Painted Lady Butterfly Needle Painting

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. 

Painted Lady Butterfly needle painting embroidery pattern by Emillie Ferris.jpg

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. 

Painted Lady Butterfly thread painting embroidery.jpg

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.

Butterfly silk shading embroidery art hoop.jpg

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. 

Butterfly embroidery pattern by Emillie Ferris.jpg

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. 

Pansies embroidery hoop

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. 

Pansy needle painting hoop art, design by Emillie Ferris.jpg

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? 

Multiple pansy embroidery using long and short stitch.jpg

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.  

Pansy needle painting hoop art.jpg

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. 

Small pansy thread painting embroidery. Design by Emillie Ferris.jpg

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. 

Pansy embroidery hoop art created through thread painting.jpg

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. 

Long and short stitch embroidery art.jpg

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. 

Emillie Ferris Multi Pansy Embroidery Hoop Art.jpg

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