Decades ago, I was encouraged to teach my very first textile class. My kind mentor, Denise Kavanagh, suggested a two-day workshop at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Students created a kimono-like jacket similar to those I made and sold in boutiques throughout the country. Thus began my teaching career!
I no longer teach there but am exhibiting artwork at the Fine Line Kavanagh Gallery. Two of my hand embroideries, Bluebird with Happiness #1 and Bluebird with Happiness #2, are part of the Bird on the Wing exhibit that extends through August 10. I hope you can see it.
This regional arts center has classes in ceramics, jewelry and paper making, dyeing, weaving, glass blowing, and even blacksmithing. You name the art or craft, and the Fine Line has a class for it. It is also a warm and welcoming venue that nurtures artists and beginners like me!
Ever start something and think, “What was I thinking?” To fill in the background of this free-form embroidery, I happily stitch a series of small arcs to build an ogee pattern. The curved lines are made with a stem stitch and a size 12 Forget Me Nots thread.
And then I realize there is a lot of background to fill in! Hours and hours later, the purple felted wool is finally covered with an ocean of ogees. And just like childbirth, I get to experience the happy part once it’s over.
Lingering in my stack of felt is this circle of lime green felt. I choose it because the complementary green color sets off the purple fabric shape and repeats the greens found in the bird and apple. It is meant to be!
After attaching the purple wool to the green, I trim the green felt with a pinking blade and tack it to a turquoise circle of felt. To balance out the texture of the piece, I fill in the green fabric by adding branches of stem stitches surrounded by jolly lazy daisy stitches. That’s a size 12 Green Grass thread making the branches.
To finish the edges, I trim the turquoise felt with the pinking blade. Then fly stitches travel around the pinked edges of the green along with smart little French knots in size 8 Butter thread inserted into each pinked peak.
I had no idea what the final design would be when creating this reimagined embroidery. But it gives me great joy, so I’ve named it Bluebird with Happiness #2.
Have you seen this bird? He’s flashy, full of personality, and bossy too. And to make him even more exotic, I’m adding a contrasting orange curve of back stitches to form his wing cap using a size 8 Oranges thread. The patterning on his wing is made with Fly stitches filled with French knots. Combining stitches like this is a great way to decorate shapes.
But wait! There’s more!
Filling the wing cap are curved rows of chain stitches repeating those same thread colors found in other parts of the bird. For more patterning, I’ve added stripes of stem stitches to his tail. And his jaunty crest is made with lazy daisy stitches filled with straight stitches and topped with French knots. This guy has class!
Tip: Outline Shapes to Make them More Prominent
But to make my classy bird stand out from the background fabric, a thread color with high contrast is needed. And I’ll use those practically invisible blanket stitches that hold the bird in place on the purple wool to do the job. A Peas in a Pod green thread is whip-stitched through the edges of the blanket stitches so his belly and head really pop out from the background fabric. By outlining his body and eye, the bird becomes more prominent and an important element in this design.
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