At mid-October, it is significantly later than the mid-August restart date I had originally hoped for, so I wanted to let everyone know that I have not forgotten, and I am still intending to restart the opus anglicanum stitch-along.
The biggest reason for the delay is that I have been doing significantly worse health-wise in the past two months than I was expecting and I frankly haven’t had it in me to work on a structured, weekly project with a blogging commitment. The happy reason for the delay is that a friend provided me with more research material, which I want to review so I can provide you more accurate and detailed information. Another reason for delay is that right now the 2015 medieval embroidery stitchalong is happening over at opusanglicanum.wordpress.com, and if you enjoy stitch-alongs and medieval style embroidery it is well worth joining in on.
Sooo… I have decided to abort the Opus Anglicanum stitch-along. I’ll start it over again later, probably in the middle of August. I’ve made a lot of mistakes since the start, but I was trying to see it through. However, at this point the mistakes are too glaring and grievous, and I hate how it’s turning out too much to finish the piece, or be willing to showcase this as an example of what to do. That would be flat out irresponsible of me. I had hoped that filling in around the eyes would improve the piece, but instead it just made the errors more glaring. The worst errors are with the eyes, which are too small, the wrong shape, different sizes, akilter, and look like they are rolling up into her head like she’s dying or passing out. Most of the other errors (of which there are many) would not have stopped the stitch-along, but I am glad for the opportunity to correct them.
After deciding to abort the piece I finished out the peach thread I was working on, so you can see some more texturing. There are a lot of mistakes with the texturing as well. There is the line across the bridge of the nose, some funkiness on the upper lip, and lots of places where you get a horizontal striping appearance because I did not consistently stagger the stitches (like on the neck and side of the forehead), and some ridging that occurred when I used too long of stitches next to very short stitches. I have also been advised to split my floss so the texture on the face will be subtler, and I do believe that will help a lot with many of the textural problems this piece has.
I will be revising my template image so the eye is significantly larger, and post another blog entry for that when I have uploaded it.
In part 4 of the Opus Anglicanum stitch along, we will be stitching in the spirals of the right cheek and chin, outline most of the face, and fill in around one eye.
Faces in Opus Anglicanum style embroidery are usually one of the most nuanced and detailed parts. The placement of the spirals and curves are meant to help provide shape and dimension, despite the fact that it’s all in a single color of floss (with the possible exception of the cheeks, which are sometimes a pink spiral). This also means that no two faces are stitched in exactly the same manner, because the shapes of the faces, and thus their contours, are different. In this and the next part, I will continue show you what I did on this particular face to create contour and depth, and do my best to explain why so you will be able to decide for yourself how to contour your next Opus Anglicanum face.
This particular face (about 1″ across) is about the smallest that it can be while still working in this style of embroidery. Some details, like the eyes in particular, would be much easier to do on a larger piece, and all of the details would have more depth if worked larger. About twice this size would be ideal (2″ across or larger). The eyes are also smaller proportionally than is ideal for Opus Anglicanum style embroidery. I didn’t realize the eyes in the design were too small for this style of embroidery until I had finished the area around one of the eyes. If you have not yet started on the eye, I suggest making the eye significantly larger. It will make it much easier to embroider, and will result in a finished figure that is more true to extant Opus Anglicanum pieces.
Since the face is turned 3/4 view, only part of the cheek is visible to the viewer. That means the center of the cheek is very close to the edge of the visible part of the face.
Make a tight spiral with tiny stitches, just like you did on the other cheek, making full circles until the stitches are abutted to the face outline.
When there is no longer enough room for the spiral to continue along the side of the face, plunge the line of stitches and start again on the upper part of the cheek, just like you did for the forehead spiral.
Continue in that manner, bringing your stitches past the nose as long as there is enough room for more stitches next to the nose outline.
Continue making the spiral, now skipping the cheek, and skipping the nose.
Continue the spiral until it is nearly adjacent to the eye and mouth, or is adjacent to one or both of them.
The oval spiral for the chin is very similar to the oval spiral for the forehead. Start with a single line of stitches that defines the basic shape of the oval, and then create another line of stitches starting just below that will define the spiral shape by widening out slightly above and below, and pulling in tight at the narrow ends.
I want a gentle shape to her face, so I want a gentle transition from the chin to the jaw to everything else. That is why I chose a long oval shape. If I was making a face with very angular features or a pronounced chin, I would make a much smaller oval, or maybe even a round spiral, to emphasize the shape. If I wanted to make a double or cleft chin, I would make two smaller spirals that abutted each other and then were surrounded by a larger oval spiral.
Continue stitching around the oval, making smaller stitches around the tight ends, and widening out along the longer sides to create a fully rounded shape.
Continue spiraling around the oval until your line of stitches just barely fits between the oval and the outline of the jaw.
When your line of stitches is touching the outline of the face, instead of continuing around the spiral again, follow the line of the face up towards the cheek. It is time to start outlining the face and defining some of the other contours.
Start your next line of stitches at the terminal end of the nose outline.
Now we are defining the eyebrow. Continue the line of stitches up to the eyebrow, and then follow the lower side of the eyebrow, stitching as close to the black stitches as possible. You want to squeeze in the black stitches so they will be a more delicate line.
I stopped the eyebrow outline stitches at the end of the eyebrow, but it would also be perfectly reasonable to continue the line down towards the outside of the cheek before starting the next row. Start this row of stitches at the hair, next to where you stopped your forehead stitches.
Keep this line of stitches close to the forehead stitches until it touches the end of the eyebrow, and then sweep it down towards the outside of the cheek spiral. This is defining the three-dimensional transition of shape from the forehead, around the temple, and across the top of the cheekbone.
Instead of hugging the spiral, hug the outline of the face as closely as possible and continue down the cheek towards the jawline.
Stitch along the jaw and as deep under the spiral of the chin as you can before plunging your needle.
Start your next line as deep against the spiral and nose outline as you can. We are going to define the other eyebrow.
Make a line of stitches as close to the nose outline and eyebrow as you can, ending at the side of the face.
Start again up at the edge of the forehead, at the hairline. We are now going to fill in the face between that contour line and the hair.
Fill in with lines of stitches, all moving from top to bottom, and following the contour line set up from forehead to cheek.
I want the cheek spiral to be a little larger than it is currently, so I started at the outside of the cheek.
I only needed to go around the spiral one more time to completely fill the space between the spiral and the outline of the face. Go around as many times as you need to in order to fill that space.
Start the next line of stitches as deep between the cheek spiral and cheek outline as you can. We are going to define the transition from cheek to eye.
Hug close to the spiral until you are stitching upward, and then head for the side of the nose to define the forward edge of the cheek.
Continue the line of stitches upward, hugging the bottom of the nose and then the forward edge of the eye. Stitch as close to the upper side of the eye as possible.
When you reach the outer edge of the eye, continue stitching a line towards the corner of the cheek.
Now we are going to finish outlining the eye. Start your next stitch as close in as you can between the lower eyelid and line of stitches you just created.
Hug the bottom of the eye as closely as you can all the way to the other corner.
Now hug the prior line of stitches down towards the corner of the cheek.
Now we are going to fill in the eyelid. Start your stitches as deep into the inside corner of the eyelid as you can for every row of stitches, arch them around the eye, and end as deep into the other corner as you can.
Now we are going to fill in the lower eyelid and upper cheek. Start your stitches as close against the cheek spiral as you can.
Head up towards the corner of the eye, but make a very tiny stitch at the end in preparation for a very sharp turn.
Make a very sharp turn and continue stitching along the bottom of the eye, continuing as far as you can.
Repeat that pattern of stitches, up, turn, follow the eye, as many times as you need to before the empty space is completely filled. Each turn should be slightly more gentle than the prior.
At this point in the stitch-along, your face should look similar to this.
In Part 5 we should be able to finish filling in the face.
In part 3 of my Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along, we will be filling in the forehead and nose, creating the round of the cheek, and filling in the eyes.
Faces in Opus Anglicanum style embroidery are usually one of the most nuanced and detailed parts. The placement of the spirals and curves are meant to help provide shape and dimension, despite the fact that it’s all in a single color of floss (with the possible exception of the cheeks, which are sometimes a pink spiral). This also means that no two faces are stitched in exactly the same manner, because the shapes of the faces, and thus their contours, are different. In this and the next part or two, I will show you what I did on this particular face to create contour and depth, and do my best to explain why so you will be able to decide for yourself how to contour your next Opus Anglicanum face.
This particular face (about 1″ across) is about the smallest that it can be while still working in this style of embroidery. Some details, like the eyes in particular, would be much easier to do on a larger piece, and all of the details would have more depth if worked larger. About twice this size would be ideal (2″ across or larger).
We are going to make an oval on the forehead, so start your first stitch a bit to the side of the very center of the forehead. This is not the center of the forehead via measuring, but the visual center of the forehead. Since the face is at 3/4 view (not straight on), the center of the forehead is above the center of the bridge of the nose. Since part of the forehead is also covered by the crown, the stitch is closer to the crown than the bridge of the nose.
The center of the forehead is usually an oval spiral, to give the feeling of roundness and fullness at that location.
Stitch in a straight line across the forehead, using very small stitches.
Make small stitches in a straight line.
Continue with small stitches until the line is the right length to appear centered on the forehead. Plunge your last stitch through the material one thread of the fabric further than the previous stitch.
Start your next line of stitches just barely down and to the left of your last stitch. You want to end the prior line and start a new one because it is too sharp of a turn to look nice.
Place your stitches close enough that you are not leaving any visible fabric between the two rows.
As you reach the end of the first row of stitches, tuck your stitches closer in.
Shorten your stitches even more when you get to the turn, and pull in as close as possible to the prior line of stitches. You may even want to stitch over the very end of the line. By pulling in very close and tight you can make clean stitches going around the turn, and also create an oval shape, rather than a rectangle.
It is likely as you go around the turn, that it will be so tight you need to split your stitch above the surface of the fabric.
Continue making minuscule stitches as you go around the tip of the first row of stitches.
On the long side of the oval, widen out as much as possible without exposing the fabric underneath, and then tuck in close to go around the narrow side. This will emphasize the oval shape.
Continue in a spiral around the oval until the upper edge is touching the crown.
The next time your stitches reach the crown area, plunge the last stitch in along the line of the crown.
Resume the spiral pattern, starting the stitch at the line of the crown.
Continue the spiral pattern a few more passes, skipping the section that abuts the crown.
Continue the spiral pattern until it very nearly abuts the eyebrows.
In hindsight, I should have stopped the spiral at the stage in the above photo, so that I could more easily have the stitches from the nose extend up over the eyebrows. This would have helped to avoid the rather harsh browline that can be seen further down. If you choose to stop here, wait to fill in the rest of the forehead until after you have stitched the nose, and extended one or two lines of stitches up over the tops of the eyebrows.
I continued the spiral until it was touching the eyebrows.
Fill in the left side of the forehead, continuing the curve of the stitches, but straightening them out slightly the further you get from the oval.
Fill in the right side of the forehead, gently straightening out the lines so they are almost vertical by the time you reach the other side of the brow. This will allow for an easy transition to the side of the face.
To start the nose, begin the line of stitches just a bit up from the outer corner.
Make minuscule stitches, since the turn around the bottom of the nose is very tight. Get as close to the outline stitches as possible.
The stitches filling the nose area are usually vertical along the length of the nose, with a curve at the bottom. Sometimes the stitches form a “U” shape, with either side extending into the eyebrow area. This follows the natural form of the human nose, which stands out from the face and flows into the brow.
Continue your curved line of tiny stitches, making them as close to the nose outline stitches as possible.
Continue your tiny stitches. It is very likely that the curve will be sharp enough that you will need to split the silk above the surface of the embroidery.
Continue the line of stitches up to, and potentially over the eyebrow. I don’t like the way the area above the eyebrow looks, so when I resume work on this piece I plan to stitch the line all the way along the eyebrow. Start the next line of stitches just a bit above the first, so you can create another curved line.
Continue the second line of stitches up to the brow, or entirely over the eyebrow if you left room for it. Start the third line of stitches like the first two, leaving room for a tight turn.
You might notice that the eyes are filled in now, but I haven’t shown how to do that. I filled in the eyes when I ran out of peach thread and my needle was free. The eyes can be filled in at any time before the area around the eyes is filled. I will show filling in the eyes last on today’s stitch-along. Feel free to skip ahead when you finish a length of thread, or do it at the point it appears in today’s installment.
Continue the third line of stitches up and to the left. Try to blend it into the curve of the forehead as much as possible. Since the face is 3/4 turned, more of its vertical fill should go to the left than the right.
At this point the curve of the nose should be extremely narrow, so start your next line in the depth of that curve.
Stitch straight up the nose, but keep the small stitch length so it will match the lines you have already stitched.
If you have been making your lines of stitches about as close as I have, you should now be starting the next line of stitches in the same place as the last line of curved stitches. Even if you will still have a gap of fabric, start your next line there.
This line of stitches should continue up and over the top edge of the brow. I significantly regret stopping at the brow, and plan to stitch in the rest of the line over the brow.
If you have room for another line of stitches, fill it in. Otherwise, start as deep into the point of visible fabric as you can.
Fill in all visible fabric, starting each line as deep into the point of visible fabric as you can, and fanning out to either side of the spiral.
Start at the very center of the cheek area. Again, this is the center of the cheek as it would be looking at a three-dimensional figure, not by measure of the drawing.
If you want rosy cheeks on your piece, switch out for a pale pink floss and create the spiral as described here.
Start a spiral pattern by making the stitches as tiny as you can. Each stitch is two threads of my ground material, split at one thread.
It is very likely your turns will be too sharp for normal splitting, and will need to be split above the surface of the embroidery.
Turn in a very tight spiral, so you don’t end up with fabric peeking out between the stitches.
At this point I am barely able to start lengthening the stitches to three threads of the fabric.
I was still having to split the floss above the embroidery.
Still splitting above the embroidery.
At this point the curve was finally gentle enough to split the stitch on the surface of the embroidery.
Continue making a spiral pattern, barely lengthening the stitches.
If you are filling in the cheek with pink, you’ll likely want to stop your spiral when it is about this size, or maybe a half-circle larger. Then switch out to peach and continue the spiral.
Continue the spiral until it just shy of touching any of the other features of the face. Then plunge the stitch.
This eye is very small, so it will be difficult to place the details. With a larger eye, you would want to start with a small spiral of black for the pupil, but this eye is too small for that, so I recommend starting with the iris.
Make your stitches as small as possible, and follow the outer line of the iris.
There is barely enough room here for two lines of stitches.
Stitch in the iris on the other eye.
Again, there is probably just barely enough room for two lines of stitches.
There isn’t enough room to split stitch the pupil, so make a couple short stab stitches to fill in a little black for the pupils.
Fill in the whites with split stitch, starting at the side of the iris and completely filling in the remainder of the eye.
Fill in the whites of both eyes. This eye, being slightly smaller to represent being further away from the viewer, will likely take fewer stitches to fill completely.
I’m not terribly happy with how my eyes looked when I was finished, so hopefully yours will come out a little nicer.
And this is where we stop for Part 3 of the stitch-along. If you have followed along to this point doing the embroidery, you should have the eyes, forehead, and nose completely filled in, and the spiral placed on the left cheek. In Part 4 we will start with the right cheek spiral.
In part two of my opus anglicanum stitch-along, we will embroider the black outlines around the face, and fill in the barbette and neck. It is very important to do all of the outline stitches first, so that when you fill in the rest of the stitches the lines will be thin and delicate, pressed in on the sides by the other stitches. If you wait to do the outline stitches until last, they will sit on top of the other embroidery and be very bold.
I then moved on to the barbette and neck so that you will have a chance to become more comfortable with making split stitch evenly, while not having to worry about shading, or very much about stitch direction.
The greatest challenge of working with flat silk is snagging. Flat silk is very delicate, and will snag on anything rough, be that exposed wood on your embroidery frame, or dry skin. I highly recommend keeping hand lotion handy and moisturizing whenever needed, but be sure to let the moisturizer soak in completely before handling the silk or it may cause discoloration. Also consider clipping and filing your nails, and using exfoliants like salt or sugar scrubs.
If you are new to flat silk I recommend working with short lengths, no more than 12″. I pulled about one foot of floss for this photo. Shorter lengths will be easier to keep smooth, and if it does become tangled beyond use you will lose a minimum amount of floss. For myself, I usually work in lengths of two to three feet so I don’t have to stop and start the floss as frequently. As you become more comfortable using the flat silk, experiment with different lengths until you find the ideal for how you work.
The eye of the needle will damage the filaments of silk, so it is important to secure your needle close to the end of the floss. Tie the floss in a double knot around the eye to prevent it from slipping out. For the first length of floss, you will also want to make a knot in the end of the floss to use as a waste knot.
I am starting the stitching on the barbette since it has a long straight stretch where I can easily use a waste knot. Stitch from the front to the back of the work at the bottom of the straight stretch, and then come back up to the front of the work at the top of the barbette.
Place the first stitch about 3mm long. In areas where you want to create the impression of length or flow, longer stitches are ideal. In areas with tight curves or a lot of detail, shorter stitches, 1-2mm long, are ideal.
Come back up through the stitch you just made about 1/3 of its length from the end, splitting the threads of the prior stitch in half.
Stitch forward the same length as the first stitch.
Come back up through the stitch you just made about 1/3 of its length from the end, splitting the threads of the prior stitch in half.
Repeat the split stitch, maintaining the same stitch length on each stitch, until you reach the waste knot.
Cut off the waste knot close to the fabric. The tail on the back side of the fabric should be secured by the line of stitches, thereby avoiding having a knot on your finished embroidery.
This photo shows the back of the work, with the tail of the floss secured by the line of stitches. I strongly recommend avoiding knots on opus anglicanum because of the full coverage of the embroidery. This makes it very easy on most of the piece to secure the tail without a knot, and the lump of the knot could potentially interfere with later stitches in the same area.
Continue stitching around the outside of the face. Make a slightly smaller stitch when going around turns to help make a smoother transition.
Next move to the nearer eyebrow. Start at the outside edge so the more tapered end of the stitch will be to the outside, where the eyebrow naturally tapers. It won’t be very obvious at this stage, because the floss can spread out over the fabric, but when the face is filled in later and the floss is compacted the difference will be clearer.
Come back up through the stitch you just made about 1/3 of its length from the end, splitting the threads of the prior stitch in half.
Make slightly smaller stitches along the fairly broad curves of the eyebrow and nose.
Make your stitches even shorter when you get to the tip of the nose to ensure the cleanest tight turn possible. Stitches should be 1-2mm long.
Make the stitches smallest at the tightest part of the turn.
Because of the tight turn, it might be difficult to split the filaments in half while stitch coming up to the front of the fabric along the line of the curve. If you run into that problem, leave the floss slightly loose on the front so you can push the needle up along the line of the curve, and then split the floss above the surface of the fabric. Because the flat silk does not have a twist, pull the stitch tight and the split will slide.
Continue with tiny stitches to the outer edge of the nose. On the last stitch, split the floss as normal, and then go back down to the back of the fabric through the same hole as the previous stitch.
Go up to the other eyebrow, again starting at the outer edge so the taper of the stitch will match the natural taper of the eyebrow.
Stitch to the inside of the eyebrow, using the same stitch length as on the other eyebrow. As before, on the final stitch go to the back of the work through the same hole as the prior stitch.
On the eye start at the outer corner, so the taper of the stitch will match the natural shape of the eye. Make very tiny stitches to follow the curve of the eye.
Make tiny stitches, splitting above the embroidery surface if needed to ensure an even split.
Go back to the outer side of the eye to stitch the lower eyelid. Keep doing tiny stitches.
Stitch the other eye in the same manner, starting from the outer edge.
At this point the eyes will look overly bold and raccoon-like. This impression will be reduced when there are surrounding stitches to compact the line. If you have multiple brands of flat silk at your disposal, using a more delicate floss on this area will also create a thinner line.
I decided to start the mouth from the corner closer to the viewer, but you can start at whichever side you prefer. Make a medium-length stitch to better follow the gentle curve of the lips.
I finished the face before running out of floss on my needle.
This is the back of the work when I ran out of floss. You will have threads travelling in different directions on the back of the work as you move the floss from one part of the piece to another. Having the back of your embroidery look clean and perfect is a very Victorian idea, and does not apply to the vast majority medieval styles of embroidery. In fact, the only SCA-period embroidery style I know of where that is the case is Renaissance counted blackwork because both sides of the work are often visible on the finished garment.
In the interest of avoiding knots, it is necessary to weave the tail of the thread through the stitches on the back of the piece.
Weave back and forth through the line of stitches.
Continue weaving back and forth through the stitches.
When you have woven through a few stitches, stitch back the direction you came for a couple more stitches to ensure the tail is secure.
When you are done weaving through the stitches, cut the tail a short distance from the last weave.
I am starting the barbette outline just below the little loop of hair. This is because I do not plan to outline the hair with black, and at that point the hair is in front of the barbette. If you will be outlining your hair with black, then start at the crown. There are not enough stitches on the backside of the piece yet to make it easy to secure the starting tail, and I have a straight stretch to embroider, so I used the waste knot technique again. If you ran out of floss before I did and still have some of the face to embroider, I recommend starting your second length of floss here because of the convenience of the straight stretch for the waste knot method. Stitch this side of the barbette, and then return to the face where you left off.
As you did on the other side of the barbette, stitch your line until you are next to the waste knot, and then clip it off close to the fabric.
The taper of the stitch does not matter for the neck outline, so you can start at whichever end you prefer. I started at the top so I would lose a minimum of thread to travel along the backside of the piece.
Stitch the side of the neck, and then the other side. Stitch both outlines in the same direction. That is, if you started at the top on one side, also start at the top on the other side.
I am not outlining the hair, clothing, or gold areas in black, so I stopped the line of stitching at the corner of the cloak. If you want to outline your entire figure in black, do it now before proceeding to fill in. Follow the techniques you used for the face, barbette, and neck to complete all other outlines.
Since we still don’t have enough stitches on the back to easily secure the tail, use the waste knot method one last time. After this, you should be able to secure the tail without the knot, but you can still do so if you wish.
I am filling in the barbette with white floss, and starting the stitches from the low end of the barbette, just barely where it starts to curve. This way the tapered end of the stitches will flow into the point of the barbette.
Stitch until you are right next to the waste knot before cutting it off.
Start each successive line of stitches closer and closer to the point, while keeping each line straight. This will create the impression that the flow of the barbette is towards the point. If you stitch from the point now, this will cause a curve in your stitches that will continue up the barbette, creating the impression that the barbette is flowing into the cheek.
Place your lines of stitches immediately next to each other to help ensure complete coverage of the surface of the fabric. When you reach the point of the barbette, be sure to have your floss emerge as deep into the point as you can without catching the black threads.
As you continue to fill, start each new line of stitches as far down as you can without catching the black or white floss to either side.
As you get close to the loop of hair, you have two options for how to handle the white above the curl. What I did was start slightly widening the stitches at the top so they curved around the loop of hair. Do this as much as you can while still maintaining complete coverage of the fabric. Your alternative is to make a couple extra short lines of stitches above the curl after making your last line of unbroken stitches.
In this photo I have started widening the stitches at the top to curve. This will be the last line of unbroken stitches for the barbette on my piece.
There is a little triangle of barbette still to fill, just below the curl of hair.
Finish out the stitches close to the prior line of stitches, stopping at the curl.
There are now enough stitches on the back of the work to secure the tail. Run your needle through a line of stitches. It’s hard to see because of the traveling floss, but be sure to catch the actual stitches or your tail will not be secured.
I want more the the tail secured, so I ran the tail through more rows of stitches before trimming it off.
Next we will to fill in the neck. Tie a length of the peach floss to your needle, and then run it through a row of stitches on the backside.
The tucked tail is too short to hold yet, so stitch through another two rows of stitches.
Finally, stitch back through the same stitches as the first stretch. Be sure to go through the opposite direction as the first time so it will tighten the tail rather than pulling it out.
We are filling in the neck before the more interesting face area to provide more experience filling in spaces and making even stitches before moving on to the details of the face. Stitch the filling in the same direction as the outline. You want to stitch vertically along the neck so the flow of the stitches emphasizes the length of the neck. You will also want to make all stitches in the same direction, either top to bottom, or bottom to top. If you stitch one direction and then the other it will create a jagged appearance, rather than a smooth flow.
Make your stitches close to the black outline. I made five stitches here. After making one row, I came back out at the top so I could stitch the next row in the same direction.
As you continue filling, be sure to stitch each row very close to the prior at the top, and then very slightly widen the row towards the bottom so it will start to curve towards the center of the chest. Ideally, the flow of stitches will follow the natural lines of the body.
Continue curving the lines of the neck slightly with each row. When you get to the other side of the neck, keep placing rows of stitches until you can no longer do so without catching floss from other rows of stitches.
Keep laying your lines as close together as you can at the top, and widen it out slightly towards the bottom. Be careful not to spread your lines of stitches so far that you can see your fabric.
When you get down to that little triangle at the corner of the neck, just fill it in with more short rows of stitches, retaining that fan pattern towards the curve.
Continue filling in the little corner.
Stop before your filling encroaches on the cloak.
And this is all the embroidery for Part2. In Part3 we will work on the details of the face.
Thank you for following along! Next week we will work on the details of the face. If you have any questions, feel free to ask here, or on my facebook page. Also, I would love to see your embroidery as well, so please share it if you are so inclined! :)
This is the first installment of my Opus Anglicanum embroidery stitch-along. I am not going to be selling any kits, and they will not be available through my web site, but below is all the information needed to create your own kit.
My article, Basics of Opus Anglicanum Embroidery, describes what Opus Anglicanum embroidery is and the basics of how it is worked. I will refer to that article many times while doing the stitch-along, and I highly recommend reading it before starting the stitch-along for yourself.
The image to the right is the one I will be using for the stitch-along, about 2″ wide. Use whichever format will be easier for you to print. It is based on one of the drawings in the Codex Manesse, a German manuscript created between 1300-1340. You will want to use a linen fabric with the highest possible thread count. Two layers of handkerchief weight linen is ideal, but I am using one layer of handkerchief weight linen in this stitch-along because it is what I have on hand. You will want to transfer the pattern onto your fabric in some manner, making the image at least 2″ in diameter. There are a myriad of ways to transfer an embroidery pattern. In this case I recommend either printing directly onto the fabric with an inkjet printer (using this wonderful tutorial on Instructables), or using a lightbox and tracing the pattern with a pencil or fabric markers. I used fabric markers for my template. The colors do not need to be the same as the ones you embroider with. The important part is to show where the shading transitions happen. Your pattern will be completely covered with embroidery when your project is finished, so all details can be altered during the embroidering process and no one will be able to see what you changed.
I purchased my floss through the Japanese Embroidery Center Store. If you want to use exactly the same threads I do, they are listed below. However, you can use whatever colors you would like from any brand of flat silk. If you want to use Soie Ovale thread, or just different colors of the JEC thread, be sure to choose a light peach for the skin, black thread, white thread, two dramatically different shades of hair color, three shades of a color for the cloak, and three shades of color for the tunic. You will also need gold(en) thread, #5 at the largest. For a more historically accurate finish, you will want to use a smaller thread, ideally a #1 or #2, but for those to work you need to embroider on linen that is at least 40 threads per inch (two layers of handkerchief weight usually works well). I am working on lightweight linen that is about 35 threads per inch.
Silk Threads I am Using:
Achromatic (White) #801 – eye & barbette
Achromatic (Black) #809 – outlines & pupil
Peach #211 – skin
Orange Brown #723 – hair
Orange Brown #727 – hair
Blue #504 – cloak
Blue #507 – cloak
Blue #509 – cloak
Plum #684 – tunic
Plum #686 – tunic
Plum #688 – tunic
Imitation Gold #5 (IG-5) – crown, clothing trim, frame
You will also need:
a small gauge embroidery needle
a large gauge embroidery needle or chenille needle (#5 at the largest)
a spool of all-purpose thread (color doesn’t matter)
a pair of embroidery snips
a pair of craft scissors or kitchen shears (for cutting the metal threads)
an embroidery frame
string for stretching the fabric in the frame
Setting Up Your Embroidery
Once you have all your materials assembled, and the pattern transferred to your fabric, you need to stretch it into a frame. A nice slat-frame is ideal, but can be expensive. Scrolling frames are easy to find and work well. This piece of embroidery is small enough that you shouldn’t need to mount it for scrolling. I have also heard of embroiderers using frames for stretching a painting canvas as a slat-frame, and that should work well provided the frame you purchase is a minimum of 8″x8″, though I recommend 10″x10″. Canvas frames are measured by their outer size, so your working area will be significantly smaller.
It is also possible to stretch into an embroidery hoop, though it’s a bit more difficult to get even tension than with a rectangular frame. To do this, stretch each corner to the frame individually. Then, following the same whip-stitch pattern shown below, run thread around the entire piece. Be sure to pull more thread in, rather than cutting and starting again. Once all your whip stitches are in place, tighten the whip-stitched thread around the piece, working in a circle. You may have to make several loops of the hoop before the tension is even all around the fabric. Once it is even and tight, tie it off. By the time you are done, the initial ties on the corners will probably be very loose, so they can be removed.
If you don’t want to deal with stretching your fabric in a frame, you can stretch it in a hoop the way hoops are designed to stretch fabric, but you will be having to constantly re-tighten the fabric, which can make achieving a consistent tension in your stitches more difficult.
Transfer your pattern to your fabric. I used a light box and fabric markers. My piece of fabric is a little larger than my frame, but the image is much smaller, so I don’t need to set up the frame for scrolling.
Since the image is significantly smaller than my frame, I folded in the edges until the visible fabric was smaller than the frame. I made sure that the folded fabric was not underneath the area to be embroidered, so it won’t interfere with my stitching.
I am using cotton crochet thread to stretch the fabric into the frame.
Use a whip stitch to secure the fabric to one side of the frame. Pull more thread along the stitches as you need to in order to stitch the entire side with one thread.
Tie off the thread at the far end (I find the wing nuts on scrolling frames a handy anchor) and then pull it barely snug along the entire side. Cut your thread from the spool and tie off the beginning end.
Whip stitch the opposite side of the fabric to the frame. After tying off the far end, pull the stitches as tightly as possible before tying off the beginning end.
Stretch the two remaining sides. Be sure to pull the whip stitch snug on the third side, and as tight as possible on the fourth side.
This photo shows the fabric stretched into the frame, with the threads needed to complete the embroidery. There is approximately four yards of each color wrapped onto the cards.
In the next installment I will start with the outline stitches in black.