To take a break from the rather frustrating search for velvet, I decided to finally get over to the needlework shop here in town to find out what I would need for the punch needle portion of the project. Which, really, is 90% of it.
I brought along my Moda a Firenze book to be able to show the salespeople what it is I am talking about. Once people see the portrait they get a better grasp of the magnitude of the situation. Towards the back of the book there is also a section on fabric, and there are close-up photos of two different pieces of fabric that date to the era of the portrait, and they show an excellent example of the actual stitching/weaving done on the fabric.
The person at the first shop knew nothing about punch needlework. They carried three different needles with three different needlewidths, and since I knew as much as the salesperson did, it really was unhelpful. They suggested trying DMC floss in 2 strands since it would be less expensive or 12-ply silk floss from France under the name “Splendor.” The wool looked nice but was not very consistent in dye lot at all.
The salesperson seemed excited by the project, but also a little concerned about the enormity of it. Since I left there not knowing anything more about punch needlework than I did when I got there (other than needles come in different sizes), I decided to head out for Stitchville USA.
The ladies at Stitchville were great. When I explained the project to them and showed them the photos they both looked at me like I was perhaps a little insane for wanting to do this project. However, they jumped right in to help. Luckily the blown up photos of the fabric were a huge help in determining the size of needle to purchase (in this case a 3-strand miniature punch needle from CTR, Inc.), and what kind of threads to use.
One of the ladies originally was thinking that if I was going to spend the time and energy on the project I should go with silk thread, being as how it has a nicer sheen to it and is a higher quality thread. When she saw the picture of the boucle loops in the book, she immediately changed her mind and suggested a perle cotton, so as to give the texture and look of the picture.
(The photo is a little fuzzy. Ah well.)
The black parts of the fabric design are most likely silk (as is the velvet). However, most silk velvet that I have been able to find is either A)out of my price range or B)has too much stretch to it to be able to do punch needlework on it. Consequently I had disregarded that for the velvet. For the threads, it seemed like it might be a good idea. After crunching the numbers in my head in estimation of the amount of thread that might be needed, silk seems to be running second to perle cotton, mainly due to cost. Perle cotton also has the feature of coming on larger spools, not needing to be separated into various threads, and having a consistent DMC dye lot color. However, I am going to do a test run and see what I think of the different options. If I can find a wholesale supplier of the silk it might be worthwhile in the end, if more time consuming. I have #5 and #8 threads in the perle cotton to use to see which works the best.
When it came to the metallic threads there was absolutely no doubt that I was going to go with something fake. Real gold and silver threads are hard to find, and the idea of using gold thread for punch needlework seems pretty close to madness. The cost alone puts it out of the running. Consequently the saleslady found me a lovely silver that is a rayon/metalized poly blend 12 strand thread called “Treasure Braid” by RG. It looks like it should work well for the small bit of silver that actually exists on the gown.
The part where I started to run into difficulty is with the gold portion of Eleonora’s gown. I have decided to base all color decisions on the prints of the portraits in Moda a Firenze so as to have all colors stay consistent in comparison to the portrait. The thing I discovered about the gold is that it isn’t really gold. Not antique gold, which was lovely, and not brassy gold, which looks like the 1980’s door knobs and lamps that came with my house when I purchased it. I was beginning to think that I was going to be stuck with this very bright (and rather ugly) brassy color when I spotted a spool of metallic poly thread from Kreinik. It was a #8 in color 202HL – a kind of copper color. It fit colorwise in-between the other options and seemed to match the portrait fairly well. It is $3.50 for 10m, versus the Perle cotton which is $2.50 for 48 yards (or something like that).
I really can’t say enough nice things about Stitchville USA. They really were nice, if dubious about my sanity for taking on such a project when I have never done punch needlework before. (For the record I have done embroidery, beadwork, cross-stitch, quilting, etc. I feel comfortable in saying I can do this.) I am looking forward to doing up some samples on the velvet when it finally arrives.
As for the velvet, a friend may have a lead for me, otherwise I did find one other option on-line. It won’t be the color I want, but I have a budget, and $15/yd is the top of the budget.
In other costuming news I am progressing on the White Queen, and my buddy Steve has done some sort of magic engineering which involved measuring the length of my head, the length of Anne Hathaway’s head in the photo, the height of the crown in the photo, solving for X, and VOILA! A schematic for a crown was produced.
How cool is that? He is adjusting it to make it a 5 point crown (which I think is what she has in the movie – it is hard to tell) and going to construct the shell out of some sort of metal that can be painted. Then I am going to go to town on it. It is all very exciting.
Tomorrow is being taken up with eye doctor appointments and celebrating my heritage and my Grandmother’s birthday (she would be 91! I miss her.) and the family tradition of celebrating the Wearing of the Green by eating pot roast and watching “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne. So no real progress till Friday when I should have corsetry happening. Woot!
I would settle with finding some velvet for tomorrow. That would be nice.