Embroidered lotus

I learned quite a bit with my first adventure in silk embroidery. Because somebody asked – I’ve done a couple of small stitching projects before, but I’ve never stitched with silk.

For scale, the lotus is just over 2 1/8″ top to bottom, 2 3/4″ side to side. It’s all stitched with flat silk which I reeled, threw, degummed, and dyed. The petals are satin and long and short stitches, the red center also has seed stitches. For seeds, natch! Or, actually, probably anthers, if we’re being picky. I stitched this from a very stylized logo; one lesson that I learned from this project, is to either (a) stitch from natural images, adapting them to embroidery, or (b) stitch from stitchery designs. There were a couple of things that are great for logo design, but make the stitching part tricky. The ground fabric is champagne-colored smooth doupionni silk.

A moderate closeup. I’m following a technique out of Young Yang Chung’s “Painting With a Needle” – the outline is laid in first, and the satin stitching is laid over it. I used split stitch for the outline. The petals are stitched from the edge to the center, and from the back layers to the front, so that the natural overlap of the stitches enhances the dimensional effect.

In a mega-closeup, you can see that there’s still quite a bit of ground showing. But, the brightness of the silk is such that you don’t really see it. In future, I will try working the satin stitches more closely (and possibly using a magnifier, so that I can see when this happens) but for this one, it works fine.

One of my very favorite things about silk, is that it catches light along its length. So the shine on the lotus is determined by the angle of the stitches which are catching the light. It makes it look almost metallic. This is difficult to catch with still photography.

However, once you see it at a couple of different angles, you can definitely start to see what’s happening. Tipping the embroidery back and forth causes light to play across its surface. There is not a shadow on this anywhere; that’s just the difference between the part that is catching the light, and the part that is going a different direction.

And here, because draco-kc asked – the back. It’s not entirely beautiful, but I think it’s pretty decent. Especially for my second embroidery project in ten years or so!

16 replies
  1. snack
    snack says:

    really gorgeous. i’m all about lotus flowers (and turtles) lately so it’s particularly striking to me right now.

  2. admin
    admin says:

    It was neat to stitch; I definitely want to do more lotus flowers, but will try working with one that isn’t so stylized! Or, at least, stylized for stitching.

  3. hatchepsut
    hatchepsut says:

    i would love to have some alpacha’s so i could sheer them, clean the wool, spin and dye it. and then making amazing hats.

    kudos to you on your amazing skills and talents!

  4. dark_phoenix54
    dark_phoenix54 says:

    How fabulous to be able to create your own fibers. The thread is awesome! Silk is the most wonderful fiber to stitch with. Are you really going to try and harvest enough silk to weave with?

  5. admin
    admin says:

    I’ve actually reeled several ounces of raw silk at this point. The main issue, is setting up an effective and efficient system to twist up the warp; it takes a LOT of twisting. Doing it by hand is quite tedious.

    I also don’t yet know how to warp up my loom. It’s on my Big List of Things to Learn, and getting close to the top. Probably late this summer or early this fall.

  6. admin
    admin says:

    Alpacas are great! Have you gotten to visit any? They HUM! And oh, the softness.

    If you ever want to experience the clean-the-wool, dye-and-spin part, let me know – I have several pounds of raw alpaca fiber just languishing in my closet. I’d be happy to trade ya some…

  7. selkie_b
    selkie_b says:

    beautifully done! I enjoy doing silk embroidery, haven’t in awhile though. Need to make time to get back into that side of things. It was sheer bliss just using regular floss to make my uncle’s ritual robes last winter! yeah, in all the spare time I have… sigh… I learned crewel work when I was 3 and I can’t get that kind of stitching out of my system it seems.

    I love your colors here. I’m going to recommend perhaps using stemstitch instead of split stitch on your outlines, they’ll differentiate better and is excellent on something with so many curves. Do you do much embroidery? You have an excellent hand.

    When I DO get ready for a project I may well ask what you have squirreled away and maybe we can barter?

  8. admin
    admin says:

    My main problem with getting the edges smooth seemed to be getting the needle to come up right beside the underline stitch.

    I don’t usually squirrel away a lot of dyed silks – although I’m considering working up modest amounts in a stitcher’s palette – but I’d be more than happy to do trades on comission. I find that way you’re more likely to get exactly what you’re wanting!

  9. selkie_b
    selkie_b says:

    *GRIN* I shall definately keep that in mind! I do wedding gowns and period costuming as well as general seamstressing so it’s wonderful to know who I can contact if I need a very specific item. This summer, thank goodness, is a bit light on the sewing so it’ spinning up all the stuff that’s been haunting me and getting back into Ruskin lacemaking. Well, and knitting of course. If we have one of those “too humid to think” summers out will come the embroidery and cross-stitch too.

    Off to sew my son’s zoot pants…

    I shall be blinded by pinstripes.

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