Favouring slower paced creative endeavours at the back end of last year, I continued with my very early experimentation with embroidery. After being blown away by the works of art in the thread painting community on Instagram, I wanted to give it a go to see if I could pull it off. I wasn't fully confident. The artistic skills of drawing, painting, and shading have always eluded me due to a lack of patience in getting a good result and the seemingly never ending practice it takes. Hence the focus on sewing and cross stitch where you can often see results and improvement quickly.
I chose the Pansies pattern by Emillie Ferris. I was drawn to the individual flowers which allow you to complete small sections at a time but with a good sense of progress as you tick off the flowers. And who could resist the bright colours?
The pattern states that while some embroidery experience would be beneficial, it isn't necessary. From trying this pattern alone, I agree. Emillie's instructions are brilliant. The PDF file contains pages of detailed instructions on how to trace the pattern onto fabric, how to create long and short stitch, the best areas to begin stitching and why, which colours to use where and each step is accompanied by a full colour in progress picture. In addition, there are useful tips on how to achieve a neat blended finish when you add the next row of stitching. The level of detail provided is reassuring as you start out and as you progress to larger and more complicated pansies.
Long and short stitch did not come naturally to me. I struggled to get a natural, realistic effect when blending colours and achieving smooth curves to reflect real life petals boggled me. The advice to pencil in some stitching guidelines helped a little. Determined to see what the final result would be, I persevered and eventually it became easier. I discovered that if I could get the stitch angles right around the edges of the petals as I covered the split stitch outlines, I would achieve a better curve. If I stopped worrying about filling the space properly as I went along the line, I could get a more natural look by filling the gaps later.
If you look closely, you can see the improvement in my stitching play out in the flowers. Clinging to the instructions to guide me, the lower flowers were completed first before moving anti-clockwise finishing with the yellow and purple pansy at the top left. The earlier flowers are a little lumpy as the thread twisted and overlapped more than the later flowers. They are also more uneven in shape as I didn't get as sharp a line over the split stitch outline and they have more gaps.
Despite my lack of confidence and ability in shading, I found stitching the flower faces where the darker colours blend into the lighter background to be the most satisfying. Through the placement of some carefully positioned longer stitches the flower came together. I enjoyed experimenting with these longer stitches to see the different effects that could be achieved. Again, I think you can see the improvements in blending in the pansies stitched towards the end of the piece.
I chose to stitch onto an old cotton bed sheet which sounded just like a tambourine when pulled taught in the hoop. The threads are DMC of varying qualities. The lighter yellows twisted more than the others - I originally thought it was my stitching at the beginning but it continued as the piece went on. I had no issues with any of the other colours.
While it isn't perfect, I'm proud of this starter piece. I love how you can improvement as I practised and its shortcomings in all their glory. The imperfections are what makes a handmade piece special. The pansies will shortly be hung in our bedroom with the completed cherry blossom hoop and my next project - the Painted Lady Butterfly also by Emillie Ferris. If you're interested to see how this is coming along, I'm sharing regular updates on Insta stories.