I have thought about doing a full skeleton for ages, but obviously not something that can be executed well on a teeny scale. But as soon as I looked at my new doilies I knew the time had come.
I started in the normal way – found the ideal skeleton illustration, sized it up and traced him. I knew transferring it would be a one-shot thing as there would be no way I could reposition such an intricate image. Unfortunately it didn’t go well, and I ended up with a legless skeleton.
In my mind’s eye he was to be a classic black skeleton, picked out in simple backstitch. But my love for colour and weakness for my silks overruled as always, so he is in Poppy coloured variegated fine silk.
As this was a larger piece I was really careful about the framing, and so tacked the whole doily carefully to a pillowcase, and stretched this on my roller frame. I embroidered through both layers which really stabilised the whole work and gave me perfect tension.
In some ways I feel the effectiveness of this embroidery is a bit of a cheat on my part, the equivalent of colouring within the lines; back stitch is a basic stitch and I cannot claim the design of a human skeleton as my own.
No seriously, there is this weird thing with the rib cages; every time I embroider one it is never a sure thing – I always feel like it might not turn out that great and I have all sorts of bumpy problems, and then lo and behold it turns out great and becomes my best ever. The pay-off from the silk floss being so tricksy. It is so pretty.
I guess all artists go through anxiety about sending their creations into the world, and with embroidery it is so time consuming and labour intensive by the time you finish it really means something to you. I know this is not just true of embroidered art.
Anyway, my struggles with framing this one finally ended when I realised that backing it with some lovely almost-black blue felt, the beauty of the hand-made lace really didn’t need a mount after all, and in fact it really stands out in the dark shades of the frame. So you can expect this one in the shop at the end of the week.
Groan is how I feel today. I might be feeling less groan had I not been robbed earlier, but there you go. Also groan because I spent a lot of hours embroidering over the weekend – more than I expected – and doing other stuff too, and ran out of time to blog, so I am actually blogging live today. As opposed to being terribly organised and pre-writing and scheduling my posts. This embroidery KICKED MY ASS this weekend and I only finished it past 10 last night, so I am having to just tell you about it now. It was a doozy…but it turned out beautifully so I’m not mad at it.
I had another 6″ square-ish antique doily I wanted to embroider in the same vein as the heart from last week, but combining both the slightly tricky ribcage motif, and using a different kind of thread for me; Pearsalls Filoselle silk. Mum has been encouraging me to use something altogether finer, with more of a sheen etc. and I happened to have a dozen or so little spools in my stash. I picked these colours only because they were the only 4 in a matching spectrum, so I knew I could achieve some depth. Having hooped up in the same way as I did with the heart (pain in the ass number 1: the edges of the doily being SO lacy I just couldnt get the tightest tension, despite using my little pillowcase-aperture thing, along with being nervous to yank it all too tightly considering the age of the thing and fear of it desiccating in my hands. I managed), I started with the darkest shade and began to fill in the spine in split stitch.
Pain in the ass number 2: This thread is so slippy. It had such a recoil and a tension all its own! That with the very fine weave of the fabric and I really had to be diligent of my stitches being teeny tiny to keep them from coiling back on themselves, and that’s despite trying to turn my needle each time to stop the ply from unravelling.
I actually started the ribs in split stich too, as you can see:
But then I decided it was too boring and typical for me and I wanted to have some different techniques in there, so unpicky-picky I go, and then began re-doing the ribs in satin stitch. Pain in the ass number 3: As soon as I started getting any length into the stitch it all coiled and sprang up giving a horrible uneven finish. Unpicky picky again…Back to split stitch.
We’re getting on better this time, split stitch and me.
By this stage I was beginning to appreciate the qualities of this kind of silk, and we were becoming better acquainted. Still not friends though.
I am always impatient to try out my whole colour palette, so I made the vertebra all stripey.
You’re starting to see how shiny it’s getting now.
At this point I was feeling both frazzled and pleased. I always know when I’m getting sick with a piece I am working on when I get this intense itchy feeling. Like I could just throw a tantrum any minute. I didn’t though. I got out some well-behaved cotton floss and I outlined the whole thing:
Man was I pleased to finish. But wait for it…The big reveal! (as always here is my disclaimer about the true SHITNESS of my photos – please understand I am snapping these on my phone as I go):
So it was all worth it in the end. And not a single tension problem either! I think she’s like a Neapolitan Ice Cream of a skeleton.
I reckon I probably put about 7 hours stitching in this so certainly a bit more than heart. I will frame her up and get her in the shop on Friday, if you would like to give her a home.
So it turns out not all vintage 1950s cotton pillowcases are created equal when it comes to upcycling them for embroidery fabric. There I was happily working through my latest batch of new designs I had transferred to my roller frame. Couple days later… it appears this permanent iron-on transfer pen is fading.
But my chair is right in front of the window and we have just had our 4 days of summer, so maybe I thought, I have been lax in covering up my work and have myself to blame for the sun bleaching.
That would be a fair assessment had I not then rolled the rest of the fabric down and seen all the other, covered up designs, faded away too. Not just faded, bleeding, and even imprinted on to the covering fabric.
My guess? 60-odd years of greasy heads on this particularly fine pillowcase has imprinted it with oil, despite being Lenor-fresh. Nice.
But dear reader, that is not the disaster of this story. Here is the lovely little Human Femur 2.0 I just completed in single stranded split stitch:
When I took it off the roller, what did I find?
UNEVEN TENSION! Shock horror. Maybe once I put it into it’s tightly fitting little brooch mount it will be ok?
Seems the heavy and robust cotton I was using before can withstand being attached to the frame at just vertical ends, this one is just too refined.
Thank the embroidery Gods for big mercies, but in case you’re wondering, the Hare is ok. Once mounted he looks perfect.