The finished piece makes me so happy that I feel like doing a little pirouette around my studio. I began working on it in early December and it took hours – I estimate at least 50 hours – to finished it.
My favorite parts are the feathers on the wings. The shading is just lovely! Do you ever look at work you’ve done and ask yourself “Did I do that?”. I have that feeling with those wings. The improvement in my long and short shading is noticeable.
This piece got me through a long, gray depressing winter. The colors fed my soul and the stitching my mind. I’m glad it’s finished, but I’ll miss working on it too.
Here’s a short slide show of it’s development beginning to end.
When I’d finished the small hillock and sat back to look at the piece, I decided it looked a bit unbalanced to me. The phoenix at the top seems heavier than the hillock and flowers at the bottom. So I added a larger hill to the design. In older pieces of crewel work – especially Tree of Life designs – one often sees hills at the bottom, sometimes with little animals or insects. It’s in keeping with the spirit of the design and I was confident the extra color and texture would help balance the piece. It turns out I was right about the balance, but w*r*o*n*g about how to achieve that balance. It turned out I didn’t need a block of color but rather pattern to balance the design.
I had the brilliant idea (I thought!) of stitching it in the blues of the colors spectrum using long and short shading. I spent the better part of an evening stitching happily away, being really very pleased with the improvement in my long and short shading technique (thank you Tracy Franklin!).
Then I stood up to get a glass of water, looked at the piece as a whole from a distance and saw that this was w*r*o*n*g.
This crewel piece is such fun to stitch! Everything I’ve tried – even if it hasn’t worked they way I hoped – has been just a joy to work. I really think that crewel work is becoming my favorite kind of embroidery…until I work on something different! I love the rich colors of the Renaissance wool and the different textures that wool produces. Unlike silk or cotton, wool is thick and a bit fuzzy. The knots are rougher than ones made with cotton or silk. They’re cozier looking – I just want to sink into them.