This was never going to be easy, but if it wasn’t a challenge and nothing to learn there would be no point! I’ve been experimenting for about five days, on and off of course, my left hand index finger bears the brunt of fine embroidery after not picking up a needle for a whole year. It guides the point of the needle on the underside of the frame and with this super pinpoint placement through several layers of thread, it gets in the way sometimes. It takes a while for the skin to toughen up. That’s the physical challenge and after so many years and sometimes long hiatuses, I’ve already learned how to deal with that. But I always learn something from choosing colours: I just wish I could remember from one project to another.
I began by forgetting that I can’t be afraid of deep, rich colour, which is a hallmark of Tudor textiles! I almost always begin with what is in the background and on the angel, it is the long feathers. Right off the bat, my colour choice was too bland and it didn’t take long to decide to put the needle down and do a little more research. Since this was to be based on the techniques used in the figures in a vignette, I went back to the images on the palls. The wings on the Fishmongers’ Pall were the inspiration for the new angel but the longer feathers are quite different so I didn’t think they would help. Think again… I haven’t been able to photograph the pall as yet but friend and colleague Natalie Dupuis wrote an engaging article for Piecework about the couching on the pall at https://pieceworkmagazine.com/i-spy-couching-stitch/. The image of the angel provided the clues I needed to develop the long feathers and here is what I have come up with so far. I still have to make some decisions with respect to final colour choice but that will depend on how all the different elements go together.
For the smaller feathers, since the colour choice had been made by the embroiderer of the original, I just followed their lead. This is where the guidance of the needle is important. The background is worked in split stitch and then the small coloured circles are also split stitch and to split the super fine stitch from the underside through two layers of stitching you have to be very precise. Then the circles of gold have to be couched. The exact sequence of stitching on the original is hard to determine because the layers overlap so much. I tried two different ways but it will take a little more practice to result in a more refined feather.
The drapery, arrgh… I’ve tried or nué a couple of times and abandoned it fairly quickly. I appreciate that it is a very skilled practice and the colour placement is challenging but despite the glittering gold and the potentially gorgeous result, it bores me to tears – not enough messing around. This is where the learning and dogged determination comes in. Beginning with pairs of #3 passing and a selection of three colours, it only took two rows to learn it was not going to work and blue was not the colour. Back to the drawing board (literally) to get a better understanding of how the shading works because isn’t a piece of fabric a single colour? The depth of colour just changes as the light hits it… and can’t that be done by adjusting the spacing of stitches and the gold? A little more research and yes, shaded gold was achieved in many different ways. A single colour, a little string padding and some black lines for definition might work. After that, some additional directional stitching on top to add a little detail. Not there yet but it looks promising.
The smaller feathers on the edge of the wings are what really attracted me to the Fishmongers’ angel. Once again, I’ve begun with a very unTudor-like colour and will have to re think. However, I love the way the feathers fold into one another and they are so textural, I just have to trial and error to achieve the correct colour combinations – and that’s fun!