Scarf run amok, also blackwork

Circumstance the first:  Over the winter break I sadly neglected to bring along the pattern for my present needlework project. As my knitting and spinning tools no longer live in Michigan, this left me at a bit of a (cough) loose end.

Circumstance the second: While I was muttering over circumstance the first,  my family home was the site of a lively dialogue of the subject of steampunk and related fashions.

As a result, I lit on the vague notion of putting together an offbeat patchwork scarf.  Here is what finally tumbled off the sewing table:

My original idea was for the scarf to showcase various different fiber arts techniques. This didn’t quite pan out in the long run, but it meant that my first step was to prepare several pieces of needlework to serve as focal points for the scarf.  I had a manual on blackwork that I’d been meaning to look at for some time, so I decided to open it up and have blackwork decorations. (Remember, I was awfully bored.) The manual turned out to be chiefly useful as a source of patterns – it failed to give any explanation of how to do the embroidery, so I fell back on the theory as elucidated to me once by my cousin. The idea of blackwork (or, in this case, redwork) is that the embroidery should be the same on both sides, except for tying off threads on the back. Toward this end, one uses running stitch to work one’s through each branch of the pattern stitching one stich on top of the fabric and the next below, then returning to the central point using the opposite stitches to make the branch on both sides of the fabric.  This is much easier to demonstrate than describe. I started with something simple and linear to get the hang of it:

Here, for example,  I stitched every other stich on the main line moving rightward, pausing when I reached an acorn to sew that as a branch of the main design, and then finally returned leftward along the line filling in the missing stitches. Seeing as that hadn’t been a catastrophic failure, I attempted something more complicated next.

With these elements complete, I gathered up red and black fabric scraps (available to me through the kind auspices of my aunt) and went to work on the scarf. I started by framing the larger piece of embroidery in heavy black satin, exercising a certain paranoia concerning the seams because of the fragility of the linen. From there, the left side of the scarf (cream semi-upholstery fabric, gold brocaded ribbon with small beads at the centers of the roses, red velveteen) fell together quickly.

The right side, conversely, proved difficult. I despaired of getting the transparent fabric to take a seam without unravelling entirely – I suspect this to be the fault of my lack of technical expertise – and ended up using a selvedge on one side to reduce this issue. However, there were two small rows of holes near the selvedge, as is often the case, which looked odd; I resolved this by using yet more of the red thread to make a row of half-stitches through said holes, which helped considerably. So as to not have too much unrelieved black, the velveteen patch that followed acquired a scattering of red seed beads as well.

Then came the white lace. I’d cut a large piece with the idea of folding it over for a hem, but this made the fabric look heavy, so I encased the edges in a bit of black ribbon  instead. Hence the lace patch was wider than intended.  My band of blackwork acorns, however, was narrow, and I’d meant for it (and the black lace with which I’d framed it) to cross the scarf slantwise. Therefore I thought I would have to narrow the scarf with the next patch of fabric, but all attempts at this produced utterly ungraceful results. All seemed lost; I cursed my lack of proper planning. However, in one of those mercies reserved for those with more enthusiasm than sense, I discovered that the blackwork band with its stiff black lace was not displeasing when laid across the looser white lace. Relieved, I sewed down the edges of the acorn band (leaving the center free to move independently of the background), declared myself done, and gave it to a friend by way of holiday gift.

Gryphon Tapestry–done!

We finished the tapestry this weekend! We’re still pretty obsessed with it, and want to share.

We finished weaving on Thursday night, closing in the last bit of wing around the shoulder.

For the most part, I had been working top to bottom while esqg worked bottom to top; however, for this last part, we divided it into horizontal sections (the arms; the belly; the horizontal wing feathers; the feather tips) and coordinated the closing of the gap for each. The constraints of space, in combination with the coordination task, entailed various extreme measures, including esqg’s stitch-by-stitch plan of the lower claws, and my schematization of the wings in rows 1-12 (with my 1 equal to esqg’s 12, for added excitement).

And then the last stitches were set in place (cramped in some places and loose in others, despite our continuing efforts to keep the lines straight) and we had before us a completed double tapestry!

It’s amazing, really, how different a tapestry looks when it’s done than when there’s even a little bit left to be woven. All the mistakes you remember making fade into insignificance before the perfection of the whole. And despite the many compromises and rash judgements made in production, there’s a sort of magical determinism about it–as though it could never have been any other way. Esqg interjects: we always joke about how the creature is going to come to life when we finish weaving.

Then came the Ordeal of the Paranoid Knots. We had to cut the tapestry in half along the space we’d left for it, and although spare string was generously allotted in the middle, as the curve grew steeper at the top and bottom the space between the two tapestries shrank to millimeters. Hence: Paranoid Knots. We tied off every raw edge in the middle of the tapestry before cutting it out. I’m not going to describe the process–I don’t want to write about it any more than you’d want to read about it. Fortunately, our experience with the Dragon Tapestry had taught us that similar precautions were unnecessary at the edges where the warp threads ran through the frame.

esqg was moving out this weekend, and her sewing kit had gone back to Princeton. Fortunately, silkspinner was in town to help her move, and she had brought a pair of tiny embroidery scissors. With those, along with some sharp kitchen knives, we hacked our tapestries out of the frame and separated them.

After that, it remained only to line the tapestry (with green cloth) and edge it with (very green) ribbon. Fortunately, we were able to call upon the benevolent assistance of the costuming guru of the UtenEva LARP–silkspinner, once again. We sewed a couple of ribbon loops to the top, and the project was complete!

Welcome to the HRSFANS crafts blog

(I’ve tagged a bunch of categories that I anticipate we’ll want, so that they can come into existence)