One for the spinning nerds

•November 1, 2017 • 2 Comments

I don’t really use my great wheel in a serious fashion, it’s mainly a demonstration piece for me. Partly this is because in a house with two cats the wheel is viewed as a very big cat toy, so it’s just not practical in the home.

But when I spin drop spindle I use the wool, whereas so far the wool from the wheel has been discarded. This is not down to the quality of the thread produced, I never have a problem drafting on it, but inevitably I end up winding it onto the spindle badly so that a loop falls off the end and tangles, rendering the whole spool unuseable – it doesn’t help that when doing demos I’m also talking and not wearing specs, so I’m distracted and can’t actually see what I’m doing.

However, I was storytelling at the AShmolean this weekend, and because it was c17th I took the wheel to give myself something to potter with between stories, and I concentrated on the winding. I do find it quite hard to get the wool to wind towards the back of the spindle so it doesn’t fall off the end, but I concentrated, and by the end of Sunday I had a good hefty spool (about 100g) of nice medium weight that’s actually worth winding off and using…

I’m quite pleased with that. Now I just have to actually, you know, get round to winding it off.


stitchalong next bit

•October 27, 2017 • 2 Comments

German Brick stitch.

Ok, so I’m going to admit here that counted work isn’t really my thing, I find it boring to do, and often a little dull to look at. Some of the copes done in this technique are amazing though, where various patterns are used as fillers for clothed figures, and that’s what I’ve taken as inspiration here.

The technique itself is very simple, it’s basically tent stitch/needlepoint, but done along the straight grain of the cloth instead of on the slant.

So, Bring your needle up, count four threads along the grain, and go back down again. Four along the straight, that’s it – that’s also the hard bit, I find it quite difficult sometimes to stay straight and not wobble off into the next row.

Where tent stitch staggers diagonally, brick stitch, as the name would imply, staggers vertically, so that when laid sideways it looks like a basic brick pattern.

So, skip along to the next row of threads, and down two so that the needle comes up halfway along the stitch you just did, then go up another four. The only time you vary from the pattern of four is when you’re filling in the edges.

Your row of stich goes diagonally, at quite a steep angle.

Ease yourself into it by starting with the candy cane, which is just rows of alternate colours.

Please note that I haven’t included exact layouts of each pattern piece, but rather overviews of the pattern repeat. This is because how you’ve laid down the other colours will affect the dimensions of the brick stitch, so it’s best just to fit into the available space.

THe ribbon on the red present is also very simple.

With the other present you have a choice – you can either do two different patterns to delinieate the sides of the box, as I’ve done, or you can do the whole box in one pattern and then delineate by using split stitch for the edge on the next phase. Either is valid.

Aim to get to here by the next step

we will look at the split stich outlines next

Putting the scroll together

•October 17, 2017 • 8 Comments

Before I’d done a stitch on this project, I did the finials for the scroll. They are ABC in silver with amethysts, plus a rock crystal twiddly bit I had lying around that sort of reminded me of a cross between a unicorn horn and one of those pointy things medeival types used for reading.

It’s not as extravagant as it seems because all three pieces of silver came from my scrap drawer(hence they’re three different thicknesses of metal) and the amethysts are part of a bulk lot, nearly a kilo, of native cut stones I bought for ten quid nearly twenty years ago and which I’ve barely made a dent in despite plastering amethysts over any bit of silver that sat still long enough.

When I do the saint and sinners Luttrell fantasy I want to make silver finials for the hanging pole, so these were a good practice run.

I’m quite pleased with the finials, but mostly I’m pleased because I sawed the wood to make the rods all by myself. I don’t do woodwork, I have a cringing level of horror for the texture of unpolished wood that verges on the autistic, (my stepbrothers used to torture my by rubbing teatowels on damp wooden spoons whislt I ran away screaming. I’m sure they fully realised how cruel they were being, but they were teenage boys so they didn’t care) so I really impressed myself.

I interlined the scroll with a layer of white linen to prevent the backing showing through. The backing itself is a sort of crazy patchwork of assorted leftover bits of medeival brocade, which again reflects my fascination with re-use of medeival textiles, whilst also satifying my extreme miserliness with cloth, and I think it gives a nicely decadent feel. I was especially satisfied by being about to use those two big triangular panels on the right hand side.

Excuse the small kitten shaped lump underneath it, once he’s asleep he deosn’t move for anything.

I measured it very carefully, then I made it approximately an inch too short to wrap around the rod and had to faff about sewing an extra bit on. Obviously I was doing all of this on the day of the submission deadline with hours to spare…

It’s edged with a red silk cord and I’ll dig out Gareth’s good photos he did for me with he shiny new digital SLR for the next post


•October 11, 2017 • 10 Comments

is for zodiac man.

Daniel explained that whenever they have any kind of exhibit at the Bodleian, even if it happens to be on volcanoes, they always manage to include a zodiac man. I think it’s like thier office version of “where’s Wally”. I liked it because I has so much fun with my own zodiac hanging, which was in turn based on a byzantine ms.

I did him on parchment because he was a bit small and fiddly. I could have sewn this small with silk on ramie, but the wool is a bit to big a weave for small stiches.

Daniel also showed us a ms where the zodiac man had a tiny silk curtain to protect his modesty (no idea why this is necessary when he has a scorpion over his willy) so mine has a curtain too.

stitchalong part 3

•October 6, 2017 • 6 Comments

Convent stitch.

This is a variation of laid and couched work, inasmuch as it’s the couched part without the laid. It’s pretty simple.

work with a double thread. Do one long stitch along the length of the area to be covered, as with laid and couched work.

Then bring your double thread out at the top of the stitch you’ve just laid down.

Then couch the bar down – just like couching the top bar in laid and couched work, but at a sloping angle rather than a point.

The just spiral your way down the bar until you get to the bottom.

And repeat. Make sure the bars are nestled snugly against one another so there are no gaps.

You will notice that I haven’t filled the entire space as I normally would with laid and couched work, but rather have stopped at the edge of the box. Because the stitch is quite directional I want to use it to indicate the ribbon curving round the box.

The back, btw, is just a series of tiny points, there isn’t much thread at the back, it all goes on the surface.

So fill in the first part of the ribbon, then work the second section on a slope as though the ribbon is curling around the edge of the box. To ensure a nice smooth flow bring the needle out through the existing stitch.

So you finish with a nice, subtle bend to the ribbon.

Now, you need to work the rest of the pale blue ribbon in convent stitch, but you’ll have to refer to the finished photo because I accidentally smashed my mobile phone with a roman sword this afternoon, and that was one picture I haven’t been able to recover.

Don’t worry, I’ve managed to download the rest of the progress pics onto my laptop, it’s just that one that’s gone missing.



•October 5, 2017 • 8 Comments

is for thorn, because as we all know “ye olde” is actually “the old” because the rune thorn was retained for many centuries in the english alphabet to represent the “th” sound unique to our mother tongue, leading to confusion with the similar looking letter y once thorn was phased out.

plus, may I repeat my previous iteration about those last few letters being tricky?

Personally I’m mostly just amused by the fact that thorn spelled with thorn looks like porn – which is also quite relevant to medeival manuscripts.

I promise snail being ridden by jousting bunny is the final snail.


•October 4, 2017 • 7 Comments

Is for Xenophon ( I’ve been rubbish keep forgetting to post, sorry)

Another classical reference because seriously, there just aren’t that many X words, and even fewer vaguely related to books of any sort.

I chose to reference his work on horsemanship because I’m sure I read somewhere that was his most well known work during the medeival period. It makes sense when you think of the central position of the horse in the life of medeival nobility.

Plus, I always found the anabasis hard work, so…