Sunday, August 30, 2015

Project Complete: Celtic-Inspired Embroidered Tunic

Back in the fall of 2014, when I started this project, I knew I was probably biting off more than I could chew. This is definitely one of those instances where the vision in your mind, and the lure of potential end up setting you down a path you might not actually be ready for or interested in taking. As my husband and I talked over what to do with this gorgeous linen, we dreamed rather wildly about all the things it could be. The finished reality is less than those dreams, but worlds more than I thought I was capable of back when I started.

The tunic itself is nothing new or special in terms of construction and method. The linen kind of speaks for itself. It's an amazing weight- light but not handkerchief, and very comfortable against the skin. I suspect that my husband will wear a shirt underneath (to protect the raw back of the embroidery), but he wouldn't need to. All the sewing is done by hand with black linen thread, but I used a thicker pearl cotton for the top stitching to make it stand out a bit more.

I began the embroidery by using that same pearl cotton to outline the entire design. I used stem stitch for this and it went pretty fast. I think I had that all done after 4 day's work. I'd actually already started some of the fill embroidery, but realized that having the outline in place first was the better way to go.

The main fill of the two wolves is split stitch. The stitches vary in length (because I'm not a machine), but the average stitch length falls around 3/32". Which is probably why this thing took so long.

I used chain stitch, at about a 1/8" stitch length, for the birds. From a distance it makes no difference, but up close, the chains look a bit more like feathers. It also went a lot faster than the split stitch. And "faster" was sort of my motto by the halfway point of this.

The white areas were completed using either split or chain stitch. The gold bits are all satin stitch.

The white, blue and pink are Caron Impressions, a 50/50 wool/silk crewel thread. It stitches like silk, but has a soft fuzziness from the wool, and is one of my favorite threads. It was the perfect weight for this linen. The gold is 100% silk from Trebizond (Burnished Gold).

I chose the stripe/net treatments in the interior portions of the creatures right at the end. Originally the entire this was going to be solid filled, but as I got closer to that point, I realized that I needed more visual texture and I liked the idea of some transparency within the design. I was afraid that if the whole thing was solid it would look too heavy on the linen. I think the stripes are kind of quirky, but the effect was exactly what I think it needed.

This project has taken me close to 2 years from the moment I first started cutting out the tunic to the last stitch on the design. It's the second longest-running UFO I ever had. (The first is the pair of black wool hose, sitting in a drawer to my left.) As I completed this embroidery, I realized that this kind of embroidery style isn't one I that draws a lot of interest from me. On a technical level, I'm glad I had the challenge to use skills I knew I possessed on a grander scale, but I'll think twice the next time "potential" starts carrying a project away. All things told, however, I'm very happy with the end result, and I am proud of this piece.

You can see more images in the Flickr album or over on Facebook.

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