This is the first in a series of blog posts following my development as an embroiderer.
In this post you'll see my second embroidery. Actually it is three embroideries but they were conceived and created at the same time and I can't exactly remember the order in which I stitched them. I do have my very first embroidery, somewhere. I know that I discovered it a few years ago, smiling as a mother does when she finds an piece of artwork made by her child many years ago when there was lots of passion, but not much skill! I put it somewhere "safe", so safe that I cannot find it for the life of me even though there are precious few places it could be in my little house.
So, what made a 25 year old pick up needle and thread and start making pictures? As a child I was enchanted by my grandmother's embroideries. She lived in the mountains in Croatia where I spent just one week with her. She showed me how to do a couple of stitches and I made a wonky attempt at embroidering a flower. She didn't use a hoop or any sort of frame which I think made it much more difficult for my child's hands. I still remember that the flower was blue. Fourteen years later I visited her mountain home with my husband. My grandmother was long dead, but my uncle and aunt kept the house as a holiday home. I asked if I could see some of Baka's embroideries. There were only a couple of small pieces remaining. They were as beautiful as I remembered. When we returned to England (where we were studying music) I bought some fabric and thread, borrowed a how-to book from the library and made a start. Embroidery has been a constant and integral part of my life ever since.
We begin our journey with my second embroidery which depicts two letters in a medieval illuminated style, a "J" and a "D". Because I wanted the Js to bookend the D I worked a second J and reversed it. I made these embroideries for my sister who framed them and has them hanging on the wall in her bedroom.
Here's how they look on the wall. Unfortunately the frames cut off a little of the top of the Js and the top edge of the frame casts a bit of a shadow which made photographing them up close a bit difficult.
This is the "D" . I had to photograph this piece from the side because there was too much reflection from the glass. I copied these designs from a Medieval Letters Colouring Book that I bought at the Barbican Centre book shop in London. I chose this "D" because I loved the feet and the long beak and thought the body would look good done in satin stitch.
Here's how it looks without the frame. You can see the shadow cast by the upper edge of the frame.
I worked these pieces in 2 strands of Anchor cotton. I outlined the features of the bird with back stitch and then filled in using satin stitch. It was quite difficult stitching the satin stitch filling as I found myself having to pierce the thread on the back of the back stitch to have the satin stitch sit close against the back stitch outline. I remember my hands hurting from having to push the needle through the fabric and the thread. I also remember that it was much worse when I was stitching the Js because the filled areas were so much smaller. The Celtic Knots were worked in 2 rows of stem stitch.
Here you see detail of the head and leg/foot. I actually really like this part. I think "not too bad for a raw beginner".
Knot work in close up: I remember it being a bit of a challenge preserving the over-under pattern of the knot.
Here's the J in its frame. I had trouble photographing this one so this is the only image I have of the whole thing.
Today it wouldn't occur to me to work the dragons teeth this way, but the teeth worked in back stitch with the 2 strand thick thread makes them look really ominous. I like it.
I have no idea what type of creature this guy is or why he reminds me of ducklings and newborn babies.
Celtic knot work on the stem of the J
A closer look at the bottom half of the reversed J.
I think this guy might be a dog.
Scary dragon head in close up (sorry for the bluriness). I must say I'm surprised at the neatness of the purple stitching.
So, there you have it. My second embroidery ever, done 22 years ago.
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I am a hand embroidery artist living and working in the rugged and wild Central HIghlands of Tasmania.