In October 2018 I started the third module of the Royal School of Needlework Certificate course. After previously having completed the Jacobean Crewelwork and Canvaswork module, it was now time to try my hand at Silk Shading.
It was really difficult to pick a suitable photograph of a flower. The RSN brief sets many do’s and don’ts and even though I tried photographing flowers I could never get a suitable shot. As my dad knows a lot of flowers I asked him to help me out finding something suitable and he managed to find quite a few of which the anemone picture below was the best of all because of the angle the photograph was taken at, the colour and the size of the turnovers.
After simplifying the petals and leaves to make sure there are no really thin edges, I attached the silk to the calico I had already framed up, and pricked, pounced and painted on the design. At the end of the second day, I tried long and short stitches on the side before starting for real on the petal that was the furthest back and on the stem. During the two remaining days in my October break, I started another petal and did a few leaves.
In February 2019 I returned to the RSN for two lessons. In the meantime, I had completed all of the leaves and the back petals at home.
In class, I got advice on the remaining petals and the centre and completed some more petals.
I completed the rest of the design at home finishing with the centre and the surrounding bullions.
When I returned in May 2019 for my final two lessons the tutor pointed out the missed stitches and I filled those in before taking it off the frame and mounting my design.
I have found that photographing silk shading is really difficult as the colours (especially of the silk) turn out really different from the actual colours. To give you an idea of the actual colours, these are the colours I have used:
- Leaves: 358, 269, 246, 244, 243, 242, 208 (all Anchor)
- Petals: 815, 718, 3607, 554, 819 (all DMC) and 98, 97, 103 (all Anchor)
- Centre: 939, 29, 161, 15, 14 (all DMC) and 213 (Anchor)
Silk: HA 122 Ice Blue Indian Silk Dupion by the Silk Route
What I learned
I have found silk shading the most difficult technique so far. It really took time and a lot of encouragement from the tutors to get going. However, I found that once I got going I really got into the swing of things. I found it really tricky to keep the length of stitches random but not to long and not too short, to make sure the shading is correct and not stripy, to keep the edges smooth all at the same time whilst this technique feels best when you are not thinking about it and just going for it (music really helps, and if you are not tea-total like me, alcohol apparently helps too ;-)).
When stitching a petal I found it really helpful to only stitch the very first outside row as a row to get a smooth edge. All of the other rows I stitched more randomly to improve shading and to prevent any a stripes.
I also decided to stitch the outside row of stamens before stitching the centre so I had a little of bit of space left where I could start and finish a stitch without constantly having to turn my frame over. I then stitch two sides of the centre before adding in more bullions, before stitching the final side and remainder of the bullions.
As a few of the stranded cotton colours I used were quite similar I used several of my magnetic needle minders at the same time and always parked the same colour on the same minder so I could keep track of which one was which.
I found the silk I used really difficult to work with. The light blue colour is achieved by having a white weave and a dark blue weft. If you have an area with dense stitching the weave and weft move slightly creating either a white or dark blue patch on the fabric. This is particularly noticeable around the leaves, around the corners of the mount board and around the side of the board where the pinpricks were. However, there was nothing I really could do about it. I noted it on my self-assessment form and hopefully the assessors will be lenient about it as I can’t think of a way I could have prevented it from happening.
It will be a while before I get my results and fingers crossed that they are any good. Next, I will get ahead with some more prep work for my final certificate module: goldwork. I have already attached the silk and painted on the design. I will be able to attach the felt at home before starting the summer intensive course on the 5th of August so that should give me a head start, which hopefully enables me to complete the stitching in the two weeks.