I love making things for Jenny. I’ve done a fair few pieces of kit for her, and she seems to really like what I’ve come up with, so lets me have fun with designs and use my own judgement. She always had good costumes too, which shows my contributions off in the best light!
This one is a prayer scarf for a Tralden priestess. Prayer scarfs are a necessary accessory for any priest type in Fools and Heroes, and a great opportunity for detailed design on an article of clothing that won’t see heavy wear or need much washing.
For this, Jen was after a stylistic design that would reflect a fortune hunter type Tralden. My first thoughts on the words ‘Tralden Priestess’ were to do something based on Rodins gates of hell, with writhing naked bodies flowing down each side, arranged by the good, or bad, luck that they were experiencing. It could be really quite nice, but more suitable for a different type of Tralden.
So, I looked more at fortune and gambling. I like the medieval wheel of fortune, could be some fun designs in that but it doesn’t fit that smoothly with the ethos of Tralda. The typical dice designs all seemed a bit too modern, as did card deck symbols taken out of context. A bit of poking around the internet led me to the Rouen card designs, which are so full of symbolism and detail I just had to use them.
Traldens are supposed to embrace colour in their clothing (not to the extent of becoming ‘rainbow Traldens’ mind you) so I with with the four colours of a bridge deck to bring in a bit more vibrancy. I should probably explain, Tralda is often represented by the Queen of Hearts from a card deck and church members can use any symbol of a female face as their holy symbol, so when choosing which cards to use in the prayer scarf, the four Queens were the natural choice.
For the actual making, I went with a ‘drapplique’ technique I’ve used before to good effect. It’s a way to emulate the historic applique or filled embroidery techniques whilst producing something much more robust and easy to wash. It’s also a lot simpler to make. In the past, I’ve used my machine to work the outlining stitches, but this piece had such complex line work, I’ve had to work it all by hand. It’s been lovely to do some hand embroidery again. I’ve used split stitch in a black lace-making cotton from Anchor for the main outline, and various coloured crochet cottons to pick out more decorative elements. It’s a bit more robust than stranded embroidery floss, and the chunkyness really suits the cartoonishness of the Rouen designs. I was planning on doing a bit more in the way of coloured blackwork in the larger colour blocks, but once I had the outlines and belt details in, it didn’t seem necessary. The gold elements I’ve picked out with a bit of metallic thread, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little sparkle!
I left choosing the backing fabric till after I’d finished the panels so I could pick something that fitted nicely with them. The creamy yellow fabric I went with has been lurking in my loft for a fair while, waiting for it’s opportunity to shine. I’ve used it to make an underdress for myself before, but it’s sturdy enough to hold up for a prayer scarf too, especially with the interfacing backing on the embroidered panels.
The colourful trim I’ve used to edge the panels is something that’s been in my horde for a while too. I used a little of it on a corset I wore as my Tralden, but there was more than enough left. I bought it at Judys Vintage Fair at Newcastle Uni, a good hunting ground for interesting bits and bobs. It’s quite unique, not something you’ll find in modern haberdasherys, and I love how colourful it is without being tacky.
For the inside separation lines on the symbol panels, I used red crochet cotton and a gold metallic thread (from Anchor, it’s really smooth to work with) in an interlacing stitch found in an old Anchor embroidery stitch guide. It’s quite simple, as interlacing goes, but I didn’t want to overwork the gold thread. I did get myself into a few tangles with it, I must remember the elbow rule; only use a length of thread that matches the distance from your fingertip to your elbow. It’s the distance that you can easily reach to pull a thread through, and sticking to shorter lengths stops the thread getting too frayed and knotting as you work with it. Metallic threads are especially prone to fraying as the brittle outer layer fractures as it’s bent.
I added the fringe ends after stitching the layers together and turning them through. I could have done it beforehand to keep the back neat, but I wanted to use the stitching to add a bit of reinforcement at the bottom. The red fringe came out of my trimmings box. I salvaged it from a hideous old throw that I made into a dress years back. It’s lovely and chunky, high quality stuff. I worked a up and down buttonhole stitch (again from that wonderful old Anchor stitch guide) in a similar shade of red to help bed it into the backing fabric and cover up it’s clearly machined edge. Adds a lovely little line of arches too, which then just begged to be picked out with a little more gold!
I thought I was finished at this point, until trying it on my mannequin.
It hung nicely, had a good weight. The panels lay just where I wanted them to, with the square panels at belt height and the Queens visible at chest height and below. Just one problem, the back point stood nice and proud, but seemed to be missing something… I picked through my shiny things box, searched through the trim pile, but nothing was quite right. Then it struck me, tassel! Tassels can solve a surprising amount of problems. For this though, it had to be a custom made tassel to tie together the various elements within the design. The red fringe I used at the ends of the scarf forms the bulk, with a little of the colourful trim from the panel borders stitched round the head. I used a black perl cotton to whip the head base to add a bit of sheen, and overstiched it with the same gold metallic I’ve used in the scarf embroidery. To top it, a gold leather celtic knot (which doesn’t match anything, I made it as a test piece when I first got Celtic Knotwork, but it is pretty and fit really nicely) and a bead from my sparkly things box to make it dangle a nice distance from the point of the scarf. Back on the mannequin, it made all the difference. The tassel helps weight the point and dangles quite playfully in the small of the back. It really helps liven up the whole thing.
I’m really proud of this scarf. It’s taken an awful lot of time and effort (I always forget quite how long hand stitching can take) but it was well worth it. I’ve learnt a fair few things in the process, and got to practise some skills I’d almost forgotten I had. Loads more pictures of the finished thing under ‘LuckScarf’ in the Gallery. Now, fingers crossed Jenny likes it!