Sunday, 10 January 2010

Kate's Crow: materials

It occurred to me, a little belatedly, that I should have described the materials I'm using for this piece. So, better late than never; here they are:

So not many, and a couple of them won't even end up being seen.

The threads first:

The pale grey sewing thread is used to overstitch the design on the back, and so transfer it to the front of the fabric. I could use any colour as it won't, or shouldn't, end up being seen, but by using a toning colour to the final one, if any of the transfer stitches do peek out slightly, they shouldn't be noticeable.

The metallic thread is Gutermann Dekor no. 41, silver. I'm using this to stitch over the running stitches transferring the design, in chain stitch. I have mixed feelings about this thread. I use it a lot and have done for years, especially in chain stitch, as I like the sparkly, slightly rough effect it gives, very different to traditional goldwork threads. However, I've never found it easy to work with. It consists of a set of fine strands of a synthetic filament, mixed with very thin metallic strips. Both the filaments and the metallic component snap and fray very easily, and once one's gone, it causes havoc with the rest of the length you're sewing with. In my experience, use short lengths, stop to smooth it out regularly, and once it starts to snarl up (and it will, believe me) give it up: finish off that length of thread as soon as possible, however much of it is left, and start a new one. Trying to keep going will just end in tears. And don't bother trying running it through beeswax - it won't help and just dulls the shine.

Finally, I'll be using the Madeira stranded silk for the crow's eye, using (probably) split stitch. Other brands of silk floss have a wider range of colours, but Madeira threads are always good quality, and as they're supplied in individual packets, they don't tangle and are kept nice and clean. Given what most embroiderers' thread collections are like, this is a big plus!

Onto the fabrics:

I've used quite a fine linen to back the main fabric. This is actually an old linen sheet; I always ask cloth stalls at antique fairs and the like if they have any linen sheets or unworked tablecloths, pillowcases, etc. I won't cut up anything that some other embroiderer has worked (well, not unless it's really bad!), but sheets and so forth are fair game. They often have worn patches or small tears, but for my purposes that doesn't matter; I've had a lot of beautiful quality linen at a fraction of the cost of buying it new this way. This old sheet has 'T47' stitched on one corner; I would guess this is an old laundry mark.

The linen is used to support the fabric that'll be seen, as it's not strong enough to be stretched onto a frame on its own. I use silk fabrics a lot in my work, and this is 100% silk matka.

Matka is a raw silk fabric with quite a large, open weave. It looks as though it ought be quite coarse, like hessian, but is actually beautifully soft. I love this contrast between its appearance and its texture, and it's one of my favourite fabrics, so I don't know why I don't use it more than I do. I need to find a few more uses for it, I think!

I don't know of anywhere local to me that sells it (or much else in the way of quality fabric, sadly), so I buy it and most of the rest of the silk fabrics I use mail order from Hansson of Guildford, who I have always found very friendly, fast and reliable.

Next time, I'll show you how the spirals are coming along...

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