Happy New Year Everyone! I had a great Christmas, one of the best ever, with unusual food (Lebanese) and great company and as, for once in a long while, someone else was doing all the work (I think I dried some dishes), I had time to enjoy it. Now I can reveal what I was making in the run up to Christmas. I couldn’t risk posting anything about it earlier, in case either of my children saw what I was making for them.
For my daughter I embroidered a Family Tree of sorts. It shows her as a little girl with her parents and brother at the bottom of the tree, while around the tree top are all the animals she has loved. It is deliberately primitive, so the ant is bigger than the turtle, arms and legs are a little stumpy and the tree is not very tree-like.
I chose a linen textured, neutral colour, cotton background to embroider onto and decided to stick to black and white thread, except for the figure of my daughter. She is in colour because this is her story. My husband didn’t agree that I should make this in black and white, and once I had started I thought he might be right. But I also worried that it might look garish in colour and would look uneven because several of the animals were black or black and white, others were brown, and then there would be a green turtle and a blue budgie among them. It didn’t feel right, so I persevered. Then a kind friend told me that black and white on linen was very on trend. In that case, I thought, maybe it will be OK. My confidence did falter from time to time but now I am glad I did it this way and my daughter loves it, so that ‘s all that matters.
When I finished the embroidery I backed it with a simple black and white print and added a label. Then I framed it for her, so she will never see the back or the label unless she takes it out of the frame. I always stitching on the label very hard as I rarely practise lettering and that is something I need to do. And with my eye sight these days, back stitch is a real chore. Just as well it’s not visible, eh?
I was fortunate in being able to find a grey frame with a distressed finish, that sets off the black, white and colour quite well. I finished the embroidery with only days to go before Christmas and worried I wouldn’t find a frame to fit, let alone match. I hadn’t done anything sensible like plan the size of the finished embroidery to fit an existing frame ahead of time, though I will certainly do this in future.
The idea for the embroidery is adapted from a drawing I saw online. I simplified the top of the tree, added more leaves, thickened the trunk and replaced most of the farm animals around it with beloved pets. I altered the horse though it remained in the same position and added a face to one of the cats. I altered the hair of two of the figures, so they would look more like the family my daughter would remember, and my daughters dress “of many colours”. I would love to say it’s all my own design but much of it is borrowed and inspired by someone else. So thank you, Rebecca, whoever and wherever you are. I want to acknowledge your significant part in this Christmas gift for my daughter. I hope you won’t mind, as it is for personal use only. There will never be another.
My son is head arborist at the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley in Surrey, so it seemed appropriate to embroider a Green Man for him. For those unfamiliar with The Green Man, he is a Pagan nature spirit that frequently appears carved, in wood or stone, in places of worship both in the UK and abroad. Again, this pattern was adapted from a drawing I came across. I very much wanted to stitch it with ‘Glow in the Dark’ thread, so it would glow in his room when the lights went off. However it was not to be. The green Glow in the Dark thread (Gutermann) was too expensive and the slightly cheaper one (DMC), was white. I did buy this and began using it but realised my Green Man was going to end up looking more like Santa and that was NOT what I wanted. Also, the Glow in the Dark thread was extremely hard to sew with. The strands kept separating and bending away from the eye of the needle when I tried to thread it. So I gave up on that idea and began using variegated thread instead.
You can see the Glow in the Dark thread used for the start of his moustache here, later removed.
I wanted the top of his head to look as if it had been caught by sunlight, and for the colour to merge slowly into olive green leaves around this face and then into a darker green for his beard. I planned to add some of the darker green to the top and more olive green to the bottom, so the whole thing would be more cohesive, but it didn’t work out that way. I also planned to stitch in a wood effect background, to suggest that he has emerged from a tree but lost confidence in the idea, feeling that introducing another colour and pattern would produce an overly fussy result. As Christmas grew nearer, I worried that any more decoration might be too much and I might ruin the whole thing. There was no time to start again.
At first the outer edges were turned in with quite a generous hem and tacked down. I am glad I did this, because it gave me the opportunity to enlarge or reduce the edge later to fit the frame, before I cut it to size and sewed the back and front pieces of fabric together and removed the tacking stitches.
I had chosen to add a thin, low loft, batting between the front and back of my daughter’s embroidery but for my son I simply added a green cotton backing without any batting. I felt this sat better in the frame, flatter and less prone to dimpling. I add a label (which I forgot to photograph) printed with ‘Especially for You’ and then stitched ‘Love from Mum 2017 x’ onto it, as before. It is an 8 x 5 inch image in a 12 x 14 ‘Rustic’ frame. I didn’t mean it to be so large but that’s how it turned out.
He looks more like Herne the Hunter to me than a Green Man. Herne is associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire, a ghost who is said to wear antlers upon his head. I hope my son likes it. It is not as personal as the one for my daughters, so something more personal would be a better idea for the future, I think.
Here we are at the start of a new year and I feel refreshed and full of new ideas. However, I have an EPP quilt and a Indian Kantha experiment part done, abandoned in December in order to get these embroideries done for my children in time for Christmas. There are to be no UFO’s (unfinished objects) languishing in boxes this year, so, onwards!
Until next time…..