For a while now, I’ve been hinting about a project I’ve been working on that I wanted to show you soon.
And Soon has finally arrived! Yay!
I’ve been working on a collection of “smalls.” Smalls are little pieces of embroidery or other needlework that usually get finished into (small) things.
I’ve called this collection of four smalls A Thousand Flowers. It’s a group of four tapestry smalls featuring animals set in a floral background, all as a nod to my favorite pieces of textile art that we chatted about the other day.
The title A Thousand Flowers hails from the French mille fleur. The mille-fleur backgrounds of medieval tapestries are delightful! And they don’t belong solely to the medieval age. Check out tapestries from the Arts & Crafts era, and you will find that Morris and his contemporaries, leaning toward medieval themes, incorporated this same background approach in their own textile art. A different stylization, perhaps, but no less abundantly floral!
My first approach to these tapestry smalls was to decide on a size.
With the enchanting plethora of embroidered jewelry trending these days, I found the idea of a jewelry bezel setting quite fetching! To that end, I picked a common size – 32mm, or 1.25″ in diameter. It’s not too big to be cumbersome, but not so small as to be indistinguishable. I used the bezels that I wrote about here to finish some of the smalls.
To fit the size and still get in enough detail, I experimented with different gauges of silk gauze, finally settling on 48 count (48 holes per inch).
The nice thing about jewelry bezels is that they can be used not only as jewelry, but as ornaments (add a hanger rather than a chain), key fobs, and as other small-use settings.
My animals – which began as a rabbit, dog, cat, squirrel, deer, unicorn, and poor attempt at a monkey – are more modern than medieval. Perhaps they’re for the animal lover of today, more than for the cartoonist of 700 years ago? I think they are.
Besides working as inserts for jewelry bezels, the finished designs can be made into… well, anything! Anything that you can make out of a small, round, stitched thing!
I like them as scissor fobs. I like them as little Christmas ornaments!
They can be mounted onto covered buttons and made into multiple items, like one of these scissor-pull lanyards. Glue a strong magnet to the back, and make yourself a needle minder. Make a little pin keep!
This is why I love small things! Once your imagination gets going, you can discover all kinds of uses for little pieces of stitchery.
I settled on four tapestry smalls altogether. A bunny was essential, as they are quite prolific on medieval tapestries. I happen to love squirrels, so they made the cut. And then, of course, we had to have representatives of the cat and dog families, because what would life be, without them?
I stitched three of them (all but the squirrels) on 48 count silk gauze, and I didn’t limit myself in color choices when preparing the projects. There are 15 colors of silk in each small.
I decided to try the squirrels on 40 count silk gauze, which produces a 1.5″ small – perfect for ornaments, fobs and the like, but not as common for jewelry bezels.
And of course, they can be stitched on lower count gauze. They can also be worked in cross stitch on even-weave linen. I personally wouldn’t go lower than, say, 32 count linen stitched over one thread, in order to keep the pixelation a little less pronounced. The lower the count of linen (or the larger the x’s) in cross stitch, the more pixelated the final outcome of the piece.
But on 32 count or higher, the smalls could be finished into larger ornaments, pin keeps, and other doodads. There’s plenty of room for experimentation in size and finishing techniques with charted designs like this!
The charts for all four designs will come out in one instructional ebook very soon for those who want to join me in stitching up a menagerie of tapestry smalls. The ebook also features stitching and finishing tips.
I’ll also be releasing a very limited number of materials kits, featuring full spools of all the silk – enough for a whole zoo of smalls! – along with 48 count silk gauze, and the appropriate needles. It’s a nice, compact kit, and a great way to gather the supplies from one spot in one handy little package. There’s a tiny bonus gift in each package, too – but that’s a discussion for another day. I’ve had so much fun putting these kits together!
So, that’s what I’ve been up to! Lots of sample stitching, writing, photographing, finishing, photographing, writing, cutting fabric, sorting silk, packaging, photographing, writing – it keeps me busy and out of trouble.
I’ll be writing a bit about putting together kits, for those who are interested in the process, have questions, or have contemplated doing something similar. There are certainly pros and cons to kitting up materials, and I think there’s a lot of room for a good conversation about the whole process, the advantages and disadvantages of kitting, and the future of embroidery kits on the designer level. In fact, it’s too big a conversation for one article, but I’ll start the ball rolling, so we can all enjoy a good discussing and get decent feedback from the wider community.
What do you think? I’m open to questions, comments, suggestions – anything you want to know about, or anything you think I should know about? Feel free to join in the conversation below!