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Portrait of Elizabeth, designed by Gay Ann Rogers

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El Segundo Blue Butterfly

Portrait of Elizabeth, designed by Gay Ann Rogers

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El Segundo Blue Butterfly
This weekend I spent two days at a needlework workshop. It was the teacher's last class before retirement. She's been teaching needlework for a long time, and has discovered a new passion - needlework combined with computers! Her enthusiasm is infectious, and I hope she continues to have a blast with her website. It's fun and imaginative, and she's clearly learning all sorts of new things and sharing her discoveries with her readers. I smile when I wander through it!

Anyway, I signed up for this workshop last year, when I first heard rumors of it. She created an original portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, based on all those extant portraits. It is not very big, but that's okay - it will take long enough to do that size is really no indicator of time spent. I bought the full kit, which is silks and pearls and beads, oh my! It was pretty expensive, so I'm absolutely planning on finishing the piece! It was designed to be stitched on Congress Cloth, 24 count. I prefer a linen ground, so I got some 25-count white linen to work it upon. I know I will be happier with that.

So - the pre-work was to put in the "mask" for the face. It is designed as a face with a minimalist attitude. The fashion of the time was for a white mask-like makeup, so this design went one further and ignored all shadows. It didn't look right to me. The result is ethereal, but to me removed it from an actual portrait. The designer has good reasons for her choices, but it was not what I wanted for my interpretation. One of the classes I took last summer, Shihoko the Bride, also has a portrait in white-face, but there was some very subtle shading to the face. So I looked at the range of face colors from that class, and chose a cheek color and a shadow color to work with this portrait. The single strand of floss is only minimally different from the white linen, so even seeing the floss against the linen ground is a challenge if my eyes are not fresh, or the light is not just right.

I had already started stitching the forehead, and an outline for the mask (so I knew where everything went), when I decided to shade it. I recommend making the decision before stitching - it is much easier than what I did. In my first pass was to put in shading over the eyes, to the eyebrows. Then I added shading along the nose, on both sides. This looked a little odd, so I went looking for portraits of Elizabeth. Turns out that the shading on the far side of the nose simply is not there. So I took it out. Not fun, but better now. I put in the rosier color for her cheeks. It is still there, but so close to the overall color I'm not sure one actually sees it. That's actually okay. We'll just call it subtle. Then I put in the shadow under the near cheek, all the way to the jaw. Bad idea. It shouldn't go that low. So I took out more stitching. Then I put in a couple lines of shadow under the mouth. Fine, except that I had miscounted the mouth placement, and so the shadow was misplaced. Took it out. Put in a shadow under the nose, to the lips, for the philtrum (cool word, hunh? Don't you just love dictionaries?). That was ok.

Barely finished this supposed-to-be-monochrome mask in time for class. Looking over it, found isolated cases of missing stitches, where either I somehow skipped it, or when I cut out stitches, others came loose. Filled in the ones in the base color. Have mislaid the shadow color, so the stitch in the middle of the cheek shadow, one in the nose shadow, and all those under the mouth are still missing. I'm listing them so I don't forget to look for them when the floss shows up again.

Put in about half of her left hand (right as I look at it). But I had miscounted, and it was in the wrong place. Took it out again and have not yet put it back. *sigh*

Time spent before class: 7 - 8 hours. It should have been perhaps 4 hours. Doing and redoing has time consequences!

Then went to the workshop. Gay Ann talked of many things, including the project. We stitched from the directions, and watched the stitch demos, and asked questions if needed. She provided moral support for those who have trouble making their own determinations about stitching (clearly I don't have a problem changing things around). And there were talks about design, and choices, and how one gets some of the illusions in the piece to work (more about those when I get to stitching them). But mostly she entertained us with stitching-related stories. Not like most classes I've had before, but fun. And she was there to make sure that the instructions would tide us through when we didn't have her there to ask questions.

At the end of class, Angelina and I gave an impromptu lesson in Elizabethan clothing - she focussed on later Elizabethan clothing, I did earlier Elizabethan accessories. We had both piled some misc. examples in the car - neither of us had a total outfit between us (we both brought farthingales, but no corsets or shifts, for instance). She had two 1598 full gowns (without all underpinnings) and I had hats, sleeves, partlet, and sweet bag. The talk was well-recieved, and we had fun showing off our costume bits.

Time spent in class: 12 hours, plus 2 hrs / day driving

So here is the portrait so far:
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