2020 – 2021 Year of Projects START

A year of Projects

This is my first year of taking part in the Year of Projects. I discovered this group through reading Highland Heffalump‘s blog posts and I decided that it sounded perfect for me as I have a long list of projects to do.

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Elemental Doll; Aqua

HiĀ  All,

Just a warning I am writing one or two posts to be scheduled as I am going on holiday soon but I didn’t want to let that be an excuse for not posting anything.

So today’s post is about my first ever cloth art doll I have made to sell and her name is Aqua. She is part of an elemental series I am doing. Ignis, Ventus and Terra will follow, I have already drawn up their designs.

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My own Adventures in Reversible Cross Stitch

Hello again Dear Readers,

Let’s celebrate! I didn’t leave it too long between posts this time. Haha. Anyway today’s post follows on from my last post. My last post was about how inspired I was by an historiacal embroidery exhibition I went to and what I learned about directionality in their cross stitch. The exhibition is the Scottish Embroidered Stories. Today I am going to cover my attempts at doing reversible cross stitch.

So I have not actually done my final piece yet as I have a whole lot of other projects I need to finish first. But I decided to make a little practice sampler to practice the different techniques I found in my internet searches. I decided to add my name and the date because I have a sampler which we belive to be my great grandmothers but we are not 100% sure. She probably didn’t add her name and date because it appears to be a practice sampler from when she was learning to embroider. She probably thought it would be thrown out eventually. But in today’s age where these sort of skills are not altogether common anymore I wouldn’t dream of throwing it out and I think that it is precious. I have blurred out my surname for safety’s sake but i want to note that I chose to use my maiden name because one of the interesting things about the exhibition we saw was that at that point in history and in Those locations of Scotland women kept their maiden names when they married. This makes tracing the genealogy of the samplers much easier.

Front of sampler

I have also included this as a way to show what the back of cross stitch usually looks like. They are straight likes instead of crosses and you have to look hard to make out what shapes they are.

Back of Sampler

Next I practiced some different techniques which I found online.

The first one I did, starting at the top, is called alternating cross stitch. You can find the tutorial I used here.

The next one I am not sure if it has a name other than reversible cross stitch but it is made differently to the alternating stitch. You can find the tutorial here. I did not like this stitch as I felt the method used produced stitches which look uneven.

The third one is not really a cross stitch but it is a reversible variation of a stitch often used to accompany cross stitch, that is the back stitch. This version of the back stitch is called the Holbein Stitch, it is apparently named after the painter. You can find the tutorial here.

the last stitch I tried was the Italian cross stitch. The tutorial is here. This method produces a cross which was a box around it. The effect is that you get a very dense square with almost no material showing through.

The last bit in this picture was a practice of using the 3 methods I liked. I used the italian cross stitch for the crosses I used the Holbein stitch for the back stitch part. And I used alternating cross stitch for the diamond shape in the middle.

Front of Sampler with coin for scale
Back of sampler

I then decided to practice a full motif. I chose a simple shamrock for this. My plan for the final piece is to only work in 2 colours which is closer to what the historical samplers I saw did. They relied more on patterns and less on colours. Many modern day cross stitch pieces are more like pictures done in paint by numbers.

I am really happy with how this turned out. The back is almost perfect in my opinion, the only problem is that it is slightly lumpy where I have woven in the ends but I am not really sure how to get around that.

Front of sampler with coin for scale
Back of sampler

Lastly here is a little bonus piece I tried and abandoned. The samplers I saw at the exhibition were all done on even weave fabric as Aida fabric (what I used above) was only invented in 1986. So I prepared a little rectangle of even weave fabric that I had and I even hemmed it by hand. I don’t know why but I always seem to go overboard with my projects. This was also going to be the shamrock design but I ended up abandoning it as it was really straining my eyes to see and count the threads. Half of me felt like I was giving up and that I should push my self harder. But thankfully the rational side of me said that if I ruin my eyes doing tiny stitches on tiny weave fabric I won’t even be able to do normal sized cross stitch on aida fabric.

Front of work with coin for scale
Back of work

And there you have it, that is the end of my experiments with reversible cross stitch. I will definitely be trying this again with the final piece that I have planned but as I said before I don’t know when that will be.

I hope that you enjoyed this and found it interesting if you are trying something similar.

Have a great week and stay crafty,

Directionality in Old Scottish Cross Stitch

Hello again Dear Readers,

As you have gathered by now there is absolutely no regularity to my posts in terms of frequency and in terms of topic! I post what I like, when I like. Which as of late has not been very often. But let’s move on to todays topic.

I have recently had the privilege of going to see Embroidered Stories, an exhibition of Scottish samplers at the National Museum of Scotland. By the way, this exhibition is still running until the 21st of April 2019 so if you are in Edinburgh I would strongly encourage you to see it if you are at all interested in Embroidery or textiles. This exhibition is of a selection of Scottish Samplers belonging to Leslie B. Durst. They are absolutely fascinating. The exhibition is done really well and there is such interesting information on the insights that these samplers give us into the lives of women and girls during these times. (1700 – 1872)

This is the cover of the companion book I purchased at the Museum. I believe this actual image is from the amazon website.

However one piece captured me the most. That is an embroidery sampler by Elizabeth Hadden c.1770. She was 8 when she completed the piece. I need to just get that out. (I am tormented by this 8-year-old who is so much better than me). The remarkable thing about this piece is that it is almost identical front and back.Ā  Now with the method most regularly taught now this is not possible. I have made some diagrams to show you. Also please bear in mind that in modern cross stitch it is considered desirable to have the same leg of the cross on the top for each stitch.

For this first image lets imagine that we have made a cross stitch on invisible material so you can see both the front and the back at the same time.

cross stitch front and back

This second image shows just what you see from the front

cross stitch front

The third image is just the back

cross stitch back

This last image is a little bit complicated because I have tried to show it in motion. Working a row of stitches is typically done in two passes. Forward pass we work from 1 to 6. Following the black arrows. Then we work back across it from 7 to 12 following the green arrows.Ā  This means that the same leg of the cross is always in the front. It doesn’t actually matter if you did 12 to 7 first and then 6 to 1 but it is considered good to always be consistent no matter what you choose. I have chosen to call this Directionality. I have examined my past works and while I sometimes use / on top I tend to favour \ on top.

cross stitch Multiple

More importantly you can see that this method produces a straight line on the back…. so how the heck did Elizabeth Hadden get hers to be identical on both sides?

This question has been burning inside of me for the better part of a week. It has grown within me a desire to try to replicate her technique. In thinking about how I might do this I started to wonder if the makers of these beautiful samplers worried about always maintaining the same direction of crosses in their work. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that Elizabeth’s sampler is quite unusual in being the same on both sides. Most of the others were not.

So I decided it was time for a trip back to the museum for some closer inspection. And thankfully they have a handy-dandy magnifying glass there for you. This is very necessary as unlike todays cross stitch which is typically done on aida, these samplers are done on normal even weave fabric and they actually counted the threads themselves. And how every tiny did they work! The embroidery threads areĀ  so fine it looks like sewing cotton and the Xs are so tiny they seem to only cover 1 or 2 threads. For some of the samplers (Elizabeth’s is one unfortunately) I could not get close enough to use the magnifying glass because of the glass box protecting them. Then in other cases the work was simply too small, or too damaged for me to see the Xs clearly. But I shall present to you my findings on what I could see.

Elizabeth Gardner 1818 – No consistent direction in X
Elizabeth Gardner 1820 – No consistent direction in X
Elisabeth Haig 1776 – No consistent direction in X
Jean Garland 1824 – No consistent direction in X
Catharine McPherson 1836 – No consistent direction in X
Katrina Sandment 1739 – Potential direction favoured / (hard to see
Margret Rodger 1805 – No consistent direction in X
Jean Craigie 1800 – No consistent direction in X
Isabella cook 1836 – – No consistent direction in X
Christian Meldryn 1709 – No consistent direction in X
Betty Ballingal 1769 – No consistent direction in X

So as you can see there does not seem to be a great emphasis on maintaining directionality in cross stitch work. I would speculate that this may have been due to the stitches being so small that it did not really alter the appearance much. However as modern aida came into use and the cross stitch work increased in side the direction began to have an impact on how tidy or messy the work looked. However that is just my speculation.

I will try to keep you updated on my identical sided cross stitch project and let you know how I get on with it.

I hope that you found this interesting. I decided to make a post on it because I had tried to google this information without going to the museum to see them and I couldn’t find anything on cross stitch techniques and practices in history.

Warm Regards