Study in Black and Magenta

My first post for 2019 features my last project for 2018. At least it was meant to be finished in 2019, but with one thing and another the work continued into January.

img_5200For rather obvious reasons I have titled this piece Study in Black and Magenta. The inspiration for both the design and the colours come from a dress I saw someone wearing at a wedding reception in Switzerland. The reception was partly outdoors in the grounds of a restaurant which overlooks Lake Zurich. The dress was stunning I just knew that one day I would try to emulate the pattern in embroidery.

Finally got round to this last month. The fabric is a 28count Brittney from Zeigart. This is a cotton/rayon mixture which I use a lot, mainly for blackwork. I think this was my first go at Bargello with the fabric.

The design is a kind of free-form bargello, consisting of rows of vertical stitches, each with a count of six. The resulting pattern, though inspired by the “dress”, is mine. Usually I outline at least part of the pattern on the fabric in pencil.  This time I just started stitching and made the pattern up as I went along.

I started with the magenta colour, stitched a bit and then added in some black. Continued in this way for the lower half of the piece. I then completed all of the upper half in magenta as I was beginning to run out of this thread, and didn’t want to buy any more.

Two different threads were used for this project. The black is one strand of Appleton wool. I works pretty well on the Brittney and gives good cover on the fabric. The magenta is from the Rajmahal ArtSilk range. This is really primarily made of rayon with a bit of silk. It is called Purple Dusk. This range of threads is very bright and luscious. However I find it hard going to work with. Difficult to get the thread to lie down evenly. I used all six strands for this piece and even then an odd glimpse of the underlying fabric can be seen. Thankfully the fabric is in orchid and blends with the Purple Dusk.

The finished piece measures 9cmx14cm.  This is the nearest I could get to the proportions of the Golden Mean. Altogether I have spent 22 and a half hours working on this project. Slow work indeed. Now to figure out what to do with it!

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Embroidery Tiles

This will be my last completed piece for 2018. At least the stitching is finished. My inspiration for this project was the beautiful world of ceramic tiles. I first became aware of their beauty and the skilled craftsmanship that goes with them while we lived in Catalunya. A treasure trove of ancient and modern tiles were to be found. A few, of the modern variety, now decorate our home.

One of the most charming aspects of ceramic tiles is the way that individual tiles can be placed together to make a larger composition. Sometimes this can be geometrical but often the tiles are designed to illustrate a scene or tell a story.

I would love to be able to create a ceramic tile, but the next best thing, for me at least, was to try and create one with embroidered fabric. The inspiration for my first go, was not Catalunya, but our very own Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I used a Mackintosh style tulip as the focus for the design. The rest of the design is my own.

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As you  can see I made four tiles in such a way that they would meet together to make a larger composition. The fabric is a very fine red linen. I ironed on a backing to give a bit of stability to the fabric and reduce the amount of stretching as I stitched. Unfortunately the backing fabric did not attach itself completely evenly. The result is that some air bubbles can be seen. One to iron out for future attempts.

To go with the red fabric I chose colours in the turquoise/acquamarine range for the embroidery. Silk, cotton and wool threads were used to provide a bit of texture. For the centre of each tulip I used a silk thread from Japan. Blueberry is the apt name for this lovely variegated thread from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range. I used four strands for the long and short stitch.

The outer petals of the tulips are stitched in slanting satin stitch. I used two shades of DMC cotton for this – very light turquoise and light blue green. Two strands of the thread was used for the stitching. The base of each tulip is filled with seeding stitch.  I used two shades of another silk thread for this – Soie d’Alger from France.  Two strands in either pale blue or dark green. The tulips are finished off with a stem stitch outline with a single strand of black cotton.

One corner of each tile is embroidered, so that the four can meet and make a single pattern. In this case triangles – one full and two half triangles for each corner. The very edge of the tile is a quadrant which is meant to turn into a circle when all are put together. Another variegated silk thread from Glissen Gloss – crystal bay – was used for the triangles. I used a simple satin stitch with four strands. The seeding in the quadrants is stitched with the same silk thread. As with the tulips the corners are finished off with a stem stitch outline in a single strand of black cotton.

Though each tile is a separate piece of embroidery, I wanted the four pieces to come together as a single composition. I have tried to achieve this unity by using the stalk of each tulip to wind its way round the outside of each tile. For the stalks I used two strands of Fine d’Aubusson wool from France. The broad chain stitch is finished off on one side only, with a stem stitch outline in a single strand of green cotton.

The stitching for this was all done on one piece of fabric. When finished I had to cut out each square and then attach each one to a solid board so that each piece would look like a tile. Easier said than done! I almost made a complete mess of this part. First off when I started to cut the fabric I forgot to leave a margin on one side of two of the squares. I recovered in time to not repeat this mistake with the other sides, thank goodness. However I realised that I had not left enough of a margin on each side.

This meant that when I came to glueing the fabric to the boards there was very little leeway to ensure that the board was completely covered by the fabric. With two sides there was of course no leeway at all. To try and cover for my mistake I have painted that side of the board with red paint.  Just about works!

The final piece of the jigsaw is to glue each tile onto another solid board. I have still to decide which background colour – black or white – to use. I posted some photos on Instagram and Facebook and most of the replies were in favour of a black background. Black does look good, but in the photos the black is a bit hazy, which is why the photo above has a white background.

Some lessons for the future. Each square is meant to be 10cmx10cm. Once again I found it impossible to mark this out completely accurately on the fabric. Need to improve my competence in drawing on fabric.  The board I have used to turn the embroidery into a tile is on the thin side. I will need to use a thicker board next time.

This was a fun project to work on. I will definitely be stitching more tiles next year. I am particularly interested in some of exquisite Islamic tiles from Iran, Syria and Turkey. I saw some wonderful examples in the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon last year. They will be my inspiration for more tile embroidery in 2019.