I do hope this post finds you keeping well and busy. I remind myself that what this situation gives us is time. Maybe for some of us it is the time and opportunity to be – or become – a better embroiderer? That’s what I hope to do with this gift of time, and I am really enjoying the many pictures of embroidered works that I have seen on social media, it looks like there are a lot of us keeping busy.
The Easter break went by so quickly for me as I spent most of the two weeks continuing to work on my Shaded Blackwork portrait. Stitching this piece has filled my days up nicely and certainly kept both my mind and hands busy during these interesting times. However, after more than 350 hours of stitching so far, I will admit to being a little relieved that it is nearly finished. I am calling time on this piece for now and it will remain stretched on the working frame until I can get back to face-to-face classes at Hampton Court to have it looked over by my wonderfully supportive Blackwork tutor, Kate.
I have learnt so much from stitching a Blackwork portrait, especially how even very small details – just a few stitches here or there or even a slight change of shade – can make such a difference to a face looking like the face it should be. There are so many choices to be made in shaded Blackwork – stitch and thread combinations that can influence the look and feel of any design you may choose to work, and some can even convey the texture and surface of skin or fabric so well that they can bring a portrait to life. Playing with light and shade, tone and texture, thick and thin, density and space, these are the magical elements of this technique. The most wonderful part about learning at the RSN is the supportive tutors who know their stuff, and are endlessly encouraging skilled problem solvers.
I did set myself a very big challenge with the Blackwork portrait I chose and I really should have finished it by the end of the 2nd term, but with the Carona lockdown interrupting my flow and then the move to online classes I just needed to take more time to get it right. So for now I am calling it finished, and it is wrapped up securely and is sitting in the corner waiting for real life to resume. Of course there is still the mounting to do, but this will have to wait a little bit longer. I don’t want to reveal it to you until the subject has seen her portrait – but I have included a few photos of some facial features along with the matching elements from the reference photo.
During this new Spring term I will stitching a major work in Botanical Silkshading and another Set of 3 pieces in the Whitework techniques of (1). Pulled and Drawn thread, (2) Eyelets and Richelieu cutwork, and (3) Shadow work. As usual this term there will also be classes in Art and Design and some technique Masterclasses interspersed into the teaching program. The most amazing part of all is that the Royal School of Needlework has moved to online classes and somehow – with good will and helpful technology – we are actually managing to continue with most of the planned classes so far.
Having chosen my botanical subject to Silk-shade – a Waterlily – I am now preparing all the drawings, sketches, shading, fabric and thread choices that need to be completed and documented before any actual stitching can begin. There probably was a time when I would have scoffed at this level of preparation, but I have come to realise the benefits of actually making coloured and shaded drawings of the image you want to stitch. It helps immensely with the many colour, stitch, and thread selections that you will make later in the process of embroidery.
I have nearly as much documentation to prepare for the Whitework classes as well, so for right now it is back to the drawing pad for me.