This past weekend I taught an embroidery class for beginning embroiders. They asked for a pictorial tutorial for chain and stem stitch. I am going to post chain stitch today and will add the stem stitch later this evening or tomorrow.
For this tutorial I will be working the chain stitch in what is called reverse chain stitch. I think its easier to control the size and tension of the stitch especially for new embroiderers.
I usually have a pretty good idea of where a project is going, and how to get there, but not always.
I was pretty gung-ho about this project and wanting to get it done for the beginning of March, so I started stitching while still having questions about how the stitch worked. Instead of taking a few hours and making up some test swatches, I just started stitching. Which led to do something I didn’t like, that didn’t look right, and had to be taken out. Which I hate doing, and was a huge waste of time, plus the time it takes to re-stitch the area correctly…bleh. So learn from mistake.
Long Armed cross stitch is a directional stitch in order to get the characteristic rows that kind of look knitted, you need to work your rows or columns of stitches in a back and forth method. Switching the direction that the long arm of the stitch is tilted towards. If you do it correctly you get a really cool textural effect, if you don’t it looks essentially like modern cross stitch . I didn’t have a complete grasp of that concept when I started stitching my first shield. The photo at the below shows the two different effects.
The white back ground of the shield is stitched with the long arm of the cross going the same way in each row. It’s kind of boring and very “modern”. The Blue wavy bit is stitched with the long arm of the cross alternating angles and creates row that almost look like knitting. That is the way the stitch was worked in the middle ages. And, the reason I decided to use the stitch in the first place.
In this photo you can clearly see the “knitted row” effect. Two rows of embroidery form each visual row. Medieval embroiders also switched the orientation of the rows to suit their design needs. In the pale heraldic motif the stitches move top to bottom throughout the lozenge. In the dark motif the bars are stitched side to side and the central design is stitched up and down. This switching of orientation is very different from modern cross stitching which is done left to right(or right to left depending on handedness). I had figured the orientation switching and worked that into my design.
But, (and here is the big important take away from todays post). I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Are they stitching back and forth, or from the same side each row? I should make up a couple quick samples and see if it makes a difference.” And I didn’t. I just started right in, picking the wrong way to do the stitch. Compounding the problem, I didn’t stop when I realized it didn’t look right. I kept going thinking somehow I would come to like it. I didn’t. So learn from my mistake, take the time to answer all your questions about the stitch. And if you don’t like something, take it out early on. Don’t wait thinking it will magically get better with time, it won’t. (That might actually be pretty good advice for a lot of stuff in life.) But I’m back on track now, and much happier with the way it looks.
I’ve been eyeballing some heraldic embroidered bags from the 14th century lately. https://www.pinterest.com/chulsing/i-think-i-need-a-heraldic-bag/ I’ve been looking at enough of them, at frequent enough intervals, that my Husband noticed, and asked “if I was researching a new project”. I hadn’t thought that I was…apparently, I was wrong… Turns out, I am researching heraldic pouches, and have decided to started making one. The first step was to decide on a design. Many of the extant pieces have multiple devices pictured on them. Are they depicitions of kinship ties , or simply decorative? I decided to go with kinship ties limiting the devices shown on my bag to two. My SCA arms, and my Husbands SCA arms. Alternating the two images 3 wide, and 3 high.
The next step was to figure out the scale of the design. I started by looking at the size of extant embroidered bags. There are a fair number of medieval flat pouches remaining that are in the 6 to 8 inches square range. Several names are used for them depending on when and where the bag was made. Sweet bags, relic pouches, almoners are some of the different terms used for bags of this type. The heraldic bags seem to be stitched in either long-armed cross stitch, or tent stitch. I’ve never done a project with either of them, but I kind of like the look of long-armed cross stitch. Here are some examples. https://www.pinterest.com/chulsing/long-armed-cross-stitch/ So I think I will go with that.
So I have 3 repeats across and 3 down, for a 6″ bag they would need to be at most 2″ across. That is bigger than the shields in the extant pieces. The shields in the historic pieces have fairly simple heraldry on them. The registered arms of both my husband and myself are a little bit more intricate. I don’t feel like I can go much smaller than 2″ wide and still have the piece be visually readable. So I am going with 2″x 3″ rectangles for my piece. If I stitch over 2 threads, on 36 count linen I will end up with a bag the size I want.
I also don’t feel like our arms blend together particularly well, so I am going to alternate the background color Green behind my white shields, and white behind his green shields. I think this will help tie the piece together.
There is a bag in Bulle Switzerland that I have not been able to find a public domain photo of, but you can see it here on Kiriel du Papillion’s Flicker feed. https://www.flickr.com/photos/papillon_publishing/2927562972/in/set-72157594270878809/ I really like how it uses borders between the shields. I think I am going to do that on my bag.
Fabric- white “Edinboro” linen 36 ct(threads per inch) purchased from my local embroidery shop
Soi de Paris – silk filament floss purchased from Hedgehog Handworks
white – blanc
black – noir
blue- # 1715 or #114 I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.
gold – #2533