Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Wolfman completed!

He's finished!! Finally, my enigmatic wolfman embroidery is completed. Be warned this post is very image heavy with lots of lovely stitchy pics!  I started him last May so it's been quite an epic piece of work!

He looked back once and then he was gone...

Gratuitous face close up. He looks quite moody doesn't he?

Close up of top half. I like the contrast between the blue top and the natural fur colours

Close up of bottom half. Furry, furry furry! I enjoyed stitching those furry toes!

I've named this piece the same as the sketch that he was based on. Here's a little pic of the sketch again below. I transferred the sketch with a light box and a frixion pen so the final piece is the same size, just about filling an A4 page. I changed him as I wanted when I stitched, and planned that he would loose some of his cartoony-ness and be a bit more realistic when completed, which I think I managed.

I stitched on calico which is my favourite background fabric for furry creatures. For the fur I used about 4-5 colours. I didn't plan what I would use before I started or where I would use the colours, I just picked a colour and started stitching. When it comes to furry embroidery I find this approach works best for me. I just pick a new one when it seems right, and put the stitches where it seems they should be. For non-furry subject I try and pick all my colours at the start, but for some reason that approach doesn't seem right for the animals. The bulk of the fur is two threads of six stranded cotton, with stitches slowly built up, each stitch being a tiny clump of fur. Some small thread highlights in his hair and on his tail were done with 1 thread at the end as the two threads were looking a bit 'blunt' in places and I wanted his hair to look like 'hair'. His top was done with chain stitch to try for a uniform 'fabric' look.
Help! He's looking at me!!!
Upside-down pic of final hair showing overlaid 1 strand highlights
I started with the eyes and the head which I always do with a character piece. I usually like to start with the head when I draw or stitch, as that is where the character lies. I feel I have to get that nailed before I start on the rest. I start with one key fur colour and block in areas, adding new colours as I go. I'm not afraid to stitch over the top of previous stitches if that seems right. I think with fur you can be very free and just put stitches where they need to go! In this pic below you can see me starting to block out areas of colour on the legs. You can see each stitch goes in a slightly different direction, though following the general fur direction of the legs. This gives the fur a nice scruffy look, and makes it look quite natural. Scruffy is cute!

Fur starting to appear. Sorry for the bad progress pictures

I have no idea what the finished piece is about, whether the wolfman is running away from something, or to something. I don't know whether he's looking back to say "I'll be back for you", or "I'll be back to get you". I like the not knowing. I know everything about every piece of his fur and clothes caught in this tiny moment, but nothing about who he is or what he's up to - I love that contrast! 

Half done! 
Lessons learned
I have bad embroidery habits. I am not good at writing down my colour choices, or even keeping the little paper loops that tell me the brand and code of the thread I'm using. Normally, this isn't a problem for the little projects I usually work on, but in this case it meant that I had big gaps when I couldn't work on this project because I'd ran out of thread and couldn't get more until I could physically colour match floss in a shop. I did this like, 4 or 5 times. Hopefully a lesson learned now??? (probably not...).

Final thoughts
The downside to finishing this piece is that I have no big, go-to piece to work on! I loved working on a big piece, and the timescales involved didn't really bother me at all. This is the biggest, most complex piece I have ever stitched and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  I pretty much enjoyed most of it, though the blue top did try my patience a little as I was yearning to get back to the freedom of fur! Time to look out the sketchbooks and find another big project to start!


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Brave little mouse

A lot of my sketches over the Christmas period have been mouse-shaped. I'm not entirely sure why my brain latched on to mice, but I have pages and pages adorned with lots of little mice with swords, armour, and even a few with surcoats and elaborate robes. Little knights and city guards and defenders of justice and honour. Yes, these are the kinds of images that fill my head on a daily basis...I just sort of go with it. In fact, I liked the idea of them so much I quickly picked one and started to stitch him up.
Little mouse takes shape. Split stitch for the smooth fur with a mix of greys, white and browns
As I was settling into my usual furry comfort zone, I started to think about how to represent the armour for this mouse. I could just stitch it, maybe even use some metallic threads, but maybe it was time to start branching out into adding other things to my work, such as beads and buttons. I've never added anything to my embroideries, having always stuck to floss alone, but this small mouse represented a great place to try some new things. Oh and it meant a trip to the sewing shop, which is always a treat!

I had a little think and thought that sequins could be used to represent armour.  I've never used sequins before, so that was a learning process, but I was relieved to find they are quite easy to use, and they layered up rather nicely like scale armour. They also come in just about every colour imaginable! I was pleased to get a few packs in nice 'armour' colour such as black, gold and bronze. Rather than stitching the sequins on with thread that crosses across the front of the sequins to anchor them, I used the anchor bead method. This is where you pass the thread from behind the fabric through the sequin, through a matching bead then back through the sequin to the back of the fabric. The bead used must be larger than the hole through the sequin, as it is the bead which holds the sequin onto the fabric. Be sure and knot the thread at the back after you've attached each sequin. This makes things more secure and means that a loose thread won't result in all your sequins falling off! I quite like this method, it was quick and easy and gave the armour a nice texture. It was easy to overlap them too with this method, and very little thread shows on the front. Here's a quick closeup of how the finished sequins look.
I love how the anchor beads add to the overall 'armoured' look
I quite like the sequin texture, but I wasn't sure about the shinyness of it all for a while, as I added them before I finished stitching up the mouse. Once I added more shading and depth to the mouse the sequins slowly started to feel like more of a part of the embroidery. I do like the effect and think I might use it again, but I'm looking forward to trying some other methods too. Here's the hooped up mouse in all his finished glory, looking cute but also a little fierce.

The sword was made from a tiny piece of metallic leather and adds a nice sparkle to balance the armour, another first for me! I decided that the mouse alone in a hoop didn't look quite right, so decided to name him. Captain Elgin just sounded right, so I stitched his name in a handwritten style below him. Now he feels finished, and the design sits very nicely in a hoop as well. I hope to do a few mice to try a few different techniques and looks. I mean, how about tiny buttons for mouse armour? Can't you just imagine a little mouse gathering lost and stray shirt buttons to fashion his motley armour? Adorable! 


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A reboot

Getting out of the habit of weekly blog writing certainly makes it difficult to get back into. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it seems to become...and just how exactly did it get to be the end of January already?  I have no real excuse for my blogging lapse, other than I decided to let my blog take a back seat while I focused on other things. Possibly including desperate last minute Christmas present crafting, sledging and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate.
The local park in all its winter glory
There have been a few changes in the Niche household over the Christmas period, biggest one being me giving up my beloved natural history museum curator job to be a full time Mum to my three year old. Not an easy decision, but almost a month in and I'm loving it and have absolutely no regrets. The outcomes so far are that our household is calmer, less irritable, more organised and much happier (oh and possibly cleaner too :). Another super bonus is that I'm sitting here writing this and crafting while the little 'un is at playgroup, so two days a week I get a full two hours a day of daytime creating...which is an absolute joy. I'm being really strict with this time and keeping it all for me, with NO HOUSEWORK ALLOWED. It does mean being quite organised, but I'm working on a few planning things to help with that.
The dining table, taken over by my laptop, ironing board, notebooks and general embroidery paraphernalia
Although I didn't blog over the Christmas period, I wasn't slacking in the making department. I made some Christmas presents for family, completed a few projects I'd been working on, started a few more, and even worked on some ACEO's for a convention I'm hoping to attend in April.
The 'in progress' pile. The little stitched armoured mouse in the bag is finished and awaiting hooping up. Will post some big pics soon! And yes, the wolfman is practically complete, just need some gold floss for his earring!
I even did some craft organising over the quiet of Christmas, and purchased some more boxes for my floss. Even just looking at those boxes inspires me. So...many...colours! I also got some lovely hand-dyed floss as part of my leaving present from work, which I'm carefully coveting until I find just the right project...I even had to label a new 'hand dyed floss' box which was very exciting. Please tell me someone else loves labelling things as much as I do???
*drool* my floss collection is slowly but surely growing
I also featured in my first exhibition, albeit unintentionally! In this post I spoke about the badger I embroidered for an Embroiderers Guild project about the centenary of the museum building I worked in. Well, the final textile book featured in an exhibition entitled 'Inspiration', an exhibition of work by the Dundee and East of Scotland branch of the guild. The exhibition was fantastic, and I came away from my visit awed and excited, and very very inspired! Oh and just a little bit chuffed to see my little stitched badger in amongst the other work. I'm hoping to join the guild this year, and I look forward to learning a lot and meeting a lot of new stitchers!


PS. I'm having trouble with getting batteries to last more than a few seconds in my digital camera, so I'm afraid it might be poor quality phone photos for a while.