A patchy rabbit excuse (or a patchy excuse for a rabbit)

Long, long before I was even beginning to consider doing the RSN Certificate (well, several months ago, anyway) I started a crewel project cobbled together from two designs taken from two different books, to give my Heathway Milano crewel wools a nice work-out and get some practice in crewel work. Little did I know back in January that I’d be getting plenty of crewel practice this year!

Setting up the Rabbit and Carnations

Because of various other projects, and the fact that I am a fickle stitcher and will pick up and ditch projects at the slightest provocation, it wasn’t until March that I actually started stitching this, and even then it stalled for a long time after I’d stitched the larger of the two stems. But as I started the Certificate’s crewel module, I found that my little rabbit project was a perfect doodle cloth! Bayeux stitch, burden stitch, detached buttonhole, they all got practiced, and all the while I was building up a decorative picture rather than scattered stitch samples.

I said this last time, and I’ll say it again: I do not much like the look of block shading (even when done a lot better than my ragged first attempt). But as it is one of the required elements in the Certificate piece, I’ll have to learn to love it, or at least learn to do it correctly. Left to my own devices, the hillock on which the rabbit sits would have been done in long and short stitch, but as it’s the right sort of shape for block shading I thought I might as well have a go. Did I mention that my first attempt came out rather ragged? Stitch direction and edges definitely leaving something to be desired.

Starting on block shading

Oh well, we all have to start somewhere. For the water I could have used the stitch I’m considering for the Certificate piece (fly stitch couching), but I didn’t; I liked the chain stitch water I did on my little willow tree project, and anyway, I may use fly stitch couching for one of the hillocks, in which case the water may well be done in these flowing chain stitch lines.

Chain stitch water

Having thought of this as my rabbit project from the start, it was nice to finally get round to stitching the rabbit! In the picture above you can see the split stitch outline, and a satin-stitched ear. The instructions to the original design call for long and short stitch, but that one ear actually looks satin-stitched in the photograph, so I went with that. And then I hit a snag.

The rabbit is meant to be stitched in three browns plus off-white or ecru. Now the colour families in Heathway Milano wool all consist of nine shades from very very light to very very dark, but not having an endlessly elastic budget I opted to buy only numbers 2 4 6 and 8 of the colours I wanted, on the assumption that that would give me quite a nice range for shading. And so it does. Until you want to shade a rabbit.

The colour family I chose for the rabbit is Drab, which is a lot nicer-looking than it sounds. My darkest shade, #8, was far too dark to be usable, so I was left with the other three from that range plus off-white from a separate group. I filled in the furthest front paw in shade #6, which looked a bit dark but then it’s sort of in shadow, so it will do. Then the off-white chest and inside-of-ear. Then the outer part of the ear in the lightest of the Drabs. And this is where things went a bit pear-shaped. Drab #2 is simply not that much darker than off-white, and there wasn’t enough contrast. But using #4 would upset the shading pattern – I needed #4 to be my medium shade, a bridge between the very light #2 and the rather dark #6.

As Drab is not dissimilar to Appletons Chocolate, which I’m using in the Certificate piece, I put them together to see if I could pinch one of the Appletons threads to work as an in-between shade. I found one that was a bit darker than #2, and did the second ear in it. But was there enough difference between this borrowed shade and #4? I decided to use the Appletons in addition to the three Drabs, with Drab #2 used for the face and not much else.

Juggling browns to create a rabbit

The face, when finished, made the rabbit look as though pale with shock at meeting a fox (or perhaps with fear of that rather threatening carnation hanging over him). So I used the Appletons to add a bit of not-quite-so-pale shading to the contours of the face, and then as the lightest shade in the body, followed by Drab #4 with Drab #6 creating the shaded area of his belly.

A finished rabbit Close-up of the rabbit's shading

So there it is, the finished project. And on the whole I’m quite happy with it. But the shading is simply not subtle enough, and not just because of deficiencies in my long & short stitch.

You know what this means, don’t you?

I will have to buy all those in-between shades.

Oh dear…

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