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February - March 2020
This was a long time evolving project. My inspiration for this series was Albert Racinet's Weltgeschichte der Kostüme (The Costume History - I have no idea, why the author is called Albert in some sources and in others Auguste ... 🤔 ... in my copy it is Albert ... ah! always ask Wikipedia: his full name is Albert Charles Auguste!), which I poured half a litre tea over, so that I had to buy a new one for the local library and could keep the old copy for myself - a Freudian mistake?
I knew I wanted to reproduce some of these gorgeous illustrations and possibly embroider them. I did my first vector design in last August, and even began to stitch it, but I could not come to grips with the issue, whether tracing and stitching an 150 years old illustration from a book from 1989 will be a violation of copyright or not?
Time and again I tried to draw my own design of an Egyptian. Eventually, around Christmas 2019, I got a version that I liked. It was lingering about till February 9, when I finally started to embroider it.
Egyptian Costume, Design
I couldn't resist. I had to get it. What? The Sublime Stitching Fine Tip Iron-on Transfer Pen, which Mary Corbet and other stitchers were so full of praise of. The reason for my long-time procrastination were the shipping charges from the USA to Germany, of course. But what are birthdays for? After having been gifted with a decent amount of money from my family, I took the plunge early this January and ordered the pen, together with a handful of Sublime Thread in order to make the purchase worthwhile. Aside from that, I'm always eager to try out new threads.
My Postman Had to Ring Just Once. 😁
And there it is! The floss was planned for this design (I had ordered some golden metallic thread, too), but first came the iron-on pen - let's try and see, if it's really that good.
'Since my first transfer test run, I have learned some new things. For example, that the fabric should be pre-heated, that is, you simply iron it once before the actual transfer. What's more, it isn't necessary at all to use expensive good quality tracing paper for the transfer. You can trace the design directly on the printing paper, just make sure it the print is mirror-inverted until the pattern isn't symmetrical.
All this done, that is how the transfer turned out. There's a couple of incomplete lines, no idea why, but that's no problem - the lines are still well recognisable. I had hoped they would be finer, though. But re-reading Mary Corbet's review of the pen, I realised that she wrote: "The lines are fine enough to cover easily with two strands of floss". Oh well, I usually stitch with one strand only ...
All in all, the Sublime Stitching Fine Tip Iron-on Transfer Pen works very similar to the DEKA Bügelmusterstift I've been using to date. My main issue with the latter was the smudging, but that could easily be due to the fact, that I had never pre-heated the fabric. Somewhere along the line, I will definitely run a second test run with both to get a one to one comparison of the process and the results.
My idea for this series was to fill the garments only, while the body parts would be outlined in black. So I stitched the outlines of the body with one strand of black floss in Stem Stitch. The fingers were a challenge, as the whole fellow stands merely 14.5 cm (5.7 ") tall, so that one finger is max 1 cm (0.4 ") long and 1 mm (0.04 ") thick. So the fingers might look a bit awkward, but they are as good as it gets.
When I was ready to pass to the black hair fillilng, there seemed to be too little lustre about the cotton floss. That was the point, when I felt like trying out silk floss for the first time. If you were following my embroidery process up to now, you might have learned that it is anything but easy to come by embroidery materials other than cotton floss in Germany. I had some rayon in my so called stash, and I would have used it, but there were no matching colours among it.
A long search led me eventually to success. I would have ignored the website, because the name is Werkstatt für Historische Stickmuster, that is Studio for Historic Embroidery Patterns, and I didn't expect an online shop behind a studio. As it turned out, I stumbled upon the official representation of Au Ver à Soie, the worldwide renowned manufacturer of silk embroidery thread in France. What a trove! From my Needle'n Thread lectures, I knew by now that the most recommendable silk thread for beginners is spun silk, and that would be Soie d'Alger in this case. (Incidentally, the beforementioned online shop also sells crewel wool! It is Fine d'Aubusson by Au Ver à Soie.)
My order arrived within three days. At first glance, I wasn't sold on it. It looked to me just like DMC stranded cotton, the only difference being the softness of the silk. While stitching the hair, I noticed, that it was even a bit thicker than cotton, which came as a surprise, because I had always imagined silk thread as an extraordinarily fine thread. This thickness was a pleasant thing, however, since it gives the silk a better coverage. It was only after stitching the whole shock of hair, when the scales fell from my eyes and I saw it: the lustre! Oh, what a lustre!
... to be continued ...