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.
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.