So more Satin stitch and Long and short stitch. The spots are what I’m most happy with. A very successful experiment with a stitch I found in my fave Anchor stitch book – Spider’s Web Filling. Basically I’ve made a 2-ply thread from 2 different shades of cotton for the ‘spokes’ of the web which make the base, and I tried to make the centre point match the original photo – so not all actually in the centre. Then using a lighter shade for the centre bit I wove in and out of the spokes, then switched to a slightly darker tone for the outside. I couched all the edges in with the dark mushroom colour in single strand back stitch, and where I felt like it was a bit ‘flat’ I’ve added a few more spokes on top in the same colour. Quite labour intensive, but I love how it’s turned out.
Just had a week off and took the opportunity of the lovely location to go all Jane Brocket and take some lovely inspiration photos for colour and texture source material.
Oh how I love Autumn, let me count the ways…
And then, like buried treasure, I found one of my favourite things:
Now indulge me as I tell classic English botanist’s poetry:
I get all excited just thinking about them. The toadstool has always held a place of special dark inspiration for me; their legendary status within my beloved fairy tales, always there in the background, part of the scenery, yet holding sentry, ready to ensnare any foolish traveller into psychedelic nightmares or even death. Lovely.
And all this is spurring me on with (finally) my latest work in progress. I make no secret that my embroidery up until now has been virtually exclusively cross stitch. I’m fine with that now, I need to teach myself freestyle stitches. So, the perfect muse:
The classic, perfect, magickal mushroom of myth and legend.
Here’s the pattern I made of it, basically just delineating the colours and shapes.
Then using my bag of floss, selected my cotton colours. I’d given up buying expensive fabrics and canvas specifically for embroidery when I found a huge offcut ream of lovely greeny flax coloured linen, perfect for my intentions, for £6! It will provide for tens of projects, and easily for my, now intended, Toadstool series of samplers.
Sorry for the blurry photo – taken myself with the sewing on my lap:
I drew/traced my pattern onto the linen, then began satin stitching the stem. Not really happy with this to begin with. I have this horrible compulsion to fling away in disgust anything I try in which I am not completely accomplished in about ten minutes. Dreadful.
But, stitch stitch stitch, learn learn learn. Having done the white bit and found it baggy and uneven, I realised my constant obsession with being economical with my thread was the culprit for this, and when I did it properly – looping the full length of the stitch around the back of the canvas – lo and behold, it all started to be a bit more like it should be.
When I’d finished that bit I did tiny back-stitch to mark out the underside of the mushroom, and its lovely frills, then, following my tutelage at the knee of my guru (Mum) a couple of weeks ago, I added texture with lots of french knots.
I did some seed stitch too which has ended up being slightly pointless as I’ve actually covered it all over with more french knots now.
I guess you could call this one ‘second in a series’. Somewhere around the millionth stitch of the black and grey skull I began fantasising about all the delicious juicy colours in my bag of threads. Being still Death’s head-obsessed, the Mexican candy skull was an easy choice.
Basically I approached this one in exactly the same one as the first; found the image, traced it onto graph paper, this time more consciously thinking about the size I wanted the finished cushion to be (bigger), then coloured the pattern.
Colouring with colours!
And so to work…MUCH quicker to complete this time because I was a stitching demon at this point, a woman possessed. Started actually before I even finished the black and grey, COULD NOT WAIT. Again worked on white aida. I know, I know…why when I was going to fill all the background in black? But my idea for this piece was to make it more folky style in homage to Mexican folk art, and I liked the way the white poked through in this way. Plus I also had this masochistic ideal which (in my head) dictated that to produce some kind of intricate image in cross stitch but then just use coloured fabric to provide the background seemed like cheating or something I guess? I just love great swathes of stitched fabric really. And I love doing it too, so that’s cool. Actually I’ve realised as I’ve gone along that when I’ve done all the really eye-blinding counted main image work, it’s actually a relief to be able to mindless stitch in the same colour without having to use a pattern, with one eye on the TV.
OOO! I forgot, halfway through the black and grey my needlework guru (mum) gives me a FANNY FRAME. Yup, you heard me. This, dear reader, is the absolute balls.
So after a little while getting my runt left hand to know what to do, I can now stitch away with both hands without having to gnarl my hoop-holding hand into a wizened claw from gripping it to the death. I love it, so brilliant, and much faster.
So the black background this time. Despite my posturing earlier and being all ‘oh not stitching the background is cheating’, when it got to doing it I had a little conflict with myself about my commitment to my high ideals or whatever, versus boredom for a minute. Then this awesome little book my guru gave me came to the rescue and I decided to do the back in a really simple blackwork stitch which covered the ground much quicker, and gave it the nice folksy feel I was after.
So, ta da:
Took me 5 months this time. Whizz.
Will post when it’s totally done in all its calavera glory.
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.