With barely a breathe after completing the Pansies, I had my next thread painting project lined up. That's the great thing about being a beginner again, your enthusiasm is sky high and you can't wait to get your hands on the next project. Having had success with an Emillie Ferris pattern, I saw no reason to deviate from this path and selected her Painted Lady Butterfly.
This piece features 15 colours and provides ample opportunities to attempt shading between colours. As I wanted to focus on the technique, I followed the colour suggestions and the instructions - up to a point. The instructions for this pattern are just as good as the pansies and you feel as though your hand is being held at every stage. The thread colour guide and visual guide are super useful in helping to determine where the colours should merge as you progress.
You begin with the leaves, flowers, and French knots. I chose to leave the white French knots to the end as they are closet to the butterfly's outline and I didn't want to disrupt and distort them as I worked on the wings. I also reduced the number of them - in Emillie's original design the knots go further towards the centre of the right lower wing but I felt this was too much and focused them on the empty stems. To prevent them getting lost in the design and to give a more pronounced 3D effect, I wound the thread four-five times per knot.
For the butterfly, you work on the lower wings, the body, and then the upper wings with each wing being completed separately. My process differed from the instructions and I worked the lower wings at the same time. I thought it would be easier to work with a single colour on each side to try and achieve a more symmetrical look. While I achieved the desired look, I ran into difficulties as the calico buckled in the centre leaving bumps which prevented a smooth surface for the body. I managed to smooth it out with some gentle stretching of the calico in the frame but was reluctant to go too far in case it warped the shape of the wings. Lesson learnt for next time. The upper wings were completed separately and while the calico remained smooth, I didn't quite achieve the same symmetry. In line with my aim to focus on the technique, I used a single strand of black to fill up the big areas. You could use two strands but I was worried that the thread would twist preventing a smooth finish and actually taking longer to complete as a result.
The background is a piece of old calico from a toile. I enjoyed stitching on this much more than the cotton sheet of the pansies. I found it offered less resistance to the needle and the thread seems to sit on the surface better. I love the more muted and textured background it provides. It did absorb the penciled outline though, making it very difficult to work out the distinct areas. I had to retrace the upper wings which was tricky when half the piece was already stitched and is probably a contributing factor to the different shapes in them.
Despite the tension issues in the calico, I'm really pleased with how this piece came out. My stitching is much more even and nearly all of them follow the direction they should. It was easier to complete and I think this is because there are fewer curves and changes in stitch direction. If I stitched it again, I would try to achieve a more blended look in the wings as the colours are more in more defined blocks although I don't think that takes away from the piece. The completed butterfly now hangs proudly with the pansies and cherry blossom on our bedroom wall - it's really lovely to be able to see my completed works frequently.