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Monday, June 22, 2009
The Bee from SharonG
I've had this fabulous little canvas from SharonG in my stash for a while. There are two versions of it. The larger piece has the bee hovering over a rose, I think, but I can't find it online. My piece is of the little bee by itself and I just love it! This canvas is 18 count and is about 5 inches square. The bee itself is maybe 2 inches high and a little less wide.
I always knew how I was going to stitch this--I planned to add a silk ribbon embroidery (SRE) flower under the bee and frame it in a shadow box to make room for a dimensional flower yet protect the piece with glass. I live along a dirt road and don't have air conditioning so there is constant dust coming into the house through open windows. Therefore, I always put glass over framed pieces to protect them. I've kept my eyes open for the perfect shadow box frame and finally found a white one with a cream mat. The mat opening was 4 inches square, perfect for this canvas.
However, to squeeze in a SRE flower was going to take some doing! I decided I needed to put the mat over the canvas in several positions and decide exactly what area I would need to stitch before I did anything else. What you see on the right is the position I decided on. I thought it would give me enough room to add a flower in the lower left hand corner to make it seem as if the bee was coming in for a landing on the flower center. I carefully marked the area I would need to fill with background.
I already knew how I planned to stitch the little jewel of a bee (metallics, mostly tent stitches) but the background was a puzzle. SharonG suggested I use something that indicated it was raining. I thought about that for a while as I browsed my stitch books. As usual, I settled on a stitch from one of Brenda Hart's books-Diagonal Brick (from her Favorite Stitches, page 49). This stitch resembles two parallel slanted lines // and is done horizontally. Below you see the background underway and the bee's body stitched (tent stitches) using black and two shades of gold Kreinik with some overdyed Kreink in the grayish-white area.
To do Diagonal Brick you stitch a pair of long slanted stitches over four thread intersections, then skip over an area that could hold two more stitches, then do another pair of stitches, repeat for the entire row. The second row is the same as the first except that you put your pair of slanted stitches in the empty areas of the first row, skipping down two thread intersections to start the new pair of Diagonal Brick over the third intersection. Repeat endlessly. You will notice I used a pretty variegated blue silk floss (two plies, so I was carefully laying the silk with my laying tool the whole background) from Thread Gatherer called Delphinium. To me it looks just like blue sky with a little white mist of clouds here and there. Doesn't look like rain, does it?
Not to worry! I had A Plan to add rain later. Once the background was finished, I carefully over-stitched a few pairs of Diagonal Brick with a strand of light blue Accentuate #032. Since I scattered the Accentuate at random over the background, there is a little "wet" sparkle here and there as if it was just starting to sprinkle. You probably can't see the metallic thread on the piece but in person it is a really great effect. Thanks for the idea, SharonG!
The wings of the bee were beautifully painted with copper and black but some areas were unpainted to show white. I stitched the wings in layers. The first layer was more Accentuate (clear #300) in long stitches laid on the diagonal from one wing edge to the other. This adds sparkle but allows the paint colors to show. Layer #2 was stitching the veins, either in black or copper Kreinik using #4 braid in stem stitches). I used a small, sharp needle which went right though the first layer of Accentuate. Layer #3 outlined the wings with more black Kreinik in more stem stitches. The veins and outlines stand out while the Accentuate shows off the lovely painted detail through a slight film of sparkle. Not all the black veins are top-stitched, by the way. The smallest ones I left alone to make them less prominent. You can still see the lines through the clear Accentuate.
This photo shows the bee wings stitched and the background done. I stitched right over the painted antenna and wings with my background stitches, then looking at the copy of the canvas I made before I started, I stem-stitched the antenna (more black Kreinik #4 braid) back on top of the Diagonal Brick stitches. In the photo above the antenna are done but the legs haven't been added back in yet.
The next step once the background and bee were stitched was to add the flower. I consulted Helen Ericksson's Ribbon Renaissance: Artistry in Silk, which has the most beautiful silk ribbon flowers you'd ever want to see. I decided on her peony rose, and started to search for peony photos to help me plan where the flower petals should go.
My favorite place to look for inspiration photos online is Flickr. Head over to their main page and search the public photos and you'll find lots of ideas, shapes and sizes of flowers.
Search on your favorite flower and you'll see what I mean. Look for a photo that shows you the shape you need, then pick out another that shows the stem and leaves of your flower species well and a third that shows how the center where the pistils are well. Print them out, then cut out the shape and see how it looks on top of your stitched piece. This is what I came up with.
Now it's time to test ribbon. I had 9mm, 7mm and 4mm ribbon in various shades of pink and variated pink in my stash and decided I would mix colors and types to achieve a realistic flower.
I knew most of my peony would be done in Japanese ribbon stitch (called ribbon stitch in Helen's book) so I practiced some stitches in various brands of silk ribbon so see how they looked before I started actually stitching my flower. This is what I came up with. The pale pink ribbon is YLI's Spark Organdy ribbon in pink 002. This ribbon is 9mm wide. The variagated pink ribbon is River Silk's V No. 106 (the V stands for variagated). This ribbon is smaller, only 4 mm wide. I ended up using it and the solid medium pink River Silk S19 as well as a hand dyed 7mm ribbon called Petals in Rainbow Sherbet (pinks with a touch of peach) from Sweet Child of Mine.
Following Helen's instructions, I worked the flower in layers, back to front, stitching some petals on top of back petals with a sharp crewel needle and leaving room in the center for the pistils of the flower center. I had some frosted yellow long bugle beads from Blue Moon Beads that I added for the center as the last step in stitching this piece. One long thread of silk perle Grandeur #G848 in wrapped stem stitch added the stem. I decided I didn't have enough room to do a leaf. I think that I should have used wider ribbons than I had for the flower to make it look like a peony (it is more like a chrysanthemum) but this was an experiment. Scale is very important in stitching realistic pieces and my flower is really too small for the bee but this was a learning experience. And it certainly is charming.
Here is SharonG's bee finished, then framed in its little shadow box.
This tiny design was a very fast stitch as SRE and the Diagaonal Brick are fast to do. Most of my designs are larger and I break down how they were stitched into multiple blog entries, but since this was small I decided to experiment and just describe everything in one long essay. I hope you enjoyed watching this as much as I enjoyed stitching it!
Anyone who wants to pick up this canvas and try stitching a flower of their own? It's available here and many other shops, too.
UPDATE: If you are at all hesitant about trying silk ribbon embroidery on your needlepoint, check out what Judy Harper is doing with one of her birthday crazy quilt pattern hearts. Isn't that pretty/!
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