Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roaring Along?

. . . well. . . not exactly.  But I have been moving steadily -- if slowly -- ahead with my little stumpwork lion.  Here he is earlier today:

A couple of things are new since my last update.  First. . .the pretty flowers at the corners of the medallion.  These are made from silk wrapped pearl purl. .. silk thread wrapped around a metal core, which is then coiled to make a tiny spring-like "thread."   To create the little "petals," you cut little lengths, thread them like beads, and fold over to make the tiny shapes. 

Next, I've started the part I've been avoiding -- the lion's face and mane!  I know, it's the most creative and interesting part of the whole piece.  But that's the problem.  Creativity is a two-edged sword.  The results can be good . . . or not so good.  Yes, I am undoubtedly a counted thread stitcher at heart.  I LOVE knowing exactly where to put my needle!

But I also love the look and history of surface techniques.  So here I am, at a point where I simply MUST move ahead.  But baby steps to start. . . as shown in this picture.  Here I've solved two (smallish) issues with finishing up my lovely little lion.  First, I was worried about white fabric showing through my mane. . . especially since the techniques I'm leaning towards use up lots of threads. . . and I have a limited amount of threads left.  My solution was to "shade" the background of the mane area with simple long stitches.  I was thrilled to find a shade of needlepoint silk that VERY closely matches my lion colors. . .and should create the perfect dark under layer for the mane.  My intent is to cover all of those long stitches you see in the photo below, but if teeny tiny gaps remain, there won't be any stark white "dandruff" shining through.

(Dear readers, am I perhaps being a bit paranoid here?  Probably.  Would I or anyone else really find any white "dandruff" distracting from any reasonable viewing distance?  Probably not.  But having that matching background in place means I can move ahead away from that particular worry!)

My other accomplishment is completing the ears.   I cobbled together a technique that I think works pretty well.  First I padded the ears that were drawn onto the fabric.  Then I couched TWO layers of silk gimp around the outside. . .one atop the other.  Then I filled the ears with satin stitch.  I ended up using the needlepoint silk for this because my soie ovale created a really bright, shiny surface. . . beautiful, but not what I wanted for the ears.  Here's the result:

Now I MUST keep at it.  I have my materials out for the face. . . and have a rather unstructured plan for the mane.  And I have a super motivational video!  I ask you, after looking at this clip (see below), how could ANYONE even temporarily abandon a lion stitching project?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lion in the Grass

I'm happy to report that the environment for my little stumpwork lion is slowly but steadily taking shape!  Here he is, resting in a sunny spot on a grassy hill!

As usual with Tricia Nguyen's designs, a lot of the fun is seeing and doing techniques that were used to create the historic pieces.  And I find that once I try a particular technique, I'm much more interested in looking at similar details in the historic pieces.

Here I started with the clouds.  With their blue outlines and white centers, these aren't very realistic, but I really loved effect anyway (maybe because blue is my favorite color).  The outer rows are blue gimp, and the two center sections are gylte silk twist, and everything is just couched down with gold-colored silk.

Next comes the grass, with its typical period striped "shading" created by horizontal bands of three colors of green silk.  This is simply stitched loops of soie ovale (which looks like uncut turkey work, but has no knots of any kind) worked over a very "sophisticated" spacing tool -- an opened up paper clip!   An option  is to take one further step and cut along all the loops, which is what was done historically to create a chenille-like appearance.  But given how VERY time consuming this was to stitch. . . and the fact that I'm pretty happy with the look of the loops as is. . . I'm thinking I will probably just leave it. 

The last environmental piece is the sparkly sun.  Up close this looks kind of messy, but at normal viewing distance it's really pretty.  The sun itself is gold strip that is folded back and forth and couched down at the edges.  The rays are crinkled gold strip that are couched then outlined with a line of gold twist cord.

Also complete is the preparation for stitching the lion's face.  The historical lions use a variety of different techniques for faces.  I decided to do a detached buttonhole base instead of a satin stitched base as in Tricia's example.  I started with two layers of padding, with detached button hold worked over top of the face area.  This is stitched with soie ovale (a filament silk. . . which is beautifully shiny but a real pain to work with). 

Next steps?  There's a lot of work on the outer medallion and flowers at the corners AND of course, the lion's face and mane.  I'm busy cutting and assembling components for the medallion. . . and poring over pictures of historical lions to come up with a game plan for the mane.  Hopefully, I'll have more to show in a week or two.