Overall, I'm fairly pleased with how it's going. I've certainly learned a lot - and I'm just working forward, leaving the artifacts of my learning process.
I've also started taking lessons. It's a fairly informal situation, with embroideress Elizabeth LaFleur. She studied silk work at the Embroidery Institute in Souzhou, China, and knows a lot of the Chinese methods for dealing with filament silk. She's taught me a lot already in just a couple of lessons. Some of them were things I never would have thought of; others are ways to fix difficulties that had been frustrating me but I didn't comprehend how to overcome.
On the left, with the gold eye, is the Chinese needle - it's amazingly fine. On the right is a #10 embroidery needle that I got from Tanja Berlin; they are not all that much different in size of eye, but the size of the needle shank itself is considerably different. The tiny fine needles make less traumatic holes in the silk ground of the embroidery, allowing me to get crisp, close stitch placement. They're also a bugger to thread.
This is a section that I had worked before I started studying with Elizabeth. Particular problems are the ragged edges and the incomplete coverage. I didn't even notice before how much ground fabric was showing through.
This section (and particularly the turnback) I worked since then - I'm getting much nicer edges, better progression between parts of the design, and more even coverage.
Just another picture. The stuff I worked most recently is in the left and mid-left part of the picture.
In the original, it looks like the French knots are more open - but I fought it for a while, and ended up just accepting the look that the silk wanted to have. I think they look good, just not quite like the picture.