Thursday, September 22, 2011

Miko's Lips

Miko's Lips Stitched
Miko Unstitched
Because of the interest in tips on stitching better faces, I thought I'd talk about Miko's mouth and just how I stitched it. Hopefully this will give the face-challenged ideas on how to improve their next needlepointed person.  If you look at the unstitched photo of Miko on the right, you will see what Miko's lips looked like before I stitched them.  The closeup photo above is after I finished her mouth.

I used four plies of a burgundy silk to stitch her lips and a doubled strand of Petite Silk Lame Braid in a slightly lighter burgundy for the white highlight you see painted in the header photo.  You don't have to match the paint color exactly on a canvas, you know, and I decided that white was too stark.  Probably Leigh wanted us to see the highlight and used white to make sure we didn't overlook it. The highlight isn't that visible in the photo, so I took a good look at the actual piece and considered whether I needed to rip out what I'd done and restitch with a lighter shade of burgundy to make the wet look of the metallic/silk blend more visible.  I decided finally not to change it, but you might like a lighter shade here.

Whatever you decide on a similar design, silks and silks with a metallic blend like Silk Lame Braid are good choices for mouths.  Silk has a sheen to it that looks very natural when you use it on lips.  The metallic part of the Silk Lame Braid catches the light and makes the lip look real.  Of course cotton works pretty well for a mouth (I wouldn't use wool unless you have a rag doll where wool embroidery stitches look right) but I use silk when I can.  I just like that sheen that even spun silk thread has.  I don't think it matters much whether you choose floss or perle type threads but I always stick to the same type thread on a face. I used floss for her skin so I used floss for her eyes and nose and everything but her eyebrows and the highlight in her eyes.  Mixing styles of threads sometimes looks odd to me because perle threads tend to be fatter and more rounded looking than flosses.  It just looks weird to mix the two on a face in my opinion.  If you are mixing thread styles, this might be causing the problems you see.  Be careful even when using flosses.  Different brands have different diameters.  High Cotton floss is thicker than Splendor silk or DMC floss, for example.  You may need to use three plies of High Cotton and four of DMC, for example.  Otherwise some of your tent stitches may be skimpier/fuller than others which will give the face an uneven look.  This might be appropriate for a monster, but not a geisha.

Ok, enough about threads and highlights.  Take a careful look at the photos of Miko again.  See the top row of her mouth, those two stitches separated by a pink stitch?  I originally didn't stitch either in red. I omitted the stitches entirely, thinking that all should actually be skin colored.  But when I finished the mouth, it was obvious I needed to make at least one stitch red, so I did.  I liked just using one red stitch instead of two separated by a pink stitch.  There are only 30-31 stitches to her mouth and each one has the potential to change her expression.  So pay attention to the features of your piece.  One stitch may be really necessary or unnecessary.  Be prepared to rip out or add stitches to get the effect you want.  Or omit a painted stitch entirely if you must.

You don't see it here because Miko's face is turned to the right, but occasionally a tent stitch needs to be reverse tent or a cross stitch because the slant / is going in the wrong direction and makes that stitch too pointy.  Turning / into \ or making the stitch a big X instead of just a tent stitch / will help in those situations if you used basketweave or tent stitches on your face.  Of course this doesn't apply if you used brick stitches or another stitch for your face.

Back to the Before and After photos, there is a black line that curves slightly on her lips to define the top and bottom lip.  It sort of looks like someone took the letter L and turned it face down, then sat on it to squash it slightly.  I used one ply of black silk to top stitch the squashed L look.  I made three attempts to get the line placed just so.  It can't be too straight or too slanted or too high or low on her mouth.  But with patience and some ripping out, I got it right.

I hope all this detail is helpful when you stitch your own face.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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  1. Love your canvas of the day. Thanks for the tips on Miko's lips, faces can truly be frustrating. Sheena having a little Sunshine today.

  2. The Canvas of the Day Sheena likes is from Princely's bookmark collection. I choose the Asian dragon one but there are bookmarks for all tastes. You can see them at Fireside's bookmark page. Sorry, you'll have to copy/paste this link. I can't make them clickable here in the comments.

  3. That is such a useful discussion of stitching facial details, Jane. I really appreciate your guiding your readers through your thought process in choice of threads, stitches and placement.


  4. Thank you for all your tips. I learn a lot from your blog and love seeing the beautiful work emerge.
    I have a question about the lips. Why did you choose this stitch? I would have tried a satin stitch to accentuate the smoothness of the lips. I would love to know your thought process. Thanks.

  5. Judith, I did consider satin stitch briefly but went with tent stitches. This is a model for Leigh Designs, and I'm doing a stitch guide for it. That means if I have two choices for stitching a section of a canvas, I'll always choose the one most folks will find easier. Satin stitch intimidates some people, although you are perfectly right--it would make beautiful, smooth lips. This is also why I choose the stitches I did for her hair. I wanted something relatively easy to stitch for her hair that would convey sparkle and elegance. I'm always thinking about the person trying to follow my stitch guide, you see.

  6. Whoops! Judith, I forgot about the highlight. Doing it on top of satin stitches would be a little difficult, at least I decided it would be. Better to do something easier was my thought.

    I'm lazy, I admit it! LOL

  7. I love what you did with Miko's lips, and I really appreciate your taking the time to write down your thought process and the steps it took to execute this. It's a big help! Thanks!!!

  8. As usual, Jane....great tips about faces. Thanks for the ideas. We all struggle with faces and the details of eyes and lips.

    Miko is gorgeous.

    Sue V

  9. Looks great! I have been reading along, just had not had a chance to comment before today!

  10. It's nice to hear from you, Pat. Hope you are having a great time and that you'll be home soon.

  11. Thanks, Sue. I had no idea faces were a problem for so many people, so this has been very interesting for me to work on to try and explain what I do in case it's helpful.

  12. I have never stitched a (human) face before, now that I think about it, so I found your entries about Miko's face fascinating. Maybe I won't feel so intimidated about faces and will finally try a canvas with one. Hmm, I don't think my canvas of Bob the Builder really counts as a challenging face, but it's an easy one to start with!

  13. Go for it, Wendy! Doing Bob the Builder and having it the way you want will make you more confident about the next piece that has a portrait.

  14. Lovely effect on the lips! Thanks for sharing all the details on how to achieve this effect.