Archive for the ‘waistcoat’ Category

A knotty tale

Happy New Year, one and all!

Yes, well, I’m still not exactly well, but at least now I’m on medication and it seems to be starting to help a bit.  I spent Christmas with my parents, as I usually do, and I got a little bit of stitching done there; then I went down to London for the New Year’s Eve concert, which turned out to be pretty much of a disaster.  I will not go into all the things that went wrong over that weekend, but suffice it to say that by the time I arrived at the concert and found that poor Charles was unwell and couldn’t sing, I was not in the least surprised because it just fitted in with everything else.  I hope he’s feeling much better by now.  The one redeeming feature of the weekend was the fact that I stayed at a really lovely, welcoming guest house in Walthamstow, where I was able to spend the Sunday basically recovering from the Saturday.

And stitching.

State of progress on 1 Jan 2012

This is where I’ve got to at the moment.  Let’s have a closer look and see what’s new here.

Close-up showing more detail

First of all, you’ll see that I have done some more purl filling.  It turns out to be far easier, and infinitely less sore on the fingers, to use a beading needle for this; I had no problems with it this time.  But the really new thing is that I have started filling in the “windswept triangles”, as I like to call them.  This photo has come out looking a bit more contrasty than it really is; on the actual piece, the contrast is quite subtle.  The colour used is Anchor green 844.

And what stitch am I using to fill these very irregular, awkward areas?  Wait for it…

Extreme close-up showing stitching

…French knots.

This is an extremely slow way to fill a space, but, as you see, the results are very satisfying.  I’m also pleased with the effect of introducing a little green into the repeating pattern.

This weekend I am in London again for another concert; it’s very unusual for me to go to two concerts so close together, but that was just the way it worked out this time.  I’m going to be bringing the embroidery, so hopefully I should get a bit more done then.  Especially if things go better than they did on New Year’s Eve… which honestly won’t take much. 😛


On strands of purl

I do apologise for the radio silence recently.  A long story can be cut short by saying that first I was very busy and now I’m not well.  I thought I would get quite a lot of stitching done while signed off work, but it hasn’t really been the case until today, when I finally got out the purl and started doing some filling.

Many people reading this will already know perfectly well what purl is, so please either skip the rest of the paragraph, or bear with me for the sake of those who don’t.  I didn’t until I started this project, never having done any goldwork before.  Purl is a very fine metal wire which is wrapped in a tight spiral, either circular or square in cross-section.  I’m using the square cross-section, which is also known as “bright check”.  You cut it into short lengths and thread the needle through the spiral as if it were a bead, and, as you can see, I’ve been using it to fill the areas which are outlined in gold.  I tend to think of them as stylised leaves, although there is quite a lot of abstract in this pattern.  There will be more realism when I start putting in the non-repeating motifs.

Showing the purl fillings

This picture doesn’t give you a very good idea of what the gold actually looks like, but I rather like it.  It gives the design an autumnal look.  If I show you a close-up, you can see how I’ve done the filling.

Close-up of purl filling

Purl turns out to be a bit of a pig to work with, though it’s extremely effective once you’ve finished fighting with it.  Getting the pieces to the right length is the part I thought would be difficult, but it is actually the easy bit.  All you need is a fingernail, which need only be of very modest length, and a small pair of scissors.  I don’t use my embroidery scissors for this, as I suspect the wire may blunt them even though it is very fine and easy to cut.  I lay out the purl on the fabric where I want it to go, and stick my fingernail in at the correct length.  This separates and kinks the purl slightly, making it very easy to see where to cut.

The difficult bit, as usual, is the one I didn’t suspect.  It is very easy to stretch the purl out inadvertently while threading it, and, while you can coax it more or less back into shape, it still tends to end up a little longer than you originally wanted it.  This is why it turns out to be a really bad idea to use long sections of purl.  The shorter you keep them, the better they tend to stay in shape.  Of course, if you do stretch your purl or you have a longer piece that needs to be eased around a slight curve, you can hold it in place with one or two tiny couching stitches.  If you make these exactly perpendicular to the line of the purl, they will sink through the spiral and hold the wire in place invisibly at the level of the fabric surface.  Generally speaking, though, if you think of it as metallic beads you can cut to size, you won’t go far wrong with this stuff.

Another piece of advice I can offer is not to do too much of this at once.  It makes your fingertips rather sore, after a while.  Fortunately the way I work is to swap about between different elements of the design so that it builds gradually from one end, which means I don’t get bored doing one thing all the time.  It will therefore be a while before I do any more purl filling, but that’s fine.  I am delighted with the way it’s shaping.

Just add beads

I promised another waistcoat post, and here it is.  As you can see, I made excellent progress while I was away:

Progress as at about 10 pm on 21 August

The observant among you may have noticed that gold tips are now appearing on the ends of the tendrils.  Let’s just have a closer look at those, shall we?

Close-up showing beads

It hasn’t come out quite as clearly as I would have liked, but you can just about see (it’s clearest in the two tendrils near centre bottom) that there’s a little bead similar in colour to the tendril stitched at the end of it, and around that there are five gold beads.  I found the gold beads while I was away; I hadn’t been able to find any at home that were a good match for the gold thread, but these fitted the bill admirably.  The match is much better in real life than it is in the photo; in real life they are indistinguishable in colour.

This is also probably a good point to show you how I’m handling the buttonholes.

Showing the embroidery around the buttonholes

As you see, I’ve broken the design to leave a small margin around the buttonholes; also, the hook at the top of the gold part of the motif under the lower buttonhole in this picture has been ever so slightly lowered to allow for the buttonhole.  Frankly, I am not doing a lot of extremely careful embroidery and then cutting through it for buttonholes. 🙂  So that’s been allowed for in advance.  I take absolutely no credit for the fact that the buttonhole spacing happens to match that of the motifs exactly (there are two buttonholes per motif).  That’s just one of those amazing and delightful flukes which seem to have sprouted from this project ever since I started on it.  The size of the motifs was planned to match the size of those on the original Victorian waistcoat as far as possible, with no thought for the buttonhole spacing at the time.

Incidentally, the design has moved on quite a bit from the paisley that inspired it, but you can still see the basic shape of it… and, of course, I left the paisley hooks in, as a homage to the Victorian half of the inspiration.  And the fact that I love paisley anyway. 🙂

The first stitches

Long time, no blog.  Sorry about that.  I have been rushed off my feet this month, as I’m also in the process of setting up my own business (nothing to do with embroidery; it’s a music agency).  However, I have been able to do a few stitches, especially as a good friend from London has been up here over the last few days with her sewing machine in order to finish off the bridesmaids’ dresses for a wedding in the area.  I took a couple of days off work and carted the embroidery over to her hotel so we could keep each other company.  It was an excellent arrangement.

So here’s the progress I’ve made so far:

Progress so far

Not too shabby, given the time available.  Here’s a closer look:

A closer view

And here’s a detailed look at the stitching:

The stitching in detail

The thick dark purple lines are the wool lucet cord you saw being made in an earlier post; it is laid and couched.  It’s plunged through the fabric using an awl.  The sort of awl which is normally sold for the purpose of embroidery is no good for this, because the cord is too thick, so I use what I affectionately term my Big Girl Awl.  This is a formidable-looking implement that I picked up in the DIY section of Wilkinson’s for about half the price of my effete little embroidery awl.  I’m currently looking for a cork to stick the end in when I’m travelling with it (no, really, I don’t drink enough wine), because it is extremely sharp.  I’m couching the cord with ordinary sewing thread, which is almost invisible even close up.

The gold is also laid and couched.  This is DMC metallic embroidery thread, which, like most common embroidery threads these days, is 6-ply.  I cut off a short piece and use single plies from that to do the couching.  The stuff is an absolute blighter to work with, because the laid thread has a strong tendency to separate itself into individual plies while you’re couching it and the working thread is rather easily damaged by the needle, but that’s pretty much standard for all metallics.  It looks good once you’ve tamed it.  The starting end of the couched thread can easily be plunged through the fabric with a needle, and I was originally doing that with the finishing end too, but that is incredibly fiddly, because by the time you get to the end of the couching there are inevitably six separate strands of different lengths, and it is not easy to get them all to go through a needle, especially since there isn’t much of them to work with.  Fortunately, once again Mary Corbet came up with exactly the technique I needed at the time I needed it.  If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend her tutorial on using a thread lasso, which turned out to be a much easier way to deal with the ends of the gold thread.  In fact, if you’re interested in embroidery and you’re not following Mary Corbet, why not? 🙂

Finally, the purple “windswept triangles” are outlined in twisted chain stitch using three strands of Anchor embroidery cotton.  I wanted quite a heavy outline because these are part of the ground design.  At the moment I’m thinking of harmonising the tendrils of lucet cord with the windswept triangles by edging the former with the same purple I’m using for the latter, but using only one or two strands.  That will probably be done in a back stitch or straight chain stitch with closely spaced French knots.  The triangles will be filled, but I haven’t yet decided how, although I have just got some more beads which may feature in that task.  I’m very much making it up as I go along.

Seems to be working quite well so far, though. 🙂

New threads

Today I went out for some supplies.

Threads and beads to be used in the project

Almost inevitably, the colours don’t reproduce perfectly, but you do at least get the idea.  From left to right, we have:

  • Anchor 939, denim blue – same shade as the fabric, just a bit lighter.
  • Anchor 119, dark purple – tones reasonably well with the purple cord, but again a bit lighter.
  • Anchor 337, dark salmon.
  • Anchor 336, salmon.  (These two colours are really not as vivid as they look here.)
  • Anchor 292, cream.
  • Anchor 874, light antique gold.
  • Anchor 844, olive green.
  • Anchor 845, dark olive green.

Then we have a reel of purple thread for couching the cord (and that is a good colour match); a reel of Coats Diadem, which is a thin flat gilt braid; and a packet of seed beads which, at any rate in daylight, tone beautifully with the fabric.  I’m looking at them now under artificial light and they look almost black.  Not that this will be a problem, because they will be there to provide a bit of very subtle glitter.  They are Gütermann seed beads, size 11, colour 6635.  I bought two packs because John Lewis have recently rather drastically downsized their range of beads and I wanted to be sure I didn’t run out in mid-project.

I’ve also ordered some gilt purl from Sarah Homfray (see links on the right); won’t need it just yet, but I want it so I can get an idea of where and how I’m going to use it.  If all goes well, this weekend I am actually going to be able to make a start on the embroidery at long last.

Oh yes.  Hallo, Canadian friends.  Happy Canada Day! 🙂

Framing the problem

Whew.  This weekend I’ve been working like a Trojan on the waistcoat.

If you remember from the last waistcoat post, I levelled off the fabric by running a tacking thread along the grainline:

Using a running thread to show the grain

Then I folded the fabric down the middle and pinned the line of tacking so that it matched on either side of the fold, and when I’d done that I pinned the selvedges together:

The perfectly matched fabric

Once I’d done that, I first of all cut out the front facing pieces using the same clear plastic pattern piece I used for the mock-up.

The front facing piece ready to be cut out

Yesterday, I got a friend to help me prepare the frames.  The pieces are too big to fit on one of my artists’ canvases (remember those?), so I had to join two together for each piece.  First of all I glued the canvases together at the edge, then my friend cut a piece of hardboard that fitted over the edges of the frames and nailed it in place with short tacks.  Note the piece of parcel tape – that’s where I repaired the rip in one of the canvases.

Showing how the frames are joined together

Once I had a usable frame, I laid a long ruler along one of the edges and pinned one side of the fabric to the canvas along the ruler, stretching it along the length as far as I could while I was doing this.

Lining up the fabric on the frame

Once all the pins were in place, I then stitched it to the canvas with small spaced back stitches.

Stitching in place

Then I stretched the fabric widthways across the frame and pinned the opposite side into place.

Pinning the opposite side

At this point I thought it might be a good idea to make a more substantial repair on that tear, so it didn’t get any worse when I removed the canvas under the linen fabric.

Stitching the tear to prevent further damage

I then did the same for the short sides, and here’s the finished result:

Fabric stretched on frame

The next job was to remove the canvas underneath the fabric to allow it to be stitched.

Removing the canvas


To match the pattern piece to the grain, I started by putting a pin at one end of the grainline on the pattern and wiggling it slightly to make a small but visible hole in the fabric.

Using a pin to match the grain

I removed the pattern piece, put the pin back into the hole, and laid a ruler along one of the warp threads.

Marking the grain with a ruler

Then I laid the pattern piece back on top of the ruler, pinned the ends of the grainline along it, and checked it was still right by folding the pattern tissue back to look.  I anchored the grain marker in place with two pins.

The grain marker is anchored along a warp thread

Then I pinned the rest of the piece in place.

The pattern piece in position, ready for pouncing

Now for the pounce powder!  I had never tried this before in my life, so I must admit I was a little nervous about how it would work.  However…

The design pounced onto the fabric

…as you see, I really needn’t have worried.  The results were superb.  Here’s a closer view:

Closer view of pounced design

I permanently marked the cutting line with white acrylic paint.

Marking the cutting line

Then it was time to start painting in the design, using the same purple and gold acrylic paints I used for the pattern and a very fine brush.

The design with some of the purple lines marked in

The purple lines had to be done first because the gold lines will cross over them.  Here I have added in some gold lines.

The upper part of the design completed

And here’s what it looked like when it was all finished:

The finished pattern piece, ready to embroider

Of course I’ve now got it all to do again for the other front piece; the frame is ready and the piece of fabric has had the edges turned over and tacked to stop them fraying, and that’s as far as I’ve got with it.  Nonetheless, I’m delighted.  That is an excellent day’s work.

Two lengths of blue linen

Apologies in advance for the fact that there are no photos this time.  I’ve taken a couple, but I’m rapidly running out of evening, so I will put them in a future post.

I have some exciting news, though… well, I’m excited, at least. 😀  After all this time spent designing and preparing, yesterday I actually cut the main fabric – a surprisingly tough job.  You would think that a fairly coarsely-woven linen would be easy work with a rotary cutter.  Not so much.

Usually I line up the grain on a piece of fabric by eye, moving one selvedge back and forth along the other until the fold hangs straight.  For this one, however, it had to be exactly right, and besides the ends of the fabric were cut rather more than usually skew, which is the sort of thing that can make things difficult.  So this time, what I did was actually to tack across the fabric between two of the weft threads to give me a visible line.  I then folded it lengthwise, matching up the two halves of this line and holding them in place with pins.  Then I pinned the selvedges together.  Once I’d done that, it was a simple matter to flatten out the fabric and pin the other end in place, enabling me to move it around freely without fear of the grain going wonky.

The pieces which have to be cut in the main fabric are the fronts and the front facings.  I cut out the facings first so that I would have as much fabric as possible left to use for the front pieces, then I squared off the edges of the fabric and cut it into two large rectangles, each of which would comfortably accommodate one of the fronts.  I’m making the frames by fastening two of my artists’ canvases (remember those?) together into a larger rectangle; I’ve glued them, and a friend who can do DIY has promised to add a more substantial join.  (I would do this myself, but I have a problem with my wrists and can’t use power tools.)  The fabric rectangles will be stitched to the canvas, since it’s already stretched, and then I’ll remove as much of the canvas as possible from underneath.  This should be a great deal easier than trying to stretch a piece of fairly heavy linen over the frame with my limited physical strength.

Expect more on this at the weekend, with photos. 🙂