Welcome to Wednesday! Woohoo! I’m back home from a much-needed break – and glad to be here!
A few weeks ago, we looked at this piece of embroidery that I’m taking apart, to salvage the figures on it to put them on a new background.
This was the perfect project to turn my mind to yesterday, after a Most Wonderful, quiet, peaceful break – concentrating on it got me back into the swing of things in a very pleasant way!
A funny thing about this project: I was going to say no when asked to undertake it, but I’m so glad I didn’t! I love this kind of exploratory work. It’s enlightening, intriguing, and absorbing.
Today, we’ll look at some First Things First. Before really digging into a piece like this, there are a few preliminary steps to take and a few tools to line up.
When it comes to Absolute First Things with a piece like this, documenting the piece visually is a good idea.
As I work on the piece, I’ll need a general idea of the layout of the original frames (just in case I want to mimic them in some ways), but I also want to be able to recall specific details about the piece, should I run into anything similar in the future.
Plus, I like the overall design and certain elements of it, so getting some good visuals that will help me recreate something similar, if the need or desire arises, makes sense.
Now, there are many ways you can go about creating a visual record of a piece of embroidery like this. Photography is the most obvious. Overall shots of the piece, close-ups, and even macro shots on the stitching will all come in handy at some point for me, and so that’s the first thing I did.
I set up some good lighting and photographed the entire piece starting farther away, then getting progressively closer – focusing on the whole, then the various parts, and then finally getting up close and personal with macro shots on the notable parts, like the faces, the trim, the chain stitching, the goldwork.
Then, I started to do something that I’ve done many a time in the past: using a very light tracing paper, I was going to make a rubbing of the whole piece.
In the first photo above, I’ve pinned a light tracing paper over the image.
To make a rubbing, you pin tissue paper or tracing paper over whatever it is you want a rubbing of (assuming there’s some texture to the thing), and then, using a soft lead pencil or charcoal, you lightly rub over the whole thing, resulting in a fairly accurate recreation of the design…albeit a very messy one, too.
So, I started doing that. I’ve done it before to good effect – I made one for this piece of antique goldwork, for example, and then made a pattern from the rubbing.
But then I remembered that I live in the 21st century.
Why go through all this mess and bother when a photocopy machine can not only do the same job, but do it much, much better?
So, I high-ho-hithered myself to a local copy shop, where I placed the piece on the flat bed of the photocopy machine and made two copies of each section – one black & white and one colored.
If you ever go through a process like this, you won’t regret making photocopies! They’re clean, easy to handle, easy to store, and very, very accurate.
I definitely encourage you to go for both colored and black and white photocopies.
The color will give you a good idea of the color layout in the piece and offers a fair representation of the whole – although the colors are never a perfect match. The photocopy colors, in fact, are quite a bit more saturated. But that’s ok.
Black and white photocopies will give you an excellent springboard for reproducing patterns. They also provide a very clear idea of shading, highlights, shadows, contrast, and so forth.
If you can also scan the item and save the resulting scans on a flash drive or what-have-you, that’s a good idea, too. If you have to go to a copy shop to do this, it might cost a bit more, but I think it’s worth having the digital file.
So, a few photocopies, scans, lots of photos, and some notes, and my visual documentation complete!
That part done, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff!
Before beginning the work, I lined up some tools.
Not all the tools are pictured above, but they’re all pretty basic:
Fine, tiny scissors – to cut threads.
A fine, strong, and sharp seam ripper – to cut threads that you can’t get under with a pair of scissors. This isn’t a tool I use a lot, but I do use it here and there, where necessary. Sometimes, seam rippers can make me nervous, so I use them with extreme care on this type of piece!
A good pair of grippy tweezers (they really need to work!) – to pull stubborn threads out.
A laying tool with a blunt tip (no sharp tips!) – to hold bits out of the way, to gently pry parts when necessary, and so forth.
A tiny crochet hook – handy for scooting under things to grab a particular thread or to pull out threads.
Good lighting, a magnifier, and a digital camera or smart phone – sometimes, magnification doesn’t show you everything you want to see, so a digital camera with a screen and a playback feature that allows you to zoom in on the images you take (or a smart phone that takes decent close-ish photos) comes in very handy!
Tissue paper or a clean sheet – to lay the piece on while working and to cover it with while not.
So, with the preliminaries complete and my tools lined up, I’m ready to start. My first step will be getting to the back of the piece, which is merely a matter of removing the red silk lining.
Once that’s done, I’ll be able to start the real archeological dig into what’s what with this piece. I’ve already taken a few peeks, so I know there are a couple little surprises in store.
I’ll keep you abreast of the situation as it develops!
Questions, Comments, Suggestions?
If you’d like to join in on the conversation about this piece – if you have any questions or comments – feel free to chime in below!
If you’re a cat lover (or a dog lover), I think you’ll be enchanted with what I’m going to show you on Friday. If you’re not a cat-or-dog person, but you love the art of embroidery, you’re still in for a treat!
This week, I’ll be stitching up one last sample for a soon-to-be-released ebook. I’m also working on a couple patterns and continuing with the never-ending process of workroom organization. Nothing quite like jumping back in with all three feet!
See you Friday!