Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Whitework Course (Update)

I know many of you are waiting to hear about the whitework course and it will be soon!  I am planning on announcing the course and taking reservations before Christmas so any of those husband's looking for an easy gift idea can take advantage of it!

I have been working for easily six months on and off on the course - buying antiques, surveying the existing examples in museums and doing some of the all important figuring of things out.  This one is a bit more complicated at the front end than it might seem on the surface.  What are the issues a teacher should consider when putting a course on 17th century whitework from band samplers together?

One of my new pieces for study.  And wouldn't you know when you spend
enough time starting with them and asking 'why'... you realize that the
all the instructions I have ever seen are for 19th century reproductions.
The 17th century stitches were different.
Well the big one is success.  We all want to be successful when doing a project and unfortunately we aren't 14-year old little girls with their young eyes and focal lengths!!  I am in the middle of the 'first decline' of eyesight and now have to wear glasses for embroidery and so have been personally experiencing the challenge of how I love fine counts and materials and yet my eyes sometimes struggle more than before.

So as I have been working on the math (making sure the bands will all work out and be in the right proportions) I have been sampling materials - linens and threads - that aren't available currently in the USA or generally to embroiderers, searching for what I want.  This takes time and quite a bit of back and forth figuring out what could be available and when!

So if I want everyone to be successful - that means offering different counts of linen for the projects
Notice that the background is not the same color as the
thread!  It makes working and counting the stitches easier for
the borders.
and finding the fabrics that will work and the right colors.  Instead of saying you must use this one fabric that you can't see - what if you could choose and try different counts?  And what would that do to the instructions and all that 'math' - how could I accommodate that?   Scale is an issue that must be considered as well.  I was talking to Access Commodities today and Lamora mentioned that when talking to the linen representative who visited about a particular product he was 'pushing,' she had to let him know that while it was a lovely product, we don't have the scale of thread that is used on it anymore available.  That was a way of thinking he hadn't considered before and something that I work on constantly - what is the scale of the thread that can be used for Montenegrin Stitch on both 55 and 30 count
fabric and look right?  Of the 20 or so linen thread weights, which work for the different stitches on different counts?  Which brands are spun consistently enough to be used for this?  Can we get them??

What needles make the work the easiest to work?  This is cutwork - so how about scissors?  I must have spent hours today just investigating scissors I have picked up across Europe for this purpose over the decade and learning what makes good cutwork scissors by measuring things so I can give guidance.  I hadn't even noticed that in all the decades I have been doing cutwork (I started at 12) I do something with my scissors that is unconventional!  I flip them over so the thinner upper blade is against the satin stitch when I cut the linen.  These are the things that make getting ready for a class take twice as long as it might if you rushed.  I like to ask the question "Why?" as I outline the lessons and then that takes me to talking to scissor manufacturers to figure out why my favorite scissors for this work are actually made for a non-fabric craft!!

And recently I decided after some input to add a historically accurate high count linen to the mix just to make my life harder and satisfy all of us who just love that!  After getting the samples from Europe  I decided to make it eye-friendly I would need to do something radical.  This is what is delaying me from announcing the course particulars and costs tonight.  I want the linen custom yarn-dyed to the antique linen color before weaving and need to send a sample of the color (which I finally found in random piece in my drawer) to them for evaluation.

Even the satin work looks better with a
old linen color.
You say...What???  Well, when you spend tons of time with the antique band samplers, you realize that a significant number of the high count ones have cream linen thread on a colored linen ground fabric!!


I like the effect.  Three of the four I own are like this.  At first you think, well... it is aged linen.  But wait, the linen thread didn't age the same way so there was contrast originally.  And when working with linen thread and fabric that match at high thread count - well, you can't see well enough to count anything.  So off to scrounge in my stash for a dyed 40+ high-count linen and try the stitches on that. Ah - yes, that does the trick and makes the same work much easier to do.  In other words, eye friendly.

So the last question to be answered is can they do it on my time frame and I should know in about a week.  That would be cool, a linen dyed specifically to make a course more eye friendly for those of us who will try to stitch as they did in the 17th century on high count linen.  And don't worry - there will be two lower counts as well!


  1. Oh my gosh!! This is so exciting. I can't wait!!

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  3. Thank you so much for all you do for us stitchers with aging eyes, Tricia. I'm looking forward to being able to do another course with you. I so enjoyed the COC I and II.