I’ve started collecting butterflies for my butterfly shawl. This is a slow and laborious process wherein I search for butterfly photos on the Internet, find a couple that show the markings clearly, and use them to draw the butterfly, pixel by pixel, in Photoshop. So far I’ve done a painted lady and a monarch butterfly, both drawn on the diagonal:
Not bad, considering the limited number of pixels I’m working with (max of 18 wide for the diagonal butterflies, 40 wide for the vertically symmetric ones). I will probably do a second of the monarch, this one vertically symmetrical and larger, because it’s a big and very recognizable butterfly that would benefit from a little more detail.
The one problem I foresee is that I may run out of big, clearly recognizable butterflies. How many can you name? A couple types of swallowtails, monarch, painted lady, the luna moth of course, and the blue morpho are the ones which pop into my mind. This is not enough to do a 78″ shawl (my usual length), so I’m going to have to do some searching to find other showy butterflies/moths. I may also do some caterpillars! Some caterpillars are quite bright, and it would add a whimsical touch to the shawl. And despite its name as a pest, the sphinx moth is really pretty during its larval stage. (It’s also known as the tomato hornworm – a striking, HUGE green and white caterpillar which will, unfortunately, also chow rapidly through your tomato plants.)
Anyway, this is apt to be a long project, as it takes about half an hour to an hour to convert an individual butterfly, and the diagonal butterflies will wind up only about an inch long when woven. The big, vertically symmetric butterflies will be bigger – maybe two inches – but I expect it will take about 50-60 butterflies and caterpillars to finish out the shawl. I would really like to weave a shawl with no repeats, because I think it would be neat, but if I start getting bored (or run out of butterfly types) I might just make the shawl symmetrical, in which case it would only take about 25-30 butterflies.
At any rate, I plan to convert these files to five-shuttle taquete weaves and try weaving them up as samples. When it comes to the shawl, I’m just going to “wing it” without weaving a test of the design, because each of the butterflies are different. (You could call the entire shawl a butterfly sampler!) I expect it will probably take about 2 months to design and weave the butterfly shawl (especially since about half my free time is currently devoted to drawing exercises), so this will be a slow project – but worth it, I hope!