Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Changing direction

A change is as good as a holiday as the saying goes. We were meant to be away on a three week bush trip in April but clearly that couldn't and didn't happen. 
Instead, I have been flitting between jobs like carting bricks, pruning vines, gardening and of course some stitching and my embroidery for the 'Lost Connections' project is finally well underway.

I started with all the little waves. Wanting them to blend into the background fabric, I stitched with a double length of Wildflowers cotton by Caron (034 Bouquet) - a beautifully shaded soft cotton, that blends perfectly with the colour of the background and shades into soft pink, lavender and green. To give the illusion of light shimmering on the waves, I blended a single strand of metallic gold with the cotton threads. Stitching with the three threads in the needle, I quickly remembered just why I dislike using metallic threads in the needle so much - it was tricky. 

I wanted the mermaid to be filled in, but at the same time, I didn't want her to look heavy or too solid.
I started by outlining her in stem stitch with two strands of Gloriana stranded silk (#071 Winter Brook). As for the waves, the choice was because the colour blends beautifully with the background so that it creates outlines and definition to the shape without standing out (if that makes sense).
How to fill a shape without filling it?
I have used a random version of pattern darning before. Basically rows of parallel running stitches, back and forth in a brick pattern. It allows for the stitches to partially cover the fabric to give colour and at the same time, the fabric is visible between the stitches.
By slightly varying the length and spacing of the stitches I was able to slightly vary the look of the tail, so it is covered more solidly.
Stitching on a fairly large weave linen made it relatively easy to follow the fabric weave for each row of stitches. The photo below shows a close-up but it might still be a little hard to see because of the defection of the metallic thread.

Again: Oh how I dislike stitching with metal - it breaks, wears, frays and when you have multiple strands in the needle it is impossible to keep the same tension on all of the strands.

Below are A few tips to make it easier to stitch with metallic thread: 
1) Of all the metallic threads I have tried, I find Butterfly thread (Au Papillon Fil d'Or) the easiest to work with. It can be divided into four very fine strands, but here I used all four together in the needle.

2) Use a big needle.
I think many of us tend to reach for little needles but when it comes to metal I find it is better to go big. The larger needle will prepare a larger hole in the fabric for the thread to follow through which means there is less wear on the thread.

3) Use a Sharps or Between needle.
These have a round eye (crewel/embroidery/chenille needles have elongated eyes) which seem to hold the metal better but more importantly, because the eye is round it doesn't kink the metal as quickly as the elongated eyes tend to do.
For the full thickness of the Papillion thread, I used a #3 between (which to me feels like a bit of a crowbar in this context).

4) Always work your stitches in a stabbing motion.
Trying to sew through the fabric will wear and damage the metal in two seconds flat. For each stitch, take the needle and thread all the way through (or very, very close to). Also, if you pull the thread at a right angle to the fabric, the friction is less and again will ease the wear on the thread.

After the tedious filling, I embroidered the hair in close rows of stem stitch, alternating between two different shades of stranded silk and fine gold metallic.
Below you can see where is at. Overall, it is coming along nicely, I think and I have a plan for the rock and the letters.
It was at this point, I sent an update to the organiser of the 'Lost Connections' project and ...

... it turns out, I had missed the bit in brackets that said the piece should be stitched onto off-white or cream fabric!
As a result, this little mermaid is not going anywhere. The way the different elements are integrated makes it impossible to cut her out and applique her onto a different fabric. I am not really in the mood to completely redesign it and if I did, I don't think I would be able to stitch a new design in time. It is now late April and she needs to be in the Netherlands by end of June (I think) so with shipping worldwide taking up to three times longer than normal, it is unlikely it would get there in time.

I might finish it one day, but I would want to find a way to do something different where the wording is and since the ink is permanent that will be a challenge. So, for now she is going to be shelved. These things happen. Note to self: 'Make sure you read ALL the specs properly including those in brackets!

I used to ride horses and when you fall off you get back on, but I am 'changing my horse'
I have had a couple of ideas, vague designs in my mind for some time and this morning I drew this one up.

I hope you are all keeping safe, are well and are managing this strange scenario we are finding ourselves in the very best way you can.

Best Stitches,
Anna X