A couple of years ago, I took a class in stumpwork (three-dimensional) embroidery with one of the world’s leading experts: Jane Nicholas. She jetted over from Australia to teach a week long EGA class. She is probably best known for her anatomically accurate bugs. She also has a series of bugs done in stumpwork and goldwork that are unbelievable. She uses a magnifying glass to work them to size.
Our class was “Bittersweet and Butterfly Medieval Panel”, which contained a butterfly, caterpillar, and a bittersweet plant. To create the 3D leaves, petals, and butterfly wings, you couch wire to a piece of muslin and then embroider over the wire (leaving a tail of wires) and muslin. After completing the embroidery stitches, you cut out the object and insert the wires through the background/main embroidery piece. On the back you tack down the wires.
The berries are made by wrapping silk around beads and then attaching them to the background. The border is actually a hand-dyed, red-copper silk ribbon named Hot Flash. Then gold wire is twisted through beads to create the lattice effect. The threads are all Soie d’Alger silks. Love Soie d’Alger. Needlepoint Inc silks are the best; the Soie d’Alger are a close second. Both are very soft and supple. Eterna Silks are good, too. They have a twist and sheen to them. NPI and SdA have a matte finish.
The caterpillar is worked by layering threads and embroidering over the thread layers – gives him a pop. The dragon fly wings are organza with blending filament for the veins. The effect is very sparkly. The whole piece is actually sparkly – hard to capture in a photograph.
As you can surmise, the process is a tad tedious, especially for a large piece like this. It’s about 4″ by 9″. Typically stumpwork pieces are about 2″ to 3″ per side. I’ve seen some museum pieces that are over a foot per side, which is why those embroiderers went blind at young ages. I have a few more stumpwork pieces that I plan to do at some point in my lifetime. Given Phoebe’s proclivity to help, I may have to wait a few years or win the lottery & rent an art studio. Go Powerball!!!