The Owl and the Pussycat
In the madness of the pre-Christmas crafting period, we decided that it would be a good idea to challenge ourselves to a craft swap (something that I suspect will occur with disturbing regularity). Imbolc was designated as a suitable sort of time to swap, and provided a suitable sort of theme: springtime.
The rules of the swap were as follows: one medium (or two small) items, taking no more than a day (total) to prepare, in such craft as presents itself at the time, along the theme of springtime. This being us, we decided to further complicate matters by making one for each of the other two participants. I love the swaps that I received from Bones and Styna, which were stunning and brilliant, but I'll let them tell you about those.
I decided to try my hand at a little freestyle embroidery, since most of my winter is taken up with knitting and crochet. It made a nice change. As usual, I left the planning to the last minute, and hoped fervently that inspiration would strike while I was away in London. It didn't, but on the way back I got to thinking about what spring means to me. Deciding that those deliciously sticky hawthorn buds that I used to see every morning on the way to school would be really hard to draw OR sew, I picked flowers. I love the way they come out in a riot of colour, brightening up the days as the sky turns from being murky and the sun finally starts to reappear.
To make it slightly more 'us' I added a figure to each of the two pieces: a cat for Bones and an owl for Styna (trust me, it makes total sense to us), along with an individual detail: a spider and a butterfly, respectively.
The thing that I love about freestyle is that any piece grows in an entirely organic way, which was sort of appropriate given the theme and the subject matter. I started with a brief sketch, straight onto the fabric (linen, which I left un-ironed because it kind of looked like wood and I liked it), and when I say brief, I mean brief. I drew around the insert for the frame to give me my design area, and sketched the outline of the figure (in this case the cat), along with a faint line for the soil, and another for the sky.
Then I broke out the fabric paints :) It took me right back to the Art GCSE I took all those years ago. I added rough layers of paint for the background, giving the impression of soil, various layers of vegetation, flowers and the sky. I also painted the figure of the cat black.
Once all this nonsense was dry (I waited overnight), I started adding flowers, using a variety of stitches including sating stitch, daisy stitch and what were supposed to be french knots (i'm not very good at them). The overall effect was great, particularly over the background splodges of colour that I'd added earlier. The thread I was using was variegated, which added another layer of interest. Finally, I used a dot-dash-dot stitch pattern to add streaks of colour to the sky (with yet more variegated thread) and picked out some beads for the cat's eyes and for the body of the spider.
I repeated the same process for Styna's piece, featuring the owl and the butterfly, and a different range of flowers and colours. That's the other thing I love about embroidery: it's such a versatile form of craft :)
It was only when they were framed and ready for wrapping that I realised I'd made the owl and the pussycat!
I can't wait for the next swap - or for you to see what the others made :) watch this space!
(Images: Rough sketch; Painting time!; It's 'rustic' art; Ready for framing; The owl and the pussycat)