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September - December 2019

The Anglerfish

Stitching your own designs is a wonderful thing, but sitting over the first ones for a year each, isn't that wonderful. I wanted to keep my first own designs as simple as possible, so as not to sit longer than three, maybe four hours over one of them. A project that could be managed within a weekend. Whether I would be able to manage this anglerfish within a weekend if asked to do one more - I don't know. This one most certainly took me four months instead of four hours. But it figures. After all, I had to design it first and then to experiment to find the best solution for working it. The result are three versions, which sounds a bit better for a timespan of four months, bearing in mind that embroidering is not my bread-and-butter job, and that I constantly have three to four projects at the same time on the rotary disc.

It all began with the intention to draw a normal, natural looking anglerfish. It was supposed to look creepy, just like it looks in real life, too. I just didn't reckon with my penchant for detecting the ridiculous side in every situation. So it happened, as I came to draw the "fishing rod", that my imagination began to run wild. I didn't see a fishing rod coming out of the head, but a rod with a lantern. And since he carries a lantern, there has to be something (or someone) he is lighting ... even if it were the same little fish he would otherwise use his fishing rod on ... 😉

And this was the result:

Anglerfish Draft

Digital Drawing in Krita

Anglerfish Vector Graphic

Cleared Vector Drawing in Inkscape

Anglerfish v. 1

My first colour scheme looked like this:

Anglerfisch First Colour Scheme

I Thought it Would Look Good ...

Preparing the fabric was pretty exciting - my first own properly stitched design! Rapunzel doesn't count, it was done on craft felt and it was rather a sketch than an embroidery.  I prepared a piece of 50 ct. white Weddigen linen and transferred the design by tracing it in black ink on my semi-transparent glass table top. 

Again, I chose to use threads from my craft floss stash, as I wasn't completely sure if I would like the colour scheme. The thing is that I am collecting a stash of good embroidery floss (mostly DMC, but I tried Anchor and Madeira, too, and I like them) by purchasing it bit by bit according to the next planned project. Purchasing supplies online, however, happened to be a frustrating experience this year. That is why I prefer to first screw down a project before I decide on submitting an order. 

The piece is stitched in a 15 cm (6 ") Klaas & Gessmann hoop (in other parts of the world known as Hardwick Manor), so the size of the embroidery is appr. 12 cm (nearly 5 ") only. 

First thing I stitched was the little blue fish all in split stitch. Next came the outlines of the anglerfish. I started them in Palestrina stitch. But I noticed soon, that this stitch doesn't cover the transfer lines well, because it comes to lie in a certain distance above the fabric (because of the double knots, which is why it is called double knot stitch as well). On top of this, it is a very slow working stitch (once again because of the double knots, which is why ... you get the point). So I switched shortly to coral stitch, which, as I found, is very apposite to the motif: its barbed wire look adds to the creepiness of the fish, and corals fit in perfectly with the sea.   

At the tail and the fins I skipped seamlessly to split stitch; the webbings at the fins are done in fly stitch. The bones of the fins were initially done in a loose, ragged herringbone stitch, in order to give them a bristled appearance, but I wasn't too satisfied with the outcome, all the more as this stitch didn't cover the design lines. After a careful consideration of the dilemma, I "invented a new stitch". 😏 Well, I know that there are probably no stitches left to invent, I just didn't come across this one yet, so let's say, I just got creative as follows: I stitched two lines of backstitch next to each other so that the individual stitches were sitting opposite one another. Then I whipped these two lines crosswise and back again offset ... oh dear! I don't know how to best describe it ... here's a very rough diagram:

Cross-Whipped Backstitch

I baptised this stitch Cross-Whipped Backstitch.😊

In search of a matching stitch for the fishmouth, I came across the New England laid stitch. It is a very nice filling stitch. The green iris was done in stem stitch in a circle, the pupil in satin stitch with one French knot in it for the reflexion. There is some more stem stitch and New England laid stitch, and then I came to the tongue ... 

I started with backstitch which I planned to whip, but I didn't like it. This was when it became more and more unsure if I like the colour scheme at all. I eventually decided on couching over two threads for the tongue, and the ring around the eyes was done in buttonhole stitch. For the outlines of the lantern I used split stitch, then started to fill the lantern in satin stitch in opposed directions ...

Anglerfish v. 1

Nope, it didn't look good!

And that was it.

I definitely didn't like the colours. The olive green didn't match the maroon, and the vanilla yellow and the turquoise blue were getting out of line completely. 

Anglerfish v. 1 got cancelled and discarded. 

It certainly wasn't a bad idea to experiment with colours in a graphic program beforehand, which in this case happened to be Krita, later Gimp, then Inkscape ... I just couldn't manage to work it out! In the end, I came to the conclusion to drop the colours and to work it all in black. Only the mouth and the iris would be in a screaming red tone, and the reflexion within the pupil in a similarly screaming kelly green. Some details would be stitched in grey, mainly the stone outlines. 

After preparing the new design in black, I tried another colourful version in Krita, but this time on a black background. And lo and behold! It looked very good! On the dark background, the colours gained brilliancy. Also, a dark background was most appropriate for an underwater scene. However, before the black-colourful version, I set myself to work the black-and-white version to see how this one would look.  

Anglerfish v. 2

Included in one of my recent material orders was half a metre of white cotton fabric. On a second glance, I realised that it is an evenweave: Zweigart Linda, 28 ct. (11 threads per centimetre). I decided to use it anyway, and I was pleasantly surprised how well it took surface stitches. The cotton is relatively soft, so that you can easily split the fabric threads if need be. Again, I transferred the design on my makeshift lightbox (a semi-transparent table-top with an LED lamp underneath) with a black pigment liner 0.3. Again, I fell back to my craft floss.  

This time, the fins are filled in a needlepainting of sorts, that is split stitches. The odd "hole" beneath the lateral fin was filled in chain stitch. I changed the direction of the Buttonhole Stitch around the eye, the open "spokes" pointing outwards instead of inwards now, which I like better. As I found out in v. 1 to be a better solution, the tongue was done in couching, i. e. two laid black threads couched with one grey thread. 

All the other parts I did more or less the same way as in v. 1, i.e. coral and outline stitch for the outer outlines of the anglerfish, New England laid stitch for the mouth, split stitch for the teeth and the small fish etc. The "rod" was worked in stem stitch, the outlines of the lantern in split stitch and fly stitch (the little curves), while I didn't fill the lantern, because - who wants a black lantern, right? 

Finally, I stitched the rocky outlines in grey backstitch. Most of the lines were worked with two threads, only for the finer lines, such as the outlines of the small fish, I used one thread. 

Anglerfish v. 2

Anglerfish v. 2

And this is the second version of the anglerfish. I like it much better than the first, but I was anxious to see the colourful version on a black background. 

Anglerfish v. 3

For the colours-on-black version, I used black canvas. Now I noticed that some fabric names mean different kinds of fabric in different countries. So for example the name muslin in American English means what goes under calico in other countries, whereas muslin in Europe is what the Americans call muslin gauze. When I say canvas, I mean a rough, plain weave cotton or linen fabric, not the stiff even weave canvas used for needlepoint, which is called Stramin in Germany. I know, textile theory is a sophisticated and confusing subject, and I have only just begun to delve into it. 

Whatever the case, I had a piece of black cotton canvas, bought in a craft shop, and I transferred the design using white dressmaker's carbon paper. (You can read about my experiences with the different transfer methods here.) The lines came out pretty faint, so I could only hope that they might stand the test of time. 

I wanted to check out if I could avoid neatening the fabric by cutting it with pinking scissors. For the first few days it was ok, but then I got reminded once more of the strong proclivity of this roughly woven cotton canvas for fraying. Meme to myself: If it comes to canvas, always whipstitch it!

When I began to stitch, it became quickly apparent that I never want to stitch on this canvas again. It is the bumpiness of the fabric that made the transfer come out so faintly, so that I was barely able to spot where I had to place the stitches, and the bumpiness made it hard to place them in the right spot.  

But then again, I was enthralled by the shine of the colours on a black background! It really made a difference to a white background, and it fitted the theme of a deep sea scene so well.

Shining Colours

Shining Colours

The photo above shows my first approach to the stone outlines in backstitch. When they were finished, I didn't like the impression. They stroke me as being to "white" in comparison with the overall colours. They seemed to distract from the deep sea atmosphere. So I whipped the backstitch with dark grey and later black floss, but I didn't like that either. After the second ripping round I hit on the best idea: I did them in backstitch with one grey and one black thread simultaneously in the needle. 

The Anglerfish v.3

The Anglerfish v. 3

And here it is! The stitches used are coral stitch, split stitch, seed stitch, fly stitch, stem stitch, padded satin stitch, French knot, buttonhole stitch, outline stitch, straight stitch, New England laid stitch, couching, backstitch

And this was my very first completely and finished own design.