Every now & then, I will see artwork that is so amazing and wonderful that I just have to try it for myself. Not because I think I can do better or even comparable, but maybe just to feel the same joy of creating something that makes my artsy side sing.
So I was enthralled when I discovered the work of costume embroiderer Michele Carragher, most notably on her work for the costumes in Game of Thrones. I am a big fan of GoT, and actually did notice quite a bit of her work in the show without knowing it…Sansa’s dragonfly, Cersei’s lions, and the Thirteens’ insects.
As an example of her beautiful work, here is a photograph from her website of a details of Cersei’s kimono-dress, with an embroidered bird. This is the one that inspired me the most..
Now I am a pretty crafty person, but I don’t know much about embroidery….but it nibbled and ate at me, until I had to try it for myself. Having never done embroidery before, really, it would make for an interesting venture.
I got my supplies right away, based on what I THOUGHT I’d need. (When the mood strikes, I gotta get that junk NOW.) I sketched my pattern onto a smooth cotton piece and got to work. Of course, I thought I’d try a mockingbird first. My favorite mockingbird sketch, one that I had once shared with my granddad, a woodcarver. I had also purchased a thin book on embroidery stitches, but I rarely looked at it. I mainly sort of made it up myself. Did I also mention that I’m quite impatient? …I am.
I think the outline is done in what is called called a “running stitch.” Or in my case, a “stumbling stitch.”
After the outline, I started with the darker portions, sort of filling in the shadows. Now, if you’re looking for fancy needlework, you’ll find none of that here, sir. Like I said, I am quite impatient. I tried a few techniques from “leaf” stitches, but primarily just did a basic filler stitch. So it’s all sort of wonky and crooked. I looked at a printout of the sketch for reference, and used it to sort of plan out the next steps.
Next step: adding a slightly lighter shade of gray. Here’s where the only bit of fanciness comes in: I learned about a sort of feather stitch from this amazing resource for stitches, and did a few fancy curved feathers at the edge of the upper wing joint. It kind of looked like feathers! This made it feel a little bit like a “real” embroidery project. Like I sort of knew what I was doing. (…I didn’t.)
And then lighter and lighter shading. It was almost like painting, so in that respect I quite enjoyed it.
This next part was my favorite. I had gotten several little beads, jumpers and metal pieces from the jewelry section of the craft store. I sort of placed them for texture with tiny stitches onto what I had already sewn. I loved how the little brass tubes made interesting texture on the bird’s feet, and the effect of the circle jumpers in the feathers made me happy.
A detail of my shoddy stitchwork. If you have a background in needlework or embroidery, you should look away…
And finally, for better or worse, here is the final piece, with red cherry blossoms added.
So there it is! It took about four days to complete. I worked on it during a visit to see family. I know the stitches are wonky and misshapen, and the final result looks like NOTHING nearly as beautiful as Michele Carragher’s work, but this is what came of it. And it was FUN! Aside from a few cursed knots and foul tangles, it wasn’t too stressful. And, always one to multitask, I could either have a conversation, watch a program, or listen to an audiobook while I stitched. I will say that it did seem to age me a bit, sitting around an airport, hunched over my embroidery hoop. But thankfully, I don’t really mind what other people feel about my “look.” I had a little travel bag for it, and it was super easy to carry around, super easy to just pick up & work on.
In retrospect, I could maybe have hidden my outline stitches (or not had them at all), and paid a lot more attention to symmetry in my stitches so they were more even. But ya know, when inspiration strikes, ain’ t nobody got time for things like “detailed stitching.” So there ya go. My mockingbird. Quite wonky & crooked, but I like him nonetheless. In looking back, her stitches were lighter and more airy, while mine are much more heavy-handed. Aaaaah well.
I’m not sure what to DO with him now. From what I understand, I could glue down the stitches on the backside, cut it out, and reattach it to something else. I may do that. Or I could just leave it on the hoop & hang it up on the wall. I’m not sure.
…In any case, I liked it so much, I’m working on a beetle next.