Tagged ‘plaited braid stitch’

Notes from the Front

November 26th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Over the past few weeks several new blogs have linked to us – welcome! And thanks for helping to spread the word about this project.

Over this weekend I got the chance to work on the gold embroidery – wheee! I was the beneficiary of a personal tutorial from Wendy, which was awesome, because I’d really been struggling to understand the stitch diagrams. It is sooo confusing in the pictures, especially the starting maneuvers. Basically she sat next to me and my doodle cloth saying, come up here; down there; up here; down there. Yes, there. Really.

Across the table Debbie and Carli were smiling, because the beginning really doesn’t look like anything, and because it took even them several coils before they could start without checking the directions. Which made me feel better.

This is the little bit I managed to get accomplished, after what felt like a long time. Everyone else is going much more quickly.

The gold is interesting to work with, in a way it is much sturdier than the GST. It is also quieter; the GST is almost corrugated and it makes a thrrrrp noise as you pull it through the linen, because of the difference between the silk and the place where the gold wraps it. The gold passing thread is evenly covered so it passes smoothly and quietly. We’re using the hand made Japanese needles with it, which helps make a large enough hole in the linen for the gold to pass through, and also is gentler on the gold at the eye. Eventually the gold breaks there, though, and you have to cut and re-thread, but we’re finding it happens less than with the GST. And if you bite the very edge of the end you’re threading, just to crimp the gold, it will thread more easily and help it last longer before raveling.

Also, the gold passing (GP) is sturdy enough to pick out and reuse, more than once even, if necessary (ask me how I know). And, because it is stiff, you can feel right away if you’ve got a bump or a kink on the back. With the GST it happens often enough that you don’t find that snarl on the back till you turn the piece over to fasten the end. Grrr.

The suggested thread with which to practice the plaited braid is Kreinik #8; Debbie reports that using the high luster version is easier because it is stiffer. She feels that the blue is the most workable, but the universal opinion is that anything other than the gold passing is a poor substitute. This stitch demands to be worked with the real stuff, and this gold demands to stitch the plaited braid. It is harder to stitch even the reverse chain coils with the gold passing, because it is almost too stiff to make those small bends.

I know, you would work with the GP if you could get your hands on some, and it isn’t really fair of me to mention how nicely it makes a plaited braid. Several people have asked about buying a gold work kit, or just a spool of the GP. We’re holding off for right now, until we’re absolutely sure we have enough to accomplish the jacket, before we release any. I know we could sell this and buy more, but if there’s any kind of hold-up in the manufacturing or shipping (and I can imagine several scenarios with scarcely any effort) it would delay the jacket’s completion, and we can’t have that. As soon as we can let some go, we absolutely will.

All that Glitters

November 5th, 2008 by Jill Hall

really IS gold, in this case.

The gold thread for the coiling vines is real gold, and, like the gilt sylke twist, was purpose-made for this project by Bill Barnes of Golden Threads in the UK. It is a gold wire wrapped around two ends of yellow silk thread. I know the next question is whether any is available for sale, and the answer is, maybe. Right now we’re tracking how much thread it takes to embroider the coils and counting spools of thread. If there’s any left over, it will certainly be made available. If there isn’t, and there is huge demand, well, look what happened with the GST. Every time I check, new colors have been added to the line, and two sessions ago there was great excitement when Tricia brought out spools for sale. Not one person around the table said “I want this color”, or “I’d like to have this one”; it was all “I need this one. And this one. And … this one.”

So.

This past weekend’s experiment was exceedingly successful. Judy, who worked mostly at Tricia’s last week, arrived on Friday not babbling incoherently from too much gold work. She was still smiling and stitching and enjoying. Lyn J from Canada, Debbie A and Carli D from the NYC area all stepped up to the guinea pig table and took instruction from Tricia before practicing, comparing, and practicing some more.

Debbie reported that the gold is Not a pain to work with, in fact it is quite durable. She used one length for practice and was able to pick out mistakes several times and reuse the same length without trouble. The end you have to thread through the needle frays a bit, but Wendy reports that if you chew on it a little you can shape it up to re-thread.

Even after four days of coiling vine after coiling vine, Lyn, Carli and Debbie were still enjoying the work. I asked them if it seemed to take forever, because just watching them, to me, it seemed to go much more quickly than I’d thought (feared). They said that in the working it seemed to go slowly, but whenever they sat back to look, more was done than they expected, and less time expired. Lyn claimed to be Princess Slow-poke, but she accomplished several coils and none of the rest of us thought she was going slowly. I think she’s just accustomed to working more quickly than most and so this felt slow.

Here are pictures of Debbie and Carli’s pieces. Lyn was working well past the final bell on Monday, and Wendy didn’t remember to photograph her piece before we put it away. We will take a photo to post on Thursday, when we’re taking some studio photos of individual motifs. I think Carli was working on the right front and Debbie on the back.

Do you want to work some of the coiling vines? Our test group did so well we’re going to do it again. If you’re free the weekend of 11/21-24 (this is the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving – I offered to run a session over Thanksgiving, pointing out that Pen and I will be here anyway, but got no takers), either have practiced the plaited braid according to Leon Conrad’s instructions as amplified and illustrated by Linda Connors, and are willing to work on matching gauge and stitch density, send me a note jhall@plimoth.org We can take 3-4 people to work vines, and a couple more to work silk or GST on the coif & forehead cloth.

We are “pushing” the jacket to completion this winter, in time for display at the beginning of May. I am worried about the winter weather too, look at last year! but look for more sessions in January and February. If you want to suggest dates, send me a note.

In addition to the gold workers, we had three lace makers this weekend. Sue, Linda and Colleen nearly finished the last short piece – the second cuff, as well as the long piece. Colleen also managed to do some embroidery on the coif. There are two new plans afoot – to develop some patterns for white lace to adorn the smocks, coifs, cuffs, and collars of certain characters on our living history sites, and to develop a smaller spangled lace suitable for trimming the coif and forehead cloth. If you’re a lacer and weren’t interested in working metal but might want to do some white lace, let me know and I’ll keep you apprised of progress.

I don’t have much news on the symposium, mostly because I’ve been focusing on getting the interpreters what they need to finish the season. I have a couple of firm commitments from speakers, one probable yes, and I have to get back to the couple I haven’t heard from; the biggest news is that the registration will open first to those who have worked on the piece. They’ll get a 5-week headstart to register and then we will open the registration to everyone. We plan to start this in December, and of course news will appear here and in an email blast to the stitchers/lacers. SO please update your contact information. I know there are some who have changed email/moved etc since coming. If you know someone in that situation, please ask him/her to contact us in order to stay informed. You can update by sending me or Kathy an email or calling 508-746-1622 X 8248 (Penny), X 8119 (me), or X 8114 (Kathy).

Tailors

October 22nd, 2008 by Tricia

As it happens when researching these things, one ah-ha leads to many questions. I am blogging all this so I don’t forget anything and so please forgive my rambling from one subject to another. So after I went “oh crud”  and joked about a lot of stitching in front of American
football to make those covered seams, I started to think about the order of
things. This was great as I verbalized it to Susan and she went and got a
colleague of hers who is working on the pattern book and had been thinking
about exactly these questions about the Laton jacket.

So the back
seam on the arm would have to be joined and then embroidered upon. Also
the godets or gussets would have to be installed on the fronts and backs
and then embroidered. Also the fronts would need to be joined to the back
along the side seams and then embroidered. Then the rest of the seams could be made along with the cuffs, collar and wings being installed.
Again the vertical integration idea came up.  Well, I asked, then who sewed
the initial seams? A tailor on-site with the embroiderers or the
embroiderers themselves? Or could the tailor embroider plaited braid. Susan and her colleague felt that the well known tailors guild and
embroiderers guild meant that the people were separate and the pieces would
have been turned over. The implication was that the initial seams were done by the embroiderers and then the partially completed jacket was turned over to a tailor’s shop who finished it.

They brought up that
the bespoke (English for Custom-Made) nature of the jackets meant that the
tailor had made a muslin for the person or had modified a general pattern
they had using measurements they had made of the person. They mentioned
that measurements weren’t like we make them, in inches, but more like
positions on a tape. The order would then have been to draw the outline of
the pattern pieces on pieces of linen to then send to the embroiderer’s
workshop for design application and embroidery.  They mentioned evidence
from inventory books that the commissioner may have supplied the linen
themselves to the tailor.  (This brought up the question about suppling
embroidery threads too). Certainly we can see on many jackets that the embroidery was worked to the pattern outline and stopped and that on many jackets the outline is visible and so hasn’t been altered. I had asked if they thought that there could have been an industry supplying partially completed jackets for final construction after purchase. I mentioned this in light of the comment in ‘The French Garden’ about embroidered jackets for sale in the Royal Exchange, implying ‘Ready-Made’. Susan and her colleague really felt that the jackets were commissioned bespoke. And certainly there is plenty of evidence from the garments themselves to support that along with the great cost we now know in making them on risk of having a buyer.

More tomorrow
about the linen and pattern making.

Tricia

Panel

October 17th, 2008 by Tricia

The panel at the Embroiderers’ Guild has often been referred to in some texts as a coif. The confusion may have occurred because the dimensions (width and height) are similar to many coifs. But it is a panel. We took a look at the edges and it was obvious that the piece was in its entirety and not cut from something larger. The small amount of linen around it had either nail marks or holes from being stretched on a frame. There was an embroidered stem stitch outline around the four sides and the embroidery appropriately started or ended at the boundaries if the motif was cut by the boundary.

Other details that are different from the jacket: there are less flowers, only nine types instead of the 11 borage being repeated twice) of the jacket. (I had to read this twice, my brain doesn’t move as fast as Tricia’s. The jacket master repeat is 3 x 4, therefore 12 motifs, but there are two borage so only 11 different motifs.) The borage and strawberries are missing. The blue and red flowers (carnation, gillyflower, or cornflower?) on the pieces are different between the two pieces, but not much different in terms of tracing. Just embroidered differently.

The calyx of the foxglove is stitched in silk and not gold. There is a different technique used for the detached pea pod parts, detached buttonhole in silver strip wrapped silk on the jacket and silk buttonhole over a gold thread (return) for the panel. The roses have an extra set of detached petals. Some of the thistles have an extra layer of detached buttonhole. The coiling stem is also a different stitch. On the jacket it is plaited braid whereas on the panel the stitch is ladder with wheat sheath. This stitch is much slower to work than plaited braid and done in two passes. Overall, the panel has a higher level of detail work which is absent from the jacket.

Tricia

Bird – Beak and Feet

October 15th, 2008 by Tricia

We haven’t worked the birds on the piece yet as we had questions about some of the detailing and were awaiting my trip to examine the EG piece closer. The birds on the EG piece are in yellows and greens with blue beak and feet. The jacket has red, green, pink and yellow as the color scheme. But the left over silk that had degraded from the beaks and feet were in a tan color.

The one bird on the EG panel has a complete set of feet and beak. I was happy to find a combination of reverse chain and stem stitch on the feet and a heavy ceylon for the beak. All set, I thought. But when I saw the jacket the next day, there was a beak on one bird. Worked in trellis stitch. The legs were a little different too. Reverse chain and satin stitch at the top to help give the impression of a thigh.

Another thing I noted was the use of the blended thread for the motifs. It shows up in the bird to make transitions between the stripes of color in the body and head. The body is worked in trellis
and the head in spiral trellis. The wings were another spot where we had questions. The wings are made of of segments of stitches worked in different colors of silk and silver gilt thread. The segments are outlined in black. Two birds were worked with heavy chain and ceylon, but the third had more variety with plaited braid and a fly stitch thrown in.

On the EG panel, the wings segments were worked with plaited braid and heavy twisted chain all in silver gilt and silver threads. It is interesting to see how the same overall scheme is used on both pieces and motif to motif but there are slight variations. I am not sure if this is hand differences or just bored embroiderers. The black outline seems to be a combination of stem stitch and reverse chain. Hard to tell if one or both were used as the black thread gets brittle and pieces snap away, leaving just holes in many areas.

To give you some eye candy – here you see the time trial piece I stitched from the book photos of the jacket.  From afar, the stitches on the bird wings appeared to be the braid stitch/knot stitch. Now we know it is different. For all of you who slaved over learning this stitch in the sample kit, sorry!

Tricia

Golden Vines

August 6th, 2008 by Tricia

Tricia writes:

Today we took a deep breath and started the goldwork on the jacket. I am in town all week working and couldn’t wait to start putting the gold to the jacket and making it come alive. I picked the collar as the silk work was all done on it. Here you can see part of a line
worked and on the second photo, you can see the coil done and a few tendrils worked in reverse chain.

The first gold stitches on the jacket!To get going, I had to do a few tests to figure out what spacing we would use between repeats of the plaited braid. On the original jacket, the “v” is deeper than our version. I find when working with this stitch that the stitch width can be modified and the V is either
shallow or exaggerated. While one of the tests was able to get the same elongated V as the original piece, it seemed a bit sparse but worked faster and easier!. We don’t know exactly how thick the original thread was but I suspect it was thicker than what we are working with, which would have covered better even when worked with a larger spacing. I also suspect that it was more ductile and their needle had a larger eye but thinner shank. We had to change parameters on the thread to get it to work well and
Vine and tendrils on the collar. couldn’t use such a thick thread. We will work ours more shallow to get a nice coverage with our (I think) thinner version of the gold thread.

Jill said it was much more bright and sparkly than she had imagined!

Tricia

Dye Days

August 1st, 2008 by Jill Hall

To answer Robbin’s question, there will Not be plaited braid stitch instructions in the needle-gold thread kit, so go ahead and order Linda’s from Calico Crossroads. There’s a link in the upper right portion of the blog home page. Go to her searchable catalog and look for plaited braid stitch. That should bring up the $6 + shipping packet of full-color instructions. If you have any trouble you can email Linda through the contact page on her website.

Thanks for the note about the comment box being overrun by text. Unfortunately we’re between Webmanagers right now; I sent Rich a note about it on his last day. I don’t think he laughed, but only because he’s not that kind of person. He did say that issue was already on the list for the interim guy to work on, but I have a feeling the interim guy had a lot more on the list….cross your fingers that another talented webmanager wants to work here and we find him/her soon.

Looks cushy, but hot, hot, hot - dyeing outside the Crafts Center, July, 2008.Here are two tantalizing pictures of the excellent stuff Penny, Emily, Lacey, and two volunteers from the Landmark program did here on Tuesday and Wednesday. I know Pen, Emily, and Lacey want to blog about the whole experience, so I hopefully won’t be treading on their toes by posting these two. The first is their cushy setup outside the Crafts Center. Chairs! And a tent! It looks comfy, but it was scorching hot those two days.

The second is some yarn gently simmering in madder, I think. Yarn in the dyepot and flip-flops!

They all had an excellent time, worked really hard but said it didn’t feel like work; the visitors loved it, the other Crafts Center artisans loved it, and Penny’s so pleased she’s already talking about doing it again in September. That much makes it a ringing success. But they also got loads of gorgeous yarn out of the deal, and that’s just gravy. They all three looked really tired on Thursday, though.

Borage

July 9th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy stitched this borage as the model. She sent me a photo, labeling it “borage – done”. Which of course it is not. I’m trying to be careful about that now. Borage needs some black and white in the middle, and then the little spiky leaves done too.

But this is the big part, and for the next session (officially 8-11 August, but any time the week of the 4th can work as Tricia will be here working on GOLD) we’ll have borage directions. This is good, because in the master pattern borage is the only motif that repeats.

Borage by Wendy.It’s a three-across, four-down repeat, and borage appears in the middle of the top row and at the left end of the bottom row (as Tricia drew it – it’s a repeat so theoretically you could start anywhere and repeat outward). So twice as many borages, sort of. Lots of opportunity to use the spectacular dark blue gilt sylke twist. See you soon?

To address the questions in the comments about comparing the lace gold thread to the embroidery gold thread, and how the embroidery gold thread is made, and the needles, and that, we’ll have to wait till Tricia comes back from vacation and can let us know. I’d say maybe towards the end of next week? I know she’ll get us the information as soon as she can.

I think there will be plenty of goldwork to do aside from the coiling vines, too. I was thinking, the tops of the foxgloves and pea pods are gold. The vine has many curliques (which it may be should be worked as you come to them, but maybe they’re separate, I don’t know) which will be gold. Most of the leaves have gold veins. The rose, strawberry flower, pansy and honeysuckle all have gold centers. The straight lines that stick out of the columbine and honeysuckle blossoms might be gold. (No, I don’t mentally catalog the work left to do, over and over. Why do you ask?) So we may well have goldwork available to those who either don’t want to or can’t match the established stitch density of the plaited braid. All of which to say, don’t worry, there’s plenty work to go around.

The other day I heard from some embroiderers who hadn’t sent in a sample or signed up to stitch because they were nervous about having their work “judged”. We’re really not using the samples to judge, or to keep anyone away. No one’s been refused. The samples let us take advantage of everyone’s strongest skill, and give Wendy and Tricia a starting point for helping to improve everyone’s stitching. Even those very experienced with this kind of embroidery have reported that after a few pointers and two days of practice, their work has improved and they go faster. Several have called the embroidery weekends a kind of ‘master class’, with individual attention (Wendy & Tricia usually have 20-25 students in a class and here we never have more than 8) and lots of time to practice.

So don’t let that keep you away. Come stitch. This chance won’t be here much longer. I swear.

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