handy with a broom

I gave myself a week’s respite from the latest stumpwork portrait as I wasn’t happy with the body shaping or the costume but over the weekend I made a hand to wrap around the broom that the lady will hold. The broom was the first thing I made for this latest stumpwork piece and I might finesse it a bit yet.

 

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heads and more heads

I’ve begun more stumpwork heads since the completion of portrait no.3 but I’ve discarded all of them.  They all start off quite well but then I wonder what difference another type of padding would make or if more padding would make better cheeks, or if I should shape the padding first or choose different stitches for the facial features or, or, or. Really, I’m striving to find a method of constructing stumpwork heads that’s my own and that works for me first time, all the time. I don’t want the heads that I make to be identical to what I see in a book. They haven’t been so far of course, because I’ve used different stitches for the features and shaped them differently and the basic pattern is only the starting point. I’ll end up with portraits that are an amalgamation of methods derived from the stumpwork and doll books that I own, things I find online, my own imagination and skills, and in the end no-one will care how I got there, not even me. A bit like life itself really.

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Here’s a little preview of the stumpwork that I’ve been working on this week. She’ll be full length if all goes according to plan. DSCF8065

portrait three pt2

Portrait three was finished less than an hour ago. I can’t decide whether he’s an old-fashioned butcher just missing his apron or whether he’s out for a Sunday stroll to check out the local talent. Either way, his hat-holding hand took several practices until I was satisfied enough to settle for the last one. The straw boater hat was made from three layers of fine loose weave fabric, moulded over a small bottle cap, stiffened with fabric stiffener before trimming the brim to size and adding the ribbon band.

 

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portrait three

Yesterday I began a third stumpwork portrait, another man this time, wearing a striped blazer and carrying or wearing a straw boater. I tried the Jan Messent method for his hat-holding hand but I wasn’t happy with the result. To give the fingers form, the book says to use “cord or smooth string no thicker than 1mm (1/16in)” but I used a soft crochet cotton of a similar diameter which I only had in a green shade. It all went well until the final stitching around and between the fingers. I used fine 100% nylon lingerie and bobbin thread so that I could make really small stitches and the book doesn’t give any suggestion as to what to use. I’m not sure if the lingerie thread was the main fault or I just didn’t take enough care over it (I really shouldn’t watch television and stitch at the same time I know) but it’s not suitable for this portrait anyway. A hand in this position is more often seen resting on a lady’s lap and not for doffing a hat, which is my intention.

 

I promised photographs if I ever made a hand the Messent way so here’s three in one, showing the process. Top left: lay a piece of stiff vilene on a base fabric, draw a hand and fingers outline then lightly glue the cord fingers in place. Lower left: add a little light padding over the back of the hand when the glue is dry then cover with the actual hand fabric. Centre: stitch around and between the fingers using small back stitches. Cut out close to the outline stitching using fabric glue/fray stop on any raw threads.

hand

 

On the other hand (ha ha), here’s the stumpwork hand which is much better for my purpose. Each finger wire was bound with two strands of embroidery thread then the tip was bent over and the whole finger bound with thread from the tip all the way down to the “wrist” before securing the thread end. All the fingers and thumb were then bound together. With this method it’s possible to shape the fingers with small pliers to make the hand more realistic. I’d never made one of these hands before and I didn’t pay too much attention when I was wrapping the hand itself (blame Foyle’s War for that) so it’s a bit rough and ready. Still, it was only a test and I like how they could be made larger or smaller depending on the gauge of wire used or how finely or thickly they were wrapped. I still think that there’s something about these hands that make them look a little creepy, but we can’t have everything, can we?

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Stitched Safari

The Stitched Safari book by Tomomi Maeda was delivered on Saturday and I have no doubt I’ll be attempting one or two of the animals before long. The rhinoceros looks really appealing with his armoured hide made from varying shades of grey, brown, beige and off-white felt, and the flamingo is really sweet. Unfortunately there are only two dog patterns, a Pug and a Shiba, neither of which is my favourite type of dog but I’m sure the patterns could be easily adapted to a different breed.

 
The instructions are well written, accompanied by lots of diagrams and there are plenty of photographs taken from different angles, something which is often lacking in other similar books. 21 gauge plastic wire is used to give limbs stability and flexibility but I’d probably just use wire from my supplies as I’ve never had a need for plastic wire and therefore don’t possess any. The patterns are printed on fold-out sheets attached to the inside back cover with a recommendation that the patterns be photocopied rather than cutting the original patterns. The pattern pieces for each animal are grouped together with the name of the animal printed nearby but it might be easy to select a pattern piece that didn’t belong to the animal you were making since the pieces are not individually identified with the name of the animal, only the body part (see image below). If I planned to make several of these animals at the same time, I’d mark my copied pattern pieces with some kind of code to identify the animal, and store the cut pattern pieces for each animal in separate envelopes. DSCF8034

I’m looking forward to making my first animal but not just yet as I’m still enjoying the stumpwork and yesterday I began another one!

 

second portrait

This lady is the companion piece to the first portrait and was stitched yesterday but today is her first public outing. Just need to buy those oval frames now.

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first portrait

So, the portrait I began yesterday turned into a man and I enjoyed making the costume and monacle most of all. I’m not sure where stumpwork and/or embroidery ends and dressing dolls begins, but does it matter? I think he’ll look good in an oval frame with a wife in a companion frame alongside so I guess she’ll be the next one to make.

 

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Update: see the wife’s portrait here.

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