The Canvaswork piece is finished!
Just a quick note from me today to let you know that I did, just, manage to get my canvaswork piece all finished and mounted in time to be handed in for the summer assessment. And when I say just – I mean, class finishes at 4pm, and it was finished at 3:50pm! So absolutely no time to spare!
I’m unfortunately ‘not sure’ how I feel about this piece now. I was really starting to enjoy it, and was quite happy with it before the mounting process began. Now, whether it is because I just ‘wanted it done’ or not, but I wasn’t as happy with it once it was mounted – and mounting normally makes things look better! Ultimately, that no longer matters, as it has been handed in, and it is a waiting game to see what the assessors say. I’m not expecting such favourable results and comments this time round as I had with my Jacobean. This technique was a real challenge to get my head around and develop, but nonetheless I’m happy I have completed it!
The decision on the castle
Last time we looked at this piece, there were just some decisions to be made on the castle. To me, it still didn’t look ‘defined’ enough. Owen thought the same thing, and we were working on a way to solve this.
I found a thread that was a different ”grey brown’ to what was used in the castle itself, and popped in a few definition stitches, but I got a little lost as to how to complete it. So back it went again to class, still not finished, and needing Owen’s guidance again! He then thought that a stranded cotton would be too thick for these final definition lines, and gave me a ‘conservation thread’ to use for those final little bits. This is such a fine thread, but actually feels quite sturdy. Owen said it is normally used on banners for fine detailing.
At last, a decision was made that it would have to ‘make do’ after these final few stitches were popped in. It still looked a little like ‘blob’ in some areas, but I made the decision that it was time to move on.
Time to mount it!
The time so many students dread had come – mounting it! I’m yet to meet someone in class who actually enjoys the process of mounting, but it is something that has to be done, and it really does make a difference.
When mounting the canvas work, a rebate of the canvas is left around the image. Apparently this isn’t really needed for framing these days, but originally this rebate was left for framing purposes.
Whilst ‘seeing’ the grain line is a lot easier in canvas work than with the linen in the Jacobean, there is still a lot of tugging and pulling it to get it to that position where it is actually on the grain! And the canvas is so stiff it really doesn’t want to move much. I mentioned that it might be easier if it was wet, and Owen said that when he did his apprenticeship, it actually took three weeks to mount the canvas work piece. This is because it was blocked – twice, before being mounted. So whilst it is easier to mount when it is wet and has been blocked, in the certificate course, you really don’t have time for that in an eight days per module time frame!
It took about two hours, and a very sore hand, to finally get it to the point of being on the grain, and with an even rebate around it. By this stage, the end of class had arrived, so I wasn’t able to start the herringbone around it to secure it to the mount board. So whilst a little frustrating that I couldn’t finish it off at home, it worked out for the best, as the canvas did relax over the week it was left, and did need more stretching after this. So, if at all possible, it is a good idea to let your pieces relax over a short period, and then re-stretch them before finalising your mounting of them.
Finishing the mounting
Once the canvas was re-stretched (surprisingly, this took much longer than anticipated!), it was time to use the same techniques learnt in Jacobean Crewelwork to finish the piece – herringbone the piece onto the calico you have stretched and attached to your board, and then apply the sateen to the back.
And after a hard day of stretching, and sewing through canvas and calico (I actually started to develop a callus on my finger this time!), it was finished!
Reflecting back on the piece
I found this technique difficult to ‘get the hang of’. After several classes, I was frustrated, and not enjoying the technique at all. But, thankfully, the penny did drop, and I did start to enjoy the technique! In a lot of ways, it is a technique that provides you with a lot scope, despite the need to stitch in ‘the holes’. It is a technique where you are encouraged to use a multitude of different threads and materials. It is an adaptable technique – it is suitable to landscapes (though maybe not landscapes that require a huge amount of detail!), images (check out Jessica Grimm’s site – she stitches images from adult colouring books in canvas work to great effect), images of ‘ordinary objects’, paintings, postcards – you get the idea! And the fabulous thing is that you can interpret these things in a multitude of ways by combining different threads.
The number of stitches available to use in canvas work is immense. I heavily relied on Mary Rhodes Dictionary of Canvaswork stitches (available through Amazon or Abe Books).This is a great book if you can get your hands on it. She was obviously a true master of the technique! The images are in black and white. Some might find this a little off-putting, but I found it incredibly useful when considering the texture of the stitch – black and white gives a much better impression of this than the colour images of the same stitch.
So whilst I had a shaky start with this technique, it is one I have ended up enjoying! I would love to explore this technique further with some different images and different threads, just to play around with! I’m not sure that will be happening any time soon, but I’m glad I have learnt this technique. I certainly feel I have ‘grown’ a lot as an embroiderer by learning this technique- more so than with the Jacobean piece.
If you are interested in looking back at the progress of this piece, click here to be taken to the page with all the posts.
Thank you so much for your support and encouragement with this piece! It really means a lot to me to have you following along and offering your suggestions and general words of encouragement along the way!