What a difference a day makes…

miniature embroidered ribcage pendant

Well this is embarrassing.

Ten days since my last post. First of all lets deal with this here silk ribcage, which will go into the Midsummer Collection and which I completed on Wednesday. Then I gots some explaining to do.



I filled in the rest of the shape with my fine fine machine weight silk, chose a couple of other warmer shades for the spine and added some french knot spiny processes and (you probably can’t see this but) some subtle shading lines on the under edge of each rib.


Then I spent some time outlining the ribs in a dark grey cotton. Here’s a better view:


Finally I mounted it in a plain wooden frame:


I know this is well trodden ground for me, but I love to revisit a design and see what improvements I can make as my technical knowledge grows.  I also LOVE how this version pops against the black fabric and how you can tell what it is from across the room.

So, back to my life and stuff. As you know, I have now been living in our ‘dream location’ – the south coast near Brighton – for not quite 2 months now.  I’m currently into my third week at my new full-time job at the whole/health foods workers co-op. My daily commute door to door is only slightly longer than it was in Leeds except that it’s 5 days a week, and the work is pretty standard fare as far as all my years in retail jobs go; I like it, I love being in Brighton every day, I LOVE seeing the sea everyday and I love our flat, the light, the seagulls, the wildlife…all of it.

I do miss my friends though, and I do miss my time. After today it will be 6 days until my next day off, which is my birthday and I have plans for which don’t involve Mother Eagle. In SO MANY WAYS we are living the dream quite literally. I am so blessed to be able to sit here knowing that the uphill road to getting here, lasting nearly 2 years (or 16 years if you’re counting from when the intention was there) has resulted in such a reality. But I am a planner. Somedays a control freak, clutching at the world, trying to bend it to my will. That sounds a bit melodramatic doesn’t it? But my point is, as it pertains to the dropping off in steady work flow into this blog etc, is that subconsciously or otherwise I think I expected to be churning out the goods at a rate similar to when I had the same 4 days off a week as before. You may scoff, but this is the kind of expectation I set for myself. I now live my ‘life’ around a rota system and with that other responsibilities and choices have come up: Sometimes I won’t get home until 9 or 9.30pm. Usually it’s half 7pm. If I don’t want to survive on pasta with pesto and toast and cereal then I better get organised and plan meals and shopping and stuff according to the time I do have. Cook more. Also means when I get home (at the moment) I’m pretty knackered so usually fine hand work isn’t the best way to rest. I’m using my body a whole lot more in my job: lifting, carrying, pushing, and walking more, so I have taken up relaxing yoga again – daily as much as possible to help stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of new energy and stuff to assimilate in your life when everything changes.

I don’t normally talk about my life but it is useful to do so on the blog sometimes because I rarely write down my thoughts and feelings and live in my own head a lot. Some of these things have left me feeling like I’ll have to ‘give up’ Mother Eagle; I want it to be a business, to make a profit, not just an indulgent and expensive hobby which it has felt like lately.

I’m not going to give up though. It’s what I love, how could I? But I do need to listen to people who love me and stop being so hard on myself – it’s a big thing we’ve done, a big big change. I’m going to carry on producing my art as much as I can and as much as I WANT TO. I can’t let Mother Eagle become the mistress of me, I am the mistress of her. So, at least for the next 6 months, I will work at a pace that is still nourishing for me, share with you as always, and actually give myself the chance to experience and enjoy the life down here that we worked so long and hard for.

I’d love to know if any of you out there have ever felt anything like this and what you did?

Thanks for listening folks. I’m going to try and start this bloody Foxglove Stumpwork now.

Second Skull Re-Do

So as with the 3/4’s Skull, let’s do a little compare and contrast…That’s the new version, and here’s the original prototype:

The differences = single strand instead of 2-ply cotton, same colour palette, but honestly the curves of the stitches this time are much better. Very pleased with this re-do.Here’s the step-by-step:

You can see I’m still having a little trouble with my transfer bleeding on this finer fabric.

I took more care to make sure the eyes were squarish, and the cheekbone contouring too.

Not a very good pic (aren’t they all) but showing you the scale really.

Outlined it in mid-grey back-stitch and did the teeth before the eye sockets and nose.

There you are! Took a good couple of hours longer than the original I think.

The Red Death

The Red Death

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.

Yet the composition is lovely to mine eye.



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.