Getting it wrong and starting again – the joy of designing

Designing can occasionally feel like the famous procession at Echternach, going three steps forward and two steps back. Take Hengest the Medieval Unicorn. No, I’m not talking about the spot debacle – that was just me not paying attention. It’s when something in the design just doesn’t work.

In the case of Hengest it was (among other things) his chest band. In my original design, meant to be worked in silk with a bit of goldwork and gem embellishments, the chest band is bright golden yellow with colourful pip beads all along its length. But then the spots are meant to be “coloured white” – the very lightest shades of various colours. Wool Hengest’s spots are rather more colourful than that, so giving him such gaudy tack simply wouldn’t look right.

Very well then, we need a different chest band. Leather? Gold and leather? That sounds quite good – an outline in golden yellow with brown for the main body of the band; perhaps with a few honey-gold pip beads.

A changed chest band

But as I was working on it, I liked it less and less. Too little golden yellow (it was hardly noticeable once I started adding the brown) and the brown itself was much too dark. Unfortunately the next shade of this brown in my stash is rather light, and I wasn’t at all sure that would look any better.

The dark brown doesn't work But will the light brown be any better?

Still, this darker brown was definitely not working, so out it came, and soon it was reduced to a pile of rejected fluff.

Cutting out the dark brown A pile of rejected fluff

It was getting rather late, but as I was on a roll, I added the extra rows of golden yellow.

Extra gold

And at my next embroidery group meeting I filled in with the lighter brown.

Light brown leather

It is rather a light shade for leather, but with the rest of Hengest being so pale and pastel it does look better on him. However, without the coloured pip beads the effect is a bit more solid than I’d like, and even the honey-gold pip beads don’t really look the part with the wool. Let’s try adding a little swirly pattern in a slightly lighter gold:

A swirly gold pattern saves the day

And that is why Wool Hengest’s chest band looks the way it does. Is it too much to hope that his bridle and mane will work first time round…?

4 comments on “Getting it wrong and starting again – the joy of designing

  1. Hello Mabel
    I found your blog by accident as I was trying to find a way of storing crewel 2ply without losing track of their numbers! I loved the post about your storage solutions. Part of the joy of my sewing room is the time I spend rearranging its contents.
    However, I’m contacting you because I’m about to go to an open day at RSN with a view to joining the certificate course. I signed up for this open day months ago and have been vacillating ever since. I can see that you are so much more experienced an embroiderer than I am and now I’m wondering once again whether I’m up to it. Of course the answer is to go to the open day on Saturday and see what I think but, if you have time, I’d be interested to hear your views on how much experience and competence is needed. Best wishes Susan

  2. Hello Susan, glad to hear there is at least one other stash re-arranger out there 🙂 – yes, it’s all part of the joy of our hobby, which I sometimes think is almost as much about collecting as it is about the actual embroidering! Not to mention designing too many things to get round to stitching…
    How exciting that you’re thinking of doing the Certificate! The thing to remember is that although it may sound unlikely, the RSN do say no previous experience is required – and you obviously do have previous experience, if you’re in need of storage solutions for your crewel wool.
    So far I have found that the approach is very individual learner-centred, in that the tutors will assess what you do and don’t know, what you are comfortable doing on your own and what you’d like to have a bit more help and guidance with, and so on. If you feel you would like to learn about embroidery in a more systematic and thorough way, and if you are fairly sure you can fit it into your available time and your budget, I’d say the Certificate is the way to go.
    Although I booked in for an open day I then had to cancel because of other commitments, so I never actually went to one before starting, but I had done quite a number of day classes and workshops with the RSN so was comfortable with what to expect (more or less). The main difference between the Certificate and the day classes is that from the very start you work with your own designs. Because they are for your own use only and for educational purposes, you are rather more free to use bits of other people’s designs than you would if you were producing a commercial design, but in the end what you stitch is uniquely yours.
    Well, just some random thoughts really – I hope they are helpful, and do get in touch if you’d like to know more, either via the blog or by email.

  3. Thank you. This is very reassuring, as were the other entries in your blog, which I read today. I’ll let you know how I get on. An interesting coincidence is that the design you used to base your tulip on is the same design that I started work on only yesterday, just to practise a little bit!
    I think that I have found a slightly odd way of communicating with you, posting a random question on an old blog entry but I couldn’t find a way of using email. I’ve come a little late to the world of blogging but I have found one or two that are based on embroidery. Yours is definitely the best, readable and humorous as well as informative. I have bookmarked it, signed up to follow and will definitely be revisiting.

  4. That is a coincidence indeed – I do love that flower. And it’s encouraging to hear that the blog posts have been helpful. As for your other comments, well, I’m practically blushing 🙂 !
    Commenting like this is fine, but if you’d like to email, you can find a link on my contact

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