Peacocks

When my husband was growing up, his neighbors had peacocks.These were free-range peacocks, and roamed all over the neighborhood. They were beautiful, and loud, and–it must be said–crapped a lot. Not so much in my husband’s family’s yard, but one of the other neighborhood yards was a prime peacock hangout. This became a problem when the peacocks moved from the yard to the porch. No one could sit on the porch furniture. Eventually, the neighbors complained to the peacock owners, and the peacocks were sent to a farm. (Not a euphemism.)

These days, to get a peacock fix, we go to the zoo, where the peacocks are still free-range, and the poop is someone else’s problem.

They’re beautiful birds, and one of the first subjects I wanted to draw when I thought about designing my own embroidery. Their feathers are on the right side of gaudy, and call out for shiny metallic threads. Here are two peacocks I’ve come up with.

The first is a 5 x7″ framed peacock sitting on a flowered branch (modeled after quince blossoms, but purple.) I embroidered this on muslin with Caron Waterlilies silk, DMC cotton, and Kreinik metallic threads. I used watercolor to paint a “mat” directly onto the fabric. (Be aware that the paint will wick through the cotton–this does not give a sharp line on muslin. For me, that’s part of the charm.)

I used stem stitch for the head and neck, satin stitch and outline stitch for the body, bands of satin stitch for the wings, and satin stitch and stem stitch for the tail. The branch is stem stitch, and the flowers are done in buttonhole stitch. I’m very pleased with how this turned out.

The second peacock (also sitting on a flowered branch!) is mounted in a [4″] wooden hoop. I have some beautiful Hanah hand-dyed silk ribbon; it was gifted to me, and the ribbons aren’t tagged. I’d guess that it’s Sapphire, maybe, but I’m not sure. I used that ribbon to make a stumpwork tail, using more Kreinik metallic thread, then shredded the ends of the ribbon. The body is stem stitch (a favorite of mine, whether as an outline or a filler stitch.) I used two strands of blue, then one strand each of blue and teal, then two strands of teal. Were I to do this again, I might paint the hoop gold, to more closely match the stitching on the tail.

Am I done with peacocks? Probably not. They’re fun to stitch! I think the Art Nouveau illustration at the top of the page would be stunning stitched up. (The illustration came from Dover Books, a wonderful source of art and motifs.)

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Getting into Embroidery

My aunt Carol taught me to cross stitch when I was a little girl. She and my aunt Dana are accomplished cross-stitchers, having produced works of art and craftsmanship that are still framed in their homes. I did a few pieces as a girl, but it never really clicked for me– possibly because of a tendency to lose count.

A few years ago, I tried a small needlepoint piece at the urging of a friend who does things like recreate tapestries in needlepoint. Again, the counted nature of it wasn’t quite for me, but she also gave me a book on various embroidery techniques. In addition to the chapter on needlepoint, there were a number of surface stitches. I picked up a few kits, which introduced me to crewel, to satin stitch and stem stitch. Everyone got dishtowels for Christmas that year.

Fast forward a few years and I got the urge to stitch my own designs, applying the various techniques I’ve dabbled in, and coming up with ways to explore new techniques. Hence this blog: a way for me to keep a record of projects I’m working on–perhaps a bit easier to sift through than my current system of random sheets of loose paper.