Saturday, September 4, 2010

Prick and Pounce, or The Potential for Astonishing Mess

So, the next step in the embroidery process is to get the design you've been fiddling with for too long actually onto the fabric.  I tried a light box- and really couldn't see the design through the nice opaque threads of the linen.
So, now what?  Well, I found a woodcut from an embroidery pattern book (Il Burato, by Paganino, circa  1527) showing different ways of transferring embroidery patterns.  Two ladies use basically the medieval version of the lightbox method- one with a candle beneath her embroidery frame, the other with a window behind it.  Well, even if it is period, it didn't work with my fabric.  Another looks like she's copying a pattern by eyeballing it.  The fourth is using an old method (no, I mean it was old even for the Elizabethans) called "Prick and Pounce", where you poke holes in the pattern, and then dust charcoal powder, soot, or chalk (aka "pounce") through the holes.  That sounds like it could work!

But artists' powdered charcoal isn't cheap.  Hmmm.  I looked briefly into making my own charcoal, and found that it was its own profession a long way back into medieval times.  Apparently there's something of an art to it.  (Trivia: This is the origin of the surname Collier- charcoal burner.)  Then I remembered that there is grilling charcoal that was actually made from real wood, and not compressed, chemical-infused briquettes.  Bonus!  I get craft materials, and the husband can use the rest for grilling out!  (Cowboy Charcoal from Home Depot was what I got.)  A friend was nice enough to lend me her mortar & pestle, and I got to work.

Somehow, it did not actually get all over either kitchen or kitties, though there were a couple close calls and one panicked grab.  The chunk to the right is to show that it was actually real wood at one point, though what's in the bowl is from a chunk about 1/3 that size.  I probably could have gotten it finer with a flour sifter, but I don't have one.  I cut a chunk of plain ol' muslin, draped it over the bowl and quickly flipped it, then secured it with a rubber band to make a pounce bag.  I might replace the rubber band with stitching or cording later, but it seems to work for now.  I'm glad I chose muslin rather than one of the linen scraps I have around; the linen I've got is a far more open weave, and there would have been charcoal everywhere...
I taped the holey pattern to the linen (not sure if they would have used gum or wax or pins back then) to make sure it wouldn't shift on me, and then lightly boofed the bag on it.

Not too shabby!  That's a design that probably pushes the boundaries of prick-and-pounce; for scale that square is 1.5".  This is the design I'm going to use for the pincushion that will be attached to my sweet bag.  The actual bag design is a lot less complex (no ferns for one thing...)

The next step they say is to take a fine paintbrush and go over the design so it won't blow away or rub off while you're stitching.  I don't think I'm that good with a paintbrush.  I decided that doing something a slightly more modern way wouldn't hurt, and got a quilter's mechanical pencil to play connect-the-dots.
This picture is after penciling and dusting off the charcoal- it does rub or blow off fairly easily, while the pencil does not (it's designed to come off with water).

Now I just need to get back to the drill press and make some good needles!

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