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!


  1. I'm so excited to see how this turns out!

  2. I can't wait to see the finished project!!!

  3. Love it! I, like the rest, can't wait to see the finished product!

  4. I like your choice of subject and arrangement, look forward to seeing how it turns out.

  5. Very nice start!

    Lady Kristen

  6. I love this project. Would you consider selling a pdf of the front panel pattern? Or even a kit of the pattern? I would love to make it as a gift to be framed for a family member.

    1. I'll have to think about that. Part of the beauty of this project for me is the uniqueness of the front panel. But I'm also a big fan of sharing. So I'll definitely consider that!