A stroll through Bloomingdale's last week confirmed it: medallions are the rage. Multimedia medallions at that - leather, beads, shells, feathers - strikingly interwoven with shimmering threads of silver and gold.
Did you ever think of wearing your needlework in the form of jewelry? It's got to be one of the most creative and rewarding stitchery projects around.
The tradition of sewing with real gold threads goes way back. In biblical times, they beat the gold flat and stitched it into their clothings. Aaron's robe was all blue with pomegranates and bells around the border in the most dazzling gold stitches. When Solomon built his temple, he summoned craftsmen from all over the world to embroider richly in gold and silver.
Orientals figured out a way to stitch with the very difficult beaten gold. They took the flat strips and wrapped them around a silken core. This made the fragile threads much stronger, but of course this couldn't be sewn through cloth, because that would still damage it. And so it was "couched" in rows on top of the fabric (sewn down with small silken stitches evely spaced).
We now have an inexpensive, easy-to-work-with substitute for real gold and silver thread - lurex, an alluminium-based synthetic available at most notion stores.
The method of covering material with row upon row of horizontal threads is called "Italian Shading," and it's perfect of giving pizzas to your medallions. Sew down two threads together for each row, using colored cotton or silk threads to form your pattern - covering the gold quite closely in places and leaving it exposed in others. In this way you can obtain a beautiful, glimmering mosaic effect, which is ideal for jewelry.
The "base" of your medallion can be fine-weave linen or cotton, and after you've done your couching, you can easily attach shells, feathers, etc. for the dramatic final touch. A hole left at the top of the medallion will allow you to string a cord of gold or silk thread through it, so you can slip the artwork-needlework over your head.
Q. I have an antique folding chair which I plan to have refinished before I needlepoint a new seat for it. The present seat is a sturdy - but dilapidaed - piece of carpeting. What type of needlepoint canvas would be strong enough to bear a person's weight - or how might the needlepoint be reinforced?
A. How nice that you want to preserve your antique chair for future generations.
When you've completed the needlepoint for the chair (with regular needlepoint canvas), the seat can be reinforced with woven strips of webbing, the the blocked, padded needlepoint can be fixed in position on top. You probably should have it done professionally - that way it will be extremely strong and will preserve throught the years.
Q. Please settle a difference of opinion. My sister tells me that she used the Continental stitch in all her needlepoint because it covers the holes in the canvas more completely. I say that this is not so, and that the half cross stitch covers the canvas just as well. Please let us know who's right.
A. You're both ride. The Continental stitch is extremely firm and hard wearing for mono canvas - the kind of canvas that has a single mesh exactly likw linen weave. The Continental stitch wraps itself around the threads of the canvas, covering the fabric with long, slanting stitches at the back, and shorter, slanting stitches on the front.
The half cross stitch has the same stitch on the front but little short stitches on the reverse side, which fit very well when you work on interlocked or penelope canvas. The double threads of mesh on these two types of canvas are interwoven firmly together so they don't shift, and half cross stitch is an ideal way to cover in this case.