basic idea is the same. Just remember that with multiple colors, you’ll want to smooth out the edges of each color, as well.