Once all the chip work was finished, it was time to stitch the gentle curved lines that run along the outside of the crosier. Prior to getting to this phase of the work, I had hand stitched tiny stitches to show where the curved lengths of pearl purl would go next to the main body of the crosier. Initially the idea was to use only pearl purl #2 and I did start with only that thread covering the beautiful curves. However, as you might be able to see from the photo above, the single line of the pearl purl #2 wasn’t weighty enough next to the solid mass of gold on the crosier. After looking at it for a while (and talking to my teacher), I decided to add the outside row of pearl purl #1 fine.
Chip work was, by far, my favorite technique when working the crosier. It’s a bit like doing a mosaic; you have to randomly arrange little pieces of cut bright check gold thread in a space. When it’s done in this way – randomly – the finished result looks smooth and all sparkly. There are other techniques where the bright check purl is applied in a specific pattern, but for this particular application the goal was to have one glittering vine leaf.
For this shape, the outline of the shape was done first using #1 fine pearl purl. This defined the area where the bright check pieces would be sewn on to the felt and gave me a solid outline to work with.
The first step is to cut the bright check into square pieces – at least as square as one can manage! All of this is done by eye inside the velvet lined box lid I used for cutting my gold threads. I cut quite a few pieces at once and then attached them, rather than cutting the pieces one at a time. It went more quickly that way for me.
Once the pieces were cut, it was time to attach them to the felt leaf shape. Using a waxed double thread, I came up through the felt from the back. I then lifted a piece of bright check purl onto my needle, sliding it carefully down the waxed thread.
Once the piece was in place, I then took the needle back through to the back. The trick is to make sure none of the pieces are attached parallel to one another but always at angles.
One of the things that was the most fun was cutting the pieces to fit in the places that remained after I’d put in the main pieces of bright check purl. It was like filling in a puzzle (or, as I said before, as mosaic) and the feeling of success I felt when everything fit was great! I learned that putting the pieces into the sharp corners first, as I worked around the shape, made placing of the rest of the pieces easier.
When it was finished, I think I took about 40 pictures! It just looked so wonderful, sparkly and …fantastic! One of the best things about bright check purl is that it isn’t as fragile or fussy as the smooth purl. I felt more confident using it, not just in this way but also when I was doing my cut work. It’s a more forgiving metal thread.
What about you; do you like this effect or is it too over the top and glittery for you?
Cutwork is the technique by which cut pieces of purl (bright check, wire check, smooth and rough purl) are sewn down over padding. The padding can be string or felt. The decoration at the end of the crosier is done over string padding which tapers at either end. I used smooth and bright check purl.
There were three challenges I had to overcome when doing the cutwork on this piece: cutting the purl to the correct length, sewing it on without bruising it, and avoiding bruising a piece that was already in place when my needle came up from the back. I’ll talk about these three challenges and recommend goldwork books for more specific instructions on how to do cutwork.
Each piece of purl must be cut to the correct length so it will fix exactly into place. If it’s too short there is an unsightly gap at the end; if it’s too long it buckles and splits and needs to be removed. The only way to cut the purl is to measure it by eye. I thought I could be more exact with the little ruler I taped on the inside edge of my velvet lined tray, but that did NOT work. The differences in the length are often too small to be measured. The good news is, that if the piece is too short you can use it later on a tapering shape and if it’s too long you can trim it a teeny bit so it fits.
The needle is brought up through the fabric where you want the purl to lay. Once it’s through the fabric, you must pick up the little piece of purl from the velvet tray using your needle and then carefully slide it down the thread (double thread, waxed) to the spot on the padding where you want it to be. If you’re not careful, it’s possible to poke the purl piece with the needle as you pick it up and make a tiny split in it, making it less than desirable. The goal is to have all the smooth purl smooth, not split anywhere. Most of the time I was successful and I found the bright check purl (the bumpy, sparkly one in the photo) much more forgiving than the smooth.
However, once I’d gotten a piece on the padding, I then had the final challenge of bringing the needle up next to the piece I’d attached without accidentally stabbing the piece of attached purl with the needle as it came through the fabric. You can see where I stabbed a piece if you look at the photo above, on the bottom, 4th smooth piece from the left.
Purl is a beautiful thread and looks just wonderful but, for me, was the least forgiving of any mistake in technique. With a little more practice, though, I’m sure I can improve. I understand it now and know what the pitfalls are. One of the things I like best are all the effects you can get by combining the different kinds of purl.
A fellow student in the class, Suzanne, used a lot of cutwork on her piece for the certificate. She chose a Tudor Rose for her design and used many different symmetrical patterns in the piece. Her cut work is just gorgeous! The photos below are of her piece, with her kind permission.
AS you can see, the cutwork on this beautiful piece is done standing alone on the fabric, not right up against the laid Japanese thread as on mine. In my piece, the cutwork is a decoration in the design and in Suzanne’s it’s the design itself. Both of these are effective ways of using cutwork and both are beautiful applications of the technique.
I’ll let you see Suzanne’s entire piece, but you’ll have to wait to see mine finished for a few more days!