Rest your head here, my dear…

This was my first ‘serious’ embroidery project. Somewhere in the middle of doing my Emily Peacock ‘Hope’ anchor pillow, I realised I really wanted to, and could, make my own designs. Wow! And so set about looking around for a great image I could make into a pattern. My mum had given me a plastic bag FULL of cotton floss in all imaginable shades, so I wanted to make use of them.

Being that I am a bit obsessed with skulls and bones, it didn’t take me long to figure out what I wanted to make. When I found this, classic Grey’s Anatomy-style anatomical skull illustration, I lost my heart.

So, I bought some graph tracing paper and using the smallest grade they had – 18 count – I started tracing the picture in fine liner. I delved through my bag of floss to find all the different tones of grey, black and white, then, wanting all the different colours to be highly visible on the pattern, I used various shades of felt-tip to identify the different areas. I sorted my skeins and made myself a colour key. I was basically working on a ‘dark to light’ principle. This is what the pattern ended up looking like:

Here’s the thing: Looking back on this now, I am amazed the final thing reached completion without me going blind and/or making some huge mistake. I always intended on working a size up in my canvas, so that the pattern translated as slightly bigger in life, and the only reason for choosing to draw the pattern in 18 count was that to get the level of detail and subtlety in the piece it had to be quite fine. But I really made life hard for myself in my novice-ness working from something so small. I didn’t think to stick several pieces of graph paper together to make a bigger pattern. Plus, I had NO idea how the finished thing was going to look because not only did the pattern I drew have non-true-to-life colours (blue and yellow etc), so the actual original picture also had different coloured shading which I didn’t want to replicate. So all a big risk really, in terms of hours stitched with no assurance of success.

Whenever I get this pattern out, I feel really proud of myself, not least because I had never attempted this type of project before, and because some of the lines I drew are so crooked its a miracle, frankly, he didn’t end up with a bowler hat and a moustache.

So this was the final thing:

This took over a year to do. Measures 13″ x 13″. I picked it up, put it down, life happened etc. I wasn’t the hardcore 3-hours-a-night girl I am now *ahem*. Plus, regardless of how long the actual skull took, I then decided, having used 16 count WHITE aida, that I wanted the background to be black, and so spent as much time cross-stitching black background as main image.


Then, as usual, the beautiful-but-functional aesthetic had to come into play, so I hand stitched using back stitch black cotton to the front of it, with black cording edge, turned it inside out and stuffed it with wadding. My Mum was horrified after all this work that I hadn’t used a cushion pad to prevent the wadding from poking out, but I couldn’t be arsed. It took over a year already.

It’s pretty much my favourite thing I own, I think.

6 thoughts on “Rest your head here, my dear…

  1. Pingback: Candy Skull
  2. I am simply in awe of the work I have seen around your gallery. You are serving as an inspiration to keep going with my own needlework even though I am a self taught novice.

    Seeing how you charted this piece has given me a better idea on how to hand chart a couple of the cross stitch patterns I have bouncing around my head.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful ideas and work with the rest of us. I can not wait to see what more you have to share.

    1. Thankyou Argent, that honestly warms my heart to hear such kindness from you. Self taught is the best way! I have always had my mum’s skill as inspiration but have learnt most of what I know from books, other work, trying things out, practicing…x

  3. I’m laughing because my first impulse is to say back to you what you said to me: You are an embroiderer after my own heart!
    I love the details of how you planned and charted this design, and the efforts you made to build it from the ground up, doing things ‘properly’.
    The rules shouldn’t intimidate or STOP anyone from making something, or doing something, but I think that if you’re fairly sure you;re going to practice a craft, you also owe it to your craft to try and learn the rules, and put at least some of them to use, especially where doing the traditional, meticulous thing will make a difference to the final creation.

    Things that will be treasured for a long time TAKE a long time…I read that somewhere. Take your time, because time is all we really have, and life is so short, we must move very slowly. XX Nat

    1. Thanks so much Nat, you’re a sweetheart. I’m kinda swooning because you’re the first ‘proper’ artist I know and love that’s reading this thing! So thanks for your attention, I really appreciate it. I’ve only just discovered your work (through Mr X Stitch), so now, me being me, I’m reading the whole of Smallest Forest from scratch!
      Thanks for your openess and inspiration xx

      1. OMG you’re READING it? Gah. I’d better write something new! LOL

        I laughed so suddenly at your comment that coffee came out my nose. It’s FASCINATING to get a glimpse of how others see us; ey, sorry to break the news to you, luv, but I’m no ‘proper artist’…funny how making an appearance on Mr X Stitch confers this sense of legitimacy and even glamor upon people…hmm, maybe we’re none of us ‘proper artists’, maybe we’re all just a bunch of anti-social homebodies with a stodgy hobby, propelled to glamorous craftiness by a blogger?
        Like almost everyone else, I don’t do as much as I’d like, nor even as much embroidery as I could be doing. In between one project and the next are months of unproductive ho-humness and a day job that involves sharp objects (*oh, yes?*) and vegetables (*oh. pfft.*)
        You’re probably the first person in the world to think of me as a ‘proper artist’…is this how a cult starts? I’ll worship you if you worship me.
        um, so do you want a little figurine of me for your altar? I like offerings of chocolates and cigars. ;)

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