I was quite intimidated by this one. I’ve been knocking these out about one per month but the Wolf took me nearly double that and I think it’s cos I couldn’t figure out a clever way to do the Wolfsbane flowers. Their shape is weird and I couldn’t think of a way to do it in stumpwork.
So they pretty much ended up in plain flat work. Which felt weird for me but was the best way of expressing them I guess.
The stem was variegated which is why it looks a little stripy. Then on to the flowers.
So I lied, they were a little bit 3D. Just padded with felt on the hoods.
I’d forgotten how nice just plain old embroidery can be. I’m pretty pleased with how these turned out. Next I got my metal threads out again.
Not the best example of the technique in the world to be honest, I struggled to get the tiny bits to lay flat.
On the other hand, these moon phases were really fun to do.
Did I say fun? I meant really fucking annoying. It’s all nice and shiny on the front but the back looks like the Cthulu came to tea.
So plunging and couching all that down was a day’s work.
So yea. This was my flattest piece for a while. I really like it though.
\\ W O L F //
The wolf represents intuition and learning, and can be the most faithful of animal guides. Mysterious and magical, wolf legends are ancient, especially those connecting wolves with the moon and shapeshifting. Shown here, the wolf-ghost is flanked by wolfsbane – so named as the spittle that fell from the three headed hell-hound Cerberus, guarding the gates of Hades, became the first one. It is also used by werewolves to cure themselves and also to become invisible. The mythology of the man-wolf is also represented by the moon phases as transformation, and by the magic of the silver dagger. Finally the rune Othala represents wisdom and integration, and in Norse mythology Odin’s final destruction at the hands of the Fenris Wolf.
The last wolf in Britain was thought to have been killed near the source of the river Findhorn in Scotland in 1743.
Puffball mushrooms. I’m sorry I don’t have any in-progress shots. So you’ll have to take my word for it that these are made of old tights. No really.
Sketched out these Mandrake dudes freehand, but did it so well directly on to the fabric that it was a bit tricky trying to cut out this eco-felt to match. Should’ve sketched it to the felt obviously.
Anyway, stitched them down and over-sewed it with these sort of shading running stitch. Wasn’t all that happy with this bit as I struggled to make it not look stripey.
When I was happy with that I added these little rooty bits with couched down string and stuff.
Sorry that one’s a bit overexposed.
Ok so next I had a genius moment when I realised my beloved 21st Century Yarns (my absolute fave thread designer) did space dyed cotton velvet in the same gorgeous shades as all their threads. Sigh velvet. So rather than fill in all these shapes with embroidery as normal I just selected the best shade of oily blue green and using the same shade of thread (genius) made my slips.
Raided my semi precious stones from my jewellery making days (oh how glad I am I hung on to these) and sorted through these lovely Ocean jaspers to find the perfect ‘Stone of Power’.
Druids believe that the frog or toad carrying a secret within is the possessor of a power object – a stone of magical properties said to be found in the heads of very old specimens. By carrying such a stone and using it magically, the druid would be able to contact the animal spirit.
//Frog / Ghost / Medicine//
Frog’s were considered by druids as representatives of water spirits and as creatures in contact with the underworld and the dark God. Frog brings medicine and also represents hidden power and beauty.
Frog is shown with puffball mushrooms representing inner connection and mystery, and the mandrake, the greatest magical reputation of all plants, with its ability to drive away illness, demons and misfortune. Also the rune Hagalaz which heals physical, mental and spiritual wounds and increases mystical experiences and knowledge.
Using a print out of an old anatomical drawing I sketched out the design for this one. A slightly different composition as there weren’t really that many plants associated with bears or their symbolism. But Oaks are perfect so given the overall themes a wreath suited it well.
I bought some fabulous spaced dyed cotton velvet to create the detached slips on this one and it saved me a lot of embroidery plus gave that gorgeous autumnal hue I couldn’t have really replicated with embroidery.
I made the stems with stem stitch (you guessed it), then embellished them with little french-knot lichen.
The crown was really cobbled together with goldwork remnants from my mum’s box of bits but I’m pretty pleased with it. Topped with vintage Swarovski crystals from a broken necklace
The Great Bear // Ursa Major.
The Bear was the first animal to be honoured and revered as Master of all Animals as far back as 70,000 years ago, and lived in Scotland until the 11th century.
The Bear represents primal power and intuition, and his ghost is shown here surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, the king of trees. A golden crown represents sovereignty, and his significance in British folklore as King Arthur (Art = Bear). Above is the constellation of the Great Bear, and the symbol for Earth as a reminder that the Bear is both star and animal.
Second in this series, the bat started out in the very same way, with the white on white skeleton and glow-in-the-dark outline.
To make the stumpwork Deadly Nightshade I first took some wooden beads and enlarged the hole a little before wrapping it with single strand black cotton and securing with a little glass bead. For the sepals I couched down the wire in a star shape before covering the whole thing in embroidery then drawing up the sides to make a little cup for the berry.
The super shiny leaves were made in the same way, the sheen achieved simply through directional stitching. The stem is just some couched down string.
The opium poppy leaf was made in exactly the same way.
Guess what…so were the petals.
The seed head was just a piece of felt drawn through then embroidered.
I broke out the ol’ goldwork skills for this All Seeing Eye, first embroidering the eye, then edging in overstretched pearl purl, and filled with bright check.
// B A T / N I G H T //
Once thought to be physical manifestations of the souls of the dead, and messengers between witches and the Devil, this ritual burial shows the Bat with the rune Eihwaz representing death, and magical communication through dreaming. It is shown with Deadly Nightshade representing far sight, and Opium Poppy for vision in dreams to other worlds. The trio are linked by the full moon and the All Seeing Eye.
Around Christmas I had just gotten Marc Bolan finished and as usual had been hatching plans for a new series of ten embroideries for a few months.
In my usual style it’s now July and I’m half way through the series, which, if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know! But I decided as I’m halfway through I better start blogging again and share my progress on these.
The concept for the series explores the way we as humans share an ancient history of honouring animals in life and death, and invites the viewer to consider how the sacred place those animals once held, has now changed. In the transient nature of life and death, there are clues all around us of the importance and significance certain animals have – in the names of plants, in the folklore and mythology of global cultures. This series specifically looks at ten animals, all native to the British Isles at some point and all with special cultural or religious significance to pagan communities. Inspired by ancient Celtic burial rites, the composition of each piece suggests a burial ground where the spirit of each animal is ritually honoured.
The first of this series is the Hare.
Using anatomical reference I began by transferring the simple skeletal design onto my fabric and used a combination of split stitch, back stitch and french knots to embroider it. Finally the outline of the animal’s body is laid down in glow-in-the-dark thread; I like the idea that the ‘ghost’ of the animal has a second life at night.
Once this was done I used my favourite air-erasable pen to freehand sketch in the other elements.
Using simple paper patterns I created detached slips of the Harebell flowers and leaves then laid them out on my fabric.
I then embroidered the plant’s stem in stem stitch.
The opposing element in this piece was the Hare’s Foot Inkcap, which I created with simple felt applique oversewn with embroidered detail.
I wish I’d cut the mushroom cap instead of overlaying it and causing that lump.
Next I created the sun and moon by first padding the circles with felt then attaching rough silver purl and smooth gold purl.
Finally I added two Norse runes in iridescent filament:
// H A R E//
The Arctic Hare was the original Hare of Britain. For the druids the Hare represents rebirth, initiation and balance. This ritual burial shows the Arctic Hare surrounded by Harebells representing Spring, Hare’s Foot Inkcap representing Autumn, and the full sun and moon representing the two equinoxes. The rune Berkana further signifies balance and Jera for abundance and fertility.