Sunday, July 29, 2012

Umbrian Embroidery Revisited - Part One

Way back in this post, I promised to let you know how my experiments with Umbrian Embroidery went. Recently I finally had some time to dedicate to some more experiments. As usual with my experiments, I learned more about what I shouldn't do than what I should, but I show them to you in the spirit of learning.

Instead of using an evenweave fabric, I wanted a more rustic look and chose some lightweight undyed hemp fabric. I made sure to finish the edges on the serger before washing it, and after ironing the whole yard, I discovered that it had not been cut very evenly so I spent quite a bit of time withdrawing threads on the two sides that did not have a selvedge and then serging those two sides again for a more true idea of how much fabric I had (which was a yard in the end). I really like the look and feel of the hemp fabric.

Ok, so now having squared-off my fabric I had some scraps to experiment on. I already knew that I wanted to use the varigated Anchor pearl cotton, 1355 which is a green/blue/yellow combination. But which weight? No. 5 or No. 8?

While I really like the raised texture of the no. 5, it is clearly too heavy to use on this fabric, so no. 8 it is. This little motif uses the Satin stitch, Stem stitch and the Ricciolino stitch which characterizes Umbrian Embroidery.

Off we go! I chose a motif from Giuseppa Federici's lovely book: Punto Umbro o Punto Sorbello which I got last year at the Italia Invita Forum in Parma. I have been dying to try some of the beautiful things in this book.

Giusy has written several books on different Italian needlework techniques and she really knows how to lay out a technical manual. The photos are clear and close-up and there are lots and lots of interesting and attractive patterns to try, all with photos of the items stitched up so you know what the end result will be.

I chose one of the simpler Umbrian Embroidery motifs, transfered the pattern onto the hemp fabric and went to work. It stitches up quickly and while I love tone-on-tone, this thread produces an interesting effect too.

This is one corner of the design which repeats in all four corners of a square:

Now, here's where I took a wrong turn... I am much more comfortable with counted thread embroidery and have a very hard time ignoring the weave of the fabric when doing free-style embroidery. Of course non-evenweave fabrics do not behave like evenweave fabrics and I should have calculated better before beginning my edging.

I really like the edging I experimented with before in this post. I thought I had it all figured out with regard to joining the insertion stitches when connecting two pieces of fabric, and so, when I stitched along my first side of the square of fabric, I assumed that if my stitches were done the same on all four sides, the results would be the same. I tried to execute the edging stitches every three ground fabric threads, thinking (erroneously) that everything would work out.

But warp and weft of this fabric are not the same. Can you see my difficulties? This piece will never match up with another one evenly and I even have five motifs on one side instead of four like the rest! All four sides are different.

Giusy says in her book that you need to set the pattern for the edging with your first piece so that you can easily join the others together. This makes sense, of course but how to go about it? Even if I fold my square over so that the two sides with four motifs are aligned, the motifs are not positioned correctly to be matched up.

This obviously cannot be done by counting ground threads (which I should have known) but rather with a ruler. If you have other ideas, please post them below! Now I will unpick the three edges which I don't like and attempt to make the new ones match the one edge that I do like which, ironically is the first edge I stitched. I should have paid more attention!!

I'll let you know how it goes, hopefully it won't take me so long to get back to you this time!

For those who will want to know:

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