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The Illuminated William Morris - Fox's Leg!

(originally published 18th October 2015)

Foxy has a leg to stand (or sit) on!

It's hard to believe that I'm nearly finished - after this week it's just the tail, and my lovely autumnal fox will be complete!

Once again, I started by outlining the section to be stitched in a fine, firm split stitch. I still have space to hide my anchoring stitches - it won't be so easy when I'm at the very end of the project!

Even without the leg stitched, the 'shadow' is clear 'behind' it.

I've drawn in the directional lines, and this is when I can really appreciate the incredible curve I'm going to have to work, to get the leg looking right.

Split stitched edge & directional lines in place.

The stitches will have to be shorter generally, to fit in more rows, to turn more sharply. Think of doing an about-face in a car on a wide road (one single u-turn will work) and a narrow lane (probably a 25-point-turn!) - the same logic applies to this (well, in my weird little mind it does)...

The first directional stitches go in.

Having a 'method' to approach these new projects always helps. No matter what I'm stitching in long-and-short, I always start the same way: split stitch, pencil lines, directional stitches, and away I go...

Look at that curve coming up! The left

side of the rows will be tricky...

The great thing about this technique is (believe it or not) that it's SLOW. You have time to consider each stitch, to make sure it's going in exactly the right position, angle, length, colour etc. Also, you know you're NOT going to get it done in one go, so breaks are a MUST - coffee, sweeties, coffee, a cuddle with the cat, coffee.. (did I mention coffee?) :)

More colours being added.

At first, the very dark brown threads look a bit odd, especially next to the warmer, lighter russets and reds, but they're important - just look how the bit of the fox's body going 'behind' the leg has that lovely shadow! The same thing needs to happen with the leg going 'behind' the tail. It's all about fooling the eye into thinking there are layers here.

It's important to slightly encroach into the neighbouring

'underlying' stitches, to create the sense of layers.

The other technique to fool the eye is literally to overlap stitches. As I get to the outer edge of the leg, the split stitch outline is sitting just on top of the body's embroidery. So when I cover that split stitch to complete the let, those stitches do in fact encroach and sit on top of the body stitches. Only a tiny bit, but it does make a difference. THAT is why your order of work for silk shading is 'back-to-front'!

You can see how I'm swinging to right-hand side

of the rows whilst going much more slowly on

the left-hand side...

I have an analogy for my students when describing how to 'swing' around a corner with this technique. When I was in highschool, I played trombone in the marching band, and we would have to practice going around corners for parade purposes. The bandmaster, Mr Peltomacky (bless!) would direct us by bellowing from his vantage point on top of a step ladder in the gym: "Outside marchers, BIG BIG STEPS!!! Inside marchers, TINY TINY STEPS!!!" And that ladies and gentlemen, is how you get a straight line of musicions to swing gracefully (ha!) around a curve in the street...

Foxy has a leg to stand on! (And a tail-tip, sorry,

got ahead of myself there...)

Wheeee! Here's foxy with just his tail left to go! Ummm, actually I was so excited about that, I forgot to take a picture of the leg before I'd already started the tail tip - by you get the idea! Next time, I'll be working that GORGEOUS, brushy tail, stay tuned...

Love 'n Stitches,


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