Rib cage mash up

I have to say this one was a tricky little bugger. However, I got a lot of learns from her. She might be my favorite so far.

First off I decided to work on the sludge coloured linen I used in my Fly Agaric piece, but backed it up with some green polycotton – this helped give me better tension in my hoop as I knew  was going to be adding quite dense stitches. I printed out my little ribs outline after I had modified it to the right kind of thing – enough detail but not too complex. Then I broke out my new iron on transfer pen! Hadn’t used this before, so slightly nervous but basically I traced around the shape onto baking parchment then ironed it onto the linen. The first go it was a bit blotchy so I tried it again and it worked okay (I will use more porous paper next time). It gave me enough of a guide I could stitch around in general sewing thread to give me the final outline. I did start off with stranded cotton in split stitch but quickly realised the shape was way too intricate. See?

Learning all the time.

So, the shape outlined, I then chose a nice hand-dyed pale lilac-pink sort of shell type very fine silk from 21st Century yarns. I chose it because when I initially decided to do a rib cage I thought I might try and silk-shade it, but again, the narrowness of the individual ribs made me reconsider. So this type of thread I thought would add interest and some more unusual colours, and sheen, to contrast with the matte linen.

On the one hand, because I was working through 2 layers of fabric, there was a greater level of stability and accuracy in needle placement compared to had I just used the linen. But on the other, once I got going it was quite wearing on the silk and had to use quite short pieces to minimise this. Overall I’m fairly pleased with the smoothness of the stitches – the colour varigation on the thread means that it highlights where I’ve changed direction. I also added 3 little pairs of french knots for vertebrae spiny processes.

The other tricky thing was actually seeing the guide lines – even though I had stitched them in. I think the size of it (it’s 19mm x 25mm) even under my magnifier was a challenge as the slubbiness of the linen cast a shadow. This led to a ‘spot the deliberate mistake’ situation. She’s a girl. Can you tell why?*

Finally, because the entrance point of the silk into the fabric wasn’t very clean in the end, I outlined just the rib portion in single ply Anchor cotton. I felt like it gave a bit of dimension and depth too.


  • Use a finer weave fabric for small freestyle work – open textures doesn’t allow for enough accuracy

  • I really need single stands of whatever I’m sewing with – better to build up density than wear out the fibre and make a messy finish

  • Use transfer pen to make intricate patterns, but use a porous paper to make the copy so it absorbs excess ink and doesn’t leave a blotchy mark on the fabric

  • Variegated threads are beautiful but highlight changes in stitch direction and even slightly uneven stitching.

Mounted up like this, I gotta say, I do really like her, despite our struggles.

Clearly this is the ribcage of a slightly deformed tiny woman. So, very Mother Eagle really.

*extra rib!

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