Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baronial Challenge Met

In the spirit of not having a strict, set plan this year, I decided last minute to enter the Baron & Baroness' A&S Challenge at this year's Baronial Championships. The Challenge was pretty simple- submit three items- but the kicker was that all three items had to then be donated to the Baronial gift basket. Which, of course, meant that I couldn't just submit three items I've made this year.

After a brief brainstorm session with my mom, I decided to finish up the brick stitch embroidery I'd started but wasn't so sure I was in love with. It was the right size for a needle case. For the other two items, I decided to make a veil and an inkle weave band.

The embroidery took the longest to complete, even though I already had it started. Once that was complete, I sewed a linen lining on with a "needle rack". I've made this same sort if case in the past here.

This one is pretty small, so I went with a roll-up style on it. It's the perfect size for a needle and pin case to toss into a period sewing kit.

A couple years ago, I'd made a bunch of gauze linen veils to give away for a class, and I still had one that I'd cut but never finished. I recently came across colored frills on Family de Huntington and really liked what she's made for her friend, pictured at the end. So I cut a strip of the gauze linen (which I still had in my stash), and made an embroidered ruffle. I used a pretty brown linen DMC floss to stitch a neat line of blanket stitch on the edge of the ruffle.

It was a very simple project and went together in about a day (including the hemming on the veil itself). It's lightweight, and feminine, and very pretty. 

Truth be told, it was difficult to give it away! I guess I'll just need to make another one. Maybe with a gray or blue silk embroidered edge.

I just taught myself how to inkle weave (that's next month's Medieval Crafting Skill), so I decided to make an inkle weave band for the last item. This one is only my second band, so I went with a simple plain weave design, rather than a pickup weave.

I used blue, pink and off white crochet cotton. It's 38 strands, which came out to about 3/4" wide. Not sure how long, I forgot to measure it.

Photo by Juli Pfaehler Rose
To round out my entry into the Championship, I also included the yellow embroidered tunic I made for my husband, and an illuminated piece I'd made for a friend. 

I didn't win the Championship (the person who did win really deserved it!), but I got a small bead token for completing the Challenge. I also received a piece of green and gold card woven trim because I've made a significant impression on Their Excellencies throughout the past year. 

I stitched the beads to my pilgrim bag. They create a nice dangly that almost looks like a silly face. 

So. Now I have to figure out a good project to use the new trim on. Hmmm.....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Old dress to new skirt

Over two years ago, I made my first flat-front dress. It was a waisted, sleeveless dress made of a heavy gray wool, lined with linen. In addition to trying out the seamless front, it was also the first time I tried to fit myself for a fitted dress.

The dress in progress back in early 2011.
At the time, the results were moderately successful, but I never truly liked it. Part of the issue was that it wasn't really a great fit, but the other major issue was that it was very heavy. Since it was sleeveless, I had to wear something under it, but I hated the way it looked with just a chemise.

The one and only time I actually wore it to an event.
It had been in the closet for pretty much all of the past 2 years, so when I pulled it out a few weeks ago, I knew it wasn't really going to stay.

Just for fun, knowing that it wasn't going to fit me anymore, I tried it on. I wasn't surprised by how horrid it actually was. I even ripped one of the armholes open in the process.

Not all was lost, however. The best thing about the dress had always been the weight of the skirt. I could have done a better job at the top of the skirt panels, but the bottom was perfectly full, and the perfect length.

The bodice was a total loss, so that had to go. I unceremoniously chopped that off. I'm sure it will find its way back, though, maybe as a pillow backing, or other such weirdness.

Cats. Ever so helpful.
I folded the remaining top into a waistline. It was very thick, but I wasn't too worried about it. I tacked everything down on top.

Please ignore the unfinished seams. There's not much fraying going on, and since it's not an item I'm likely to wear often, I just can't justify spending the time on finishing them now.
Now, I have a really nice extra skirt layer! I'm not precisely sure what real-world context I'll actually find use for it, but I have a vague idea that I can either slip it on under lighter dresses if it's cooler than expected, or slip it on over fitted dresses kind of like an apron in those chilly hours of the late night or early morning at camping events. Either way, I'm positive it will get more use than it had been getting.

New, non-horrid, heavy wool skirt!

In that last photo, by the way, I'm wearing my original fitted supportive dress. It still mostly fits, though the curved front is a little off, resulting in a slight gap. I'm not sure exactly what I could do to fix it, so it's probably best that I not worry about it. It's useful to keep around, though, as a layer to wear under other fitted dresses in the cooler months.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Progress: Brick Stitch Pouch

I have a habit of creating embroidered things, then giving them away. Not that that's a bad thing, but I end up not having anything to show for myself. I guess it's the love of making things that causes that to happen. I want to learn something, or need practice to get better, but I don't actually need the thing that I make. So rather than let it sit around, unused, I gift it to someone with the hope they'll actually get use out if it.

This time, however, it's a little different. I'll be teaching a class on German Counted Thread embroidery in October, and as I was pulling the information together a few things happened. First, I realized that I didn't have any samples of finished embroideries to show. Second, I finally created a workable template to create brick stitch patterns on my computer, so that I was able to make my own patterns to share with the class. Third, I came across several inspiring projects that I'd kind of overlooked in the past. Obviously, I needed to make something new.

I've seen and admired "basket weave" brick stitch patterns for quite some time. In fact, if I remember correctly, my introduction to brick stitch was this bag from Diu Minnezit. Then, during the browsing for my class, I came across the Primary-Colored Brick Stitch pincushion on Sarah W's Most Peculiar Mademoiselle blog. Which reminded me all over again that I wanted to do a basket weave pattern.

I played around with the pattern, and came up with a version that I liked. I'm purposefully using blue, gold and white (pale gray, actually) because they are my heraldic colors. I figured that would make me less likely to give it away when I was done with it. The thread is Rainbow Gallery Grandeur silk, and the field cloth is 32-count linen.

I've run out of blue thread, so I need to place an order for more before I can get further with the design, but it does work up pretty quick. When I can work on it, that is.

I'm not exactly sure how I really feel about it. The 32-count is difficult to work the smaller stitches on, and every so often I come across a tight area that I'm pretty much just guessing on where to put the needle. I do have half a mind to finish this piece as is and maybe just applique it onto a regular fabric pouch. Then modify the pattern and try again. With more thread at the start. It's still to early to tell, though, if I'll end up liking it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Interlaced Herringbone Insertion Stitch

Each month I'm presenting a new tutorial on a medieval skill from various types of textile-related crafts. The purpose is two-fold. First, it will allow me to locate, study, and try a variety of new techniques I might otherwise overlook, and second, it's an easy way to get information out there about skills that other people might be looking for or find helpful. This month, I present Interlaced Herringbone Insertion Stitch.

If you've done any studies on the Cap of Saint Birgitta, you've probably been introduced to the fancy technique known as interlaced herringbone stitch. In the case of the SBC, this intricate embroidery method is used to connect the two panels of the cap along the center seam, thus making it not only decorative, but functional as well. Such embroidery falls within the category of an "insertion stitch". The highly woven method used on the SBC rests pretty squarely on the advanced end of the spectrum, but the interlaced herringbone stitch that most modern embroidery dictionaries present is relatively easy.

The herringbone that forms the base of the stitch should be worked evenly for best results, so a light mark or other measuring technique needs to be employed to identify the two parallel rows on each side of the gap. It's also a good idea to fix that gap distance by attaching the panels to a base piece temporarily while you're working the decorative stitch.

The foundation of the interlaced stitch is a double herringbone stitch that's woven properly to allow the over/under weaving pattern work out correctly. There is an extra step to the herringbone stitch to allow this to happen.

To begin, start your stitch on the bottom left by pulling it up from underneath. Then bring the thread diagonally across the gap, and pick up several threads on the top from right to left.

Instead of carrying the thread back over the gap like regular herringbone stitch, slide the needle under the first crossing thread.

Now complete the right to left pick-up stitch on the bottom of the gap.

Bring the thread back across the gap, this time without bringing the needle under any threads. Pick up several threads, going right to left.

Slide the needle underneath the crossing thread you just made.

Follow that pattern until you reach the end of the gap. The needle passes under the thread as it goes to the bottom, but stays on top as it goes back up to the top.

When the row is complete, bring the thread across the gap and up through the fabric from underneath to begin the double herringbone on the return trip. [Note: My example is short, so if I was working with a long seam, like on a huvet, I'd end my thread on the first pass, and start a new length of thread on the second pass. Bring your new thread up from the back in the same location as this- you'll just be missing the crossing thread I created.]

Bring the needle diagonally down and underneath the last crossing thread from the first pass.

Pick up several threads, now from left to right, on the bottom. Position your pickup stitches between the first pass stitches.

Bring the needle back to the top, going under the first thread, and over the second.

Pick up several threads, from left to right.

Going down, pass over the first thread, and under the second.

Continue in that pattern until you are back to the beginning. When going up, go under then over. When going down, go over then under.

The third pass will create the top half of the interlacing. If you're going to start a new thread, bring it up from the back on the top, close to where the final herringbone stitch went through the fabric.

[Note: At this point, it's best for me to explain the steps using \ , / and V to correspond with the direction of the threads. You'll need to rely on the photos to help you make sense of that.]

Slide the needle under the left-most / on the bottom side of the center crossing point.

Now bring the needle over the first \ and under the second \.

Bring the needle into the first top V, sliding it under the left-hand thread.

Now, weave through all three / threads, going over the first and under both the middle and last.

Weave through the next set of \ threads going upward, first over, then under.

Bring the needle into the top V, again sliding it under the left-hand thread.

Now, again, weave through all three / threads, going over the first and under both the middle and last.

Repeat the pattern until you reach the end.

Now, we will begin the return pass by first sliding the needle under the last / thread on the top side of the center crossing point.

Weave through the first set of three \ threads, over the first and under both the middle and last.

Bring the needle into the bottom V, this time passing under the right-hand thread.

This portion of the interlacing gets tricky. There are four / threads to weave through on the upward cross over. The second of these threads can be hard to get, since it's the thread you just brought under two threads. The pattern going upward is over, under, over, under.

Once again, the weaving pattern going back down is over the first, under the middle and last.

Bring the needle into the bottom V, sliding under the right-hand thread.

And over, under, over, under the four / threads going back up.

Repeat back to the beginning.

You might find it helpful to switch to a tapestry needle when you work the interlacing, to avoid splitting the threads. You can also turn your needle around and use the more blunt eye end.

When you get back to the start, you have a completed interlaced herringbone stitch!

A few other points:
  1. The distance between herringbone arms and the length of your pickup stitches on either side can greatly affect the end result. Experiment.
  2. Keep your threads long to avoid needing to change threads before you reach the end. I don't have any mathematical formula for this, unfortunately, but the weaving does take a fair amount of length.
  3. If you do end up needing to change threads midway through, bring the threads to the closer side and hide it behind an existing herringbone thread, through to the back where it can be knotted off. Then, bring your new thread back out in the same location, making sure to treat all three threads in that location as a single thread during the weaving.
  4. If you've got this one down and are interesting in trying the more complex interlacing found on the Saint Birgitta's Cap, I recommend checking out Catrijn's Interlacing Diagram.