I’m traveling at the moment, but have found some time to work on the phoenix. I’ve been testing embellishments – mostly on the head, as that’s the most important part. Here’s what I’ve done so far: most of the crest feathers, the beak, and a little bit of the head.
If you compare it to the original head, you can see there is quite a difference:
The embroidery, especially around the eye, adds sharp detail, bringing the phoenix into focus.
I’m embroidering using DMC #5 perle cotton, which is similar to the weft in size and sheen. I tried using silk embroidery floss, but the finer threads looked out of place. I’m also using two metallic yarns: one very fine thread, used four at a time, to connect the beads to the crest feathers, and a much thicker thread (made with real gold!) for the center of the crest feathers. The thicker thread is too delicate to stitch with, so I’ve couched it down instead.
Embroidery is going slowly, partly because the backing fabric I chose is too tightly woven to work well with the thick threads I’m using. Pushing the needle through the fabric takes significant effort, which is bad for my thumbs as well as my temper. I’ve already decided to use a coarser fabric for the real piece. I have some cotton or linen cloth from my mother’s stash that should prove suitable.
As stitching the head has been very slow going, I had hoped to avoid stitching the entire body as well. Alas, my attempts at laziness have come to naught: the embroidered beak and part of the head look so much nicer than the original that I have decided to do solid embroidery on the entire head. And if I do the head, I really need to do the body, or it will look funny. Fortunately there’s enough division between the body and the wings/tail that, as long as I add a little bit of transition embroidery to connect the two, I shouldn’t have to do solid embroidery on anything else. I do intend to do more embroidery on the wings/tail, both to add a bit of metallic sparkle and to add some dimensionality to the feathers/wings, but nowhere near the amount I’ll need to do for the body.
As much as I’d like to finish stitching the body on the test piece, I’ve decided to move on to other parts of the bird. The test piece is exactly that – a sample meant to test out my embroidery ideas. Stitching the entire body would consume a lot of time. Since I have only about five weeks to complete the entire project, including the embroidery samples, I don’t want to spend one more instant on the sample than absolutely necessary. I know now that I want to embroider the entire body, and that’s all I need from this area of the sample. (I do need to figure out the shading on the body, but that is more easily done via digital painting.)
So the next step will be to test out my embellishment ideas for the tail. I want to add a little detail to the front feathers. There are two layers of feathers in the tail – this is obvious in the digital painting, but not in the woven piece. So the tail looks a bit flat right now; I want to make it look three-dimensional. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to accomplish that yet. Maybe with ribbons, maybe not. Fortunately, I can experiment on the sample.
Meanwhile, the cat-sitter has been sending us a ton of photos of our beloved cats, who look happy and healthy. Here’s Tigress, hanging out in the cat tree.