Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My embroidery thread box

A few days ago Taschen asked on his blog about what type of thread to use to achieve a period look (He is working on medieval German reproductions).  There is some information out there about using spun silk vs filament silk, but I wanted to see a side by side comparison.  So here is a little sampler of the threads currently in my embroidery box on 28 count linen.  I included cotton and wool threads for comparison purposes and because I had them.  I really want to try the Devere silk and now that they have a decent website I plan to order some.

What are your favorites and how do they compare?

Soie Ovale untwisted filament silk, I bought this to try it so I only have the one color.  It is nice and flat, even with the two strands I had to use to get good coverage on the linen.

Soie Alger is spun and plied silk with 7 2-ply strands twisted together.  Even when the strands are separated  the twist is evident.  It has a nice sheen and comes in lots of colors and is easier to find than Soie Ovale.  I used the same color of Soie Alger and Soie Ovale but there is a distinct difference in the look and sheen.  This is one of my favorites because the multiple strands are easy to serarate for different counts of linen, it works nicely, and is available at my local store.  A single strand is good for blackwork.

Aurorasilk is 20/2 spun silk with a loose twist.  This is my current favorite embroidery thread.  It is available dyed with natural dyes or in cones of undyed thread.  A friend of mine dyes this silk and gave me a bunch so I have limited amounts and colors.  To me it looks similar to some period embroideries.  It is nice to work with and because it is thicker I only have to use one or two strands which makes it easier to keep the thread flat.  Naturally dyed colors give a wonderful period feel.

Trebizond is a tightly twisted spun silk that I included in the sampler because I have it although I would never embroider with it.  It is very difficult to keep the twist even; it untwists or twists more tightly while working which is noticeable in the finished work.  It has a lovely sheen, comes in a nice range of colors and works well for kumihimo (that's what I use it for).

Splendor is spun silk popular with embroiderers but I personally hate it.  I've had problems with fraying, my blackwork looked fuzzy, and the 12 strands are a pain to separate.  I used most of mine in kumihimo experiments just to get rid of it.  Soie Alger is similar but much easier to work with.  Maybe someone else can give a less biased opinion.

DMC #5 Cotton Perle is included for comparison purposes.

Medici wool is a very fine wool by DMC that was discontinued this year.  It is finer than crewel wook and good for fine embroidery but even on 28 count linen I had to use two strands.  
Paternayan tapestry wool is thicker than crewel wool.  Comes in many colors but many of them do not look like naturally dyed colors.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Angel Icon, step one

This photo is of my newest project, icon painting.  In this beginning step the drawing for the icon has been transfered to the gessoed wood panel with carbon paper, then the primary lines (outline, facial features, major clothing folds) have been scribed into the gesso with a pointed tool.  Next the halo and edges of the panel have been painted with red bole.  What I will do next is sand and burnish the bole so it is ready for gilding.  In the photo you can see the reddish smear in the angel's hair.  That is where I accidentally dropped a glob of bole.  I will be painting over this area later and the bole will not be noticeable.

There is a church in San Francisco that hosts icon painting classes twice a month and a very nice lady, Betsy Porter, teaches them.  They are drop-in, so you can go as often as you want. Each student is given assistance and guidance on an individual basis.  The cost per session is $10 - what an amazing bargain!  The instructor gives each new student an information packet (cost $10) and has a selection of professionally prepared gessoed boards ready for starting an icon, available at cost.  There are also supplies available for students to use, including pigments, bole, tools, etc.   For further information, including step-by-step instructions for writing an icon, please look at Betsey's web site www.betsyporter.com.

I have long been fascinated by icon painting and think that it dovetails nicely with my medieval interests.  Many current icon painters follow traditions that are centuries old and based on Byzantine painting tradition.  Traditional methods are followed as well, including painting on wood panels, using tempura paints made from egg and powdered pigments, and gilding.  I am very excited about this new project and hope the skills I learn will enable me to paint more icons on my own as well as enhancing my neglected illumination work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Next up - scissors case

Isn't it funny how working on something enjoyable is much easier than something that is less enjoyable?  My last project seemed to take forever and I had to force myself to work on it.  If I hadn't made the rule about not starting a new project until an old one was finished I don't think I would have finished the purse.  I like it now that it is finished but I am glad I don't have to work on it anymore.

This new project is much more fun.  I really like the pattern, the colors and the project.  It is a scissors case for the West Kingdom Needlework Guild service project for 2009.  The instructions encourage the use of silver, but that is not really appropriate for German embroidery in my period of interest.  I may put a silver bead on it, but no thread.  It is due to be turned in by 12 Night 2009 so I can't let the project linger.  So far it is working very fast.

In the spirit of the holidays I posed the picture of the completed front of the embroidery in the branches of my Christmas tree.