Sunday, January 19, 2014

In Progress: Alms Purse Embroidery

Just checking in with you today to share my progress on my embroidered alms purse.

I've completed the fill embroidery on the Maiden. (Isn't she lovely?)

I've completed the outlines on the Mother, and I've started her fill. I had some trouble on her wimple, so I'm leaving off those fold lines for now.

I also, as a distraction, started the satin stitches for the background. I will be doing some variety of couching over them, probably Bayeux stitch using black linen sewing thread. We'll have to see, though.

I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far. I stop and work on other projects every so often so that I don't get burnt out on it. I may even start on the back panel before the front is complete, just to keep the whole project moving forward. I really hope that, at that sort of pace, I still love it when it's complete!

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Embroidery Project

If 2013 was my year without a plan, then 2014 is shaping up to be my year of ambition. This year, I'm determined to challenge myself to stretch even further in my skills, focusing on authenticity (primarily in personal presentation) and complexity (primarily in my other artistic endeavors). I'm also determined to find ways to share the personal research I've been doing, without requiring that I write a paper. None of this has an ending, per se, but I feel that it's the right mindset for myself now.
My Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law was a gift certificate to Purl Soho, a New York City-based craft supply store (that I've been drooling over since I found it four years ago). I was able to purchase not only gorgeous yarn, but I also got silk and linen embroidery threads. In both cases, I really did not know what I would make with them- just what colors appealed to me. I'm certain that the silk is destined to become another brick stitch project.

I honestly can't explain what drew me to the four linen thread colors I chose, since they create a pretty atypical palette for me. As I looked at them, however, I was reminded of a 14th century alms purse, which has very similar colors.


So, I started brainstorming creating an alms purse. Obviously, I'd use linen instead of silk, but I also wanted to create something with a decidedly 15th century vibe. I wanted to include figures, but I wasn't really interested in doing a lovers pair, or even a mother and child (or four children even). I have, however, always liked the allegorical concept of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. I think this "triple goddess" representation of the life of a woman is a beautiful reminder of the cycle of time. I also like the concept when I think of my daughter and my mother being with me at events. While mom is most certainly not a crone, the idea of three connected female generations is a poetic statement I rather enjoy.

I had hoped to come up with a drawing on my own for this, but sadly, my drawing skills have taken a dive since I haven't been using them. Rather than beat myself up over that, and waste a lot of eraser trying, I searched around and located three manuscript figures to give me the drawing assist. All three came from "The Queen's Book", (BL Harley MS 4431), a 1410's compilation  of the works of Christine de Pizan. I arranged them together into a vignette using Photoshop. I also colored my rough cut image to see how my palette would go together.

To clean it all up to make it suitable for embroidery, I did a polished tracing. This also allowed me to make some adjustments and put my own drawing personality into the grouping. I scanned this new drawing back in, then used Illustrator to create a Gothic archway to frame the women.

Then, to get the complete image onto my material, I used blue line transfer paper. The lines were too faint, however, so I spent the next hour carefully drawing over the blue lines with a thin black pen.

I stitched the archway lines using three strands of DMC linen in stem stitch. For the figures, however, I moved to two strands in back stitch.

With the Maiden figure outlined, I've now switched to the colored thread so that I don't get bored with just doing the black. The Londonderry thread is not really meant to be divisible, but it's too thick that way. So I'm carefully splitting up the plies to work with two strands at a time. For the fill, I'm using split stitch.

As I stitch along, I'm brainstorming what to do on the back panel. I'd like to do a counted thread technique, continuing to use linen. Something straight-forward, like this one that Isis redacted.

Alright. Time to get back to stitching!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Setting a Gore with Elizabethan Seams

So, I'm stitching along on my orange linen kirtle, using the Elizabethan seam technique, when it occurs to me that my gores do not come to a convenient sharp point in order to follow the rules of the seam style. So here's how I handled it:

I located the center point of my gore tip and pinned one edge into place so that the gore came edge-to-edge with the panel around an inch down. You can see that I already have the top center seam sew down to the insertion point.

Since I was using my needle to keep that point, I just continued the stitch by grabbing the panel edge (at nearly the same point as I would have regularly stitched.) Right after I took this picture, I reoriented the needle on the gore to be perpendicular to how I have it here.

The first inch of stitches are like hem stitches. Then I they become overcast stitches when the edges meet back up.

From there, I stitched along for a bit to establish the seam. Then I left that thread in place to come back to when I was ready to sew the rest of the seam.

Back at the top, I started a new thread a stitch or two above the insertion point, the I opened the gore seam I just stitched up.

Then I flipped everything over. The middle seam in the photo is what I just sewed.

Then I pulled the other panel to the gore edge, matching the point where the edges come together to what I'd done on the other side.

And with the new thread, stitched from the point down using a hem stitch, mirroring what I had done on the other side.

And I have a nice point to my gore without losing the Elizabethan seam for more than an inch on either side.

After completing the seams on both sides, I have a nicely placed gore!

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and the best of luck with all your endeavors in 2014!

UPDATE May 30, 2016:

A request was made in the comments to include some pictures of the inside for more clarity. They are below. This dress has been around the block a few times, so it looks a little different from multiple wearing and washings, but hopefully this helps!