My first husband, Skip, age 75, is getting married on Halloween Eve, tomorrow. Here’s the wedding invitation I received a few weeks ago.
Note the P.S. “Halloween Finery is Optional”
As soon as I received the invitation I began thinking about what to make for them. I decided I would use their words, “Til death do us part” framed in some way.
First, I used WordArt to create the lettering I wanted to stitch:
I chose a silk damask as the ground fabric and began some practice stitching. I thought I wanted the letters to be gold.
For padding I couched yellow #5 pearl cotton. Then I tried covering the padding, first with various gold metal and metallic threads, then with various other threads, and finally deciding on doing trailing stitch with a single strand of ivory silk floss.
Now, how was I going to surround the lettering? I pasted the printed phrase on to graph paper:
and began playing in pencil with ideas for the stitching.
This is what I wanted to use, with pearls and stitches in the diamond spaces, and a border of something else immediately around the lettering.
The next step was trying out my ideas on a practice cloth, with various threads.
I had to draw the grid on the silk fabric with a water-soluble marking pen.
My first thought was to make a grid of gold metal or metallic threads, but none looked good. Next I tried white cotton pearl stitched down with gold threads. Still not good. I tried an ivory silk twist. Finally, I settled on white #5 cotton pearl, which made more stable lines, tacked down with white thread.
Now the grid design had to be transferred to the silk fabric. The silk was backed with fusible Pellon to give it stability. Then I traced the whole design on my light table.
The lettering was stitched first, in trailing stitch with a single strand of silk floss over #5 white cotton pearl. The silk stitches have to completely cover the cotton thread underneath.
When I finally began working on the grid, I used white pearl cotton for the first layer. Here’s the WIP on September 20th.
Next I positioned the diagonal lines over this grid, again with #5 pearl cotton. With nearly the last thread in place, I discovered that somehow the square grid underneath was off, and there was no way I could make the diamond pattern work. The whole thing, all that diagonal stitching, had to be unstitched. In this picture you can see how I work on this kind of delicate material that could be easily dirtied. It’s tacked tautly over a wooden frame and covered with plastic sheeting. I’ve cut “French doors” in the plastic so that I can uncover the part I’m working on. When I’m not working on it, the whole project is covered with plastic.
The solution to the grid problem was to make a second grid with several strands of ivory silk floss, each intersection stitched down with a single strand of silk floss.
Although I knew I was going to put pearls inside the squares, I still didn’t know how I was going to make the inner border around the lettering, and it’s always best to add beads last, if you can.
Wanting a heavy dimensional stitching for this border, to contrast with the grid, and having just learned raised chain stitch for TAST 2010, I chose a variegated off-white DMC #5 pearl cotton and stitched two rows of that as the outer edge of the border. Then I tried an idea that didn’t work:
That was unstitched. In the end, I just stretched three lengths of white cotton pearl along all four sides and held them in place with another single row of raised chain stitch. I was very pleased with this border.
After working out a pattern, I added the cultured pearls, and I thought I was done. But no, the lettering was simply not visible enough, with everything else I’d added. To make the letters stand out, I couched a very fine gold thread around each of them. Here I’d gotten as far as the letter a in “death.”
Finally, I was finished.
After removing all traces of the blue transfer, I took the piece off the frame, mounted it over padded foamcore, and framed it. Two attempts to photograph it.
Click on the above image to see it enlarged at Flickr.
Here’s the inner border I was pleased with and the lettering before I outlined the letters.
I found it impossible to get a good photograph of this piece because of the light reflecting off the silk, the pearls, and the gilt frame. It is truly beautiful. And since I’m going to present it tonight, I can show it to you.