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The Illuminated William Morris - The Rest!

(originally published 29th November 2015)

This is the final entry for my lovely William Morris Illuminated Letter - we've come a long way since the first blog in July last year! Time to whack in the twiddly bits, but before I do, a word on the gold in the letter itself. The thing about running a week-long class to returning students (they are a loyal bunch!) is that some techniques are repeated each year, and can sometimes, um, be glossed over in the instructions! As the letter in the design was to be filled with couched Twist and Roccoco threads, without anything fancier than simple bricked self-coloured stitches, I kind of forgot to include any information on that in the course booklet! :\ This is one of the reasons why Morris will be stitched AGAIN (also because I want to re-do the fox with some Burr Furr (!) in order to include ALL instructions (sigh.....) :) :) :) Moving on! Chipping first - in this piece, I used Bright Check Gold, and cut small cubes with very sharp scissors, onto a velvet board (this keeps the chips from bouncing onto the floor, not amusing!)

Chips are attached like a bead - you bring your thread up through the chip, lay it down on the fabric (or in this case, felt padding), and take the thread back through to the back, fixing the chip in place.

Chipping can be 'scattered' but in the case of padded chipping, they need to be solidly worked, without gaps. I find it easiest to come up where the end of the to-be-stitched chip will be, thread the new chip, and then tuck my needle snugly up against the neighbouring chip before going through to the back. This ensures a good fit, without damaging the gold by coming up through it in the first place. The chips need to be all at different angles as well, so that the light will bounce off the surface in all directions, and sparkle all the more.

You can chip with other golds as well, as long as they're hollow like Bright Check is, but you can't beat a nice sparkly patch of crinkles!

Pearl Purl is not a hollow gold, so you can't chip with it, but you CAN work a beautiful outline, because this gold does not need to be plunged and tyed back! That's right folks, this is solid metal, and as such, won't fray or get damaged once it's fixed to the fabric. Perfect for very thin lines in a gold design. It can also be pulled slightly so it is stretched out with gaps between the spirals.

And of course, once you've created gaps between the spirals, you can add a colour to it, by winding a single strand of thread around it, like a screw. I've used two strands of stranded cotton here.

I've outlined my Acanthus Leaf with this overstretched, colour-wrapped Pearl Purl, and I've couched it in place with another thread of the same green that's twisted into it - nice!

And last but not least - the Smooth Purl cutwork over string padding. This is done at the very end, because it is the most fragile of all the golds and prone to damage - you don't want to put all the effort into your cutwork and then find you've damaged it by doing other embroidery an inch away from it - an accidental poke with the tip of your needle is all it takes...

The thing about cutwork is that it is almost the same as chipping, except that each 'chip' is custom cut and fitted to the string padding - too short and you can see the padding, too long and there is an 'air bubble' between the gold and the padding, and the gold can collapse, creating cracking and bruising in the metal. Not pretty!

The first time I did cutwork in year one of my apprenticeship at the RSN, it gook me an afternoon to get three chips in place without any damage! By the time I got to my final gold piece, the Coronation Gold, I was whacking in those little critters quite quickly - I built up a rhythm and had a lot of fun...

Detail of Maple Leaf in Coronation Gold piece

Once the cutwork was done, it was time to take Morris off the frame and mount him - what a great design - I had such fun working this. I will again, and as soon as it's in kit form, I'll let you know! Who knows, I might even do a different letter this time...because I can... :) :) :)

Glorious! I whacked in a few last-minute green things (stem stitch, French knots)

just to tone down the pink a bit...

I always enjoy my Illuminated Embroidery projects - can't wait to start the next one! What's your most loved project?

Love 'n Stitches, Kelley

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