Details matter. Sometimes, we might be tempted to overlook or forego the little details, thinking that they would never be noticed and never be missed. But in hand embroidery, it’s often the little details that make the biggest difference.
After finishing the goldwork on the petals on the first Tudor rose on the Medallion project, there was a side of me that wanted to forego some detail work. Pressured by time and by a certain weariness with the project – yet still driven by a great eagerness to see the whole thing finished and the design completely realized – I was sorely tempted to skip some of the detail work.
One particularly bit of detail work I considered giving a miss was the dark outline around the Tudor rose and the inside petals of the rose. You can see in the photo above that the outside of the rose and the inside petals are not at all outlined. Do they have to be outlined? Not necessarily – there is a finished look about them already. But outlining provides more of a finish. It provides the illusion of shadow. Outlines on this type of embroidery make the elements pop out. Outlines give depth, where there is no depth.
But they are detail work. And would anyone really notice if I decided to forego the outlines?
There’s a saying that “the devil is in the details.” How do you interpret that? I’ve always thought it meant that, when you get to the detail work, that’s where you run into problems. That’s where you discover the little irritating difficulties, those little things that you didn’t see before. Facing the detail work, especially details you think no one will ever miss, requires a certain determination to forge ahead and overcome, no matter what obstacles crop up. Sometimes, it’s just devilishly hard to face the little details!
And then there’s another saying – “God is in the details.” I don’t know which saying came first, but this one presents a different perspective on detail work. The notion is that perfection is found in the detail – that the “whole” of the thing is only realized when the details are realized.
And while I struggled with the question of whether or not I’d actually bother with the details, I came to the realization that, even if no one else noticed the detail, I would know.
Keeping in mind that the work is to be seen from afar, wherever I want a shadow or a clean outline, even if there is already a hint of a shadow there created by the stitching, this hint has to be exaggerated in order to be seen. This is where outlining comes in.
Soie 100/3 is the Perfect Silk for outlining. It is a tightly twisted, fine silk thread. It is The Thread to use for sharp outlines around goldwork and other embroidery, where you want to add the hint of a shadow or the neat, sharp finish of the edge.
For the detail work around the Tudor roses, I chose a very dark red-brown, and the stitch I’m using is the stem stitch. Soie 100/3 is a z-twisted silk. In order for the stem stitch to maintain its rope-like, twisted appearance, the stem stitch has to be worked a little differently when stitching with a z-twisted thread. You can read about this in my previous article on stem stitch with z-twisted threads. When working the stem stitch with the Soie 100/3, I also use a laying tool, because it makes it easier to place the stitches and to avoid twisted thread during stitching.
And here is the rose, outlined with Soie 100/3.
Using Photoshop, I put together two halves of the rose, so you can see one half with the outline and one half without. Can you tell which is which? Do you think the extra step of outlining worth it, or not? Have your say below!
If you would like to follow along with the Medallion Project from beginning to end, learn a bit about the backstory, or pick up some of the tips and techniques discussed along the way, you can find all the articles pertaining to this project arranged chronologically on the Medallion Project Index page.