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.