Rib cage mash up

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!

My heart it beats for thee…

My heart it beats for thee…

I knew I was proud of this one because when I was trimming it to mount it, and I was scared to mess it up, my heart was beating a little bit faster. 

First I traced the image from one of my anatomy books, then scanned it to play with on the computer. I then reduced it and printed it, using it as a guide to stitch the outline in running stitch, as you have seen. I initially thought I would make bullion knots for the arteries, but in fact they were going to be too thick, so it’s just satin stitches, but worked on a split stitch outline to give it more dimension. There’s also three little french knots on the top of the aorta to show the beginnings of the subclavian artery (I think). The blue vein to the left is the superior vena cava, the one to the right is the pulmonary artery. The body of the muscle is worked in long and short stitch.

The over laying stitches show the arterial branches and coronary veins, and these are simple back-stitches. I also outlined the thing afterwards in grey, and to ground it I shaded the background slightly in pencil. It is worked on white salamanca in 2 ply Anchor cotton. The embroidery itself measures 15mm across and 21mm long. It took about 6 hours, including the outlines before and after.

 I am pretty pleased with this one as a first attempt to do miniaturised freestyle. And because it was so (relatively) quick to do, it was a really satisfying piece. I actually bought the silver pendant mount in this shape specifically with the idea of doing a heart… was only slightly pissed off when I realised it was going to be the ‘wrong’ way round (wanted the point of the heart to match the point of the triangle) but I do like the composition as a whole, and the shape makes it look quite modern. I might try staining the fabric with tea or something next time to give it a more vintage feel.

How do you like it?